Gatiztun – Dwarf Fortress

1,676 words.

I think I’m getting a little weary of Dwarf Fortress. I’m starting to detect some repetition in how each game plays out. The outcomes aren’t exactly the same, but the events that happen along the way are starting to feel a bit routine. There’s always artifacts, there’s always a cavern system, there’s always goblin invasions, there’s always forgotten beasts and titans and ettins, there’s always unhappy dwarves, etc.

It feels a little like if I build the same fortress plan every time, I’ll get the same outcome every time. If I prepare for goblins using *this* method, I’ll always be able to handle them. If I put *these* things in my fortress, I’ll always be able to make my dwarves happy. If I approach the caverns *this* way, I’ll never have a problem with them.

I don’t remember feeling like that in RimWorld. I never felt like I knew everything that was going to happen in every game, or exactly how to deal with every scenario. Occasionally I felt like I built a colony that could withstand anything, but when I started a new colony and tried to do the same things, I would get a completely different outcome.

So I guess I’m saying that RimWorld doesn’t have nearly as deep of a lore system as Dwarf Fortress, but I think it has better basic game mechanics.

There’s something about the time scales in Dwarf Fortress that bugs me, too. It *looks* like things are happening in real-time on the screen, but in the time it takes that dwarf to walk 10 squares, an entire day of game time has passed. From the dwarf’s perspective, it might take a week for him to walk from the surface down to the kitchen to grab some food. How do they not starve? And for some reason, if you flood your fortress, water takes weeks to disperse across the same 10 squares. Some tasks are instantaneous, others take a long time. It’s weird and inconsistent. That must be the Dwarf Fortress development motto. “Make everything inconsistent.”

Then again, Dwarf Fortress is still in alpha. There’s probably a good ten years left in its development plan, considering there’s only like one guy working on it right now.

I’d love to see the source code for Dwarf Fortress. Just screenshots of it. I imagine it to be millions of lines of C++ spaghetti code. The kind where it takes weeks of tracing and debugging just to fix a misspelling on a screen somewhere.

Anyway on to the latest fortress!

Five Years In Gatiztun

Gatiztun, which means … “Fondleddoor.” Um. Okay. Random names are funny. :)

I left Dastotdeg after the queen arrived and declared it a Mountainhome. I left because I couldn’t stand the slow FPS anymore, so I started Gatiztun in the year 260 with the primary goal of building on a very small site so I could maintain a high frame rate throughout the life of the fortress.

At the very beginning, with just seven dwarves and an empty map, all the game calculations happen at 100 FPS. Over time, it goes down as more and more dwarves migrate into the fortress and more and more paths have to be calculated. In Dastotdeg, I bottomed out at about 8 FPS during sieges and a normal day was around 18-20 FPS at the end. It was miserable.

I read that changing from a 4×4 embark size to a 2×2 embark size would have a dramatic effect on the FPS so that’s what I tried with Gatiztan. It’s a really tiny area, compared to what I was used to. There’s much more space to expand downward than horizontally. Monsters and invaders that appear aboveground appear practically *right on top* of your fortress.

I also decreased the population limit. I started by decreasing from the standard 200 down to 150. Then I decreased it further to 105. At around 100 dwarves, the FPS started to go down noticeably, small map or no.

At the end of my experiment, at the end of the fifth year, the FPS was down to a low of 40-45 FPS. That’s tolerable, but it’s still kind of slow when there’s nothing interesting happening and you’re just waiting for the dwarves to finish building. It depended a lot on where I was looking, though. It was slower outside. Some underground areas were up at 80 FPS.

Besides the technical issues, I also wanted to make an army that I could use to march out into the world and take on the goblins of the Silty Nightmare, sworn enemies of the dwarves of The Systemic Tool civilization, to which Gatiztun belongs. You may recall those goblins massacred my dwarves at Avuzestel.

I had started to work on that in Dastotdeg, but my dwarves had become severely cave-adapted and couldn’t march outside in the sunlight anymore. That’s a big problem when you’re trying to raid things on the big map. So I wanted to make sure my dwarves in Gatiztun remained up on the surface enough to avoid that problem. I made the barracks and archery range up aboveground so at least the fighting dwarves remained adjusted to the light.

I built Gatiztun one square to the east of Dastotdeg on the big map, so it was very close to the Mountainhome. As a consequence, at least 75% of the migrants who arrived in Gatiztun came from Dastotdeg. I started to see a lot of familiar faces arriving in Gatiztun. Some good, like the legendary hammerdwarves. Some bad, like the perpetually angry and unhappy dwarves that I kicked out of Dastotdeg.

By the fourth year, I had a lot of unhappy dwarves in Gatiztun and a lot of refugees from the Mountainhome. Due to some bug or quirk, I couldn’t kick out the worst of the worst dwarves, who I labeled “Malefactors.” If it’s intentional, I think maybe you can’t expel dwarves from more than one fortress. So since I’d expelled them from Dastotdeg, I couldn’t expel them from Gatiztun. I just had to endure their constant tantrums, depressive episodes, and fist fights. They were also quite fond of knocking over the still in the tavern, a favorite pastime of many dwarves in the fifth and final year.

I even tried to send the Malefactors outside the walls to fight two different giant attacks by themselves without any weapons, but both times they didn’t die. The giants didn’t even seem to fight back. They just stood there while my angry dwarves punched them in the head repeatedly. (I don’t know how dwarves punch giants in the head, but it happened.)

The goblins sent a small scout force to Gatiztun in the third year of 262. My fortress wasn’t finished, and I had nowhere to hide and no traps, so I ended up fighting them toe-to-toe. Much to my surprise, my dwarves killed the scouts without suffering any losses.

When the fourth year of 263 rolled around, I knew the goblins would send a much larger army to lay siege to my fortress. I knew I had to prepare, to finish off the walls and lay traps and so forth. I just didn’t think I had to prepare by the third day of the year. The anniversary of the start of The Massacre at Avusatel.

The goblin siege of 263 was a complete disaster. I still had two gaping holes in my walls where anyone could walk or shoot inside. Fortunately, I had completed a moat by then, and the ice had just melted, so the goblins weren’t able to exploit those weaknesses.

*Un*fortunately, I failed to notice that one of my Malefactors had destroyed the lever which closed the front gate during one of their tantrums. So the hordes of goblin invaders were able to walk right in the front door.

My one dwarven military squad had to stand and fight at the top of the stairs that led down into the underground part of the fortress. It turned into quite a “300” situation. They fought to the last dwarf. The stairs ran red with blood and gore. In the end, the invaders turned back, but every single one of my fighters died, leaving corpses and body parts all over the main staircase.

Things went downhill after that. Dwarves don’t really like to squish through the entrails of their friends and enemies in high-traffic areas when they’re going about their daily activities. The general happiness level of the fortress plummeted during the cleanup process.

Another siege arrived in the following year of 264. By then, the dwarves could lock themselves safely inside the walls. I sent the last of the Malefactors outside to take on the goblins alone, and finally got rid of him. The goblin invaders milled around outside for three months before leaving again. But inside, the dwarves stewed in their own unhappiness, throwing tantrums, destroying the still in the tavern repeatedly, murdering each other, and so on. Even the ghost of one of the Malefactors returned to haunt the fortress.

And that’s where I gave up on Gatiztun. Those five years took about eight days to play. I haven’t decided if I want to continue or not. I don’t think I have the strength to try to rehabilitate these dwarves back to health. If I continue, I think I’ll turn the entire thing into a penal colony with an evil Captain of the Guard harshly beating anyone who gets out of line. I’m tired of dwarves toppling stills.

I’ve also concluded that Marksdwarves are basically useless for fortress defense. I’m not wasting my time on them anymore. They *never* go where they’re supposed to, they don’t stand behind fortifications to shoot out from them, they fall off the walls and get killed by invaders, they drown in the moat, they run out alone and attack by hand instead of shooting. Utterly useless.

So the war between the dwarves of The Systemic Tool and the goblins of the Silty Nightmare rages on, with no end in sight yet.

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