Sunday, 4 January 2009

Runner up for Ascii Dreams Roguelike of the Year: Dwarf Fortress

The surprise runner up this year is Dwarf Fortress, winner of the 2007 Ascii Dreams Roguelike of the Year award. Surprising in several senses: Dwarf Fortress is hugely popular, but was consistently in second place over the two weeks of voting, and because Dwarf Fortress is always a contentious nomination in the first place.

Adventurer mode in Dwarf Fortress is definitely a roguelike, but adventurer mode is a small part of the game overall; fortress mode being far more popular. Fortress mode is more akin to a real time strategy game, and this genre based definition of gaming is what people argue disqualifies DF as a roguelike.

I would defend Dwarf Fortress as being a roguelike on 3 counts: firstly, a roguelike is a definition based on agreed conventions, and no one has disputed DF nomination in the first place, or it's presence on Rogue Basin, secondly, Dwarf Fortress is a huge asset to the visibility of roguelikes in general, and an inclusive approach will benefit the community overall, and thirdly, ASCII graphics are cool and should be celebrated in all their glory. (Pictured, as a counter argument, is the 3d Dwarf Fortress visualizer).

I would hope people are generous enough to extend the arms of the roguelike community around all games that embrace a lo fi visual aesthetic, free availability and deep game play. Letrain, the ASCII train simulator, and Privateer: Ascii Sector are both games that do not fit the mold of roguelike in the narrowest sense, but the programming problems of representing a complex world using a grid based visual symbol set, and the process of evolving a community during the development process for a game with a certain visual signature, are exactly the same.

Arguments aside, Dwarf Fortress fans have benefited from a much more regular release cycle in 2008, going from version DF to DF over the year, along with the inclusion of a Macintosh version from February (and soon to be Linux version). The development process has become more inclusive, with third party developers recently contributing significant improvements to the OpenGL performance of the game. And a sister release of Elf Tree Top City shows that the fantasy race simulator genre has significant depth (and hairstyling).

To learn more about Dwarf Fortress, you can read the wikipedia entry, visit the Dwarf Fortress wiki, and join the forums. You can download Dwarf Fortress here.

1 comment:

Kimball said...

Thank you for making me aware of Elf Treetop.