Differing Visions

This New Yorker article is a pleasant contrast between SimCity and Dwarf Fortress, using a classic version of SimCity rather than the recent debacle. (Fun note: “SimCity debacle” gets 36,000 hits on Google and 126,000 if you remove the quotes.) Representative quote about Dwarf Fortress:

(For a while, the melting point for the fat layer of the dwarves’ skin was set too low, resulting in instant death for any creature that got damp and then entered a warm room—baroque and violent bugs like this are very much in the spirit of the game).

I was once interested in trying Dwarf Fortress but the learning curve was more than I was willing to invest to overcome.

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “Differing Visions”

  1. Thanks for posting this. A few years back I was on the verge of buying the complete digital archive of the New Yorker but after trying the sample version and reading some horror stories about how terminally unusable it was I decided not to. Then I forgot about it.

    It would seem that they have ironed that out now, with a proper online archive. I’ve always wanted to subscribe to the New Yorker but balked at the international postage rates. The digital edition plus archive looks extremely good value, especially since I can read it on my tablet.

  2. I wonder if they are going to end up putting Minecraft in the museum, or let it simmer for another half-dozen years.

    I had a friend in college who was obsessed with Dwarf Fortress (and I believe he still is), but I could never get past the ASCII art. “E” is an elephant and not… an elevator? I’m sure people get used to it after a while, but I have little patience for memorizing an arcane set of symbols just to be able to look around.

    1. There are graphics tilesets that help a bit, and the two included with the Lazy Newb Pack are pretty descriptive, as such things go. Doesn’t help with the rest of the UI, though.

      1. Yeah, there are lots of times was, but the ascii art is really the least of the problems. It’s the bewilderingly complex UI that really causes problems in my opinion. It’s hard to navigate and unintuitive.

        A simple tileset and a GUI would make the game much more accessible without “dumbing anything down”

        1. Yeah, the user interface is garbage. It’s not even the graphics/command line gap, speaking as someone who can use vi without many problems. Several of Dwarf Fortress’ menus are actually mouse-accessible now. Just, you know, not all of them and never in any reliable way.

          There’s no standard for simple things like scrolling up and down a list (arrow keys or plus/minus switch randomly), or resizing a selection box (arrow keys, ukhm or plus/minus depending on type of box). Constructions are different than Buildings and built or deconstructed from different menus, even if both might make a house. Some things are nested by type of material you can make out of them, such as craftshop items, while other matters are nested by product use with an option to control material, and yet others by good with no control over material excepting through an entirely different page. You could strap a simple GUI on top of this, trivially, thanks to modern programming tools — but without re-examining the underlying design decisions, it’d be just as impossible to learn.

          Gnomoria’s made a decent start at an incredibly simplified take on the game, with a GUI and reasonably logical progression, but it’s got nowhere near Dwarf Fortress’s simulationist focus or variety.

  3. I experimented with Dwarf Fortress, and found it fascinating. I’m fine with ASCII art to some degree – I started gaming back in the day when all good games where ASCII – but it adds complexity to what is already an absurdly complicated “game”.

    I dream of a day when someone can build a front-end for Dwarf Fortress, featuring a usable UI and even basic representative graphics. But the usable UI is the most important part – it’s a hard enough game to learn as it is.

  4. The best emergent stories I ever had from a video game came from Dwarf Fortress. For my RL friends I started a hermit colony (no settlers) and named each dwarf after a friend. Even simple things like a dwarf being drunk while fishing, or a dwarf finding a nemesis in a local (un-epic) crocodile made great simple stories.

    DF is a horrible mistress though even after I got through the beginning curve. I still, from time to time, seek out some story threads around the ‘net. They are still brilliant.

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