Not getting things done

We're all about focus and "doing the dirty work" and all that jazz here at the minimal branded website ecosystem, right? Uhhhh, well, sure.

Of course we are
. Without a doubt.

I honestly don't have that much work to be done, but I just cannot seem to bring myself to do any of it. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has eaten my free time like, well, stone soup. With a big pickaxe and a spoon. I don't regret this. I wouldn't be in college if I wasn't procrastinating.

It's a very simple game, mechanics wise, especially compared to its genre brothers Nethack or Zangband. That's probably why I like it so much. I discussed it on my gaming blog already, so I'll just copy, edit and slice off a little bit and paste for your pleasure.


Quick primer: there's a genre of RPG called a "roguelike" named such because they are like the old Unix game Rogue. Which I like. So I tend to like roguelikes. I can play them in class and it looks like I'm taking notes, because most of them only use the keyboard.

The genre's defining features (not all of these are essential) include randomly generated dungeons, a battle system where you walk into things to attack them, a higher difficulty than most RPG games, death that is comepletely permanant, and a movement system where every move the player makes is a global turn across the whole dungeon, so monsters and other NPCs will move about as well. Sometimes these games use ASCII graphics, though it's not required (see Shiren the Wanderer on the DS, or the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games for mainstream examples of the genre).

What sets DCSS apart from other RL's is a good balance of features. While Rogue itself is fairly simple and gets a little boring after an hour, games like Nethack were developed for literally decades and have such an unapproachable complexity that it's hard to get involved. You almost have to memorize trivia to remember all of the various ways your character can die.

DCSS is easier on that front, due to the developers not wanting their game to succumb to over-complexity. You only have to manage a few types of armor and your weapon, there's a limited amount of ridiculous interaction with objects, and the keyboard button layout seems pretty simple and obvious. Additionally, there's an excellent tutorial that walks you through how to do nearly everything in the game (and it, miraculously, doesn't take more than twenty minutes to finish).

The systems included are fun and easy to manage. The inventory is a snap to deal with, and the religion system is easy to understand and exploit. Some of these systems are actually the best thing the game has to a difficulty slider; different c1asses play a whole different game from one another, and some Gods are harder to pray to than others.

For example, Xom, the god of chaos, will only reward players who entertain him with random events in the dungeon that are generally out of the player's control. "You were paralyzed. Xom thinks this is hilarious!" And then Xom gives you a ring because he knows your glove is cursed and you won't be able to equip the ring. It's like 4chan was built into the game if you feel like the game has become too easy.

The tutorial and later extended tutorial (which gives you tips as you play through your first game) make the game easily approachable by newbies, and you can even play over telnet or ssh if you don't want to install the game on a computer. I found it handy to watch other, more experienced players on ssh to learn tactics and get the feel of the game flow. And, hey, that was kind of a neat novelty too, considering it uses next to no network speed to play.

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is free, open source software, released under a modified version of the GPL for nearly all platforms. It can run on any computer. You can play a graphical version or an ASCII graphics version (both of which were in Debian; not sure about other distros - search for just "crawl"). It's quickly making its way into my top ten games, as Minecraft did a couple of weeks ago. Go check it out if you get the chance.

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