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Have You Played... Dwarf Fortress?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Which of the Dwarf Fortress sub-games should I play today: the fortress mode which has come to define the entire project; the adventure mode I’ve argued before is an easy gateway to the game’s simulatory wonders; the fictional encyclopedia it creates at world gen, full of procedural histories; perhaps the arena mode, where you can pit the game’s real and fantasy creatures against each other, to see who would win in a fight between a dragon and half a dozen elephants?

Or perhaps I’ll just spend some time on the game’s development log, the charm of which more than justifies continuing to support the game’s donationware-funded development. Here’s part of the latest entry:

Poetic, musical and dance forms will be generated by culture. There will be both knowledge and skill-based components to this — so you can’t compose a poem of a variety you aren’t familiar with, no matter how good you are, but once you learn the rules, the quality will depend on your skills/atts. It’ll start with the poet’s general skill, and they’ll also develop specific skill with the form, in a way that’s probably most analogous to what we were planning with combat styles. I didn’t expect this to come before those, but it did. The quality of the outcome should depend on broader cultural familiarity or varying qualities/depths of knowledge, but I’m not going to get into any of that yet: just a knowledge check box to get started and then a few related skills.

Procedural poetry written by procedural dwarves according to styles determined by the culture into which they’re born. What does elven poetry sound like? How might a dwarven baby dance if he been raised by the goblins who snatched him as a baby? These aren’t silly questions, just things we may soon find out.

The tired cliché of Dwarf Fortress is that it’s hard to learn how to play, by which people mean, “It will take you a weekend of concerted effort before you start having fun.” But give a free download of Dwarf Fortress a weekend and it will give you a lifetime of entertainment.

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Graham Smith

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Graham is to blame for all this.

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