Why Dwarf Fortress is The Future (And The Past)

Why Dwarf Fortress is a good game as well as the future of good video gaming, as well as its past.

Dwarf Fortress is an odd game. It’s free to play for a start. It’s been up and running for years. It’s still in its Alpha Phase and likely will be for many years. It uses ASCII graphics and has no real in-game guidance at all. Because of this it’s a very dense, complicated game that many people don’t care for. And yet it has a large, fanatical fanbase who understands that a game doesn’t have to be pretty or simple to be good.

English: Example of Dwarf Fortress world map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The game is a very deep fortress simulator, with the game tracking individual’s thoughts, injuries, skills, attributes and putting them into play. A dwarf’s wife was killed by attacking goblins? It remembers that. A dwarf is missing her fingers on her right hand? That dwarf can no longer use that hand. A noble was ‘accidently’ drenched in magma and burnt to death? All of his friends will be unhappy for a long time, especially if you don’t bury him.

But then is DF just The Sims but with greater depth? Not really. Dwarf Fortress inspired the much loved Minecraft, which is much less complicated, easier on the eyes and only has a few characters to track compared to the average fortresses’ 100+ Dwarves, pets and livestock, wildlife, any PoWs you have (invading creatures caught in your devilish cage traps!), any invaders roaming around and visiting trade caravans. And that’s without weather, temperature, physics and the aforementioned healthcare.

And how big is the company that makes this game compared to Minecraft’s creator? There isn’t a company; just ‘Toady One’, the programmer and his brother ‘ThreeToe’, who helps with ideas and moderating the forums. Not bad for just two guys!

So how is it the past? Pre-2000 when gaming started becoming more accepted and normal, many games were made similarly to how Dwarf Fortress is now; some programmers get together with a vision and make what they want. There were no AAA releases, no E3, and getting far in a game meant playing it. A lot. Over and over, learning from your mistakes. No micro-transactions to boost you to the top of the leaderboard.

Dwarf Fortress is Toady’s dream, his vision. He makes what he wants, and releases it for free. It’s never perfect, but we don’t mind being bug testers when the game is so complicated, made by one guy and we know it’ll get fixed quite quickly. There’s no marketing, no big announcement and no executives. You hear about it by word of mouth, and when you hear about the crazy things that happen you want to play. It’s the same with any game. Call of Duty went through it. Battlefield went through it. So did Minecraft, and any other game that isn’t another in a huge series or by a big name developer.

But how is it the future? The amount of dissatisfaction with the big names is astounding. EA was voted as the worst company in the USA. Capcom are constantly being accused of ripping off their customers, particularly when it comes to DLC. The market is flooded with generic shooters, playing only to the lowest common denominator. Steam has allowed Indie developers to break out among the big names and sales of Indie games have never been higher.

Image via CrunchBase

Many gamers are feeling dissatisfied with poor service, high prices, bugs, delays and the general feeling of games being ‘dumbed down’. Dwarf Fortress and many other Indie games are allowing gamers to get what they feel they deserve; high quality games made by those who care about the game, at fair prices and with good support.

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