Feature: 'The Making Of Dwarf Fortress'

Cult indie hit Dwarf Fortress is ASCII-based, but takes dynamic world and character generation to an level unprecedented in the history of video games, and, in
Cult indie hit Dwarf Fortress is ASCII-based, but takes dynamic world and character generation to an level unprecedented in the history of video games, and, in its latest feature, Gamasutra talks in-depth to co-creator Tarn Adams about the title. In this excerpt, Adams says that while the game's generative storylines will never be as advanced as a hand-written one, it does provide its own uniquely rich opportunities for players to help create one themselves: "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." You can now read the full feature, with more from Adams on Dwarf Fortress's complex wound system, its ASCII aesthetic, and its key motto that 'losing is fun' (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

Latest Jobs


Hybrid, Cambridge, MA or Chicago, IL
Quality Assurance Lead

Bladework games

Remote (United States)
Senior Gameplay Engineer

High Fidelity, Inc.

Game Interaction Designer

Fred Rogers Productions

Hybrid (424 South 27th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Producer - Games & Websites
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more