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Recession Gaming: Dwarf Fortress [Game Overview]
March 20th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

We’re gonna take a quick break from talking about Final Fantasy villains until I take some time to figure out how I’m gonna tackle XI and instead talk about the game that kept me up until ~0345 this morning: Dwarf Fortress.

You’ve probably never heard of this game, but this incredibly robust one-man (!) coding project will knock your socks off. Here’s how I got around to it:

DF has been released since 2006, but I first heard about it on Three Panel Soul, Ian McConville and Matt Boyd’s followup project to Mac Hall. There was a strip in there describing a dwarf fortress whose entire economy consisted of cats. I was intrigued, but the game’s simple ASCII graphics made the interface look daunting and scary and kept me from trying it out right then. The seed was planted, I just didn’t have the time or patience to try it yet.

Fast forward to earlier this week. I’m listening to one of 1up.com’s podcasts, Good Grief (you rock Tina!), when they started talking about the ancient roguelike Nethack. I had to pause the podcast to go to work, but memories of the Dwarf Fortress strip clawed their way back up to the front of my brain (admittedly not very well, I thought the strip was about Nethack) and I started looking for the strip to get information about the game. Again, I found the graphics daunting, but I learned of a graphical tileset available at May Green that allowed you to take the hyper complicated ASCII graphics and turn them into at least more recognizable icons.

Still, it wasn’t enough. The game’s interface was super daunting when I booted it up and I was too intimidated. Cue the timely rant reference to the game by Tycho of Penny Arcade. His intervention led me to a detailed tutorial that allowed me to finally come to grips with the game mechanics and implement all the stuff I’ve been reading about.

Phew, so that’s a long way to get to where we wanted to get with Dwarf Fortress, but I think it’s a great story. DF has totally blown my mind as a game. Right now I’ve got abou 12-14 dwarves under my command and as I have them bore into the earth, deforest the landscape, trap bears and kobolds in cages, and wrestle so hard their clothes start to fall off in the barracks, I find myself falling in love with this quirky game. Every tiny detail is tightly modeled. For instance, every creature in the game has an organ system. Battle can cause damage to a dwarf’s spleen, causing him to die if he doesn’t get medical care. Individual limbs can be damaged. The guy in the tutorial caught goblins in cage traps (my main defense right now) and somehow in the ruckus the goblin’s eyes were gouged out. Now it just sits in the cage, freaks out, and repeatedly passes out. Here’s an excerpt from a dev about development of these systems:

Today was compound fractures as well as fractured layers being knocked inward to damage soft inner portions. So a bone in the arm for example could break through the skin if the arm is struck by even a blunt weapon, and impacts can also force jagged skull edges into the brain or a broken rib into the heart or a lung (generally, the broken layers can cross body part boundaries according to the wound’s path over body part relationships)

I could go on and on for hours about my fortress, but I’ll hold off for a bit until I’ve got some screenshots and some story to go with it. Can’t wait to get home and play some more instead of napping.


4 Responses  
  • Eric Mesa writes:
    March 20th, 20099:14at

    Is that what you were playing when we came over? I was wondering what ascii game you were playing. Quite a contrast to the amazing graphics of L4D.

  • Dan writes:
    March 20th, 20099:26at

    You’re exactly right. Tune in tomorrow for some funny stories other people posted on that tutorial site.

  • I’m Not Mad » Archive » Dwarf Fortress Over Achiever writes:
    March 24th, 20095:45at

    […] not the only one late to the buzz.  Apparently everyone’s been talking about it lately, even Dan.  This is probably due to the game’s insanely detailed stories about the lives of each of […]

  • I Bring Nothing to the Table » Blog Archive » Keyword Roundup [Uncat] writes:
    July 7th, 200917:54at

    […] a reference to these two posts: (1, 2), folks looking for Dwarf Fortress stories can also find some great ones at the official forums. […]


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