Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dwarf Fortress 2 open beta coming soon (design notes - part one)

After Dwarf Fortress won the Ascii Dreams Roguelike of the Year 2007, Tarn Adams and I started corresponding by email, discussing our shared love of the roguelike genre and where we thought the genre was going in the next few years. I believed then, and still firmly believe, that I saw procedural content generation replacing the need for level designers, which meant that we could throw aside the shackles of tunnel like level design and replace it with roaming open worlds, generated on the fly as you explore the landscape. Tarn aka the Toady One was drawn to the idea of having a 3d graphics engine based fantasy world and that he'd made significant architectural mistakes in going with a tile based design and would need to start again from scratch to met this goal. For a while, that is all that Dwarf Fortress 2 consisted of: a long email chain brainstorming ideas and filled with blue sky thinking.

The release of Spore was like a body blow. That so much impressive developer talent that ultimately been wasted creating a universe filled with curate's egg worlds left us both feeling devastated and at a loose end. I particularly had high hopes for the game, and felt Will Wright had betrayed both himself and his team by deciding to go with cute, instead of (r)evolutionary.

It was about this time that Tarn was contacted by Sam McGrath, of Project Offset fame. Offset Software, as it is now known, had been acquired by Intel, and Sam was concerned that much of the original concepts for the project would be delayed or diluted by the corporate culture that Intel was imposing. Project Offset, for you not familiar with the concept, was an engine designed to allow rapid prototyping and development of 3d art assets using procedural techniques - which Sam had turned into an impressive set of technology demos with the intention of building an open fantasy world. I've included one demo below, just so you can see where we were starting from with DF2:

8 comments:

disperse said...

I'm excited to see where this is going. I'm curious if a collaboration with Notch, the developer of Minecraft, was considered. He already has a working tile-based engine that is scalable to huge destructible (and constructable) worlds.

TheAncientGoat said...

I hate April 1 :\

disperse said...

@TheAncientGoat

/palmface

Pender said...

4/1: the day the internet is useless.

Frumple said...

The really amusing thing to me here is that it's still march 31st where I'm at -- not even noon yet. That threw me off until I noticed the post's timestamp =/ S'a rather pretty A1st go, though.

That being said, graphically intensive DF would make me terribly sad. M'comp can barely play the thing as it is, unneeded graphic shenanigans would make it completely inaccessible to me...

Pender said...

One of the bigger tragedies of the roguelike world is how unapproachable the Dwarf Fortress interface is. I'm actually pretty confident that it could be recognized as one of the Best Games Ever by a fairly wide audience of smart gamers if only a talented interface designer were given free reign with a red pen. There's something Aristotelian about reading the dev blog and seeing countless hours invested into ensuring that organs are pierced in a realistic sequence when a dwarf is impaled while "General goal: Improve interface" languishes hopelessly behind similar such amusing trivialities.

That's the nature of the beast, of course -- hobbyist coders code what they enjoy coding, and as fellow member of that category (though not of that degree), I empathize.

Still, it's impossible not to wonder "what if..."

Kristian said...

Aww snap. I just realized what day it was where you are. Balls.

Travis "Ash" Bradshaw said...

On one hand, this is a really brilliant April Fool's joke. My circle of friends were definitely in hook, line, and sinker.

On the other hand, this is a particularly cruel April Fools joke, because that is exactly what so many of us "closet" DF fans want. The realization that this was an April Fool's joke didn't create feelings of good humored appreciation. Instead I'm just disappointed and depressed.