Dwarf Fortress now needs about 100 icons for spilled intestines, torn arteries and bruised tendons

A Dwarf Fortress bloodbath
(Image credit: Redditor delveccio / Bay12Games)

Dwarf Fortress has a minor guts problem: right now, it doesn't do a great job of telling you whether a dwarf's guts are inside, or outside, of their body. While dwarves have some physiological differences from humans (they live 150+ years, have perfect dark vision, and start vomiting if they hang out in the sun for awhile), they are alike in this respect: if their guts are hanging out, something's gone very wrong. One of the changes to the graphical version of Dwarf Fortress makes this dire situation a bit harder to diagnose, but developer Tarn Adams says it's on the list to address.

In our review of Dwarf Fortress, we said that the graphical version's new mouse-based controls are "a much-needed and welcome change," but that "the new UI struggles to accommodate every aspect of this bottomless game." Some of the changes to the graphical version make the game far more approachable, but there are currently a few features that are now less visible to players. Dwarf Fortress's complexity remains unsullied—it's just not all being surfaced right now. Dwarven health is one example.

"People miss the old health interface," Adams said, referring to the Dwarf Fortress menu that comprised seven entire columns of statuses for individual dwarves. "We'd need to draw 100 more icons. We'll just have to get that done, I guess. There were so many icons: Do you have sutures, do you have an overlapping fracture, are your intestines inside or outside your body? Sensory nerve damage, motor nerve damage, impaired ability to stand… and then the different levels of bleeding, arterial bleeds and whether or not your lungs are functioning properly. It just adds up."

The health screen is one of a couple big pieces of Dwarf Fortress that Adams plans to work on in future updates to the new graphical version, resurfacing information that's currently obfuscated. "Reports and announcements, being able to dig stairways up in the middle of rooms, the military stuff with the boots is still a problem, you can't nickname stray animals—there's a list of 20-30 things that have been highlighted [by players]," he said. (Apparently dwarves wearing socks or shoes are stubborn about putting boots on).

Those fixes will be coming after Adams finishes Classic mode in the next few weeks, which will allow players who bought Dwarf Fortress on Steam to play with the original ASCII art instead of graphics (you'll even be able to toggle it back and forth). Classic will also be available to download for free. After that comes the fairly simple Arena mode and the much more complex Adventure mode, which lets you play through a Dwarf Fortress world in a sort of roguelike RPG.

"This is all with a background radiation of quality of life stuff being done in patches, and then updating Adventure mode is a big project," he said.

I'm looking forward to seeing all that in the Steam release so that Dwarf Fortress can resume simulating more and more of existence. But honestly, right now I'm more interested in how the sprite artists will convey a slight fever, an overlapping fracture or spilled intestines in 32x32 pixel icon form. Remember that survival game SCUM? It's got nothing on Dwarf Fortress. 

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).