Play Time: Dwarf Fortress Kids’ Make-Believe And Plays

Perhaps my favourite part of procedurally-spawned hardship in Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress [official site] is how dwarves mark and remember events. An engraver seems as likely to decorate a wall with an image of a nice cheese as they are, for example, that time a burning elephant stomped a dozen of their pals. Maybe it’s morbid, maybe pragmatic. I keenly await shocking tales of what’ll happen when kiddydwarves start playing make-believe – which they will in the next release.

Developers Bay 12 Games explained last night in a quick dev update:

“Toys have joined instruments and goblets with items that can be used by dwarves in the game for the next release. Children can also play make believe and do little performances anywhere, no building required.”

Ah, I’m sure dwarven parents can’t wait for little Tiffani, Zoe, Ethan, and Caden to set up in a corridor and re-enact that time an expedition unleashed a tentacle-faced hellbeast that rampaged through the fortress spewing acid. Bless ’em. I mean, I assume that’s the sort of thing they’ll be up to. And who knows what lurks inside the imagination of a young dwarf?

Toys are already in the game – mini toy anvils, hammers, boats, and so on – but I wonder how they’ll be played with. Violently, I suppose.

The point is, I adore weird stories coming out of Dwarf Fortress and keenly await anything that’ll bring more – like poetry. I bounced hard off Dwarf Fortress myself, but still enjoy the stories.

Tell me stories about horrible events your dwarves have memorialised, won’t you?


Top comments

  1. Maduo says:

    One fortress, all of my dwarves became obsessed with a deity named Ereg, god of mountains and wealth. Carvings of Ereg, statues of Ereg, a legendary warhammer made of the bones of their enemies, covered in etchings of dwarves bowing down to Ereg. Over half the fortress had him as their preferred deity.

    Ereg most often took the form of a giant male hoary marmot. Wikipedia says they're sometimes called 'whistle pigs.' My fortress had devoted themselves to an overgrown whistling gopher. It was my most successful fortress to date.
  1. arioch says:

    God I wish I had the time or motivation to really get into Dwarf Fortress.. The stories that seem to develop when other people play it always seem to be truly incredible..

    • bandertroll says:

      1) Fight the UI.
      2) Fight the UI again.
      3) Fight for understanding gameplay and features.
      4) ???
      n) Cool stories. Really cools, maybe cooliest in this world.

    • Firedog says:

      I probably tried learning it 3 or 4 times before I really got into it. My advice is to get the lazy newb pack and just start up the game and go for it without any tutorials or anything.

      What I found is that with the tutorials I would get bored because it felt like too much work to watch a bunch of videos and stuff. So I just started playing with the wiki pulled up and figured it out. It’s the best ever made and I’m so glad I picked it up.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        That’s just insane, tutorials are a MUST, unless you are completely immune to banging your head against a wall for weeks at a time.

  2. bandertroll says:

    I think Toady so slow. One major release in 1-2 years.

    • Erithtotl says:

      There was a time when updates came fast and furious, with a couple features each release.

      Now he takes 2 years and does one epic release, usually focusing on some new area of the game that you’ll likely not experience much of.

      Personally I think its bad programming practice, he’s basically following ‘waterfall’, a poor methodology for this sort of product. But then again, he’s been amazingly successful doing things his way so who am I to judge?

      • kalzekdor says:

        Given that the roadmap tends to shift, and various components and systems are often tossed out and rebuilt from scratch, if he’s using Waterfall methodology, he’s doing it wrong.

        Mostly, it stems from the fact that he’s the sole developer on the project, and refuses to let anyone else help him. I get that he wants to maintain artistic control, but there are ways to do that while still accepting volunteer assistance.

        • Ur-Quan says:

          With a one man development team what is even the point of using an agile method? I mean with all the different roles gone what’s left? rapid iteration? Kind of useless in this context isn’t it?

  3. Shiloh says:

    I haven’t played DF in a while now, maybe I should fire it up again. Then again, real life etc.

  4. Chicago Ted says:

    What kind of dwarven names are those? Where’s Urist, Cog, Kel, Fikod?

  5. iucounu says:

    DF sort of lost me when they added the military interface etc. The military UI was, even for someone like me who’d been playing it since it was 2d, really, really opaque. I couldn’t work out how to get my dorfs equipped and trained to the extent needed to fight off a basic goblin invasion – especially as there was also the burrow system added, which keyed into all that at meant that, while you could theoretically now have much finer control over things, it was way too much added complexity at once.

    Has it got any easier in the interim, or is Toady, bless him, still noodling around with simulating the Dorfs’ gut flora interactions?

    • JFS says:

      As per the article, he probably is. So much genius, so little focus.

    • kikito says:

      As a fellow victim of the Military UI upgrade, I salute you!

      Toady continues at it. Lately he’s been programming “performances”, and “artists”, who play them in taverns.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        I’ll add my name to that list as well. I played for hundreds of hours before that upgrade. Afterwards, not so much (or at least not without simply “walling in” and skipping the military part of the game).

        • LuNatic says:

          Myself as well. Countless tutorials read, countless hours spent, and I still can’t get a dwarf to reliably pick up an axe and swing it at a goblin.

      • iucounu says:

        Right. I mean, yeah, that will be awesome. I love the culture side of DF. And I hate to be that guy who complains about the UI because loving the game was to some extent about loving its crankiness (or at least, that’s how I rationalised it to myself.)

        But could… could he take a few months and tidy up the interface a bit? Look how lovely and clean Prison Architect is by comparison. It can be done! He could decruft and streamline all sorts of things! He might, in fact, find a way to make a largish fort playable without the kind of iron lung provided by Dwarf Therapist and DF Hack – stuff you’re tabbing into all the time to do batch stuff.

        Then I could get round to mastering the complexity of the new systems and actually playing and enjoying it again. God bless Toady, he’s a genius, and I know he is always going to do what he wants to do, but I think we’ve actually gone past the point of DF being playable now even for a lot of fans, and it bothers me. I don’t want to just admire it from afar for its delightful changelogs.

        • Sound says:

          To be fair, Prison Architect has a team, and it’s system is not as vast as DF. While I agree that an improved UI can be done, it’s a pretty huge undertaking for him.

          • iucounu says:

            But also, to be fair, if he were to ask for some help with an undertaking like that, he’d be deluged in it. I know that’s never really going to happen (though he did have help with the OpenGL stuff I believe) but it could be done if he wanted to I think.

    • Sin Vega says:

      I last played it a few months ago, and it’s every bit as buggy, opaque, obnoxiously overcomplicated and awkward to use. If there’s a difference, it’s that the game crashes more often, too.

    • snagglepuss says:

      I agree that using the military screen EFFICIENTLY is borderline impossible, but I’m not that smart of a man and I can usually manage to get at least a makeshift melee squad that can stave off the gobbos. But man, archers are impossible to manage, their inventory issues are ridiculous.

      I mean it is very inconvenient how iffy equipping anything specific is, but usually if you just have copper hammers and throw people into a squad it works out ok.

  6. Skabooga says:

    Well, there was this one fortress where I dug deep pretty quickly because I just couldn’t find many good metal ores. As a result, I had opened up three caverns in a short period, and forgotten beasts kept arising out of the caverns and marching up my staircases to slaughter my dwarves (partially my fault for building the main housing so low).

    So, I redesigned and re-mined the lower levels, building chokepoints, long hallways, levers to block easy access to squishy civilian dwarves, and plenty of weapon traps. The next forgotten beast was going to get stomped before my military even got their boots on.

    Except, the next attack was from a megabeast (bronze colossus) from the surface, which, due to its relative peace, I had forgotten to fortify. All my craftsdwarves and their workshops were wiped out before the first wave of soldiers arrived, and then they were wiped out because they were strung out and faced the beast one at a time because I had, in my haste, ordered them straight at the beast instead of having them stationed at a staging area first.

    All told, about half my population was gone. The wall carvings the next few seasons sure were colorful.

  7. Mungrul says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of DF again recently, but the massive migration waves can quickly bog the game down, meaning death-by-framerate is a lot quicker with more recent releases. This is due to the amount of dwarves being tracked, the items they produce and the pathfinding associated with them.
    It’s a real shame, as things become almost unplayably slow just as they get interesting now.
    I hugely admire Toady and his dedication to the minutiae, but the game is in dire need of a performance pass.

    • Sound says:

      The big framerate killer nowadays seem to be the revamped trees, much moreso than the population. I hear that’s being worked on, though.

  8. Distortion says:

    My fortress was attacked by a Minotaur. The first dwarf it killed, it hit so hard that the dwarf’s pants fell off. The Minotaur then equipped the pants, in his hand. Then he beat the dwarf to death with his own pants.

    Then the axe wielding milita and crossbow marksdwarfs showed up. The Minotaur killed the entire milita with the pig-tail fiber trousers. It killed most of my Marksdwarfs with the pants. The last dwarf marksman was my milita captain with a steel crossbow. She lucked out and knocked the minotaur unconscious and then starting beating it in the head with the butt of her crossbow as it would wake up, crawl a few feet then get knocked out again. It took her 3 full days solid of skull crushing to kill it.

    10/10 would lose entire military to pants death again.

  9. Maduo says:

    One fortress, all of my dwarves became obsessed with a deity named Ereg, god of mountains and wealth. Carvings of Ereg, statues of Ereg, a legendary warhammer made of the bones of their enemies, covered in etchings of dwarves bowing down to Ereg. Over half the fortress had him as their preferred deity.

    Ereg most often took the form of a giant male hoary marmot. Wikipedia says they’re sometimes called ‘whistle pigs.’ My fortress had devoted themselves to an overgrown whistling gopher. It was my most successful fortress to date.

  10. ArchRylen says:

    I recently got back into it. I picked a nice spot near a necromancers tower since I hadn’t really played since they were added in. Got off to a decent start though didn’t push on getting the military outfitted as much as a I should. A few years in zombies came. I set an ambush. A few entered my tunnel and I tried to overwhelm them. A lasher crippled several of the defenders before going down. The ratio of casualties to destroyed zombies was too high and the army was destroyed. The undead stalked the fortress, tracking down and killing every dwarf.

    I liked the place so I tried to reclaim it. On arrival, I set several dwarfs to tidying the place up. A miner began to dig the catacombs. A mason hewed coffins. Nearly two years later I had almost all 60 of the original fortress buried. All the workers were horribly stressed. The leader had frequent meetings, standing in the middle of the corpses awaiting burial. I pictured her using them to illustrate the importance of their work.

    Then, the zombies returned.

  11. Aquifel says:

    I know its more of an ‘art piece’ but, I will cry tears of joy when the day comes that Toady says, ‘Hey, maybe i should spend a month or two making the UI just slightly user friendly’. I mean, there’s an actual emerging genre of games that is effectively ‘trying to be Dwarf Fortress but, with a functional UI’.

    • snagglepuss says:

      I know this is the kind of response that annoys everyone, but I think the UI adds charm. Dwarf Fortress is a hobby. One of the most vast simulators ever, like a digital ant farm. And although, as you say, there are many games trying to iterate on dwarf fortress’s formula but with a better UI, I think the fact that none of them even came close to succeeding says something about that kind of approach.

      I think its cool that Toady is so passionate about the game and works on what interests him, I mean DF is a free game that is completely functional, its just a bit obtuse.

      But yeah I can totally understand the UI putting people off haha.

  12. Dread Quixadhal says:

    I may need to give this another try, but I’ll have to find one of those all-in-one installations with different fonts and whatnot.

    While I love ANSI style roguelike games, the last time I tried to play this one, there were just too many symbols that were too similar for my bad eyesight.

    • Sound says:

      Get the LazyNewbPack, and install one of the graphics overlays. I use Phoebe(i think it’s called), and it enhances gameplay and the learning process EXTENSIVELY.

  13. Sin Vega says:

    I did have a fort that saw regular invasions of troglodytes from below, which were mostly taken care of with an automated system of stairs and ineffectual blunt weapon traps over a narrow ridge that did minimal damage, but knocked them back into a deep ravine lined with stakes. Periodically I’d notice another collection of horribly mangled troglodytes who’d made it back up the stairs, alternating between vomiting, passing out, and being hit back into the ravine by another trap.

    The fort was eventually lost, as a tantrum spiral prevented the resetting of the defences around the surface entrance (Shinshatter Shaft, a gigantic pit made from a former mine, now the site of a revolting fetid soupy mess made of the trap’s victims plus the gory run-off from a drowning trap at the other entrance. And occasionally, a ‘lucky’ goblin who survived the fall and was doomed to tread water until it passed out and drowned), and the few fighters who weren’t sulking did the typical broken DF military thing (in this instance, charging out without bothering with armour or weapons despite bloody hours of pissing about with their settings) and were summarily slaughtered by goblins.

    Eventually the goblins got bored and left, leaving the only two survivors: a child crawling around the gore-strewn prison, and, lurking at the bottom of a mineshaft flooded with irrigation runoff, a vampire chained to the floor, with nothing to do but wait for rust to free him.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Gah. Thought I’d put this in: the only decorations that related anything other than dwarves arriving, making artifacts, or being appointed, removed, and then reappointed to positions, were by one guy who was OBSESSED with this vampire. Granted, that might have been because I ascertained who the vampire was by locking 15 newcomers in a room with him until all the useless ones were dead, leaving only the vampire, the engraver, and 9 others, but still. After your 12th bedroom of “this artwork relates to the draining of blood from Fikod Othkamer by blah blah blah in the fortress of I forget in etc, etc”, you’d think it’d get old. Or someone would ask him to stop decorating bedrooms with scenes of vampires draining blood from a dude in a corpse-filled bedroom of wailing peasants.

  14. Logodaedalus says:

    My understanding is you can modify the in-game UI via DFHack, as soon as people want to roll up their sleeves and do some Lua scripting. Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like (although somewhat crufty) all the tools are already present for the community to start a DFHack module to overhaul the interface, as indeed some modules already do in part: DFHack GUI tools.