The Soul Crushing Reason Behind Dwarf Fortress's Steam Launch

Dwarf Fortress, the legendary game about managing your dwindling sanity and frame rate, is coming to Steam and But while the game's creator announced that the ASCII sim would be getting a graphical overhaul to go with its new platform, there was also an incredibly sombre reason behind the broader launch.

By itself, Dwarf Fortress is free. Fans have shown their gratitude towards Tarn and Zach Adams, the two brothers responsible for the game, through the official Patreon. And while that Patreon does fairly well financially, accruing just over $8750 a month, the brothers are in dire need of funds.

Why? It's because of healthcare, and more specifically, the cost of the American healthcare system. In a Patreon update, Tarn Adams explained that his brother recently survived a cancer scare. But if he were to undergo the same procedures, his savings would be completely wiped out.

On top of mounting healthcare costs with the rest of the family, and the fact that crowdfunding for Dwarf Fortress is his main source of income, the Dwarf Fortress creators needed to increase revenue somehow.

We don't talk about this much, but for many years, Zach has been on expensive medication, which has fortunately been covered by his healthcare. It's a source of constant concern, as the plan has changed a few times and as the political environment has shifted. We have other family health risks, and as we get older, the precariousness of our situation increases; after Zach's latest cancer scare, we determined that with my healthcare plan's copay etc., I'd be wiped out if I had to undergo the same procedures.

That said, crowdfunding is by far our main source of income and the reason we're still here. Your support is still crucial, as the Steam release may or may not bring us the added stability we're seeking now and it's some months away.

It's a sad, disheartening state of affairs, one that reminds you just how truly lucky Australians are to have the socialised system that we have. But it's also a reminder of just how all-in development, particularly indie games, can be. It wasn't that long ago that the Cuphead developers spoke about remortgaging their homes, and quitting their jobs, just so they could have the funds necessary to properly reboot the game's direction.

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"Your support is still crucial, as the Steam release may or may not bring us the added stability we're seeking now and it's some months away," Adams wrote.

The standard ASCII game will always be available for free, so the Steam/ version shouldn't cause any disruption amongst current players. If anything, it's reasonable to expect that the more accessible tileset will open up Dwarf Fortress to a new audience. The game will probably need a UI overhaul for the general Steam populace, although the integration with Steam Workshop makes it likely that the community will quickly port over the most popular (and essential) mods.

Dwarf Fortress is due on Steam and later this year. Fingers crossed it opens the door to a brighter future for the family behind the game.


    A'right. Why not? I'm likely to never engage with Patreon ever, but I can surely buy a copy on Steam.

    I've jumped into Dwarf Fortress a few times of the years. Never too seriously or competently. Mostly I get by reading other people's hilarious game reports (ah, Boatmurdered).

    I think I'll pick it up on Steam or Itch to send them some support because they deserve it and because screw cancer and the USA's health care system.

    I always loved the idea of the game, could just never bring myself to commit the time needed to "learn it".

    Since I loved Rimworld so much I am sure I will like this and with an interface I can parse quickly the learning curve shouldn't be too bad

    While I sympathise with their situation I wouldn't call the reason soul crushing and more just being prudent. I keep reading about indie developers making all these huge sacrifices "for the love of the game" and often shake my head. Passion is one thing, but you should always be planning for the future financially, especially if your choices are going to impact people other than you.

    Maybe it's just because I've had more than a few times where I have had financial issues that I've learned to make sure I have a buffer to fall back on.

      I would agree (especially given how much they make per month in Patreon) but US healthcare costs are bullshit and absurd, so I can understand them wanting to find a new income stream to help them through it. It doesn't sound like financial mismanagement but rather forward planning.

      But yeah you're right, a lot of indies cry poor because making games costs money and sometimes don't do as well as they'd hoped. This is one of the risks when you're making entertainment items, you have to sign on for that fact same as any other small business.

        Oh, I didn't mean to imply they had mismanaged anything, in fact I was trying to say it was good they were being proactive about preparing for a future scenario. It just sounded like they had a lot of warning signs and were conscious of the fact that the health care system might change yet were living close to the edge on Patreon donations up until now.

        Between them they are earning $100k. That’s very middle income. It’s hardly extravagant.

          There are people on much less, that's not awful money. Also I'm unsure if that's AUD or USD.

    Yep, I love Australian healthcare.
    I'm up for something that costs between $80 000 to $200 000 according to Google. Won't have to pay a cent.
    Don't have to worry about insurance not covering everything, don't have to worry about making sure that everyone involved is 'in network' or stupid shit.

    Yeah... Got to love a 'healthcare system' that makes people see dying as preferable because the next best alternative is ruining their family financially for the rest of their lives.

    Socialism is never the answer. Don't be blind.

      Socialised services have a proven track record where they're used. Countries with universal/socialised healthcare systems have markedly higher life expectancy compared to countries that don't. The United States on the other hand is ranked 43rd globally in life expectancy, one of the lowest ranked western countries.

      Besides, even the staunchest capitalist countries have some socialised services like police and fire - publicly owned, non-competitive/non-market, collectively funded. Imagine getting billed by the police just for showing up to stop someone breaking into your house. Imagine police not protecting you because you can't afford it.

        You cant expect these fools who dont actually know what socialism means to understand that every developed nation has socialised systems

        They just equate socialism with communism because theyve never read a book in their life

        I for one enjoy not dying because i cant afford healthcare

        breaking bad a story about a middle class guy selling drugs to pay for cancer treatment so his family doesnt get bankrupt only works because of how shit the american healthcare system is

        Socialised healthcare prevents breaking bad from being a reality, thats a good thing

      An American browsing the Australian site, or an Australian totally blind to the workings of the system they live in, all while enjoying its benefits and taking them for granted?

        American browsing, because the American Kotaku site is full of scum.

          Ah, that's cool. Allow me to cordially invite you to drop by Australia some time and see with your own eyes what "socialism" (or rather, what you call socialism) has done for the country.

            No thanks. I also don't like your tax system. It's way too high. And that's why America will never have socialized anything. We don't do taxes.

              ....and that's why you have crumbling infrastructure, "healthcare" that sends people bankrupt over minor surgeries, low life expectancy for a Western country, and a really really mediocre education system. Turns out that when everybody put their hands together and give, a more robust and capable society is created that makes everybody prospers together.

              I understand how that may be a hard pill to swallow when you have been conditioned to think "MINE, MIIIINE! Everybody else can get fucked even if that ends up biting me in the ass in the long run, I won't relinquish what's MINE!"

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