Tarn and Zach during an interview.

The Beginning

In 2006, Tarn Adams decided to depart from his position as a mathematician.  Together with his brother Zach, they would devote themselves to their fledgling game, Dwarf Fortress and subsist on donations from fans.

Although work on the game originally started four years prior, 2006 marked the first ‘official’ release. Pushing away from its humble beginnings as a “simple mining game”, Dwarf Fortress began to evolve into something much greater.

Ten years later, the game has grown into a complex work that is recognized as both a technical and artistic achievement. Dwarf Fortress remains available free-of-charge, yet their vision continues to thrive, growing in scope and support.

The Most Complex Game Ever Made

Dwarf Fortress has been called “the most complex game ever made”.  It’s inspired countless others to create and develop.  Unsurprisingly, the game and its creators are highly regarded in the industry. Homages to Dwarf Fortress have appeared in such blockbuster titles as World of Warcraft.

Tarn has been a featured speaker at the largest conferences surrounding videogame development, including PAX Prime (aka. PAX West) in 2015 and the 2016 Game Developer’s Conference.

Recognized by the Museum of Modern Art, Dwarf Fortress was one of only 14 games included in their videogame exhibit. It joined classics including Pac Man and Tetris.

Video games at MoMA

Video games at MoMA

Text graphics

Although Dwarf Fortress uses simple symbols and text, it is immensely complex, underneath.

It creates an entire world, with realistic geography and a rich history, the everyday and the fantastic!  Each world is unique and changing, filled with artisans, poets, explorers, heroes, villains, daring deeds, monsters, wonders and beauty.

In addition to the incredible detail, one of the game’s biggest strengths is the amazing community.

Dwarf Fortress has been entirely community-funded since 2006. This is an unprecedented feat and a testimony to the game and its two creators. With more than 45,000 members on the forum alone, Dwarf Fortress has garnered a large cult following from around the world.

The community supplies resources for fans and newcomers. They manage a wiki full of information and guides to help players navigate the complex world of Dwarf Fortress. They also maintain a dedicated bug database. One fan, Peter Tyson, authored a 240-page book “Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress” which was published by O’Reilly Media.

Furthermore, there are a number of fan-made tools and add-ons to enhance the experience of the game. These tools allow players to organize things, explore the world and its history in greater depth, or even add 2D or 3D graphics.

More than any other single game, Dwarf Fortress inspires players to create through all forms of art – writing, drawing, painting and most recently, music.

This trait is easily seen in the community, whose contributions go beyond the role of support and technical enhancements. There are websites dedicated to the stories that players have drawn from their game worlds. Using all kinds of media, players describe and illustrate theses – stories which are based on the game-generated content and their own imaginations.

Thanks to its unique developers and community, Dwarf Fortress is a one-of-a-kind game that continues to inspire and amaze audiences, players, fans and industry veterans.