Dwarf Fortress: "perhaps the most complex video game ever made"


In the July 24, 2011 edition of the New York Times Magazine, Jonah Weiner profiled Tarn and Zach Adams, the brothers who created the game Dwarf Fortress, which is kind of like a much geekier, vastly more complex version of Minecraft (in fact, the creator of Minecraft is a fan of Dwarf Fortress). Weiner says, "Dwarf Fortress is, from the perspective of game play, perhaps the most complex video game ever made."

It's rendered with extended ASCII characters, like a roguelike.

Though its medieval milieu of besieged castles and mutant enemies may be familiar, Dwarf Fortress appeals mainly to a substratum of hard-core gamers. The game's unofficial slogan, recited on message boards, is "Losing is fun!" Dwarf Fortress's unique difficulty begins with its most striking feature: The way it looks. In an industry obsessed with pushing the frontiers of visual awe, Dwarf Fortress is a defiant throwback, its interface a dense tapestry of letters, numbers and crude glyphs you might have seen in a computer game around 1980. A normal person looks at
and sees gibberish, but the Dwarf Fortress initiate sees a tense tableau: a dog leashed to a tree, about to be mauled by a goblin.

… The brothers [Tarn and Zach Adams, creators of Dwarf Fortress] themselves are often startled by what their game spits out. "We didn't know that carp were going to eat dwarves," Zach says. "But we'd written them as carnivorous and roughly the same size as dwarves, so that just happened, and it was great."

The article is a fascinating profile of obsession.

Rob and I are going to interview Jonah about his article in the upcoming edition of Gweek, Boing Boing's podcast about games, science fiction, comic books, and other geek media.

The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress