The Dwarf Fortress Graphical Itch

I should probably point out that this particular post is entirely referral-based thanks to this post on TIGSource. Hell, I’m not going to say anything much new, so you might as well go and read it over there. So anyway: the game pixel-art types over at SpriteAttack have come up with this awesome isometric imagining of what Dwarf Fortress could possibly look like with a bit a graphical elbow grease:


Additionally, that astonishingly handsome and intelligent indie games website have also pointed out that RPS-favoured fantasy-management ASCII project Dwarf Fortress has had an unofficial graphics update thanks to the work of Mike Mayday over at RPGCodex, who has compiled various tilesets. Good work, Mike.


  1. Acosta says:

    Awesome, thanks for the link, I am going to try it as I am fascinated by Dwarf Fortress but I get confused with the ASCII graphics (yes, I am pussie, but I never played these type of games so I am not used).

  2. Meat Circus says:

    I look at those graphics, then I think “DS PORT!!!” then I squee myself and then I pass out. Hrmmmm.

  3. Knurek says:

    Re: mockup pickture.
    Do friggin’ want!

  4. Feet says:

    Awesome linkage. Ta.

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    This post was the first thing I saw this morning, and got me all excited, then I realised Jim was deluding me I got VERY SAD.


  6. Nick says:

    Yeah, I looked at the pretty picture before reading the ugly words too =(

    I’d rather a less obtuse interface before a graphical update though. /broken record

  7. JH says:

    Yup, Bay 12 simply are not interested in this kind of thing. In addition, I’m not sure it would work in motion. Those dwarves would still hop from tile to tile like the cellular automata they are. The engine still wouldn’t feed the GUI information like which way a chair is facing (see the screenshots of other tilesets).

  8. Joonas says:

    I’ve tried getting into Dwarf Fortress, but can’t really. If it had adorable sprite graphics, I really couldn’t resist anymore. Make it happen!

  9. Emil says:

    Ugh, still too ugly for me. If the beautiful isometric concept ever makes it into the game, I’ll get with the times.

  10. Nitre says:

    When i played df, i waited about half an hour for a map to formulate, placed the thing you’re supposed to place and sat there wondering what to do next. It needs some sort of explanation.

  11. JH says:

    link to

    It is indisputably incredibly complicated, however good the docs. It is assumed that you will lose over and over again just learning the controls. But, if it’s your thing, you’ll enjoy the process.

    Me, I got the general idea and decided that life was too short.

  12. Synoptase says:

    I saw those tile sets back in september. No further informations though…

  13. Dude says:

    I would advice those who want to try to set up realistic goals the first few games while learning the mecanics. First game I started, the aim was to setup food storage and fill it up, of course I made many mistake… Next objective when things were running was to survive winter and set up fields to grow vegetable. Amazing the level of complexity in this game.
    I quit the game because of the ASCII graphic, maybe I will try again sometime!

  14. Enne Walker says:

    It still surprises me that Dwarf Fortress isn’t open source, because it seems pretty obvious that there are people with programming and artistic know-how itching to pretty it up or port it to other platforms.

    I know that the Dwarf Fortress FAQ says that they won’t open source it because they don’t want to “interact with other people in a quasi-professional manner,” but on the other hand they’re trying to add graphics to Kobold’s Quest (as a preliminary step before Dwarf Fortress) by soliciting community involvement.

    It just all seems a bit backwards to me.

  15. Munin says:

    Actually, someone at got into contact with the guys from SpriteAttack, asking if making graphics for the game would theoretically be possible and the result was this mock image.

    From what I’ve understood, it would all be possible if Bay 12 found time to implement graphics such as these, but alas, it seems they’re not interested and everyone who complains about the graphics is instantly seen as a 14 year old FPS playing pussy by the Dwarf Fortress hardcore crowd. A shame.

    And I wouldn’t even care for animations, they’re not needed. Sure it would be an immense project to make the graphics noentheless, but it would also result in the game opening up to a whole new audience (namely one which doesn’t have the time or patience to spend hours figuring out crude ASCII menus, “hardcore” or not).

  16. Sum0 says:

    You nearly gave me a heart attack with that artist’s impression. Dwarf Fortress takes time to learn, but it is so worth it.

    But one of the joys about DF is that you just stop caring about the graphics after a while. You really do.

  17. Mr.Brand says:

    ASCII-only roguelikes will remain a niche, because the creators are generally arrogant bastards.

    NetHack and its many graphical facelifts are excellent examples of how well open source and lack of arrogance works. A DS homebrew variant would be sweet.

  18. malkav11 says:

    Yeah, count me as one of those people who isn’t scared off by ASCII but rather by the incredibly complicated UI. And I’ve mastered other roguelikes, so…

  19. Chris Kessel says:

    Graphics are nice and help with some visual clues, but the game really needs a better user interaction. For example: click/drag to define stockpile areas, context click for object interaction such as bringing up queues for production or bringing up a window for setting dwarf tasks. Dialogs for editing things like dwarf assigned tasks. Rollover for seeing contents of barrels/crates/etc.

    There’s a horde of usability things that would make the game a joy to play.

  20. Oarfish says:

    Toady is really pretty humble, he doesn’t seem to have anything of the Derek Smart about him. And its his damn code, which he works on full time funded by community donations . As much as it woud be nice for him to open some of it up to allow UI mods and renderer enhancements it really is up to him.

    And as for a DS port.. don’t confuse the crappy graphics with low requirements, Dwarf Fortress would eat a cluster of DS’ for breakfast.

  21. Kael says:

    A lot of [differing opinions to my own] going on in this thread.

    Yes. DF isn’t open source. Why? It’s an extremely complex game which which the engine can craft a multitude of spinoffs, limited only by the imagination, crafted by one man/brothers, who are indie developers. Hell, with the modding capabilities the creator of DF has released, you can craft your own separate game already. But if some of you guys just want to keep trashing a guy who is dedicating his life to an indie game and relies on donations for support as arrogant for not releasing open source, that’s cool too?

    Also, THERE HAVE BEEN GRAPHICS SETS FOR MONTHS. Anyone complaining about that is [absolutely lovely but just doesn’t happen to have heard about the existence of the sets yet]. Google dwarf fortress wiki and check for graphical/tiles sets or follow the blog link.

    Lastly, yes, the UI is a royal pain in the ass. DF’s an alpha though. So eventually…

    [Opinions not abuse, please.- RPS Admin.]

  22. Kael says:

    Steps back for a moment – thanks admin, that’s actually much better. I’m just sick of all this “I’m entitled to the finished product now and entitled to whine ^#$%@ etc” instead of doing some research/google.

    So to be useful – some fun stuff you can do with DF.
    Different tilesets (graphics):
    link to
    Modding (new creatures, items, civilizations, etc):
    link to

  23. Enne Walker says:

    @Kael: What does DF being complex and having modding capabilities have anything to do with it being open source or not?

    Maybe I’m just an open source hippy, but the decision to not open up the source of a free-as-in-beer PC game really doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s not like DF is ADOM, where its mystery is a contributor to its popularity.

    My opinion here is entirely a selfish one, and I’ll admit that up front. My own DF experience would be better if there were opportunity for other people to contribute interface improvements or ports (OSX, Linux) sooner than they would happen otherwise.

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    Enne: I’m with Kael on this. It’s Toady’s game. By definition, he can do what he wants with it.


  25. Enne Walker says:

    It’s absolutely Toady’s game and Toady’s decision. There’s no argument from me on that one.

    However, I can still express my disagreement with that decision and my lack of understanding of the reasons behind it.

  26. GRANDMA OF DEATH says:

    He’s posted the reasons enough on the forums.

    In my words, as an interpretation of what he’s said (and this isall from memory):

    It’s like a mona lisa. He could let any tom dick and harry pick up a brush and add a few strokes, but at the end of the day his vision of Lisa is with a pretty smile. If he saw that she had a hitler tache and some devil horns it might ruin it for him. If someone completely disregarded entire swarths of brush stroke and simply cut the top right corner off because they didn’t like the background, that would be wasted work. on Todays part — especially if other people liked it.

    OF COURSE you can copy it, but all that means is they’ll be 101 Lisa knock offs, each crapper than the original. At the end of the day, what’s the use in that?

    It also means he has to answer to people about why he did what brushstroke and how his techniques work, etc. It’s all a waste of his time. He just seems to want to get his head down and cram out the code. That’s entirley the reason the game is in ASCII. The last “big game” they tried to make was 3d. They spent so long making the 3d stuff work without being absolute shit that they just canned the game — it became a chore. The game to them represented bad times. As I imagine Dwarf fortress would if every half wit got them hands on the code, modified the game and released it in a much more inferiour for BUT WITH 3d GRAPHICS!!!

    As a final point; making it open source would mean he wouldn’t be able to viabally sell it in the future! DF is massively more complex that most commercial games knocking about. He’s already had donations from the Bay12 Champions purely on the flaky things he’s already knocking out. Imagine how much people would be willing to pay if he _DID_ eventually bolt on a nice way of interacting with it?

    One final point: He has no actual REASON to open source it other than porting, and that didn’t go down to well.
    Example: He said HE would port the game to Mac and later Linux if someone could port one of his older games (but with a similiar graphical output system) called Kobol Quest — he released the code. It took roughly 3/4’s of a year for someone to do that. Why? Mostly because people are lazy.

    Anyway, I belive there is now a Mac port underway (possibly released) after Kobol Quest finally got ported and Toady hen learnt about compiling stuff for Macs (which in itself is A New Challenge — the kind of thing I asumme a guy like him loves to undertake….after all, look at what he puts himself through for an ugly little blighter of a game!)

    ps: The Defence Rests.

  27. terry says:

    I do not see any of the hundreds of grades of rock Toady has defined here.

    This is not Dwarf Fortress >:O

  28. Enne Walker says:

    Thanks, GRANDMA OF DEATH. I don’t follow the Bay12 forums very closely, so it’s nice to hear a little more than the scant reason provided in the FAQ.

    Having the option to sell a more viable product in the future makes a lot of sense to me.

  29. Mipe says:

    To those “open source” fans… Have you ever considered building a game bottoms up? I mean, it can’t be too difficult to follow the same concept, can it?

    Or do you just want the easy route, riding the back of hard-working developer? Then when you get tired, you simply dump the mangled product and developer in favor of a better-looking game.

    I, too, want to see continuous development of Dwarf Fortress, however only Toady can finish it in its true image.

    The rest have to build their own games up to understand what is this really about.

  30. Mipe says:

    P.S.: the gameplay has a priority over graphics. You get used to ASCII. UI could do with improvements. However we love DF for its content, not eyecandy. I’d prefer the developer to work on content rather than visuals. No point playing a graphically appealing game that feels empty.

  31. Sam says:

    I have to say, what I don’t understand is the naked hostility to people who want things Open Sourced…

    Toady’s problem, and the reason why he gets so many requests for open sourcing of DF, has nothing to do with people being “lazy” or “wanting the easy route”, and everything to do with the established culture of roguelike games development. There are an anomalously fraction of open sourced roguelikes (the most famous exception being ADOM), and the community has gotten used to the idea that a game in the genre should be modifiable by the community. (This has had mixed results – SLASH’Em is arguably hardly an improvement on Nethack, but some of the *bands are very good games in their own right, and the Stone Soup fork of Linley’s Dungeon Crawl is the only version under current development… I see no evidence of any of those working on forks or mods “dumping the mangled product and developer in favor of a better-looking game”.)
    Now, Toady is entirely within his rights to not open the source to DF (just as, for example, Kornel Kisielewicz is currently keeping DoomRL closed), but no one should be surprised that this decision is questioned, or confuse the desire for open sourcing for any lack of respect for Toady’s hard work, coding ability or whatever.

  32. Mike Mayday says:

    “Munin says:

    Actually, someone at got into contact with the guys from SpriteAttack, asking if making graphics for the game would theoretically be possible and the result was this mock image.”

    Yeah, that was me. Anyway, With all the love towards the “DFG” I thought it would be convenient to open a website for it:


    @Enne Walker:

    FYI, Toady never said he is keeping it closed source because he wants to later sell it. He tends to answer questions quite flatly! I/other people on the forums just belive this to be a viable reason. I mainly think he doesn’t want people ruining his lovely little creation.

    Also: I hate haven’t been on those forums for months now, since the main release. I just happen to know a bit about the “Open Source” question because I was trying to spread the Fortress Love ™ early on in it’s life, and one of my friends at uni got a little grumpy that it didn’t run perfectly on his Linux + WINE combo and so he went on the forums and asked for it to be made open-source, etc. It sparked a bit of a debate. One Toadys swiftly stepped out of!


    link to
    This interview, done the other day, explains all!

  35. kricher says:

    It’s not really ‘graphic-less’, there’s just no transition from square to square. Your guy is in this square, when you hit the up button he is in the up square. The graphics do not translate smoothly, but it’s not like squares are huge. It’s exactly the same environment as every final fantasy game up until 10. The only difference is that your legs don’t wiggle when you translate a square.

    I kid, I’d love an isometric view. FFTactics is probably the standard I’d want any sprite graphics to follow up on in that vein.

    It took me maybe 5 hours playing df before I got really used to the ascii graphics set. Then i modded the graphics and it took me 10 hours to be able to tell wtf was going on. Now it’s all, ‘redhead, blonde, brunette’ to me

  36. Andrew Doull says:

    Got to second GRANDMA OF DEATH’S NIECE on the Tarn Adam’s interview being well worth a listen to. Given the nature of RPS, I’m surprised that the interview link isn’t up on the front page in massive blinking highlights.

    He’s already stolen a big part of the thunder on a piece on failure in games that I was planning on writing.

  37. Turgid Bolk says:

    “Sam says:

    I have to say, what I don’t understand is the naked hostility to people who want things Open Sourced…

    Toady’s problem, and the reason why he gets so many requests for open sourcing of DF, has nothing to do with people being “lazy” or “wanting the easy route”, and everything to do with the established culture of roguelike games development.”

    Dwarf Fortress is not much of a “roguelike,” though. One small part of it is. Adventure Mode. But it’s a whole fantasy world simulator. In any case, I suppose you’re right. But the game is very modifiable as it stands, and gets even more moddable as development continues. You can’t change the code, but you can customize your experience quite a bit already.

  38. Vaevictus says:

    I hope everyone realizes that that image is 20×20 … and DF is 80×25… literally 5x more information on the screen as is, than with the isometric view. This is why many of the roguelikes remain ascii or similar graphics, because any other graphics mode would almost mandate less detail and complexity. These graphics look great and all, but would make DF *LESS* usable. You’d spend 5 times as much time scrolling around.

  39. Mike Mayday says:

    Well, if you had the display on the whole screen (as opposed to just a portion in the middle), it would have more than DF has now.
    I think that DF displayed on the full screen (1280×1024 instead of 1280×400) would look TOO busy. Though maybe not.

  40. ry says:

    given that the guy who wrote DF released older games source once they were finished, he’ll hopefully open DF when he’s happy with it and we can enjoy the fruits of his labours is in a slightly more user friendly way.

  41. chris says:

    Im new to this but i think a small textbox explaing options in the game , that appears during the game would help heaps

  42. MisterG says:

    The game is fine with Mayday’s graphic packs. If you can’t get into the game because of its graphics, then I really don’t know what to say.

    Go play something that’s choking on the bloom that the developers force in it, leave Dwarf Fortress to people who actually like games.

  43. Chuck U. Farley says:

    Toady doesn’t need to open-source the code. He needs to support “hooks” such that graphics and sound specialists can illustrate dwarf fortress.

    the “tileset” is a good start, but since characters are reused for multiple objects, it’s not enough. the “graphics tileset” is a step up, but it’s only for creatures.

    what’s needed is:

    1. a global registry of all graphically distinct phenomena, such that a “tileset” can be made with not just 256 characters, but one character for each phenomenon – even those that share the same character.

    2. a global registry of “events” (e.g. “carpentry workshop construction complete”) which in the standard distribution do nothing, but which graphics and sound experts can use to illustrate the game with sounds, animations etc.

  44. john kricher says:

    […] be published) (required) Website. Users familiar with web markup can use the following tags in …The Dwarf Fortress Graphical Itch | Rock, Paper, ShotgunI should probably point out that this particular post is entirely referral-based thanks to this post […]

  45. Yaro Kasear says:

    My gripe with Dwarf Fortress not being open is its a royal pain in the butt to get working in 64-bit Linux even with multilib. If DF were open source one could simply BUILD the game to work with the versions of the libraries it depends on that are ON YOUR SYSTEM, not just the Toady One’s.

    Also, the negative comments toward open source are pretty undue and incorrect. Not everyone who would want to get the game’s source code necessarily wants to just make it 3D, nor would making it 3D really hurt the game, it is certainly NOT the open source community’s fault Toady can’t program 3D games to save his life.

    I don’t find graphics to be that important, but that’s not really a logical argument against opening the source code. I agree its his choice, but even if he open sourced his game, he wouldn’t lose control of it like a few posters here seem to have gotten in their heads.

    Sure, there will be forks, but if Toady manages to keep DF GOOD, he won’t have to worry about people leaving his game in droves for a code fork.

    And then maybe SOMEONE can fix the godawful interface controls, since apparently Toady isn’t even bothering with that.

    Though, mostly, I’d liek it open source simply so I can actually make the game RUN without having to hack my Linux box to pieces just because Toady has an awkward Linux setup.

  46. Little Men from Another Place: Understanding Dwarf Fortress | VENUS PATROL says:

    […] comes up with a tileset as pixel perfect as the proof of concept above (via SpriteAttack via RockPaperShotgun) (why can’t we make it so?) there’s not much chance of me getting much further into the […]

  47. Gamera says:

    Just play Gnomoria. It’s in Early Access at the moment but it’s basically just going to be Dwarf Fortress with graphics. And the graphics work because they’ve designed it with them from the start.

    If Bay 12 keeps rejecting graphics the niche DF inhabits is only going to shrink more and more.

  48. Gooberpatrol66 says:

    Hey, just wanted to say that a mod that gives DF isometric graphics just like in the mockup actually exists. It’s called Stonesense. I’ve played it. It’s a visualizer, not a full blown UI replacement. You run Stonesense alongside the regular DF window and play DF like normal, with the addition of another window with full-blown graffix! Last I checked, it’s only compatible with an old version of DF.