Some Junethack comments on Roguelike Radio Episode 39: IRDC 2012 Retrospective
The Roguelike Radio Episode 39: IRDC 2012 Retrospective has a piece (starting at about 8:10) about my Junethack talk on the IRDC, discussing mainly the start scumming issues we had last year and that I mentioned in my talk.
After listening to this part I feel the need to put forward more information about the situation we had in last year’s tournament.
One of the question was “Do you really get that much benefit from start scumming?”. In the NetHack community it is usually believed that the answer to this question is a clear “No” and start scumming is a waste of your time. Many even believe that every character is ascendable if you play carefully enough (but that takes much of the fun out of the game). You might get some small starting benefit from start scumming but in the end your actions are much more important.
So, for a normal player start scumming is not a good strategy. But there actually sensible reasons for start scumming. Well, as “sensible” as they can be within the context of NetHack games.
If a player is trying to ascend a game with conducts, it might even be necessary to start scum to be able to complete the game with the conducts you are trying to achieve.
Conducts are self-imposed rules in playing NetHack for making an ascension in NetHack more challenging (yes, there are people who find a normal NetHack ascension trivial and are voluntarily making it harder).
For example by trying to ascend while being blind the whole game (a so called Zen ascension). For doing this conduct you need a blindfold or towel in your starting inventory as vanilla NetHack doesn’t have any builtin support for this conduct. Therefore start scumming for the purpose of a Zen ascension for getting a mean to blind yourself on turn 1 is not considered cheating or abusive.
One of the two players responsible for about two-thirds of the 125’000 start scummed games during Junethack 2012 was trying to do a 12 conducts NetHack game (that means doing every conduct possible in vanilla NetHack at once!). For this he used a bot that automatically was starting lots of games and looking for certain conditions in the character’s stats and starting inventory. On IRC he said that because of the low probabilities he would need automatic rerolling for 8-18 hours until he got one game with optimal starting conditions.
We didn’t ban the users doing it because it is completely legit in NetHack and if the server admins allowed it we wouldn’t punish it either. For example nethack.alt.org only hides start scummed games on the website. The admin for nethack.eu implemented a dynamic time penalty that increased with the number of start scummed games but also didn’t completely disallow them. The only thing we did was preventing that start scummed games would bog down the Junethack server when new games got parsed and adding the number of start scummed games to the user page.
Darren Grey mentioned catering to the 99% or the 1%. I have no problem with the stupid ascension tricks of the 1%. Being able to perform these stunts is also part of the crazy appeal of NetHack, so we couldn’t just ignore or punish it and as long as it doesn’t bother the other 99% IMO it is none of our business to judge how people get fun out of NetHack.
In this case we only had to write special code to handle it but afterwards it was no problem anymore.