Blood for the Blood God: A Few Words With Tarn Adams

Not even once.

Q: How would you convey Dwarf Fortress to someone who has never played or heard of it?

A: Dwarf Fortress is a fantasy world simulator in which you can take on the role of a dwarven community or an adventurer.  It records many of the things that happen in the form of legends that you can read once you are done with a given play in a world.  The world persists and changes as you play more games in it, though the game is a work in progress!

Q: Are you working on any other projects? Do you see yourself starting any other projects in the future, or is Dwarf Fortress the main topic for this lifetime?

A: We have several other projects that aren't very far along.  Some of them are reasonably cool in their own right.  However, Dwarf Fortress takes up most of our time.  We'd love to work on lots of things, but we haven't found a way to make it practical.

Q: I've heard the phrase, "Losing is fun", tossed around a lot of the fan communities. How do you feel this fits the essence of Dwarf
Fortress?
A: That phrase actually comes from the official documentation available in play.  The overall idea it was supposed to nurture was that you need to let your individual games pass into the world's history to get the most out of DF, since it'll use your dead fortresses and adventurer legends in future games -- although that hasn't been fully realized yet.  People are into the game for different reasons -- often just to make one megafortress -- but in general we don't want to encourage going back to old saves since you won't see all of the features that way.  This especially true once we get around to conquest actively changing political boundaries and so on.


Q: How do you feel about the amount of a following and the communities that have begun around Dwarf Fortress?

A: I think it's cool that people are playing the game, and it's awesome to see people get along and make amazing things happen together.  We weren't expecting it at all when we released the game, since we had a community of dozens after having the website up for several years before Dwarf Fortress.


Q: Have you ever played ZZT?

A: I played Kingdom of Kroz, but I don't remember playing ZZT.  I've heard of it, so it's possible I did play it briefly, but I don't remember anything about it if I did.  When it apparently first came out in 1991 was at the end of the time I was playing downloadable shareware (if that's how ZZT was distributed).  I was pretty much playing box games from then until the internet became widespread.  I downloaded a ton of stuff from BBSs in the 80s and the very beginning of the 90s when I was in elementary school, but not so much after that.


Q: In your feature in the New York Times, it was mentioned that you were into meth for a bit. How long? Have you gotten into any other substances, do you drink? How does one transition from a academic career in mathematics at Stanford into doing meth? Did you have trouble with stopping using?

A: The meth was a one time thing that happened during my first year at Stanford.  I had hit a particularly low point since at the time I thought my brother was dead and there was somebody around to take advantage of me.  When you are winding down you can tell immediately how addictive the stuff is, and fortunately I got myself out of that house before anything else happened.  I drink on occasion at restaurants, that sort of thing.  I've never been into anything else...  caffeine probably counts for something, he he he.

Q: The New York Times piece also described you living very minimally - very few dishes and so forth, drinking only sodas and soft drinks, sleeping during the day to program at night. Is this accurate? What effects has this had on your health, if any?

A: It's pretty much accurate.  I have other things to drink sometimes and I wish my sleep were that regular.  I'm overweight, but other than that I haven't hit any of the real bad crap yet like diabetes, etc.  I used to cook but not much at all since I moved back to Washington.  I think it helped to have a day job to pin that kind of schedule to.


Q: What was the last book you read?

A: Volume 2 of Shelby Foote's The Civil War.  I'm on Volume 3 now, and that'll take like two or three months, he he he.  The documentary was on TV again recently and somebody got me a Kindle for my birthday in April, so I decided to take the plunge...  it is a long plunge.  It's kind of like the other Dwarf Fortressish things I'd run into (Silmarillion, Romance of the Three Kingdoms/Water Margin), with large casts in a sweeping historical set up.  I guess I gravitate toward that sort of thing.

Q: What sort of music do you listen to?

A: I've mostly been listening to Pandora stations recently.  It's hard to come up with a list, but let's say Iggy Pop, The Cramps, Godflesh, most of the Motown stuff that comes up on my Bill Withers/Marvin Gaye station (it has the highest thumbs up vs. thumbs down rate), various metal/punk/pop stuff from the 70s and 80s, various Vietnam-era music, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Ali Akbar Khan, Sabicas, Nintendo music and some other 8-bitish stuff (works wonders for programming), classical stuff once in a while...