A lot of games by independent developers go through extended beta periods - Mount & Blade is a good example. Many roguelikes take this to the extremes: Unangband has been in beta for over 10 years (Unless you consider most of that period to be alpha).
During that period it is inevitable that players will encounter bugs while playing the game. But with a roguelike, especially one as deep as Unangband, it is not often clear while you are caught up in the moment of play whether the behaviour of a particular element in the game is a bug. It could instead be an exploit that has been permitted or sanctioned by the developer, or unintended consequences which may be patched in a later version of the game.
Ashkir, while playing Unangband, has experienced one such unintended consequence which he has framed explicitly in moral terms. His familiar, which is a customisable summons which develops throughout the game alongside the one subclass of magic user able to summon it, was able to avoid being killed by a unique monster because it is also a unique, and at the moment in Unangband, uniques can only be killed by the player.
As I mention in the thread, I didn't pick this up during testing because I inevitably accidentally would kill the familiar early on in the game, and as a result never noticed this issue. This is important, because once a familiar is dead, it won't come back - a partial permadeath. While this may seem draconian, it met the requirements I initially set for the Find Familiar design.
The Master magic school has a wide variety of summons spells but needed an introductory spell that would allow Master characters to learn about managing their summoned monsters very early on in the game without unbalancing the class by allowing them to spam summons to abuse the game. Find Familiar is therefore a low level spell which allows you to only summon one monster, and implemented as a 'throwaway hack' - something fun I could code relatively quickly and without having to worry about the impact on much of the game. The improving abilities are intended as a bonus for those players who do manage to keep their familiar's alive - and as a way of anticipating the feature request that would have inevitably been made by the player base.
Unsurprisingly, people became incredibly attached to their familiars, to the point where the most common feature request made is the ability to name them. Ashkir has taken this one step further and built his entire play style around the familiar abilities. But I am intrigued about the depth of his reaction to finding out his familiar can't die, for several reasons.
Firstly, is the fact that an unkillable assistant is such a common feature of computer games that has become a trope of the genre. Your pet in Torchlight is the example closest to the genre - it flees instead of dying, because having your pet die would completely unbalance the in-game economy.
Secondly, is that he has been completely abusing another significant bug in the familiar game design without the slightest moral qualm:
'Most importantly I made his attacks drain health so as he hits creatures the life drained is added to my own hit points. This is incredibly useful and gives a Necro a huge advantage as they have a spell that drains their own life to give themselves back spell points, giving me an almost limitless supply of power."The problem with this statement is that I never intended for the familiar's drain health ability to heal the spell caster - it should merely heal the familiar. This unintended consequence occurs because of the way that your allies attacks are treated as your attacks for the purpose of getting experience.
Thirdly, is the fact that if I gave him what he wants, a completely dead familiar, he in all likelihood would stop playing the game:
I've had a great time with this @ and will definately go back to him later but I'd rather not do it while the bug is present or without using the familiar as it's a massive part of the Necro's play style.(My emphasis added).
I've presented him with exactly that Solomon's choice simply to see if he takes it up.
There's a lot here worth discussing further. What do you think? (And Ashkir, feel free to correct anything I've assumed here, in the comments, or on the thread you started).