Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stone Soup's Dungeon Crawl

Before I even begin a discussion of Dungeon Crawl, I realize most people have no idea what I am talking about, because it is the sort of game one does not find on the shelf at Wal-Mart. That doesn't mean it's not fun and addictive to the point where I can play it all night long, night after night without getting bored. However, it's free, which to some people is a drawback. "Free? Must not be very good, then," is the usual line of thinking. Of course, Mozilla Firefox is free, too, and that is the best web browser around for my money. I am not sure why developers work on free projects, but I'm glad they do. Probably, part of the motivation is learning how to program and getting valuable experience under their belts, which was also my motivation back in the Stone Age when I was first learning about programming. I churned out tons of utilities, games, simulations, and odd, weird programs, some of which other people actually found useful, but none of which would be recognized or remembered today, I think.

First of all, Dungeon Crawl is a roguelike game, meaning it has the same features as the original Rogue which was highly popular back in the 1980s and early 1990s among IBM-PC users and particularly UNIX users on college campuses. Rogue was a game without graphics other than symbolic graphics using text characters, monsters being represented by letters of the alphabet. Lame, you say? Not really; our imagination filled in the gaps, much like what happens when one reads a book. Until recently, Dungeon Crawl was text-only, but now there is a version that employs graphical tiles, which represents a vast improvement in both appearance and functionality. I highly recommend that all new players to the game download the "Tiles" version, unless they are impaired in vision or have some other special requirement.

Linley Henzell created Dungeon Crawl back in 1995, but then stopped development at some point, at which time the Stone Soup team of volunteers commenced development of their own branch of Dungeon Crawl, which continues to the present day. In my opinion, Dungeon Crawl is the best and most popular roguelike available. You can either play in graphic mode (which is known as Tiles) or non-graphic mode depending upon which package you download from the Dungeon Crawl headquarters.

I began playing Crawl back in version 2.x, which was before the advent of Stone Soup, but I kept crawling through the Stone Soup years, which have been very good ones, I must say. I am impressed with the improvements the Stone Soup team has made and even more impressed with the capability, on, for users like me to report bugs, suggest improvements, and generally contribute our two cents. The programmers do actually listen to you and consider what you have to say, though there is no guarantee they will accept all or even any of your ideas, which is at it should be. Suffice to say they know what they are doing, all being veteran players themselves.

Here is a screen capture from a game I am playing of the new Tiles version of Stone Soup Dungeon Crawl:

Or click here to view an enlarged version.

You may notice a reference to Sif Muna in the screen capture above. Sif Muna is a god my character worships in return for various abilities. Religion is very materialistic in Crawl. You pick a god based upon what that god can do for you. I happen to prefer a god that does not ask anything of my character or his behavior, but only gives benefits, and Sif Muna fits the bill, at least for a spellcaster. For a pure warrior, Sif Muna has nothing to offer.

In this blog, besides touting the many joys of Stone Soup Dungeon Crawling (and what a mouthful that is--"crawling" is what I prefer to say), I aim to give many tips on game play. First of all, most people with a modern PC system made in the last fifteen years should use the Tiles version, because it looks better. It is true however that people with special needs or a tiny monitor may prefer the alphabetic version. There are no sounds in Dungeon Crawl, so you do not need to leave your speakers turned on. In fact, you can play an .mp3 list in the background, if that does not impact your concentration.

If you are the type that prefers the latest and greatest version, and like to live on the edge and take chances, like me, then try out the alpha version of Crawl here. I am willing to risk the game crashing and losing my character stats in return for the very latest edition of code with the maximum amount of known bugs fixed (although new bugs may have been introduced, ho-ho). I check back at the trunk page regularly to see whether new editions are ready for trial.

There are many debates and discussions about this game to be found on, a Usenet group (see my earlier blog post on the Usenet). This game should probably have its own Usenet newsgroup, because most of the discussion on ".misc" actually concerns none other than Stone Soup Dungeon Crawl.

In my next blog entries, I plan to discuss different aspects of the game which I have come to appreciate through many years of playing.

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