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Dwarf Fortress and where games would be if graphics were deemed unimportant

Graphics very heavily restrict what you can do in a game. Not just because they use processing power, but also because they take a lot of work to create. This is why Dwarf Fortress, made up of only ASCII art, is probably the most complex game there has ever been. In a Noclip interview the creators of Dwarf Fortress explain that that's why they have been able to keep producing features at such a high pace for such a long time.

If you want to add dogs in a photo realistic game, you have to model a 3d dog, you have to create the animations, you have to make sure it interacts with the geometry correctly, you have to find dog sounds, sync the dog sounds to the animation of the dog barking, etc. it's a lot of work. This would take dozens, if not hundreds of hours to do. If you want to add dogs in Dwarf Fortress, you simply duplicate the passive critter object, give it a unique symbol and color, and that's it. Doable in like 30 minutes.

If you then want to make dogs fetch sticks in the photo realistic game, you'd have model a stick, model a throwing animation for the player, create the animation for the dog to pick up the stick, make sure this all works correctly etc. This would also take dozens of hours. If you want to make dogs fetch sticks in Dwarf Fortress, you'd simply have an action where a random spot around the player was chosen, the dog walked to it, and the dog walked back, and maybe have the carryingstick variable change a few times. Doable in like 15 minutes.

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In DF, weather is simulated so realistically that mountains have rain shadows. The individual limbs, fingers, and teeth of every entity are kept track of. In combat, entities don't have hit points. The individual organs, bones, arteries, and muscles are kept track of. Dwarves actually have individual memories, and complex personalities and moods.

Of course Dwarf Fortress is an extreme example, but there are more games that have opted for complexity instead of graphics. There are some top-down survival games that do this, like Factorio or Rimworld. Where would games be if instead of being a small niche, a large part of game developers went this route? DF was made by 2 people, imagine what an AAA studio making such a game could do.


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