Jobs Worth: Dwarf Fortress Update 0.40.20 Released

Dwarf Fortress updates come in two flavours: those that impress non-players with changes to world generation or patch notes about spitting dwarves, and those that impressive experienced players by changing some small UI or control thing in a small but significant way. Version 0.40.20 is the latter, because it allows you to set job priorities and it makes it so dwarves will regularly change activity in order to complete whatever is most important.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it is. I’ve lost fortresses before because there’s been something disastrous happening at the entrance of my fortress, but none of my dwarves will complete my command to pull a life-saving lever because they’re too busy carrying rocks. That should be a problem of the past, as the update let’s you:

(*) New job selection process where dwarves choose important tasks with more regularity
(*) Very important jobs can remove dwarves from less important jobs
(*) Ability to prioritize a job so that it gets done immediately

Plus a few more priority-related changes specific to mining, as explained in the update’s forum post. There’s a download link for the update there, too.


  1. Wisq says:

    This is definitely a big step towards making larger forts playable, yes. Now they just need to fix all the bugs and make it decently fast again.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, no kidding. “Performance becomes unbearable while cooling fans scream harder than when playing Crysis 9” is a real fortress-killer.

      • Wisq says:

        Yeah. Once you get sufficiently experienced, unless you’re going for extreme challenge builds, lag is the cause-of-death for 95%+ of forts, and the biggest challenge to early fort survival becomes the extra burden of designing it in a lag-minimising way.

        Toady can do whatever he wants with DF, but if he ever wants it to progress beyond a curiosity and into a full game, he needs to actually treat it like a job and be willing to work with others. I won’t be donating until then because I don’t think the current development model is healthy for the game (and is, in fact, actively unhealthy).

        • tasteful says:

          just think of lag death as a blurry win con. problem solved, now can we move on to procedural dwarf sex people?!?!?

        • rabbit says:

          I do hear you … it’s not an idea I’d really thought of before but it does make sense. But that being said … I don’t see that dropping a twenty to an indie dev doing something _incredible_ (and that’s coming from someone who is at best an occasional DF player) is …. I hear what you’re saying totally but I sorta think if you’ve played the game as much as it sounds like you have, and you respect it as much as it sounds like you do, maybe you should reconsider your stance, just once, and throw a little money over. It doesn’t have to be more than a token but I think… I think if DF ever went over, you might regret it. I know I would.

        • Astro Flea says:

          I disagree on several levels. The implication is that people with “a job” necessarily try to offload their work on others. And he has to be like one of those people. Not at all. There are many of us around who make our livelihoods mostly by ourselves. It’s just a question of setting priorities. I haven’t played DF as much as I’d like, but my impression is that lag isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the highest priority. People will disagree about it.

        • gnodab says:

          I donate regularly in the hope that this will never happen.
          Toady should stay independent, there really is no need for another boring sim game imho.
          I prefer DF to stay the way it is, a hopelessly overambitious fever dream, which no sane man can hope to realize in a lifetime. Consider it a piece of performance art. A life dedicated to forever developing the most CPU melting game of all time.

          And btw there are many ways to cope with the frame rate death. Just do what normal devs would do and gut all the “unnecessary” variables. Removing realistic weather as well as Water/Lava and geology works wonders. The other main culprit of frame rate death pets/pests and offspring can also be fixed, either by capping it in the ini or more creatively with various contraptions in game.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            100% this. I’d hardly call DF a ‘curiosity’, but I’d definitely rather Toady keep on treating it as a lunatic experiment rather than a traditional development project, thanks. We need full games with classic dev cycles that have clearly defined start and end points, of course we do, but we also needs games like DF. If we have one extreme we’ve got to have the other, or every game will be a moderately tweaked take on the same basic formula forever.
            (Only a slight exaggeration there – I think it’s fair to say that MOST of the ‘finished’ games that try something different were, at some point in their development, inspired by a game like dwarf fortress)

        • Rindan says:

          DF is performance art done by a half mad person who doesn’t care if you pay or watch. You are welcome to watch, and he has a tip jar and appreciates it if you put money in, but he isn’t doing it for the money.

          Appreciate DF for what it is; half mad performance art that can be wildly entertaining. It is never going to be Minecraft. If you need a complete and polished game, go elsewhere. If you want to occasionally watch the crazy man at work creating an insanely complex masterpiece, have at it. Toss a few bucks in the tip jar if you have it, but don’t expect it to change the art, and don’t it to suddenly take on pop sensibility.

          Okay, I really don’t know about Toady’s mental state, but what he has done with DF pretty much speaks for itself. Whatever his motives, they are not profit, and they are likely not even the entertainment of the masses, so wishing that he polishes it up into something profitable and friendly is a waste. Appreciate mad works of Toady or don’t… I have a feeling he doesn’t care either way.

        • Steve Catens says:

          I don’t think the current development model is healthy for the game (and is, in fact, actively unhealthy).

          I think any development model that allows you to support yourself doing something that you love, and lets you make a lot of other people happy as well is pretty healthy.

          Healthy or not, I’m not aware of any other development model that has ever produced anything like Dwarf Fortress. There are other things that are like specific aspects of Dwarf Fortress, but nothing with the same scope, depth, or that delivers the same experience. In fact, I’m pretty certain it would be impossible for any commercial development model to produce Dwarf Fortress. You’re always going to be limited by resources at some point, where people have to walk away. A Dwarf Fortress can only be created by passion and sheer force of will.

          In fact, one could make the case that the best art through the centuries has frequently been the product of “unhealthy development models”. In which case, it seems like “healthy” is highly overrated when it comes to artistic expression.

        • sventoby says:

          That’s what drawbridges are for. Just put all of your children and cheese makers under it and pull the lever. Instant performance upgrade!

        • Helmic says:

          All this touchy-feely stuff aside, Dwarf Fortress has become considerably more CPU demanding recently. It’s becoming more CPU hungry than CPU’s are progressing. Toady’s lack of optimization is going to eventually bite him in the ass, the performance of the game is eventually going to become a creative bottleneck. He’s eventually going to run into a situation where something he wants to do is only possible if he starts optimizing the game as a whole. I don’t know if the solution is to go open source earlier than he wants to or if he has to sit down and seriously study about optimization techniques or bringing in someone new, but something is eventually going to have to happen if Dwarf Fortress is to continue growing.

      • Nasarius says:

        DF is probably never going to be fast. Toady has talked about how it’s lacking both data locality and multithreading support. He’s a mathematician, and not an especially good programmer.

        So use small embarks, keep a low population cap, and pray to Intel for faster single-core performance and larger L3 caches. And buy low-latency RAM.

        Or hope that somebody is building the next Dwarf Fortress, and that they know what they’re doing in terms of cache optimization and parallel computation. I’m working on my own game world simulation stuff, but it’s in a different non-dwarfy direction.

        • LionsPhil says:

          There worst part, though, as Wisq says, is that there are people falling over themselves to fix that if only Toady would let anyone help.

          I get he doesn’t want to collaborate, and that’s ultimately fine, but it’s also tragic.

          • Nasarius says:

            It’s unfortunate, but Dwarf Fortress shouldn’t be seen as a unique achievement, impossible to live up to. It has a ton of problems, starting with performance and UI. I suspect that “fixing” DF would require a huge rewrite anyway, so those people should look at DF as a prototype, learn from its mistakes, and go build their own thing. Maybe ask Toady nicely if they can borrow the raws and some of the hardcoded data, so they don’t have to duplicate his research on the properties of real-world materials.

            I’m a little surprised that there haven’t been any serious open source attempts; Goblin Camp has been dead for two whole years now.

          • wyrm4701 says:

            I get he doesn’t want to collaborate, and that’s ultimately fine, but it’s also tragic.

            I think it falls more into the ‘magnificent tragedy’ category, rather than the ‘woe to that what was lost’ one. Elsewhere here, commenter gnodab refers to it as ‘a hopelessly overambitious fever dream’ and offers the interpretation of it as ‘a piece of performance art’. There’s a truth to those statements that belies Dwarf Fortress actual power in creating strange, epic, terrible and awesome narratives in it’s players. I think part of the magnificent tragedy is that it’s taken such a weird insular vision to create so fantastic a narrative tool.

        • Core says:

          >pray to Intel for faster single-core performance and larger L3 caches.

          Imagine Intel or AMD putting out a processor especially made for high level dwarffortress play. That is my dream.

  2. ADamnYankee says:

    ” (*) Mining jobs can be set to automatically follow veins and clusters”

    Finally! One of the better improvements in my view. With a mineral-rich fort, mining became such a micro-manged nightmare trying to keep your metal industry chugging along.

    • tasteful says:

      dfhack had this but it felt cheat-y because it already knew where the veins went so this is nice. however dfhack still has the built-in-to-the-units-menu dwarf therapist so i will probably use it forever

  3. Duke of Chutney says:

    praise be to the miners!

  4. tasteful says:

    someone who also plays df on my music forum got me as his secret santa recipient and i got a Cold Steel warhammer and pick with the message “STRIKE THE EARTH!”

  5. Behrditz says:

    Ooo that job thing does sound good and might get me back into it. Wasn’t there some kind of combat/adventure update coming? Did that come out? Ive really lost track of time

  6. bonuswavepilot says:

    Re: “…those that impressive experienced players…” I think you mean either ‘that are impressive to experienced players’ or ‘that impress experienced players’.

  7. Janissaire says:

    Hello,what is the name of the texture pack used in the screenshot?Because the basic one is so complicated for my tiny brain ;'(.

  8. Alberto says:

    I still struggle o feel un-impressed after so many rounds and lost fortresses (my estimated deadcount is larger than 5000 citizens by now, and increasing).

    And I just feel the same amazed wonder with every worldgen, delight in the artifacts or beasts descriptions.

    Since the launch of 0.40 everything is like more and more betterer.

    Give the man monies.

  9. Josh W says:

    I never jump on a new patch very quickly, but I’m really looking forward to seeing videos and posts where people explore what the new system is like, this set of developments is huge, because dwarf personality, that hilarious core feature, is the thing that’s being updated.