Book Review: Dungeon Hacks

I must begin with a confession: Back in the early nineties, there were so many role-playing games available, so the only roguelike I played was NetHack, and very little because it felt too complex and graphically simple.

Decades later, I am now enjoying my first adventures with Dwarf Fortress (but again, the Steam version with improved UI and graphics), so I was keen to learn more about where do those hardcore, ASCII-based RPGs came to form a specific sub-genre.


Dungeon Hacks book cover

Title: Dungeon Hacks: How NetHack, Angband, and Other Roguelikes Changed the Course of Video Games

Author(s): David L. Craddock

Dungeon Hacks is a great historical journey through what seems to be the roots and most important titles: Beneath Apple Manor, Rogue, NetHack, Angband, Mines of Moria, Ancient Domains of Mystery. The book provides a lot of context on the origins of each (at times even too much background), explains the progression of each to the next one, and also dwells into variants that some of the games got. It also serves as another game development history book that showcases how few individuals with passion can achieve incredible things.

Despite being old games (some from the late seventies!) and most being created for old distributed systems, almost all are still playable as personal computer ports today [1], and the book does a good job of describing decades of changes (and management politics at times) in a way that does not feel boring.

The writing is good, the descriptions are so detailed you can perfectly imagine how the games would look, and it feels like a well documented book. If I had to choose something to improve, it felt too short! I would have loved to learn about more games, even if they are more modern. But I understand the decision of selecting the most relevant titles, and providing quality over quantity.

A great read that made me want to try some of the games (and I will, I already installed most).

[1]: BAM was not ported, but still can be played thanks to emulation and

Tags: Reviews Videogames Game Dev

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