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TA: By around 2004 though, it was
obvious that Armok was floundering under its own weight. So I
announced on the forums that I'd be switching gears to dwarves. I
kept adventure mode a secret though.
(Ed note: Adventure mode is a special feature of Dwarf Fortress, where the player can take an adventurer through various areas of the game's random world in a traditional roguelike adventure. The player can visit old places he's worked in Fortress mode.)
So, you kept going with a variety of
different games at the time?
TA: Oh yeah, it's important to break
things up. DF isn't the only game I want to write.
Did you already have a good forum
community at the time?
TA: It was nowhere near as large as it
is now, but there were a few dozen hardcore people and many more
occasional lurkers/posters. Most of them came on board with me
working on the dwarves. They knew only that it was a dwarf-sim. I
kept the RPG part quiet, for fun.
It took longer than I thought, but I finally got it out in August 2006. It was our only fantasy project by that time, and all Armok dev had moved over there, so it was Armok 2 as well. Hence the long-winded name, which is for kicks, mostly.
Ah, hence Slaves to Armok,
God of Blood II: Dwarf Fortress. A quick question: The
game already contains a great many ideas working in concert. It's
really quite amazing. Do you think Dwarf Fortress
will get to the point where it too will flounder under its weight?
TA: Nope. After many project deaths, I think I've finally got a handle on simultaneous programming and design. It's tricky to keep it up though. There's certainly a lot to learn. And I think the latest z-axis release shows I'm not afraid to gut the entire project if I have to [laughs]. Having it collapse is not really an option at this point. My livelihood is tied up in it.
The z-axis thing, that really was a surprise, yes. But a good one. Before, the world generator seemed to determine climate and wildlife and not much else. Now it's an absolutely essential part of the game, and determines the entire nature of the fortress to come.
TA: I was going to be starting armies without messing with the z-axis, but there came a point where I felt like I'd be hemming myself in. I'm only going to have time for one shot at this fantasy project now, so I want to stuff as much into it as I can.
We appreciate that attitude, believe
TA: It would be almost like facing mortality to refuse a solid idea. I hate having to say something good doesn't fit my specs.
What's left to answer is why'd we be so
into doing a fantasy game. That's probably the same as everybody
else: Tolkien, D&D, myths, and of course, the movie Beastmaster.
(We like the part where the evil priest is like, "You'll be
sacrificed to 'The God of AAaa,'" like they didn't even bother
thinking of a name, just powering through on the power of their
badassedness.) But there were all kinds of things like that. In
the movies, books, the arcade, PC, consoles, we were surrounded by
that sort of thing.
So along with generic sci-fi, generic fantasy is part of our heritage. This kind of brings us to the stories.