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‘Big Wait’s dead’: Dwarf Fortress creators are going to stop disappearing for months to get updates done in a post-Kitfox world

The arc of Dwarf Fortress is long, but it bends towards, well, not having arcs. In a chat with PC Gamer at GDC, Dwarf Fortress creators Tarn and Zach Adams spoke a little about their approach to the game’s meatiest patches in a post-premium edition world. Long story short? More bite-sized updates at a faster tempo. The Big Wait is dead.

Tarn said Dwarf Fortress’ model for updates at this point won’t be about “[running] off for 26 months, [seeing] what I can get done.” With new artists helping out for the game’s sound and audio and partners at Kitfox to help with marketing the game, Tarn’s going for something a bit “more orderly.”

After all, Tarn’s previous approach of absconding for months to work on major updates—usually called arcs, even after the game’s development roadmap dropped that term—often ended up producing results that were only half-done. “But now that’s like, ‘That’s not easy to market’,” said Tarn, “Can I market ‘We did half! Hey, that’s fine!’?”

Tarn’s brother and Dwarf Fortress co-creator Zach Adams elaborated on that: “All the arcs are gone, we have sacrificed the arcs and chopped them into little pieces.” By way of example, Zach said that “Tarn had always wanted to design a procedural magic system, and do all this kind of stuff with a Myth and Magic release—or arc, rather—and all that has been taken apart.”

That Myth and Magic arc has been anticipated and dreaded in equal measure by fans. On the one hand, it promises to add a beautiful, ludicrous magic and deity system to the game’s already-gargantuan sandbox of mechanics. On the other hand? Actually building it would mean the Adams brothers dropping off the face of the Earth for a long, long time in order to get it done: The Big Wait.

“The Big Wait was the thing that we always warned everyone about,” said Zach, “That is also no longer a thing because we can do these things individually.”

“Big Wait’s dead,” confirmed Tarn, “You’re not gonna have to wait… you’re gonna get bits and pieces.”

“We had never actually finished an arc,” said Zach, “So these things are good riddance.”

Sounds good to me. Sure, yesteryear’s haphazard geysers of Dwarf Fortress content had their charm, but a steady flow of smaller updates sounds more sustainable and better for the Adams’ mental health. Plus, it sounds like the approach is born of the game’s rock-solid position in the wake of its premium version: “It feels like things are more stable,” said Tarn, “we’re not desperate and worried, terrified… shaking the jar and seeing what gets dropped in there. We can have a more metered update production process.”

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