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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 4 of 10 Next

Storytelling as an Idea Source

TA: That started with Armok, although there might have been traces of it with C dragslay. We had a spiral notebook, and we decided to write stories about events that happened in the game universe, things that we'd like to have happen. My brother Zach would write a chapter, then I'd write the next chapter, we'd go back and forth several times. Then we'd look over it and decide on some low-hanging fruit to implement.

It was partially inspired by our repeated experiences with plots in video games. We never really wanted to write a plot, and a lot of them seemed like they could be generated by a computer. So we thought about breaking stories down into core elements, and working with those instead. You'd be very hard-pressed to capture really beautiful symbolism or an advanced writing device like that with a random generator, but there are very few game stories where that would be an issue.

It's really the same principle as world generation or anything else in the game: finding the key, basic elements, finding the rules that govern them, and then activating those things in the world.

So, kind of a random drama generator?

TA: That's right. Create actors with motivations, and let them go. It's about the same process you'd go through in a writing class, or with Dramatica or something. Not to say I've implemented much of this but that's the idea, and it applies to all aspects of DF design.

Now my brother, who isn't programming, has taken the bulk of the story writing role. He has a lot of fun churning things out, and then we look at them. I assume there are more impressive story generators, world generators, body part models, etc. I'm just trying to put moderate versions all in the same place. It should give rise to some really awesome stories from the players themselves.

Actually, I can't point to a better world generator than DF's.

TA: I can't either, but I'm the last person to ask. I've only played a handful of new games in ten years.

The nice thing about DF will be that the actors in the story have the whole, random DF universe to work with. So even if they aren't cutting-edge complicated, it should be awesome.

It must be heartening to see the Something Awful guys writing stories about the trials of their fortresses.

TA: Yeah, Boatmurdered had me laughing my ass off [laughs].

(Ed note: Boatmurdered is the story of a single long Dwarf Fortress game played in turns by a large number of Something Awful forum goers. It became a minor internet sensation some time back, getting as far as the front page of Metafilter.)

It's like Zach's stories are being retold, in a way.

TA: Yeah, even for the mechanics we haven't added yet, people just fill in the blanks. It's like that with a lot of games -- people think they are more complicated than they actually are. I remember having that experience with the ground war in Falcon.

Stories aren't the only way we plan. I think a few people had that idea. But it's certainly a fun way to plan that can really crystallize exactly what we want to accomplish.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 10 Next

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