Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress

 The game is Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, also known as Dwarf Fortress.

This is a screenshot of the game.  Each symbol stands for either a person (a dwarf), a substance, an object, an enemy (demons), a vampire dwarf, cats, or really anything.  It is very difficult to distinguish between anything easily, and I have often heard this described as being like the matrix.  The game is about making a sustainable fortress with dwarves.  It is a cult classic, and a hit among those enjoy a challenging game.  You can control the dwarves by make them build things and assign them jobs.  The dwarves themselves are autonomous.  They take the players directions as merely suggestions.  This is a difficult part of the game, if you want a dwarf to craft something, they have to be in a certain mood.  When they reach this mood, they require certain materials to create what they want. If they do not get these specific materials in time, they can go mad and bite other dwarves.  Sometimes they make something useful, like the strongest armor in the entire world, or something useless, like a magic stick with the history of the entire world on it.  You also interact with humans and elves.  The humans are essentially nobles, they go into your fortress and demand things, if you do not give it to them, they can put your dwarves in jail.   Elves are traders and regulators of how much wood you can cut down.  If you cut down too much wood, you will anger the elves and have an enemy.  There are also cats, and these cats can multiply to a level that essentially ruins your fortress, not due to overcrowding (unless you let it get so bad that the cats replace the oxygen in the room), but because the dwarves fall in love with these cats.  When they fall in love, they no longer do anything productive.  The main enemy of dwarf fortress are the demons, goblins, carp (the fish), elephants, and the list goes on.  Almost anything in the game can come and try to raid your fortress.  The only thing you can do is build the best fortress you can, and fight.  You can also be creative and create traps for the enemies.  This game is like the Sims, except for dwarves. In order to make this game playable, you need to modify it (adding another separate program) in order to play it.  This add on is called dwarf therapist and helps you make the game remotely playable.  This game is completely free, and you can download it here dwarf fortress, free .  It doesn't take very long to download because the game is essentially a generator.  It generates a map in which you build your fortress and have your dwarves work.   This game was created by Tarn Adams, with the help of his brother Zach Adams.  They began this project in 2002, Tarn is the main creator, Zach helps more with general ideas and some coding.  The bareness of the graphics is so Tarn could focus on mechanics, not visual effects.  Tarn is obsessed with details.  Every map generated has it's own history.  There are pages of information available on events that you never saw happen.  For each dwarf there is a description.  

This is an example of a dwarf biography.  There is so much detail and there can be hundreds of these in each game.  This game is detail oriented.  Since there are so few graphics, the text has to describe everything.  This was painstaking to create.  Everything about this game is creative.  There is nothing else like it.  The detail alone sets it apart from any other game.  You also have free reign in this world.  You can do almost anything at any time.  This is the most appealing part to Tarn, he wants this detail and the ability to micromanage in a game. He created a game that he knew would not have no commercial appeal, but was for himself.  Tarn obsessively works on the game, he gets up at 3 in the afternoon, then codes until 6 am, when he goes to bed.  He gets into a certain zone when he codes.  He will sit for hours only coding dwarf fortress.  This game is his life's work, and he has set out since 2002 to perfect it. Tarn got his Ph.D. in mathematics in 2005, but didn't pursue a career in it because video games "[scratch] all the same itches" as math does.  The popularity of this game has been astounding.  There is a loyal cult following, and because this game is free, Tarn subsists only on donations from players.  When a new patch comes out, he can make 50,000 dollars a year, on any other year, he makes 30,000 dollars.  This is only from donations from a free game with a loyal cult following.  When someone donates, they can get a story written by Zach, or a crayon drawing by Zach that is colored by Tarn (this is an incentive for people to donate).   It is amazing that this man could turn his free game (that is only produced and made by him, with help from his brother) into a money maker.  This is his only job, and his life's work.  Tarn has refused to work on other games, and to work with other developers.  Tarn had an idea for a game, created this game from scratch, and has continued to perfect it for years.  This is an obsessive quality.  Tarn is extremely focused, to the point of obsession on this game.  It is his life and his life's work.  Tarn's expertise is in mathematics and coding games.  He became fixated on Dwarf Fortress, and has not stopped.  This fixation has created one of the most creative, challenging, and realistic games available today. He has refused to stop perfecting this game, to the point of it being on obsession.  He also has to use problem solving to create Dwarf Fortress. At some points, they did not realize what their coding would actually do.  For example, they made carp (the fish) the same size as a dwarf, and carnivores.  This led to carp being able to kill and eat dwarves.  Instead of being a problem, Tarn decided to keep this aspect of the game, thinking it made it more interesting.  There have been other problems involving the coding, and this is why Tarn continues to work on this project.  In terms of collaboration, Tarn worked exclusively with his brother Zach.  It seems that Tarn is the main creative in this project.  Out of the money that Tarn makes from Dwarf Fortress, Zach gets 750 dollars a month.  Zach seems to be a person that Tarn can bounce ideas off of, but the main producer and creator is Tarn. This game is not yet fully completed.  Tarn has said that it will be completed by his standards in 2030.  This game is incredibly detailed and incredibly difficult to play. It is amazing, that in a world filled with instant gratification games that this game can be so popular.  We'll all be looking forward to the completed version in 2030.

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