Dwarf Phwoartress: Stonesense Visualiser

By Alec Meer on November 5th, 2009 at 1:59 pm.

The release of a player-made plugin for ULTIMATE INDIE GAME Dwarf Fortress stirred brief debate amongst the hemispheres of the RPS Hivemind. “Worth remembering: it’s a visualiser”, attack-thoughted node-designation GILLEN. “It does at least run as the game is playing”, hypno-suggested node-designation MEER. “WE/I LOVE DWARVES. WRITE ABOUT DWARVES WRITE ABOUT DWARVES WRITE ABOUT DWARVES”, then throbbed the Mind in spiky unison. For yes, while it is enormously pleasing, Stonesense is not a graphical engine that replaces DF’s (in)famous ASCII appearance. What it is an add-on, displaying an isometric, cartoony image of the state of your stone-centric world alongside said ASCIIosity in something like real-time.

Clearly, it’s not quite what we’ve all been praying for – but it is, at last, a chance to see quite what your elaborate structures and dynasties look like as you play. Video below. Watch it, with your eyes.

It’s probably the least compelling commentary I’ve ever heard (and it times, so mumbly as to be incoherent), but hey, it’s Dwarf Fortress. Slick presentation would be all wrong.

Obtain Stonesense from right here. It’s open-source, which means you can tweak or add to it as you like – and even provide extra sprites’n'stuff to the community.

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108 Comments »

  1. ImperialCreed says:

    Surely a full graphical overhaul for DF like this must be closer than ever now?

  2. Senethro says:

    I like the idea of Dwarf Fortress, but it isn’t worth playing as its creator refuses to do any optimisation or feature cleaning. He never finishes any aspect of it before he starts going crazy on the next. Yeah, I can understand getting bored because its a hobby project, but why not then take on some programmers to help you? The whole insistance that he can be the only guy who touches anything just means I don’t expect to ever see a “polished” version.

    Also, interface.

    • Wulf says:

      I feel that Dwarf Fortress, like pretty much every other Roguelike, will never reach its potential until it’s open sourced, because this is too big of an undertaking for one coder, no matter how protective they might be of their bairn.

      As it’s closed source, and the community can’t submit code fixes, can’t clean up the game, can’t optimise the code, and can’t plug a 2D graphical interface directly into the game itself (like Vulture’s Eye and Vulture’s Claw – if you don’t know what those are, look ‘em up). Dwarf Fortress could explode with mad progression if it ever did go open source, but in its current state, it just doesn’t grab me, it’s too much of a mess.

      Oh, and their reason for not open sourcing it? It basically amounts to “We’re unsociable bastards and we want to have to deal with actual people as little as possible.”, and no, I’m not kidding, it’s in their FAQ. And that’s a pretty selfish reason to castrate a game with so much potential, to be honest, because this will always be a project that’s too big for them, for the reasons you’ve cited.

      So they either need to open source it for it to become wortwhile, or if they really are that bothered by other people, they need to make a commercial effort out of it, by hiring other coders, good coders, paying cash money for their coding, and then selling a far, far more polished, professional, and complete Dwarf Fortress. And indeed, I would buy such a thing.

      Until then, there are plenty of other games I find eminently more interesting and intriguing, both in the indie, open source, and commercial sectors. And in its current state, Dwarf Fortress is far from being the indie title of all time. I snootily turn my nose up at that suggestion and point toward Knytt Stories, which is genuinely deserving of that title.

    • Senethro says:

      Thats a pretty nice summary of the situation Wulf. I wonder if Rob would say you’re spreading “idiot propaganda” as well.

    • Dominic White says:

      Bitter about some dudes freeware game, much? I’m sure you’d make any of your projects open-source because a bunch of needy manchildren insisted that they could do a better job than you for months on end, right?

    • Senethro says:

      If some people have a sense of entitlement about it (and they surely do, as anything this niche attracts them), then its a result of years of slow progress contrasted with never quite fulfilled potential. Hence all these side projects popping up I guess. Thats pretty brave putting that kind of work into something when you don’t even have the source for it.

      You saying you never get mildly irritated by someone doing something the “wrong” way?

    • Bhazor says:

      Wulf, it is more or less open source. Hence why there are so many modifications for it.

      “# Add new creatures, weapons, plants, metals and other objects via modifiable text files.”
      From http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/features.html

      “(Permission is granted to anyone to use this software for any purpose,
      including commercial applications, and to alter it and redistribute it
      freely, subject to the following restrictions:

      1. The origin of this software must not be misrepresented; you must not
      claim that you wrote the original software. If you use this software
      in a product, an acknowledgment in the product documentation would be
      appreciated but is not required.

      2. Altered source versions must be plainly marked as such, and must not
      be misrepresented as being the original software.

      3. This notice may not be removed or altered from any source distribution.”
      From “optipng license.txt”

    • Morberis says:

      ~Wulf

      That’s not his only reason for doing it. He fear that if he makes it open source he won’t received the funds he does now from the fans as the fans divvy their cash up amongst the branch that they prefer. He also doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of making it into a commercial enterprise that consists of more than himself.

      It’s not unreasonable for him to want to be able to continue working and be supported by his baby is it?

    • Bhazor says:

      Sorry I just found that second quote applies to a separate program used in Dwarf Fortress.

    • psyk says:

      Its freeware no? can’t some enterprising people just build on it them selves and release some updates for it, whats the worse that could happen?

    • CoyoteTheClever says:

      Roguelikes are made feature complete before they actually finish aspects. Its just a part of the design process. And honestly, it keeps the game fresh. I think the creator is a genius. This is why Dwarf Fortress is one of the deepest games you’d ever play. The project isn’t a hobby project either, he lives off donations from loyal fans (I think his brother does too). I don’t think any Indie developer does that, or even could support themselves on a freeware game. The guy is a masterful programmer who actually has a good creative vision too.

      And the interface seriously is not that bad. Does it take getting used to and it is a little bit user hostile? Yes. But the new stuff the community has worked on has improved that. The developer doesn’t -need- to worry about it because it is something the community can do without him having to take time off making the game feature complete.

    • dylan says:

      I trust in what he is doing with the game. I feel that rushing it to completion would destroy the game, as I could not imagine anyone matching the patience of the main programmer.

      Frankly, I am prepared to wait a huge amount of time for a release.

      The game is playable right now, it just takes some patience to learn the interface. If you can think back to when you first played a roguelike, you might remember utter confusion at the interface, but eventually you learned it. df is the same way.

      also, would you call a startlingly dedicated inventor selfish and childish if they didn’t want to collaborate on their master invention? If they wanted to see through with their own project, and survive off of their own measly donationware earnings, that is their business, as it is his.

    • Richeh says:

      Sorry, it’s ridiculous to demand that the developer – who made his game completely free for you to play – optimizes his life to deliver the maximum efficiency of entertainment into your own. The guy likes to code fast and loose, probably so he can add features as they occur to him. Dwarf Fortress is a labour of love and that’s likely a big reason why it’s so deep, involved and bloody good.

      And he likely doesn’t want to get other developers in because there’s a mountain of code that only he understands, and sharing the project abstracts him to the level of team leader from the programmer / designer he wanted to be – and contributors would inevitably want creative input.

      If you don’t like how he’s doing it, don’t play it. It’s not life-essential.

  3. AndrewC says:

    Four hemispheres.

    • AndrewC says:

      Crap: sorry. I originally thought this post was written by Gillen, and thus fair game for pedantic nitpicking.

      Sorry Alec. This was entirely my mistake.

    • Bhazor says:

      We all know Alec tries super hard and needs lots of encouragement.

      Aint that right champ?

    • Ian says:

      Three cheers for Alec!

    • Flobulon says:

      You’re all so very, very cruel.

    • AndrewC says:

      Hey come on, I mean it. I’d only be mean to Gillen because I know deep down he likes it.

  4. Spatula says:

    MAAAAAAAnnnn. I’d give good money for a more user friendly version of dwarf fortress, my hopes were simultaneously raised then dashed, in a sort of escalator of doom type thing.

    I want to play dwarf fortress again (played LONG ago) but just can’t get past the interface. BLAST!

    • Scalene says:

      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one lost in the ACSII

    • kikito says:

      you surely mean “an up-down stair of doom”

    • WCG says:

      Yeah, it’s not just the ASCII (especially since there are graphical mods). The DF interface really stinks!

      Still, that hasn’t stopped me from playing the game. Dwarf Fortress is really something special. But mostly, I’ve been waiting for the next version. And I really do think that Tarn Adams needs to accept some help. I understand that he wants to keep control,… but he seems rather paranoid on the subject. Accepting some help with the graphics and the interface would be nice – and maybe then it wouldn’t be more than a year between version releases.

  5. TCM says:

    I keep trying to play Dwarf Fortress, and I keep being shoved away by the complexity and ASCII.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      TCM,
      I despise the ASCII as well, use a graphical interface like Mike Mayday’s graphic pack (that appears in game, 2D though, sorry to disappoint) http://mayday.w.staszic.waw.pl/df.php

      Trust me, doubtless you’ve heard this a million times before, but once you get over the complexity of the game (use a wiki tutorial and look at Captain Duck’s tutorials on youtube) you will be thrilled by the intricacy of the game and the level of customisation. By simply providing a strategy game where the player can redesign the environment and create basic mechanical functions using switches and triggers, the creator of Dwarf Fortress has provided an almost infinite array of possibilities.

    • Sobric says:

      HexagonalBolts is indeed correct. Some players have even gone so far as to create simple computers within the game using logic gates, water, animals, prisoners etc

      http://www.dwarffortresswiki.net/index.php/Computing

  6. Sobric says:

    If you read the thread (and other topics on isometric visualizers), the community are ultimately aiming to have Stonesense run all the functions of DF, through an easy to use graphical interface. That may be a long way off, but it’s on the horizon.

    Also, to anyone put off by DFs difficulty: the dwarf wiki is an excellent source of information and tutorials. I picked this up a few months back, and got to grips with the basics within a few hours. It’s really not that hard. The most difficult aspects of the game only emerge if you let them (i.e. if you choose a really difficult start location).

    • Jesse says:

      At last, the peasants are revolting.

    • tycho says:

      Peasants are always revolting – it’s the lack of hygiene which comes with poverty…

  7. yhancik says:

    Alongside ?

    Oh dear, I don’t think my screen is large enough for this…

    • RogB says:

      2* 1920*1080 here seems to be MADE for this… sod work, this is the ideal use of twin HD widescreens :D

      im not too ashamed to say that im more than a little moist by this news. mmm.

  8. Rob says:

    “He never finishes any aspect of it before he starts going crazy on the next.”

    I guess that massive checklist of completed release items on the official website is just my imagination, then.

    Stop spreading idiot propaganda. It ain’t big, and it ain’t clever.

    • Senethro says:

      So hows that pathfinding these days?

    • Ed says:

      @Senethro: a splinter project has been started by several coders in the community to overhaul the pathfinding – much like the splinter project started by the community which overhauled the display layer by porting it to SDL (so it now runs substantially faster, and you can have it use up your full screen and display an arbitrary number of rows/columns instead of being constrained to 80×25)

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Yeah, the SDL upgrade was a massive triumph of the community. The pathfinding project, however, seems to suffer from the fact that – while relatively few people are interested or competent at graphics programming – everyone seems to think that they know how to do pathfinding. So instead of having a pair of fairly skilled graphics programmers sorting things out at high speed, we have about a dozen people chasing each-other around in circles endlessly.

      So I wouldn’t put too much of my hope into that project getting anywhere, not until there’s some organization, at least.

      Still. Senethro, I’m not 100% sure what you’re asking for. You want him to polish each aspect of the game, getting it completely right and perfect in every way, before moving on to the next? I’m not sure how that would work, really, in a game with as many interconnected mutually dependent parts as Dwarf Fortress. Even besides the fact that it goes against the first principle of good game design, that is, iteration.

      But please! Persuade me!

  9. Catastrophe says:

    I never quite understood the aims in DF, what you are meant to be doing?

    • DMJ says:

      Strange question. What are you meant to do in The Sims?

    • Sobric says:

      There are no goals other than those that you set yourself. you build a fortress, produce goods, trade, build a military, fight of sieges, keep your dwarfs happy etc. standard fare, but inevitably your fortress will fall in some manner and, well, that’s the end of it.

      It shines out from other games of its type from its sheer complexity and depth. Dwarves have a full set of emotions & characteristics; water is properly modelled (and if handled badly is likely to flood your fortress); the raw-materials/workshops/manufacturing process is large, in depth and enjoyable; it’s quite hard. It’s also fairly amusing at times, especially if you remember that losing is FUN.

      Yes, I do like this game a lot.

    • user@example.com says:

      Dig too greedily and too deep, then flood the world with lava.

    • kikito says:

      It is kind of like an ant farm + the Sims + an RTS, with RPG touches.

      Your dwarves dig around mountains, and you see them, much like in an ant farm.

      They have needs like the sims do (food, booze, clothes, nice furniture). They have phobias (‘Patty hates horses’). And they develop rude relationships between them. They can get crazy … which can be quite good (crazy dwarfves can craft a special item if they find the right materials for it)

      They also do jobs (carpenters, tanners, farmers … ), and if they are military they can train and fight enemies, which attack your settlement from time to time. Carpenters need logs in order to make furniture, butchers need animals to slaughter, and you can even make jewelry and sell it to commerce caravans that will appear. With time, you get to make coins – which opens the economy subgame. So in that way it is also an RTS.

      The RPG touches come from the fact that dwarves gain “experience levels”. Miners get better at mining the more they mine. Fighters get better by fighting and sparring. Better smiths do better weapons and armor. Etc.

      Add to that that the world can be procedurally generated – including lore, with races, heroes, gods, cities and geography.

      It is a shame that all this wonder is hidden to so many, because of the crappy, crappy interface. :(

    • wyrmsine says:

      Attempting to avoid the development of emotional attachments to specific ASCII characters is not a stated goal of the game, but it is a noble and difficult endeavour when your fortress has been running awhile.

  10. Scuzzeh says:

    Have fun, that’s all really.

  11. Inigo says:

    DIGGING

  12. Dominic White says:

    While the interface at the moment is a bit of a pig, it’s really not too bad if you grew up playing Nethack. Still, it’s understandable that he wants to leave the interface as open and expandable as possible at the moment, mainly because major game features are still in the making.

    Anyone read what the overall goal of Dwarf Fortress is? It’s to be more than… y’know.. Dwarf Fortresses. The plan is a whole procedurally generated fantasy world simulator, where all the tropes (wizards rising to power, making magical weapons, heroes getting magical weapons, slaying dragons, freeing towns, towns growing into cities, city leadership taken over by evil demon cult, becoming evil empires, etc) play out in randomized format.

    I dunno about the rest of you, but I think he’s doing a pretty damn good job of it so far.

    Still, looking forward to whatever future version of Stonesense adds a cleaner overlay interface.

  13. El_MUERkO says:

    woo and such, i’ve downloaded it but not given it a whirl yet, i want to see my little fortress in ThreeDs!

    as an aside, i am stunned by the shocking decline of Quakebells, i’ve tried to sign up to their forums in the hopes of getting a copy of the save and continuing myself but my forum registration was never accepted :(

  14. HYPERPOWERi says:

    You get used to the interface after a couple of days of playing.

    Non-stop.

    The damn thing sucks you into its murky, carp infested depth and never lets go.

    ASCII makes a LOT of sense because there is still a lot of the game to be written and I would imagine it’s a lot easier to deal with the effects of introducing a new gameplay mechanic when you don’t have to worry about its visual representation.

  15. M.P. says:

    What put me off isn’t the interface _itself_ but the concept behind the interface. I just can’t get my head round the fact that you make stuff happen by setting up rules, priorities and incentives rather than just grabbing a dwarf, pointing to a rock, and ordering him to fetch! It’s very abstract, and it’s what makes it completely different to playing Nethack or any other game I can think of, ASCII or not.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Yeah, that was definitely the first thing I had to take my time wrapping my head around when I started. “To dig, I have to designate that spot for digging, and then I have to find a dwarf that I want to do the mining, and then I have to give him the mining labor, and then I have to watch him and hope he doesn’t get hungry or thirsty or sleepy or attacked by carp in the middle of the job…” It’s definitely no C&C.

      (Haven’t played it since a few months after the last update, largely owing to lack of numpad (laptop keyboard), but have been following the development closely. Very excited for the next release.)

    • Kommissar Nicko says:

      The latest model (40d16 or something, the one with the SDL implementation stuff) allows you to rebind your keys within the game itself, to make your + and – keys to the number-row + and – instead of the numpad ones. I.e. playable on laptops.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      I hadn’t actually realized that! May be time to upgrade, then.

  16. stormbringer951 says:

    Wait, you guys are put off by the ASCII? Really? The ASCII’s the simplest part of the game, compared with the patched-together UI and the helluvalot of knowledge you need to simply make your dwarves not all die.

    Who’s not had the situation where they leave their PC for a few minutes and come back to find 50 dead dwarves in a pond with a legendary carp? :D

    But yeah, I’m all for the ASCII in the ASCII vs tilesets row. As long as the ASCII is done well (I prefer square tilesets, with partial glyphs for different objects) then it should be fine.

    • Tei says:

      “Wait, you guys are put off by the ASCII? Really? The ASCII’s the simplest part of the game, compared with the patched-together UI and the helluvalot of knowledge you need to simply make your dwarves not all die.”

      No that hard. If you start your dungeon on a area where you can grown things underground, it seems the production can exceeds your needs. Then you are free to create some dwarven beer, and free to create more rooms, beds and doors from wood/stone, goods to trade with the traders. Once you have some good miners, you can decorate walls and floors, to make your dungeon much more interesting for your people. Surviving this long is not hard. It probably take some learning survive the second gobs raid, or something.

    • kikito says:

      To me the problem isn’t the ascii as much as the keyboard. If at least it was coherent!

      Sometimes you scroll with arrows. Sometimes you do with uhjk. And yet other times you have to do another combination that I have already forgotten.

      Even the “exit this screen and go back to the previous screen” key isn’t coherent.

      It’s the interface, not the graphics, what bugs me. Needs some sanity, or mouse support.

    • Tei says:

      uhjk is not scrolling, is resizing, sorta.

  17. Jeremy says:

    I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that until a proper interface has been created, I’ll not play the game. I’m all for complex games, fit together with complex relationships and all that wonderful complex complexity. However, making a cryptic crapper of an interface is no excuse. Basically, playing the game involves typing sentences all the time, except they’re not words, they are endless combinations of hotkeys and menu options. There’s too much of a barrier to entry, and maybe that means I’m not hardcore enough, but I truly do enjoy the game and the relationships you inevitably create with your dwarfs, it’s a fantastic concept of a game, and quite well done, but please hire an interface.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      The developer’s stated plan is that he’s going to be working on these things (some of which are already done – the page hasn’t been updated in literally a year) until they’re done or until he becomes desperate for cash, in which latter case he’ll start work on the interface to try to attract a wider audience. (Like you!) His donation situation actually seems to have been holding steady for the last several months, though, so you don’t have much hope of official recourse any time soon.

      Luckily, though, there’s a third-party group working on developing a decent front-end to the game – graphics, interface, the works! They’ve been making great progress so far, though they’ve only touched the graphics to date; still, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have an interface-prototype done within the month.

      What project is this, you ask? Why, it’s a little thing called Stonesense…

  18. Kurt Lennon says:

    Combine fantastic game design with an astonishingly fucking shit interface, and you have DF.

    It’s like eating the most delicious meal you’ve ever seen through a sieve.

    • The Unbelievable Guy says:

      I’d say it’s more like trying to eat a delicious meal using one of those fairground crane machines.

  19. Railick says:

    To answer a question above the path finding is MUCH better (depending on how long ago you played it) You can now assign numbers to tiles that add to the dwarves calc when he is trying to get some place (The distance calc) So if you REALLY don't want any dwarf going to a certain tile you can set the number very high and they'll never go there.
    What that allows you as the fortress designer to do is create highways where the dwarves will always travel and places where they will never go .
    BTW , it isn't open source for the plain reason that he hasn't released the source code :P You can edit some of the game files but he won't let anyone look at the code itself or help them with it if they want to try and figure it out on their own or what have I don't understand it all because I'm not a programmer you know what I means ?

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

  20. Ian says:

    What I really need is a period when I know I’ll have no other games to play and force me to sit down and give DF a proper go. As it is, the ASCII, UI, et al just scares me off a bit too much when I’ve got games where my ability to grasp them isn’t an issue with my relatively limited time.

    Have got a couple of things people have linked here previously for learning DF bookmarked, it’s just a case of finding the time to do so.

  21. mister k says:

    Yeah, what really depressed me about this game was that after playing through about 1/3 of that tutorial online I still didn’t really understand what I was doing, and did not feel like I could go it alone. That just made me sad…. One day I’ll get into this… maybe. The interface is so off putting, and the various things I apparently have to know about my dwarfs..

    • kikito says:

      I actually tried and quit 4 times across 3 years. And failed – couldn’t even get my bearings. I’m not sure I even managed to create an expedition – that’s how bad the interface is.

      The fifth time, though, I succeded. Mostly with the help of your new friend captnduck (http://www.youtube.com/user/captnduck). Started with tutorial 1.

      I went from “what the hell is this” to “mm… so this is how you make a bed” to “HAHA! My 5 lava forges are working at full steam! come get some, you kobolds!”.

      After getting most of what the game could offer me, I just grew tired of fighting against the interface. I’ll get back if this changes. Otherwise, no. It was fun for a while, thogh.

  22. Railick says:

    Ian if you want I will teach you to play Dwarf Fortress personally. I like you :)

    IMO the interface is very easy to use. I don't understand why people have such a huge problem with it when it tells you EXACTLY what buttons to push IN the game you don't even need to look at the manual (for the controls hehe) Once you understand the basic idea that you have to use hot keys to access the menus it is all extremely easy to navigate. At this point it is just a matter of remembering with your brain where things are located (And they are normally very well organized as far as what objects are under what build menus ect) There are a few things that can get complicated for me, but that is mainly building complex set ups like custom traps and magma chutes that I always seem to screw up but that is part of the fun.

    If you let this really awfully easy to use interface get in your way of enjoying one of the greatest games ever made that is really your problem not Tarn's. People have been able to learn the interface to a degree to allow them to build giant cats with entry ways leading into the mouth and water flowing out their butt :P Or giant statues that in 3d mode REALLY look like a giant dwarf sitting in a chair. No one is asking you to do these kinds of things but it is proves it is possible and enjoyable with the interface as it is now.

    I'm really suprised there is so much venom of a freeware game that , if you really don't want to play it you don't have to. Nor are you expected to pay for it in order to try and learn to play it so you're not losing anything if you give it a go. Trying to convince other people it is crap and that it is unplayable because of the interface (which is plain face NOT true, it may be unplayable by YOU but it is not unplayabale what so ever as many people here will attest to) is so strang to me. What do you stand to gain out of other people not playing the game? Why not let them give it a try and make up their own minds?

    To be honest once you get the interface down and learn all the rules, which many people figure out in the first few forts, the game is actaully VERY easy. That is why people take on these large projects to test themselves to give themsevles a challenge. building a fortress in ice, magma, undead fortress with zombie elephants what have you. Just building up a normal working fortress in a peaceful area with plenty of trees and water is VERY easy once you undrestand how everything works. Just make sure you set up enough farms to feed everyone and make enough booze to make sure everyone can get nice and drunk and build a wall around your entrance to keep out da goblins and you'll be fine.

    • kikito says:

      “If you really don’t want to play it you don’t have to”

      The problem is that a lot of people do want to play it, but just can’t.

      It’s interface isn’t “easy”. It is “easy once you get used to it”. That is not the same. Playing the piano isn’t “easy” the first time you try, but once you get used to it, it is easy, too.

      Instead of “easy”, you could use other words, “trainable”, or “difficult at the begining, but if you follow a good tutorial and have some patience, you will get it”.

      If you keep telling people that the interface is just easy, they might download the game and try it. And then get frustrated and quit. So, despite your good intentions, it might be you who is actually scaring people away from the game! If you mention the steep learning curve at the begining, at least people will not feel disappointed.

  23. Tei says:

    The interface is not hard. Maybe the problem is learning to play AND the interface. You don’t need all the options, just the basic options, learning the basic stuff use only a small subset of keys and ideas.

    Also, I have found the game to be interesting in some levels, but in others not different than dungeon keeper, or other “sim” title. Theres a bit of hype around DF, because crazy people can do crazy stuff.. yes, the potential is there, but I think the average people will build average dungeons, not something epic or stuff.

  24. Railick says:

    A fortress can start off normal and become epic as you learn though Tei. Every Fortress starts off small and grows, unless the person has a certain crazy idea in their mind when they first start. For example I once built an entire dwarf town above ground using wood only, it was VERY tedious and a lot harder to do then just digging rooms out but when it was done it looked awesome (to me at least hehe) I had a wooden wall built up around it with a ramp allowing traders to come in but in times of siege I raised pulled in the bridge connecting the ramp to the outside making it impossible for goblins to get in as my crossbow dwarves rained down death on them from the walls :) Next time goblins invaded my archers shot them with the bones of the previous invaders, something about that is poetic to me.

    Still my favorite fortress of all time was build ontop of a magma vent with an over town above it, a wall all the way around the vent with magma workshops on the surface then the fotress itself was built under ground all around the vent allowing deeper workshops to be built using magma channels ect. The idea of a bunch of dwarves living on and around a magma vent was just very pleasing to me ^_^

    But like Tei says the hardest part is trying to learn the interface (Which is easy once you let go and just resign yourself to using it) and trying to learn what you need to do to keep your dwarves alive at the same time. If you just take it slow and let give your dwarves the basics of life you will slowly figure it out. (they only really need food and booze, they don't even need clothes they will happily run around buck naked all the day long if you let them) So all you really need to do on a good map is build some farms and a still , then brew some of the things (all of the things) you make at the farm into booze. Then if you like you can cook the plump helmets as well if you like making them even more valuable but you don't even really need to do that.

    At that point if you like you can give them a place to eat, carve out a little 5 x 5 room and put some tables and charles in it and mark it a dining room and watch as they all go there and sit down to eat. You don't have to tell them to do it they just do it on their own.

  25. Railick says:

    BTW, just to be honset and open here, you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt because I am a full on dwarf fortress fanatic :P If you follow the link in my name you'll see a horrible short story I wrote based on the game (which some people in the offical dwarf fortress forums actually liked but not many lol)

  26. Sobric says:

    One thing on the interface: Get Dwarf Therapist or Dwarf Foreman to aid you in assigning jobs etc… it will make playing DF 100x easier.

    • pirate0r says:

      I second that! The two factors that helped me overcome the complex interface was dwarf foreman and the mode that enables you to resize the screen (it’s part of the beta version now). I had never even considered altering my dwarfs professions due to the game interface, but those programs made all the difference.In no time I was building 20 floor towers to sacrifice prisoners, horses and puppies (their corpses landed on a glass roof situated above the dining hall), a lava trap situated above my bauxite trading post so I don’t have to clean up the elf corpses or their pesky cloth bags, and a trapdoor leading to a pit full of puppies and scorpions. My proudest moment however was the gladiator arena where I would battle captured foe against lava demons and crazed elves. I also built a whole subfortress for two dwarfs whose only job was to pull levers; needless to say after a couple of seasons locked in there I found one beaten to death and the other drowned in the well.

  27. Railick says:

    True true, that does make it a lot easier. Also there are tools (Or used to be tools) that let you get more info on the area you want to deploy to if you're having trouble finding certain features, I'm not sure if works with the newest version though (and it is kind of cheating but . . .) There are a lot of 3rd party tools to make it easier and graphic sets to make to replace the letters with little pictures if that makes it easier for you as well. Hopefully one day soon Stone Sense will be able to run on its own with its own interface because I'd really like it if other people could enjoy the game (people who can stand the interface as it is now for whatever reason)

  28. questions says:

    So why do games like Dwarf Fortress never get considered for the IGF Award? Is it because the author didn’t submit it or it’s non-commercial?

  29. Alex says:

    1. DF is a great game and flawed. It’s free and the developer really doesn’t beg for money. He asks, but I have never felt obligated or guilted into contributing.

    2. ASCII so far is the clearest way to view your fortress. The graphical tilesets to date are too muddled and too hard to differentiate between different dwarfs and other characters. Ya I said it, there is almost too much detail to be cleanly represented by graphics in their current state.

    3. As stated above it is VERY EASY. The game in it’s current state is to learn the interface and some basic rules of survival. Once done, if you don’t like being creative, you won’t like the game. I can’t wait for the next major release.

    4. Emergent behavior in the game is the most compelling I’ve seen to date. Stuff happens and things interact that you wouldn’t expect.

    5. I just gotta throw this out there, remember when the big thing was “fully destructible environments”?? Literally EVERYTHING in the game is interactible/destructible. Oh yes I did just make up that word. I can’t think of another game where that’s true. Just imagine Torchlight where you could pick up every single piece of clothing or weapon from every single enemy.

  30. LionsPhil says:

    “I’d say it’s more like trying to eat a delicious meal using one of those fairground crane machines.”

    This.

    DF’s UI is an abomination. No, I don’t mean because it’s (ridiculously inefficient pseudo-)ANSI and strange keyboard controls. Roguelikes have been working that way for years, and they’re fine.

    I mean it’s horiffically clunky to do anything, full of hateful micromanagement, and apparently has never seen a single sit-down-and-think design decision in its life.

    That said, the ANSI graphics /do/ fail horribly in trying to be illustrative, not diagramatic. Why are workshops a random collection of shapes presumably supposed to be tools when they could be a set of colour-coded “w” or somesuch? Why all the meaningless noise in the grass tiles? Ugh.

  31. PleasingFungus says:

    Of possible interest is a different Dwarf Fortress visualizer, the rather straightforwardly-named Visual Fortress. It’s not as feature-rich as Stonesense in certain respects – specifically, it doesn’t display creatures at all – but it’s full 3D. Stonesense tends to look a little better indoors, but Visual Fortress renders the outdoors much more impressively. Well worth a look at the thread, if only for the screenshots.

    (There were, I believe, at least two 3D visualizers before Visual Fortress, plus the slightly-obscure in-game one; Visual Fortress seems to be the only one still under development, though.)

  32. Railick says:

    There is one I use from time to time that shows the fortress in isometric 3d I can't think of that it's called now. The reason I like it is because it can show all the levels at once, making some very neat looking screen shots :) I think it starts with a K but I'm not sure :P Maybe Kazam or something more dwarfy , I'll update later if I remember the exact name lol.

  33. Finn says:

    I think Railick means Khazad:

    http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?topic=41927.45

    I’m happy they went with the “cheerful” sprite choice, it does make DF look good, almost GameBoy-ish like which is hilarious if you are watching a crazed dwarf die of dehydration becaue he couldn’t complete his masterpiece… DF dark humour right there.

    Anyway, my dream would be to have DF fully 3d isometric but this is very good indeed.

  34. Finn says:

    I think Railick means Khazad:

    http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?topic=41927.45

    I’m happy they went with the “cheerful” sprite choice, it does make DF look good, almost GameBoy-ish like which is hilarious if you are watching a crazed dwarf die of dehydration becaue he couldn’t complete his masterpiece… DF dark humour right there.

    Anyway, my dream would be to have DF fully 3d isometric but this is very good indeed.

  35. Rosti says:

    Can’t wait for someone to use something like this to make up some human-readable maps of Boatmurdered. I’m not a natural-born Dwarf, see.

  36. jokermatt999 says:

    Strange as it seems, I actually somewhat *like* Dwarf Fortress’s interface. I’d actually take it over, say, Oblivion’s. (by this, I mean the menus, and not graphics)

    Why? It’s keyboard controlled. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s a hell of a lot *less* annoying than most interfaces.

    However, I do like these 3d projects, as they allow you to see more than one layer at a time.

  37. Urist says:

    @ Senethro: ToadyOne isn’t going to open source DF since he pulls down between 2-3k EACH MONTH in donations to continue to work on it. The guy doesn’t have a day job.

  38. Railick says:

    Or rather, that IS his day job now .

  39. Dominic White says:

    As some wise soul mentioned, anyone playing DF should get Dwarf Therapist – http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?topic=39229.0 – it’s pretty much a solution to the worst part of the game UI, which is keeping track of all your dwarves, their skills and their assigned jobs. It just does all that stuff from an external cross-referenced window.

    And yes, you can run Stonesense and Dwarf Therapist simultaneously, giving you both a nice graphical representation of your fort, and a seperate dwarf management panel.

  40. Railick says:

    It's hard to build on it because it is closed source, other than the open script files that are easy to edit no one has a copy of the source code for the game.

  41. Railick says:

    It should be noted that most of the stuff created by the community is more or less hex editting or editting content live it isn't messing with the base source code that makes Dwarf Fortress run in any other way than hex editing. You can't really do much but change values hex editing (if I understand it correctly at least :) ) or read values and even then you're really just guessing until you get it right?

  42. TinyPirate says:

    If you’ve always wanted to try Dwarf Fortress but have been scared off by the interface then you should try me tutorial! It has been linked before, but it can’t hurt to link again! http://afteractionreporter.com/2009/02/09/the-complete-and-utter-newby-tutorial-for-dwarf-fortress-part-1-wtf/

  43. Railick says:

    Kikito the reason you have to scroll with diffrent keys depending on the situation is because the diffrent keys can scroll diffrent things at the same time,there is really no other way to do it without mouse support :P (And I know what you're going to say about that) :P Your major complaint is the keys are set up the way you want them to be and you're unwilling to learn something you've never done before, how is that the games problem again?

    • kikito says:

      Hi Railick,
      I disagree with you.

      Moving around without a mouse on a text-only interface is a solved problem, and it has been since many at least 20 years ago.

      I’ll give you one example of a program that implemented this – Borland’s Turbo C++ (1990)

      This programming editor was a multi-window programming environment in text mode. You could use the mouse, but the program was supposed to work without mouse support.

      The basic idea behind this program is you allways had one “active window” – you moved windows pressing TAB, closed windows pressing ESC, and pressed buttons by “making them active” with the arrows and pressing “ENTER” … or pressing its hotkey (wich was a faster, but not mandatory – you could do everything with just the arrows, TAB, ESC and ENTER).

      So definitively this isn’t another way to do this.

      Regarding the “you’re unwilling to learn something you’ve never done before”… ok, I don’t know what age you have, but I’ve probably been messing around with text-only interfaces a bit more than you. That’s what we had when I studied computer science at the university. You know, with green phosphore screens.

      It is not that the interface is “new”. It is just that it’s not consistent. And not easy to learn nor remember.

  44. Railick says:

    Good point, though I doubt I will be scaring as many people away as people who say the interface is an abomination from heck and impossible to learn ;P

  45. Railick says:

    Also I keep meaning to add but don't get to it. There IS an adventure mode for this game that is very simple and easy to learn and is one of the best Rougelike games I've ever played. The detail in the combat and the world you live in is extreme (and unique to your computer) Even if you can't get into Fortress Mode you should at least try Adventure mode and see if you enjoy that! Just remember to have a lot FUN and don't get stressed out.

    • Dominic White says:

      Back during a much earlier version of the game, I did a brief Let’s Play/diary of adventure mode, and it was the stuff of legends. A drunken, surly dwarven hobo, getting lost in the woods at night, and attacked by a series of increasingly large cats.

      He learnt to hate cats. He also learnt to gouge their eyes out, strangle them into unconciousness, break all four legs and then pelt them with rocks until they died.

      He REALLY hated cats. The bigger, the more they had to suffer. And his strength grew.. Oh god, did it grow. By the end, he was dual-weilding Giant Tiger corpses as improvised feline flail/clubs, and was dexterous and deadly enough to pick a butterfly out of the air.. and throw it hard enough to crush a bears ribcage.

      It has the best goddamn combat engine in any RPG, ever.

  46. Railick says:

    Indeed :P My favorite race/class combo is a human lasher. It takes a while to kill certain monsters and some of them are almost unkillable (Giant spiders anyone?) Generally speaking though most normal monsters pass out from pain after a few of their body parts fly off in a bloody arc :P After a short battle there are bloody chunks EVERY WHERE.

  47. Nate says:

    “Oh. Fire.”

  48. Nickname says:

    It’s not a “hobby project”. It’s his job. He has no “real” job, he lives entirely off of donations made by fans. is basically why he (ToadyOne, in case you didn’t know the dev’s name) doesn’t like third-party tools and the idea of open source. It’s in the spoiler tag.

    • TeeJay says:

      I wonder if a corporate developer will ever offer to buy him out / employ / sponsor him?

  49. Finn says:

    @Nickname: it’s his job, sure enough, but the reason why he even receives donations is that he created and develops a game several other persons play; the moment you depend on others for your livelihood is the moment your are subject to quality scrutiny and such; stating that he doesn’t want his “product” to be changed by pressure, like he did, doesn’t detract from the fact that everyone who plays DF has a different opinion on what and how it should be changed; no one ever claimed he HAD to change A or B because they were paying him, but he DID release the game for free and he DID allow third party tools to be created to compensate for some of the games’ shortcomings though he stated he didn’t want to feel pressured by these third party developers to rush his own creative process.
    Now, as far as I know, none of the persons or groups who created the several different tools (Khazad, Dwarf Manager, Stonesense) ever demanded ANYTHING from Toady, they were just giving back to the community and enjoying themselves, something that doesn’t clash against what Toady as said so I don’t see how this would suddenly become an issue, unless he feels his profit is threatened. If that’s the case than he should worry more about reaching goals that please his customers rather than developing as he sees fit.

    Let me just add that I don’t have anything against Toady, I enjoy DF and have contributed but that linked comment just shows, for me at least, that he feels like third party tools might end reducing his earning, something that if he REALLY is concerned with isn’t very much compatible with the whole “developing out of love” ideal of his.

  50. aoanla says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Let me just add that I don’t have anything against Toady, I enjoy DF and have contributed but that linked comment just shows, for me at least, that he feels like third party tools might end reducing his earning, something that if he REALLY is concerned with isn’t very much compatible with the whole “developing out of love” ideal of his.

    That's interesting; I read his worries entirely differently. It looks like he's concerned with the implicit obligation inherent in providing support for third-party tools and interfaces – not supporting third-parties means that he can make any changes he wants, and no-one else gets upset. Supporting third-parties means that he has to worry about Big Change A breaking all the third-party stuff until it is also patched, which means either leaking pre-release copies to the third-parties (a hassle, especially with an open set of third-parties, without being open source), or getting lots of complaints from users about Favourite Tool B breaking in the new release (which is also a hassle).
    This is all about hassle and independence (and interdependence), not direct profit hurting.
    (Indeed, having a rich set of third-party tools often enhances your potential profit, by allowing the third-parties to support the edge-cases that aren't profitable to pursue. )