Two years is a long time to wait for a new version of a videogame in development, but Dwarf Fortress is more than just a game. It's an "art project that has been in production for over ten years," as the most recent Bay 12 Games report puts it. And a new version is finally on the way.
[This feature originally ran in Issue 228 PC Gamer UK, and the wonderful illustrations are by the Tim Denee.]
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, I’m making this bit up, “the Underworld shall be ours to keep.”
So it was that only the expedition leader Tim Edwards was told of the true reason behind the construction of the fortress of Oakfire. He had chosen the site – it was soft, quiet and dry – and he was the first to strike the earth, to form the encampment and two-bit industry required to fuel a downward dig as rapid as it was perilous In a little over two years Tim Edwards would lie helplessly in a hospital bed as the foulest and most harrowing creatures of the beneath roasted him alive. He would feel every crackling blister as his skin boiled and dripped to the soot-covered floor. He’d regret the swing of the pick.
Tim Edwards was digging a hole to hell.
Dwarf Fortress is an incredibly complex game of base building and Dwarvern survival (or more often lack of survival) of rendered in ASCII graphics. Following our recent diary about the game we spoke to co-designer Tarn Adams about the ups and downs of the game.