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Dwarf Fortress Update, The First In Two Years, Is Out Now


"The mind has been rewritten quite a bit," starts one of the patch notes for the new Dwarf Fortress update. The first addition to the fantasy simulation game in two years, version 0.40.01 offers sweeping generation to world generation and simulation, combat and movement, fortresses, trees and, yes, the mind. Step below for a dive into the game's wonderful patch notes, and for more barely coherent rambling about how great this game is.

Even if you never play Dwarf Fortress, the regular devlogging over at the Dwarf Fortress site is worth reading. It's full of wonderful little anecdotes that Tarn Adams experiences while creating the game (with his brother, Zach), and given the game's vast complexity - from an individual dwarf's emotions to the wars of entire civilizations - those anecdotes feel sometimes like a structurally inventive fiction project for a game that can't possibly exist.

But it does. Let's pull out some details of the new patch, starting with the mind:

The mind has been rewritten quite a bit -- people now experience emotions according to different circumstances (lots of awkward monologues there), and they consider actions differently. The main outstanding issue is that I didn't get around to converting existing dwarf mode thoughts, so they sort of exist concurrently with the new emotions and that needs to be changed. I'll get to that before job priorities (which was one of the main shorter-term reasons for the rewrite). Some dwarves have life-long dreams and it is possible for them to recognize that they've accomplished the ones relating to skills and family. They cannot yet realize their dreams of taking over the world.

I know a little something about awkward emotional monologues. Also, rumours:

Rumors of incidents can be spread, and the rumors need to be spread before you gain reputation (good or bad). Killing all of the witnesses to an event will effectively remove it from play if you don't let them get off the screen. People are a little psychic as it regards ongoing conflicts, so that they can make decisions non-stupidly. Your liaison can share rumors with your fort, but I still need to set up the screen for reviewing them after you've seen them the first time... not that you can do much with the information.

It's not all social change. Dwarf Fortress is also about smacking things and being smacked by things. That's had an overhaul, too:

Combat moves take place over a period of time now, and you can do things like catching an opponent's attack -- you have to do that by targeting a grab at the offending part now (reactions used to have a menu, but that was before combat got more smeared out). You can get information about what attacks your opponent is doing in the attack menu -- the quality of the information depends on your situational awareness skill. You can add adjective modifiers to your attacks (quick/heavy/etc.) and you can perform more than one attack at a time for a significant penalty to its force. It might make sense with two adamantine swords or something, twirling them about.

These are just a few of the changes listed in yesterday's update post. They are also just a few of the changes made and detailed over the past two years of steady, donation-funded development. For example, from back in February:

Today's success was to have a crying mother spit on me and call me a murderer, so that's where we're at. Of course, people familiar with modding or magma crabs might guess that the first time she spit at me, the glob came out frozen and my murderous character, being handy with a sword, batted the saliva ice cube out of the park. After I fixed that, and some other stuff, it splattered on my toga. There are tears and sweat now as well, coming out of the right tissues at the right times. As with blood, it remembers who provided them up to a point, which should be fun for brewing witches' potions and so on in some distant future. Fixed some other crashes and mess as well. Hopefully we can move on to cheerier territory.

Despite what you might have heard, Dwarf Fortress is not as complicated or difficult to play as you think. Even if you never touch the Fortress or Adventure modes, it's worth using the Arena to pit various fantasy beasts against one another in senseless combat. The little text descriptions alone, of dragons frying elephants and fish biting dwarves, provide hours of entertainment.

Dwarf Fortress is free and there's download links at the top of the site.

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Graham Smith avatar

Graham Smith

Deputy Editorial Director

Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.