I have been playing Dwarf Fortress for the past couple of weeks (much to my fiance’s chagrin) and I consider myself to be doing fairly well in getting the basics down; keeping dwarfs happy, drunk and alive.
My first couple of forts lasted about 20 mins before I started over and the first fort I really felt good about ended up getting overrun with goblins and everyone died. This is something that I feel that I am going to have to come to terms with if I am going to pursue this game any further (after all, losing is fun), but the most difficult thing about this game has to be the user interface.
The game was written by Tarn Adams aka ‘Toady One’ (with his brothers input) and as I’m playing I can’t help but feel like I am deep inside the man’s head. Everything, from the inconsistent menu selection buttons (seemingly random, sometimes you scroll with the up-down arrows, sometimes with the +/-) to the naming of in-game items, reveal a design that seems to have been put together in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. It’s actually kind of interesting to be able to get such an intimate idea of the character and personality of the creator of the game – something which you rarely get from most game developers – although it can also be annoying at times.
One thing in particular that had me scratching my head, was getting a damn “chest” into the bedrooms. According to the wiki (http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/Bedroom), the dwarfs will have a happy life if you place the following in their bedrooms: a bed, a cabinet (for clothes) and a chest (for God knows what).
So I direct a carpenter to make a chest. Chest done. Now lets place the chest in the room…
Where the heck on the ‘build’ menu is there a chest???
Looking closely, I see that there is a non-descript “container” on the list. Let’s try that. However, when I press enter, I get a “bag” placed in the room. So how the heck do I get a “chest” in the room? Going through the menu again, I now see that there is a sub-selection area where you can choose what type of “container” you would like to place.
Come to find out, some menus have sub-menus and some items are placed directly from the “build” menu… Did the creator felt that some items are more important than others? Is a cabinet not a type of container? I suppose there is some logic to this and I don’t want this to end up being a rant about “how hard this game is”, but I just wanted to put that out there. Out of everything that the Toady One could do to make this game better, I would have to say that standardizing the menus would be at the top of my list.
By the way, here is my bedroom area with the chests ready to be placed!!! (The chests are the Æ symbols.)