David L. Craddock is not a name that I was familiar with. Roguelike (and roguelike-like) games is a category that I actually played a bit: Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, etc. I was then attracted to read this book, called Dungeon Hacks: How NetHack, Angband, and Other Roguelikes Changed the Course of Video Games. I read many books about the history of videogames (The Ultimate History of Video Games) or relating popular market competition (Console Wars). With a title like the one chosen for this book, I wanted to know more. Was I happy to take the time to dive into this? Mostly.
After doing some research about the author, I discovered that he was very prolific. From his official website, I saw that he already has written 11 books, going from short stories to non-fiction stories about videogames (like this present book). He wrote a very popular one called Stay Awhile and Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo and Forged a Video-Game Empire. With a pedigree like that, I understand why he was able to vulgarize concepts linked to a niche subject (roguelike games), so people not being familiar with this world can follow the story.
History of roguelike games
For someone who wanted a history lesson on roguelike games, I was very pleased with the content of this book. I heard from many sources that it all comes from a game called Rogue (seen above), but I didn’t know more. Hearing stories about how it came about, how it was developed, how they fought the technical limitations of the primitive computers, … it was amazing and really well told. I found the story interesting that Rogue started everything, then led to the creation of Hack, which led to NetHack, which led to Angband, etc. I am a programmer and the iterative process of videogame creation is an aspect that has always interested me.
Subtitle mislead me
The subtitle of the book made me believe that there would be an explanation of the effect that roguelike games have had on the videogames market. There was nothing of the sort. In the last section of the book, there are stories mentioned about how certain actual games were inspired by those classic games (like FTL – Faster Than Light, seen above). There is also a nice opinion piece about why the author thinks that those classic games still have a vibrant community, despite their age. I was disappointed that I didn’t get what I wanted, so this is what made a huge impact on my final note. I have to say though that what was here is very strong.
As a history book about a nice type of videogames, this is worth taking the time to read, or either hear if you’re more interested in audiobooks. (This is how I actually read this book. I purchased it from Audible, and it’s being read by Mike Rylander, who has done many other audiobooks.) Every format of this story is available on Amazon. This is a 2015 book. At the beginning of the year, and Expanded Edition was released, but at the time of writing this article, it’s only available as an electronic or printed book.