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    I wish there was a game halfway between Dwarf Fortress and more limited in scope, better polished games like Prison Architect. Dwarf Fortress is the best game I’ve seen that has so much complexity that it’s emergent behavior is genuinely surprising and often entirely unique, while still residing within the realm of story possibility (it’s not realistic or anything like that, but makes sense in a story kind of way). That’s a special property, and not one that many other games capture. A project aimed at that (in the same genre), but with a larger focus on polish (I don’t need a fancy-schmancy sprite UI or anything, just less sharp edges) would have endless potential for me.

    To preempt the response “once you get used to it, it’s fine”, I simply cannot agree. I’ve put a good amount of time into Dwarf Fortress, passing the first few common hurdles (farming, lack of beer rage, immigrant pressure), but didn’t buckle down enough to figure out why squads never seemed to train.

    Learnability is rough in DF, but it isn’t the biggest reason I think the game is too rough around the edges: coming back to a medium to large fortress after more than a few days off is basically impossible. It’s like writing thousands of lines of assembly without using a procedure abstraction. To understand the system requires a ton of memory on the player’s part. The game does so little to convey the state of the fortress, and so many obscure details need to be tracked, that the best approach is to just memorize everything as you build the fortress and rely on that accumulated knowledge. If you lose it, good luck getting it back out of the game.

    Anyway, DF’s pretty cool, not trying to hate on it, just some of the consequences of it’s design, both very very good and also not so great. Either way, nothing else quite like it.

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      RimWorld might be what you are looking for, it’s even based on the Prison Architect look!

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        Almost certainly going to pick this up, thanks.

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          To follow up I did and i’m addicted and bought it for my dad and brother.

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        tbh it’s not that complex. It’s sophisticated. In that it keeps track of each fingernail of every dwarf of your fort, but the interactions are only complex and meaningful if one pretends it is. Spotting patterns in the tea leaves, so to speak. As a simulation it has many moving parts, but as a whole it’s still quite plain.

        And the interface is the biggest problem to the game. The learning curve wouldn’t be half as steep otherwise.

        but didn’t buckle down enough to figure out why squads never seemed to train

        Don’t worry, It’s been buggy for years.

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          I appreciate your response, but I don’t know that I fully buy what you’re saying.

          the interactions are only complex and meaningful if one pretends it is.

          Regarding it being meaningful, certainly, like all games it requires participation and buy in, it’s not inherently meaningful. And I can see what you mean about the complexity in a statement like “combat is so complex because it models so many ways to take damage.” I agree that that complexity only matters if we care about it.

          But fortresses tend to be kind of fragile, and keeping them running smoothly is the main draw of fortress mode, embodied by the idea of Fun (total fortress failure in spectacular ways). So if you’re trying to keep a fortress running smoothly, any of the following can seriously destabilize you:

          If there’s a kink in your beer production, everybody is going to be pissed, and if there is a kink in your clothing production, everybody is going to be pissed, and if you forgot than a dwarf has a “strange mood” but doesn’t have the needed materials, then they’re going to be pissed. And in each of these, when I say “going to be pissed”, I mean “going to be pissed and starting hitting people”.

          As a side note, this is a completely valid way for the game to be. It is realistic that projects get finished or lie incomplete then everyone forgets how it worked in the first place, or that big interconnected system, once in place, tend to have a life of their own. That’s totally valid, and being unnecessarily complicated actually helps achieve this effect.

          And the interface is the biggest problem to the game

          That’s what people say, but I don’t believe it. I had the keybindings down without any special effort, it just happened, to the point I didn’t realize how much of the menus I had memorized.

          My belief is that the biggest problems lie in the vast amount of information you have to ‘just know’, that the game doesn’t really let you in on. Like in the most recent update, that you can send your military commander on mission and you’ll be unable to manage your military much at all because nobody can take his place. Or that certain kinds of missions (artifacts known to be held by a person) don’t actually work. The ritual to get soldiers to train (like I said, never actually got the steps down for that one no matter how much of the wiki I read), and numerous other bugs and sharp edges you just have to know to play around.

          The core of the argument is: the game will teach you through failure that you need to grow food, make beer, make clothes, raise a militia, etc, but if something is buggy, you have no idea if you’re wrong or the game is, and there’s no way to learn within the game through that ambiguity.

          Don’t worry, It’s been buggy for years.


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        Just a useful tip – You can run it in an ssh session by setting PRINT_MODE:TEXT in the init.txt. Since dwarf fortress is so poorly optimized, it’s nice to be able to put it on a beefy server in a tmux session so your laptop won’t overheat.

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          Word is that Toady made it far easier to find offsets for tools like Dwarf Therapist and DF Hack. With these changes to make external mod tools easier to work on maybe someday he’ll provide some sort of api for people to run their own UI’s for the game itself too!

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            DFHack has a lot of UI modifications, you just have to know where to look. One of the most useful ones I’ve found is the stockpile search (z-menu, move to stockpile, press ‘e’ (I think)) that has this exact sort of filtering.