At about 1:30 a.m., a family of hippos, represented by light gray H’s, swam into the tunnels from a nearby river. Their arrival was an unintended development born entirely of the game’s internal logic. Tarn was pleased. “The hippos like the sewers!” he said. He took a celebratory swig of Dr. Pepper and rocked back and forth.
Among my friends, the phrase “The hippos like the sewers!” is used to convey (usually unexpected) joy caused by programming, particularly when it would be difficult to explain to outsiders.
I've yet to get into Dwarf Fortress but it makes me happy to think about and to read about :)
What surprised me was this.
After using a quickstart toturial or two and diving right in, I was all happy that my dwarves had started doing, well, something, and I was getting used to it. I started collecting some materials, as the tutorial said, and I dug some stuff, as the tutorial said.
Then I noticed the water in the map seemed ot have changed colour, and the ground, in all it's pixellated ascii glory, appeared whiter than it used to. "could it be winter, are there seasons?"
I googled, letting the dwarves work.
Yes, there was winter. Water froze.
When I eventually got back to my game, there was a food shortage, and much worse, we ran out of liqour. We also had no water. The dwarves stopped working. Investigating their stats, they were rather angry about the situation. Eventually one, then two, went berzerk and killed their fellow dwarves in a rampage. I tried my best to guide them to gather some foliage so we could make some booze and get things back on track.. but I was too late. By spring, everyone was dead.
The next time.. I made it through winter, but not the next... overpopulation got me. With the immigrants that keep showing up, I had more and more dwarves, and I didn't know how to manage it. Hilarity ensued.. from a kobold thief stealing babies to animals mating in the bedroom to checking on the dining area to find a horse sitting at the table with a bunch of partying dwarves.
Eventually I made it a few seasons... only to be raided by goblins. I had no militia, I hadn't figured that part out yet. I hadn't needed it. Everyone died.
And so it goes...
The awesome part, and I think a critical thing most players who like the game clue in to, is that it's always like this. You won't get to a feeling of mastery where you can just hone your skills like most games. You'll always be analyzing what you see, looking stuff up, talking with others, and resolving yourself to try a new strategy next time - imagination really pays off here.
There are always hippos in the sewers, or cats breeding out of control, or ant-people that want to eat you, or a berzerk dwarf baby killing his family, or some monster from down deep getting up your stairwell and terrorizing your fortress, or a magma accident, or a dwarf who decides to lock himself in a workshop, depriving you of that shop abilities while he spends his sweet time making stuff. There's dwarves that promte themselves to nobles and demand stuff, and they generally need to be dealt with. Usually by death.
Dwarves must be sacrificed on on occasion for the good of the fortress.
My point, I guess, is that the funny/sad/epic stories you read about aren't really embellished much - the game actually provides you with that level of detail... even early-on. Your imagination fills in the blanks.. but there aren't many blanks.
 (I can't get over how fun that is to think about. Now I really want someone to take this recursive idea to the absurdly extreme and build a game whose design is almost completely inspired by it's own source code.)
Get started with this guide:
If you're on OSX, Dwarf Builder is the best way to get a copy of the game running well:
If neither of these are for you, perhaps you'd enjoy reading some insane stories about DF games. Here's a few of the best:
Definitely an understatement. I tried, and I failed. I desperately wanted to play the game, and I don't care if it's all extended ASCII characters, but when building similar-purpose buildings have entirely different key bindings, and when the steps required to place items varies widely on their purpose...
DF isn't a single-player game. It's a two-player game, and the game itself is an antagonist.
Not XKCD though.
In Dwarf Fortress, you have to walk down an alley, turn around thrice widdershins, wait for a figure to appear as if from nowhere, and translate their strange and inconsistent language.
Then you can get around to being disemboweled horribly.
It helps modify the graphics and makes for better keybindings.
I was tipped off by the mention of the z-index being new, that was introduced ages ago.
Still one of my favourite games, even if the development seems to have lost its way a bit the last couple of years.
Or that 99% of the community relies on external applications which to manage dwarf assigned jobs, since doing it manually rapidly approaches impossible as you acquire more than a dozen dwarves.
I almost feel that Toady should hire somebody to design an ASCII-based UI for the game that actually works.
> I feel like I'm still working on basic features
Awesome reading even if you don't like video games or Dwarf Fortress at all.
> "Peter Tyson is a human born in 1975 in New Zealand. He is the oldest son of Ron Tyson and Ann Tyson. In the Summer of 1996 Peter became a student at Auckland University. In the Summer of 1999 Peter became a student at Victoria University. In the Spring of 2000 Peter became an Analyst at Datamonitor. In the Spring of 2002 Peter became a Community Manager at Codemasters. In the Autumn of 2005 Peter became an Administrator in the New Zealand Government. In the Summer of 2008 Peter married Laura. In the Winter of 2009 Peter wrote popular tutorials for Dwarf Fortress on his blog, afteractionreporter.com. In the Winter of 2011 Peter was struck by a Strange Mood.
> In the Summer of 2012 Peter wrote "Pasubabo Thrathdad Teme", "Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress", a legendary wood-pulp paper bound book. The written portion consists of 180 page guide to the game Dwarf Fortress entitled "Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress". The writing is lighthearted with moments of humor.
> In Summer 2012 "Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress" was stored in O'Reilly by the human administrator, Peter Tyson."