One of my many personal failings is that I’ve never been able to figure out how to play Dwarf Fortress. Remember Cypher staring into The Matrix? Playing Dwarf Fortress is kind of like that, except instead of seeing blonde, brunette, redhead you see dwarf, goblin, carnivorous trout. But every once in a while something comes along that makes me think I should try again, like this great article in The New York Times Magazine: The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress.
The most amazing part is the dedication of Tarn Adams, the developer. He’s got a doctorate in Math from Stanford, but plans to spend the rest of his life working on his game, which is appreciated by few, but is possibly the most intricate game ever created. He works on the game every day, and pays his basic expenses with the few donations he receives. His living conditions would be considered a nightmare by many, but for some is nirvana: he works from 3PM to 6AM every day, in a room with boarded up windows, living on barely more than just soda, coding and brainstorming game features with his brother, Zach.
Somebody on reddit had this to say about the complexity of DF. In most games, you have hit points. Each time you are hit by a bad guy, your hit point total goes down, and when it reaches zero, you die. Dwarf Fortress is different:
In Dwarf fortress, you have individually modeled bones, internal organs, fingers, toes, facial features, and a circulatory system. And that’s just what we can see; I suspect much more. If bitten by something with paralytic venom, the diaphragm (eventually) stops filling the lungs and the dwarf dies minutes later after blood oxygen levels fall too far.