Dwarf Fortress dwarves to be given memories, dev shows no remorse

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Everyone in the world must know this by now, but Dwarf Fortress is utterly ridiculous. Bay 12 Games have been working on their simulation sorta-roguelike for the past 16 years and show no signs of stopping, and will no doubt one day create a level of granularity from which we’ll see the emergence of planet-conquering AI superintelligences. To wit: dwarves are about to be given memories.

An upcoming update is going to change how stress gets modelled, rejigging some numbers and diminishing the “overbearing effect of alcohol”. That’s probably a good idea, because if my own experiences are anything to go by then the new memory system would otherwise lead to every Dwarf becoming an emotional wreck. Look, see for yourself:

“The numbers might change, but the current system allows for eight short-term memories, which are the emotion+event combinations that have had the highest positive or negative impact on the dwarf over the last year (on a rolling basis). Every so often a dwarf can “remember/relive/dwell upon” the memory, if their personality leans toward the given emotion (positive or negative), and receive an additional stress change. Once a year passes, a short-term memory can be saved to one of eight long-term memory slots (if it is stronger than the current memories), or else it is forgotten. Long-term memories periodically return to affect the dwarf forever, until they are overwritten.”

Failure is fun, as the Dwarf Fortress player’s mantra goes, and now your dwarven denizens won’t be able to forget that. Except that’s not true, because life in the world of Dwarf Fortress can be very unpleasant indeed – especially when your developer has a penchant for squishing your loved ones.

“It’ll take some player testing in longer, real forts to see if various parameters need to be adjusted, but initial testing showed differences from the previous behaviour. Dropping a boulder on somebody and then leaving my dwarves unattended outside with nothing to do for a year resulted in tantrums, depression and oblivious wandering, so it seems to be working. When the first long-term memories were stored for one dwarf, it was horror at seeing their lover die, grief at their lover being dead, and fright at being haunted by their dead lover, with proper impact values not likely to be overwritten any time soon, certainly not by the old culprits of seeing nice furniture and completing jobs, though those still decrease stress a little bit day-to-day when experienced and are thus good to have in a dwarf’s life.”

The dev adds that he “wasn’t aware of their relationship status when the boulder fell”, though I’m not sure that makes him any less of a monster.

There’s no word on when the update will come out, but when it does…just don’t push those dwarves too far, ok? When they break out of the simulation a few years down the line, they might remember.


  1. Calculon says:

    Wow. Impressive work. I very much wish I had the time to learn Dwarf Fortress. I tried once or twice but the UI just kept getting in the way. I got tired of looking up which squiglly line meant what exactly.

    yes, I know there are mods to provide a nicer interface, but I still found that to be a significant time investment.

    • weemcast says:

      They have graphic packs you can use. Not to self-promote (won’t link it) but I did a video showing this as well as another plugin for it – search “have you tried dwarf fortress” on youtube and mine would be right up top (“Weemcast”).

      I love the game, and made two different efforts to learn it before giving up. What finally got me going was 1) using the lazy noob pack (has various graphic packs, and other things that help) and 2) watching a series from “DasTactic” (linked in the description of my video). I basically played along while watching his series.

      Anyway, it still might be more time than you are willing to invest but I am very glad I eventually made it through to the other side ;)

    • stupac says:

      yes, I know there are mods to provide a nicer interface, but I still found that to be a significant time investment.

      I had the exact same thinking for years. Just too much time investment into an inscrutable UI and overly complex systems. I tried watching all these YouTube tutorial videos and reading guides. I’d try it for an hour then throw my hands up in frustration. But there really is no game like this, believe me it is worth playing with if it sounds interesting to you.

      I’ll say this, it was when I finally stopped treating it like a game and stopped trying to learn it, and started treating it like a simulation to mess with just to see what happens that I finally started getting enjoyment out of the process right from the start. You’ll go crazy reading all the do’s and don’t’s and trying to understand how to play the game to be honest. It is just too much to think about and remember. Baby steps was the key for me. And PeridexisErran’ts DF Starter Pack. Get that, run it with the default settings and you can be playing the game with user friendly (as user friendly as it gets for DF anyway) graphics and some basic convenience fixes. You can start messing with mods and custom settings down the road if you wish, or never.

      Seriously, just ignore the tutorials and “how to plays” and just start playing around. Mess with the systems. Start with playing with some designations, do some digging, cut down trees, stockpile, etc. Learn as you go. When you have a question about a system, then look it up, there is tons of great documentation, but otherwise, just keep messing around and failing is fine/fun. You’ll find that necessity is the mother of invention. All the hotkeys are presented on the screen at any one time, so you don’t need to really look up any guides just to get started.
      I’d say you only need to know these four things to get started with the game:
      1. Some lists in the game are navigated with “+” & “-” keys and some with the up & down arrow keys. If one set doesn’t work try the other.
      2. Angle brackets (“>” “<") move you up and down levels in the vertical axis of the game view.
      3. The first system you should start with is mining. Just learn that for now, and the rest will come. To mine, press "d" for Designations then "d" again for Mine. You'll seek a cursor appear, move the cursor to a wall on the screen, press "enter" then move the arrow keys to another location, and press "enter" again to highlight all the intervening space and designate it for mining. If they can get to the area you designated, the dwarves will go to work digging. The rest can be learned by playing around with the menus and looking up stuff online, but all in good time.
      4. Expect to fail. Expect all your dwarves to die of starvation and thirst at first until you figure out how to brew drink and get food. Expect them to be slaughtered by goblins and monsters, accidents, floods, disease, insanity, etc. Just see what happens and gradually learn from each failure. You'll soon be missing all those hardships once you start getting successful fortresses and conquering the game's dangers.

      The rest will come in good time with just some experimentation and light reading. Don't be afraid to fail and learn through failure, and you'll learn the game quickly, and have fun doing it. Hope that helps, it helped me at least.

      • Kyle700 says:

        Yeah, I agree with this. There is not really a “goal” in dwarf fortress. You are just trying to survive and do whatever you want. just try to figure it out and wiki stuff when you get stuck. pretty much as long as you know how to dig, set up a farm, set up stockpiles, and designate buildings, you can play the game in its entireity.

    • KOVERAS says:

      I suggest you start out first with:
      The DF Starter Pack

      For the Modding Savvy:
      link to bay12forums.com

  2. Sin Vega says:

    And with that, Dwarf Fortress finally takes a step towards being as advanced a life simulator as The Sims.

    • PoundCoin says:

      nice bait

    • criskywalker says:

      I wish The Sims were as advanced as Dwarf Fortress. It would actually be unpredictable and fun, but considering EA simply gave up on the best-selling franchise ever we will probably never get advanced A.I. in the game.

    • deadfolk says:


    • jeremyalexander says:

      I know it’s bait, but it is still an interesting perspective and not entirely untrue. While the Sims themselves are more sophisticated, the world around them and what they can do in it are not. Still, it would have been cool to see how a Maxis independent of EA would have handled future Sims and Sim City titles.

      • Sin Vega says:

        It’s not “bait”, it’s just a half-joking observation that DF’s emotional “life” stuff has always been very primitive. I’m a little surprised but glad to see them addressing this though.

        • modzero says:

          Unfortunately Sims 4 actually regressed in that regard, to the point the comparison is valid. In particular, outside of a handful of hidden traits, sims no longer have a “memory.”

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          That’s not really true, there’s a ton of complex stuff going on if you dig down into your individual dwarves. It’s just not foregrounded.

          • Sin Vega says:

            But fundamentally they have only one value, and however many terrible things happen to them, that value will be fine if they occasionally walk past a legendary table.

    • Kamestos says:

      That’s some Black Mirror-level thing right there.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Tantrums? Nice!

    A few updates (read: years) ago, Toady made some change or another that left dwarves basically stoic and boring. Unless you ran a fort with everyone hunting mice and bugs for food for a decade, no one would ever tantrum or get upset.

    But hey, maybe this’ll bring it back, and make losing a fort to something other than constantly-increasing goblin sieges a little more likely.

    • April March says:

      I wouldn’t get so excited – the article does say he got dwarves to tamtrum by having them stand around for years doing nothing after throwing a rock at their mate.

      • zagibu says:

        He was having them stand around for years to test the long term memory, as talked about in the article.

  4. Pendent says:

    Everyone fails to realize that it’s not corporations or governments we need to be worried about when it comes to AI. It’s Toady. The world will be destroyed in a massive AI tantrum and only then will his work truly be done.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      At least afterwards the AI will meticulously craft a plaque to describe it’s anguish at snuffing out the human race.
      Or it’ll get drunk.

    • Cvnk says:

      Dwarf Fortress is taken by a fey mood!

      *Nuclear bombs go off around the world*

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      It will have us dig tunnels for no reason and we have to live in holes surrounded by waste.

  5. KillahMate says:

    Roadmap says in the next major release Toady is apparently planning on building on this further, with something he calls ‘reveries’…

  6. Premium User Badge

    Iamblichos says:

    The true horror will come when dwarves relive every memory in sequence at once, and all because someone clapped twice and yelled “Montage!”

  7. jeremyalexander says:

    It’s such fantastic work, but I can never play it for more than a couple hours. The interface and graphics, even with a pack, just push me away. I get that it’s not the point and what they are doing is amazing and will benefit future generations of gamer’s immensely, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

  8. sagredo1632 says:

    Dwarf Fortress will finally be complete once dwarves gain the ability to program additions to Dwarf Fortress.

    • beleester says:

      You actually can build a computer in DF. You can build logic gates in various ways (gearboxes, water channels, minecarts, even captive goblins), and with enough logic gates you can build a fully-functional computer.

      • carewolf says:

        Yeah, but you can’t run DF on it because you don’t have the source code to recompile DF for your in DF computer.

    • Aetylus says:

      I’d be happy if the Dwarfs just built a coherent UI.

  9. sunahe says:

    I too wish I could play Dwarf Fortress as it is The Sims.
    The emotion system resembles Inside Out movie. Is it safe to assume that all the little people inside the dwarven heads are also simulated in the game?

  10. Alberto says:

    Just logged in to say latest updates roll are just great, with the possibility of messing with other civs and enriching even more the worldgen background.

    As a token: my current fort is next to a necromancer tower, where the former queen of my civ has seat. She fled there when the learned the secrets of rising the dead. So all my current civ efforts are pointed to her execution.

    I haven’t been able to slay her yet, the raid was a disaster onmy saved by the war rhinoceros my Captain of the Guard has as pets.

    But booooooy, I’m enjoying the ride

    • hungrycookpot says:

      I haven’t played since before the excursions system, but im pretty excited to do so.

  11. DeadCanDance says:

    Does anyone know anything about when the magic system is coming?

    • P.Funk says:

      I believe we’re currently developing and bug squashing in a build up to the “great pause” or whatever its called. That pause in updates will be when I believe the magic will be developed.

  12. daztec says:

    Nice furniture