Tag Archives: dwarf fortress

The Randomly Generated Art Made By My Dwarf Fortress Dwarves Is Terrible

This goblin siege didn’t go great for me.
Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

One of my favorite parts of playing Dwarf Fortress is the randomly generated legendary artifacts that my dwarves make. Usually, they’re epic pieces of armor or furniture or crafts that are decorated in brilliant gems and images from the dwarves’ memories. In the game I was playing yesterday, the dwarves kept giving me dumb pieces of shit, and I’m still mad about it.

Dwarves are simple creatures, but they do have memories, friends, enemies, likes and dislikes. When they create art, what they make is influenced by those things. Take this engraving that one of my dwarves did, for example:

I have no idea who Besmar is or why he’s so afraid of mussels, but apparently, the dwarf who carved this didn’t want him to forget it.

Part of why it’s exciting when a dwarf makes an artifact is that you know that it’ll be influenced by the things they’ve experienced. The whole process is quite dramatic. First, the game will tell you that a dwarf has been struck by a strange mood, and they’ll claim a workshop. If they can collect all the materials they need to make their artifact, they’ll get to it. If not, they go insane. After a brief waiting period, the game will alert you that their craft is completed, and you finally get a good look at what it is.

Keep all that in mind while I show you the shitty artifacts my dwarves kept making last night. They’re all extremely valuable pieces of crap.

Take this okli—a bagpipe-esque instrument—that one of my dwarves made.

That’s right, it doesn’t have gemstones on it, but the image of gemstones in fish leather. I don’t know why the dwarf didn’t use actual gemstones, either. We constantly had plenty of gems around.

This amulet was also a disappointment.

I guess this dwarf invented the Dwarf Fortress version of Christianity, but with double the crucifixion.

By far the most infuriating was this amulet, however.

Like, my dude withdrew from society and painstakingly made a piece of jewelry… that has the image of tubes and a body cast on it. Where am I supposed to put that? Who would want this? Why, why did you make it?

The randomness of artifacts is what makes them a delight. When I look at this incredibly dumb object, it’s like my dwarves become real people. They’re flawed and ruled by their whims; ultimately, they’re not in my control. It’s what allows the game to feel so alive, even as you are cursing your dwarves for being so fucking terrible at making art.

Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for my dwarves, not long after this amulet was created, we got our entire shit wrecked by a goblin siege. While sixty dwarves died, I’m sure the remaining forty will have plenty of material for new artifacts. At the very least, we should get something decorated with the image of dwarves cowering before goblins instead of cowering before a bivalve.

Source: Kotaku.com

My Dwarf Fortress Game Generated A Royal Line Of Necromancers And It’s Cool As Shit

Photo: HBO

After generating a new world in Dwarf Fortress, I decided to dig around in its history before embarking on a new save. Inspired by YouTubers like Kruggsmash, who give their fortresses epic narratives that tie into the past of the civilization, I wanted to know all I could about the dwarven culture I would be inhabiting before I took over a fortress. What I found was a royal lineage of would-be necromancers.

This started out with me trying to figure out why the current dwarven queen of The Creation of Gorging (the randomly generated name of the civilization I had created) worshipped a human god. Everything, including what gods exist and what kind of gods they are, is generated randomly during the creation of a world. You can find out who your dwarves worship when you’re running a fortress by selecting them and looking at their thoughts, but if you want a better idea of what pantheons exist, you can open up the save in Legends mode and check out the historical figures. If you want an easier way to do that, you can export the .xml file from Legends mode, then use a fan-made program called Legends Viewer to sort through the information.

When I loaded up this save, which is a world called Ramul Thran, which translates to The Planes Of Dawn, I decided at first just to see who the rulers of the largest dwarven civilization were and who they worshipped. The current queen, Kol Rimmobbed, worships the human deity Pibang, who is associated with inspiration and poetry. I quickly learned that her grandmother had been raised in a human civilization before becoming queen herself, and so her descendents were also worshippers of Pibang for three generations now. That was pretty cute, I thought. Then I saw that Kol had a secret goal of reaching immortality. That was less cute.

If you baseline aren’t sure about what Dwarf Fortress is, try watching some Kruggsmash.

Every dwarf in Dwarf Fortress, as well as the goblins, elves, and humans, have a goal they want to accomplish before they die. For some, it’s to master an art. For others, it’s to see the great sites of the world. If anyone has a goal of immortality, it’s because they want to eventually become a necromancer, which, yikes.

Necromancers can raise the dead, which is pretty unchill on its own. Just like goblins or other hostile creatures, the undead can lay siege to your fortress if it’s in range of a necromancer’s tower, which can either be super unfun or very fun, depending on how much fun you think it is when a lot of dwarves die. If the necromancer rides into battle themselves, every dwarf who dies will be added to their army. I both love and hate necromancers. They create some interesting narrative wrinkles, but also, they create zombies, which are super annoying.

I’m not sure why certain characters in Dwarf Fortress want to become necromancers. As far as I can tell, it’s random. But every other leader from The Creation of Gorging wanted to be one, and given that it was a monarchy, that resulted in a whole family in which every other generation wanted to master the secret of life and death.

I looked all the way back to the first king of The Creation of Gorging. They didn’t want to be a necromancer, but also they died in two years from a demon attack. The second king wanted to be a necromancer as well, but it didn’t pan out. Every other generation in the royal bloodline had a desire to raise the dead, but none of them have succeeded.

A leader of another civilization long ago succeeded in their quest to raise the dead, though. Iden Praisedaxes, the second queen of the slightly smaller dwarven kingdom of Bent Rooms, became queen in year two and became obsessed with her own mortality in year 14. She began to worship the dwarven god Tarmid, who is associated with fortresses, wars and death. In year 26, her ardent worship finally led her to find a tablet containing the secrets of a necromancer. Not long after, she abandoned the fortress to build her own personal civilization—one of necromancers, their apprentices, and the raised undead in the tower Takenkind, called The Diamond Intensity.

Over five hundred years have passed since Iden Praisedaxes left the Bent Rooms for her tower. She still lives, even now.

Photo: HBO

In the present time period of my game, I’m seeing the world of Ramul Thran in crisis, with some civilizations having been engaged in war with each other for over a century. Maybe the dwarven leaders of The Creation of Gorging looked back to history to try to figure out how to weather to storm, and pass down the story of the necromancer queen whose tower still stands to this day.

This game is pretty sparse. But because of that sparseness, it’s possible to spin complex mental narratives from the raw information that Dwarf Fortress gives you about the world you’re playing in. I can’t help but imagine Kol Rimmobbed being told the legend of Iden by her grandmother, internalizing the idea of becoming immortal, and then using her resources as queen to try to reach that goal.

The temptation must be so great. The wars have created a lot of corpses—more fodder for an undead army. If Kol learned the secret of life and death and then joined Iden at Takenkind, dwarfkind could truly live forever. In order to find out what happens, I have to play.

Source: Kotaku.com

Dwarf Fortress: The Kotaku Review

Dwarf Fortress is a brilliant game, but it will make you work to find that out. It’s a game that loves its complicated world and the adventures it offers players, even when the odds of winning are slim. It rewards you for putting yourself in a sticky situation—a goblin siege, a forgotten beast with deadly breath, too many cats making your frames per second drop to the single digits—by gifting you a story you can tell for life. It hides grand narrative arcs deep in its code for you to discover.

But Dwarf Fortress is also clunky, obtuse, and complicated. It’s so easy to get lost in the details that you don’t even know where to start. Does the game start at world creation, where you enter the specifics that will define your play session and which generates a vast, unique history you might never see? Is the meat of the game the fortress building itself, the endless economies to juggle and moods to manage? Should you spend time in Adventure Mode, where you can take a character out on a quest in one of the worlds you’ve created, or in Legends Mode, which allows you to explore the records of such a world?

Most people play Dwarf Fortress in Fortress Mode, which tasks you with building and defending a fortress for a small group of dwarves. You start out with a few dwarves, though migrants usually show up once a year. You have to build up an economy to make money through trade, and then make your fortress into somewhere beautiful for your dwarves to live and deadly for enemies to get inside. You make it nice by building nice furniture and engraving the walls and floors. The engravings, which appear to the player as text descriptions, are created by the dwarves from the history of the fortress and the wider world. You defend the fortress by building traps, increasing your military, or finding creative uses for magma if you mine into it. It is much, much harder than it looks, and if you’re lucky, it’ll all go entertainingly up in flames.

Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress ((Bay 12 Games)

Dwarf Fortress is in-development PC game coming soon to Steam (Clarification – 11:38am: This article has been updated to use more specific wording on the development status of the game). You could blame a lot of its quirks on this state, but it’s also on purpose. If you play the game completely unmodded, the art is done entirely in ASCII. The world is a mess of letters, numbers and symbols, and even after learning how to parse everything, it still hurts my eyes if I stare at it for too long. Everything is represented by a letter, number, or piece of punctuation. In the font the game uses, it’s easy to mistake a lower case “c” for an upper case one, meaning if you see a “c” on the screen, it could be a cat, chicken, cavy, cow, or camel. It could also be a Bronze Colossus, which will try to kill your dwarves. Many fans prefer to either use a fan-made tile set (the Steam version will have an official tile set already in it), or to keep the Dwarf Fortress fan wiki handy.

Most of the game is played through keyboard shortcuts, which are case sensitive. That means “h” (for creating hauling routes) and “H” (which opens the hot keys menu) will make the game do different things. You will never, ever get used to this.

The keyboard shortcuts also sometimes lead to nested menus, and it’s easy to forget that you need to dig through them in a specific order so you can carry out the most basic task. So, so many times have I pressed “d” expecting to designate an area for my dwarves to mine for stone, only to realize I didn’t have the Designation menu open, which also requires pressing “d.” You can’t select any stone to mine or trees to cut without already being in that menu, and from there you need to use your arrow keys to select the rectangular area you want your dwarves to work on. It is extremely tedious, and often I long just to be able to click on an area with my mouse instead of tapping away on my keyboard. Better mouse support is coming for the Steam version, but the release date for that version of the game currently reads, “time is subjective.”

Dwarf Fortress was made entirely by two brothers, Tarn and Zach Adams, and that shines through. No one with any experience in user interface design would design their UI this way, unless they intentionally wanted to hurt their players. This singularity of vision makes Dwarf Fortress special, even if it means I’m constantly fat fingering my way into a new disaster.

Losing is fun because the circumstances surrounding it are so bizarre. However, truly losing rarely happens. More often, you just get stuck or get bored. In order to actually lose a run, you have to let every dwarf die, and they are hardy creatures. More often than not, things get messed up in such a way that you haven’t lost, but you can’t quite recover. Fans play the game to celebrate complicated achievements, but also to celebrate the creative ways everything can go wrong even before the walls of your fortress are smeared with the dwarven blood of its inhabitants.

There are so many bad things that can happen in Dwarf Fortress. You can fail to build up a military and die to a siege, or have too good of a military and die when one of your soldiers has a tantrum and kills everyone else. You can have all your dwarves starve, or have all your dwarves get mad because they’re too sober and either get so depressed that they wander listlessly and starve to death or kill everyone. You can be attacked by vampires, lizardmen, or one of the randomly generated forgotten beasts that lurk in the caverns below the fortress. You can tunnel into hell, unleashing a demon invasion into your fortress.

Each new ending will be one you never expected. In one of my very first games, I had a werehorse attack shortly after starting my fortress. I managed to kill the werehorse, but I knew there was a chance that one of my dwarves had been bitten. I scrolled through the action log, which tells you every blow that was delivered or received in a fight, but couldn’t find evidence of a bite. I should have taken solace in the fact that no one appeared to have been bitten, but I couldn’t shake the fear that I was just having trouble sorting through Dwarf Fortress’ morass of information. I ended up abandoning that save before the next full moon. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of a werehorse epidemic—dwarves turning into murderous horses would have been hilarious, even if it wiped everyone out. There was just more of the game that I wanted to explore, more structures and machines I wanted to build, and more ways I wanted my dwarves to die.

One way you find that “more” is by digging into Legends mode. There, you can see all the historical figures and wars that the game generates to describe your world before your dwarves arrived. Once, while looking at the residents of my fortress in Legends mode, I found a dwarf I didn’t recognize. She was ancient and nomadic, having joined dozens of mountainhomes in her lifetime, and had claimed nearly as many lives. I quickly realized she was a vampire, and I didn’t recognize the name because she had used a different one when she joined the fortress. Fascinated by her long history, I looked through the log of her life in Legends mode to see what she got up to between all the murder. Mostly, it was footraces. She won all of them.

Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress ((Bay 12 Games)

Adventure mode also gives you a new way to see and explore the world of your fortresses. My forays into Adventure mode haven’t gotten very far, but it’s fascinating to see outside of the limits of the fort you control in Fortress mode. On my unsuccessful quest to kill some bandits, I wandered through sparse human towns with bustling taverns and the more temperate elven settlements, suspended in the trees.

Just exploring these worlds was fun, and all those locations exist and change as you play the game in Fortress mode. You might get an update about a new war between the goblins and humans when the dignitary from the capital comes, or your map might update with new dwarven settlements. Once you have seen all three modes of the game, everything feels overwhelmingly alive.

Trying to think about Dwarf Fortress in its totality is dizzying. You’ll never hold all the things you have to do, and all the ways they could go wrong, in your mind. The game isn’t even done yet, and Tarn Adams says that perhaps it never will be. I’m amazed by how vast and complex it is and the possibility of what else could be added. It’s clear that the Adams brothers love the richness and ineffability of life. They love the randomness of it, the thrill of discovery, the pain of loss, the warmth of love, the way that having a child changes your center of gravity. They want to cram every part of life—the heartbreaks, the mirth, and sometimes even the boredom—into their game.

Some of Dwarf Fortress’ DNA has seeped into other games. You can see it in Rimworld, a game where you manage a small fortress in space, rather than a sprawling fantasyland. Steam hits Gnomoria or Oxygen Not Included also put you in charge of a small outpost teetering at the brink of a potential disaster, with Oxygen Not Included having you manage breathable oxygen on top of everything else in your colony. But none of these games contain the love that Dwarf Fortress does. Rimworld is too eager to revel in the death of your colonists. Oxygen Not Included narrows the world around your fortress to nothing but more rocks to mine. These games all make smart decisions about where and how to cut clutter. Dwarf Fortress has no such restraint, and that awe-inspiring ambition makes it what it is.

One of my favorite things to do in Dwarf Fortress is build chapels. Dwarves can worship a deity or deities, all randomly generated during world creation. You can build places of worship for specific deities, or build a general place of worship that everyone can share. I like to make my chapels fancy. I direct dwarves to engrave the walls and floor, and to fill the chapels with statues depicting the history of the fort. In my head, I imagine these places as quiet, peaceful sanctuaries where any dwarf or visiting human or elf can find peace. You can even build and install musical instruments in these spaces, which always makes me envision them as some kind of spa where they play nondescript, tinkly pan-asian music

Chapels are a fun project for me because they’re places to gather. You can also build taverns where your dwarves will throw parties, but that can sometimes get in the way of work. At the chapels, dwarves worship and socialize, and I sometimes select the dwarves who visit to figure out what deities they worship. But chapels are also a way to take care of my dwarves, who must be stressed from all the mining, forging, cloth-making, farming, and furniture building that I’ve made them do. I feel responsible for my dwarves, after all. They should have a place to find their center before a werehorse rampage takes them all out.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Tried To Defeat Water In Dwarf Fortress And Failed

Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress (Bay 12 Games)
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Dwarf Fortress is full of hidden horrors, like Forgotten Beasts that breathe poison or giant metal Titans with impenetrable skin, or even just the regular old Goblin coming to kidnap one of your children. But these abominations pale in comparison to the challenge I tried to overcome a couple weeks ago, Dwarf Fortress’s first real boss: aquifers.

Here’s the thing about aquifers: Dwarves can’t swim, and digging into an aquifer level unprepared is basically a death sentence for your fort. Hope you didn’t need any of those dwarves or workshops on the now-flooded levels of your fort!

Luckily, Dwarf Fortress players have devised a way to safely seal off aquifers. Unluckily, it is also as hard as everything else in Dwarf Fortress. The last time I had a long period of uninterrupted personal time—April 10—I decided to try finally learning how to make aquifers bend to my will.

My attempt was ultimately a failure. It was entertaining, though!

The Dwarf Fortress wiki is basically my go-to for any problem I’m currently having in the game. On it, there’s a quick tutorial for handling aquifers called the “double slit method.” It involves digging two stairwells into an aquifer level, then using a pump to keep one side dry enough that the dwarves can dig down into the next level, then using walls to keep the rest of the water out. The wiki encourages you to try this method first on a map you don’t plan on playing again, so I set off to generate an entire world for the sole purpose of teaching myself how to play a video game better.

My first attempt ended up with me flooding my fortress in only a few minutes. I had expected that to happen, so I didn’t mind too much. I got myself into a pretty serious mindset, trying to think like my industrious dwarves. I just had to keep trying until I got it.

My second attempt started off promising. The key to the double slit method is making sure that the aquifer level you’re digging into has ample room to drain into the layer below it. Once you use the pump to dry out one of your staircases, the water from the aquifer will flood the staircase you just built, allowing your dwarves to go down a layer. In this try, I successfully made it down one layer of an aquifer.

I was delirious with pride. See that little walled-off area with the two x’s? That’s a traversable stairwell through a z-level with an aquifer on it, motherfucker. I even saw fit to brag a little online, even if I was tired enough to mistake an aquifer for an aqueduct.

“I have successfully walled off one layer of an aqueduct i am a hero, i am a god amongst men, i am immortal,” I boasted. A half hour later, I tweeted this:

You see, as I continued down into the next level, I realized I had screwed up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my pumps to drain enough water for my dwarves to build another stairwell down into the next layer. No matter what I did, the dwarves would just see water at about chest height, freak out, and not do the task. I tried a couple of times, as you can see by the multiple flooded staircases below.

Looking at this now, I can tell I got the orientation of the stairwells mixed up. At close to three in the morning after a long day of work, I could not understand that.

Trying to enclose an aquifer in this game has been a longtime goal of mine. It is the first basic hurdle to jump for a better understanding of the game’s deeper mechanics. It teaches you about pumps and the flow of water, and how to coax the game into doing what you want. I’ve had a lot of fun playing Dwarf Fortress over the years, but I’ve always felt like a poser for not knowing how to wall off an aquifer. Sure, I have hilarious stories, like the time a were-lizard attacked my fort and I had no idea if anyone got bit and and just had to wait to see who turned into a freaking lizard-man the next full moon, but I felt like I was missing out on the real fun of Dwarf Fortress.

Even though I failed at closing off an aquifer, I do now feel like I understand Dwarf Fortress on a deeper level. It seems a lot like the way my friends talk about lifting weights. You might feel like actual, absolute shit while you’re doing the lifting, especially at the start, but the pride you feel when you’re in your groove is incomparable. When I finally defeat my greatest Dwarf Fortress enemy, water, I’m sure my joy will be audible in space.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Eight Best Dwarf Fortress Stories We’ve Seen

Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress (Bay 12 Games)

Dwarf Fortress is a game where when things go wrong, you know you’ll have a great story to tell. Because its systems are so intricate and complicated, you’re always hit with multiple problems at once, and sometimes one of those problems is a demon invasion.

Players often record their Dwarf Fortress exploits as written stories, dramatized for other readers. Dwarf Fortress is hard to parse as a game, and not just because of the ASCII art. To someone who’s never played, it can be hard to understand why people go so wild over what looks like a series of numbers and letters. If you’re already under the thrall of Dwarf Fortress, though, you’ll know just how the authors of these stories feel.

Here are some stories from Dwarf Fortress players that either made me laugh or made me want to salute the bravery of the poor dwarves caught in a clusterfuck.


This is the most classic Dwarf Fortress tale. It’s an old Let’s Play from Something Awful, where each player played a year of a single save at the fortress of Boatmurdered. It was aptly named: It starts off with a rampage of murderous elephants and ends with fire. Note to self: be careful with magma in my saves.

Hamlet Of Tyranny

The dwarves from the Hamlet of Tyranny were almost entirely wiped out when they accidentally dug into the home of Ashmalice the fire demon. This demon had over five hundred kills since he came into being during pre-history, and he wasn’t that fussed about adding a few more when his slumber was interrupted. Rather than give up on the fortress, the dwarves decided to avenge their fallen brethren and take out the demon once and for all. It’s a tragic but heroic tale of dwarven hardiness.


In the universe of Dwarf Fortress, Hell is real, and you get there by mining too deeply. Usually this means an invasion of demons and a rush to plug up a literal portal to hell, but the dwarves of the fortress Archcrystal have a different plan. They want to build a clear glass fortress in Hell and live there. This playthrough started in 2016 and is still ongoing.


This is a short but astonishing comic about what happens when ordinary dwarves accidentally encounter a fell beast. Fell beasts are huge, terrifying monsters, and one of them landed on a pump that needed to be manually operated to fill the fortress with running water. Would you be surprised to learn that a lot of dwarves died?

Cacame Awemedinade, the elf king of the mountainhomes.
Illustration: Mechlin

Cacame Awemedinade

Cacame is the unlikely elven king of the dwarves. Dwarves and elves tend not to see eye to eye. While elves love nature, dwarves need trees to make beds. Elves really hate to see trees cut down, and also love to make wisecracks about dwarves being short. As a short human, I think that’s really rank. Player Holy Mittens discovered their fortress’ king was an elf, and then dove into the game’s Legends mode to discover how Cacame ended up in the position. Given that his wife was injured in an elvish war then eaten by another elf, I can see why Cacame decided to ditch the elves for the dwarves. Having an elf king is so unusual in Dwarf Fortress that Holy Mittens chronicled their history in this 70 page forum thread, which is also readable in this slightly more digestible wiki entry.

The Fable Of Catten and The Eagle

This is the story of the dwarf Catten, his pet eagle, and the dragon they faced down together. As far as Dwarf Fortress tales go, this one is pretty inspiring, and it doesn’t end in the bloody death of everyone.

The Legend of Tholtig Cryptbrain

Tholtig was a dwarven queen locked in a genocidal war with the elves, with a kill count of over two thousand beings. Tholtig led her compatriots to victory time and again, but at the cost of her family and eventually her fortress. It’s the kind of tragic tale you only find through scouring the entries in Dwarf Fortress’s Legends mode, which lets you browse the historical events in the world you’ve generated.


When you start Dwarf Fortress, after generating a world, you have to find a suitable place to embark and start mining. Each site will have different levels of evilness and savagery. Some could be enchanted forests, with fairies and brewable plants aplenty. Other places are haunted forests with ratpeople and rains of malodorous ooze. The fortress of Glazedcoast is the second kind of place, and the ratpeople are in the basement.

The one story I always tell of my own adventures in Dwarf Fortress is The Time I Had To Kill All Those Puppies. It’s not a long one, but it is one of my deepest regrets. We were on a starvation spiral, and I had also forgotten to neuter any of the male dogs. The dogs went around impregnating all the other dogs, and we were just about knee deep in puppies. We had so many that my game slowed to a crawl, making the food problem even more dire. How could I solve both problems?

I felt awful about it, for sure. It took me a good few minutes to make the choice. But my dwarves were eating dog-meat pies and sporting puppy-leather armor by the time the butcher was finally through.

What’s your most hilarious or most harrowing tale from Dwarf Fortress? Sound off in the comments.

Source: Kotaku.com

Dwarf Fortress Is Coming To Steam Because Its Developer Needs Healthcare

Screenshot: Dwarf Fortress (Bay 12 Games)

If you want to know why Dwarf Fortress is coming to Steam, its co-creator Tarn Adams has one answer: health insurance.

“Healthcare costs generally are pretty much the whole reason,” Adams told Kotaku over email. “We’ve been doing fine with crowdfunding, but we’re getting older now, and one health problem that lands us in the wrong deductible or co-pay situation would be the end of full-time work on the game.”

Adams and his brother, Zach, released Dwarf Fortress in 2006 after four years of development. It’s an expansive, intoxicating game, where you corral a party of dwarves and create an underground colony for them, protecting them from various dangers along the way. Its ASCII-art world is meticulously detailed, creating wild scenarios where you freak out over a cluster of lowercase, gray letter “e”s on a screen because it represents an approaching elephant herd. Over the years, as Dwarf Fortress has gained a cult following and even been shown in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Adams brothers have been able to support themselves through one-time donations from fans, as well as through their Patreon, where they make over $6,000 a month. But as Adams gets older, the cost of living has gone up.

“To afford healthcare, we have to make money, and it has to be enough money,” he wrote. “Crowdfunding has been great. I’ve survived for 12 years on it. But ultimately it’s not survivable in the current environment.”

It hasn’t escaped Adams’s notice that similar games on Steam do extraordinarily well, like Prison Architect, Rimworld, and Gnomoria. “Sales there over many years are in the, what, million or so range? That’s still unfathomable to me—not because those games didn’t earn it, but just the number. That’s a big number, beyond the sort of metrics we see personally,” he wrote.

Given those numbers, Adams said that putting the game on Steam was a no-brainer. If it succeeded, it could potentially match the sales of those other games. If not? Sure, he’s back at square one, but he’s still in a position he says is survivable.

Adams has been continually updating Dwarf Fortress ever since its release, and said that he doesn’t think Dwarf Fortress will ever reach a state where the game feels finished to him.

“Oh, no, never,” he said. “I’m sure some games feel finished, maybe? But I’ve never written one that feels that way.” he said.

“If you conceive of your game a certain way, that there’s a path you’ve taken through the possible features, and you’ve polished and pared it down, and made good decisions, then perhaps it feels something like finished when you’ve realized your list. But, hmm, these are not skills I’ve been practicing broadly, though we do try to make each release feel somewhat contained to a few themes that work well with everything that’s already implemented,” he said.

It’s been nearly two decades since Dwarf Fortress began development, and it’s possible that it will be in development for as long as Adams is able to keep it up. Putting the game on Steam is one path to sustainability for Tarn and Zach Adams. At least, it might keep their co-pays down.

Source: Kotaku.com