The Boyz Are Back In Town: Goblin Camp

Those goblins coming over here, taking our jobs, etc.

I’ve been meaning to look at this for a while, and am glad I’ve finally had a chance. Goblin Camp is – perhaps somewhat obviously – inspired by Dwarf Fortress, but is off doing its own thing, and adds a little Open Source malarkies in the side. In short: running a Goblin camp. While it’s early days yet, it seems to be concentrating brilliantly on UI aspects. Frankly, between space-to-pause, h to read help and guess-work I got my little camp up and running. I only had to look at the read-me file to realise that you order production on the Stock Manager (S), and then I was away. It’s a really nifty design. If you’re interested in the way its heading, here’s its future-road map but its worth downloading the current build to get a sense of this city-builder with an orcish twist. A little footage of the UI is below. And I’ve just made my militarised club-wielding orcs run off and try and escort a unicorn. Awesome!

Thanks for Brian Baird for the heads up.


  1. Alex Bakke says:

    Ooh. The UI was the one thing holding me back from DF.

  2. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    I played DF, found it fun and interesting, and fun.

    But i swore i would never go back until the UI was fixed, becuase it is a trainwreck.

    Ill be keeping an eye on this, for sure.

    • Coillscath says:

      I’m still dreaming of the day that I can play the game with a GUI that looks like the Stonesense visualiser… *Drools*

  3. JP says:

    Oooh, looks sweet. The gauntlet has been thrown down in the ASCII terminal-based game usability arena – by an open source project no less! Will Dwarf Fortress pick it up?

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Though lazy and prehaps not in the spirit of open source, i cant wait for someone to port all the changes from dwarf fortress into this engine, with its actual UI.

      From the notes, the maker is going to be putting everything onto one level. No building epic forts with magma moats and glass rooms and 8 bit computers…..

      Why trade a UI for the gameplay?

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Goblin Camp’s creator is making an actual game – the sort of thing that could some day conceivably finished. Dwarf Fortress’s creator plans to work for it on the rest of his life.

      Dwarf Fortress is amazing, and I’m happy that it exists, but for something to play, I prefer Goblin Camp.

    • Jeremy says:

      Because in DF the UI is a good part of the gameplay. The UI, as a concept, is supposed to exist in order for the player to actually play the game and should bridge the gap between fun and managing all the systems, not be 70% of what you’re spending your time in.

  4. GHudston says:

    I’m concerned at how excited this video made me. If Dwarf Fortress was like this, I fear that my life would be forfeit.

    • Reapy says:

      Wow yes, what you typed was exactly the same thought pattern I had as well.

  5. Chris says:

    I once asked the DF guy if he’d extract an API the ASCII stuff uses so someone could build a real GUI on top of it. He didn’t know what an API was. The MVC (Model-View-Controller) concept, if implemented, would allow the ASCII graphics to be one view or a true GUI to be a different view. But there wasn’t any point in explaining MVC if he didn’t know what an API was.

    Tarn Adams is brilliant in his own way, but his knowledge of the theory of OO programming is obviously very slim, which unfortunately means DF will likely never escape some of its limitations (like a poor UI). Quite possibly the coolest game I’ve ever seen, but simply hate trying to play due to it’s interface.

    • Tacroy says:

      Well to be fair, Tarn’s a mathematician, not a coder (I believe he has a PhD in math or something like that). It’s like asking you what quaternions are good for.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Man do i hate quaternions. But i was also led to believe that had usefulness in coding, what with the fact they let you rotate objects.

    • Tei says:

      “It’s like asking you what quaternions are good for”

      Ask any videogame programmer into 3D.

      And.. don’t contamine a C programmer with OOP ideas!.. that will destroy his purity.

    • Tacroy says:

      I know, quaternions are just the most esoteric but practical mathy thing I could think of off the top of my head – the Banach-Tarsky paradox isn’t that useful most of the time. I realize that they’ve got applications in 3D modeling, but since he was talking about design patterns as if they were gospel I assumed Chris would be more familiar with systems architecture.

    • Dozer says:

      I thought Tarn Adams was making DF because he likes making DF and letting other programmers have much input into making DF would kind of defeat the point. The fact that lots of people like to play DF is a very nice lucrative byproduct.

    • pipman300 says:

      it’s like that one sid meier quote about the programmer/computer having more fun then the players are.

    • pipman300 says:

      or was it that guy making facebook games nows i forgot.

    • Okami says:

      @pipman300: Don’t they all make facebook games these days?

  6. konrad_ha says:

    A challenger appears!

  7. Feet says:

    I hate to say it, but that interface looks like it solves so many problems DF has. I love the innovation in DF, the growth of features and details is unbelieveable but his game has been popular for several years now, I genuinely can’t understand why Bay12 haven’t done more to improve the interface.

    Anyway, this looks excellent – I’m gonna give it a spin.

    • Feet says:

      And after playing… all makes me wish all the more that DF had this inferface, but tha’t it. There’s really not that much game or fun in there yet, but then it’s 0.11 so that’s fair enough.

      Excellent, excellent idea though and I hope they get the excellent and dedicated community that such a game needs.

  8. pupsikaso says:

    Wow… and to think I’ve spent half a year slaving under DF’s UI. I wish Tarn would just freaking accept help when it’s offered. You have no idea how many people have been offering to rework the UI for him (and for no fee! Absolutely free!) and he always refused.

    If this doesn’t get him working on the UI, I think I just might abandon my fortresses for goblin camps.

  9. Wilson says:

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this. It has great potential from the feel of it. Nice and easy to play, and a good concept.

  10. golden_worm says:

    There are many people who can make an interface that works nicely.
    There is still only one Dwarf Fortress.
    This isn’t it.

  11. FP says:

    I’ve spent most of this evening alternately enjoying and sighing at DF (specifically its insane, backwards UI) so definitely going to give this a shot. Though perhaps I’m too much of a lightweight for these types of games and should just stick to Minecraft.

  12. Coins says:

    So, this is dwarf fortress but not dwarf fortress because it has a diffirent front plastered over what is in essence the same thing? Meh.

    • pupsikaso says:

      You know, there are far more effective ways of relieving stress than trolling.

    • golden_worm says:

      No. This is an interface which lets you build a Goblin camp.

      No World Gen.

      No History.

      No Forgotten Beasts.

      No Weather simulation.

      No Engravings.

      No hyper detailed combat.

      No Trade.

      No Economy.

      No Moods.

      No Adventure Mode.

      No Z levels.

      No Magma.

      No Zombie Elephants.

      No Carp.

      No Depth.

      No FUN.

      Please don’t confuse this with DF, just because it has a similar look and a better interface. My mobile phone has a better interface than DF, but that doesn’t mean it is better than, or even equivalent to, the most ambitious and detailed game I’ve ever played.

    • golden_worm says:

      @pupsikaso. dammit, he got me.

    • Gritz says:

      The game is a month old, dude. Cut them some slack.

    • dadioflex says:

      @golden_worm – a lot of the stuff you describe gets in the way of enjoying the game, it doesn’t improve it. There’s detailed combat, but the military training was (and maybe still is) so borked that your crossbowmen spent months using their crossbows as clubs. I love DF, but we need Goblin Camp for one shiny reason – it’ll either force Tarn to address the many criticisms of the game, or damn it to obscurity. How’s one guy going to keep up with an open source project?

      Besides, look at the first (non-Z level equipped) releases of DF and how much of what you list was in it?

      After Khazad there was a certain amount of antipathy towards Goblin Camp on the DF forums but it seems to have settled down. I don’t really want to get into it myself just yet. I can wait a few months to see what shakes out. Tilesets would be nice for one thing.

    • golden_worm says:

      I just worry people who are put off by DF’s interface will try this and think its the same thing with a better interface, get what fun they can out of it and never see the “real” thing. That would be a shame as I don’t think, even with more time and being open source, the full scope of DF will ever be realized by this. It is a distraction from what makes DF so special.

      Maybe it can grow into its own thing, and that will be fine, just don’t think your getting DF Lite. GC is more like every other city builder ever made but with ASCII graphics. The whole philosophy is different.

    • konrad_ha says:

      @golden_worm: from my little session with it and the “Future Plans” section of the website I’d say “DF lite” is exactly what the developer is aiming for. It’s merely a tech-demo right now, but the potential is huge and I don’t see why it couldn’t grow as complex as DF in the foreseeable future.

    • Tei says:

      Open Source don’t automatically mean community. There are billion of open source (and close source) games that get not attention at all. So is possible that this one don’t grow much, and never gets near 1% of what DF do.

      But is a possibility, of course, and can serve a I+D for DF, since if DF start updating the UI, can use some of this ideas.

    • pipman300 says:

      toady will never try to make df more playable. why would he do that when he could spend an entire year adding trivial things that nobody will care about in a week (oh wow my dwarves have scars now this is way better then a functional ui) and making the current systems even more broken and complicated (all your dwarves will die of infection because the doctors are too stupid to treat them, not that it matters since the dwarves are too dumb to seek medical attention beyond sitting down on the operating table then getting up and doing something else a second later)

    • Archonsod says:

      “Besides, look at the first (non-Z level equipped) releases of DF and how much of what you list was in it?”

      Funnily enough, back then was the last time I found DF to be fun.

  13. Burningpet says:

    Dwarf Fortress is an amazing game, if there were the seven wonders of the gaming world, it has already earned its place.

    While we will probably wont see an 8 bit computer made of water pumps or follow the steps of an hero struggeling to keep her kingdom safe from elves a thousand of years before the game even started:
    link to
    but if he could maintain his innovative ideas into his game, Goblin Camp may very well turn out to be a good game in its own.

    by following him, i must say i really like how he tries to distinguish the feel of the game by giving the orcs and goblins traits and behaviours in character, and not just making them the usual communists.

  14. Taillefer says:

    There’s an amazing and detailed game to be had from DF even with 90% of its content removed. I’ve been expecting something like this to come along (maybe I missed some which are here already) and wouldn’t be surprised if others follow.

  15. Hippo says:

    Ok, they fixed the UI. Now fix the graphics.

  16. Zogtee says:

    Why do you people hate graphics?

    • Gabriel Kniewell says:

      I know, right?

      Why do people still read books when there are moving pictures that take far less time!

    • sinister agent says:


      Y’know, I’ve spent most of my adult life working in libraries, and even I’m not desperate enough to pretend that’s a valid comparison.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      Sinister, how is it now a valid comparison?

    • Zogtee says:

      Why so instantly dismissive, though? You know well that this question gets asked a lot, when games like these surface and it is instantly shot down with varying degrees of hostility. I’m not asking for textured 3D or anything. Little tiles or icons representing buildings and folks would be enough and the extra work would ensure that a lot more people would play it. The creators might even be able to sell their games for a modest price.

      I don’t see the downside of sticking a foot outside of this (very) small niche.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      Zogtee, I’m not sure if you’re aware but there are graphics packages you can get online that do that exact thing you’re speaking of, for DF :)

      Search ‘Mayday DF Tileset’, for instance.

      Personally, being an ASCII elitist, I think they’re a waste of time and detract from imagining the world, but I can see that they’ve helped a tonne of people to get into the game.

    • Clovis says:

      I don’t think it is just a matter of “hating” graphics. I think that the designer wants to focus on making a good game and maybe isn’t an artist. Unlike DF, this is an open project, so if the underlying game is good the community will create graphics for it. It just makes a whole lot more sense to focus on the gameplay first.

    • Reapy says:

      There are graphic sets but they are not perfect, even down to stupid things like letters being recycled in the menus, so some of them say dress up the period, but you have weird wavy lines in the menu system.

      Well anyway, I think the biggest benefit is with icons you can reasonably look at a fortress and know what is what without having to look it up first. Sure, if you have done the work and already know what icon a smoothed wall is vs a rough wall is, or heck that even that weird plus thing is a door, then fine.

      But if you haven’t played dfort, at every turn you have to look up and check what the hell you are looking at. If it is an icon, you know immediately what it is. This lets you focus on some of the other things and takes a huge workload off yourself when trying to learn what the hell is happening in this complex world.

      I would argue actually that it is not really the UI that is the problem, but really that is is god damn hard to see what is going on in the game. There is soooo much under the hood, but it takes a lot of exploring to SEE it. If you could see it with more intuitive menus, more icons, using color, shape, pictures. and text fully, you can SEE that your favorite hammerdwarf is bleeding from his lower left calf without having to find the guy on screen, remember what a hammerdwarf looks like, investigate him, look through all the body part list, then read the text to see it.

      Also, icon sets still fall into the category of bad graphics in which you would use your mind to fill in the blanks. I don’t see how a generic door icon and stone wall icon will somehow shatter my ability to visualize it as real as opposed to a +- or whatever the hell the game uses in ascii mode. There is just no way that robust icons fall into the uncanny valley by any means.

      Anyway, dwarf fort , we love to read about it, hate to play it, love to bitch about the UI, same stuff round and round. I like goblin camp’s giant middle finger to dfort about it’s UI. But almost at this point I just read about what hes doing on dfort and haven’t touched the game in over a year now. I really love the last set of things hes working on now with the villages and population. I find the world gen thing almost starting to become more interesting than the game itself at this point.

  17. Gabriel Kniewell says:

    Goblins will get enough fanfare when that large expansion for a popular MMO comes out.

    I’ll stick to my tried and true little dwarves with their tendency to run around with 2 tiles of their own guts hanging out and following them.

  18. Sagan says:

    Some day I want to try Dwarf Fortress, but I don’t want to spend an hour just to get the basics. And I’m easily frustrated by bad controls, especially if I see opportunities for easy optimization.

    I shall try Dwarf Fortress when it has an interface like this, or I shall try Goblin Camp when it becomes more like Dwarf Fortress complexity-wise.

    • pakoito says:

      An hour to get the basics? I spent 4 hours in videotutorials before thinking of even starting the game…and I was still clueless!!! There were 16 hours of videotutorial!

    • Fumarole says:

      Somehow I don’t think that’s going to help Sagan get into it.

  19. Bru says:

    Tarn mostly doesn’t like collaborating because A, he thinks that it won’t be his game any longer, and B, I think he’s afraid that some talented programmers are going to come in and completely outstrip his talent. What he needs to realize is that’s completely ok! He’s got FANTASTIC ideas, and is reasonably good at communicating those ideas so that people understand them.

    I don’t think anyone would ever try and subvert his vision for the game. People have become intoxicated by his vision to such an extent that they really want to see the end result – no matter how long it takes to get here. He could really benefit from the expertise of those in the open source community who would gladly do all of the grunt work while he sits back and just continues to feed them idea after idea.

    Maybe if this project catches on – and it will – he’ll see the advantages of letting the community help share the workload, and let DF really shine.

    • The All Soup says:

      Here here.

      I like your ideas.

    • Sagan says:

      There are so many misconceptions about open source out there. Open source does not mean that others can just come in and make changes you don’t like. Just don’t give them commit rights and everything is fine. There are a lot of different approaches for open source, and there are positive examples for many. There are projects where a lot of people can commit changes and it works great, but the biggest open source project, Linux, still to this day has only one person who is able to commit changes: Linus Torvalds. Even when companies like IBM spend tens of thousands of dollars on developing features that they want in there, Linus can just say “no” and that’s it.

      But I don’t even think he would have to make it open source. Just allow one other person to program a better interface for you and tell him that you don’t want any other changes, kthxbye.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      So does that stop anyone making a fork of your code & then marginalising your software by releasing their own version with their own changes in parallel to yours?

      No, didn’t think so.

    • DrazharLn says:

      We have copyright law for that. The idea of others pinching inventor’s ideas has been around for a while.

      Open source does not necessarily mean license-free, and if he just asked someone else to help him then that would be a mighty clear case.

      The community wouldn’t back a pretender in favour of Tarn anyway.

    • Alex says:

      You know, if they are that intoxicated by his vision, why couldn’t they just take his development list and build it from scratch?

  20. 1nightStand says:

    Extremely off-topic but I’m just coming from your TF2 server and I have to say, Kieron, it’s in a dire need of an admin or two. Or a legion.

    Having sudden severe lags, I tried to communicate with one “Dicksucker” who had 999 ping (I guess the meter doesn’t go beyond that) but he chose to keep silent, as is his right.

    Our non-conversation was then interrupted by a guy who played us a racist southern country song featuring the N bomb in the chorus.

    Your server is riddled with little, niggling problems (Dutch speakers on what supposed to be an international server to mention one*) but I don’t fancy myself one of them complainers.
    But this was just too much.

    You really need to do something – to set some rules and see that they’re enforced- or the stinkers tide will flood what, for most of the time and despite everything, is a pleasant place to play in.

    • goodgimp says:

      It’s a good thing you’ve notified them of the TF2 server issues at the bottom of the Goblin Camp thread. I’m sure they’ll see it and take care of the problem!

      You could try email? :)

    • 1nightStand says:

      Err… I did say it was EXTREMELY off-topic… I thought I’d vaccinated myself by that from comments like yours… guess I was wrong

      No. I didn’t think about emailing. Maybe I should have. Just didn’t come to mind.

      Anyway, KG seems to keep his eyes on the comments.
      If he wont reply here, I’ll send him an e-mail.

    • Rinox says:

      While I obviously sympathise with your dislike for racist morons and people dragging down the server with outrageously bad ping, how does the speaking Dutch thing conflict with it being international? I mean…isn’t the point of an international server that there isn’t a required language?

      I know English is the ‘lingua franca’ online but you have to keep in mind that it’s not easy for a non-native speaker to mingle with native speakers of English. Having a foreign accent is one thing, but having it starkly contrasted with people who are native speakers makes a lot of people very self-conscious when it’s just voice against voice. Not to mention the fact that many English-speakers have an annoying tendency of making fun of foreign people’s accents even though they often barely manage to speak their own language, let alone a second or third. :-)

    • PhiIl Cameron says:

      Ok, so here’s the problem. Even if I do deputise a bunch of people, there’s no way they’re going to be on the server the whole time. So what we’ve got now is a votekick system, which *should* be activated if you type !votekick into main chat. It’s the next best thing to having an actual admin there, and so long as someone’s being a sufficient dick, people will be more than happy to get rid of them.

      If problems get really bad, you can always message me on Steam (The Poisoned Sponge), and I can remotely access the server and kick people if they’re making the server a shitty environment. We’re constantly refining the server, and adding a plugin to prevent people spamming music is on my list.

      However, this is a public server, and without passwording it (and killing it), we’re going to get random people joining who don’t know what RPS is. That’s just how it works. I’d love for every single person to be lovely, but there are measures for those who are not.

      And as an aside, there’s a stickied thread in the forums specifically for the TF2 server, that I read regularly, so that’s really the place to raise issues you have with it. But no worries :)

    • 1nightStand says:


      I wouldn’t say a word if those guys were… say… Italians. But the Dutch have no excuse- they speak the best English in continental Europe.

      And you must bare in mind- this is a team game and needs a team communication. You don’t want to feel you’re excluded from your own team.

      I play a lot on French and German servers and I know they are local servers so I don’t expect to hear nothing else then French or German (and except English, nothing else is allowed btw). In an international server I expect to hear the Lingua Franca of today.

    • Rinox says:

      I know you weren’t making that remark in bad faith, and I tend to agree that the level of English of most people in North-Western Europe is more than good enough for a TF2 server. But what i said still is true…accents remain, and people will be jerks about it. So I understand if two people will talk to each other in their own language online but not in English, even though they can.

      Also, different standards for Italians and Dutch people? Racism!! ;-) jk

    • Tei says:

      While some no-native people can talk in english, theres a lot of people that simply can’t. So setting “only talk in english” in a internacional server will not work. Writting and reading is a different thing, since more people can use it, so thats is possible.

    • 1nightStand says:

      @Phill Cameron

      Thanks for replying.
      I’m not a registered user and as my nick implies- I didn’t think I’m gonna become one. Maybe it’s time to settle down here…. :)

      But since you don’t mind, I’ll continue this one here:

      -Votekick is a good thing but unless it’s automatically followed by a one day ban or so, it will not deter the “professional” grievers/ abusers. They’re like flies.
      – You don’t need the admins to be 24/7. No server has that. But you do need the THREAT of their potential presence, and this clearly isn’t the case right now at the RPS server.
      – There is quite a common plugin for a ping auto kicking. If you set it to a lax 300, you’ll still retain your American players while keeping your server playable.

      And again- thanks for listening.

    • 1nightStand says:

      @ Rinox

      I’m an Israeli and my mother tongue is Hebrew- I’ve never been mocked for my accent.
      Granted, I don’t have a THICK accent but I’m sure it’s noticeable nonetheless. And anyway- I would rather kick the jerks…

      Now, as an Israeli, i.e.- a member of one of the LEAST polite societies on earth, I must say I’m a bit surprised at your (and Tei’s) outlook.

      Twelve years ago, I traveled to India, and enjoyed mingling and touring with people from all over the globe. At times, I would find myself with mixed groups- Israelis and internationals- and I noticed that all the internationals would take care to speak English, even if for example, we were 5 Germans and two Israelis.

      The Israelis, on the other hand- always reverted back to Hebrew. Partly for insecurity about their English, and partly for lack in basic manners, thus making mixed groups an awkward social situation.

      It got to the point, that it was impossible to travel with a bunch of my countrymen, if I had a “foreign” friend with me.

      And speaking of Italians (:D)- even they, with their 50 words vocabulary, would at least make the effort from time to time, so as not to leave others out of the loop.

      But maybe it was a different generation, or maybe the rules are different online…

      Or maybe Europeans are becoming more like us, instead of we becoming a bit more like them (at least in that respect)

    • Rinox says:

      I don’t think it’s a matter of bad manners in the case of TF2 servers – it’s different from an actual real-life social situation because it’s all faceless, anonymous voices. I don’t have to tell you that 95% of all internet jerks and trolls don’t talk nearly the same way IRL. :-) It’s so easy for someone to be a dick to someone online that it’s better to just avoid giving them a chance to altogether than to actually bother with it. I speak English with native speaker friends in co-op games without strangers, which goes just fine (as you can deduce from my written English I suppose). But online, with a bunch of strangers, I only type or, if there’s a friend on who speaks the same language, I will occasionally say something in my mother tongue. I don’t bother with speaking English because in 1 out of 2 servers you’ll have someone who starts making fun of you after a while regardless of how hard you try.

      It doesn’t matter much in the end, you just mute/kick him and carry on. But it’s not even worth that little bit of grievance, so I just don’t speak in English. :-)

  21. Kurt Lennon says:

    I never thought I’d be genuinely thrilled seeing a box being dragged out in an ASCII game.

    Life is full of surprises! Gonna download this bad boy now….

  22. WiPa says:

    You’d think they’d have given it better graphics. I can’t play DF without a graphics pack, it’s horrible.

  23. Dozer says:

    It looks like Dwarf Fortress, but with a mouse!

    Nice that they seem to have adopted wholesale DF’s graphical conventions ( = is stockpile tile, C is building construction designate, g is goblin, etc)

    I absolutely love Dwarf Fortress, but I also absolutely love going to work, going to sleep, cleaning my person and eating food all in the same 24-hour period so I’ve had to give it a rest.

  24. Scab says:

    A few pointers to all the replies.

    1. We all know DF is a good game and that it’s been going for years and cannot be compared to this project that just started, so please don’t try. Possibly worthwhile is comparing to early versions of DF, but still sort of unnecessary.

    2. So what if Tarn wants to make DF alone? AFAIK It started out as a a hobby project and he just released it to the public for fun, it seems to me that he doesn’t care too much if anyone plays it or not, maybe he does a bit more than before, but still not too much IMO. Instead of bitching about how he refuses to make it open-source you should be happy you can play it at all. None of the big developers make open-source games (with a few exceptions), and with all their money and development teams most of them can’t make a PC game worth a damn, and half of them are poorly made console ports. You don’t ask these companies to release their game to the community to smooth out the rough edges, even though you know they’re not gonna fix it.

    Last but definitely not least, 3. What’s with crapping down on the DF UI? I was surprised to see how many called it broken and game breaking, myself I know a few dozen people who’ve played the game, and after the first few hours they were working the UI like any other game. I don’t see what the big problem is, I mean DF has a steep learning curve, and the UI is part of it, but once you know how to play the game (which doesn’t take too long for that matter), I don’t see how the UI is in the way.

    Myself I quit DF after the 2010 release, I didn’t like the new military system, thought the old one was fine and don’t see how anyone could actually have use for a system to manage a huge military when the game started lagging balls after 150-200 citizens (And trust me, I worked hard to maximize my performance.) Never did try how far you could go before lagging after the 2010 patch, but since the military system was so annoying I quit after the first goblin siege.

    • Gritz says:

      myself I know a few dozen people who’ve played the game, and after the first few hours they were working the UI like any other game.

      Spending a few hours figuring out a UI just isn’t interesting to most people. I don’t mind spending hours figuring out game mechanics and systems, but wrestling with the interface for too long is a killer.

      It’s especially galling for DF, since the guy has put so much effort into all sorts of minutiae. Like instead of spending weeks realistically modeling the trajectory of an exploding cat’s eyeball he spent two or three days on usability, it would make a world of difference.

    • Sagan says:

      You honestly defend a UI that takes more than a minute to figure out? Have you ever played a game other than dwarf fortress and needed more than a minute to start playing? And if you have, did you think it was a good UI?
      I’m not talking about tutorials here: Those are about learning the systems. I’m talking about getting to the part where you can start learning the game.
      Sometimes I am in a good mood and am willing to spend the first ten minutes mostly figuring out how to do the things that I want to do. I would be willing to do that for Dwarf Fortress. But an hour? No way.

      As for the “stop bitching, you should be happy you can play it at all” part: I would be happy if I could play it at all. But I can’t it’s just too frustrating. At least it was when I last tried.
      I want to play this game, but I can’t. There are a lot of people like me, and the solutions are obvious, but he doesn’t do anything to help. I’m not angry here, I’m just sad that I can’t play this game that I would want to play.

    • Tacroy says:

      Not a game, but I learned the basics of Vim six years ago and I’m still learning all the commands. I mean, today I learned that you can use ctrl-a to increment the value of the number under the cursor.

      Sometimes depth does require commitment to learn; I’m not saying that DF’s interface is perfect, but it is quite usable. I was commanding my dorfs like a pro within an hour of playing.

      Anyway, it’s entirely possible for Tarn to farm out just the UI to some interested parties; the Linux version, for instance, was created in part because Tarn made an open source arena simulator that basically implemented the Dwarf Fortress drawing API and let the open source people port it. There’s no real reason why he couldn’t do the same with (say) the UI, and slowly hack his way closer to a model-view-controller mode.

    • badoli says:

      I have no problem with a complicate UI, as long as there is a good reason. Yet the DF UI is complicate for only one sake: The programmer is not interested in improving it.

      And if you reall don’t think that people complain about other games, then you should take a look on some publishers forums…

  25. Sir Digby says:

    I think a problem most people have with the crowd that plays DF but would like a new interface is that they confuse our wanting a new and better UI with dumbing down the game or for Tarn to sell out/change his creative view;
    That’s just dumb, what people like me want is for DF to have an interface like GoblinCamp because we love the game too much not to want it to improve; sure, I enjoy knowing my game simulates dwarven endocrine systems, but is it too much too ask for a mouse-supported UI?
    Hell, I bet that GoblinCamp guy could even help Tarn, for free, in implementing a similar UI on DF, lots of people have offered help freely and he has refused.

    Anyway, still pretty basic and obviously not a contender to DF… yet. Some competition might be nice, might see Tarn trying to improve his own work to keep the top spot.

    • Nesetalis says:

      you may not have played recently.. but i can create boxes with the mouse.. O.o perhaps not as shiny graphically designed as goblin camp.. but its there.

      There is also some one else working with him, making a SDL version of the game for linux and what not. they havnt done many UI improvements through it yet, but its there. Tarn isnt working alone now.

  26. konrad_ha says:

    Anyone else get the feeling that we are witnessing the birth of a new game genre?

    Dwarf Fortress really set the gold-standard for ultra-complexity and Goblin Camp is the first attempt to make this type of game-play accessible. I wouldn’t be surprised if some similar games start popping up in the coming months, probably with slightly better graphics (or any graphics at all for that matter) and some production value. This genre has tremendous potential, just think of the insane possibilities with persistent on-line worlds and multi-player. I’d play that!

    I’d call it CEWS, for Complex Emergent World Simulation.

  27. geldonyetich says:

    Shoot, are you telling me that if I didn’t give up on my project I might have got a RPS mention for just tacking a point-and-click interface on a game that vaguely resembles Dwarf Fortress? ;)

    The funny thing is, if you advance Dwarf Fortress’s graphics and interface enough, minus the intricate details and world generation, you end up with Dungeon Keeper or Evil Genius.

  28. OldRat says:

    Now, I’m sure I will eternally burn for this comment in some apologist hell, but there’s a reason DF’s UI is like it is. The game goes through drastic changes in every big update, on the inside and outside, and the functionality of things changes greatly. That’s why the Presentation arc (Toady calls his design phases arcs) is the last of the five arcs. It wouldn’t exactly do the game much good to start coding in incredibly great controls only to have to code them all the way again (or possibly have them cause problems).
    But I’m sure someone will slap me and throw in examples of games in early development with great UIs. And hurray for those games.

    Still, I don’t really see how it’s all THAT difficult to learn to play DF. I mean, I just went over the “your first fortress” example in the wiki (not sure if it’s updated to account for the new changes like burrows, different farming and military), and suddenly I knew more than enough to play. It took me around an hour, during which I had already gotten my fort running, too.
    The main problem with people seems to be the “OH GOD WHAT IS THIS WHAT DO I DO SO MANY LETTERS!” effect of first seeing the monolithic thing. And I know I’m going to sound crazy and wrong, but it’s seriously not as complex as it appears.

    • TCM says:

      My problem is, and has always been, the UI.

      It is so much fun to play, but once you start getting large numbers of migrants to manage, the UI becomes so inadequete I honestly can’t bring myself to keep going, and just start a new fort.

  29. Poppis says:

    Oh man… This is what DF needs.

  30. poop says:

    okay ill wait 15 years for the UI to become not shit and play Goblin camp in the mean time, cya

  31. Harlander says:

    And.. don’t contamine a C programmer with OOP ideas!.. that will destroy his purity.

    Personally, I find OO design methods make conceptualising how a program will function much easier. You have to start out with them, though, you can’t “hack your way to a design pattern” as someone else suggested.

    Where am I going with this?

    Join us, Tei. Join the OO side and together we can end this destructive conflict and bring.. hold on, I think I’ve got the wrong script..

    • Tei says:

      Join us, Tei. Join the OO side and together we can end this destructive conflict and bring.. hold on, I think I’ve got the wrong script..

      I have joined the OO legions years ago. Is that I still remenber how is writting C in C style, and how C suck writting in C++ style.
      Teaching a C programmer to think in OO terms can ruin his style and love for simplicity.

      And now, I am trolling:

      I can write Javascript in OOP style, that is more short and more elegant than the same code in procedural.

    • mlaskus says:

      C is anything but simplicity ;)

    • Harlander says:

      And now, I am trolling:

      I can write Javascript in OOP style, that is more short and more elegant than the same code in procedural.

      You sure are trolling, mainly because object-orientation isn’t the opposite of procedural programming.

      For example, C++ is…

      Hey, where’d everybody go?

  32. Xercies says:

    They should put Dwarf Fortress with this UI!

  33. loGi says:

    Repeating what others have said: DF with this UI would be the greatest game of all time.

  34. pimorte says:

    OldRat, the idea would be to have loose coupling between the game subsystems. I’ve never seen the DF internals, but if the game is mixing the world-update processing, UI and drawing calls throughout the code then the design is just plain wrong.

    The UI only needs to know about world representation and how to change the current order queue. Other components of the system shouldn’t even know the UI exists. That way behaviour in-game can change without the UI breaking. The only thing that would break the UI would be a change in world data representation. A new object type could be defined in XML and the UI would automatically know how to draw it from there.

    • OldRat says:

      Well, I can’t really say anything first-hand about the code, but let’s just say that it’s… not exactly made by a professional. UI messing with other things would not be the weirdest problem it has had. So yeah, I’m not going to disagree with the coding being, for the lack of better word, wrong in places. Other big thing is the whole fact it can bring just about any computer to its knees due to incredibly horrid amounts of calculations from fifty million-billion kittens (an official slowdown-reducing tip is to kill all cats since they breed like… well, cats) and a hundred dwarves. Pathfinding seems to be the biggest issue, really, and big fortresses often need to have multiple stairways and hallways simply so that the dwarves won’t make your computer shit itself when it tries to figure how everything’s going to get from place A to place B the easiest way when other dwarves and animals are blocking the way.

      So yeah, I’m not going to claim it’s perfect or doesn’t require any improving. But it’s going to get that. Sadly, it’s not going to be exactly soon.

    • Mark M says:

      The biggest thing is that Tarn Adams is a subpar coder. Nothing personal against him, but he just doesn’t write good code. Anyone remember from 40d when a random B12 forumite wrote a hack that improved framerate by 25-50%?

      Seriously, it shouldn’t be hard to simulate a few dozen (or even a few hundred) dwarves moving around the map, doing little tasks, etc. The fact that Tarn can’t seem to come up with any kind of efficient pathfinding is evidence of his lack of talent. I don’t mean this as an insult, just an honest assessment. When .31 first came out, pathing was completely screwed because Tarn had tried to implement some kind of path caching. It was a total disaster and removed quickly.

  35. rebb says:


  36. mizipzor says:

    I sooo really do hope that this is the thing that finally pushes Dwarf Fortress into open source. I will absolutely try to find the time to contribute to this project! *bookmarks*

  37. matt_nothing says:

    In fairness to Tarn Adams, I’ve read interviews with him where he’s admitted his own limitations as a coder.

  38. Redd says:

    What totally needs to happen is for Toady to continue working on DF as a back-end, allowing multiple players to connect to the same world if the host allows, and let the community create the front-end. That’d keep him happy with total control of how to write the game, us happy with total control of how to play the game and would of course put the damn world-gen & history to good use as I think it’s severely underused as a single player thing.

  39. olemars says:

    I’m obviously a subpar commenter since I completely mangled the single, simple xhtml tag I used. My excuse is that I haven’t used HTML since high school.