Dwarf Fortress Talk #7.2, with Rainseeker, Capntastic and Toady One, transcribed by mallocks

Rainseeker:Alright so now we’re going to talk about the future of the artifacts and what will happen to them. Capn, do you want to start us off with a query?
Capntastic:Should I use some of your questions? I’ve got some here but they mostly build off yours.
Rainseeker:Okay, yeah, that doesn’t matter.
Capntastic:So what powers and what abilities will artifacts have in the future?
Toady:It’s basically a magic question at the end of the day, so you have to step back and ask yourself again what have we got planned for magic and then how does it fit into fortress mode and all that kind of thing. There’s an extent to which we haven’t been able to plan this out because we’re still not sure exactly what we want to do. What we want to focus on is making it so that if there’s a magical object that’s really a rare special magical object then it should be something that you don’t really understand that well and that’s not necessarily reliable. It depends on the source; where does the magic come from? Was the dwarf inspired by all those gods that don’t actually exist in the game right now, that are just names, or did the dwarf create something so perfect that it just gets infused by magic because it’s a perfect thing, or did the dwarf really have some understanding of magical forces and create such a thing. If that’s the case you’ve got to watch out for the industrialisation of magic; why doesn’t he just do it seven or eight more times? The magical nature of these things is what separates artifacts from the masterworks that already exist. So if it is something that’s not really within the dwarf’s control then you can start to have effects that are beneficial at one time but could be unpredictable or could bring disaster down on your fortress, and that kind of thing. Just as a general question - what are the effects of the artifacts – there’s a bunch of categories they could fall into; if you have weapons and armour you can kind of see what effects might be there. You don’t want to say something like ‘it’s a +3 flaming sword’ but if in effect the sword is just on fire and burns things and stuff, that’s certainly a fair artifact to put in; just because it’s a cheesy Dungeons and Dragons thing doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. But it could be the end of the world if having the artifact sword is somehow drawing your fortress closer to some kind of world of fire and then suddenly it like sucks into some kind of fire plane and your whole fortress catches on fire and then everyone wonders why there’s a new volcano.
Rainseeker:‘This sword causes your organs to turn into frogs.’
Toady:It’s cool to think about how to make magic unreliable, unpredictable, all that kind of thing, but of course if you go too far in that direction so that every artifact is a death trap waiting to happen then there’s just going to be a lot of mood dwarf crushed under bridges. So you don’t want to go to nuts with it. The other kinds of magic there is where it’s not an industrial process are things like having conditions, so if one dwarf were inspired by the god of the harvest to create a chest that you can bring with your armies so that they never have to have supplies or food, then that artifact could in fact be very reliable; it would not be understood and the god might say ‘if you want to keep using this then never march during the full moon’ and if you do then we can really indulge in catastrophic horrible things because it’s your fault; the werewolves can come out of the chest and eat everybody, or whatever needs to happen. So that kind of thing where you don’t necessarily want to make – since craftsmanship is kind of the hallmark of the dwarves – I wouldn’t necessarily say that all the artifacts would be god inspired; it’s just a possible root that can be taken among many, but you want to not necessarily avoid the dwarves actually understanding and being able to construct magical things, but there should be a lot of consequences to dwarves understanding. So let’s say that we have a dwarf that understood how to apply runes of fire to a sword to make flaming swords, then assuming that process doesn’t take twenty years – and that wouldn’t be practical because games rarely last that long, or if they do it’s a very dedicated process, it’s not something you can expect a regular kind of casual or even not casual player to do, just sit there and play out a twenty year fort – then you have to wonder ‘why can’t I just make a ton of flaming swords?’ And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, to have all the dwarves that come from this fortress have these swords with these fire runes on them or something, but it’s kind of a strange magical process if that’s what you’ve got going on ... it’s kind of depressing in a way if magic isn’t mysterious. But at the same time you do have armies of magically armed creatures; it’s not an unheard of thing, so you could be the ones doing that, it’s just something that I wouldn’t necessarily indulge in, especially as a default thing. I certainly don’t have any problem if you can amp up your init options or your world parameter options more likely to be like ‘yeah my dwarves can float, and fly on carpets, and make big guns that shoot fire guns ...’
Capntastic:Tactical nukes.
Toady:And steam, yeah, all that kind of stuff. But it’s one of those things where our starting point most likely – because you really have to think about your starting point because it’s not like Dwarf Fortress is ever done or anything – the starting point is artifacts that are beneficial, not that well understood and possibly have conditions on them. Something that makes the game have something interesting just happen to you; something interesting that you’re going to have to think about a little bit, but that you don’t necessarily want to crush under a bridge the second you hear about. And this is just magic we’ve been talking about, so this is ignoring the other things that come out of artifacts which I’m sure we’ll get to.
Capntastic:So it seems like the important thing to keep in mind is the source of the artifact’s power and how it was created, like if you made it because you’re possessed by your great-great-granddwarf who was a master smith then it might be a bit different than if a fairy a playing a prank on you.
Toady:Yeah exactly. It all comes down to the motivations and understanding, and what is magic, and those kinds of magic are very different things.
Rainseeker:Exactly. I have invented the bag of infinite skunks!
Toady:That’s not very nice! Open the bag and some skunks ... well the game doesn’t have skunks. We need skunks. I’ve got these material breath weapons, so they could fire liquid stuff ... It wouldn’t actually smell, but it could give you blisters or make you die or something.
Rainseeker:They couldn’t generate miasma or something?
Toady:Well it could make your nose rot, it could specifically target the nose and make it rot off.
Capntastic:Is miasma actually in the game as a material now?
Toady:No it’s still the mysterious purple ... I don’t even know what it’s going to be in the end, because what’s there is kind of this noxious semi-magical horrible stuff that comes from all death; what it should be is putrescine and cadaverine or something; chemicals that smell bad.
Capntastic:There should be clouds of it moving about in tombs and you gotta avoid it.
Toady:Roll under them or double jump over them or something.
Rainseeker:I have invented the wand of infinite vermin.
Toady:It was infinite skunks before, now it’s infinite vermin; you can actually shoot the rat out though then right?
Rainseeker:Exactly. It fires flies and cockroaches.
Capntastic:I like how a tiny mosquito will create a million tiles of purple death.
Toady:I think butterflies have the ‘don’t smell’ flag, but I don’t know if I did more than butterflies. (high pitch)Butterflies don’t smell, they’re very pretty! (normal pitch, to Scamps) What are you doing Mister? You’re troubled you know, you’re just a little troubled boy. Rolling around the garbage because Daddy doesn’t clean very well.
Rainseeker:My question is, will artifacts become known around the world when they’re created. For instance someone somewhere wanting that legendary turtle bone grate for their town’s civic project. This leads to the question; can artifact ownership be transferred between people and civilizations.
Toady:Yeah, it’s like ‘You must give us the grate! We’ll send you young lads ever summer, just give us the grate!’ and then you’d have all these worthless human children wandering around your fortress, but you gave them the grate, and that was a cultural failing. This is the thing; artifacts used to be magic in one of the versions of Dwarf Fortress, I don’t remember if it was released or not, but there were like ten magical powers that they could pick one, and that was one side of it. Then the other side was this little story thing I was talking about, where it would come up with things like ‘well I’m really possessive of this artifact and I’m going to hide it away’ or whatever, and it would record it in the histories. Just as we were just talking about magic extensions and all the things that magic could be you can also talk about interactions and stories and civilizations, and all of the things that that can be. So it’s really important for artifacts to become known around the world, for them to become the prime movers of all these events and things that are going on; the catalysts for all kinds of events and things. So word would have to spread somehow; we’ve talk a bit before about knowledge of things and what information you store, but artifacts are pretty high up on the list of ‘do people know about them’ and so on. So you can have events based on jealousy, thieves coming to take them; you could have diplomatic events where you actually give one of your artifacts for a whole set of other things, or as a peace thing or something. I imagine that you couldn’t just flip your artifact off to a caravan or your whole society would be very angry with you. Unless it was an artifact that your dwarves had learned just enough that it’s sucking you away to the fire dimension, and then I’m sure you’d be very happy to trade the elves the metal whistle that they like to blow, that causes a nice little forest fire.
Rainseeker:That whistle really sucks.
Toady:That’s right. But just in general, like within your fortress, the creation of an artifact is just like ‘Woohoo! We have an artifact!’ and people start engraving it like crazy ... This should be something that your fortress starts to hinge around; your dwarves start to think about that. Are there jealous dwarves? Are there dwarves that are scared of things that are strangely magical? Does the creator become lauded or ostracised and eventually abscond with the thing and run off into the night with the human bandits and then they come back doing all manner of horrible infinite vermin things at you ... So within the fortress and without it the artifact should start driving huge amounts of the story, we’re going have these wargame type things with you sending off your armies to attack places in the coming versions – not too far away – and those will drive your fortress’s connections with the world, and diplomacy will drive your fortress’s connections with the world, and trade will drive your fortress’s connections with the world and make the game much more interesting; and artifacts can do the same thing and should be important that way, especially because the creation progress itself is something that’s pretty engaging, and then you finally get this artifact and right now it just drops off into mediocrity at that point as something that scores you a few extra immigrants. It’s not that important unless it’s a rare useful artifact like a weapon and even then you’re just killing a few extra creatures with it. So the artifacts are one of the important things that needs to happen; them becoming known throughout the world and so on.
Rainseeker:Capn, you want to ...?
Capntastic:So the semi-artifacts you mentioned earlier where they’re a non-special item that’s been used to slay a particular dragon and it becomes well known and attached to the character and has its own story going along with it – it becomes a kind of player in the world on its own – how exactly does that work?
Toady:So the process that’s currently in the game – not the released version but the one that’s coming – where we’re starting to explore this whole semi-artifact idea, it looks at how much time the dwarf has been holding the object, does he like the materials it’s made out of, and eventually if you’ve got a match then the dwarf can get an attachment to it. Once an item is elevated to that state ... or actually for every single item now, it’s kind of insane the out of information that’s being tracked sometimes ... It tracks every item’s kills, and once the item gets up to the attached state with a dwarf then it can look at those kills, especially as they continue to be added as that dwarf continues to do amazing things, it can look at the historical events attached to those things in the historical figures – so if it kills a dragon that dragon has a history – and it’s already got methods for calculating the importance; like ‘what is the era importance of a dragon?’, well that’s one hundred because it can name eras after a dragon, and when you’ve got something with high numbers then the artifact’s importance level, once it reaches a certain amount the dwarf can name it, it can become an artifact. At the present time it’s about as exciting as other artifacts, but essentially what would happen at that point is that it would enter the same mechanic pool that we’re planning for artifacts; people would know about it, like if a trader arrives and talks to your other dwarves then they would know about that sword just as likely perhaps as they’d know about your magical chest that any time you put something in it you get two back, or whatever, so they would say ‘there’s also the sword that killed the dragon’ or whatever. Then if someone became jealous about that, or someone asked for that for their community civic project, like they want to use your named dragon killing axe to chop down trees ... that’s not going to happen, but that’s the spirit anyway ... then it would just enter the same pipeline as the rest of the artifacts. Now it could be that the process of naming it, killing dragons and so on, there’s nothing that says that the item might not actually become magical itself as well, but even without that it would still have access to all the same sort of code stuff.
Capntastic:I think that’s interesting because maybe the sources of power ... like a nature spirit might say ‘this hammer was used to kill a dwarf that was mean to elves, so I’m going to enchant it and now it’s really good at killing dwarves’ or a demon could say ‘oh well, this sword was used to kill a king and I’m going to enchant it to become a king-killer; whenever you kill a king with it the king turns into a demon’; seems interesting.
Toady:Yeah it should be really cool, because in a sense those semi-artifacts – as we’ve been calling them – that these guys have had for years and become attached to and killed dragons with, in a sense they have as much of a right, or more, to become magical than the workshop created artifacts where you just go and grab a pine log and a turtle shell and make a little hat. They’ll be treated with their proper respect once these mechanics are up that start to consider artifacts more and more.
Rainseeker:That kind of segues into my question; are there going to be new ways to create artifacts aside from that, such as at the creation of the world or by gods or some other ...
Toady:Originally we thought of this as kind of a tricky question; just at first when the game was smaller we were like ‘Dwarves ... they make the artifacts’ but I think dwarven artifacts in a sense are special because you made them but really you have to let go of that as being their unique properties; they might have the best artifacts among civilizations, but an artifact is just an important object, and important objects ... you’ve got to pass that around. So whether there are items that have been created by gods, items that have been created by other civilizations – maybe not as prolific as the dwarves, but I think one of Zach’s stories had an elven sword that was put in a stream for a thousand years, that certainly wouldn’t be a common artifact – but you’ve got it there, and the ones that they become attached to and so on, that’s certainly fair game for the other civilizations. And things like, if there’s some kind of evil swamp that isn’t really attached to gods at all, it’s just this evil swamp, it might have a beating heart beneath it that’s some kind of object, and you might have to dig that out to make the undead dear go away, and the undead alligators ...
Capntastic:Undead skunks ...
Toady:That’s right, undead skunks being shot out of a crater ... it’s all scary. But definitely we want to use artifacts in lots of places. They shouldn’t be commonplace but they should be varied.
Various:(fel mood repetition from main podcast)
Sfx:(door slamming)
Toady:Zach has left the chat room, it’s like (Sfx vox: door slamming). Alright, so in any case, it’s ...
Rainseeker:Wait, is he listening to the talk?
Toady:No, we were talking on the AOL chat thing we’re using now, because we’ve used seven different ones because they crash or whatever. So we’re on one of them and we were talking and I was like ‘Okay, I’m starting the Dwarf Fortress Talk’ now, and that was an hour ago, or whatever, and he was like ‘Okay’, so I went in and turned off the sounds so that if he sent me a message – which he hasn’t – it wouldn’t make the ‘bing bing’ noise or whatever. However apparently in that list of sounds I missed – or it was in a different list or something – the sound that makes the big slamming door noise when he leaves. So he just went off to go do something or whatever, and so all of a sudden it’s like ‘SLAM!’ I don’t even know if it was audible through my microphone or not.
Capntastic:Oh it was.
Toady:Yeah, so bam! Bam! A failure, a complete failure to protect the podcast from environmental noise pollution. You know the cat is sleeping nice over in his heated bowl right now, so he’s ...
Capntastic:He has a heated bowl?
Toady:Yeah he has a heated bowl! So he has a giant cat tree, almost as tall as I am, and then he’s got a heated bowl you can plug into the wall. It’s a felt thing or something, it’s a very large short cylinder that a cat can be put in.
Rainseeker:I’d imagine that would be nice for you to be able to sleep, he wouldn’t bother you at night, huh?
Toady:Yeah, he likes to stay in there ... I mean he will still come in and scratch my neck if my hands aren’t showing, he will still occasionally jump over my head when I’m laying down in bed ... An important point, people were wondering when I put that on the devlog, when I said he jumped over my head; I was laying down at the time. He did not get seven feet in the air or whatever to get complete clearance and then do whatever he’s doing. He can jump pretty far, but not that far yet. Yet. We’ll see what he can do later.
Rainseeker:I thought you might have been sitting when you said that.
Toady:The problem is is that once I was. The thing is I was in bed reading a book, and I wasn’t sitting so that my back was bent completely flat up against the wall but I had my pillow kind of scrunched up, so my head was a good foot and a half off the bed, and he did his thing where he jumps on the bed and he then he needs to leave and he’s on the wrong side of the door or whatever and me, so he needs to jump over me; obviously he can’t go under the bed because that would too civilized and he can’t go around or anything. So he just jumps over my head, and when your head is sticking up a little bit that’s really disconcerting because he almost doesn’t make it sometimes, you can just feel him go over your hair, it’s like ‘Whoof!’ So he continues to be a little free spirit or something. But now that he’s got his heated bowl he is oftentimes out here instead of in the bedroom, which is okay with me because it’s good to sleep sometimes.