It Shall Be Mined: DwarfCorp

By Adam Smith on July 31st, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Dwarves! They dig, they drink, they braid their beards, they dig even deeper, they industrialise, they capitalise. Then they dig too deep, they immolate, they capitulate, they perish in darkness. The quest for ‘Dwarf Fortress With Graphics’ is one of the proudest that development fellowships can undertake, almost spawning a genre in and of itself, and DwarfCorp fits the bill. Currently Kickstarting, it’s a striking (the earth) simulation game about mining, building and surviving on procedurally generated islands. The world generation alone makes me hunger for the game and the campaign page is sturdy and informative. You can view the pitch video and watch lots of alpha footage below.

Here are the details on terrain and history generation. History generation. Is there a more noble phrase?

The islands in DwarfCorp are procedurally generated and fully simulated.They are different every time you start playing. Fault lines, air currents, moisture, temperature, rainfall, rivers, lakes and oceans are all simulated through the passage of time — which gives rise to forests, deserts, snowy tundra, jungles and grasslands. Additionally, civilizations of Goblins, Elves, Humans and Demons are randomly generated and given time to “fight it out,” so to speak, on the island. So you, as the Dwarven outsider, will make quite a splash as you arrive.

Very Dwarf Fortress. Be aware that while the early prototype is available now, the actual game is at least a year away.

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71 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    wengart says:

    I’ll be backing this because I’m a sucker for Dwarf Fortress style games. I’ve got Towns, Gnomoria, Castle Story, and Timber & Stone. None really give me the experience I want, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop throwing money at the genre.

    • astronaute says:

      Sure, one more DF clone with UI and 0.001% of DF’s complexity?
      It’s definitely worth 0.001% oh DF’s price!

    • PervBear says:

      Which one offers the best experience do you think so far? I want to give DF a go but currently not enough free time to learn it enough to properly enjoy it. Maybe towards winter. But for now I could use some dwarven fun.

      • Belsameth says:

        Gnomoria is the most playable currently, and the most updated ((almost) every tuesday).
        Towns is horribly bugged, Castle Story is still in prototype fase and I’m not a big fan of Timber&Stone, despite backig it fairly high.

      • Premium User Badge

        wengart says:

        Gnomoria is the best of the “Dwarf Fortress wannabes”.

        Castle Story is still super rough. I think the devs got overwhelmed rather early on after the kickstarter’s success, but they seem to be working through it.

        Towns is in a bizarre place where they don’t seem to have made in progress since forever, and are going down a weird rabbit hole of features.

        Timber & Stone is my personal favorite, but at the same time it isn’t trying to be Dwarf Fortress. It is heading towards a weird place where it is a little Dwarf Fortress and a lot Stronghold. It is more of a economy/war game than DF, which I would describe as a society game.

        If you wanted a easier DF I would go to Gnomoria, but I recommend checking out TImber & Stone. I think it might surprise a lot of you.

        • Premium User Badge

          Smashbox says:

          Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

          I’ve played Towns and Gnomoria, though it’s been about a year since I’ve played Towns.

          Gnomoria’s the one I prefer of the two – mechanically it seems a little more focused, and, call me an aesthete, but I can’t abide Towns’ schizophrenic art style(s).

          Timber & Stone looks interesting, going to give it a whirl. (And I just backed this one!)

        • PervBear says:

          Thanks I’ve played a bit of towns way back it seemed decent at the time like it could become a pretty good game will defentaly give the other 2 a try. Probably try timber&stone first as I enjoyed the stronghold games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Zephro says:

      Do any of these DF clones have DF’s depth? whenever I find out there is just “stone” instead of every possible mineral known to man I just instinctively go “meh” and fire up DF instead.

      Or the ability to make lava deathtraps of doom which accidentally flood everything. Or to try and make a colony on a totally unviable location…

    • Chalky says:

      There are too many games on the horizon that are based on dwarf fortress. I find it difficult to pick any specific one to back.

    • bladedsmoke says:

      Have you tried a game called “Dwarf Fortress”? I think you’d like it

      • Premium User Badge

        wengart says:

        I have. I enjoy it a lot, but I would love a slightly less depthy, prettier looking game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Smashbox says:

      Honestly, I started drooling at the picture before I read anything.

      Someone will get this genre right, someday!

      (and I know you can tell me it’s been done, it’s DF, but I JUST. CAN’T. PLAY. IT.)

  2. Jeremy says:

    Well.. that’s interesting. I wonder if it will be able to reproduce the craziness of Dwarf Fortress? I would welcome a more approachable DF style game though, even at the cost of some complexity.

  3. roryok says:

    I misread the title as DwarfCop, which I think would be a much more interesting game

    • The Random One says:

      I had an idea for a They Fight Crime style story about an elf and a dwarf in an urban fantasy setting. I might turn it into a Shadowrun Returns campaign.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Elf Cop: You’re a loose cannon, Dwarf!
        Dwarf Cop: *beheads Elf*

        • Smion says:

          The Commissioner: That’s it, DwarfCop! Hand me your battle axe and badge!
          Dwarf: *glowers defiantly and throws the axe on the desk, then puts his hand up to his chest and starts to search his beard* I can’t find it!

      • Premium User Badge

        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Suspect: What, is this some sort of “good cop, bad cop” routine?

        Dwarf Cop: More like “bad cop an’ his axe, an’ th’ Elf sits still an’ shuts up or he gets th’ axe too” routine.

        Suspect: That’s police brutality!

        Elf Cop: He really is quite insane, you know. If it is any consolation, I don’t rate my own chances of surviving this interview to be significantly higher than yours.

        Suspect: I’ll talk! I’ll talk!

        Dwarf Cop: So talk. If ye don’t talk to my likin’, I’m gonna behead ye an’ swear a mighty oath on yer dyin’ blood to stamp out yer family, root and branch, an’ I’ll not rest ’til everyone ye love is dead to th’ last whelp. When I’m done with them I’ll hire genealogical researchers t’ find ever more obscure relatives, until the distant get o’ yer great-grandfather’s philanderin’ ways is gurglin’ his last an’ no longer needin’ his account at the local milliner’s.

        Elf Cop: I will admit to being reluctantly impressed that he knows how to use words as long as “genealogical researchers” and “philandering” correctly, and I never thought I’d hear a properly chilling threat that concludes on the word “milliner’s”. It would seem that he conserves most of his syllables, and indeed most of his intellect, for the issuing of threats.

        • edwardoka says:

          [Scene 14, Int. Police Chief’s Office]
          Chief: We do this by the engravings or not at all!
          Urist: I just threw away the chisel.
          Chief: Damnit Urist, you’re a good cop, but you’re off the case!
          Urist: No, Chief, you’re off your case!

          [Scene 19, Int. Dwarven Dining Room, covered in goblin blood, adorned with menacing spikes and with body parts strewn around]
          Chief: Well, Urist, I gotta hand it to ya, you got the job done. I should be arresting you, instead, have a promotion. Now get outta here you sumbitch.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Elf Cop: If you got a good look at the man who attacked you, my hirsute and rotund colleague here is, surprisingly, highly ranked among his kind for his artistic endeavours. And not just for his song-burping talents. Please don’t mention his song-burping talents, or he’ll start on the Dwarfish Anthem, which lasts three days and concludes with an axe-wielding berserker attack.

          Victim: Uh, he was human.

          *Dwarf Cop launches himself into a frenzy of chopping with his axe on his wooden desk*

          *On the desk is a masterful engraving in pine wood of a male human and a female human. The male human is attacking the female human. The female human is screaming. This engraving is to commemorate the attack of a male human on a female human in the year 1263.*

          Victim: His hair was a little longer.

          Dwarf Cop: Then I’m gonna need another desk.

        • edwardoka says:

          [Scene 49, ext. Trade Depot. Some elves are approaching from the distance]
          Morul, the rookie cop, stands attentively by the entrance, whilst the Sergeant stands nearby.

          Morul: Well, Sarge, it’s here at last, I can’t believe that you’re one day away from retiring. Have you given any thought as to what you’re going to do with the rest of your life?
          Sarge: I dunno, Morul. I’ve always dreamed about buying a farm someplace, maybe growing plump helmets and breeding alpacas.
          Morul: The place won’t be the same without you, Sarge.
          Sarge: You’ll do just fine, kid.

          An ambush! Curse them!

          Sarge “Sarge” has been struck down.

      • drinniol says:

        Guards! Guards!

        • The Ultimate Clone of The Ultimate Warrior says:

          HALT! THE WARRIOR DECREES YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE LAW. THE WATER DONKEYS ARE DISPLEASED!

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think the comment thread this spawned supports your hypothesis.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Molay says:

    A Dwarf Fortress a-like game? It’s about time! I just can’t get enough of those. Does DwarfCorp feature the famous and universally loved kitten slaughterhouse and noble panic room with lever?

    • Skabooga says:

      “Hmm, interesting mandate you’ve given us to make 3 glass craft items, Baron Orithurist. What with there being no sand pits within a thousand kilometers of here. On an unrelated note, would you mind pulling that lever on the wall there? I’m just going to step outside for a moment.”

    • Kynrael says:

      With engraved inscription on the lever “Activate for !FUN!”

  5. Tei says:

    I like the style. But I look at this and I don’t inmediatelly think “infinite gameplay / variety”.

  6. GameCat says:

    I love these sprites.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s got a very pretty late-’90s-type-thing going on.

      Too hard to see where corridors have been mined vs. unmined, though.

  7. aeonofdiscord says:

    Yep, this one pretty much had me at “dwarf”.

    • Baines says:

      Why can’t we have Kobold Fortress. It would be like Dwarf Fortress, but easier because there are less things to worry about. After all, kobolds aren’t going to go construct elegant fortresses themselves, they’ll just dig out some caves or old ruins. You don’t have to worry as much about complex AI, because they are only kobolds. And of course there would be baby raids on the local villages.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        Assuming you don’t already know, there’s a Kobold Camp mod for Dwarf Fortress. You have fewer things to worry about, but pretty much all of them will kill you horribly(more horribly than regular Dorf Fort, even) due to kobolds being tiny, or at least that’s my impression, not having played it.

      • The Random One says:

        You can mod DF to play as other races, but I’d like a game in which you can play as several races and the difficulty depends on how sofisticated they are. So kobolds and trolls are essentially living in caves, but at the highest difficulty level you play as High High Elves that only accept to live on sculpted trees that take ten thousand years to create.

      • frightlever says:

        I only skimmed the Bay 12 blog posts recently but Tarn has spent over a year working DF without an update but he’s been fleshing out the other civilizations. I suspect, and only suspect, that modding DF to play other races is going to become a lot simpler. Right now you can, eg select goblins for embark with a simple RAW mod but there are no nobles available at all, so no manager or book-keeper – which is kinda essential.

      • BurningPet says:

        There was goblin camp, which i liked very much.

        It was interesting because the goblins weren’t just reskinned dwarves, they had a more chaotic personality. stockpiles werent neatly arranged tiles with items on them, they were actual piles of messy items. too bad it died like a lot of other open source games.

  8. Monkeh says:

    This looks so cute! Do want!

  9. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    I thought the middle dwarf had a little blue bow on his hard hat.

  10. Wurstwaffel says:

    Looks really neat. I gotta say though, the stock market bit is about the only thing that’s even remotely capitalistic about it.

  11. Stardog says:

    Looks fun, but games like DF and Gnomoria always get a bit boring after a few hours.

  12. AngoraFish says:

    I’ve missed the “Early Bird” pledge tier, therefore they’ve lost my pledge.

    Yeah, it’s only $2 difference but it still shits me.

  13. Casinix says:

    It does look loverly but there’s no way it comes even close to the complexity of the Fortress of Dwarves. I wish someone would just make make graphics like these for DF, I would even give them money for it, or hugs.

  14. gi_ty says:

    Are there any good games like this that are out as a full release now?

    • DarkFarmer says:

      “Towns” is outstanding, I encourage anybody who likes games like this to check it out. It has alot of simulative depth and different things to do.

    • gmillar says:

      Towns isn’t bad, but in my opinion Gnomoria is by far the best and most polished DF-inspired game so far, and it’s updated on a weekly schedule.

      • gi_ty says:

        Thanks! I have Towns and its fun but it feels…. lacking and the villagers look awful imo. I really wish there was an option to rotate the view. Its a good game and all but feels lacking in depth. I love city builders and being able to build each building block by block is awesome though. I am gonna give Gnomoria a go, thanks again!

  15. dE says:

    I wonder if the Dwarf Fortress Hammer Legion still claims there’d be not nearly enough demand for improved usability. This is yet another attempt at Dwarf Fortress – but with graphics and U – that is going to make money, all while they still claim DF has no UI problems.

    • The Random One says:

      Tarn can do whatever he wants, though, because even if DF didn’t have its massive UI problems it still wouldn’t make any money!

      • frightlever says:

        Last I looked Tarn and his brother had been living off Dwarf Fortress donations for about seven years now. I think they’ve been making about $50-60k per year from it, which is peanuts for Tarn, who was a genius level academic type that just didn’t want to do the academic thing and threw it all away. Some people are not motivated by money. It doesn’t look like he’s particularly interested in the whole wife and 3 kids thing so this is what he’s doing with his life. Given that his income model is basically “I’m making my life’s dream of a game and you can have it for free”, there are a surprising number of people who think he owes them an API.

        The games that do monetize DF design decisions, like Towns, Gnomoria etc, you’d hope their devs appreciate the DF project enough to send him a monthly donation. But do they? Have any gone so far as to say that?

        • BurningPet says:

          Not that i think any of us should (Towns developer here) do it mandatorily, but personally, i have donated to DF before Towns and donated after towns. i may not be considered a whale, but i am pretty sure i donated more than 95% of all of his other donators .

          Also, i know for a fact Towns introduced dwarf fortress to a lot of players, if by means of actual introduction or by means of being a step toward enabling other players to grasp whats dwarf fortress and how to play it after failing before, so not only that we donated, we helped bring in a bunch of new players who may have donated themselves.

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            This is pretty much as it should be. Everything has its inspirations and if one felt obligated, one would be giving away everything they had in royalties to almost everyone who came before them. Speaking as one myself, I think developers are already quite generous with their donations to this sort of thing. I’ve donated to DF despite the fact that I’ve never really fully got into it or got past the learning curve :) But going back to towns/etc I don’t think there’s any idea in games that’s so sacred, that people should never be allowed to make money off of it if they can successfully sell it.

  16. jonahcutter says:

    This looks like a perfect interface for DF. Still low-fi, but mouse and user friendly. And with the sprites, it’d be easy for modders to add in their own skins and variations as well.

    God I’d love to get into DF. But every time I take a stab at it I quickly grow weary of the interface.

    Someone get the DwarfCorp guys and the Dwarf Fortress guys into the same room, get the DF guys drunk and don’t let them out until they all sign agreements to hook up this interface to DF.

    Plus Bay12 would very likely make a good chunk more money with a friendlier UI. I’d pay a AAA price for Dwarf Fortress with this UI, without a second thought.

    • frightlever says:

      First of all the DF “guys” are one guy in development and his brother as fantasy consultant and moral support, because that kind of crazy really needs an enabler. His argument, which I do not entirely agree with, is that there’s no point working on pointless crap like graphics and interfaces when the games is still in early alpha and unlikely to hit a “release” candidate until about 2030 – I hope I make it that far.

      Dwarf Fortress has undergone many great changes. I can still remember the change to multiple Z levels which provoked schism within the community at the time. 3D assets, even 2D assets require a commitment in time and energy that would be wasted if he decided to make fundamental changes to eg how a hospital is treated, or the way mist propagates. Consider that, when something gets smacked in the mouth, Dwarf Fortress calculates where the teeth will land. Looking at some new project with cutesy graphics and thinking they have anything to bring to the table in this situation is delusional.

      The resistance from Tarn Adams to working on the UI is such that he won’t even leave the hooks in the code for someone to integrate eg Stonesense the DF 3D visualiser into the game UI. That would be wasted effort, from his point of view, and time that could be better spent on modelling how infections spread, for instance. I decry and applaud his commitment to his vision in equal measure.

      Now, did you actually play the DwarfCorp alpha? The UI is not good. I’m sure the finished game will be much better but right now it’s no better than DF but for a fraction of the things you can do in DF. Does it look better? Arguably yes, in a Dungeon Master kind of way. Here’s the thing, the DF UI isn’t really all that bad – yeah, I’ve turned into one of those guys. The UI has to do a LOT of things and while there are surely better ways to do them, some that might give more than a nod to the mouse (you can use the mouse during mining – surprising how many people don’t realise that), there is a certain internal consistency. I only generally stumble when you go off-screen and now -= are replaced with the up and down arrow keys, but why wouldn’t you just recognise those as well? There’s probably a good reason.

      With the Lazy Newb Pack, you get a Dwarf Fortress out of the box that does away with 99% of the ASCII and replaces it with stuff that at least looks like approximately what it should, and with the extended Lazy Newb Pack you get the 3D visualiser and DFHack to get you over early tantrums and wotnot while you learn the game.

      I haven’t looked at Towns for a good long while but I thought it was fine and interesting and different to DF but it is not DF. The Gnomoria interface is decent, and it’s trying hardest to be DF with graphics and a consistent UI that engages the mouse fully. But as @Valz says underneath, most games which initially look like Dwarf Fortress end up playing more like a Settlers game. They miss the point that nobody really wants to build a dwarven fortress, they want to watch a bunch of psychotic dwarves driven mad by sunlight, goblin sieges and lack of booze variety, as things from the nether world rise up from below. Gnomoria is basically the Stepford Wives version of Dwarf Fortress. It looks pretty but it’s pretty vacant.

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        jrodman says:

        The thing is there’s a ton of ui improvements that can be done to any program that isn’t trivial. Those ui improvements don’t have to involve art assets either.

        However, the best way to get them done is to crowd source them. In other words, open source.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Tarn is the king of cave-dwelling asocial geeks. Open source necessitates interaction with other people, and he’s flat out said he doesn’t want to do so much as have to review patches/pull requests from them.

          And yet, despite everyone and their dog wanting a better-implemented DF, in practice there’s still no open source version out there eating its lunch.

          • Teovald says:

            The more I read about Dwarf Fortress, the more I want to play it.
            The more I read about its creator and development, the less I want to have anything to do with it. Ok, this is a one of a kind project, but all this still sounds absolutely insane.

          • Premium User Badge

            aleander says:

            It’s a different insane. Tarn is a really nice person, just reclusive. It’s probably one game I don’t have doubts about supporting.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, as I understand it, he’s not an arsehole; he just doesn’t want to deal with the limitless torrent of arseholes which is the Internet.

          • Teovald says:

            I guess that makes sense. Since he provides the game free of charge, open sourcing it to boost its development cycle looks like a good idea. But he would indeed also have to deal with more contacts with internet people and I can understand someone that does not want to do this..
            The very long development cycle still seems completely mad to me though.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            The thing is, open source doesn’t *really* have a single model, nor even a single family of models. (Ignore the prescriptivists.)

            You don’t have to embrace any particular circle of assholes. You could even start off lettting the not-you people deal with interaction entirely as the primary creator of the beast.

            I’m not saying it MUST BE DONE, but I think it would definitely lead to a more sane UI (not a different UI concept), and a richer game, and a game that would have more longevity.

      • aepervius says:

        DF is text only. I have long passed the stage where text like that is easily readable, and i have long passed the stage where I mistake horrible interface and UI for complexity. DF is IMNSHO horribly overrated without a good UI. There might be a complex game…. But i will never know since I can’t go past the unreadable UI.

      • LionsPhil says:

        There is so much more to UI than “pretty graphics”.

        DF can’t even be consistent on if a list is scrolled with the arrow keys, or the numeric keypad, or with UHJK, or with +/-, or…

        And the trade interface still won’t expand the lists to fit all the available screen space, leaving you working in this tiny little cramped area with truncated text.

        Tarn is really, really bad at UI. This is distinct from not wanting to be tied down by art, which is fine because even AAA studios would have to work hard to try to accurately visualise all the fine details of dwarvenly state which DF simulates.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        Dwarf Corp looks nothing remotely like Dungeon Master. I did, however, get a Dungeon Keeper vibe from the way you dig out and “zone” your rooms, etc.

  17. valz says:

    Too bad none of these DF clones actually resemble DF in any meaningful way yet. Maybe one day…

    Right now they’re just resource-management sims in the vein of Theme Hospital, but less interesting.

  18. Similar says:

    From Twitter:
    “Dwarfcorp ‏@Dwarfcorp 7h

    @rockpapershot readers have now surpassed twitter followers in terms of funds given to the kickstarter. In one day.”

  19. UncleLou says:

    That’s one of the finest quick write-ups about a game I’ve read, Adam – they should hire you for their Kickstarter pitch! :)