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Interview: The Making Of Dwarf Fortress
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Interview: The Making Of Dwarf Fortress

February 27, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 10 Next

Ah, that's a significant departure, I'd say, from the basic fantasy game template, and quite an interesting idea. Between-game continuity.

TA: By this time we were operating in spite of the games we were playing, rather than because of them, I think. It was 1998, 3D FPSs had already been out and popular for five years or so, I guess, and I was hardly playing anything anymore. A lot of the games we played, like the Ultimas, also kind of got us into thinking about the worlds themselves, rather than just playing a game in one.

So I hit a Borland compiler limit, 65K something or other, and moved on to other projects. I didn't see a monetary future in my games, and I wasn't into CS as an academic pursuit, so I got serious about math for a few years, and went to grad school.

The summer before I went to grad school, though, we restarted the fantasy project. This time, it was called Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, named after Armok, the god from dragslay. Armok himself was named after "arm_ok", a variable that counts the number of arms you have left, for inventory purposes. This was a 2D project in a somewhat-isometric view, where you walked around a cave with a bunch of goblins in loincloths. It was entertaining, but short-lived.

I got started on the actual Slaves to Armok that I released on Bay 12 around 2000-2004 or so. This was our fantasy game. Lots of complex things going on, and of course, a boatload of plans. It was unwieldy, and got even more so when I went 3D. This is the first piece of Dwarf Fortress.

Slaves to Armok: God of Blood

Now, you might have seen the various, questionable games littered throughout my site. I would occasionally take time off from Armok and grad school to write really short projects on weekends or whenever I found time or had an idea. A few of them got released, and many others just died before they saw the light of day.

A game called Mutant Miner is one of these. It was roughly inspired by Miner VGA and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mutagen, or something. As in Miner VGA, you'd dig out tunnels in the ground under a few buildings, looking for minerals and deal with threats. It's turn-based.

In Miner VGA you can find many things in the ground. In Mutant Miner, we added green radioactive goop. You could take it back to one of the buildings at the top, and apply it to yourself to grow extra arms and other mutations that would help you combat threats down below. Which were just, like, these holes that would spit out enemies or blocks of slime that you'd encounter in the mountain.

I eventually wanted to put in extra miners though, and since it was turn-based, it started to drag like a battle in an SSI Gold Box game. And instead of rewriting the game, I thought, well maybe it should be dwarves instead. And it should be real-time, to combat the SSI problem. Now, you'd be digging out minerals in a mountain, combating threats inside, and making little workshops.

Then I thought, well, how should the high score list work? We really like to keep records of plays. Not just high score lists, but expansive logs. So we'll often try to think of ways to play with the idea. This time, the idea was to let your adventurer come into the fortress after you lose and find the goblets you've made, and journals it generates.

If your adventurer successfully brought these back to town (after facing threats in the now-abandoned fortress), the player would get to see the fortress' stats. For instance, if they found a journal that said "This month, we produced 3 silver goblets...," they get the entire set of stats on silver goblet production in the score list.

That was the idea. It was supposed to take two months. I started in October 2002.

Creating the game?

TA: Yeah, longer games took a few weeks, most of the other ones up there took 2 days (ww1medic, corin, Kobold Quest, etc.) so I didn't think it was a bad estimate. And it might not have been, but I called up my brother and we just kept planning it out. It became obvious that it was really stealing thunder from Armok which was right in the middle of its life cycle at this time, so DF development was actually stopped that November and I went back to Armok, which was still going all right, and various other projects.

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