Delving Greedily and Deeply

May 19th, 2008

My last blog entry briefly mentioned the game Dwarf Fortress, and as promissed I thought I’d go in to a bit more detail.

Dwarf Fortress is a freeware indie game, that comes in at just 5.3 MB, that’s just 37 centipeggles for those familiar with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. However inside this small package you have one of the most detailed and absorbing games I have ever played.

Dwarf Fortress is really two games in one; fortress mode is a strategy/management game; adventurer mode is a Rogue alike RPG. Both games are set in the same world, and when your fortress finally falls you can descend into it in adventure mode and read the story of its fall engraved in its walls, and perhaps pick up a few artifacts that your dwarves themselves created.

However it is fortress mode which recieves the most attention, and rightly so. To attempt to compare it to commercial games would be to describe a breeding experiment involving Dungeon Keeper, The Settlers, and a DOS era word processor. In attempting to describe my first impressions of the game over at the snopes message boards I said the following:

I’ve been looking at the arcane and unwieldy ‘Dwarf Fortress,’ a freeware ASCII strategy/Roguealike game with the depth of an oceanic trench and an interface that would make the cockpit of a space shuttle seem user friendly. Despite its rudimentary graphics, the game still manages to take quite a chunk out of my computers processing power.

The games motto is ‘loosing is fun’ and that is something I fear may soon hit me. The first winter has hit and already I appear to have run out of seeds and yet have just taken an influx of new migrants which has doubled the population of my fortress. My carpenter has been working flat out to produce new beds for the migrants, while I’ve been very fortunate that one of the newcommers brought an axe with them, as the only one my party brought with them at the begining was stolen from the bedside of one of my dwarfs by an invading kobold.

Unfortunately I have no weapons, as I can’t build a smithy without an anvil, and the trading caravan that was supposed to bring one left with impatince as not only was my trade depot not built, but my broker was asleep when the caravan arrived.

Of course I can always slaughter some of the horses that gave birth in my Dining room, and the dogs have been trained up to hunt. My brewer is working efficiently, although I fear I may have brewed up too much alcohol, depleting valuble food reserves in the process. Still, my leader is a bit an alcoholic, so maybe she’ll get through the supplies.

I’m also dreading the day when I accidently mine into a nearby pond, flooding half my fortress.

That fortress survived a flooding, but sucumbed later, not to invaders, but rather to the after effects:

Dead, all dead. A series of invading goblins were bravely fought off by my quickly recruited militia, but we suffered heavy losses. Many of the Dwarves were severely depressed, and their refusal to work meant that the bodies of their friends began to rot in the corridors. In an attempt to raise the mood ‘Stoney,’ the leader, threw a party, however tragedy was to occur. A woodcutter flipped, sinking into a blood-frenzy, murdering half the dwarves in the party, and chasing the rest through the tunnels of my fortress. Those that weren’t killed slipped irreversibly into depression, and the death of the leader ensured they all stood arround doing very little. Eventualy the mad woodcutter was taken down but it was too late, the three remaining Dwarves starved in their beds until a final invading goblin force wiped them all out.

I’m now on my second fortress, located in the same world as the first, but some distance away. I learnt lessons from the first, and dug myself in much deeper, with only an entrance. Still, at one point I was down to a couple of dwarves, before a huge influx of immigrants rescued me. I’ve flooded half the fortress and rescued it, using the drained flood water to tide my fortress through the winter when all surface water was frozen and beer had run out.

I’ve got regular trade going on with elves, dwarves and humans, although have managed to annoy the elves on one occasion. (I’d dread to think what it would be like cooking for elves. The vegitarianism isn’t a problem (although I’m sure my dwarves don’t agree) but I fear they’d also object to my wooden table.) I’ve now extended my defenses, which seems to have attracted even more attention from the goblins than I was getting previously. The last siege was fought off with few casualties, but a smaller ambush proved to be a greater issue as my moat froze over in the winter, allowing them to bypass the bridge.

The game is still under development, and new features are continuously being added. It seems that the next version will look at military activity during world generation, with the eventual goal of providing the player with the ability to launch invasions against other settlements. However, the immediate results will be seen as a more detailed world history, and more variation in the civilizations you meet.

The early issues with the interface faded quickly as I became more familiar with the game, you get used to it. I…I don’t even see the code. All I see is dwarf, elephant, tower-cap. However, the game still seems to be throwing new challenges at me as my fortress gets larger, not to mention my projects are getting more and more ambitious. My warehouse/tower next to my trade depot is more or less complete, although still needs a final roof. My new defense network is mostly up and running, and I think I’ve got my resevoir systems hooked up correctly. Of course, I need to think about draining that moat. but that will involve blocking off the feeder chanels, so shall probably have to wait until winter rolls around again.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply