Dwarf Fortress is an indie game made by Tarn Adams and Zach Adams, both brothers working to create something extraordinary. Tarn Adams is the sole programming and co-designer of Dwarf Fortress, with Zach assisting in the design of the game and moderation of the Bay 12 forums. Tarn is a mathematics major (Ph.D) from Stanford University. He used to be a math teacher, but he decided he wasn't happy and came up with Dwarf Fortress with his younger brother Zach. Dwarf Fortress has been in development since 2006 and is still an incomplete but very playable and literally epic. Tarn currently lives off of donations, and makes about 30-40k a year off of the generosity of people alone.
Oh, and Minecraft? Yeah, Notch has previously stated he got the idea of Minecraft from imagining playing Dwarf Fortress in a first-person perspective.
Now, why does Tarn earn enough from donations to live a steady life and work full-time on Dwarf Fortress? Because his game is so ahead of our time, it has to be temporarily watered-down because our current processing technology can't handle the full vision Tarn & Zach have for the game. That said, even now the game will make many modern computers fall down and beg for mercy. Why is this so? What, are they rendering some kind of super-graphics in Dwarf Fortress? Let me show you:
Behold, the absolutely amazing graphics of Dwarf Fortress. Shed a tear for technology.
Let me cut to the chase; what you see above is no joke. The game is completely rendered in 2D, ASCII graphics. This means on a vanilla install there are virtually 0% graphics. Don't let this get to you, you can install some tilesets and graphics if you're willing to go through some minor trouble.
Dwarf Fortress is a 3D game, meaning you can build enormous towers piercing the heavens and dig down into the core of the Earth and possibly hell itself. You generate a world much like you do with Minecraft, only you can play on the world more than once. Not only is the geology generated, but civilizations and empires play through hundreds of years of events until you stop the process or it stops automatically. Once done, you will effectively have a world with thousands if not millions of people and diverse cultures. Each person in the world has their own personality, their own story, their own troubles and glories. Wars are fought between Humans, Elves, Goblins, and Kobolds, each of them involving simulated warriors that are more than just statistics.
The main game leaves you under control of seven dwarves embarking on an expedition in the glory of their mountainhome. All of these dwarves come with pre-defined personalities, physical traits, and religious complexities. You have complete control over what items you want to bring, what the professions of the dwarves will be, and where you are going. The game fast-forwards to the present, where you arrive at the embark site with your wagon stocked with supplies. These supplies obviously won't last for very long, so in order to survive you have to begin digging a home for your dwarves and attracting the attention of migrant dwarves and merchants to expand your fortress. Over time you'll also attract the attention of hostiles, whether they be war enemies or the mundane hostility of goblins, kobolds, and exotic megabeasts.
Bay 12 Dwarf Fortress page: Click the "Windows" link under the SDL category.
The Dwarf Fortress wiki: Here you will learn how to play the game.
Look at that, look at that bullcrap, look, loo- OH MY GOD! JESUS CHRIST, IT'S BURNING THEM ALIVE!