The Dwarf Fortress has a minor gut problem: right now it doesn’t do a good job of telling you if a Dwarf’s gut is inside or outside their body. While dwarves have some physiological differences from humans (they live 150+ years, have perfect dark vision, and start vomiting if they hang out in the sun for a while), they are similar in this respect: if their intestines are hanging out, something is very wrong. One of the changes to the graphical version of Dwarf Fortress makes this dire situation a little harder to diagnose, but developer Tarn Adams says it’s on the list to address.
In our review of Dwarf Fortress, we said that the graphical version’s new mouse-based controls are “a much-needed and welcome change”, but that “the new user interface struggles to accommodate all aspects of this bottomless game.” Some of the changes in the graphical version make the game far more accessible, but there are currently a few features that are now less visible to players. The Dwarven Fortress’ complexity remains unsullied – it’s just not all that meets the eye right now. Dwarf health is one example.
“People miss the old health interface,” Adams said, referring to the Dwarf Fortress menu that included seven full columns of statuses for individual dwarves. “We have to draw 100 more icons. We just have to get it done, I guess. There were so many icons: Do you have sutures, do you have an overlapping fracture, are your intestines inside or outside your body? Sensory nerve damage, motor nerve damage, impaired ability to stand… and then the different levels of bleeding, arterial bleeding and whether your lungs are working properly or not. It just adds up.”
The health screen is one of a couple of major parts of Dwarf Fortress that Adams plans to work on in future updates to the new graphical version, resurrecting information that is currently hidden. “Reports and announcements, being able to dig stairs up in the middle of rooms, the military stuff with the boots is still a problem, you can’t nickname stray animals – that’s a list of 20-30 things that have been highlighted [by players],” he said. (Apparently, dwarves who wear socks or shoes are stubborn about wearing boots).
These fixes come after Adams is ending Classic Mode in the next few weeks, which will allow players who purchased Dwarf Fortress on Steam to play with the original ASCII art instead of graphics (you’ll even be able to toggle it between back). Classic will also be available to download for free. After that comes the fairly simple Arena mode and the much more complex Adventure mode, which lets you play through a Dwarf Fortress world in a sort of rogue-like RPG.
“This is all with a background radiation of quality-of-life stuff being done in patches, and then updating Adventure mode is a big project,” he said.
I can’t wait to see all of this in the Steam release so that Dwarf Fortress can continue to simulate more and more of existence. But honestly, right now I’m more interested in how the sprite artists will convey a slight fever, overlapping fracture, or spilled gut in 32×32 pixel icon form. Remember the survival game SCUM? It has nothing on Dwarf Fortress.