Whenever someone mentions mangoes, the first thing I think of is “My, that was a yummy mango” but this is a pretty niche thing to quote to someone that didn’t spend hours playing Rogue as a kid.
When you start to get hungry in the game of Rogue, you have to eat some generic “food,” or a fruit. I had always known the fruit in this game to be a mango, but as it turns out, my childhood experiences playing Rogue are not representative of every version of the game.
When I searched for this (to me) iconic phrase online, I initially only found one relevant result, someone on Reddit asking if anyone knew the origin of the phrase. The answer, internet guy, is yes, it came from the original Rogue.
However, upon testing the first version I could find quickly online, I discovered that I wasn’t collecting mangoes. I was now in a dungeon full of slime molds instead.
Someone replying to the Reddit post explained that “slime mold” was the default fruit item that could be found in the game’s dungeons. Supposedly this dates back to an in-joke between the original authors of the game, Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman, in reference to an actual slime mold that was growing on a drain pipe behind the dining hall at UC Santa Cruz.
In Toy’s document for the original Unix version, A Guide to the Dungeons of Doom, he explains that the fruit can be changed using the ROGUEOPTS environment variable. I can find only one version of this document remaining online that mentions mangoes. However, a lot of later roguelikes seem to reference mangoes so there’s clearly more of a pattern here. The guide for NetHack suggests mango as that game’s custom fruit, and another game, Brogue, uses mangoes as its only available fruit.
So what’s going on here? The widely available versions of Rogue for DOS online today mostly seem to be cracked versions of the original ports by Jon Lane, and from what I can tell they may have been compiled with different options set, some with mangoes and some with slime molds. Bizarrely, the version I had as a child doesn’t even seem to have been preserved online so far. Disk #J723 from the Oklahoma Book Warehouse reports itself as a copy of Rogue version 1.1, SN:1349, which is listed on the roguelike archive, but the version there has significant differences from the one I have. The most original-looking copies of v1.1, SN:1349 that I can find were located in the Total DOS Collection, have a date of 1983, and feature a copyright screen for Artificial Intelligence Design.
The next one, the version on the roguelike archive, has no text in the copyright area and so gets a glitched copy of the name prompt instead.
My copy, however, has a notice encouraging you to spread the program to friends and BBS services. Due to this, as a child I had assumed Rogue was basically free software and the disk it arrived on was the only thing you could be charged for.
So far, I haven’t come across any other version that has this message.
There are several differences in the code between the other versions and my version. There are some small textual changes here and there between this and later versions, but as far as I have found, my copy is the only one that omits the word “bizarre” from this section of text.
One other small text difference is the year that appears on your tombstone when you lose. In the original, this is 1983, same as the copyright. (Later versions changed it so it displays the current year set on the computer.) In my version however, the date is changed to 1984.
Aside from the missing word, the tombstone date, and the different copyright message, the only other difference between my copy and the “original” v1.1, SN:1349 is this chunk of code below. I don’t know what it does or how it affects the game, if at all. I’d love to find out though.
There are of course many other differences between this particular build of the game and other builds aside from whether the fruit is called a mango or not, but that’s beyond the current scope of this post. My next goal is to play enough of each copy of v1.1, SN:1349 to find out if they all give out mangoes. (They all have both “mango” and “slime mold” in the code in the same places.) Surprisingly, depending on the dungeon that is generated, it can be incredibly hard to get your hands on a mango.
When you do, though, it sure is a yummy mango.