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Dwarf Fortress is coming to Steam … with graphics

Dwarf Fortress, the famously complex and often inscrutable colony simulation, is coming to Steam and itch.io. The new version will be developed by Kitfox Games, a Montreal-based independent studio, and will include graphics, music, sounds, and Steam Workshop integration. An ASCII-based mode will still be available in this new version, and development of the original game will continue unabated.

Also known as Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter 2: Dwarf Fortress, the game has been in development since 2003 by the two-man team of Tarn Adams and Zach Adams, aka Bay 12 Games. The elaborate simulation has three different modes. In Fortress Mode, players guide a small band of dwarves into creating a settlement from scratch. Meanwhile, Adventure Mode plays like a classic roguelike dungeon crawler. Legends Mode allows players to create an elaborate procedurally generated world and then inspect it in detail.

All three modes record player actions, meaning that you can explore your own deserted settlements in Adventure Mode, or read about the exploits of the city you helped to create in Legends Mode.

The new, premium edition of Dwarf Fortress will include actual graphics for the first time. Traditionally, the game has only offered ASCII-style icons. According to an FAQ published alongside today’s announcement, the graphics will be handled by Michał “Mayday” Madej and Patrick Martin “Meph” Schroeder, two well-regarded members of the game’s modding community. Another community member, who goes by the handle Dabu, will be handling a musical score inspired by the seasons and select bits of audio.

Steam Workshop integration may be the biggest selling point here. Fans have made many mods to supplement the core Dwarf Fortress experience. One of the most popular, called Dwarf Therapist, allows you to troubleshoot individual dwarves, digging down into their wants and needs and even controlling them in ways the base game simply doesn’t allow. Many consider Dwarf Therapist and other mods essential to the gameplay experience, and Steam Workshop support will make accessing them easier than ever before.

In today’s FAQ, Bay 12 stressed that Dwarf Fortress isn’t being changed to make it “fit” into Steam or itch.io. It will be the exact same experience plus a few modern quality-of-life features. Kitfox said that it has “no access to the source code, and will have no influence on the design, programming, or updates to Dwarf Fortress.”

Virtually the same game, minus these new features, will still be available for free at the Bay 12 website.

“Steam/itch.io and Kitfox will get cuts of the sales on those platforms,” states the FAQ, “so if you want to give MAXIMUM money to Tarn and Zach, direct donation is the way to go.”

Traditionally, Dwarf Fortress has only been available as a free download direct from the Bay 12 website. The Adams brothers say they’ve been offered large sums of money in the past for licensing deals, but the team has always subsisted on donations alone. It even made the move to Patreon in 2015. But, in today’s FAQ, the pair said that they’re selling this premium version in part to pay for health care for ailing family members.

Dwarf Fortress is going premium because we want more people to encounter the game, grow the community,” Bay 12 wrote in the statement, and because “some of the creator’s close family members have developed serious health issues within the past 6 months, and money to support them is tight. As it’s a sensitive and difficult matter, please respect Tarn and Zach’s privacy about this, but keep some well wishes in your hearts for them.”

Dwarf Fortress currently has no release date on Steam or itch.io, since, as the developers indicate, “time is subjective.”

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