February 21st, 2008

rage baby

Oh god, get this blasted game out of my head

Thanks to derakon (damn his eyes), I've gotten somewhat addicted to Dwarf Fortress, a freeware "sim" game with elements of roguelike adventure games (like Nethack). Basically, you're in charge of a group of dwarven pioneers in a fantasy setting, and your job is to lead them to create a successful fortress. But not just a fortress. It starts out as a small outpost, but over time it grows with the influx of migrants (and eventually, children), whose presence demands ever greater production, until the thing is basically one enormous city. You have to manage not only digging and building, but food supplies, farming (which can be done underground! mushrooms are delicious), brewing (even more important than cooking), trading with caravans from the elves, humans, and other dwarves, little dwarfy justice, defense against monster and goblin attacks, keeping nobles happy, making clothes, felling trees, and and and and.... It's ridiculously in-depth, but you can't micromanage (you can't just tell specific dwarves to go specific places, you can only set their tasks and tell them where certain things should be put). And you have to keep them happy, because surly dwarves sometimes go on rampages! It's like an intricate dollhouse full of dolls with minds of their own. And there's even a wiki with articles on all of the different aspects of the game.

It's definitely got its problems. The pseudo-ASCII "graphics" have their charms, but are frequently cryptic (What is that @ sign and what's it doing wandering through the storerooms?!). Recent versions have 3D landscapes, but earlier ones were all on a single plane, and the interface for dealing with the z-axis seems tacked on and hard to deal with. The game is so complex that you really have to read all of the introductory articles on the wiki (especially Quick launch, Starting builds, What should I build first?, and Your first fortress) plus the articles on the basic workshops, buildings, and items, and the one on noise, before you start or you'll find that you've screwed yourself over from the beginning (and remember to always check the wiki on any given building before planning it, so you don't put the only door to the room in a place that's blocked off by the contents!). And it's keyboard-only, which is clunky.

But damn, once you start playing it's hard to stop!

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(For lulz, and to see what got me to check out the game in the first place, see this "Let's Play!" of an earlier (2D) version, by some Something Awful goons trading off being in charge of the legendary fortress "Boatmurdered". It's a laugh riot.)