The most Difficult Indie Game Ever (That’s worth Playing)

In the past few years indie Games have made a leap into the mainstream (ironically) and games like Minecraft have almost put the genre’s title to the test. So with that, comes varying degrees of Indie obscurity. Now the thing with obscurity is that it’s much more impressive to find something that no one knows about, but is hiding directly under all their noses. Go watch National Treasure, read Plato’s The Cave, or read/watch Harry Potter and you will see that the coolest secrets are the ones that are deeply ingrained everywhere. Dwarf Fortress is one such thing.


I get bored

First off, What Makes it so Special?

Now, way back in 2002 this game was started by a gentleman named Tarn Adams, A man with a Doctorate in Mathematics from Stanford. He considers this free game his life’s work, and as such it is in a state of constant development. It runs on a complex physics engine and runs in an ASCII framework, so the graphics shouldn’t be too CPU intensive…right?


An in-game screenshot of my world

It looks like this

Each time you generate a world in this game you GENERATE A WORLD, thousands of years of history, geography, economics, sociological change, artifacts, natural disasters, economics, climate change, biomes, all unique to you, a series of randomly generated but mutually dependent variables. When you play in it, you change that. When you fail and die or surrender to the game’s wiles, YOU EFFECT IT. You can even travel back to an old abandoned fortress that you made and recover what you can!

You can domesticate/milk/breed/shear/skin/eat/hunt with/guard yourself with any animal you would be able to do such with. Each member of your community has a history, maybe a family, pets, feelings, talents, and even a personality. It’s interaction is so in-depth that it was displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art (No Joke!), and to this day has inspired video game creators LIKE MOJANG.

Second, Why Is It So Hard?

This game’s difficulty is the chief reason why so few speak of it, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be free, it would be more popular, and Minecraft wouldn’t exist. You must understand,this game was made by a guy that was learning BASIC at 6. It’s got a steep learning curve, but once you get the framework down it comes easier. You don’t have to be good with computers to play it, no scripting, or math, you just have to learn HOW to do things in a game that gives you all the micromanagement of all the Sims, Age Of Empires, and Age of Mythologies combined, without using the mouse. It’s all Hotkey.

From there you have a boatload of gameplay mechanics you have to become aware of, how to make traps, different types of digging, dealing with one of your citizens being a vampire and you not knowing who is killing your dwarves at night. Then finding the vampire, and locking his eternally starving self in a hidden room dozens of stories below your base to act as an eternal bookkeeper, only to have him be elected mayor by his fellow dwarves before his incarceration (true story!).

Third and Lastly, How Thoroughly Embedded Is Its Cult Following?

Like every conspiracy organization Dan Brown has ever written about combined. Let me put it to you this way, I’m pretty sure if I started typing something negative regarding this game, there would probably be a fifty percent chance of me being chloroformed mid-sentence in the safety of my own house. The other fifty percent chance is that it would happen sometime tomorrow. I would almost believe that the small (but well dispersed) and secretive community of Dwarf Fortress adepts went up into the White house for use as a micro/macro managing training tool.

It has one of the most humorous and well-written wiki’s I have ever visited, that practically has a language all it’s own (Fun is literally used in place of words like flash-floods and genocide) and it also boasts a goldmine of help videos scattered across YouTube (you will need to swallow your pride and start with this one), easily found for anyone who knows of their existence. It is hard to talk about, and hard to explain. I suspect that is how they like it.

But most impressive is all the freeware game add-ons and skins that are entirely community made, Like this one, which is a *must* for playing the game without the patience of a Buddhist monk elder. The community is incredibly supportive and in some cases, quite insane. One guy built a working Turing calculator out of dwarves.

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