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Dwarf Fortress: Ten hours with the most inscrutable video game of all time (arstechnica.com)
258 points by llambda 1700 days ago | hide | past | web | 185 comments | favorite

Great explanation of DF's bodily combat damage modeling: http://dayzmod.com/forum/index.php?/topic/95316-complex-dama...

> DF's damage system is just as complex and oftentimes difficult to keep track of as the rest of the game. Instead of simple health points or separate body parts DF simulates each individual by the sum of it's parts. This starts at the single parts of a body, then adds layers of tissue, muscle and fat to each part, connects all parts by joints and finally stuffs a share of vital and nonvital organs into the whole thing. Every part of this construct has several states it can be it, reaching from healthy over bruised, torn, mangled, nonfunctional, broken and missing...

> How does that play out in the actual game? Depending on what kind of injury a creature suffers it tracks the damage to individual body part and the results of it. Slashing damage will cut through tissue, muscle and fat, might even separate body parts, blunt damage will pass through protective clothing and only bruise upper layers, but shatter bones and joints mercilessly. Piercing damage will effortlessly penetrate all layers and has a high chance to damage.

A dwarf is graphically represented by a smiley face, so you can't see any of this happen. All of it is conveyed by descriptive text.

It's also recommended to pick up a freshman textbook on geology to understand the game's many types of rocks, which is apparently pretty realistic following Tarn's personal interest in geology/mineralogy. The depth of this "game" is breathtaking. The only thing I can think of comparable might be high-fidelity but consumer grade flight simulators like X-Plane, or those put out by Russian developer DCS (e.g. http://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/en/series/black_shark/... )

The UI in Dwarf Fortress is completely indefensible. Even when you do understand how to play the game it's a kludge. Let alone the fact that AN ASCII GAME CAN BRING AN 8 CORE DESKTOP TO A CRAWL. (The ASCII is actually rendered in OPENGL for performance which is a joke in and of itself because 99% of the system resources are spent poorly simulating stagnant blocks of air rock and dirt with nothing happening to them).

There are many amazing and laudable aspects to DF. Tarn has a physics background and in this regard the game is well thought out. It has unmatched emergent gameplay and behavior due to the physics and complexity of each dwarf.

What isn't well thought out at all are both the 'design' of the software and interface. This is the most beautifully complex game with endless unique and hilarious morsels of awesome (the naming of geographic features and depictions engraved on items) Yet absolutely no effort is spent on conveying that to the user. It's like the game itself is autistic in its savant level complexity and all that beauty is hidden behind an utterly unusable interface and horribly inefficient software design.

Dwarf Fortress is a perverse decent into a single brilliant yet mal adjusted person's 'ideal' game. It's wildly capable and meticulously tended to in all the wrong areas while the glaringly obvious flaws go unattended.

It's like a brilliant mathematician who shits on the floor and writes earth-shattering proofs on discarded fast food bags leaving them strewn about homeless shelters. The hobos (DF fans) all rightfully commend his genius and defend the antisocial idiosyncratic behavior as "part of the creative process" or that anything else would detract from 'the experience' of reading a revolutionary proof off of a shit stained McDonalds bag.

The main problem is Tarn's inability to work with anyone else or compromise. The poor quality interface and software design is a perfect metaphor for the developer behind it. The smallest improvement such as rendering more ASCII layers at once from an isometric perspective would vastly improve the usability and likely expand the userbase by 10 fold yet no effort is made to make ANY UI adjustments.

Minecraft is the perfect example of the level of success DF is capable of. Their premise is quite similar, but where Notch's effort went into a simplistic usable UI with simple physics, Tarn went without a UI and devoted his effort to a bewilderingly complex and amazingly inefficent engine with no reasonable way for anyone to experience it. Tarn could be a multi millionare if he simply would take some damn advice about sofware and UI design.

Seriously, With two more people helping him, one person focused on optimizing the codebase and another focused on improving the UI this would literally be one of the greatest games of all time.

Until that day DF will remain an obscure oddity, like a model train set with a revolutionary efficient engine whose owner steadfastly refuses anyone to use it in anything except a toy which actually causes physical pain to all who attempt to play with it.

I assure you, the current player base is acutely aware of how bad the UI is. It's not even that it's opaque until learned, it is sometimes just downright impossible in vanilla DF to answer certain elementary questions like "how many dwarves are set to mine?" Workflow automation is really primitive, leading to either the "constantly assign dye thread jobs through the manager so the fools will do it" problem or the opposite "oops I left the mason alone for five minutes and now I have a hundred masterwork statues in a single 5x5 square" problem. Not for nothing does Dwarf Therapist exist, and I flat out will not play the game without dfhack's workflow and autobutcher plugins.

It's still genius. But it is definitely one of those "scribbles on the wall in crayon" type works of genius. As the innards of the program itself is better understood, I expect dfhack to supplant more and more of the original UI; it already has a dwarf therapist like mode, a much better job manager, and has started venturing into fundamentally reworking the UI. I recall a plugin not too long ago that allowed you to say things like "as soon as a bed is constructed, put it here".

yeah, and sometimes new things get patched in like squad management so you can say "alternate patrolling with training", and of course it has a brand new interface, which is subtly different from all the other interfaces...

UI critiques of Dwarf Fortress are incredibly valid. But Tarn makes a living off of DF despite that, because he's trying to procedurally generate interesting stories. That's a really big challenge, and it's something very, very few other games try and do. If you check out his devlog (http://bay12games.com/dwarves/index.html) and his planned feature list (http://bay12games.com/dwarves/dev.html) you can see the scope is... staggering in complexity. So the vision is what draws me, personally into the game. The fact that this is all free and driven by donations (publicly tracked here http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=122396.0) just makes it even more incredible.

This complexity and vision comes with a price. As people noted below, UI is not really Tarn's focus and probably won't be any time soon. The code is not open and Tarn is pretty straightforward about not wanting to share it with anyone, because he doesn't want to introduce more complexity with non-canonical versions and churn as he continues to replace older subsystems with new ones (At least, this is my recollection of the topic, but I've been out of the loop for a while). So no, it's not going to get fixed any time soon.

Regardless, I really love this game. But I think the wiki's quick-start guide is not sufficient to get up and running with the game. So I've been maintaining my own tutorial: http://www.hailingfromtheedge.com/p/dwarf-fortress-tutorial-...

so far i'd just been beta-testing this on friends who haven't played yet. If you want to try out DF for the first time, please give my tutorial a shot and let me know how it goes!

"UI critiques of Dwarf Fortress are incredibly valid." Yes, and no one has ever marketed the game as anything that's Ready For The Prime Time, possessed of a decent UI, or anything other than something that's really fun and interesting despite being an early development version of someone's cool pet project.

You can come back and complain some more in earnest when you've paid money for it. :)


Postscript: If some friend, roommate, frenemy, or random dude on the Internet has, in fact, marketed the game as something that's ready for the prime time or possessed of a decent UI, they're putting you on. :P

Just because something is free by no means makes it beyond reproach.

And just because it can be reproached doesn't make it any less tiresome to the people who have been hearing it for years.

Maybe one of these years it'll get fixed and you won't have to hear it anymore.

Thank you! I will definitely check that out.

Maybe he just wants to make his game, perhaps not a game for you or many other people - but his game. For him. Not everything has to be simplified and dumbed down. We have plenty of those kinds of games.

Also, I'm confused by your shock that an ASCII game can bring an 8 core desktop to a crawl. Just because most games spend most of the system resources on displaying pretty graphics, doesn't mean that DF has to as well.

I'm sure he does just want to make his game. I'm also free to criticize the glaring shortcomings. There is VAST room for improvements without dumbing anything down. A perfect example of this is the fact there are two ways to draw rectangles for designating areas for trash vs mining. What on earth could be the reasoning behind that and how would fixing that be 'dumbing' it down?

What about the nonesense up/down stairs. How many thousands of dwarfs have perished at the bottom of a Down only stairway they have just dug, only for the mistake of not designating the stairway as both capable of upward/downward movement. So you watch, helplessly as all of your miners slowly die of thirst in a hole 6 feet deep a foot away from everyone else.

Playing chess by moving the pieces around with your hands is surely easier than rolling them around with your nose, but I would hardly call it 'dumbing down' the game.

First make it work. Then make it elegant. Then make it fast.

DF is at stage 1 now, and I think it's very reasonable to postpone ui polishing and optimisations till all the features are in place. Otherways he would need to constantly rewrite optimizations and the structures that allows speeding the game up, to kep up with new features. Which will take much longer in the end, and could kill his enthusiasm, ending the project.

Isn't the game 11 years old? What is a reasonable amount of time to spend before moving to stage 2?

Tarn, the creator, has said that Dwarf Fortress might be the last game he ever creates. He may still be working on it 20 years from now, and it may still be in a pre-release state at that time.

As long as he wants - it's his project.

Amen to that. Where does everyone find their sense of entitlement?

I don't feel entitled I feel a tragic sense of loss knowing how much better it could be.

Eh, I don't know. Part of what makes Dwarf Fortress unique is its meticulous attention to detail. Tarn has so far been able to concentrate so fully on the game's simulation aspects by mostly ignoring things like the UI and optimization.

Could he hire on another person to work on the non-simulation bits? Perhaps. But that takes money. Tarn makes donation information public, and he makes between $40k-50k a year before taxes and the ~$800 a month he pays his brother for the help he provides. Enough to support himself, but not nearly enough to hire on another full time person.

Not to mention there are already other games out there attempting to emulate Dwarf Fortress (Gnomoria and Towns immediately come to mind) in a more user friendly form, but neither of them yet come close to intricacy and scale of Dwarf Fortress.

If he opened up the code I'm sure people would do it for free. If he doesn't want to open up more of the code I bet there are scads of people who would do it for a cut of the profits. And yes if he doesn't improve things eventually a competitor will mop the floor with him.

> Isn't the game 11 years old? What is a reasonable amount of time to spend before moving to stage 2?

I'm guessing you don't program?

I am of the opinion that beyond a certain level of complexity Stage one depends on Stage two. DF has been there for quite a while. Stage 2 should be done in tandem with stage 1.

That's cute. :-)

Complexity is like beauty though. A programmer can turn something as trivial as a command line calculator into one of the worlds greatest feats of engineering.

Where you are mistaken is your assumption that given enough time, every programmer will follow a predetermined structure.

Our tools may require logic, but that doesn't mean we must behave logically.

I understand that no two people will design any system identically, but for many situations there are 'obvious' solutions.

Regardless of that, well engineered code is far easier, more flexible and waaaay faster to maintain in the long run when compared to a mess of quick dirty hacks to get passable results. It takes no time at all for the hacks to impede your ability to make changes to the system.

Early in a project it's often difficult to get the design perfect. Requirements are refined and unforeseen engineering challenges crop up. When this happens your existing design pattern may no longer be a perfect fit. This is how I approach it:

I think about what the new 'ideal' or obvious solution is considering the new challenge.

If that solution is not practical to implement. I may try to engineer around the problem in a way that is consistent with the design of the rest of the system. While it may not be the 'optimal' solution the next developer who needs to get in there and change something will readily understand what's going on if they are familiar with other parts of the system. I like to call this 'fractal' design.

I rarely encounter a situation that I cannot solve via the ideal or fractal approach. But only after I have ruled out both do I allow myself to resort to hacks.

Regarding the inefficiency of the engine. There is something seriously FUBAR with the design when you must choose the size of simulation (the rendered rows and columns of ASCII representing the playable zone in the window not the physical dimensions) at the beginning of a game before embarking. The performance of the game is directly proportional to the number of blocks in this zone + the number of dwarfs and NOT the actual stuff happening to them.

The bad part is that you have to completely start over and embark with new dwarfs if you decide that your system can/can't do a bit more and you wish to adjust the size of the zone.

Current hypothesis on the forums is that he uses some simplistic variant of A*; in extreme situations everything pathfinds to everything else once a tick in a totally serial program. The player base sometimes resorts to weird hacks and layouts to reduce the branching complexity of the path finding, but ultimately the more loose stone and objects you have to pathfind off and the more things you have pathfinding the worse everything gets. You don't even have to have a large number of dwarves for it to crop up; sheep are capable of bringing your machine to its knees if you don't ruthlessly cull them, or notoriously the catsplosion problem.

I would love to see a bunch of hard hitting engineers focus on optimizing DF with multithreading and GPGPU stuff. It would probably require a full rewrite. Having some experience with AI and pyopencl physics simulations I have no doubt that DF could be many orders of magnitude faster and capable of sooooo much more. That's really where my angst stems from.

> [...] focus on optimizing DF with multithreading and GPGPU stuff.

You should probably start with algorithmic improvements.

It could go either way IMO, GPGPUs are super great for naively simulating a bunch of different blocks in parallel.

Last time I played it, it wasn't that bad. It was like a year ago, before that minecart updates. People are exaggerating a bit or performance went worse?

Nope, it's about the same, if anything I believe there are some improvements...which just mean your system gets pushed to its knees doing something even more crazy.

"There is something seriously FUBAR with the design..." I call shenanigans.

I would like you to point out another reality simulator where you can dynamically resize the simulation. Can you ask SimCity "hey, generate me a few extra acres of The World around my periphery"? Or chop it back off again?

A fixed-size simulation is the norm. Anything else is fairly exceptional (and even Minecraft has caveats). What's different here is that you get to choose the size of the simulation in a very customizable manner.

I wrote a nbody gravity simulation that allowed this at one time. http://code.google.com/p/stableorbit

> There is something seriously FUBAR with the design when you must choose the size of simulation (the rendered rows and columns of ASCII representing the playable zone in the window not the physical dimensions) at the beginning of a game before embarking.

Minecraft does that (the fog distance).

Fog distance can be changed on the fly, though. You don't need to start a new game to adjust it.

I believe that the ASCII isn't true ASCII, though, as I believe gnabarian said - which is part of the problem.

This post has more: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/24693/pseudo-ascii...

Normally the DF executable works like a terminal emulator, rendering the glyphs using GL or such. You can however run dwarf fortress in a console (ie, to run it over SSH) by changing the configuration file, and then it is a true text game.

BTW it doesn't use only ASCII but a larger subset of unicode. ASCII would be a very restricted set of characters to use.

It uses a mix of graphical tiles and text, it's not all just an array of unicode. They're sufficiently decoupled now that you can have most text rendered nicely using truetype fonts alongside whatever graphics set you're using.

> to run it over SSH

Cloud gaming. I like it.

More a matter, I think, of being able to run it in a screen session at home, then detach and pick up again from elsewhere.

multiplayer next?

Keeping the game a purposefully obtuse niche thing might make sense, depending on the values of the developer. It's possible to not be interested growing the dev team creatively, like most novelists are perfectly happy just writing by themselves. Solo gamedev is cheap, you basically just need to feed yourself and be able to run a computer, so in case you just want to work on the game all day, a very modest wage has you covered there.

Extra money never hurts though, so why not try to grow as much as you can? Well, there's the thing of interacting with your player base, which might be the most interesting social interaction you get if you live and breathe the game. The more successful you grow, the bigger the player base grows and the bigger the status difference between you and a random player becomes.

If it's just you and a few dozen players, it's basically just a social hangout with you providing some interesting entertainment. If it's a few hundred players, it's no longer quite that, but it's still a manageable community where you can have discussions with people. Once things go big enough, the emergent community stuff isn't going to work anymore, and you might be too big of a deal yourself to be able to do random chat and not have things go weird. You might end up having to either get some people as community moderators (you wanted to develop a game full-time, not work as a manager, remember), or just go into radio silence and lose the social venue. And now working on the game is crappier than it used to be, like providing entertainment for a social hangout, but now you need an opaque wall between you and the other people who keep throwing beer bottles at you and each other, dismantling the furniture and lighting fires. So why were you doing this again?

There is (was?) actually an isometric add-on. It really only makes things slower and more confusing as far as I can see. The UI isn't the part bringing one's computer to its knees, rather the very detailed simulation going on (and a whole lot of pathfinding over ever-changing maps).

His goal has always been a sort of "fantasy world simulator" which is anything but simple. I should know... I helped find a ton of physical properties of random materials. Saguaro wood in particular was a pain & had to be determined empirically because there simply weren't any good sources.

Lastly, there is one guy helping with the interface. I don't think it will ever turn into a simplified GUI, though. To be honest, that would require so many different buttons that I wonder how it could work.

Chalk it up to the price you pay to play a game where you can drain the ocean, trap whales, load them into lead cages in lead minecarts, set them on fire, then push them down a giant ramp to ram them into the demons down in hell (yes, you can really do that). I'm not sure he wants to be a huge success anyhow. I think he sees this more as a lifestyle business.

Constant thanks to the people on the forums who do some of the very cool data gathering.

How'd you pull the data for saguaro wood?

Empirically. I got my hands on a piece and measured the density myself. It's roughly 430 kg/m^3.

Still have a box full of the damn stuff, actually, just in case someone can figure out any half-sensible way to translate the other properties into something DF uses.

Hmm, I think I remember coming across the material properties thread a long time ago.

Wow that was some data gathering. It's kinda strange to think that along with DF you can get a dataset with the properties of various real world materials.

Part of it was crowdsourced to my fellow forumites, but a lot of that thread was just me, Google & Wolfram Alpha. You could probably still find it buried somewhere on the suggestions forum with that giant table of materials, material properties & sources.

Oh I did.

Incidentally, do you remember user Martin? The guy who made the original Morul?

Yes, not to mention many of the other forumites. Though I haven't been active over there for a while now.

Theres a really interesting thread on the way bolts and armor interact, I don't know if you caught it.

No, but I would like to read that. Link?

Here is the thread where the initial !!Science!! on whether bolt weight made an impact on their lethality - [Dwarven Research: The Effect of Bolt Weight on Crossbow Performance](http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=115683.0)

The results were converted on reddit into a LaTeX PDF, which is excellent reading - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2891221/DF%20study.pdf

This led to the follow up: A Comparison Study on the Effectiveness of Bolts vs Armors

LaTeX - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2891221/DF%20study%202.pdf

Thread - http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=116151.0

Fascinating reading, thanks.

I didn't play it, but when I watched some videos of adventure mode (yeah I know, that's missing ALL of it, but the simulation is the same, yes?) on youtube I couldn't help but notice silly things like breaking bones and "bruising the brain" by throwing snow at things, or that dude who killed a bunch of wolves by repeatedly throwing a dead wolf. I am sure there is a lot of simulation going on, but how realistic is it?

The simulation is pretty wonky, yes. There's quite a gap between things that are somewhat reasonably simulated and things which are... not. Throwing is pretty OP though.

Also try dropping a thousand socks on someone. Its hilarious.

Yes, as I described in the first paragraph rendering it in openGL is a joke in terms of the performance gain. The real room for improvement lies in the simulations. Ignoring the crippling UI, there is vast room for algorithmic improvement in nearly every aspect of the game.

We don't need a button for everything, we could have context sensitive menus that change.

Well yes, there are constant suggestions for UI improvements and menu redesign on the forums.

Little known fact, there was a 3D predecessor to DF. This is what it looked like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ARLSii23w8

Yes, that person is dying to a bush. A named bush. And that animation... oh man.

Heh, that's pretty funny. In this regard I think Notch made the perfect compromise in using painfully simple models when making Minecraft.

It's hard to read, but don't miss the fact that the female titan is leveling skills during combat. Skills like "mammal body familiarity" and "female titan body familiarity." It's every bit as weird as it sounds.

At least the titan managed to injure the bush's "first twig" a little.

The horrendous interface is likely a symptom of the poor quality of the codebase he developed for Dwarf Fortress.

Look at his other projects, such as Liberal Crime Squad (http://www.bay12games.com/lcs/). The code for LCS available on that site is atrocious. I know, because I helped to convert the 38K lines (yes 38 THOUSAND LINES) of code in a SINGLE C++ FILE into something that is actually maintainable when he open sourced the game (fun fact: the IDE I used back then would crash when opening that file).

The reason for this is clear, like you say, Tarn comes from a physics/math background. He does not seem to be very experienced at software engineering (at least he wasn't 9 years ago when LCS was open-sourced). I would not be surprised if the Dwarf Fortress codebase is just as inscrutable as the resulting game.

I don't think it should bring your 8 core system to a crawl as DF can never use more than one core. ;)

But yeah, the interface is the worst part. I play it with Phoebus graphics pack and Dwarf Therapist for this reason.

Stonehearth is a project that aims to build a usable game with much of the same depth and emergent complexity as DF.


I recommend everyone watch the following video to learn about how the actual gameplay works:


And to get a feel for some of the hilarious emergent humor you need to check out BOATMURDERED:



I quite enjoy it until all the gas/molten lava traps I set up get too complex and cause my laptop to weep blood from the USB port.

Oh it's possible to enjoy it. What i'm saying is it's an absolute crime that such a work of art must be experienced in that manor.

Tarn actually exposes enough of an interface for UI improvements (tilesets for example). I've looked into it a few times. Each time I've worked up the gumption to dive in, I've been driven away by the quality of the code I would have to interface (if you think the UI is indecipherable try looking at the source). That coupled with the horrendously inefficient engine has driven me away each time.

It /is/ possible to write a usable UI on top of what exists now, but the entire codebase needs some serious re-factoring before I would even consider it.

> Ulric McDwarf has torn his brain > Ulric McDwarf has broken his spleen

Ah, Dwarf Fortress. How I love you. Wait, no, the other one. Hate. Definitely hate.

I know, right. 'feelings' - sometimes a difficult concept to grasp after too much Fortran 90 or something similar.

Having never touched Fortran or similar, I'd never know. Unless I've spent so long working with it it's erased all memory of it from my brain. We must spread the word, we could make millions.

According to [1] this has already been invented. Too late then. Let's make millions anyway, just because..

[1] http://www.radiolab.org/2007/jun/07/

now, this confirms my opinion that the game has been really fun to program, much more than to play. Simulating inch by inch damage is a fun thing to think, model and develop, but in the end the player gets a bunch of chars and some description that could have been well picked up randomly with no impact on the gameplay

It is very fun to play. Fortress mode at least (where you control whole fortress of dwarves). It feels like herding cats and delaying the inevitable doom. And the doom always comes because of you missing one of the small details.

Like - one of the dwarfs went insane, cause you forgot to give him proper bed, and when he wanted to make some artifact there were no forge available for a long time.

Then he goes berserk and kills a few other dwarves. Your police force kills him, but your cemetary is full, so a few bodies were left by dwarves to rot in the cave (you shoud have checked that, but you were busy on the other level ensuring dwarves have something to eat).

After a few weeks miasma from the bodies is everywhere, and other dwarves went insane from it, killing each other. A few still sane try to stop that, you try to divide caves with doors to stop the miasma and insane dwarves, but then the sane one die or go insane from starvation. Or because their friends or partners were killed. And then goblins come :)

That's how most of the games look, but thanks to insane level of details it's much more varied. Sometimes it's flood that takes your fortress, sometimes it's lack of water, sometimes it's digging too dip and revealing subterran horrors.

The game has steep learning curve, but it's very rewarding.

You forgot to mention the vampire dwarf who arrives as a migrant and ends up killing your Militia commander in his sleep. Oh, and the fact that finding out who the vampire is is an exercise in detective work (and pure luck).

It is actually really a blast, enough so to cause these sort of really frustrated "it's awesome but it's awful" threads. It is a weird combination of open world architecture combined with really stupid minions. What is in reality probably an AI mistake really feels like massive stupidity the twentieth time your mason seals himself on the wrong side of a floodgate. You spend hours getting things set up just so and then a megabeast comes and seals you in your fortress and your dwarves go mad and start murdering each other for lack of a sock. Or you decide what the world really needs is pressurized magma cannon and spend a couple of real life weeks and countless in-game years and dwarf lives getting the pump stack to work, only to find out the first time you try and use it that the pressure system doesn't work and what is supposed to be a raging torrent of molten rock is actually sort of a sprinkler system. Of molten rock. And you haven't devised a purge system yet, so your half working masterpiece is going to have to be taken apart very, very carefully by a bunch of idiots. (This is not hypothetical; it happened to a succession fort that went by "FailCannon")

Not for nothing is the community devoted to megaprojects. Not only are they cool they offer countless ways to introduce Fun into your boring, dreary existence. And sometimes they even work; the "minecart shotgun loaded with gold bars (because, why not?) complete with optional F.R.O.G.G.E.R. system is just a gorgeous thing to watch happen, and it's viscerally satisfying to watch some goblin take a gold bar going a good 30, 40 mph to the face.

> "It's also recommended to pick up a freshman textbook on geology to understand the game's many types of rocks"

I guess you need to be a major in biology, geology and medicine just to play this game properly? :)

After you see your fourth dwarf carry on fighting with a "torn brain", you give up on conventional ideas of biology and medicine.

Then again, dwarves are not the brightest. Possibly as long as the CNS is intact they're fully capable of continuing about their various tasks.

There are plenty of stories like Phineas Gauge that demonstrate the importance of placement in brain damage.

Seeing a dwarf fight with a torn brain isn't unrealistic.

Some or all of this might be wrong, however my understanding is that Gage was able to speak within _minutes_ (not _seconds_) of his injury, and walk with a little help to the cart, where he sat until he was able to vomit a bit of brain out in front of a (presumably either horrified or intensely interested) physician.

He was then very ill for months afterwards, barely mumbling his responses to people. This was with the best care available at the time.

Imagining that his injury were caused by a Dragon rather than a crowbar (or whatever it was the tool was, some kind of iron bar for poking at explosives with I believe), I don't think he could have continued the fight.

If there are cases that show someone fighting with a torn brain, I'm definitely extremely interested in them!

  > There are instructions within the game, and without in the form
  > of wikis and forums, but I wanted to begin at the most basic
  > level, if only to come at the game from a recently trendy (if
  > controversial) design paradigm on discoverability that's flowed
  > from mobile apps to many new indie games: "if you see a UI
  > walkthrough, they blew it".
Some of the author's other points are valid, and DF definitely has some (just some!?) problems with the UI (my personal nitpick is that there are multiple ways to draw rectangles) but I get the impression that she set things up planning to fail. Not R-ingTFM isn't really a reasonable way to review this game. DF doesn't have a team of people behind it, and there's no UX designer to figure out how to make things beautiful and intuitive. On the other hand, the game is free, and the developers have supposedly turned down at least one relatively large buyout offer in order to keep working on their dream on their own terms.

It's cliche, but you get out of DF what you put into it. If poring over fan-made wikis, taking notes of all your findings, winning tiny victories like successfully getting your first workshop running, and losing in spectacular fashion only to retell your loss to friends doesn't sound fun, maybe stick to Skyrim.

"Not R-ingTFM isn't really a reasonable way to review this game." This. If the author had spent half as much time bothering to do research as he did coming up with florid expressions about how this screen was like a bunch of "Greek symbols" impervious to the casual glance, then the reviewer may have had more fun Fun.

It's almost as though you're saying one has to put effort and motivation to derive pleasure from something!

Spoonfeeding is the way of the future, and anything else is second-rate design.

DF is a fantastic game, and one worth taking some time to explore if you have a weekend to burn when friends and family are out of town, or you're just feeling like being a shut in. It is an excellent example of a "forever project" and one that has gained some quite a fanbase, but as you get deeper in, you will be frustrated by some things.

The game is designed by 2 brothers, and coded completely by one of them. This has led to a game with immense scope, and tons of features, but with most of them lacking polish. Its also led to performance problems, as adding new features is vastly more important than optimizing existing ones. The game is single threaded, outside of some of the gui, and processors aren't really getting any faster. Eventually you'll get frustrated and kill your fortress due to FPS slowdown. This could happen from your fort growing to a large number of dwarfs, or you playing too much with things that flow (lava, water), etc.

There have been quite a few offers by fans of the game to help with the code, but Toady One is adamant about keeping the source closed and being the only developer.

So play, enjoy, and be impressed with what one guy and a lot of Mountain Dew can accomplish, but be aware that you're playing in what is essentially someones (amazing) lifetime art project.

PS: Dwarf Therapist and DfHack make the game much more playable and get around a lot of the interface quirks. If you're going to get started playing I'd recommend them.

In the recent threads on armor and armor piercing on the Bay12forums, the game calculates and checks for fracture stress and impact stress when crossbow bolts impact armor.

So for example the game will test to see if the impact_yield, and further research in the threads below reach conclusions such as :

" the IY (impact_yield) deflection mechanism is related to armor density, armor thickness, bolt size, bolt impact yield, bolt contact area, and the difference between mail and plate at larger contact areas."

Armor density takes from armor material - Iron/Steel/, as does impact_yield.

Here is the thread where the initial !!Science!! on whether bolt weight made an impact on their lethality - [Dwarven Research: The Effect of Bolt Weight on Crossbow Performance](http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=115683.0)

The results were converted on reddit into a LaTeX PDF, which is excellent reading - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2891221/DF%20study.pdf

This led to the follow up: A Comparison Study on the Effectiveness of Bolts vs Armors

LaTeX - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2891221/DF%20study%202.pdf

Thread - http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=116151.0

The underlying algorithm for impact_yield deflection on page 11 was:

" Algorithm: 1. The projectile is hitting the creature on a body part protected by a piece of rigid armor (i.e. bolt hits steel breastplate). 2. Multiply the armor's LAYER_SIZE by the projectile's CONTACT_AREA, and round the result down to the nearest 100. The exception is that you round up to 100 instead of rounding down to zero if the result was less than 100 (i.e. 20x2=40 -> 100). 3. IMPACT_YIELD = (800/157) * ARMOR_SOLID_DENSITY * (step #2 result) / PROJECTILE_SIZE "

And thats to test if a bolt deflects on impact with armor. Penetration causing severing of tissue, blunt damage causing bruising are also possible depending on the Armor vs Bolt combination.

And this is a minor sub part of the game which most people don't see.

This means, essentially, that the strategist can't build an Excel model of the game and win that way, the way many games are played and won. Excel would blow up...

Good God.

At some point Toady will add an economy module.

I... shudder at the thought of the processing required for that.

Each site will have its own produce, production rates and ability to transmit goods, (the current build is already deciding on how much transport succeeds based on banditry and so on).

Man. It just painful to consider how much processing is going to be required ><.

Perhaps DF will be the first game that requires an actual mainframe to run on...

One hopes to be the first to see the post.

"So I had some time and a cray... Also some refactored code"

I actually got bored towards the end of my first game of DF because it was too easy.

The interface adds a lot of illusory difficulty, but that's not an issue for people used to reading manuals. On the other hand, when you're not wrestling with the system, there's not much fair challenge. When your underground fortress is filled to the brim with traps and completely self sufficient, no one is ever going to touch you unless you handicap yourself.

Once I had my base built out the way I wanted it, there wasn't much left for me to do. Kind of reminds me of how Minecraft feels once you've built a satisfying shelter, but I think that Minecraft's music and FPS perspective can motivate people to keep playing for the sake of creativity. With DF: sure, it's fun to imagine my fortress and all, but then I might as well move away from the keyboard and just do the whole thing in my imagination.

I am not sure exactly what your game is but it seems that you are simply not challenging yourself. The DF economy is such that if you get your fortress running well towards the end of the game there is a pretty large surplus. This is in order to allow you to have extra manpower for interesting projects.

So you should try to do some interesting things. Here are some ideas:

- build and train an army so that you can actually fight the goblins instead of just waiting behind the traps. This will allow you to get more caravans which will result in some more interesting things happening.

- try to dig deeper. Interesting things will happen. You will probably need a trained army for this as well.

- try to do everything you can to make your dwarves as happy as possible. This happiness will help you if you attempt one of the two things above.

- try to build a large engineering project, such as pumps to bring lava to the surface, etc.

Furthermore, I should note that it seems you have taken a lot of care to make sure your embark site is as easy as possible. For many (probably most) sites, it is not even possible to be self sufficient while being completely closed in. So if you are bored try starting on a more difficult embark site. Or you can just try a random site.

In relation to "dig deeper" -

It's easier to simply drop a fortress on a hypothetical foe attacking from underground than it is to kill them all with a finicky army prone to wandering about near magma til they catch fire.

For this reason I tend to dig out one fortress to drop and another fortress for living in.

Survivors can of course be dealt with appropriately.

I played in a similar manner, and had 0 fun after a point.

Which is when the entire "losing is fun" part of the motto clicked for me.

After yet more introspection I personally drew a parallel between me playing safe and how I approached many other things in life. And in this game, the result of playing things that way were directly clear - utter boredom.

All I had left were mega challenges. So either I play to build something vast, such as a new Morul, or I forego all those cheesy advantages and just let my fortress run and fail, and see what stories come out of it.

edit: of course my experience may have little value to helping you find any fun with the game, I strongly recommend playing without cage traps and danger rooms.

This drastically increases the challenge and the resultant successes and failures are usually enriched for it.

Wait, so which direction did you go in real life?

I find myself trying desperately to return to utter boredom.

This is an amazing reply.

I'm not sure if cage traps have been properly gimped (yet), but a year or so back they were capable of trapping dragons and similar mini-bosses. It's a real fourth-wall breaking feeling when you accidentally capture a dragon in a (presumably) tiny cage made of wood.

(I see from the wiki that under some conditions the dragon may burn through the cage, but still...)

Nope, not gimped.

I used webbed cage traps to trap some 6 FBs, one made of fire iirc.

Give me enough land and enough cage traps and webs, and I'll trap almost everything that can move.

If you ever find your Dwarf Fortress game to be too boring, keep digging deeper. There are many sources of entertainment located far underground.

I must mention that actual gameplay challenges (aside from megaprojects) do diminish considerably even when taking the "deeper stuff" into account. I once did a speedrun for wiping out hell; it took about 4 hours. There are many unbalanced game mechanics that make it possible and also pretty easy.

> I actually got bored towards the end of my first game of DF because it was too easy.

In that case I give you a challenge: make some soap.

There are some broken aspects to the game: that cage traps can catch just about everything and that all walls are impenetrable to invaders are two of the most obvious. If you abuse these, it is not hard to make the game too easy.

You can always just embark in more challenging areas so that you don't have the luxury of preparing a nice impenetrable fort for your first wave of hostiles...

Unless I'm mistaken, your first complaint was fixed a couple years ago. Though to be honest I haven't played the game since that was fixed, and I never really learned the new combat system.

If it's too easy, dig deeper.

The fact that DF makes you want to get away from your keyboard and use your imagination is perhaps its most incredible feature.

I felt this too when I played. I felt that the primary challenge was the interface itself. It wasn't that the game made it hard for me to figure out what the right thing was. That game made it hard for me to figure out how to do what I wanted.

Difficulty depends entirely on you. You can easily wall yourself in, build a couple farm and game pretty much can play itself.

Just don't forget to fuel your dwarves with booze from time to time

I'm really glad that this game came out after I was an adult with a full-time job. Otherwise, I would not have the excuse to not dive into it and inevitably be sucked in. As it is, I can walk away, justifying that I just don't have time to figure the game out. I liked DF when trying it out, but I think I enjoy just reading about it more.

Given the current UI, you'd have all the excuse you need. I gave it an honest shot but I just can't get too invested in a game that requires a few hours of reading wikis and watching YouTube.

This image is pretty relevant. http://i.imgur.com/omJfhlt.jpg

If you walked into dwarf fortress fully knowledgeable about the UI and game mechanics, you'd have a relatively dull experience with very few surprises.

Being such an expansive game, you don't need to know every single command or hotkey just to get a fortress started. The fun lies in not knowing what you're doing, encountering something unexpected, then adapting to that unexpected situation, either by learning something else about the game, or applying your previous knowledge in a creative fashion.

Remember that people don't write stories and comics about dwarf fortress because they knew exactly how to handle every hurdle the game threw in their direction.

That's what I loved about Minecraft for the first few months too. People keep whining about putting the "recipes" in game and making it easier, but the whole process of researching, looking up YouTube videos, reading the wiki, etc, was what made it fun because it felt like you were learning something useful, despite just being a game.

Playing DF, is roughly analogous to reading the Illiad, or a similarly complex work of Literature.

Now DF isn't the Illiad of the gaming world, yet. But the experience of parsing it, generally ends up expanding your perspective of what games should be, and how they should be played.

Its pretty much the serious gamer's game.

I'm by no means saying I want the game spoonfed to its players with "press X to win" cutscenes, but I do think it could take some steps toward usability, that's all.

Also, what is a "serious gamer"? What does that even mean?

A "serious gamer" takes gaming too seriously, pretty much by definition.

Then again, I say that, but I've been tempted to try this game out multiple times. What does that make me?

The author's problems all have solutions:

You need to dig stairs to be able to go up and down levels. You need to dig an "up stair", and then a "down stair" below it. Or you can dig "up/down stairs" which combine both functions into the same square.

The lack of stone is probably due to embarking in an area that has clay, soil, or sand layers on top. If you tunnel down a few levels, you should find stone.

If you have an axe (which is one of the default starting items if you didn't customize them), you can (D)esignate (T)reecutting areas to chop down trees and build things out of wood (assuming you're in an area that features trees).

The author's problems all have solutions

Well, no, those are symptoms, not problems. The problem, as explained by the author, is the sheer improbability of discovering how to play Dwarf Fortress by trial and error. (I say that as a big fan of the game... I've put in a few dozen hours over the years, which I feel is just barely enough to put me at the high end of "beginner").

Is that a problem?

Chess is inscrutable via trial and error too.

Not sure I agree... give me the most basic computer chess program and 15 minutes, and I'll have (most of) the rules figured out. And that's assuming no tutorials or hints such as highlighting legal moves.

Getting good at it is a different matter entirely, but figuring out how to play is relatively simple.

But Chess is a game that you're already familiar with - unless you're going to be changing the absolute foundation of the game with these altered rules, your familiarity with the original game is what allows you to come up with an altered set of rules.

Compare that to Dwarf Fortress, short of 'Sim City' (which is a dubious comparison at best), there is nothing out there that remotely comes close to the myriad of gameplay concepts that have been shoved into this single, mildly coherent package.

I'd say that Dungeon Keeper and Evil Genius come pretty close to DF's style of gameplay. But yeah, DF still has far more above what those offer.

Some of the weird-but-essential moves such as castling and en passant will not be apparent to you even after hours of playing like that.

I definitely wouldn’t call castling and en passant “essential”. I just now played a game of chess against the computer on the lowest difficulty, and won easily without using either of those moves. And during the game, the computer itself castled, which might have helped me to learn the move if I hadn’t known it.

My partner's dad was evil: he taught "simple" versions of games, leaving out complicated rules like castling, when she & her sister were small, and then never explained the full rules later.

Thus, when she played me at uni, she was furious that I was "cheating," until I showed her the full rules (the internet is brilliant) and she realised that it was her dad being crazy.

In summary; it is essential to know castling exists, because otherwise as soon as you play another human, they will beat you with it.

Castling is incredible essential. You might go 50 games before you see any need for En Passant, but castling is crucial in any real play.

Dwarf fortress is difficult for two reasons 1: Unintuitive interface. It takes some time just to learn how to do basic things and find the information you need. 2: Complexity. Once you know every possible command you can give you need to figure out what to do.

It's hard to get into but immensely rewarding and satisfying once you do, with some amazingly detailed epic stories coming to life.

It's hard to get into, but if you deal with vim/emacs/etc on a normal basis, the learning curve shouldn't be a big deal (unless you don't have time for it).

The game is just like vim/emacs in that you don't know what you don't know and you're likely going to learn piecemeal.

If you looked through a couple tutorials and said "Hey I think I get the hang of it now" and start cracking at your first mountain, you'll quickly realize that you have no idea how to craft, deal with rooms, plant stuff, etc.

As far as the graphical elements of the interface goes, there's a number of tilesets to use[1] which make the game exponentially more enjoyable.

Also, there's a fellow on YouTube by the name of captnduck[2] and, aside from the official wiki, he's probably been the most helpful source for me when it comes to DF. I suggest taking a look at a video or two from him if DF interests you.

[1] http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/117975/dwarf-fortr...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL06686270DA5FF439

I'm not sure that DF's learning curve is really comparable to vi. Maybe TECO. Almost everybody's first fort dies because they didn't set plant orders or ran out of booze or something similar. Next, forts die because you got enough wealth to spawn an ambush and you are totally unprepared. There's a litany of failure conditions that can shut you down hard and once they've begun it is very difficult to impossible to reverse; tantrum spirals are the most obvious but for example you might find out that you needed to plant food some time ago, or that aquifers are full of Fun and Exciting and cause interesting problems for your nascent fort. I mean as a veteran I'm pretty good at avoiding these and getting into the late game but I can't even remember what they all are.

It reminds me in some ways of the old HGTTG text game, where if you didn't take exactly the right steps at the start of the game you would be irreversibly fucked two hours later with no warning. Except I think that was due to malicious intent, and DF's complexity is some combination of developer indifference / incompetence (Toady is quite good but obviously UI design is not something he's really enthralled by) and Stockholm syndrome on the part of the player base. Some folks won't play without Dwarf Therapist, I absolutely require dfhack's workflow plugin to not go insane, etc. This is not really a good situation, but there's just one of Toady and the community is startlingly loyal, probably helped by the sheer addictive quality of the game once you get going; he can be excused, to some degree, a focus on new, novel things before the total UI revamp needed.

I've never used the workflow plugin, what are you primarily using it to achieve?

Do note I am a slightly more impulsive player, so I tend to make massive stock piles of things so that I don't need to manage Just In Time systems.

DF conditions tend to be similar to Hard Core modes on games like D3/Torchlight, which in turn inherit from Roguelikes like Nethack, so there is an old tradition of hard choices that mean stupid death. (B/U/C identification How I hate thee)

Steady state things, mostly, like "ensure that there is always 30 bars of pig iron" or "ensure that ten quarry bush leaves always are available"; if there are too many objects it will stop making them (particularly useful with things like pig iron, which is worthless except in its role in the steel making process, so you need to have some but not lots), and as it dips below the threshold it will start making them again. This is really useful to ensure that e.g. there are always barrels available when needed, but you don't blow your entire wood harvest on barrels or bins or what have you; it can also be used to ensure that your idiot brewer does not brew everything leaving nothing to eat.

If you play one if the mods with multi-stage metal refining, it is even more useful to ensure that the pipeline does not go dry on the one hand but you don't get a glut of pig iron or whatever either.

Hmm. Maybe I should make an effort to pick it up, just to learn to think and operate like that.

It sounds like they have made an enterprise resource planning system for DF. That's very interesting.

That may also be why I never got into DF, it sounds like too much work. Like actual work.

Nah, thats just DF Hack, it adds lots of plugins and functionality that the more advanced DF player starts hankering for after a while.

The base game with a wiki, a tileset, and dwarf therapist, will be accessible and fun for the average HN visitor.

The ERP aspect of it is for people who just want to reach that level of gameplay. I don't. I just mass produce my stuff and never run out of goods.

I find that with large forts the "rolling resource shortage" problem is really obnoxious. Things like "oh, my idiots turned all the wood, the wood I needed for beds, into charcoal" get my goat. Actually solving the steel shortage problem is really difficult; ERP is not a bad comparison for that, which is made especially difficult because as your dorfs get better at tasks they get significantly faster. A master armorsmith can kill 100 bars of steel in very short order.

I will admit I have more sophisticated desires / needs, though.

My brother plays this constantly, any pointers where I can start playing?

Following the Captnduck tutorials [1] and using the Lazy Newb pack [2] got me pretty far.

[1]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHVZtRdtPdo [2]: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=59026.0

If you are on mac you can use MacNewbiw instead of the LNB: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=106790.0

O'Reilly has a book for this: "Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress"


Looks good so far, although I'm not more than a chapter into it yet.

You could also move to the reddit forums for DF, they tend to be more newbie frequented, but you could always just lurk in the vintaged Bay12forums.

ask your brother :-)

The game dwarf fortress most reminds me of is git.

Ah, that's actually a pretty good analogy! Very powerful once you get to know it, but with a baffling interface.

For a Dwarf-Fortress-like experience with a much more friendly UI and reasonable learning curve, try Gnomoria (http://gnomoria.com)

The developer is awesome and releases an update (mostly) every week. It made it through Steam Greenlight but hasn't been released there yet. It is well worth the 8 bucks.

As a person who hates repeating himself, my biggest problem with DF and its difficulty curve was that I often would make a small mistake early in the game, like expand too fast or forget to close off an entrance to a cavern, and have to start all over, and repeat the same X steps to get a basic civilization going, which gets tiresome. Gnomoria is no different, but it is much more forgiving in the early going and leads to fewer short-order restarts. Also, graphics!

I've noticed a lot of people in this topic complaining about graphics/UI. I'll give you that the UI does need an overall badly, but there's a reason for the graphics: the sheer complexity of the game, and the fact that his last game's development stalled because of graphics.

In the "sheer complexity" department, imagine trying to depict any of the following well graphically: randomly generated artifacts made of random materials, the ridiculously intricate damage models, and completely randomly generated titans (which do start with a base creature, but have random materials/bodyparts galore). While you could just do essentially what he does for the ASCII and have one symbol that represents all these, he doesn't seem to want to go this route. Which is insane, but hey, insane seems to be the normal for DF development.

The second part is that his last game died partly from his trying to implement graphics too early. Notice how the full title is "Dwarf Fortress: Slaves to Armok"? Armok was the game before this. Similar in overly ambitious scope, but with an early 3d style graphics. However, for some reason or another, it became to difficult to support its development after graphics, and it collapsed under its own weight. Hence the switch to ASCII: he could continue implementing hundreds of features without as much regard for performance or implementation. It's easy to add in dozens of new creatures, random titans, genetics and randomized traits when you don't have to actually worry about representing it. I highly suggest reading his devblog (http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/index.html) just as inspiration for what one crazy ambitious man can do.

As for why he doesn't enlist more help, make it open source, etc, the answer is even simpler: this game is his bread and butter and both he and his brother live off the donations. Yes, part of it is that he wants to maintain control of the project, but if a program was literally the sole means of supporting you and your sibling, I think you'd be wary of giving away its code too. He has said it will likely be open sourced when he dies however.

It is not just the ASCII. He could write a more useful GUI. With buttons and better mouse control, it would be much appealing for the crowds.

Writing better mouse control isn't fun. If he were to start writing such things, I bet he'd either scrap them anyway or just get bored of writing DF all-together.

The "boring" tasks are purposefully programmed to the minimum requirement so he can spend more time on the interesting tasks, to ensure his motivation stays high.

Admittedly, he could just outsource the GUI stuff, but for better or worse, he clearly wants to keep the code close to his chest.

He has played with outsourcing work--all the SDL conversion was done by a third party. He hated the experience. Which goes back to the "he's a programmer, not an engineer" thing. I would personally love for this project to be tackled by a group of highly experienced engineers dedicated to the same vision, but that's complete fantasy dreaming, there.

The developer often chooses to write highly detailed simulations of, say, realistic glacier movements rather than fix known problems. It's his game, he's beholden to no one, and when he wants to skip the boring bugfixes to work on things he finds interesting, he can just go for it. I think he'd continue to code the game even if nobody ever played it.

So we increase the donations to, say, three million dollars, and he open-sources the game. He and his brother should be able to live on 3 mil, no? Ok, 5 mil...

I really think that this game could use some people from the demoscene to create emergent algorithmic graphics for it. It seems like it'd be a good match.

Ahhhh Dwarf Fortress...I really wish I had the patience to overcome the insane learning curve, but I barely have enough patience to learn Civilization ><. Some of the stories people have created with the game are incredible. My favourite site for this is http://dfstories.com/

Also, the New York Times article linked in the above article is quite insightful I found: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/magazine/the-brilliance-of...

IMHO, NetHack is the king of clunky, quasi-graphical-but-really-text-based games. In many ways, it is probably the greatest computer game of all time. Is Dwarf Fortress in the same league?

I've only played NetHack a few dozen times, but it seems to me that Dwarf Fortress is an evolution of NetHack and far more complex.

There are many experiences I've had in Dwarf Fortress that were particularly vivid. A polar bear stalking my woodcutter, but evading my warrior across the arctic tundra. A master engraver carving the story of a dwarven child who went mad. Purple gas saturating the grave room and leaking into the halls when my dwarves were being massacred by kobolds. Good friends celebrating in the great room, drinking while admiring the mist (the fortress was built into the back of a waterfall, and mist makes dwarves happy). The clumsy blacksmith and shy carpenter who lived in their corner of the mine, happily married and rarely taking food with the other dwarves. The cats. The dragon.

"Short, sturdy creatures fond of drink and industry."

Dwarf Fortress is not in the same league as NetHack. Dwarf Fortress is possibly an order of magnitude of leagues above NetHack in complexity, depth, and replayability. While I've probably spent a comparable amount of time playing both games over the years so far (on the order of +80 hours), I expect to spend far more of my life playing Dwarf Fortress as it continues to mature.

DF is like a simulated fantasy world that runs in real-time. It is a combination of strategy, sandbox, and roguelike. Similar at first appearance to other roguelikes, but a very different playing experience. I am a fairly avid NetHack player and I have spent a lot of time playing DF as well, so there is definitely a common appeal. They are both incredibly challenging, and just learning to play them makes you feel like you've accomplished something.

Edit: there is also an "adventurer" mode in DF, which is a straight-up roguelike, where you can go and, for example, explore old fortresses you built. It is fun, but last time I played, it was still very rough and most of the focus had gone into the fortress-building side of things. I know that Toady spent a lot of time building a more dynamic roguelike experience a year or so ago.

Dear lord the patch notes for the upcoming adventure mode upgrade are staggering.

He's adding in climbing, trees and walkable/climbable branches, reaction moments - so you could be running and shooting - conversation systems that let you begin insurrections (not scripted but proceduraly handled)...Non-lethal combat!

His patch notes read like wish lists for entire genres of games.

Whatever people may say about the interface, they are missing out.

If you think NetHack is the greatest computer game of all time, may I suggest Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup? Supposedly, it was modeled after NH, but in attempt to fix several of its problems: http://crawl.develz.org/other/manual.html#n-philosophy-pas-d...

As Roguelikes go, DCSS is far, far away from NetHack in terms of design. NetHack aims to be a simulation/puzzle/environment focused game whereas DCSS is a combat and character building exercise. While they're both good games they scratch completely different itches for me.

Calling what DCSS changes from NetHack 'problems' is pretty disingenuous; the games are not trying to do the same thing.

I have very little experience with NetHack. I'm basing my comment off of the DCSS FAQ. I probably have misrepresented it.

>The history of Crawl is somewhat convoluted: Crawl was created in 1995 by Linley Henzell. Linley based Crawl loosely on Angband and NetHack, but avoided several annoying aspects of these games, and added a lot of original ideas of his own.

For NetHack, these "several annoying aspects" are probably the essence of what makes it different than most 'roguelikes' and makes it good as a separate direction/niche of gameplay.

My roguelike of choice is Brogue (https://sites.google.com/site/broguegame/). Whereas Nethack was made to satisfy the creators' interest in complexity and simulation, Brogue satisfies the creator's interest in design and elegance. Brogue simplifies a lot of the redundancies in Nethack and condenses it down into the core elements of dungeon crawling. While it's a much less complex game, it doesn't sacrifice much in depth. You still get loads of interesting emergent stories.

Brogue is probably the most accessible amongst the text-based roguelikes - it's interface is excellent, it manages to be very visually appealing without straying from the ascii aesthetic, and the design of it is streamlined and elegant.

Thanks for the link. I like that game.

What I am graciously anticipating is the Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup analogue of Dwarf Fortress.

I lost so much time to that game. I would probably recommend it.

Well, one of the biggest differences is that in NetHack you have a goal, which you can complete. That is, it is a game you can win, or lose at. DF is an open world simulation; you can "lose" by having your fort wiped out, or you can lose interest (#1 killer of my forts) but you can't actually "win". Even in adventurer mode there isn't a victory condition.

I think the author of the article made a critical mistake by not installing a friendly set of tiles (e.g. Lazy Newb Pack). There is really no drawback, all it will do is get you to enjoy the game faster.

I played DF quite a bit a few years ago. Sometime later I read Reamde, by Neal Stephenson: http://www.amazon.com/Reamde-A-Novel-Neal-Stephenson/dp/0062...

I only just realized, reading the comments here, how much the description of the game in Reamde is patterned after DF, with simulations of geological and even planetary processes driving mundane scenery and resource distribution. Although of course in the novel it's a MMORPG because that's cooler. b^)

The creators of DF could partner with some game studio to create a nice GUI for playing, or create an API that could allow for beter interfaces to evolve, the tilesets are great, but custom tutorials would be awesome. I tried playing DF once but was overwhelmed with the information and didn't try again, and i used to play nethack and adom.

I also recommend ADOM for those who like nethack and redrogue that is a roguelike meets platformer, very nice !

If you play Dwarf Fortress without side help under the presumption that a games UI that isn't immediately obvious is bad then "you're gonna have a bad time."

Not that I'm defending DF UI because it is horrendous but the game underneath is magnificent and there are many external resources to help one dig down far enough to get to that magnificence.

Succinct explanation of Dwarf Fortress as fun: http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110522180205/vsrecom...


Here is a nice tileset that can make the game far more approachable. :)

I really like this article. The phrasing is so good that I can imagine myself sitting at the computer and staring at the weird ASCII characters.

What would be the best way to play DF on a not-so-powerful machine? It seems that rendering the ASCII art is a serious CPU dwell...

It's not the art rendering it's the massive amount of calculations about dwarf feelings and cat mating the simulation is doing underneath that make it slow.

I never played DF, but... wouldn't his be way cooler and maybe motivate more people into learning it if it was a MMO?

Good god isn't it addictive enough?!

More realistically there are things you can do in DF like bathe the world in lava or crack the Maximum Fun Chamber that would be kind of obnoxious for your neighbors. A bit like playing Minecraft with IC2 and accidentally leveling half your neighbor's house because your nuclear reactor melted down. Just because you are even worse off does not make people any happier about it.

But losing is fun.

And if it were an MMO then the motto could change to

Losing is fun for everyone!

This is very beta/alpha an should be treated as such.

The dev is focused on depth of gameplay before all else.

It looks like a SIMS variant played in "ASCII".

Falcon's eye, I miss you...

It's called "Vulture's Eye" these days and I think it's still in development... http://www.darkarts.co.za/vulture

It uses ascii symbols?

Yup, the game author's first effort Arm0k God of blood (or something on those lines) had a GUI and graphics.

After being disappointed with how that worked out, he decided instead to work on a world generator and fantasy story creator.

Since entire sections of game aren't in yet, and can only be expected hopefully by 2020, the idea of making an unified interface along with having graphics was dropped.

This has led to several happy and unhappy coincidences. Firstly the constant griping about how its hard to understand, both from a UI and a graphics perspective.

Secondly its created a great/stellar/benchmark setting gaming community, because its difficulty has acted as an inherent gating/filtering mechanism.

Not really ASCII. One of the 8-bit character sets that have smiley faces, border-drawing characters and similar stuff. Check it out here: http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/Tileset_repository


It uses one of the popular code pages of the DOS era which is mostly an extension of ASCII.

ASCII: http://www.asciitable.com/

IBM Code Page 437: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437

It's not actually ASCII, there are many more characters used. It is however "ASCII art", in that the characters are used to graphically represent places and objects.

...and it uses text in an annoying way. It renders the text in OpenGL, which is one of the reasons why a 'text mode' game is so resource intensive.

> It renders the text in OpenGL, which is one of the reasons why a 'text mode' game is so resource intensive.

No, that is not really resource intensive. The massive simulation behind the graphics is resource intensive.

I guess I'll have to check it out, though anything so involved might be too time intensive for me.

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