Author Topic: The greatness of Crawl  (Read 26892 times)

AgingMinotaur

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The greatness of Crawl
« on: January 14, 2009, 11:20:00 PM »
Sorry if I'm rambling.

First of all: Congratulations to this year's winners of ASCII dreams' Roguelike of the year. Last year saw Dwarf Fortress take home the gold. I never dared to play DF. Instead I like to envision it as sort of a "Finnegan's Wake" of roguelikes, a piece of work you should only approach after intense meditations. This year, one of the recognized "major roguelikes" prevailed, demonstrating that quality never goes out of style, even in these modern times.

The sense of having a canon of the genre, is very strong in the roguelike community. We have the classics: Nethack, Angband, etc. Amongst the slightly younger roguelikes, there are some bodies of work that are recognized as major (I consider games like ADOM and Crawl "young" in this sense, although they certainly feel like modern roguelikes, even today). Of all the most celebrated games of the genre, Nethack and Crawl are the two I know the least.

I haven't been playing much of any roguelike recently, but I had a period this summer when I started playing Crawl. As I'm tinkering on my own project, I've been asking myself questions about what makes a good roguelike, and recently, I found myself thinking about Crawl again. I can very much understand Crawl's popularity. At the same time, I don't experience the same thrill as I did when starting to play Angband (my first rl) or ADOM. Maybe the genre is growing old on me, or Crawl just doesn't suit me as well as some other games.

To my mind, Crawl's greatness comes perhaps with the polish. It is such a carefully crafted game. I must honestly say that I find the interface slightly baroque (I never understood why taking off jewlery and removing a piece of armor needed separate commands). But once you get to know it a bit, it makes interaction with the game very smooth. One of the things I dislike about ADOM, for instance, is all the tedious voyages up and down already explored dungeons to reach the different way points (going down the caverns of chaos after clearing the tower of eternal flames, etc; so one of ADOM's greatest strengths is also a weakness). Crawl commands like Shift-X are pure genius, I think.

Compared to some of the more ideosyncratic roguelikes, Crawl could be called dry. I never played a roguelike that felt more "intelligent", if you know what I mean. The brilliant logic of the interface is backed by a setting that is frugal, while still fascinating to explore. One could almost call it realistic. Even with the weird mixed-up randomnesses you end up guiding down that dungeon (which always takes you by surprise, in the end), there is some suspension of disbelief. The game seems to be built on a vast amount of experience. Where the creators of Rogue were really dabbling in the dark, exploring a very new territory in game design, Crawl's designer was already schooled in the classics.

On the one hand, I can think that Crawl is too conservative for me. But I must admire it's stringency. I will no doubt continue to crawl now and then, thinking maybe I will one day learn to walk.

So, I guess I propose that Crawl owes much of its popularity to the smooth interface. Then again, I never got any deep in the game. For instance, I've not yet drawn the attention of the gods.

Feel free to enlighten me with your own experiences and thoughts on the subject. What makes crawl great (or not so great), in your views?
This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

getter77

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2009, 01:39:07 AM »
BALANCE, or the gist of it, really helps Stone Soup to shine amid the delightful tiles.  That one can make a go of it with just about any combination, save maybe Thief, is so utterly awesome.  As is the hardcore bug hunting and such that continues to go on while some other "big" ones, as I understand it, still have certain very irksome problems to this day for one reason or another.

.0.5.0 of Stone Soup will be so freaking epic and well wrought when it finally gets here, bit by bit, as we climb the versions and everything is gone over deftly.
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corremn

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2009, 03:35:12 AM »
What makes it good, is polish, those devs just cant stare at it for long without getting out their polishing cloths and giving it a bit of elbow grease.  And as getter mentioned there is more variety in play-styles than any other game.
corremn's Roguelikes. To admit defeat is to blaspheme against the Emperor.  Warhammer 40000 the Roguelike

makkE

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2009, 07:33:45 PM »
I have been playing crawl for about a year, mostly melee chars, or ranged/dextrous ones... just recently trying to get into the magic realm.

Still, I read stuff on that newsgroup and think "Wow, is that guy playing the same game as I am ?"

So much to explore, so much ways to play it, so much to learn. That's what makes crawl so great.

And, even if you use the same combo, no game will ever be the same. Also no death really makes you hate the game. Most of the time dying manages to make you smile, or facepalm. :P Or both.

corremn

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2009, 11:15:39 PM »
I have recently turned to playing Hill Orc Priests of Beogh, never have I cared so much for my lil' orcish followers. What fun, if only they had better player control of them.  I love it when they shout out how they think I'm great :)
corremn's Roguelikes. To admit defeat is to blaspheme against the Emperor.  Warhammer 40000 the Roguelike

Anvilfolk

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2009, 12:22:02 PM »
Has anyone managed to compile the darn thing with decent colours and working with the arrow keys in Linux? Can't seem to get that right.
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jim

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2009, 10:58:22 PM »
I'll chime in a little late. Crawl rocks.

I only beat it once - merman ice mage / trident user, very thematic - and it was a "just barely" sort of win. Very satisfying.

I'm with getter. Balance is what makes Crawl shine. There are no "useless" classes, really, nor are there surefire methods toward victory or defeat. There's also the aspect of having to customize your character on the fly. You're never really sure what problems are going to crop up, nor what solutions will be offered via random artifact or other circumstance. The tension and sense of possibility remains fairly high throughout the game.

In part, this is because Crawl tries to kill you so much. Anyone who has played the game a few times knows of Sigfried and Sigfried's goddamn scythe, but even a character's first encounter with a generic ogre will usually be a harrowing (if not fatal) event. Things kill you in Crawl. They kill you good. You'll build up a decent fighter, descend into the orc mines, and be zapped to death by orcish priests from behind a wall of orcish fodder. You'll misfire a spell and accidentally blow yourself to bits.

But likewise (and here's where developers should take note), the assiduous and careful player gets to kill Crawl, as well. Monsters, even hard ones, aren't invincible. If you measure your steps and build up your character, you WILL get that fireball spell or that vorpal blade. Throughout a successful character's journey, there comes not just one, but numerous points where you find yourself among hitherto impossible enemies, skillfully cutting down one after another, activating that rage amulet, downing that cure potion, firing off that wand, and so forth. Crawl does an astonishing job of allowing players to "turn the tide" in a consistently tactical and exciting way.

Plus, the abyss. It just doesn't get any better than when your paladin finds himself at the precipice of his undoing in that darkened place, his only choice as follows: convert to the malformed god who rules that horrible plane, or search (probably fruitlessly) for a way out and most likely die in battle against innumerable demons. F*** yes.

Archaalen

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2009, 08:53:08 AM »
I also love Crawl, in part for the excellent balancing act they have done, but also because of the strong anti-grinding stance of the devs.  Everything you do feels much more like a logical moving towards your goal, rather than simply wandering around scumming in order to make everything easy (which Crawl never is).  Variety is important, as well.  The huge number of race and class combinations make the game so very replayable in a variety of styles.  Unlike ADOM, my favorite races here are Kobolds and Draconians, though I do play the occasional Merfolk, Ogre, or Troll.

justinhoffman

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2009, 03:54:36 PM »
I think crawl is an amazing game as well.   I love it's conservative and front loaded nature.  There is a long and dangerous dungeon to delve, but most games are short, simple, and sweet.  The unobtainable gives the game its mystery and charm.  There is great depth and scale to the game, but it serves more as atmosphere and setting than as part of the game play experience.

How many of us have actually beaten crawl or experienced much of the side dungeons?  It doesn't mater though, just knowing so much is there adds to the fun and the sense you are traversing a truly terrible world.

To those of us who have made it to mid game, it tends to become more of a slow and drawn out slog.  But fortunately, the game kills you off before the suspense is ruined and the anticipation of what could be is met with the naked reality of what is.

I think I love the sense of a great beyond most about roguelikes, and crawl serves up the unknown and unexperienced in spades.  The player merely tiptoes around the maw of a vast abyss.  You may conquer the beast but victory is immaterial to it's enjoyment.

My favorite classes/races are sludge elf transmuters, vampire monks/necromancers, and demon spawn chaos knights of makhleb.  That and picking up namelex as a god is great fun.

I've never beaten the game.  I tend to get bored and/or die when I get fairly far and take a break from the game.  I've made it to Zot but the game gets tedious for me around level 12 where I tend to die.

:edit

I just picked it up again, and love mummies.  I haven't had much luck, but It's nice playing the game without a food clock and grinding.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2009, 02:45:17 AM by justinhoffman »

Fenrir

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2009, 01:12:24 AM »
I'm definitely a Stone Soup fan, thought I go for long stretches when I don't play. One of my favorite features is the auto-explore key. Every time I play a roguelike now I wish it had one.

I never use tiles; I'm an ASCII purist all the way.

Recently, I've been experimenting with Draconian Wanderers. The idea of not really knowing what character you're going to play before you reach level seven sounds intriguing, but I've almost never made it that far.

Oh, if you haven't since January, AgingMinotaur: play Dwarf Fortress already!

Omnivorous

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2009, 10:48:24 PM »
Sorry if someone already wrote this. (Sorry I didn't read the last few replies cause I think noone nailed what's so good about Crawl.)
Well first of all, maybe the difference between us is that we play "Crawl" and "Crawl Stone Soup"? With SS, everything is so easy.. so convenient. Vanilla Crawl was pretty..heavy on user-input unless you bothered to sit down an hour and make tons of macros.

As for the gameplay. ADoM is -roleplaying-. You go through alot of conversation, travelling and puzzling before you get anywhere.

Crawl is much more -action- based. You start at "Level 1". When you get to Level 2, you will be slightly stronger, and so will your monsters be. As you continue diving, the world kind of.. opens up to you, bit by bit, step by step. In ADoM you feel abit more confused at the beginning, and to be honest I can't see how anyone could get the hang of ADoM without turning to spoilers. Crawl on the other hand is much simpler. You just play it and get better at it.

ADoM is the roguelike I've spent the most time in. I recently turned to Crawl, and I've been completely hooked. The main reason being, I can now show my roguelike to friends, and they actually get the hang of it, manage to play it, without throwing a tantrum: "BUT THERE IS NO DAMN GRAPHINCS IN THIS GAME!%&#!" ADoM, you have to -live-. Crawl, you can just play. :)

Great game, well deserved award!

Vanguard

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2009, 11:33:45 PM »
I want to like Crawl from hearing how much people around here like it, but I just don't seem to be able to for some reason.  The character customization is nice and all that, but for some reason I just don't find the game itself very exciting.  It feels to me like I'm in a bland dungeon with bland enemies, with no real goal to care about.  I don't know why I feel this way, but for some reason the game just does not make me interested in exploring it.

The gameplay also seems to revolve too much around food for my taste.  I understand and respect the reasons why they did it, but I always feel like all my going around and killing off monsters and such is all just a means to the ends of getting food to keep going for longer, instead of what it should be, where food is a means towards the end of finding the Orb of Zot.

Am I coming at this game from the wrong angle?  Is it just not for me?

getter77

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2009, 12:57:33 AM »
Not necessarily, just depends on how things strike ya as the game continues to evolve.  For instance, you could give a Mummy a shot to render the food game meaningless or the likes of Ghouls, Vampires, and Spriggans for a non-standard flavor to it.

Continue poking around in it and sampling this and that as the versions slip on by from time to time...weigh in on their little suggestions and fixes area even.  I know there's still many major things in the works even considering this last substantial .5.1 milestone.
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Vanguard

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2009, 06:19:34 AM »
Y'know, that sounds like good advice.  I'm going to give playing a vampire a shot.

getter77

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Re: The greatness of Crawl
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2009, 11:47:51 AM »
I try to be helpful here and there.   ;D
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