Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dwarf Fortress - simple interface, remarkable depth

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of "Dwarf Fortress" - a game freely available for download from its site (

While I haven't yet had the chance to try it myself, I've been advised that it's quite an enjoyable/playable RPG, and that you shouldn't be deceived by the ASCII style interface.

A quick review of the features indicates that this is likely the case -- there is a surprising level of detail and depth, the likes of which aren't found in many present day commercial releases. Take a look at the Features page -- you'll likely be surprised, too!

- Not only does it randomly create a map almost 200K x 200K, but it populates it with creatures, towns, resources, and fills in a history for the world, spanning 1000 years.
- It has a crafting system, and allows you to build your own fortresses in 3 dimensions.
- The old characters you've played can be incorporated into things, allowing you to group with them and such.
- The combat model is more detailed than many, incorporating strikes to specific body parts, along with cause and effect (e.g. you drop your shield when that arm is sufficiently damaged).
- The weather system is dynamic, with wind/humidity/air masses tracked to create fronts, with the appropriate weather resulting (clouds/rain/snow/etc.)
- Resources are placed appropriately based on terrain (with over 200 rocks & minerals distributed throughout the world)
- You can create your own creatures, weapons, and so on, simply by modifying text files

Overall, it appears to be a system with remarkable depth and attention to detail...and one look at the development pages indicates that they aren't resting quietly -- much more detail and functionality is in the works! All of this, with only two coders behind the scenes (and suggestions from the appropriate cult following).

It seems like the sort of game that's almost ripe for mainstream commercialization and success -- the straw which would likely break the camel's back in this regard would be for someone to swoop in and code a nice looking GUI to hang off the robust back end, making it market ready for the more general consumer.

[Of course, it's already got a loyal following, and there's no deterring avid gamers from such things, ASCII or not]

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