> 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/... )
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.
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".
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm guessing you don't program?
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.
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.
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.
You should probably start with algorithmic improvements.
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.
Minecraft does that (the fog distance).
This post has more: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/24693/pseudo-ascii...
BTW it doesn't use only ASCII but a larger subset of unicode. ASCII would be a very restricted set of characters to use.
Cloud gaming. I like it.
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?
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.
How'd you pull the data for saguaro wood?
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.
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.
Incidentally, do you remember user Martin? The guy who made the original Morul?
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
Also try dropping a thousand socks on someone. Its hilarious.
We don't need a button for everything, we could have context sensitive menus that change.
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.
At least the titan managed to injure the bush's "first twig" a little.
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.
But yeah, the interface is the worst part. I play it with Phoebus graphics pack and Dwarf Therapist for this reason.
And to get a feel for some of the hilarious emergent humor you need to check out BOATMURDERED:
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.
Ah, Dwarf Fortress. How I love you. Wait, no, the other one. Hate. Definitely hate.
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.
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.
I guess you need to be a major in biology, geology and medicine just to play this game properly? :)
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.
Seeing a dwarf fight with a torn brain isn't unrealistic.
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".
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.
Spoonfeeding is the way of the future, and anything else is second-rate design.
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.
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)
Thread - http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=116151.0
The underlying algorithm for impact_yield deflection on page 11 was:
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.
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 ><.
"So I had some time and a cray... Also some refactored code"
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.
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.
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.
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.
(I see from the wiki that under some conditions the dragon may burn through the cage, but still...)
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.
In that case I give you a challenge: make some soap.
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...
Just don't forget to fuel your dwarves with booze from time to time
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.
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.
Also, what is a "serious gamer"? What does that even mean?
Then again, I say that, but I've been tempted to try this game out multiple times. What does that make me?
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).
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").
Chess is inscrutable via trial and error too.
Getting good at it is a different matter entirely, but figuring out how to play is relatively simple.
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.
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.
It's hard to get into but immensely rewarding and satisfying once you do, with some amazingly detailed epic stories coming to life.
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 which make the game exponentially more enjoyable.
Also, there's a fellow on YouTube by the name of captnduck 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.
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.
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)
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.
That may also be why I never got into DF, it sounds like too much work. Like actual work.
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 will admit I have more sophisticated desires / needs, though.
Looks good so far, although I'm not more than a chapter into it yet.
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!
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.
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.
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...
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."
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.
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.
Calling what DCSS changes from NetHack 'problems' is pretty disingenuous; the games are not trying to do the same thing.
>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.
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.
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^)
I also recommend ADOM for those who like nethack and redrogue that is a roguelike meets platformer, very nice !
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.
Here is a nice tileset that can make the game far more approachable. :)
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.
And if it were an MMO then the motto could change to
Losing is fun for everyone!
The dev is focused on depth of gameplay before all else.
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.
It uses one of the popular code pages of the DOS era which is mostly an extension of ASCII.
IBM Code Page 437: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437
No, that is not really resource intensive. The massive simulation behind the graphics is resource intensive.