- This is the page on the culture, development, and historic aspects of NetHack. For information on how to play the game and a start to the game mechanics, see Guidebook.
NetHack is a roguelike computer game, and the most famous and popular of its kind. The latest version is 3.6.1, released on April 28th, 2018. NetHack can be downloaded at the official NetHack download page. It is also available in other languages. Many variants and patches are also available.
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Why do people like NetHack?
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NetHack enjoys popularity in niches. Mathematicians, programmers, physicists, engineers, linguists and writers all feel a strong pull, though anyone with an eye for detail, a sense of completeness, a respect for complexity, and a head for numbers will be at home.
On the surface, the game is a hack'n'slash Dungeons and Dragons clone, but its subtle sense of humor and intellectual rigor elevate it from the faintly nerdy to the sharply geeky.
Just as a mathematician seeks elegant expressions over fuzzy generalities, NetHack eschews graphics in favor of perfectly crafted, well-defined ASCII characters. While other games are dated by their interfaces, NetHack is preserved in ascetic purity.
The programmer is drawn to NetHack as an extension of the operating system. Its culture is deeply intertwined with that of the Unix systems, and indeed is a staple fixture on any good Unix system - a known quantity, ageless, familiar, and soothing; whatever hairy command-line tasks are required, nethack(6) is always there.
NetHack is hard: while other games can be completed in an afternoon, you may go years without finishing NetHack.
NetHack is unforgiving: if you die, you stay dead. There is no save-and-reload crutch here. Put simply, NetHack is a harsh mistress, whose respect you must earn. In time, you learn to respect it back.
NetHack is deep: in your first game, you will die quickly, and come back worrying about how to survive. You will learn, eventually, and move onto higher concerns. You will stop worrying about your score, and start considering questions of optimality, efficiency, and elegance. You will consult tables and guides in search of an edge because everyone knows the best way to have fun in a game is to take 20 until you beat an impossible DC, rather than try to actually succeed at something hard yet possible. You may dive into the very source code, looking to explain that one-in-a-thousand shot you just pulled off. You will probably learn some C, and possibly get into heated debates about the merits of pseudorandom number generators, expected returns, inconsistencies between competing mythologies, and the ethics of exploiting bugs.
NetHack is history: Descending from Rogue, NetHack has 33 years of development behind it. It is one of the few computer games widely played by people who are younger than it. From this history arises a kind of authority.
Graphical user interfaces
As well as the standard ASCII interface, many official and unofficial graphical user interfaces are available. The best known are Falcon's Eye and Vulture. Vulture is actually a continuation of the Falcon's Eye project, but some players still prefer Falcon's Eye.
The title is properly spelled "NetHack", with two capital letters. "nethack" is also correct when used to refer to the name of the game binary. "Nethack" is a common misspelling, even having been used by members of the DevTeam in comments in the source code.
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In its legacy, NetHack has directly and indirectly been referenced in many sources.
- NetHack quotes, on the Bash Quote Database.
- The game Deus Ex has a reference to beating a future version of NetHack in the distant future.
- Dudley's Dungeon, a webcomic set in NetHack.
- Dungeons of Dredmor is a newer, sprite animated dungeon crawler with a more in-your-face sense of humor that nonetheless feels almost like a GUI rewrite of NetHack, and features direct quotes from NetHack like "You hear the sounds of a cash register."
- In the game FreedroidRPG, you can play an ultra-simplified version of NetHack as a game-within-a-game (much easier to beat than actual NetHack).
- The Screen terminal emulator has idiosyncratic messages from NetHack, such as "Suddenly, the dungeon collapses." when the program crashes.
- The game Spelunky, which has some similarities to NetHack and is inspired by classic roguelikes, dungeon crawlers, and adventure games including NetHack, has NetHack references such as Vlad, his tower, and the camera.
History of NetHack
NetHack's first version, 1.3d, was released in July 1987, descending directly from Jay Fenlason and Andries Brouwer's Hack. Subsequent early versions of NetHack, namely 1.4f, 2.2a and 2.3e were released through 1987 and 1988.
In 1989, NetHack's current incarnation's first release, 3.0.0, was posted to Usenet. It featured a massive expansion over the previous versions.
Several forks of NetHack were produced through the lifespan of both 3.1 and 3.2. The current version is 3.6.1, but 3.4.3 continues to be popular considering that it was the only version available for a long time.
- Official NetHack download page (Tiles and text interfaces are available for Windows, Linux, Mac, and other systems)
- NetHack Patch Database
- nethack-nacl, NetHack 3.4.3 for Google Native Client (NaCl)
- NetHack RPMs for Linux
- Atari Binaries
- NetBSD packages
- NetHack for RISC OS
- NetHack 3.3.1 for the Agenda VR3
- NetHack 3.4.1 packages for RedHat on S/390
- NetHack 3.1.2 for Windows NT 4.0 MIPS
- NetHack 3.4.3 for Windows CE 2.11 x86
- Old to ancient versions of Hack and NetHack for MS DOS
- INetHack for iPhone is available from the App Store
- NetHack for PSP
- Nethack for Psion 5/5MX
- Nethack for Android (port by gurr)
- Nethack for Android (port by Fredrik Franstrom)
- NetHax, an internet browser version of NetHack created in Ajax
- Vulture, a 3D display for NetHack 3.4.3 (see also Vulture)
- noegnud, alternate UI system for NetHack (see also noegnud)
- NetHack for the gtk2 window system
- glHack (see also glHack)
- NetHack 3D
- NetHack in Japanese, based on NetHack 3.4.3
- Other variants, Japanese translation
- NetHack-De, NetHack in German (work in progress)
- NetzHack, NetHack in German
- NetHack 3.4.3 in Spanish