More Dwarf Fortress, Less The Sims: Medieval

Well, Dwarf Fortress has plenty of “sims” elements – each dwarf has a personality, likes, dislikes, happiness levels, etc. That’s a core gameplay element of any DF clone and I’m glad they’ve included it.

That said. … yeah now that that’s done the next thing I’d really like to see them finish up is flowing water, rivers, and the advanced mechanics stuff like drawbridges and dams and waterwheels/windmills etc.

One thing I will agree on is the game needs more monsters – like, more than five. Ten or twenty would be good.

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As far back as I can remember (and yes I’ve been around since the KS) the game has been centered around the hearthlings. You build a town for them to live in and you were never supposed to have more hearthlings than you could get to know and remember. They were supposed to be individuals, not cute robots. Giving them traits, conversations, likes and dislikes is part of this, so no, it’s not a new idea that make them stray from the original path.
Giving them opinions about the size of rooms gives purpose to your building design (and I hope they add more stuff like that).
The appeal system gives purpose to every decorative item in the game as well as giving you a reason to not let your hearthlings live in a big stockpile. It makes sense to add this before adding more items.
If anything we should complain about them not realizing the need for these features earlier. It would have saved them a whole lot of work, rebuilding stuff, and it would have saved them from this period where players that don’t see the value of these features thinks that all “real” development has stoped and the game is dying.

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Everyone wants something different to be sure, and in the end I’m sure some percentage of people simply wont be happy no matter what we make. But despite that, I would like to make as many people as happy as I can ; ).

Agon is absolutely right about the traits/conversations/likes/dislikes/etc. is trying to help us reach the original goals of building a city/fortress/castle (at least we see it that way ; )). While you may not see much value in a hearthling liking or hating a chair or a table, its a lever that we can play with - for example: maybe a hearthling really loves the items in their home, and then a monster goes into their room and makes a mess of everything - lowering the quality of the items. Next thing you know, the hearthling runs around town telling everyone they can see that their beautiful house is now ruined. Now you the player have a reason to care and a cute story was made ; ).

BTW - that’s a hypothetical situation, I don’t think we’re really going to make monsters that do that. But maybe, who knows ; ). The point is just that these underlying features (which are a little boring on the surface) allows us to give the player short and long term goals that really matter overtime.

Agon is also right that if we had thought of them to begin with we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble… but them’s the breaks ; ). Hindsight is always 20/20.

I also agree with @Hieronymous, we simply need more creatures. I don’t know if I’ll get to ten or twenty : /, (that’s a lot!) but I’m gonna try and make a few over the break. I’ll show you guys in the next stream I do (maybe… a little over a month from now? or maybe sooner on someone else’s stream), but I can’t promise on a number or I would be lying ; D.


The more I look at early access game development, the more I see recurring patterns.

From someone looking at the bigger picture, It makes sense to add interlocking systems like conversations and traits and likes and dislikes, to get that dwarf fortress like fidelity.

but not everyone can see that. Some can. But more often than not, their voices will be drowned out over time. And as much as you might want to fight it and try to reassure and tell people why certain things are important, at the end of the day it would require a fundamental change in the human condition to get people to see things your way at this point. Working with rather than against the mob is something that I’m gradually starting to see as the best course of action, as an inevitability much like the tide, the wind and so on. The most important thing for the stonehearth team to remain in good graces right now is to deliver, or at least show they are delivering on the original promises as soon as possible, and let there be no compromise.

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One thing that’s hard to tackle is that “Dwarf Fortress” is a supremely complex game – it’s a gestalt of a lot of apparently unnecessary, redundant, and time-wasting systems. It seems like a waste of time to model an individual personality for each dwarf, to use a complex injury model instead of hit points, to model ten thousand years of world history before you generate each fort, etc. – and, if you look back on the Dwarf Fortress forums, you will find literal decades of people complaining that Toady was wasting time working on all those things when they thought he should have been doing [X] instead. But the net result of all those things is that you get emergent unique behaviors in every fort that tell a story.

See, e.g., Boatmurdered: Dwarf Fortress - Boatmurdered . If you look at what happened in that Let’s Play, the eventual fall of the fort was a multi-step process:

  1. Raids by enemy goblins and swarms of feral elephants become too much for the fort to handle via standard combat
  2. Player designs an engineering system to flood the outside world with lava when a lever is pulled
  3. That in turn starts fires which accidentally get out of control
  4. the out of control fires cause a mood spiral which causes everyone in the fort to go insane or berserk

That’s a great story but look how many different systems are interacting there! You have the swarming elephants because of biome and environmental mechanics. You have flowing water/lava mechanics. You have engineering mechanics. You have spreading fire mechanics. You have mood happiness/unhappiness and relationship mechanics. Almost all of that’s pure background stuff – the only part the player has direct control over is the engineering (even dwarf mood is controlled only indirectly).

If Stonehearth is going to approach that kind of experience, then the Dev team has to spend a bunch of time working on building background depth in ways that will initially seem pointless. The conversation and appeal systems may seem like Sims-esque wastes of time, but happiness and sadness systems are an additional gameplay loop that feed into combat, fort maintenance, etc. (“my soldiers are too sad to fight”, etc). as the Boatmurdered example demonstrates.

That said, yeah, I went back and looked at the kickstarter goals and I would like my baby mammoth and maybe even my baby dragon. Model an elephant and reskin it with fur and that’s a two for one!


Too sad to think that most people would see this as:

1 Mob invasion is unbalanced, game is too hard.
2 - 3 Mechanics are broken, things are not working the way I intended
4 Ai is dumb


You have a good point here, bruno.
In a complex game with many interlocking systems, you’ll get situations where players don’t immediately know why things happen the way they do. Maybe something to combat this could be making investigation of problems something players are nugded to do, somehow. Basically try to turn the reaction from being confronted by a problem from:

Why does this happen, what the ****, this is bullshit!


Ah shit, that’s annoying. How did this happen in the first place? Is there a good reason for this.

The dev’s already try to do this by making most things visible, but what I mean is an aditional layer of investigation, where the player is encouraged to find stuff out.


This is the such a great example!!! So many of the complaints and negative reviews on Steam are folks that don’t understand that there’s a reason why they’re working on more background systems and less features. Even though the devs flat out said the purpose of all this was to tie all the planned features together. There’s a method to the madness, but everyone is such an expert these days that they know the absolute best way to develop this game.

I totally agree that it’s difficult when so many folks are dead set on ignoring what is spelled out plainly for all to see. I liked your comment at first, but I disagree about giving in to mob mentality and the devs just delivering on generic KS promises. We are seeing the very real negative side effects of developers choosing to go EA. The reasonable voices in the community have to remain steadfast, or we’ll end up with a soulless game of cobbled together features that might be good for a round or two, but ultimately ends up just “collecting dust”.

This kind of reminds me of FolkTale. Slow development, looked amazing, folks started complaining, pretty much all the reviews went negative, and the devs finally said F it and yanked the game. Could be dead, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the game popped up in a couple of years finished or under a different name with a big middle finger to all the haters. Then again I would not blame the devs at all for taking the money and moving on.

Since the triple A developers just push crap out as fast as possible and use live launches as open betas it’s really affected the community. While a lot of folks complain about it, it has gotten to the point where a generation of gamers now feel like that’s acceptable and are pissed when companies follow a more traditional timeline. Remember when you rarely got a screenshot or were excited a popular gaming magazine (you know the paper kind) had an article with a few tidbits or a dev interview about the concept and even though the game was still years away from beta you were excited? Kiss those days goodbye. We want it when we want it and it better be exactly how we thought it was going to be or the developers are idiots, all the talent has left the teams, and they’re purposely trying to rob us of life and limb along with our money. I’m not bitter, just jaded… :glum:


Yeah, in some ways DF’s interface gives it an “advantage” in that

  1. the developer can add infinite new layers of detail without worrying about things like “bugs” or “graphics”, and

  2. anyone who fights their way through the interface isn’t going to be fazed by unbalanced or difficult mechanics; it’s a self-screening design.

Stonehearth’s more accessible, so it needs to be more accessible, and clearly explain and indicate to players what’s going on behind the scenes, etc.

Still, though – if they can get Stonehearth to a point where a fort can fail and collapse in the same sort of way Boatmurdered did, they’ll have successfully captured “dwarf fortress with graphics”, imho. In practice, though, that’s going to mean a lot of background work – more enemies (elephants, etc.), more engineering and water flows (dams? Pumps? lava flows?) , more natural disaster type events (FIRE!!!), and the mood spiral (which they’re working on and all this work with relationships and appeal etc. feeds into).

There are a few other things that would be nice to have too – art generation that reflected the history of the fort (say, statue-crafting that imported the image of particular hearthlings doing particular noteworthy things, etc.), maybe a slightly more tactical combat system (say, real formations, hammers with knockback, pikes with longer reach, etc.). Overall though I’ve been watching since the kickstarter and Stonehearth has been making consistent progress all along (even if sometimes it seems like asymptotic progress).


Is it possible to replace an object (for exampe a tree) with a burning tree?
Or add “invisble wall mounted lamps” to all the walls of the bulding and destroy it after a sertan tieout?
I think it’s a way to implement fire mechanics. But so many light sources will do no good to the perfomance!

Heh, I recently made a strong argument for “Lets add fire to the game” and even though the engineers originally sad “that’s just crazy”, I kept leaning on them to explain why. So here’s what they said (translated through an artist’s brain):

Making the visual of fire look reasonable is not terribly hard (though still a lot of work), i.e. getting a ‘thing’ to look like it is on fire, spread fire to somewhere else after a certain amount of time, and eventually die out. However, that’s not what the hard part about what fire is, the hard part is: how do hearthlings/creatures/plants/furniture/buildings/water interact with that visual. That’s where stuff gets really crazy and requires TONS of intricacies that I didn’t even think about until we actually walked through some of the problems (thanks @ayazar and sorry for being annoying about the question ; )). In a nutshell, the interaction multiplies the work required by something like a factor of 10, and sadly, that’s what fire is, fire is the interactivity with the world, which pushes fire down pretty low on priorities… shrug, but that’s how things go : /.



For my own understanding, can you give me one practixal example of the crazyness involved.

We already have fire, look at the fire arrows, that set enemies on fire.
What they are talking there is probably not just an visual effect, it is probably fire physics, like what they did with the water, instead of going the lazy way like minecraft water

For Boatmurdered type spreading fire, you’d need all in game items to have a damage statistic, a burning temperature, a separate burning animation, etc.

So at minimum we would need item and structure damage and repair systems before we could talk about fire. And what happens if a building burns down? How does fire spread? Etc. How are you supposed to put that fire out without water pumps? So we need those systems too . . .

Game isn’t there yet sadly. Still I’m glad to see him say it’s a low priority, that means it isn’t completely ruled out :stuck_out_tongue:


@Hieronymous hit several on the nose, but here are some more examples (and please remember, this is an artist speaking about engineering issues):

  • How do you actually have fire interact with the world, would it be a 2d simulation or a 3d one? 3d is more realistic but much more computationally intensive, 2d is much simpler but sometimes causes weird issues (imagine multiple stories where the same voxel is on fire on every floor).
  • How does fire interact with buildings? Can each block catch on fire or does the whole building catch on fire at once? Buildings have a lot of logic to make them what they are and having each voxel catch on fire would be extremely complicated.
  • Say you go the really hard way and have a 3d simulation of fire including buildings and for some reason the upper corner of a building catches on fire (like with a lightning strike), how do hearthlings know to put out that fire?
  • How do hearthlings get to a fire? Do they build scaffolding? Does scaffolding burn?
  • How far away do hearthlings prioritize putting out fire? If fire is far away and starts burning, does the whole world eventually catch on fire if the hearthlings don’t put it out? How do you balance that?

And those are just a few that I remember, we talked about it quite a bit and I can tell you: I’m not really interested in getting fire working anymore ; ). But! It was a really good conversation because it helped us get on a similar language as to what is possible with what amount of time.

@BrunoSupremo correct, talking about fire as a physical “thing” in the world that “spreads” on its own - similar to how fire works in minecraft.


with regards to hearthlings getting to fire on buildings, there should be a ladder climbing mechanic. building ladders will cause hearthlings to put ladders in their inventory and allow them to put a potentially long ladder leading up to the nearest block required to get to a place where they can path to the fire.

alternatively we could have fire be applied to building like a sort of mold, with fire popping up randomly and spreading as an effect to show “this building is on fire.” hearthings will go to the base of the building and throw a bucket of water to put out the fire

I get that adding new systems like fire is difficult but you should ask where these systems fit into stonehearth. Fire will become more necessary in the future due to town attacks having to incur some sort of damage to buildings so that players cant just build impenetrable walls to make town defense into a cakewalk. fire will allow smaller units that cant use strength or are otherwise unequipped, to throw firebrands and set structures and fields on fire, which will fit in well especially as an early raiding mechanic. Fire should be considered not now, but later on when town damage becomes something that should be worked on. for now, a focus on the original promises and scope is all that is required.

I might be getting overly optimistic, but I suspect that if and when they get the other solutions and systems figured out (i.e., building damage, water engineering, etc.), figuring out how to do either fire or things like fire (flooding? spreading dirt? etc) will become much more approachable problems. Once they have answers to questions like “how (or do?) do things take damage and get repaired” and “how do hearthlings transport water” and so forth. Right now it’s intractable because there are too many undetermined preconditions but the process of development should work a lot of those out, and it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me if in a few years fire doesnt’ seem like as much of an impossible target as it does now.

Of course the development cycle might not last that long, or they might decide to go in a different direction, or the processing demands might be prohibitive, etc etc etc. But a lot of the problems and difficulties listed above – while real – are ones that they may very well find themselves resolving anyway over time in the process of solving other more pressing development issues.


OK, good points, all good points. I have a newfound respect for the difficulty of adding fire, (even although I suspect, as @hieronymous says, that lots of problems will automatically be resolved later on.)

But because I can’t help myself, I’ll try to take a whack at it anyway. (Some of it might be useful for other systems.) But because I am a noob, and not a radiant engineer, this might be stupid stuff, or stuff that’s already talked about. Don’t feel obliged to respond to everything.

My whack at fire mechanics
  • To get computational load away, I thought it would be good to make fire spreading a “turn-based-inspired model”. That is, the computations only happen every stonehearth hour. Then, if you are insistent on the fire not spreading in a single instant, you can make the fire play out it’s moves over the next 10 stonehearth minutes.
  • This might aid your hearthlings in fighting the fire, as fighting fire will now come in battles, not wars. It’s about getting out more fire every hour than the fire creates every hour.
  • Also, if other systems can use this model, (maybe sickness), then you have a tool to keep load off your cpu, by plannning the computation time to be at a different spot. For instance, the fire is computed at every whole hour, while the sickness is computed every half hour. This is why this idea can be usefull even before you actually start working on the fire

  • buildings can burn by parts, just like the way they are build by parts.

  • to balance the world not burning off at every lightning strike, you rip off the dynamics of the real world. (Video for reference) Bottom line: Forests which have recently burned are less likely to burn, due to the fact that there is less shrubbery on the ground. i.e. by introducing differnt levels of forest shrubbery that burns and grows, you can balance it so that forest fires sort of balance themselves, with an occasional big fire, which you need to protect the town from.

  • this also partly answers how far the hearthlings have to prioritize fire fighting. Since forest fires generally balance themselves, the hearthlings mostly needs to protect the town from fires, and only go into the forsts actively to protect wood farms, allies and to fight unusually big fires.

  • As far as 2D and 3D are concerned, maybe a hybrid system can work. It has a few parts, which can be useful for other systems as well:
  • First, the game keeps a heat map, a picture next to the save game .json, which specifies for each 2D voxel how many layers there are in the world in the column of that voxel. This lets the game know how 3D the world is. That building analogy you had malley, that applies to this too, where every ‘building floor’ counts like a +1, which affects the colour of the pixel in the heatmap.
  • changes to this map can be scheduled at every nn:15 hour in the stonehearth world, to keep computational stress low, similar to how I described above.
  • This 3D-ness map also sounds like something other systems will gladly benefit from. For instance: any other heatmap, which will have to come in different parts because of the 3D-ness of the world, can use the 3D-ness map to decode which of those parts corresponds to an item in the game world, counting from the bottom up. (The item on voxel (x,y) on the second floor of building Z is on the 4 layer in the world, thus there are three things directly below it, and you need to find the items heatmap values on the 4’th picture/layer of the picture(if you use photoshop or paint…net to create the heatmap, which have layers)).
  • Then you make a 2D system, which cycles through all the layers of a column when it handles that columns voxel. The game determining for each layer whether or not the thing in that layer can burn, and will burn.

Maybe we should begin a new thread to continue the talk on fire, if necessary. This as to not derail the thread. @moderators, what do you think.

On the topic at hand, this is from a satisfied fan’s perspective:

As for the feelling of The Sims, what I think you are frustrated with is ‘skewed development’. The fact that hearthlings (and related systems) are the current focus of the dev’s means that the feel of the game changes. This is because these hearthling-related gameplay systems are in the game, but also because systems focussed on other areas of gameplay, like siege mechanics, the crafting overhaul, building repair, are not in the game yet.

Add to this the fact that the speech bubbles above hearthlings heads are a shallow feature in The Sims, and your association is complete. This is not to say that the association is wrong, and that the feel of the as-is game being too focussed on hearthlings is misplaced, but it is not a problem.

Ok, this comes from a longer post I was wanting to write on this, so I will have to explain what I mean by shallow features.

By a shallow feature, I mean a feature close to the surface, i.e. a feature you’ll likeley see as a player, and one which you will prominently see. Think any particular class, a certain race of enemies, main gameplay systems like building and combat, and that kind of superficial stuff. What I do not mean is one of the many interlocking systems which work on the background until the time is ripe for them to play a big role in some unfolding story, like the fire mechanic in boatmurered Hieronymous talked about.

I believe the dev’s have made the right choice in starting with the hearthlings. After all, to quote @Brackhar: “If the game is about hearthlings, start with the hearthlings.” That said:
When the hearthlings are done, and the team moves on to building, economy, environment, combat, or something else, this skew will become less noticable. (Not sure, just sounds like it would be true). At some point, the modd system will just be another system among many. It’s just that they decided to start with the hearthlings.

And isn’t this what you can expect in an alpha stage of development: That the feel of the game is off from what the released game is promised to be due to skewed development.

It’s like a puzzle: We currently have the border (engine) firmly in place, and we start in a corner with fitting pieces in the final puzzle (gameplay systems), meanwhile we have some pieces stitched together next to the puzzle board, which we don’t yet know how they fit in (engineer without siege mechanics, maybe a model of a titan somewhere, etc.). In that way, it’s not like a blurry picture that gets a higher resolution every pass you have at it.


Those are some interesting ideas about fire, sadly I can’t say I understand all of what you’re saying - but I will pass this post on to the engineers ; ).

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how about creating a separate topic dedicated to fire and magma?

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