Dwarf Fortress, Now in 3D … sort of.

On December 26, 2007, in Games, by peterb

I’ve made no secret of my love for Bay 12 Games’ Dwarf Fortress. I’ve returned to it this holiday season only to find there’s been a significant change: the game is now 3D.

It’s still a roguelike, mind you. But the environments now encompass a huge number of z-levels, which you can step through with the < and > keys.

I’m of two minds about this development. On the positive side, it brings a lot of freshness and variety to the game, and opens up a lot of interesting possibilities, particularly with respect to moving water and magma about. On the other hand, the user interface of Dwarf Fortress was already fairly punishingly bad, and this isn’t helping.

Perhaps a more significant change is that sites are more varied now. In previous versions of the game, every mountain was (essentially) guaranteed to have an underground river, a chasm, and a magma river. Now, you have a lot more flexibility. You can build your settlement on a mountain, or the plains (digging underneath the surface, naturally), or a glacier, or on the shore. It’s entirely possible to choose a site with no magma (or, as I have discovered in my current game, no unfrozen running water. Talk about a challenge).

For added niftiness, someone has created a 3D visualizer for Dwarf Fortress maps.

I’m currently playing it on my Mac via codeweavers’ CrossOver, and it works great. The author of the game, Tarn Adams, is currently trying to get it working under MacOS X natively. I can’t wait.


5 Responses to “Dwarf Fortress, Now in 3D … sort of.”

  1. Benoit says:

    I keep wishing he’d open up the code, so that the UI could perhaps be fixed. “punishingly bad” merely scratches the surface of the true terror (though in truth, many things are dramatically improved from last time we all were dwarfing around)

  2. peterb says:

    My impression, without actually knowing the full story, is that he had a bad experience releasing source code once before (e.g., his code showing up with other people’s names on it, or some such). So I could understand why he’d be gunshy.

  3. Alex says:

    Even though I keep coming back to it, I still can’t help thinking that with Dwarf Fortress, the interface IS the game. It’s not too hard to figure out what your dwarves ought to do in order for the fortress to succeed. It is much harder to actually get them to do it. Things as simple as getting your soldiers to wear the plate mail armor that was just produced rather than leather are horribly frustrating. Let’s not even mention actual combat. One day the AI may catch up with the UI problems but 1.0 looks to be far in the future.

    On the other hand, I can’t fault Tarn one bit as the game is free and fun to play. I highly recommend naming the dwarves after your friends/enemies.

  4. Benoit says:

    If the difficulty was to convince the dwarves to do what you want, I’d be happier. But much of the difficulty the difficulty is to remember that to gather up some dwarves to beat up the kobold thief in their midst, you need to hit ‘v’ and note down the names. Then you need to hit ‘m’, find the names in the list, and hit ‘enter’ on them all and then hit ‘a’ and space. Then, you hit ‘x’. Only now have you reached the frustratingly-fun stage of making your boneheads do what you want; the rest was all just bad UI.

    I was annoyed at my bonehead wrestler for charging the hydra single-handed (and, very quickly, single-legged and zero-headed). I was equally annoyed at my idiot marksdwarf for running out after 9 goblins and going down in a hail of crossbow bolts (only one of which got him — but through the hip and it lodged in the legbone, which never healed). I was peeved that in pumping out the water from a flooded chamber, I screwed up and flooded the main dining room, sweeping a hungry dwarf under to his death (he ended up beyond the floodgates, so now I’m waiting for winter to collect his body). But losing can indeed be fun.

  5. Yaro Kasear says:

    Let me say two things.

    1. Toady’s inability to license open source code correctly is not the FOSS world’s fault. Only an idiot would license their code such that they can’t protect their copyright notices, which apparently Toady did.

    2. Toady’s inability to write quality code as evidenced by his last game and the fact that DF has been in alpha for far too long would have definitely been HELPED and likely REMEDIED by letting other, more competent programmers give the game a try.

    3. Dwarf Fortress being a pain to get working on Linux (Especially 64-bit.) is also the result of Toady not knowing the first thing about what he is doing, sinc ehe couldn’t even link to SDL in Linux correctly so that it’d work universally without someone hacking their Linux box to pieces to do so. HEck, he could even not worry about building for Linux ALTOGETHER if he just opened the source code, since distributors compile their software themselves, not grabbing binary from upstream.

    4. Dwarf Fortress’s horrible user interface would almost overnight be fixed so that someone doesn’t have to spend a few DAYS just learning how to tell their dwarves how to DIG A HOLE. I don’t care how Toady spins it (“Losing is Fun” or whatever.), basic controls should never be even remotely as complicated as they are in Dwarf Fortress. It shouldn’t take looking up three seperate articles in a wiki JUST to look at a dwarf’s status.

    5. Dwarf Fortress’s design scares me as a programmer. It’s usually not a very good idea to over-design a game to the point where individual fingers and teeth in a dwarf have health, that tends to make a lot of unneeded code and a LOT of headaches when it finally comes time to actually ironing out the code. This is probably WHY Dwarf Fortress is STILL in alpha to this day and probably never will reach 1.0 in its entire existence. Again, open source brings about peer review and would greatly reduce the complexity and difficulty of playing the game, not to mention a MUCH lighter memory/CPU footprint.

    6. Despite 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5: Dwarf fortress is a fun game, and the only thing making it inaccessible to most people who want to play it is the fact that Toady is an idiot who’s better off doing something OTHER than programming since neither of his games have shown him to be competent or skilled. Making it open source really would allow some people who DO know how to program to turn the game into what Toady actually wanted it to be.