Dwarf Fortress: Playstyles and You

This is reposted from a thread I created on the Dwarf Fortress forums to percolate some discussion about what people get out of the game.  It was equal parts devised to get some talk going amongst players about what they want to see more of from the development, what keeps ’em around and such, as well as to use that information for DF Talk fuel.  Once the DF Talk episode about playstyles drops, and some discussion filters out from that, I’ll be posting a follow-up in the thread to crystallize the completely non-scientific findings.

A recurring point of interest I’ve become increasingly aware of in the past few years is that most every DF player has a particular playstyle they stick to.  Everyone who’s familiarized themselves with the game to the point of being knee deep in its guts (either goblin guts or raw files), tends to fall into one of three groups.

Some of you might be familiar with the Bartle Test, and while it’s an interesting baseline for getting into the mind of a game’s community, it isn’t wholly applicable for the DF, I feel.  A lot of DF’s planned glory isn’t in the game yet, and I know a lot of people are more or less ‘in waiting’ for certain future features that are somewhere over the horizon.  Also, DF’s an odd duck when it comes to being labelled as single-player or multi-player, with the interactions between players both in mod sharing and succession games.  Even moreso, DF’s gameplay is broken between adventure and fortress mode, and even those are splintered into subdivisions.   It all boils down to people wanting different things out of the game.

Having been around the community for quite a few years, I consider myself in a viable position to see the borders between the various playstyles, and while not everyone will fall precisely into one of the following groups, I think it’s a pretty slick system for, at least, getting a base terminology for discussing these sorts of things.   Here we go:

1:  Gamist:  Gamist players are the people who see DF as a ‘game’.   They want Adventure mode to have more straightforward Roguelike mechanics (Nethack, ADOM), and Fort mode to have more straightforward challenges and goals (Real time strategy games) They want to win, they want a challenge, they want the high score and the points.   They want the slick loot and the coherent gameplay mechanics they can manipulate to allow them to crush their enemies.  They want a steadily rising challenge curve.

2:  Simulationist: Simulationist players are the ones who want the game to provide a rich, realistic experience.  To them, Adventure mode (like UnReal World) should be a gritty affair of cause and effect, with cold and hunger taken into account, weapons rusting, sticks breaking underneath their feet.  Fortress mode would eventually have a solid economics and diplomacy system, with ecology and all of that taken into account, like Civilization and Sim Earth, only more inherently violent.

3.  Constructionist:  Make it bigger, and better.  Make a tower with alternating layers of gold and steel, and then show it off to your friends.  Make a working automated irrigation system that uses all sorts of devious tricks and traps to automatically shove any goblins clogging it into a magma chute.  Make a mod that turns DF into Narnia.  Build the game how you like it and then build what you like in it.  To these players, DF is a Lego set, or CAD, or a paintbrush.

I’ve left these definitions vague, because every player is gonna bring their own flavor and preference to ’em.

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