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Dwarf Fortress Steam Edition is releasing on December 6. The long-awaited release is exciting because it’s the same game as always, but with updated graphics and a small collection of other quality of life upgrades. I can’t properly explain how exciting this news is, but I’ll certainly do my best.
Dwarf Fortress isn’t just a base-building god game. It’s a reality simulator. That’s not really hyperbole; developer Tarn Adams is on record about that fact. He’s using this living project – which rose in 2003 – to try and simulate all the important aspects of reality.
In a 2016 PC Gamer interview from GDC 2016, Adams mentioned the then-current release of Dwarf Fortress, 0.42.06, simulated about 42% of reality as he saw it. The current release, 6 years later, is 0.47.05.
Almost half of reality successfully simulated in just under two decades. Six years for five percent.
I so desperately want to include some pictures to try and explain how complex Dwarf Fortress is. The problem is that without prior experience the pictures just look like nonsense. Dwarf Fortress is all symbols representing things like, you know, dwarves. Or minecarts. Or trees.
Trees are a great example, actually. The game might use playing card suits to represent a temperate forest, but then it turns around and uses arrows to represent a coniferous forest. Sand is represented with tildes. Mountains with solid triangles.
Simply looking at the game is as complicated as playing it. It’s such a mess that potential players can bounce off of it immediately. That’s before even getting into the complexity of controlling it.
A new generation
The biggest selling point of the Steam release is that it sports pixel graphics. It looks like an actual game, now.
When I first dipped my toe into Dwarf Fortress it took a little time to get used to its visuals. The learning curve is less a hill and more a sheer vertical cliff. I got used to it, though. My brain does the translating. At this point I don’t even see the code anymore. All I see is dwarf, mountain, lava.
When things finally clicked it felt like I blinked and suddenly I was over 700 hours of playtime deep.
I’m so, so excited to dive back in without looking completely unhinged when trying to explain to people the cool stuff happening. It doesn’t work super well when you’re just gesturing wildly to a screen covered in text.
I’m hoping beyond hope that the new graphics in the Steam version convince an entire new generation of players to experience it for themselves.