Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wesnoth & Dungeon Crawl

On Thanksgiving, one should reflect upon things to be thankful for. One of the many things I celebrate is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. It is the best game for Windows or Linux at the amazing price of free. There isn't a better game anywhere at any price. One of the things that makes it so good is that it undergoes active development, so that new wrinkles are being added every six months or so. The wrinkles have, on the whole, been good ones, although the developers finally caught on to the Spriggan elite and clipped their wings in the latest version. No longer can Spriggans wear cloaks or boots, which is a significant handicap, although I still feel Spriggans are a race to be reckoned with. There is something cool about slaying a frost giant with a single blow by stealth.

I like Wesnoth too, and comparisons naturally arise between Wesnoth and DCSS because they are both turn-based strategy games, supporting Linux, Mac, and Windows, as all games should, free and open-source, based in a hypothetical, alternative Medieval era where magic is real and used in combat, and humans are just one of many intelligent species roaming the world. I do wish humans were not the only intelligent race in our own world, because then there should be greater unity among us, for we would have to unite against common threats, such as orcs and goblins. Indeed, we need orcs and goblins to keep us straight. I woke up this morning thinking what foolish things WW1 and WW2 were. In WW2, I lost my uncle, shot down over the skies of France. Germany gained nothing by the wars it initiated. It only lost. Such is often the case with modern warfare. One would hope that world leaders would take a clue from history, but they don't. As far as world leaders are concerned, history is just a topic for academics. The same mistakes are repeated, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Wesnoth does have issues that come along with the better graphics. I think that the AI is too ambitious, causing substantial delays on some maps, because the AI is busily crunching numbers prior to deciding which unit to attack or which direction to move. In Dungeon Crawl, the AI is quite simple. There is only one target, and all monsters stream toward it. Stronger monsters try to get ahead of the weaker ones. No numbers are crunched, only maze-solving to find the fastest route to the player. Thus, there are no delays at any time. I've left the room to go make coffee in the time it takes Wesnoth's AI to decide what to do, and when I came back, sometimes it is still deciding, and at that point I simply quit the game. But there are other reasons to prefer Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup over Wesnoth, such as the rich complexity of DCSS, in stark contrast to the simplicity of Wesnoth. Simplicity is not necessarily a demerit--chess is one of the simplest games ever--but complexity makes for a less predictable, more random game experience that makes each game different from the last. Wesnoth I think is more subject to the whims of Lady Luck than Dungeon Crawl, because in Wesnoth, a single ill-fated attack can kill one's leader.

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