Friday, July 4, 2014

Return to the Fortress

Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress is a game that feels like it comes from an alternate reality.  Another branch of video game evolution wherein developers chose to ignore graphics in lieu of a highly detailed "under the hood" simulation.  If there ever were a title that thrives on emergent gameplay it would have to be Dwarf Fortress.  However, for the last two years the game has received no official updates.  Understandable, considering the fact that Bay 12 Games (the company making the game) consists in total of two brothers, only one which actually does the coding.  Ever increasing complexity is mostly to blame, but the long wait is finally coming to an end.  July, 2014 will mark the next step in this game's lengthy development history.

Interestingly enough the focus this time around seems to be on adventure mode.  While the majority of folks play Dwarf Fortress for it's management driven fortress mode, I'm glad to see other modes getting some much needed attention.  True story...the first time I tried adventure mode it was on a laptop.  Hence, no number pad which meant I couldn't create a proper starting character.  Unsurprisingly, the result was me wandering through some woods for a while until a pack of wolves decided to turn my unarmed avatar into a midday meal.

I'm going to go out on a limb here any say for a lot of fans of this game, myself included, the real appeal of Dwarf Fortress isn't the game itself, but rather the many stories that come out of it.  Some are short, often darkly humorous accounts no longer than a typical blog post (check out a few here).  Others, such as Oilfurnace and Akrulatol, are presented in an infographic style.  The greatest tales though are the succession games, passed from one player to the next each in-game year, these accounts detail the rise and fall of fortresses from the POV of "overseers."  The most famous epic is probably Boatmurdered, renown for the undead mammoth-infested swamp in which it was built.  In my opinion though the most entertaining read is Syrupleaf.  The tragic chronicle of that fortress' ultimately futile struggle to survive against wave after wave of monsters is truly heart wrenching, but very true to the Dwarf Fortress mantra - losing is fun!

When asked in an interview about the eventual completion of Dwarf Fortress one of the two brothers responded by saying that he expected the game to take another twenty years or so before it would no longer be in the alpha phase of development.  So, regardless if you're interested in Dwarf Fortress for the gameplay or stories it sounds like this odd little piece of donationware will continue to endure as long as it sparks the imagination of the fanbase.

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