User:Phol ende wodan

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Hi there, I'm Phol ende wodan, more commonly known as aosdict on NAO (stats, games, deaths, dumplogs, ttyrecs) (and also on and on IRC as aosdict or aos. If you want to contact me, messaging me on IRC is a good bet, but you can also leave a message on my talk page and I'll probably see it soon after.


I enjoy discussing NetHack game design, and frequently talk about it in the #hardfought channel on Freenode. My biggest ongoing project is listening to the design discussions that happen on IRC and sifting through them to find new ideas, or YANIs. I maintain several pages on this wiki cataloguing all the ones I know of:

Over time, I've also written some lists/essays about problems I see in vanilla and how they could be addressed.

I've also gotten into the habit of writing long-form proposals that focus on overhauling one specific (but usually significant) part of the game.

And lastly, I have written up some comments on the proposals of others:

Playing NetHack

I primarily play vanilla 3.6 with a sprinkling of some variant play for Junethack. I have 20-30 vanilla ascensions in all 13 roles, most of which are on NAO, as well as one ascension each for UnNetHack (vampire wizard), GruntHack (dwarven valkyrie) and NetHack 4 (elven wizard). Probably need to get into FIQhack, Fourk, and dNetHack at some point, too.

Design principles

These are some design principles I try to follow.

The Interhack Principle: If the player can fix a problem by wrapping the game in a better UI, that problem should not be in the game.

  • Forgetting maps and discoveries from amnesia violates this; one could create a windowport or other interface that will automatically restore them, mitigating its effect.
  • Stunning does not violate this; no matter how good the interface is it cannot predict whether the player's next move will take them in the correct direction.

The Consumable/Renewable Principle: When consumable and renewable resources provide similar effects, the effects of the consumable resources should generally be stronger.

  • The spell of haste self violates this; when cast at Skilled it provides very fast speed for a renewable 15 energy. The potion of speed gives the same effect, but consumes a potion.
  • The spell of magic mapping (narrowly) does not violate this; the blessed effect of the scroll detects secret doors, which the spell cannot do at all.

The DevTeam Thinks Of Everything: Provide non-standard behavior in every conceivable situation where the player might expect non-standard behavior.

Fair Deaths Only: In reasonable circumstances, it should not be possible for the player to be killed with no prior warning and no opportunity to prevent it.

  • Things like poison instadeath (possible even on level 1 from things like dart traps) violate this.

No Cyanide Rule: No item should, if use-tested in reasonable circumstances, be game-ending.

  • Things like the potion of paralysis violate this; they require extreme precautions like locking oneself in a closet standing on a scroll of scare monster to completely prevent the hero from being nibbled to death.

Always Useful Rule: Resources available to the player should never be completely useless in all situations, although

  • Loadstones violate this rule; they exist only as a trap for players inexperienced with gray stones.

No Stalling: The player should not be able to keep taking turns indefinitely without making progress in the game.

  • The food system tries to accomplish this, and works decently in the early game, but ultimately violates this later in the game as food scarcity disappears and monsters leave highly nutritious corpses (and can be created indefinitely).

Keystroke Consistency: Entering the same keystrokes should always do the same thing, independent of context.

  • The eat command violates this; pressing "ey" while standing on a corpse (eat the corpse) has different behavior from pressing it otherwise (eat the item in slot y).

High Headroom: When the player faces a strategic problem, they are not punished heavily for picking a single suboptimal choice.

  • The level of headroom is, of course, up to the designers, but NetHack and all its variants tend to be very high-headroom games.

Verb + Noun: The game allows you to try to perform any action on anything.

Flavoring: Everything in the game should have a justification for why it belongs in the game.