Rumour mill: Dwarf Fortress on locating artifacts

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing in a delightfully detailed simulation – that’s the Dwarf Fortress [official site] way. As developers Bay 12 continue to work on artifacts (as the first step on a long road towards creation myths), they’ve detailed a little more of their plans for how characters will remember where these legendary items are. It’s simple if they themselves hold it but gets complicated when it reaches the level of rumour and begins to fade with time. While Adam will tell you Dwarf Fortress is one of the best strategy games to play, I’m still delighted simply reading about its systems.

Bay 12 wrote a bit on Saturday about how the location of artifacts will be remembered as they move around the world, stolen and recovered and all that.

“There are six levels of knowing the location of a held artifact as it stands: having it yourself, seeing somebody else holding it at a location with your own eyes, hearing from somebody that somebody was holding it at a location recently, hearing from somebody that somebody has it (but not where), generally knowing in some legendsy fashion that it is said to be held by somebody, and not having any idea. The knowledge fades over a course of weeks and years while maintaining longer-term reputation effects, and it also has to constantly work in any new information and so forth according to their time stamps (at the individual, site gov, site culture and civ levels).”

And because this is Dwarf Fortress, it’s not nearly that simple. As the devs explained last month on their dev blog:

“The game needs to understand what’s going on when you, say, bring an artifact into view, place it on a pedestal, pick it back up, and then hand it to somebody. If there are people around, they’ll create witness reports (which later turn into rumors) for each of those, but the final artifact location is the most important, so I have to make sure the right old reports get cancelled and so forth, even if some of the events last longer or are missed by certain people and not others, and so on. For instance, if one of the witnesses only sees the part in that sequence where you pick the artifact up, they might think you are stealing it, which is sort of reasonable, but not if you just brought it back yourself moments earlier — they could afford to be a bit more circumspect, maybe just say something and you can be like, “nah, it’s cool, I just brought this back and want to give it to somebody”.”

Absurd. What a game! It’s one my favourite anecdote generators along with EVE, which is impressive considering it takes thousands of players to generate EVE’s stories.


  1. DeadCanDance says:

    When I was playing it knowing how to do it, I remember thinking that if this was the only game I had, I could live happily forever.

    Then zombie chickens appeared, and I was sure.

    • Shinard says:

      It was the were-badger that did it for me. I can’t not like a game that asks me to fight a were-badger. It’s physically impossible.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Dwarf Fortress is largely the reason I’ve stopped caring about AAA releases.

    I’ve had much more time in DF, a free game, than I have ever had in any AAA title for years.

  3. neofit says:

    It’s a shame that they don’t consider that a proper interface isn’t “worth doing”.

    • GDwarf says:

      Given that the game still isn’t feature complete, spending time and resources on UI would be premature. The last thing you want to do is spend a year making an incredibly useful UI, only to then add a new feature that renders half of it useless. That sort of thing happens way more often than you’d think, too.

      Plus, there are fan-made tilesets which make it significantly easier to visually parse what’s going on.

      DF is too complex for me to really get into without better tutorials and UI, but it makes perfect sense for those things to be made last, not first.

      • klops says:

        The game is not feature complete in the next couple decades. I’d like a better UI before that.

        The whole mess of managing your troops, for example, is so tedious and bad that nowadays I enjoy stories of DF made by other people, but don’t want to fight with the clumsy interface any longer. And this is from a person that pretty much remembers the key commands of the game, I’m quite familiar with the UI.

      • Moonracer says:

        I’ve played enough DF to know that the majority of the controls could easily be narrowed down to a few keys that do the same thing universally. It doesn’t seem unrealistic to imagine if the UI was streamlined that future features could be designed to fit within that control scheme.

        Personally, it means the difference between being able to play the game and knowing I probably never will again Considering the game will never be “finished”. So I am admittedly biased.

      • ersetzen says:

        I mean, it doesn’t even have to be the perfect ui. Consistency and mnemonic keyboard bindings would be enough.

        External tools make it a lot more manageable, though. Which also doesn’t speak greatly about the ui but doesn’t harm the game.

        Plus it is super boring to work on so I totally get why the focus lies on content. More fun to develop and for active players alike.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It’s a shame that you couldn’t find something more interesting to complain about rather than the same boring ‘the interface sucks’ commentary that we’ve all heard a hundred times already.

      • AngoraFish says:

        And yet, the interface still sucks…

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          Silva says:

          Yes, but that’s like saying “A lot of people live in China.”

          Unless we’re completely new to the topic about people living in China, it isn’t at all interesting nor does it encourage discussion.

          The same goes for saying “The Dwarf Fortress UI isn’t very good”. All it engenders is “Yes, the UI could be better” followed by *crickets*. People are free to declare their opinions on the UI not being up to snuff but that doesn’t make those comments intriguing or revelatory.

          Why tread the same ground again when we could be talking about more interesting things about Dwarf Fortress? Like how it’s on the cusp of being a fantasy tavern simulator that I’ve always dreamed of playing.

          It’s like Recettear but with drunk patrons, gambling, and the occasional outlander murder.

          • Limblessk9 says:

            The simple fact of the matter is that the UI is a large reason why many people, including myself, don’t play the game. The game sounds like great fun but I can never get into it because I have a full time job and a child. My leisure time is small and I refuse to sit down and spend hours to learn a game. That’s my own fault. However, a game’s shortcomings are always worth talking about if they are preventing new players from joining the fray.

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            Silva says:

            I agree wholeheartedly that a game’s shortcomings or other criticisms are always worth talking about.

            But that’s not really what’s happening. It’s simply “The UI is bad.” Which is such a general opinion that is so widely shared that it’s sort of a non-starter.

            “The UI is bad” leaves almost no room for conversation to happen. At best, it’s simply looking for validation or agreement. It certainly seems less the start of a conversation and more of a reflexive need someone has to say their piece, to plant a flag that declares their opinion, then leave.

  4. Kemuel says:

    I hope there’s room for conflicting information to exist. It would be amazing to travel the world hearing different rumours of an artifact’s location and trying to work out which are the latest and which are cold trails.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      It sounds like it will be possible. In the example described in the article, one person could see you placing the artifact on the pedestal, and if they leave before you pick it up, they’ll think it’s still there. However, if another witness sees you take it (but arrived after you placed it) they may think you stole it. In this scenario, you’d end up with two conflicting versions of events – either one of which could become more widely believed than the other, depending on how social the witnesses are.

  5. Merus says:

    My favourite ever bug was the bug in Dwarf Fortress where the cats would get drunk.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Dwarf Fortress is so detailed that it records what’s spilled on the floor, and what cats consume when they lick themselves and make hairballs. However, the cats were unexpectedly getting drunk. It turns out this is because:

    * Cats were consuming alcohol
    * Cats lick themselves, consuming stuff on their body, and cats had alcohol on their body
    * Cats were getting alcohol on their body because their fur was picking up alcohol
    * Alcohol was getting onto the cats because they were walking through alcohol-stained areas
    * Dwarven taverns have alcohol stains all over the floor because dwarves keep quaffing

    Dwarf Fortress, man.

  6. Steravel says:

    * Dwarven taverns have alcohol stains all over the floor because dwarves keep quaffing

    My DF tavern floors are mostly covered in blood and vomit. I’ve had to outlaw actual alcohol in my taverns because it typically leads to tragedy less than 24 hours after completing one. Dwarves have a habit of brutally murdering fortress visitors over the slightest provocation in tavern-wide fistfights.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Where is the vomit coming from then?

      • thvaz says:

        Sun sickness. Dwarves get it if they spend too much time underground.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          Which inevitably leads to the exterior of your fortress becoming absolutely covered in vomit every time a caravan arrives. I pretty much always have big honking puke trails connecting the entrance of my fortress with the trade depot.

      • Steravel says:

        Vomit in the tavern is most often a result of dwarves drinking themselves silly, or barfights which result in a lot of spleen-punching, which results in a lot of vomiting.

        But yes, sun-sickness vomit is a problem in any hybrid fortress where you force dwarves to live both above and below ground. Some dwarves are not going to take to it, and will respond by coating your entire fortress in a thin sheen of vomit.