Dwarf Fortress
Linux Format|April 2020
Management’s wondering what Steve Hogarty has been up to in the LXF Server Dungeon, but it’s nothing to worry about, he’s digging a hole to hell.
Steve Hogarty
SPECS

OS: A Linux
CPU: Dual core 2.4GHz+
Mem: 4GB
GPU: 1GB VRAM
HDD: 500MB

In the Dwarven Year 250, the stubby reach of dwarfkind had touched every procedurally generated rock in Ruspsmata, from The Problematic Steppe to The Dune of Hermits, from The Prairie of Pregnancy to the Jungle of Conflagration. Not an inch of stone had not known dwarven steel, yet one dark depth had so far eluded colonisation. “Leave the skies to the birds,” sang the Dwarven king – probably, we’re making this bit up – “the Underworld shall be ours.”

Dwarf Fortress is several things at once. It’s The Sims and NetHack and Dungeon Keeper and Minecraft. It’s a vast, simulated fantasy world, generated just for you, with races and religions and history and wars and dwarves whose fingernails grow. It’s also infamously difficult, featuring only ASCII visuals and labyrinthine menus. Yet Dwarf Fortress’s reluctance to expend even a joule of energy in prettying itself results in astonishing complexity.

Bidwell the dwarf sets to work dismantling the wagon and turning the wood into beds. Mohr and Effy begin to scoop out a shallow hole. The others busy themselves stockpiling the food, furniture and fuel they arrived with. Over days, seven bedrooms are carved out of the rock, indoor stores are created, as are workshops and kitchens. Peers happily builds doors. Bidwell constructs tables and chairs for a dining room. His puppy is stung by a bumblebee in an attempt to ironically frame just how peril-free life is.

The dining room becomes Oakfire’s attractive centrepiece, as the northwest corner has clipped a cluster of green tourmaline, creating a shimmering emerald distraction from the now daily servings of Neil Bothwick’s freshly caught perch. It’s all very pleasant. It’s definitely a shame that Effy is already tunnelling vertically towards oblivion and the realms of unending torture.

As a construction and physics simulator, Dwarf Fortress is perhaps at its least intimidating. You can’t assume exact control over your dwarves, instead you designate areas for them to work on. In the early stages, that’s a case of simply tracing out chunks of the ground to be dug. Dwarves are assigned different jobs, such as mining, but some labour is shared by every dwarf, and moving stone becomes a constant low-priority task.

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