Tag Archives: dwarf fortress

Watching and Reading Let’s Plays

One of my pleasures related to gaming is to read Let’s Plays, so I thought I might cook up a little blog post about the topic and then open the comments for suggestions! If you’re at a loss for something to occupy your Sunday then you might consider seeking out a LP and reading it with a nice cool refreshing soda/nice soothing hot chocolate, depending on local weather conditions!

A Let’s Play is essentially a player taking the viewers/readers through a game, or series of games, by writing about them, showing screenshots, or providing videos with commentary. LPs come in several flavors but the general principle is to show the reader/viewer the mechanics of the game, examples of artwork, music and FMVs, all that sort of thing. Where relevant you’ll see plot exposition, and very commonly people will show secrets, Easter eggs, perform feats of skill, or abuse game mechanics to show how utterly broken some games can become. Some are serious, some are humorous, usually though the idea is to show the game off, whether it’s to encourage everyone to play something really great or to explore the mendacious depths of a truly turgid turd.

Somewhat related to LPs, but often with a greater focus on storytelling or the like, are After Action Reports (AARs), which I’ve written a short example of for this very site. If you have a quick look at that you’ll see what I mean, I’m not talking about mechanics but rather interpreting what happened in a narrative sense, giving it meaning and context – something strategy games like Darkest Hour are very open to.

And some scenarios defy explanation.

A good LP is a great thing; one of the most famous, and one you’ve most probably heard of already, is Boatmurdered. It is an uncommonly hilarious and deeply enjoyable account of a Dwarf Fortress even more doomed than the usual. The fame of Boatmurdered does more than show off the comedic skills of a bunch of goons though; it also had a fairly significant impact on the fame of the game on which it was based, and for an indie game made by a two-man team who rely entirely on donations, this is a fairly big deal.

So as part of gaming’s culture and milieu I think LPs are a great thing, and I really enjoy going through them. Sometimes I read one for a game I thought I knew completely and learn many new things. Sometimes I read one of a game I would never play, and see what others see in it. Sometimes I just find myself tremendously amused.

If you want to find a whole treasure trove of Let’s Plays then the LP Archive is a great place to start. You can also search YouTube and find a vast store of video-based LPs, and various forums have their own sections from Something Awful’s dedicated and vast Let’s Play subforum to Paradox Interactive’s many AAR forums.

Are there any LPs you would recommend to people, any that you’ve found particularly funny, or any that have sparked interest in a game where you had none before? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Roundup time!

Just a quick post with a few miscellaneous gaming items that you folks may be interested in, because Pike and I are busy being sickening!

But not too quick!

First, Crusader Kings 2 was released today. It is, of course, a Paradox game, with all that entails. But this is certainly the best release candidate I’ve ever seen from them, for any game; it runs smoothly on my machine (Not Pike’s old rig though! Pity her, she needs to upgrade!) and the bugs aren’t breaking the thing in half. It does need some polish but most of that is reasonable stuff like adding more events, traits, and so on.

Second, the new version of Dwarf Fortress was just released today as well! Obviously with a game this complex and such a small coding team (i.e. one guy) this is one that is likely to be pretty buggy while he patches it up, but if you’ve been keeping track of the things he has been adding this, like any DF update, is going to be a glorious thing indeed.

Third, we’re getting pretty close to the next release of Project Zomboid as well! They’ve got a countdown running and it’s down to six or so items left, so there should hopefully be a release within the next couple of weeks. They’re not telling us what these items are though so it could be six huge week-long projects, or six tiny tweaks and we’ll have it tomorrow morning! Who knows?

Is Losing Fun?

It’s the motto of Dwarf Fortress: Losing is Fun. And it’s one you need to take to heart with that game, because until you get the hang of it (And even after you do) you’re going to lose, a lot. But that’s not quite what I’m aiming at here. In conventional games you may often die a lot as well, but you’ll come back at the last checkpoint or save and carry on.

What I am thinking of, however, is something fairly unique to strategy gaming, which is to say, losses that don’t end the game, but rather that are just a part of the game, a thing you endure, carry on from, and ultimately recover from.

But does that happen? See, in a ‘regular’ game like, say, Halo, when you die you just come back from it. You try again. You succeed, or not, and that’s that. In a game like DF you may lose a lot of work, but in these cases the loss is indeed part of the fun. It comes about because of a silly mistake, or because of hubris, or because you just got bored and wanted to watch the world burn. But in a strategy game losses are different.

Decisions, decisions

In the real world of course no country is in permanent ascendance. Not even Rome enjoyed uninterrupted growth, and Rome eventually fell, as all powers do. So a strategy game must surely account for this as well. Yet in my experience, when you lose a city in Civilization or are forced to cede provinces in Europa Universalis III, it doesn’t feel good. It does’t feel like it’s part of the proper flow of the game. In a strategy game you do expect to be in permanent ascendance, and to not be is irritating and may well turn one off playing. I recall reading an interview with Sid Meier years ago where he said his original intention with Civ had been for your civ to go through periods of contraction and decline, but he found it was far from enjoyable to have it work like that.

Partly I think this is a case of momentum. In a strategy game, when you gain something, that something goes towards helping your empire grow. Overextension and the like are rarely simulated, and almost never simulated well, and in fact when that is attempted (As in the Magna Mundi mod for EU3) it often comes off as very arbitrary and pointlessly constricting.

How about you? Am I alone here, or do others feel the same and dislike accepting losses? Are there examples of games which do this well, and don’t make it feel arbitrary or unfair?

Inundated/This Weekend

Thanks in no small part to the beneficence of Gaben, I’m currently drowning under a cavalcade of games. I’ve finished Saints Row The Third, and by finished I mean done one ending without getting close to 100% so I’ve not finished it at all (Hypershort review: Exceptional game filled with awesomeness and hilarity but what happened to the great cutscenes you did in SR2 this is a disjointed mess Volition?), there’s Skyrim, which is just stupidly huge, and now I’ve gone and picked up Star Ruler, Space Empires IV, and Portal 2, and I’m hungrily eying the new Legends expansion for Distant Worlds.

And this isn’t even counting the games I’ve not got around to yet, such as twenty years of classics that GoG insist on foisting upon me, or Arkham City for example, NOR does it count the games I have but that I’ve not yet managed to give sufficient time to like Jagged Alliance 2 or Master of Orion 2, or SMAC, though the latter is here mostly because it is literally not possible to give enough time to SMAC. I’ve still not finished Human Revolution.

Plus of course there’s all the regular stuff I play that demands time and attention; Darkest Hour, SMAC, SimCity 4, GalCiv 2, Baldur’s Gate, EU3, Vicky 2, Dorf Fort, Open TTD, Project Zomboid, the list goes on and on! Thank Talos that I’ve shaken the WoW bug for the time being.

Ouch, my wallet

Busy weekend! What about you all, do you ever get overwhelmed by all the games that need to be played? How do you deal with it? What are you playing this Thanksgiving weekend?

Finally I am taking altogether too much enjoyment in watching Notch act like a petulant child. I’m not even a fan of the Yogscast, it’s not my thing, but dang if one side in this debacle isn’t being a lot classier than the other. Which is double amusing because the classy side is a couple of lads who mess around doing silly voices and getting into vidya hi-jinx on YouTube whilst the one being an entitled imbecile has a multi-million Euro business!

This weekend!

Okay kids, it’s that time again, when I categorically fail to come up with a post topic and so resort to something pretty mundane! What are YOU going to be playing this weekend?

Dead Island

I only use violence as a last resort

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I'd explain what these do for me, but then the blog would need the new .xxx TLD


You will NEVER kill this many Elves.

Suikoden V

In a game filled with waifus, she still stands out.


Tomorrow is the premiere of Season 2 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. So… yeah, if you thought the blog overdid it on Pony pics before now…

... then you may want to bail, because it's only going to get worse.

So what about you, dear readers? What entertainments shall be occupying your precious free time this weekend?


One of my earliest posts was about Dwarf Fortress, wherein I also made mention of a game called Aurora. In the comments, Repaxan asked me to describe it, intrigued by my claims that it is significantly more complex than DF. Finally, I am bothered to do so!

Aurora is ultimately a 4X game. It is, however, to 4X games what Dwarf Fortress is to The Sims – vastly, impossibly, insanely more complex, more detailed, and more inscrutable. This is what it looks like:

It's like I'm really in 1985!

That’s the only game screen with graphics, really. Every other page, tab, screen – all the icons across the top lead to submenus and so forth – is basically an Excel page in one form or another. It is not an attractive game, indeed it is intimidatingly the opposite, even for a 4X grognard such as me.

HOWEVER! As with DF, it’s well worth struggling through the initial stages of confusion, because this game is… I don’t even know, holy crap, it’s insane. Sure, sure, lots of games let you design your ships these days, from the shiny and simplistic (GalCiv 2) to the detailed and consequential (Space Empires V), but this is on an entirely different plane. In Aurora, you research the basics needed for a component, then you design the component, then you research the component, and then you can assign it to a ship. In other games you research what amounts to ‘Shootier rooty-tooties’. In Aurora you decide on what kind of energy weapon you’re making, and then you dictate relevant factors such as the size of the laser lens you are using. THEN you research appropriate radar and firecons for your new weapons, and THEN – once you’ve also got engines, fuel, quarters, etc. etc., you stick it all on a ship.

Then you have a process nearly as complex for assigning commanders and giving orders. I’m STILL trying to figure out all the nuances of the latter, and my ships don’t always do what I’m wanting them to do. But, as with DF, the end result is astounding – a game that takes a lot of investment, but rewards it beyond your wildest dreams. Nothing else comes close, that I can think of anyway. Also, you can terraform planets however you want. I have indeed killed the Earth by stripping her entire atmosphere away, and poisoned other worlds by similar sabotages. Which is, you know. Hilarious.

The game is free, and can be picked up the forums. There’s also a Wiki but, unlike DF, I know of no equivalent of capnduck or 51ppycup making tutorials.

Why Dwarf Fortress does it for me

So as Pike alluded to in her post yesterday, I’m something of a fan of Dwarf Fortress. So I thought I would take the time to proselytize this game for those who haven’t heard of it. But first go and read Boatmurdered. It’s a community story done by Something Awful, showing just how demented and hilarious a game of Dwarf Fortress can be.

Done that? Excellent! Let’s continue.

I’ll get the bad out of the way first.

1) It looks like this:

Bonus if you even know what this is. Hint: It isn't ASCII.

2) The interface is, to put it mildly, a bit of a mess. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores but suffice it to say, the biggest part of Dwarf Fortress’ infamous learning curve is getting the hang of the interface.

3) Busier fortresses will slow right down on anything shy of a NASA supercomputer.

This does not sound like the best way to try and sell a game, right? Well, let’s move on to what it gets right, and why the bad is worth putting up with.

1) Imagination. This game has so much depth and complexity that it really blows anything else (okay, anything else that isn’t Aurora) out of the water. What does this mean? Once you get the hang of it, there are extremely few limits on what you want to do. Want to build a medieval-style above-ground castle? Go ahead. Want to recreate Rapture? Well once you learn how to drain oceans, you’ll be set. Maybe you just want to build a mile-high tower – built entirely out of soap made from kitten tallow! Minecraft, massive as it is, really pales in comparison to DF’s potential.

2) The Community. You probably think I mean “Oh hey these guys are really nice and welcoming and stuff.” No. They are, but nice people are a dime a dozen. This is a community where people have tried to figure out the logistics of making a perpetual motion machine powered entirely by pressurized blood. This is a community where people have sat down and worked out, over a period of time, with calculations, experiments, and discussion, the most efficient way to breed and murder merpeople. To harvest their bones. Civilization may turn us into sociopaths, in that we simply don’t care, but Dwarf Fortress turns us into sadists so deranged that Idi Amin would balk. It is glorious.

Should have stayed under the sea.

3) Detail. The man in charge, one Toady One, is infamous for the ridiculous amount of detail he wants to put into DF, and the great progress in this direction he has already made. I doubt any program, of any kind, outside of those used to train med students, has the amount of detail that DF’s health and injuries system does. You can knock out individual teeth. A wound dealt with an axe will be different from one dealt with a warhammer. The detailed and complex materials system means that different materials really are useful for different things, in terms of equipment and weapons. But this is reflected in the game in more detailed ways: Every time you create a world to play, a world is generated for you. The geography, the deities, the history, the inhabitants, everything. It makes each world unique.

4) It’s free. Completely free, not a penny to be paid at any time! If you want to support Toady in his endeavors (And I would strongly urge you to if you’re a DF fan) then you can donate, which is how he makes his daily bread, but it’s not compulsory.

I’m really only scratching the surface here. Dwarf Fortress is an insanely deep game, growing all the time (Toady is in the middle of introducing a bunch of new features like apiculture and new ways of NPC settlements forming), with a wonderful (If deranged) community. Oh, and don’t let the graphics scare you – there are quite a few excellent tilesets out there, and they really help if you find the not-ASCII intimidating or ugly! If anybody is interested, here are a few links to get you started:

The game itself. This is where the downloads are, and where you can access the other official stuff like the Dev Log and the forums.
OR just get the Lazy Newb Pack. It comes with a bunch of extra stuff, much easier than tracking it down yourself, and is being constantly updated as new versions of DF and various mods come out.
The DF Wiki. Plenty of information on most topics in here.
The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress. Now outdated, but can still teach you around 95% of what you need to know to play the game.
The forums. Standard fare, this is where you’ll find discussion, mods, help threads, stories, all that jazz.

Anyone out there who has played DF before? Tell us your fondest memories and grisliest experiences!