July 26, 2011

Make Install: Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress is arguably one of the most hardcore examples of hobby software out there. For those who don't know it: think of Minecraft (Note: this kind of puts the world in reverse; Dwarf Fortress has been around for much longer than Minecraft, and quite likely has taken its inspiration from there.) but without the fancy graphics and with the most extreme form of generative gameplay you could imagine. It features a randomly generated world which includes lots of different creatures, races and biomes, and which even works out a few thousand years of history.

If the above screenshot looks like a random bit of ASCII art you are easily forgiven. Dwarf Fortress is not an easy game to learn (try this two and a half hour tutorial on Youtube if you're curious), but it does offer some deep gameplay. Probably the most well-known example of that was recorded in the Boatmurdered stories. Even if you don't intend to play the game, those stories are well worth the read.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the main developer of Dwarf Fortress, Tarn Adams, makes his living from his work on the game even though the game is a free download. Tarn has such a loyal following of gamers that they simply donate money so that he can keep expanding Dwarf Fortress. In return for their support they also get a hand-drawn rendering of any scene from the game they want. Don't believe it ? Here's a recent interview with Tarn by the NYTimes, which includes some of these drawings.

I can only conclude that working on Dwarf Fortress takes dedication and a little madness. But you have to admire the result.

This is a first try for a Make Install post. Feel free to give pointers to help improve this category; and if you have ideas for a future post then don't hesitate to let me know.


Joram Barrez said...

I've been playing DF quite a bit a year ago. I was really hooked, really really deep game. Unfortunately nobody believed me when I showed it to them (tilesets don't help).

After a few weeks of playing, my 80-dwarfs camp was eventually killed by some dwarf artist going mental over having too many cats (later I learned a butcher helps against too many cats).

Crimson13 said...

I tried DF a while ago, but didn't have the patience to get the gang of it. Desktop Dungeons on the other hand is easy (although it obviously doesn't have quite the same depth to it) ;-)
Anyway, I was wondering what the exact requirements of 'make install' are? Free/Commercial? One person/small team/large team? Some of my favorite software projects are Blender, Terragen and City Engine, but I don't think any of those are quite what you have in mind :-)

KrisDS said...

@Joram: lol. :) Furthest I got was something like ten dwarves, so I'm still impressed.

@Crimson: Thanks for the tip. As for requirements: I'm making those up as I go along. :-) Don't really care whether it's free or commercial. I do prefer projects by one person or small teams. I.e. Blender in itself is cool, but I won't do a Make Install on that. I have, however, seen people do amazing work with the scripting support in Blender (e.g. BlenderPeople ?); those projects could make it into a Make Install.