It was gratifying to watch the graphical version of Dwarf Fortress inch towards release. Things that we would assume in most games are little thrills for Dwarf Fortress players: things like nice pixel art and mouse support and tabs will all make the game easier to play and analyze than its old keyboard-only ASCII interface. Now, wonder of wonders, one of the scariest PC games ever made is getting a tutorial. What wild idea will they think of next?
“Dwarf Fortress has the well-deserved title of being one of the most excruciating games to learn,” wrote co-creator Zach Adams in the latest Steam update. “There’s a lot going on, even after we changed all the ridiculous keyboard commands and replaced the Matrix-like interface with some understandable, and awesome, pixel art. It still needs something. Something to ease the need to go straight to the wiki. just to understand what happens. The answer is the tutorial of course.”
Based on the screenshots in the Steam post, the tutorial will cover many of the major roadblocks for new Dwarf Fortress players: controls, the basics of mining, creating and allocating stockpiles of goods, and dividing your fortress into zones so that they be able to sleep properly, work, and take grog. Text boxes with nice color coding for important features introduce these concepts and guide you through them.
Along with mouse controls and a crisp graphical interface, I suspect this tutorial will take a bite out of Dwarf Fortress’s reputation for overwhelming complexity. It’s an incredibly deep game, but once you get past the byzantine interface, it’s not that hard to get a fortress up and running.
Surviving is another story. The tutorials probably won’t teach you to avoid digging into a pool of water and drowning your entire fortress, or to guard against your first invasion of bloodthirsty elves, but some lessons are best learned the hard way.
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Dwarf Fortress is almost entirely developed by Tarn and Zach Adams, and the new tutorial is still a family affair: it was playtested by Zach’s wife Amy, who is not a Dwarf Fortress player. Or it wasn’t, until the tutorial. “After one failed attempt with the original, the latest version of the tutorial allowed her to become good enough at the game to tunnel under a swamp and drown her fortress,” Zach wrote. “Our goal is to make this level of play accessible to anyone. We want the world to be able to lose this game and have fun doing it.”
The Steam version of Dwarf Fortress doesn’t have a release date yet, but I’m optimistic that we’ll be playing it in 2023.
Colonial sims 🤝 UI designed by developers pic.twitter.com/3F8euczCGaJuly 6, 2022