ASCIIPortal, Ascii Sector and Dwarf Fortress: Text-only, so to speak

I had a brief but interesting e-mail exchange with a longtime reader last week who asked if I was deliberately skirting games like Dwarf Fortress, Ascii Sector or ASCIIPortal.

The answer I gave last week, and the answer I’ll repeat here, is yes. And no. Maybe.πŸ˜‰

If you’re not familiar with them, all three games are unequivocally text-based. And yet, with the possible exception of Dwarf Fortress, I’ve never heard of a way to run them within an emulator let alone a classic virtual console. (And even then, Dwarf Fortress would have required a framebuffer terminal emulator, if I remember right.)

That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it just means that K.Mandla is lazy and hasn’t researched it yet.πŸ™„

To be fair — and because these are all very good games — I promised to list them here, with the caveat that they will possibly require a graphical environment to get them moving.

What you see next is running in X under Arch. Going in alphabetical order, ASCIIPortal is first. I mentioned ASCIIPortal off hand in a post over four years ago, while the Portal hubbub was trailing away.

2014-10-06-6m47421-asciiportal

The general premise is the same, although the format is distinctly different from the original Valve game. Controls are easy and the game moves very quickly, even on decade-old hardware.

I’m not much of a puzzle-game fan though; I think my favorite puzzle adventure game was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I never worked my way through Myst or its ilk. And I never really took part in the Portal panic. I give ASCIIPortal acceptable marks for playability, but you might enjoy it more if you can relate to the original game.

Here’s Ascii Sector.

2014-10-06-6m47421-asciisector

I want to put Ascii Sector into the same box as things like Elite or Frontier, as a space trading game with a heavy combat element. Like the Gearhead series it has distinct elements of person-to-person interaction and sci-fi combat, although Gearhead may outstrip it in RPG-ish elements. You can decide that.

As you might remember, I did mention Ascii Sector a long time ago and I had trouble putting a label on it then, too. Regardless, I am willing to recommend it as a fun spin past the space trader genre, without the need for 3D-heavy hardware.

The last one, and the most dangerous one, is Dwarf Fortress.

2014-10-06-6m47421-dwarffortress-01 2014-10-06-6m47421-dwarffortress-02

I made a point of uninstalling Dwarf Fortress almost as soon as I snapped that screenshot; the last time I became involved with Dwarf Fortress, it ate up hours of my time and caused no end of internal strife.

It’s that good a game. If you’ve never played it before, I almost envy you. You have the pleasure of learning it for the first time. But be prepared, it will take up a lot of your available life.πŸ˜•

I agreed in my e-mail last week to include these as SDL-ish games that are technically text-based but will probably require Xorg to work. I am sure there are a lot more like them, particularly if we open the “text-based game” genre to classic software of the 1980s and pre-Windows eras.

These represent a hybrid though, and to be sure, I include them because omitting them seems somehow incorrect. Please, with my compliments … enjoy.πŸ™‚

9 thoughts on “ASCIIPortal, Ascii Sector and Dwarf Fortress: Text-only, so to speak

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  2. Slackeee

    You can configure Dwarf Fortress to run in pure ASCII mode. I use that feature to play it over SSH on my slow laptop, with the game actually running on my workstation.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      You’re right. After I wrote this I went back and looked at my old posts from four years ago, and saw that I had a little more success with this than I remembered. Thanks for pointing that out.πŸ˜‰

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    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Thanks, I’ll give that a try. I know the SDL version works fine, but I would like to see a strict text-only version.πŸ™‚

      1. mbays

        I should have said: you may want to use the “-a” option in the nosdl version, which tells it to use only actual ascii characters

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