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Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress

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Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress (Dwarf Fortress for short) is a freeware computer game by Bay 12 Games for Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X set in a high fantasy universe that combines aspects of roguelike and city-building games and is primarily known for its unique level of complexity and incredible difficulty. The title of the game is inspired by its primary focus on the construction, management, and exploration of dwarven fortresses within the game world. Development started in October 2002,[2] followed by the game's first public release in August 2006.[3]

History

Dwarf Fortress is the successor to Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, a hack and slash role-playing game by Bay 12 Games.[2][4] Dwarf Fortress discarded God of Blood's 3D graphics in favor of a text user interface and incorporated economic and strategy elements. On-screen displays use slightly modified code page 437 characters in 16 different colors implemented as bitmaps, rendered with OpenGL. This makes the game capable of switching to full screen on Vista, unlike pure text-mode programs. The developer states that graphic representation is not a significant focus.

Dwarf Fortress initially supported 2D landscapes only, with X and Y axes corresponding to the four cardinal directions. Later versions added a Z axis – multilayered maps – while retaining two-dimensional graphical representation. This allows for geographic features like hills, mountains, and chasms and player-created features like multilevel fortresses, waterfalls, above-ground towers, elaborate deathtraps, and pits.

Dwarf Fortress has garnered a review in the December 2006 issue of PC Gamer UK, an article in Games for Windows and PC Powerplay, mention on the Eurogamer website,[5] the Roguelike of the Year award from ASCII Dreams in 2007, Indy PC game of the year at the 2006 Gamers With Jobs Community Game of the Year Awards, and various interviews including ones for The Escapist, Gamasutra, Gamers with Jobs, GeekNights, and Dubious Quality.

Dwarf Fortress is under continual development with features being added constantly.[6] The development website lists "Power Goals" in terms of small story excerpts, which at one point might emerge naturally in the game.[7]

The latest major release was April 1, 2010, when the version number was updated from 0.28.181.40d to 0.31.01. The 0.31.01 version of the game features several substantial changes to gameplay[8], as well as numerous new bugs.[9] As of July 25th, the game has been updated to version 0.31.12. The developer has stated his intention to release several smaller updates within a small period of time to fix bugs and incorporate an earlier experimental branch which added OpenGL graphics features to the game.[1] While the bulk of the game is programmed solely by Tarn Adams, portions of the OpenGL code in the experimental branch were programmed by third parties.

Dwarf Fortress' design has lent itself to succession games, also called bloodline games. In a succession game, different players trade a saved game and, one at a time, work together on a single fortress. The player taking his or her turn will usually update the others on their progress, usually via an internet message board. A well-known example of this is the fortress known as "Boatmurdered".[10]

Gameplay

Prior to play, a world must be generated using the software or downloaded from the internet. Each constructed world is unique; events that take place during play will affect subsequent games in the same world. World creation in Dwarf Fortress is elaborate: terrain is generated using fractals, erosion is simulated, then wildlife, towns, and other sites are placed.[2] A specific history is attached to each site; references to these events can be found during gameplay (in artwork and conversations with non player characters(NPCs)), and development's current focus (as of April 2008) is to make world generation wars determine in-game territory distribution and NPC background stories. The entire process can take anywhere from a few seconds to several hours, depending on settings and computer speed. Tarn Adams has added an option for generating significantly smaller worlds (of sizes 257x257 (the default), 129, 65, 33 or 17) for people who do not want to spend longer amounts of time generating a full sized world.[6] With the addition of more advanced world generation parameters in v0.28, it has become possible to generate non-square worlds (such as 129x65) as well as the ability to "paint" the shape of the world (specifying height, temperature, savagery, rainfall, drainage, and volcanism) which has given rise to real-world-inspired world generation parameters.[11]

The game offers two play modes: "Dwarf Fortress" mode, in which the player builds a dwarven settlement, and "Adventurer" mode, in which the player controls a single character in a generally roguelike manner. Only one mode at a time can be actively played in a given game world, although adventurers can visit abandoned or demolished fortresses built in prior games.

The game difficulty is variable, but its slant towards difficulty is reflected in the game's motto, "Losing is Fun". The first few attempts for newer players can often end in disaster. However, as time progresses, and the user's fortress grows, the game presents more late-game challenges. All fortresses can and will eventually end in disaster.

Dwarf Fortress mode

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As the player begins Dwarf Fortress mode, they have the ability to select a starting location, which determines the resources and challenges one may encounter on a given map. For example, a player may start on a map that contains a magma pool, which allows the dwarves to smelt and craft metals without requiring fuel resources but occasionally spawns dangerous enemies.

The initial settlement party consists of seven dwarves. The player receives a number of points to spend on settler skills and resources (food, weapons, armor, equipment, etc.). Once these decisions have been made, the settlers arrive and await the player's instructions.

A variety of tasks can be performed in the game. Some are basic, such as mining, woodcutting, metalsmithing, masonry, farming, and cooking. Others are more esoteric, such as soapmaking, fish-cleaning, engraving, and gem cutting. A given dwarf's "career" will generally center on the skill practiced most. Many of the skills require special buildings, known as workshops, to be constructed.

The player influences newly-arrived dwarves through the designation of work areas and subsequent job creation, but the player cannot directly control a dwarf. For example, designating an area for wood-cutting creates one "chop down tree" job for each tree encompassed, which a dwarf with the proper job activated will carry out. If a wood stockpile is created, a "haul lumber to stockpile" job forms whenever there is a spare log and available room in the stockpile. Any dwarf may be designated to perform a job; however, higher skill in a given job may improve rate (such as with mining) or quality (in the case of crafting) of performance.

As they excavate their mountain, dwarves will have to fashion living space, produce food (typically involving farming and irrigation), obtain water and alcohol, and build workshops to generate valuable trade goods. They will also encounter hostile creatures against whom they must defend, which generally leads to military organization and deathtraps. As the fortress grows, more dwarves will arrive, providing additional labor and opportunities for job specialization.

As the game proceeds, players can encounter foreign traders, dwarven nobles who place demands on the populace, goblin sieges, maniacal dwarven artisans, and a variety of other special events.

The game models the dwarves and the world in extreme detail; for example, during combat, a dwarf can sustain varying degrees of injuries (broken, mangled, etc.) to many body parts down to individual fingers, internal organs and even nerves and arteries. Item base material, quality of workmanship, dye and decorations are all registered and taken into account. According to their experiences (having a friend die, being served low quality food, being disturbed by noise while sleeping, etc.) dwarves can become happy or sad, even angry and finally driven insane; they build social relationships, marry a sufficiently compatible dwarf and have children, or organize parties. Each dwarf also has its own unique personality, likes, and dislikes that will affect how the dwarf reacts to specific situations. An example of this is that a dwarf who likes the material gold will get a happy thought from seeing or owning a golden item, or a dwarf who is quick to anger will be more likely to tantrum and get into fist fights. In addition, dwarves can obtain personality traits through experiences such as seeing a great deal of death, which will decrease the unhappiness received from the death of friends. Gravity is simulated; and an elaborate fluid mechanics system[2] is responsible for river and magma flows, and allows phenomena such as pressure geysers and flooding to happen in-game.

Adventurer mode

In "Adventurer mode", the player controls an individual dwarf, human, or elf. There is no goal apart from survival. Players may either receive quests to kill monsters, which provide no specific reward, or wander freely and slaughter local fauna. Gameplay is fairly minimal; "Fortress mode" has received the bulk of the developer's attention.[12]

"Adventurer mode" also allows the player to explore parts and history of the current game world otherwise not accessible in "Dwarf Fortress mode".

Adventurers are assigned several combat-related skills: shield use, armor use, ambushing, wrestling, swimming, and any of several weapon skills. Initial skill selection wholly determines starting gear, but equipment is available for purchase from stores in human towns. The player can also assemble a party of adventurers by asking townsfolk to join the lead character.

Additionally, if the player has previously created a fortress (through "Fortress mode") in the same world, he or she can explore that fortress and witness what had become of it over time and view the engravings and items made during "Fortress mode".

Legends Mode

Legends mode is less of a traditional gameplay mode than it is a way of reading through a world's vast history. Options can be set, when creating a world, to either discover its history manually during adventurer mode, or have all of the history automatically revealed upon world creation.

Legends Mode features various historical maps, such as historical civilization expansion maps, entity listings (starting with powerful creatures like dragons, then deities that various in-game characters worship), cities that civilizations have created, religions, and then each age's events. If an age has any particularly interesting features, such as the sudden rise of a powerful civilization, or a powerful demon or monster, the age will be named accordingly, e.g. "The age of the Hydra and Demon", or "The age of Elves". If there is no particularly salient events for an age, most worlds will default to one of the three standard ages: the Age of Myth, the Age of Legends, and the Age of Heroes.

Development

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Dwarf Fortress has been praised for offering so much depth and gameplay, despite only one programmer developing the game. Tarn Adams, "ToadyOne" on the forums, is the programming half of Bay 12 Games, the company he runs with his brother Zachary. Though the game is currently in its alpha stage, many of the core elements are already in place, or at least have the basic foundations already laid down. Much of the development for the game is done through user suggestions, stories written by players and Zachary Adams, as well as a series of overarching goals, called arcs.

Arcs

Adams has stated that the development of Dwarf Fortress will proceed across several arcs. These series of goals and priorities are all grouped together under a similar subject, and are named thus. For example, the current arc being developed is the Merchant Arc, which takes focus on the various features of the game related to the trade and economy of the game. The Presentation Arc and the Caravan Arc are in development now, the military arc being finished in the new update. The arcs themselves help provide guidance in development, but are by no means written in stone. Adams has been known to delay certain features, or add in popular user requested features, despite their not falling under the current arc upon which he is working. He has also stated he's not going to stick to just one arc at a time anymore as to avoid grinding at the same old month after month without a release.

The Arcs themselves are all based on a lengthy list of requirements and development goals, falling under the following categories: Core Components, Priority/Required, Bloats, and Power Goals. Adams has made these lists available to the public.[13]

Reception

Several reviews praise Dwarf Fortress for its deep and rich content and gameplay.[2][14][15][16] Some of those reviews also state that one first has to overcome the quirky interface/graphics and extremely steep learning curve to really appreciate the game.[14][15][17] On the other hand, at least one review claims that the text-based graphics actually add to the game: it helps the player mentally visualize game events, making the game more immersive.[16]

References in other Games

In the MMORPG RuneScape, there is a dwarf by the name of Urist Loric. A nearby guard refers to him as "from some fortress or another" and his love for beer.

In the Cataclysm expansion to World of Warcraft, two dwarves in Menethil Harbor have a conversation referencing mechanics from Dwarf Fortress, including discussions about carp, accidental flooding, and building floodgates from the wrong side and trapping themselves.

In Starcraft II, the character Swann resembles a dwarf. During several conversations with Swann "Bay 12" can be seen in the cinematic(Bay 12 being the company that develops Dwarf Fortress).

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Dwarf Fortress forum. bay12games.com. Retrieved on 2010-04-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Harris, John (2008-02-27). Interview: The Making Of Dwarf Fortress. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2008-03-05.
  3. Development in 2006. bay12games.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-05.
  4. Slaves to Armok, the God of Blood. Retrieved on 2009-08-20.
  5. Gillen, Kieron (2006-09-13). The State of Independence #5. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2008-03-05.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Recent Developments. bay12games.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-11.
  7. Full list of Dwarf Fortress development goals and requirements. bay12games.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  8. http://df.magmawiki.com/index.php/2010
  9. http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?topic=51953.0
  10. http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/Boatmurdered/
  11. DwarfHeightMap Utility. Retrieved on 2008-08-25.
  12. DF talk 3. bay12games.com (2009-10-20). Retrieved on 2009-10-24. “Adventure mode gets shafted all the time, right? Adventure mode just gets worse and worse, basically. Adventure mode's basically unplayable now. It was slightly playable in 2D I think; more so than it is now.”
  13. Version 1 Development. bay12games.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-16.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Costikyan, Greg (2007-12-02). Play This Thing! Review. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Sigl, Rainer (2008-01-13). Telepolis Review (German). Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  16. 16.0 16.1 PC PowerPlay #148
  17. Tea Leaves Review. Retrieved on 2009-10-03.

External links

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