Dwarfs!? Tunnels Its Way To Release, Demo

By Jim Rossignol on May 4th, 2011 at 10:09 pm.


Tripwire’s lo-fi mining game, Dwarfs!?, has arrived on Steam. It has a demo, and harkens backs to games like Diggers and other 2D tunnelers. It might not look like much from that screenshot there, but it seems to escalate pretty spectacularly, and also to have its heart in the right place. It manges to reference both Dwarf Fortress and Lemmings in a single promotional blurb. If it really is the arcade version of Dwarf Fortress then I suspect the internet is beginning to eat itself, but that’s probably inevitable anyway. Eventually we’ll just end up with some much reciprocity that the internet will turn inside out and vanish in a puff of meme.

Also, I don’t trust anyone who says they don’t like digging. Or mining. We all like it. Or else. Trailer below.

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74 Comments »

  1. Jumwa says:

    Yeah, I’m downloading the demo for this alright. It’s too tempting not to.

  2. Ricc says:

    I just played the demo. If you have seen Dwarf Fortress before (or read the Onionbog diary :P), Dwarfs!? will immediately remind you of that game. That’s mostly because of its look, though. What surprised me the most, is that Dwarfs!? is really about the highscore. You don’t have to build a base. In fact, the only building I saw was a dwarfen outpost, that trains warrior types. It’s mostly about getting minerals and expanding your territory.

    Very interesting and looks like it has the right kind of complexity for me, especially compared to DF. :)

  3. leomr says:

    Dwarves. Dwarves. I’m not sure it would be possible for this game’s title to be any more grating.

    • RodeoClown says:

      I imagine that Snow White might disagree with you on that point…

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Infuriating as it is, it really is ‘dwarfs’.

    • Xocrates says:

      If I’m not mistaken, the plural Dwarves was created by Tolkien to differentiate from people with nanism.

    • suibhne says:

      Xocrates is correct – which is to say, Tolkien didn’t invent the word “dwarves”, but he did use it despite acknowledging (in his letters and elsewhere) that it was clearly, unambiguously incorrect. “Dwarfs” is correct, as he Tolkien admits. And in philologist mode, he goes on to note that the historical plural of “dwarf” is actually “dwarrows”, which he seems to almost wish he’d used instead of “dwarves”. ;)

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      What about Elfs/Elves then? Was that also Tolkein?

    • Xocrates says:

      I don’t think elfs was ever the plural of elf.

    • Petrushka says:

      @Ergates_Antius:
      No, according to the OED “elves” has been customary throughout the Modern period (“alven” in Middle English, “elves” consistently by Shakespeare’s time). “Elfs” did co-exist with “elves” briefly, but only in the writings of pretentious poets ca. 1700.

      The reason why the two words have different history is that “elf” has always ended in an “f”, while “dwarf” has changed drastically over time. It started out ending in a “g” or “h” in Old English (duerg, dweorh); in Middle English it was spelt very inconsistently with all sorts of consonants at the end (e.g. dwergh, dorche, dweruf, dwrfe). It’s only in Modern English that an “f” has been used consistently, and by that time it was too late for the word to have acquired a strong plural.

    • Ondrej says:

      @Petrushka wow, thanks :)

    • Devenger says:

      I like when RPS commenters teach me things. Thanks! Keep this up, all.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Too much time reading the books in Morrowind means that I sometimes, in my head, use the term ‘Dwemer’. ‘Bosmer’ and ‘Dunmer’ also crop up in cognition for tree-dwelling and over-tanned elves respectively.

      You know what Bethesda could do? Make a Dwemer focused game set in a labarynthine fortress with a Bioshock inspired downfall storyline.

    • jrod says:

      @Devenger I know right? What a swell bunch you guys are *tip of the hat and a nod*

    • DrGonzo says:

      @Stuart,

      A thousand times yes!

  4. mattjb says:

    It seems with the popularity of Minecraft we’re seeing more digging games come out. I, for one, welcome our Digger overlords. As always, the best music to listen to when playing a mining/digging game is by the artist Deep Dive Corp.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      I find Devo (when they weren’t shit, natch) to be the perfect accompaniment to Minecraft. Silly future space music for digging lava gems.

      The time is ripe for Dungeon Keeper 3. Please. Please. Please.

    • DD says:

      My preference is listening to Broken Bells in Minecraft. Seems to go almost prefect with the already soothing Minecraft music.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      For anything where you’re underground – especially with limited light – Earth’s late-period output is ideal. Find a cave system to explore in Minecraft or fire up Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup and pop on “Old Black” or “Father Midnight” on YouTube and see for yourself.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Miner DIg Deep on XBLIG is pure excavatory crack. Every time you surface and cash in your loot, you just have to go back in.

  5. silverhammermba says:

    I played the demo a while ago and loved it! The lack of control is frustrating at first but once you understand the gameplay it’s awesome, hectic fun.

  6. Coriform says:

    I demand a new Sim Ant!

    • Witrim says:

      Ah yes that game was awesome.

    • Jumwa says:

      I thought the very same thing. What a fine and interesting game that was, Sim Ant. If only EA would stop lashing their employees to pump out endless The Sims sequels so they could experiment like in those days.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      To be fair, the only reason why the “experimented” was because Maxis was going down the drain a fair bit. They started to pump out completely random “Sim____” games in an attempt to recreate the popularity of SimCity.

    • Nevard says:

      EA announces Sim Ant 2!
      EA announces Sim Ant 2: Termites!
      EA announces Sim Ant 2: Aphid Rearing!
      EA announces Sim Ant 2: More Tunnels!
      EA announces MySim Ants!
      EA announces Sim Ant 2: Bonus Hats!
      EA announces Sim Ant 2: Please Continue Paying for Ants!

      EA announces Sim Ant 3!

  7. Coins says:

    All this digging lark reminds me of an old game. Which also features digging. And machines, and explosions. But I can’t quite remember it. Ah, well. I’ll think about it while playing the demo.

  8. Premium User Badge Diziet Sma says:

    @TotalBiscuit above…

    It was wasn’t it.

    ho hum… reply fail.

  9. Xocrates says:

    Just played the demo. It’s strangely compelling.

    Not something I can justify spending 8€ at this point (being an unemployed bum and all), but certainly something to consider.

    • Insidious Rex says:

      I rather enjoyed the demo too. But the constant sales on Steam (as well as my backlog of these sale games) really puts me off buying a game at launch.

    • kavika says:

      > 8€

      Your currency looks like Zoidberg…

    • Premium User Badge JB says:

      @ kavika -

      “Did you see me becoming currency? I was all, like, woop-woop-woop-woop-woop-wooooooop”

    • Xocrates says:

      Well, great, now I can’t unsee Zoidberg/Cthulhu when I look at that.

  10. Hoaxfish says:

    Are there any game where you live very deep, and dwarves dig into your house? And you get to kill them all?

    Someone needs to trim all this dwarvish fat out of the indie games market.

    • PanzerVaughn says:

      could be a minecraft mod… 1 player VS 15 players who are stuck Crouching, and has to defend his pile of loot or some such.

  11. Kaira- says:

    Rather nice demo, though I can’t help but feel that it’s more of a puzzle-manager game than actual building game, seeing how there is only outposts and walls that you can build. But it was nice and strangely compelling, might buy it. Is it possible to buy outside of Steam?

    Edit:/Apparently not. Daym shame. Oh well.

    • mirdath says:

      it’s not a bad start but there’s really not much of anything there. if it had multiplayer it’d be a fun, if bare-bones, party game — but it doesn’t.

      e: hm, i don’t think that was supposed to be a reply to anyone in particular. whoops.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yeah, it’s kinda disappointing. But it’s begging to be made into a Dungeon Keeper-alike. The outpost with training felt very familiar. More of that, less of the water/lava tedium, and it could’ve been something interesting.

  12. Witrim says:

    Simon from the yogscast played some here

    • Xocrates says:

      Aye, just watched that, though given that the video it’s him playing the tutorial (after finding out that skipping it was a bad idea) the only reason to watch that is entertainment value since the demo has more content than what that video shows.

  13. CMaster says:

    I’m not sure that it’s a great game (and the menu screens are pretty godawful ugly)
    But it sure as hell is a compulsive one. Some of the challenges demand cleverness too.

  14. Wulf says:

    It’s Dwarves, not Dwarfs, isn’t it?

    I can only take so many scoremongering games though, after Bulletstorm and Hoard, both of which were quite amazing, this was just a little too tired for me. Too soon for another scoremongering game, maybe, or perhaps there’s just not a lot to it.

    (And yes, TB managed to convince me to pick up Bulletstorm. Which wasn’t really as crass as some of the reviews would’ve lead me to believe.)

    (Ah, I see I’m not alone in thinking there’s nothing really to it. Oh well.)

    • Premium User Badge JB says:

      “It’s Dwarves, not Dwarfs, isn’t it?”
      No.

      Edit: I say no, but I suppose it depends. Technically I guess Dwarfs is correct, but if you’re talking fantasy rather than genetically then maybe it should be Dwarves. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the more we talk about this, the more I get the urge to fire up Dwarf Fortress again. *must resist urges*

    • Wulf says:

      Well, how did Tolkien write it? You can’t go wrong, there. Whatever he wrote I’ll go with, be it dwarves or dwarfs.

    • Premium User Badge JB says:

      He used “dwarves” I believe. I’m easy either way, it’s not one of those words that makes my brain hurt when I see it written the “wrong” way.

    • ax23000 says:

      Technically the correct plural is indeed ‘dwarfs’. As mentioned above, Tolkien used ‘dwarves’–but acknowledged in several letters and other places that it was technically incorrect. He wanted to distinguish his dwarves from the lawn gnome style goofy dwarf that popular culture was familiar with.

      Thanks to the incredible popularity of his works I suspect that many would now spell the word ‘dwarves’. We’re probably in the midst of a shift in the way the word is spelled. In any case, for now, this games title is spelled correctly.

  15. willy359 says:

    Since when do dwarves dig to level up? Surely they dig to level down.

  16. squidlarkin says:

    As I recall when I played this at PAX, I said to one of the devs “So it’s basically the arcade version of Dwarf Fortress, right?” and he said “Yeah, totally!”

    So that settles that.

  17. icupnimpn2 says:

    Those dwarfs sure have giant shoes. What’s the deal? I thought hobbits cornered the market on disproportionately large feet. I just don’t buy the illustration.

    This has been a test of the comment moderation filter.

  18. mmalove says:

    Just played the demo. Pretty good start for an indie: a little TOO simplified from dwarf fortress for my tastes, but I like the direction its going. Needless to say, the UI is 100 times better than dwarf fortess, and even the simplest little sprites can turn an unapproachable ascii game into a charming little title.

  19. silverhammermba says:

    Woop. I have the global high score for Tedi Hardcore.

  20. Zogtee says:

    Nothing like Dwarf Fortress and I honestly think it’s rather cheeky of them to reference DF in the description like that. I know three people (no, I’m not one of them) who instantly bought this after reading that and taking a brief look at the screenshots.

    • dadioflex says:

      But IF DF looked like this and had a similar control scheme, even if that meant a simplified game, it’d sell a ton of copies at ten or fifteen or even twenty bucks a time. And eventually someone WILL do it and Toady is gonna see his revenue stream dry up, which would be really unfortunate.

      EDIT: and from the indie thread I find out about “Survivors of Ragnarok” and “Terraria”.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If Toady gets outcompeted because he outright refuses to address issues of gameplay in favour of simulating each flea on each cat in the whole world every frame, while simultaneously refusing help from people who are actual programmers and want to fix an CP437-styled game to not require hardware 3D acceleration and yet still drag to a crawl once you get water flowing, he has nobody to blame but himself.

  21. starclaws says:

    Ya this is no where near close to being compared to dwarf fortress. Dwarf fortress is epic and expansive. This is a cheesy arcade game. With a few types of minerals, some dirt, lava,water, 5 enemies, and a couple buildings. End of game. It is closer to dungeon keeper and maybe even dungeon… except even more lame than dungeon which I find hard to even beat Dungeon!’s epic lameness.

    • Quasar says:

      Wow. Who shat in your cereal this morning?

    • starclaws says:

      Well I’m surely not gonna lie like the author of this article did and say oh I’m amazingly interested in this game and and that it ‘looks vast and expansive with a ton to do and years of entertainment’ when it clearly doesn’t. Especially when its just another bandwagon game in this digging/dwarf/mining/sandbox or whatever style. They emphasize ‘random’ but how random is a number selection between 1-6 really considered random? You open a cave and its either: water, lava, treasure, monsters, nothing, or a boss. Granted I like digging… But I’ll take my digging elsewhere thank you very much.

    • Wulf says:

      I’m with starclaws here. I see little inclination to defend a game when it’s obviously worse than free stuff on offer. Same with Capsized vs Hurrican, really.

      If you’re going to charge hard-earned money for something, they you really need to put in some kind of effort, and I felt that there was no effort at all spent here.

    • ax23000 says:

      You’re completely right, this IS an arcade game. The main mode of the game is called “Arcade”, it’s not like this is a vast secret.

      It isn’t dwarf fortress. “Inspired by” does not mean “Is”. Nor does “In the tradition of”. And they never claim that it was inspired ONLY by Dwarf Fortress. They even mention Lemmings.

      As for the simplicity of the game, so what? Pac-Man is just you in a maze eating pellets while avoiding ghosts. That’s the entire game, and yet it’s still plenty of fun.

      Yes, there are a limited number of caves for your dwarfs to run into, BUT its the combination and pacing that makes the game fun…not the number of enemies, metals, or buildings. Especially later on in a round it can get very frantic trying to keep an eye on your crazy suicidal little dwarfs.

      Obviously no one has to like this game if they don’t want to. There’s a free demo, so no one is being ripped off or tricked out of anything but time. But just because a game mentions Dwarf Fortress as an inspiration is not a good reason to assume the game will have the same scope as Dwarf Fortress. That game features so much minutia that there’s really no telling which aspect might inspire someone the most…and there’s certainly no guaranteeing that it will be the same thing that you love about the game.

  22. GreatUncleBaal says:

    I downloaded it solely because of the DF look, but they’re very different games – Dwarfs has the feel of a game for a fairly light short-term bit of fun, but hasn’t got anywhere near the complexity or potential for interesting situations that DF can create (and I don’t think it’s pretending it has – but if it’s going to raise DF as an influence then you can’t help but compare). I found the control system to be a bit awkward as well, so I didn’t feel like I had quite as much control as I would like.
    It does have a UI though, which is something.

  23. magnus says:

    Post steam blow-out I can’t afford it, but I will get when I get the chance.

  24. wintergreen says:

    I played the demo, but only got as far as the last level of the tutorial. It just seems very dull. Although the presentation’s very good, there doesn’t seem to be much interaction or depth.By the end of the tutorial I found that I was just holding down the accelerate time button (seriously, it’s not even a toggle) waiting for enough gold to be able to steer dwarfs towards more gold, which just seemed incredibly self-defeating.

    Perhaps the full game has a lot more to do, but the tutorial gave the impression that it was indicative of the full game.

    • ax23000 says:

      The tutorial is a tutorial. I can’t remember an exciting tutorial and I’ve been playing games a long time now. There probably is one out there somewhere, but no–this isn’t the game to turn around the tutorial dull drums.

      That said the actual game is fun. The probably with the tutorial is that you never find yourself out of control of the situation at hand. This is a game that is at its best when lava is pouring into your tunnel from three different directions all while a hoard of enemies pours out of the fourth.

      You have to think and act quickly to save the day, all while fighting the ridiculous stupidity of your own dwarfs, who are just as likely to reopen that lava cave you were working on sealing as collect any gold. Believe it or not you’ll find that at this point in the game you need to freeze time, not speed it up–although getting a high score requires speeding up time as much as possible.

  25. Stompywitch says:

    Game crashed for me at the last tutorial mission, so not a buy, but I was liking it up to there.

    Reminds me a lot of Chu Chu Rocket.

  26. Aluschaaf says:

    Does anybody remember that awesome digging/dwarfs game “Wiggles” or “Diggles”? I think I have to reinstall that one now :D.

  27. geldonyetich says:

    Trouble is, you guys are expecting this to be a game in the vein of Dwarf Fortress: a simulation game about creating a dwarven fortress. Dwarfs?! isn’t that type of game, it’s an action puzzler.

    Along those parameters, it’s rather good. This whole idea that your dwarves are going to start digging on their own and your role is disaster mitigation is novel. In Lemmings and Dwarf Fortress, they don’t dig unless you tell them to dig. Though the dwarves in Dwarves?! have a similar penchant for self-obliteration as in Lemmings, it’s simultaneously a bit more random (because the dwarves can choose to go in four directions instead of always walking in a straight line) and a bit more manageable (because it’s not too hard to keep them from danger once it’s identified). We could be looking at a platform for a whole new genre of game here.

    You could even say that Dwarfs?! is a better game than Dwarf Fortress because Dwarf Fortress is really more of a sandbox, it lacks good goals or scoring mechanics, is less balanced for realization of flow, and the play GUI is an obtuse monstrosity that requires third party support (e.g. Dwarf Therapist) to bring about long-term playability.

    On the other hand, by virtue of being less a sand box and more a game, Dwarfs?! doesn’t fuel the imagination nearly as much. That certainly is a point against it on the PC market seeing how community-created content (such as from Gary’s Mod and Minecraft) is perhaps the overwhelming bulk of whatever edge the PC has.

    Overall, I think Dwarves?! is pretty good. The variety of play modes doesn’t hurt, either. Throw in a little more polish and a catchy jingle, and there’d really be nothing separating this from a Plants vs Zombies tier game.