Dwarf Fortress and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interface

Dwarf Fortress [official site] is probably the best game of all time. In Dwarf Fortress, there are sloth bears. In Dwarf Fortress, there are sloth bear men. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can strangle a sloth bear man with its own intestines. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can carve an image of herself strangling a sloth bear man with its own intestines into a bed. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can declare that her bed is named Gorrotheodos, which means “The Disemboweled Amazement.”

Dwarf Fortress also has the worst user interface of all time. How bad could the UI really be, you ask? Well grab a chair, because you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Let’s take an extremely detailed look at how to change the settings of a stockpile.

Stockpiles are where your dwarves sort things so that they’re not scattered throughout the fortress. Once you’ve made a stockpile, you’ll want to specify what you’d like for that stockpile to contain. Changing the settings of a stockpile is something that you will do all the time in Dwarf Fortress. Let’s walk through the keyboard commands for this fun process!

Here I am with this stockpile right here. I would like to change its settings so that it only accepts wooden finished goods. This will be convenient because I’ll be making beds and doors and what have you at the Carpentry Workshop across the hall. First I select the stockpile and press ‘s’ to change settings. So far so good!

Now I want to turn off everything except for finished goods, which I see in the middle of that left column. My cursor is right there at the top on ‘Animals’. Let’s turn everything off and then turn Finished Goods back on. That sounds to me like ‘b’ for block all.

Nope! That didn’t block the stuff on the left. It turned off the animals on the right. No Bluejay men allowed. ‘Block All’ refers to blocking the things IN the highlighted category, not blocking the categories themselves. Got it. There’s no way to turn off all the categories. I’ll do it one-by-one. Let’s try toggling them off. It says ‘Toggle’ right there at the bottom of the screen, right? That’s how lots of the other menus work. NOPE. Pressing ‘Enter’ does nothing.

All right, it looks like what I really want to do is disable them with the ‘d’ key. Bingo. Animals disabled. Now I need to scroll down the list.

Of course, the time-tested scrolling numbers, 829346! Do you have a keyboard without a numpad? Have fun with that. Fortunately, I have a numpad. Here’s a picture of a numpad for reference:

The 8462 keys work as arrows. The 9 and 3 keys go to the top or bottom of the list. My numpad says ‘PgUp’ and ‘PgDn’ on those, so I guess that makes sense. What order are these keys listed in again?

Oooookay. Sure. Back to the task at hand. I’ve now turned off everything except for ‘Finished Goods’, so I need merely refine this to ‘Wooden Finished Goods’.

I don’t see ‘Wood’ in that second list, so I guess it’s under ‘Other Materials’? Or ‘Type’? What the hell is the difference between ‘Core Quality’ and ‘Total Quality’? But I won’t worry about that right now. I check the ‘Type’ submenu and that isn’t right, so I’m dealing with ‘Other Materials’. Time to turn off everything that isn’t an ‘Other Material’. But wait, I know this one. I’ve already learned that this is when I can press ‘b’ for ‘Block All’.

It worked! Now I notice my two new hotkeys: ‘p’ for Permit, and ‘f’ for Forbid. I’ll press ‘p’.

I’m on a roll. I’m so close I can taste it. My cursor is right there. Now how do I pick Wood? I don’t Enable it. I don’t Allow it. I don’t Permit it. And I don’t see a fourth row of hotkeys.

This is where I was literally stuck for three minutes. This is where I decided to write this stupid article. The answer is Toggle it. That’s right! We’re back to ‘Enter: Toggle,’ which has been right there for this whole time, waiting for us to get to the third list, which is the only list that you can toggle.

Why, Dwarf Fortress? Why can’t I just toggle everything using Enter? WHY DO YOU NEED FOUR DIFFERENT BUTTONS FOR FOUR DIFFERENT CONTEXTS IN WHICH TO TOGGLE?

And there you have it, my friends; I’ve done it. I now have a stockpile that will only accept Wooden Finished Goods.

But there’s something else that drives me crazy about this stupid menu. There are 3 word colors in 3 different columns. Let’s map out what they mean in each context.

Wait a second. What’s that white ‘Additional Options’ tag over on the left?

What? Why is this here? Is this not covered by the many, many other options? And why does it say ‘Allow’ in front of the options, which isn’t the case for any of the other choices in this very menu? Are wooden finished goods plants?

You know what? I don’t care. Put Animal Wooden Finished Goods in the stockpile. Sure.

The User Interface in Dwarf Fortress is flaming pile of garbage.

But when my dwarf wakes up after a long nap in Gorrotheodos, “The Disemboweled Amazement,” which depicts the time that she strangled a sloth bear man with its own intestines, I’ll remember that Dwarf Fortress is probably still the best game of all time.

From this site

116 Comments

  1. Viral Frog says:

    The UI is the only thing keeping me from trying to get into Dwarf Fortress. Much like Cataclysm DDA that was featured on here a few weeks ago. I would love to try both games, but I’d also rather put my hand into a running blender than spend that much time learning a UI.

    • LexW1 says:

      How long, exactly, do you think it takes to learn how to play DF?

      Because the way a lot of people talk and hype, it sounds like you’d be talking 8 to 80 hours.

      In fact if you’ve ever used a keyboard before, it takes about 2. That’s not “to learn the UI”. That’s to learn how to play the game enough to say “I can play Dwarf Fortress”. I mean, it’s actually shorter than the tedious tutorials of half the AAA games out there. Just a video or have a friend teach you to play. It is pretty trivial. I’m not exactly some sort of genius, and I managed it, so you can too.

      The one good thing about this article is that it is showing you the absolutely worst, least-friendly, most difficult, most annoying interface in the entire game. By a significant margin.

      The article is also misleading, rather unfairly misleading, because the number keys are not the only scroll keys – you can use the arrow keys and so on. I’ve literally never used the number keys to scroll.

      • Canadave says:

        You’re right, it is possible to learn the UI moderately well in a couple of hours, there are plenty of guides that help you through it. But if you’re like me and tend to play a game like this for a while, and then leave it alone for a while and then come back to it months later, it’s inevitably all-but-forgotten, and you have to tediously work out how to do everything again. It’s awful and puts me off playing, especially now that relatively accessible alternatives like Rimworld exist.

        • LexW1 says:

          I actually really disagree.

          I played DF years ago, and thought I’d forgotten everything. Then I came back last year, and I actually remembered most of it – maybe not the specific keys but the things you need to do, and then you just follow the on-screen keys until you’re used to it again.

          YMMV etc.!

        • alh_p says:

          On the one hand, I find DF’s interface like riding a bicycle: I’ve developed such muscle memory that even after a year or two off, it doesn’t take long to get back to proficiency.

          On the other hand, that muscle memory has been built up by application and a fair amount of head scratching… All the same, its probably only a slightly higher order of training than is required than for FPS play (have [i]that[/i], master race!).

          Also, this article is a bit over the top. You do NOT need to specify stockpiles to this level of detail. I am not a super duper DF player but I’ve rarely, if ever, bothered to specify a stockpile’s material or quality. There’s basically only a few times it’s important or where you can’t otherwise filter for quality when something will be used or built/placed. You can also ONLY build beds out of wood, so if this is for beds and furniture, this level of stockpile definition is a bit OCD. I find it much easier to simply have oodles of stockpiles, placed strategically.

          Playing DF can sometimes feel like a balance between fun and a job. You have to choose how deep into it you want to go and balance your fun with the presumed efficiency gains… In pursuit of fun (not necessarily FUN), I am also not averse to cheating with the dwarves speed of movement – so efficiency of hauling labour becomes a bit moot.

      • Kent Sutherland says:

        I would contend that the least friendly interface is actually the military / squad management system. I’ve logged 200+ hours of playtime and I still don’t understand it.

        P.S. I love Dwarf Fortress to death.

        • Jaws4096 says:

          Same here (re: the love of the game and the hatred of squad management)

        • kalzekdor says:

          No, the Military interface is pretty good (as far as DF standards go). It’s pretty easy to navigate, especially when compared to things like Stockpiles or Cart Routes.

          The difference is that, for example, the Stockpile system is pretty intuitive. “I want this pile to hold these types of goods.” For the most part, you know how the system works, you just need to figure out how the interface controls the system, and that’s not clear at all. Took me forever to figure out what “Reserved Barrels” meant. For the longest time, I thought that meant that I was telling my dwarves to keep X Bins or Barrels at that stockpile, even if they were empty. Nope. For some reason, that’s a global setting, (in the stockpile menu "p", not the orders menu "o"), that tells my dwarves to leave X Bins/Barrels free, and not use them for stockpiling. I mean, it’s a useful option (for barrels, at least, not sure what you can use bins for other than stockpiling), but it’s not at all clear what the option does from the interface.

          Conversely, the Military interface is pretty straightforward, it’s the Military/Squad system that’s an unintuitive mess. Problems with Stockpiles are just interface driven. The Military system is going to need more than just a UI overhaul to make it intuitive.

          • Kent Sutherland says:

            Yeah, that’s fair. It may be more of a systems issue. The biggest problem for me with the military *interface* is the what’s where of the thing. Making your civs stay inside is in the (m)ilitary (a)lerts screen… after you’ve set up a burrow (w). From there I think that you have to use tab and enter to toggle and make sure that the [CIV] text is in a place where the appropriate burrow has an A next to it for active. There’s a different button that you push to choose if you’re editing the left or the right column, I think? Even when you get past the systems-level “how could anyone possibly know how to do this without one of those 2 page explanations online”, the byzantine interface that you use to execute the commands is totally baffling. I can never tell where my cursor is.

            From the wiki:
            “To enter the “define burrow” mode, press w.
            You’ll be presented with a list of all of your existing burrows. Change which burrow is selected with your secondary selection keys.

            To add a new burrow to the list, press a. The new burrow created this way starts with no tiles and a default name.
            To configure an existing burrow, select it with +,-,*, & /.
            Press enter to set the burrow’s name (n), change the symbol used, and define what tiles it encompasses.”

            But I think that the most hilarious interface for me is the one you use to set up a note that tells you what your lever does. Picking the color and symbol and all that has me laughing every time I try to do it.

        • LexW1 says:

          I feel like the interface is actually okay there, but the concepts you’re manipulating are terrible instead. Whereas with stockpiles the interface is amazingly horrible and easy to screw up even after dozens of hours of play and having dozens of working stockpiles.

        • GentleRealSailor says:

          As far as I remember you can use mouse in military screen. Just a hint.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        “The article is also misleading, rather unfairly misleading, because the number keys are not the only scroll keys – you can use the arrow keys and so on. I’ve literally never used the number keys to scroll.”

        The arrow keys aren’t listed, on screen, whereas the numbers are.

        • LexW1 says:

          Indeed, because they’re used on virtually every screen.

          But it is actively misleading to go on a whole rant, with multiple screenshots, a funny picture of a keypad and so on, and not acknowledge that, because most people here haven’t played DF and will thus think he’s being truthful, which he isn’t.

          • Someoldguy says:

            If the interface doesn’t tell you that you can use certain keys, why would a beginner start using them? Just to see if it’ll work right or mess it all up? As if there aren’t enough ways to mess up already.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            That they are used on many screens, yet not listed is a fault with the interface.

      • robotslave says:

        this article is that it is showing you the absolutely worst […] The article is also misleading, rather unfairly misleading, because the number keys are not the only scroll keys – you can use the arrow keys and so on.

        Oh hey, you’re right– the article totally didn’t get into how some menus arbitrarily use the plus and minus keys to scroll, instead of the arrows/numpad, and oh god are you kidding the stockpiles are not the worst part of the UI have you even tried to make a soldier dwarf, have you forgotten what it felt like to spend five minutes in the trade menus and then lose all of your selections because you pressed esc an extra time instead of t where you should have and oh christ does it really do that am I being evaluated by evil scientists or something

        • Sin Vega says:

          It also doesn’t go into how many functions, for example assigning jobs to dwarves, a regular task, requires literally hundreds of key presses.

          Oh, but there are third party programmes that let you do it more easily? Well gosh, that’s okay then. Remember, if your work is so bad that someone else has to throw it away and redo it from scratch, your work isn’t bad!

          • LexW1 says:

            This is the literally that is virtually, eh? Assigning a single dwarf’s jobs certainly doesn’t take hundreds of key presses. Nor seven dwarfs. Nor twenty. You have to be talking dozens of dwarfs for that many key presses to be needed and they’re usually trivial ones.

            The UI is fiddly, but it’s overhyped to an extreme degree. I used to believe the hype before I actually played it and found out it was largely bollocks.

          • Sin Vega says:

            This is the literally that is virtually, eh?

            No, it is the literally that is literally. As you yourself immediately went on to agree:

            You have to be talking dozens of dwarfs for that many key presses to be needed and they’re usually trivial ones.

            Managing dozens of dwarves is inevitable in almost any fortress that survives more than a year or two. You pretty much have to be deliberately murdering 90% of your population to get anything less.

          • robotslave says:

            This is the literally that is virtually, eh?

            No, this is the literally that is literally, assuming you have a few dozen dwarfs in your fort and you haven’t memorized all of their names and current labor assignments and need to find the right dwarf before making the assignment (and heaven help you if you’re being thorough about it, and carefully double-checking moods, preferences, injuries, etc).

            And.

            Even if you do know exactly which dwarf should be reassigned, because you are super 1337 DF master unlike all the whiny n00bs you’re arguing with in this thread, then you will still need an average of 12 + (d/4) keypresses to assign labor to ONE dwarf, where d is the number of dwarves in your fort (scrolling keypresses included. And since you’re so 1337, we assume you know which submenus all the labors are on).

            So by the time you’ve got yourself a medium-sized fort up and running, you’ll be using over 100 keystrokes to assign labor to three of your totally-memorized dwarfs.

            So maybe you haven’t been counting. Or maybe you’re cheating and using a third-party UI like Dwarf Foreman, just like all the scrubs you’re sneering at.

          • Chicago Ted says:

            Well, of course it’s going to require hundreds of keypresses if you have an unspecified large number of dwarves. That’s like complaining that you need hundreds of mouse clicks to kill enemies.

          • Premium User Badge

            modzero says:

            TBH I feel like this is where the problem is systematic: between the scope and the willingness to remain free, this is very much a game that would work as open source with a BDFL management model. I can see why ToadyOne wouldn’t want that (I don’t like letting others poke at my code either, and management is hell), but for the game itself, delegating parts of it would be enormously beneficial.

            Especially as it’s not just a time thing. The UI isn’t always bad due to being undeveloped, certain things (say, the screen layout!) are actually quite creative, just not really fit for human consumption. A bit like Pu-238 ice cream.

        • LexW1 says:

          They are the worst, because they’re the easiest to make mistakes and hardest to fiddle around with. They’re also the only one it’s easy to keep getting wrong even when you “know” how they work.

          Soldier dwarves are considerably easier to deal with than the dozens of stockpiles you’ll need. Trade is absolutely fine unless you press totally the wrong button, which is definitely upsetting but not easy to do. Though we’ve all done it.

        • syndrome says:

          edit: for the guy who mentioned Pu-238

          link to tinyurl.com

      • Universal Quitter says:

        ToadyOne, is that you?

      • Yglorba says:

        The one good thing about this article is that it is showing you the absolutely worst, least-friendly, most difficult, most annoying interface in the entire game. By a significant margin.

        I don’t agree. The militia interface is way worse. And while the VPL interface (the three keystrokes you use to adjust a dwarf’s assigned labors) is strictly speaking not as complicated, it’s worse in that you have to use it far more often – you can mostly ignore custom stockpiles if you don’t care about optimizing your production or whatever, and you can actually ignore most of the militia interface (especially with the new “visitors” mechanic, which ensures an active tavern will attract a constant stream of decent fighters for you), but you have to use VPL constantly and it’s a really awkward way of accomplishing what it does. The fact that there’s still no easy “find all the dwarves in the fortress sorted by [skill]” option without resorting to external tools is deeply frustrating.

        Also there are like three or four different ways to designate the concept of an abstract location, which are used for different things (and sometimes can or can’t overlap depending on the type.)

      • Premium User Badge

        Dios says:

        First, you are confusing tutorials with a learning curve. I don’t think i’ve ever seen a tutorial longer than 10-15 minutes. Second, you know what the primary job of a UI is? It’s not primarily to facilitate learning it quickly. It’s to make using the software comfortable/non-frustrating. Even if you could learn the UI in 2 seconds, it would still fail spectaculary at this second, much more important objective.

      • noodlecake says:

        It definitely took me more than 2 hours to learn. A lot more. And then after playing for at least 14 hours my fortress succumbed to a goblin raid which could have easily been prevented had somebody pulled the lever to close my drawbridge/gate thing. I have no idea why they wouldn’t. I put whatever category pulling levers is as everybody’s number one priority for work and nobody would do it.

        I was actually having a lot of fun up until that point but I haven’t played the game since because it was an annoying way to lose.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      Thus you really dig straight down to the important question, Viral Frog – Would it take longer for you to learn the DF UI, or recover from putting your hand in a running blender?

      It’s clearly a binary choice. There are no other alternatives. Except maybe learning the UI while you recover. At least as long as you didn’t use your dominant hand.

    • TheKnightMadder says:

      Honestly i’d say give Cataclysm a go. I’m one of the people who would love to play DF, but bounced right off the UI. But i found Cataclysm to be surprisingly easy.

      It *looks* like it has Dwarf Fortress levels of complexity in its UI. But it’s nowhere near. I’d say the only time the UI is genuinely confusing is when you first start the game and must navigate the settings ( the greater/lesser symbols get used), other than that its pretty simplistic. I’d say you only use about six buttons regularly.

      The inventory screen usually assigns a random button to each item (so you’ll have a list like: Milk – T, Gun – C, Radioactive Coffee Maker – *) but its always listed next to it, so its easy, and you can scroll through it using the arrow buttons anyway. Its merely convenience.

      You occasionally run into a situation where you need to look something up, but the controls page is on the Wiki and very simple. The learning curve for me was handled over a single afternoon.

      That said. Maybe i’d recommend watching someone play through it first. I got introduced to the game watching Rycon Roleplays on Youtube, who does a very good lets play that explained how to set up a world and character and how to survive without feeling like a long, boring tutorial.

    • Rainshine says:

      Now you’re going to make me try it again. I’ve bounced off DF twice that I recall, being unable to come to grips with all the menus and keys and lack of anything that made sense. But now I do play Cataclysm from source, so maybe I’ll do better this time.

    • Ent says:

      Personally I think Cataclysm is much easier than DF… it doesn’t have those nested menus, and the help texts are relatively clear.

  2. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    I highly recommend this guide, found on the Dwarf Fortress subreddit. It’s excellent:

    link to df-walkthrough.readthedocs.io

    • Catterbatter says:

      I wish more DF tutorials would use the default tileset. I can never figure out what’s going on in the graphical ones. PE gets a pass because he made the starter pack, but it’s still a pet peeve.

      • Roest says:

        For me it’s the other way around. Whenever I see a DF pic or gif with jist ascii characters I can never figure out what I’m supposed to see. I’m forever spoiled by tilesets.

        • MajorLag says:

          Which is why I personally never used tilesets. Ok, that’s not true, I used a tileset that made all the ASCII characters square so my square rooms would look fucking square. Also, I played a lot of Nethack, so reading the matrix wasn’t that difficult for me.

          Of course, I have a bit of the opposite problem of tileset users. Because they’re icons, I can kinda understand what’s going on in their screencaps, but I am often at a loss to tell precisely what category of animal it is that’s wrecking their fort.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    It helps to think of it as a work in progress.

    Personally, I think the aspect that is slightly over the edge of playability is what happens when you want to assess your dwarves.

    Which dwarf of your handful of immigrants is the right one for the job? Which ones are new immigrants at all? Which dwarves, if any, are in a mental state that is about to spark a massive tantrum spiral? Is anyone in need of immediate intervention, and how?

    Dwarf Fortress cannot tell you this without a lot of work. There’s a mod called, “Dwarf Therapist” that attempts to bridge the gap somewhat.

    • Kent Sutherland says:

      It’s definitely a work in progress. UI improvement, however, isn’t even in their development plan.

      link to bay12games.com

      Dwarf Therapist or a similar tool is mandatory for me. Recently I’ve been messing around with the DFHack plugin autolabor, which just does labor assignments for you. It feels a bit like cheating, but it’s giving me the brain space to focus on making an A+ lava moat.

      Here’s a feature that IS in the development plan, by the way:
      – Skilled dwarves should form guilds
      – Removal of guild dwarves from their professions should result in trouble between the guild and the currently appointed manager/leader

      • Sin Vega says:

        Sadly, given the choice between “make your game’s UI remotely fit for humans” and “add a feature wherein each of your dwarves has individually-named gametes with hopes, dreams, and a favourite flavoured beverage (also 7 or 8 bugs that will linger for the next 2 to 20 years)”, they only ever go one way.

        • shinkshank says:

          To be entirely fair, though, I don’t know if the game would be where it is right now if they bothered with usability. While, like I’ve said, it’s hard to really defend it on anything other than a raw utility level, I think that the inadequacies are still a small price to pay for what the game offers. It’s not crowned as one of the pinnacles of video game design for it’s UI work, I tell ya what.

          • robotslave says:

            To be entirely fair, though, I don’t know if the game would be where it is right now if they bothered with usability.

            Counterpoint: I don’t know if the game would be where it is right now if third parties hadn’t bothered with usability. And gone to extraordinary lengths to do so, too; memory hacks on a closed-source game with no API or modding support aren’t exactly easy sailing.

            The player community for this game matters. A lot. And that community would be but a fraction of what it is today without thousands of hours of volunteer UI programming.

          • Baines says:

            I understand the argument that user interface should be a low priority for an extremely complex program that can see major changes over years of development.

            The counter argument is that if more thought had been put into the UI design from the beginning and all throughout development, then it wouldn’t even have eaten that much development time, and certainly wouldn’t be a (now) monumental task to “fix”.

  4. Pogs says:

    It’s clearly some kind of test. Probably devised by aliens.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ross Turner says:

    Hopefully relevant enough for some shameless self-promotion – I’m developing a game which really is a “dwarf-fortress-like but with nice graphics and a UI”, King under the Mountain! We’ll be at both the PC Gamer Weekender and EGX Rezzed (more of the team with me at Rezzed) with the first playable prototype! Hope to meet some fellow RPSers there!

    http://kingunderthemounta.in

    • LexW1 says:

      This looks very cool, but like every single intentional DF-like I’ve ever seen, it focuses on what makes DF’s gameplay work, not what makes DF utterly amazing, at least judging from your video and description, which is to say the deep lore generation, complex background and history of the world, legends, art and so on. It also looks like another game with no z-levels, which having played Rimworld, means it’s a definitely not a replacement for DF for me, because no z-levels = zzzzzz in the longer-term.

      Still, it may well be it’s own thing that’s worth playing, like Rimworld is.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ross Turner says:

        Thanks for looking! Yeah it’s not precisely a dwarf fortress replacement (would be foolish to try and recreate the whole thing) but inspired by a bunch of games, the other main one being The Settlers series of games which I’m aiming to capture the feeling of.

  6. uncleezno says:

    Things like this are why I’ve bounced off this game twice. When I was 13 and had all the time in the world, MUDs were where I spent hours and hours typing away. Maybe if I was 13 now, DF would be my thing, but now I’m an adult with a family and things to do. When you’ve only got the odd hour or two a week to game, you just don’t have the time to deal with poorly-designed systems.

  7. shinkshank says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and play devil’s advocate, here : I would actually say that it’s not that bad of a UI, in terms of information display and general appearance.

    I _will_, however, say that it’s possibly the least intuitive UI ever designed. Similarly to AutoCAD or such, it’s an interface made exclusively for people who know how to use it, the opposite extreme of the casual facebook-style game, a UI in which the _only_ input method is hotkeys. But once you actually learn how to use it, after about a week or two of active play, you’ll be zooming through menus like they’re not even there.

    If you’d argue that this isn’t conductive to new people getting onboard, you’d be completely right. But speaking strictly as a masochist and a snob, those people can either read a guide, get a mod, or wait the couple of decades it’ll take for Dwarf Fortress to hit the big 1.0.

    • Premium User Badge

      weather_vanity says:

      This echoes my feelings exactly. There’s a wierd internal logic to most of it. I tried emacs *once* and couldn’t see the point of it but immediately saw the UI design legacy in dwarf fortress.

      Not arguing that legacy design from two decade old UI work is accessible or good though. It was kind of fun to explore.

    • Rizlar says:

      Indeed. Ya know what? It does the damn job.

      Slightly disagree about it being totally unintuitive. In the article they complain about inconsistencies with the white/grey/half faded text. This use of colour is pretty intuitive, you can immediately grasp the concept and a few seconds of play gives you an understanding of how it works. Perhaps this stood out to them because the intuitive aspect suggests that the rest of it should also be immediately, intuitively understandable?

      Think you can copy stockpile settings as well, so you can duplicate them or change small elements easily once you have set one up. The DF interface is very practical like that. Not at all approachable but practical. :P

      (Also if anyone is wondering, the plant/animal options are because these substances decay, which can have a major impact on a fortress. Being able to separate them with a single toggle is handy for keeping raw meat out of your furniture warehouse or whatever.)

  8. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I had to teach myself to play Dwarf Fortress, and it was harder than the tests for my required work qualifications. But the end result is hard-wired muscle memory, and the ability to play this wonderful game, and have it generate wonderful stories for me.
    My personal bugbears are the modern military system (with included, tedious gear management add-on!{seriously, how many layers can a dwarf wear and where?!?}), and the hospital system.
    What you can do with these systems is nothing short of incredible for a game, but grasping the complexities?
    Mind-boggling.
    At least the improved medical system finally made soap makers important.

  9. GameCat says:

    As someone who is annoyed at even picoseconds of unnecessary fiddling with UI, playing Dwarf Fortress seems like punishment.

  10. President Weasel says:

    There was a time, several years ago, when I was competent with the Dwarf Fortress UI. It’s like the inverse of “seeing the Matrix”, where suddenly the hotkeys and the tiles almost vanish and you’re playing the game rather than wrestling with the UI. Been too long though, I’d have to learn it all over again now.

    This is a game that will never have what we would call a “proper” UI” because its mad genius bedroom coder would rather spend time working on a really good towel algorithm or reworking how the game models sandwiches.

    Everyone should play Dwarf Fortress at least once, and I’m not just saying that in a “share our pain!” kind of way.

  11. Mr Bismarck says:

    The Dwarf Fortress UI exists so that people can say “I don’t play Dwarf Fortress because of the UI.”

    Otherwise we’d all be playing it and then nothing would get done. At least nothing that doesn’t involve cats, mermaids and lava.

  12. robotslave says:

    Oooh, now do the military UI!

    I still pick up the game once every couple of years and have a good few hours of mountain-hollowing and floor-etching until things progress to the point where traps just don’t cut it anymore, and I build that first weapons rack and oh god oh god this again… Delete folder, go on with life.

    Over the years, I’ve also begun to feel that while DF’s simulation/systems are impressively broad, they are ultimately disappointingly shallow. And development for the past couple-few years seems to just be pushing the game further in that direction, and abandoning (rather than iterating on) failed/broken attempts to provide/provoke extra layers of emergent behavior, more interaction between systems, more evolution or progression of the fortress (prime example here: the Dwarven Economy).

    But to even get to the point where you can start to have that discussion, you first need to ‘get good’ at the world’s worst UI/UX…

  13. muki0 says:

    Every year or two I give this game another go. I’m just yearning for a management sim in a vast fantasy procedurally made land with the crazy amount of lore or strangeness that I keep on hearing about. I want it!

    Then I give up after a couple hours. I’m a very visual person. I have a knack for menus, buttons, mouse cursors, and colors. I’m fine with visual complexity. But unfortunately I’m not a keyboard person, or letter memorization person. I’ve been using computers enthusiastically (even programming) for two decades, and I STILL have to look down at the keyboard half the time while I type. I am not a letter person.

  14. Jaws4096 says:

    My guess is that Tarn hasn’t improved the UI primarily because building a decent UI is tons of work and not a lot of fun. Tarn has shown that he loves working through the interactions of complex systems, and it’s where he spends the bulk of his time today. Until the UI prevents him or the core fanbase from being able to interact with and test those systems, it is unlikely to change much.

    • Aetylus says:

      I think it has to be a bit more willful than that.

      The DF UI is either deliberately or negligently terrible. Given the absolutely amazing simulation behind DF, to have a UI soooo bad, for so long takes effort (or very dedicated lack of effort).

      Nobody expects DF to have an excellent UI, or even a good one. But there isn’t a good reason it is so bad. With the years and years of effort put into this game, it would be pretty simple to fix a few low hanging fruit in the UI.

      A mouse basic mouse control. Get some basic consistency in the menus. Adjust to suit some basic conventions (using arrow keys and ‘enter’ on menus). Such things would be huge improvements, especially for new players, and easily completing by taking a week or two out of the development schedule.

      I’d make an analogy to a racing car. DF is like the car where all the effort has been put into the engine (simulation) and the expense of the interior (UI). Now that is actually fine for a racing car – you’re looking for speed not comfort…. but only to a point. The DF racing car has taken it too far. It’s got the best engine ein human history, but the interior is so stripped back that it doesn’t even have seats. And the experience of sitting on the floor is so bad for all but the most hardened petrol heads that most people can’t appreciate the thrill of the car. The car doesn’t need plush racing seats… but at least take one weekend off tinkering with sparkplugs to pop down to the shops and buy a deck chair for people to sit on. That interior still needs a minimum level of functionality, even if the real joy will always be the engine.

    • varangian says:

      Doing a super slick UI with proper mouse integration would be a lot of work but there’s plenty that could be done to make the existing one better without that much effort. A couple of years back I donated to DF and when Toady emailed to ask what I wanted by way of reward – art or a story as I recall – I replied that he could reward me most by adding simple filter options to lists. So that, for instance, when looking for recruits you can view only dwarves with some level of fighting skill and exclude mother’s with babies, thus avoiding that embarrassing moment when you discover your crack military has gone into combat using their children as a dwarven shield. That kind of thing is trivial, a few lines of code would do the job, but instead the focus is mainly on generating historical poetry readings in worldgen and the like.

    • MajorLag says:

      As a developer I can assure you that this is almost certainly the case. People don’t know how much work goes into a game, and games at least have interesting problems to solve and sometimes you don’t think the result is an unplayable pile of garbage.

      But UI is just a tedious pain in the ass. It’s highly contextual, everyone and their mother has a different idea of what “intuitive” means, which parts get in the way because they’re hardly ever used, vs ones that should be more obvious because they’re used all the time, etc. Making a good UI is hard work, and, to a game developer anyway, it is no fun at all.

      That’s why so many open source and free applications feature no or terrible UI.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Yeah, there’s “intuitive” in some convoluted sense, and then there’s just “use fucking arrow keys for moving between items and enter/space to select items and delete/backspace to deselect/go back like every game ever does”.

        I mean, I have recently been playing Civilization 1 and it is perfectly playable with a keyboard alone. And with zero tutorial, I was able to transition from modern mouse/keyboard style control to pure keyboard control in about 10 minutes. And there’s nothing magical about it, and the fact that it uses a graphical GUI is irrelevant – you can still navigate all necessary information and both understand what is currently happening and what your next keypress is about to do without having to memorise 4532905862 keys.

        To me the tragedy of DF is that with even a crude but functional UI it would be absolutely incredible. But it places such a stupid cognitive load on the player to merely understand what it’s trying to say, that it’s simply not worth it for people who don’t have a huge amount of time on their hands.

  15. Urist McBlind says:

    You poor soul! That Stockpile doesn’t even do what you want it to yet! As pictured it accepts wooden finished goods of no type and of no quality, i.e. nothing. You’d still need to re-enable Type and the Quality settings (core quality is the quality of the actual item, total quality can be ignored until you get around to decorating stuff).
    And then still, doors, beds and basically anything made by a carpenter don’t even go into a finished goods stockpile in the first place! They’re furniture!

    Well, after that this might sound hollow, but i must agree with shinkshank above, once you’ve got it down, most menus actually flow way smoother than in most other games. For me the UI has actually become a reason not to embrace any of the “Dwarf fortress but with good ui” newcomers. It’s just that ingrained in me now.
    Except labor allocation. That’s just unbearable without plugins. Just, no.

    If you’re sorta interested in DF but turned away by the ui, I’d recommend maybe finding someone to coach you. The Community is really open and helpful for this stuff.

    • Kent Sutherland says:

      Oh dear god. That fort was overrun by troglodytes because I improperly sealed off the caverns, so I didn’t even get a chance to see that it wasn’t working! It seemed logical that when the quality settings were turned off it would just accept items of any quality. Because what possible application is there for accepting finished goods…except for all possible qualities of finished goods?

      In my current fort I’m using quantum stockpiling for wood, stone, ammo, etc. plus a bunch of giant stockpiles for everything else. That’s working well for now!

      • Urist McBlind says:

        The stockpile menu functions like a bunch of and/or logic gates, with the toggle being the true/false switch. In general, any item going to the stockpile must be of one of the activated categories on the left, and of a permitted type, and of a permitted material, and of a permitted quality level. If one of these doesn’t match, the item doesn’t go there, therefore if one part is completely disabled, nothing goes there. It’s not so much a design choice as it is just not having made any design choice to cover this contingency.

        Only not every part of this is applicable in some sections, and even when it is, the labels may be different. Yay.

  16. Saiko Kila says:

    After a few years with DF I don’t even have to remember the keyboard shortcuts anymore – everything is in muscle memory. I suppose this is more or less true for every long time player. And when players stop complaining (because either they’ve learned the UI, or lost interest in the game) there is no incentive for Toady to improve it.

    Said that, there is a similar game (to adventurer mode in DF), still in development, named UnReal World. You can even buy it on Steam if you want. That one was first created in 1992 I believe (2 years earlier than the original UFO/X-com), and it shows with the interface, which also people complain about, despite changes. I personally love it, and it took me less to learn than DF’s adventurer mode, even though DF was created way later (2006). So maybe the interface wasn’t really a focus back then, and remains so. Fortunately, DFHack comes to help (searchable lists for example ;)), and there are external utilities, which also give more control overall.

    Also, why in the hell would I want not to use numpad on PC? The game is so demanding, than no really mobile device can cope with it. I upgraded platform a couple of months back specifically for DF.

  17. Sin Vega says:

    Whenever someone correctly says that Dwarf Fortress has a terrible UI, some terminal Stockholm case pops up to defend it. That latter person is wrong. It is obnoxiously, inexcusably, cretinously terrible and a huge lodestone around the game’s neck, even more so than the ever-expanding plethora of bugs.

    • Urist McBlind says:

      You misunderstand – were not saying the UI isn’t terrible, were saying you get used to it. (Hell, in my post I recommended a coach. A fracking coach. For a video game.) Also yes, totally Stockholm syndrome.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Some say that, and it’s sort of true (I maintain that even when you know your way around it, it’s still such a pain – quite literally for some – that it remains an obstacle, and in fact can become more so as time goes on because the irritation and joint fatigue mounts up), but there really are those who insist that it’s not shite. The loons.

        • Urist McBlind says:

          Ouch. My condolences, I’ve not experienced any physical irritation myself. Youth ho, I suppose.

          I believe most of the more defensive responses can be mitigated by pointing out specific problems, since often it is perceived that the criticism comes from someone outside who just “doesn’t get it”.

          So to be a good example, here are what in my opinions are specifically the two worst problems of DF’s UI:
          The first and most obvious problem to newcomers is, of course, the lack of mouse control as an alternative to the hotkeys. The ability to click through menus is such a basic feature of basically every other game out there that it is ludicrous to demand new players immediately use only hotkeys to navigate them, even if it is technically the faster method. Also a whole bunch of the hotkeys aren’t rebindable.

          The other is one touched upon in the article: The menu controls aren’t standardized. Hell, the menus themselves aren’t standardized, some work in wildly different and even opposite ways. This is just awful design and hinders the player in learning the hotkeys, worsening the first problem.

          So no, even though it’s workable, the system definitely is not up to any standard.

    • thvaz says:

      Well, in every post RPS makes about DF you are one of the first to tell how terrible it is.

      • Sin Vega says:

        I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          I really don’t get the ferocity of your hatred for this game.

          It’s like attacking the Mona Lisa for not being large enough, or raging against the Moonlight Sonata for being too difficult to play. Dwarf Fortress isn’t an average video game, and should not be judged simply by the usual standards of ease of access or graphical sophistication. The game is a work of art – a world simulation that spans the gamut from the immensities of geological formation to the intricacies of human (and dorf) biology. No other game even comes close to its sophistication, and those that do certainly aren’t available for free.

          I mean, I rage against Bethesda whenever given half a chance, but they’re a massive, money-grubbing corporation that cuts corners at every opportunity and exploits the ingenuity of their fans for profit. Giving Toady similar treatment just feels petty, considering that he’s essentially giving away a product he could easily charge a good $20 for.

          • ThePuzzler says:

            Alternative metaphor: It’s like going to see the Mona Lisa and finding out that the Louvre are exhibiting it at the bottom of a well and in order to see it you have to peer down the well and shine a light and try to make it out. And then when you complain about the curation, people say, “But it’s a really good painting, why are you fixated on this one little problem?”

          • Sin Vega says:

            Who said I hate it? If anything it’s because even a half-arsed attempt to make the UI fit for humans would make it vastly better, far more so than another layer of meaningless detail about a dwarf’s second cousin’s neighbour’s great great grandmother being really into jogging.

            Games having flaws is one thing. Games having obnoxiously terrible design that critically undermines everything else they do is another, and games that are infamous for it, and whose development is ongoing, and who hae absolutely no excuse at all for it, are another thing again.

            To flip that confusion back to you: I have no idea why anyone isn’t highly critical of the terrible, terrible, inexcusably bad and highly obstructive UI. It’s like going to see a restaurant where the staff repeatedly kick you in the stomach and saying “Oh but this is necessary, it is impossible to make good food without kicking people in the stomach”.

            The “oh but it’s art” argument is too feeble to even bother with, frankly.

          • Reapy says:

            UI will be worked on once the features have all been built. The problem many are having is that he has many years of features left to build, it makes no sense to build a UI for systems that might not exist or could look completely different 10 years from now.

            The problem, and honestly the reason we are always talking about DF, is because many people can’t think long term like this, don’t have the patience to undertake a 20 – 30 year long project.

            UI is on the list, but just at the end, for now the UI is just the fastest way to get new features in and test them out and build on things. The game is still very early on in development, despite it being what we would consider old software.

      • 6isli says:

        He just keeps grinding that axe, doesn’t he.

        • robotslave says:

          He does!

          Maybe he should shut up and pretend the UI is just fine and nothing is wrong with it and it totally doesn’t get in the way of anyone’s enjoyment of the game, which is what really matters after all.

    • lordcooper says:

      The dev enjoys working on features more than UI. The established playerbase (who are the people paying the dev) would for the most part prefer additional features to a reworked UI.

      The UI is shit. Really shit. Still, I’d be mildly annoyed if Toady took the time to work on it while the game is still missing huge planned features. That’s not from elitism or a desire to ‘keep the casuals out’, it’s partly because it’ll have to be redone repeatedly as the game changes, and partly because I want additional features.

      Toady comes out with an interesting new system or fleshes out an existing one, I update my game and toss some cash his way.

      Toady spends months fucking around with UI stuff, I get bored (he probably does too) and play something else instead.

      I’d bet good money that most of the fanbase feel similarly.

    • unimural says:

      Here’s my Stockholm take: Dwarf Fortress does have a horrible UI. It could be tons better, perhaps even easily in some cases. However, it’s not intentionally bad. Mostly the oddities of the interface have some logic to them.

      I am a bit puzzled by the outright hostility the UI seems to generate. People seem to react as if insulted by the UI. As if having a better UI would simply be a matter of deciding to make one and then making one.

      I’m not convinced a game like DF can have a good UI. The game simply is too complex. There is too much to manage to too high a degree. Any interface for DF will require time to master. Given this I am kind of sympathetic to the approach of just completely giving up on the UI for the next decade or so. The UI is functional, even if it is a pain.

      I strongly suspect the game will never be finished, merely abandoned. I would rather see the game progress further along its development plan rather that not.

  18. Spacewalk says:

    Now that we’ve finally determined that Dwarf Fortress has a terrible UI we don’t have to mention that ever again.

    • Selb says:

      No, we need a chorus of people saying they’ve tried it but didn’t understand first. And then a follow up of people who say they would try it if only Toady would make it eaaaaasier for them.

  19. uniCurse says:

    Dwarf Fortress: Weeds out the weak.

    • robotslave says:

      Perhaps… but this article was written by someone who has engaged deeply with the game, not by someone who was weeded out.

  20. allthingslive says:

    Yeah the UI is confusing and arbitrary to someone just introduced to the game, but I’ll argue that with all those weird hotkeys, people like me who know the game can make changes to stockpiles and military settings really quickly and easily. One hand stays on the numpad to move, elevation change, or select, the other hand is for the letter keys.

    Of course, with another UI these things could be even easier for people like me or at least more appealing to new players. But I think to call it the “WORST UI” is an insult to other roguelikes who would happily claim that title. (Or Dominions 4)

  21. Static says:

    Dwarf fortress’s UI is why I bounced off if it. I’ve tried many times to play it, usually enjoying my bit of time with it until I start trying to do complex things. At that point I start to get frustrated trying to remember how to wade through all the menus.

    So now I play Rimworld. Which has it’s own set of issues and is no where near as awesome as dwarf fortress, but I can easily do what I want within the interface…. Maybe someday Tarn will redo the UI and I’ll be back and happily fortressing away.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Also in interface woes: the game is more or less impossible to play for colorblind players.

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        1. I tried both of these options; none of the schemes presented are easily distinguishable (there is no combination of 16 colors you can choose that I will be able to readily distinguish between for colored letters).

        2. Tried tilesets also, but the game is so zoomed-out/tiny that trying to figure out which of the 30 dwarf types a dwarf is is murder on the eyes and frankly Too Much Trouble.

        3. I don’t really like the idea that it is the responsibility of people with disabilities to spend time and effort ‘fixing’ the game so they can play it.

        • unimural says:

          With regards to 2. you could try using larger tilesets or perhaps using the zoom function might work.

          But yes, in general it’s a wonky game that is effectively mechanically unplayable for a lot of folks. It’s unfortunate, but it is also effectively a hobbyist project, so not very likely to improve in that regard.

  23. seatooth says:

    But it’s really not that awful, sure you have to get used to it, but it’s not even close the the worst UI, it’s stable and once you get used to the menu layout, you can do anything.For how much stuff you can do and have to do it’s an awesome interface in my opinion.

  24. Hyena Grin says:

    It’s very common for people to defend DF’s UI by saying “It’s not that bad once you get used to it.”

    I love DF, and conquering its UI is something of a labor of love. I think that people misunderstand what UI design is all about when they suggest that merely because a UI can be mastered, that it is necessarily good UI design.

    Absolutely not the case. Even the worst UIs can be mastered. As a heavy-handed example, someone designed a bicycle whose front wheel turned in the opposite direction to the handle. It was incredibly counter-intuitive to ride, but after practicing for long enough, the creator was able to ride it perfectly. Does that make it good design? No, of course not. Terrible design, it runs counter to everything we intuit about control, and yet it functioned perfectly well once you ‘got used to it.’

    The whole purpose of well-designed user-interface is to make it easier to navigate and interact with the software. By necessity, more work, more confusion, less intuitive interfaces, are bad UI design.

    Tarn doesn’t even claim that DF has good UI, he just relies on the fact that people have been playing it long enough as it is that it’s just a low priority. The people who are going to play despite the bad UI, are already used to it.

    I think he should spend some time fixing it, as I think it would make it more accessible to more players, but ultimately it’s up to him to prioritize.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      Although I’m accustomed to the UI, I’ll say that:
      I don’t think the UI was “designed”. It just evolved. From something which was a necessary nuisance, to something which is as necessary and only a bit less nuisance. Like it was necessary fro all roguelikes or MUDs of past, but hardly their focus.

  25. notenome says:

    Oh my dear child, one day you will wake up and discover the military screen.

    And then you shall know fear.

  26. batraz says:

    It must be because I’m not that tall, but the thing keeping me from playing DF is not the UI (I would say ergonomy, but acronyms do it better), but definitely the disgusting dwarves themselves.. I can’t relate to characters looking like little schlongs and driven by their violent instincts, and can’t really understand how otherwise smart people (they mastered the UI, you know) can.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      You feel what politicians must feel all the time. And yet, they somehow manage force themselves to wisely rule that disgusting mass of people. Out of kindness of their hearts, probably.

      BTW, dwarves in the game are only slightly smaller than average humans, and the range overlaps. What they have in common with players is probably the fondness for drinking and excessive violence. I mean, if someone plays shooters, horrors or strategies, they can’t really complain about violence in other games. So they must like it, even subconsciously.

  27. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    Yes, the UI is just mad.

    My favourite head-scratcher comes from that one time when I realised the staircase placement in my fortress was a huge bottleneck and decided to redo them completely, and it turns out that the simple action of destroying a staircase requires a completely different sequence of button presses depending on which direction the staircase goes and if it’s hewn in rock or built from rock. Sometimes you “dig”, sometimes you “dig down”, sometimes you “remove” (which is in a different submenu, of course).

    There is a fairly rigid logic behind it all, but it’s crazy and wholly unnecessary. It really takes you back to the dark days of the 80s before an unnamed saviour invented context-dependent commands and all was well.

  28. thenagus says:

    For those of your with iPads, I discovered recently there’s an app “Dwarf Fortress Remote” which is like a touchscreen UI you use to control the game running on some networked PC/server. Might just be the novelty of the touchscreen, but it feels way slicker than the native UI (no more scrossling with arrow keys!). Not sure why nobody’s managed to make a similar mouse-driven external UI for PC…

  29. Chicago Ted says:

    [quote]What the hell is the difference between ‘Core Quality’ and ‘Total Quality’?[/quote]
    Core Quality is the quality of the craftsmanship of the item itself, whereas total quality is the highest of the craftsmanship of the item, its components, or its decorations.

  30. tonicer says:

    The UI is what keeps me from enjoying it but when i watch my buddy play it it looks so easy. He never complains about the UI maybe it’s just a noob thing.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    I defy anyone to claim that DF’s UI is the worst when Space Station 13 exists.

    (Even the godawful military interface at least responds when you prod its inputs.)

  32. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    In all honesty, the UI isn’t the main reason I haven’t seriously played DF in over a year. Nope.

    That’s down to how intolerably slow the game gets, and how quickly it gets to that stage now.

    It was exacerbated when Toady changed how migrant waves worked, and you ended up being spammed by waves of the drunken gits for the first few years your fort was running.
    You’d get to 100-200 dwarves a lot quicker than you ever did in previous versions. And then the game would slow down to unplayably slow speeds.

    I know a 64 bit version was released, but last time I tried it, it made barely any difference. Has this situation improved in recent builds?

    Edit: Oo, and I’d definitely play without graphics pack more if the default ASCII font was square instead of oblong. There’s certain information that’s easy to miss with graphics packs installed.

  33. MajorLag says:

    “This will be convenient because I’ll be making beds and doors and what have you at the Carpentry Workshop across the hall”

    Your pattern indicates 2 dimensional thinking.

    Build your wood stockpile directly above your carpentry workshop with a stairway leading down into it. Build your furniture (as another post pointed out, the actual category you wanted) stockpile directly below the carpentry workshop with a stairway leading down into it.

  34. left1000 says:

    I’ve always seen the interface in dwarf fortress as the best possible interface, for a game with 10328108101 options and actions to keep track of.

    Most games that have a better interface (meaning all games) simply have less options or activities or features you can interact with. That’s how they get a clean interface, they remove all the parts of reality dwarf fortress simulates and lets you control, leaving only a few “game” mechanics left.

  35. cardboardcity says:

    DF is one of those games I look at periodically, salute for its excellence, but never play. There are lots of things I respect as being well-made but don’t care to engage with.

  36. Angstsmurf says:

    The UI of Dwarf Fortress is good compared to the UI of RetroArch.

  37. Sc0r says:

    You were doing it wrong I’m afraid.
    If you want to make a wood furniture stockpile, you dont start with a “custom stockpile” but you make a furniture stockpile and customize that one.
    From there just [f]orbid all materials you don’t like.
    What I recommend is to always desable artifactquality, so you could make an extra artifact stockpile where your dwarfs gather. Like in the meeting room/inn for example.
    To scoll up and down you dont need the numpad. Its always either the arrow keys or + and –
    hope that helped :)

    but yes, more intuitive UI would be sweet, but its not even on the roadmap.

  38. frightlever says:

    I still chip in to Toady’s Patreon, but I haven’t played for well over a year, probably nearer to two years.

    Like many others I get the same kick from Rimworld that I did from DF.

    Clearly, they’re very different games and Rimworld lacks most of the complexity of DF, particularly in material and production diversity and the actual history of the game.

    The crazy level of detail that DF has for tracking mental and physical well-being – which is complex but not remotely accurate, BTW – is much simplified but entirely adequate.

    Rimworld now lets you generate entire worlds with multiple settlements, but these don’t change over time, AFAIK.

    There’s no lore generated during world creation and a fairly limited number of factions, animals and resources.

    Rimworld is just three or four years old and is incredibly moddable, and there are already some incredibly detailed mods available, increasing complexity of game mechanics and adding things like religion and cults. Obvs, DF is also incredibly moddable.

    Since they went on Patreon DF is having a good time financially (not exactly stellar, but something approaching a lower middle class wage for the pair of them) but I hope they’re banking as much as they can as there’s a real danger games like Rimworld which approximate the complexity of DF without the actual simulation are going to overshadow it as a source of procedurally generated anecdotes. It’s possibly only the inherent ephemeral nature of most video games and the need for a professional developer to move on to something new that’s going to be their major weakness, somewhat offset by platforms like Steam Workshop.

    • Sc0r says:

      Financially DF didn’t have any issues quite a long time before Patreon existed. They have a continous monthly income of 5-15grand for way longer than patreon’s 3 years.

  39. JPott99 says:

    I remember once I almost learned to play DF. I watched a long YouTube tutorial, and played for about a week. Then I had to stop playing for a while, and the next week I spent an hour trying to make stairs work…
    (Note: I gave up on the stairs.)

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>