In earlier days of Dwarf Fortress, development was split up into outlined specific Arcs. That system was largely scrapped in favor of a private roadmap, where each choke point consists in a list of "notes", i.e. features that would be necessary for a release. The notes and roadmap are kept private because they have been proven to be too time-consuming to maintain in public, as they may be subject to frequent change.
However, even with the arc system mostly gone, certain major releases have been given names after their main focus by Toady One. These releases both include ones already released, ones being developed, and ones far into the future. These releases, or the time periods spent working on them, are often called "arcs" by the Dwarf Fortress community.
The old Consolidated Development page lists 21 "short-term arcs" and 15 "long-term arcs". Here are a few notable ones:
- Army arc: possibly the biggest endeavor out of all the current arcs, it was never fully completed. Version 0.31.01 introduced many army arc features.
- Caravan arc: another famous arc, focusing on fleshing out the caravans (Status unknown as of v0.47.05, may have been completed.)
- County arc
- Life cycle arc
- Presentation arc
- The night creature release (0.34.01): added necromancers, mummies, vampires, werebeasts as well as a complete undead overhaul. Other notable additions include evil weather, improved human sites featuring catacombs, sewers and dungeons, and a number of animals added to the game.
- The world activation release (0.40.01): allowed many world generation activities to carry on during normal gameplay, as opposed to a static world. Other notable additions include non-human sites, multi-tile trees, retireable fortresses, claimable non-player fortresses and a great variety of plants and additional animal people.
- The tavern release (0.42.01): added taverns and visitors to the game. Other notable additions include fortress temples, libraries (with scholars complete with a knowledge system), a paper industry, art forms (music, dance and writing) and non-dwarven citizens.
- The artifact release (0.44.01): added non-player artifacts to the game. Other notable additions include the ability to send squads of dwarves off the map (on missions to raid sites, rescue citizens, retrive artifacts, explore ruins and so on), secret agents, non-player questers and improved kobold sites.
- The villains release (first part) (0.47.01): added villains to the game, giving them goals and the ability to subvert other people into various corruption activities such as embezzlement, sabotage, kidnapping or assassination. Other notable additions included improved relationships (divorce and remarriage, children outside marriage, different kinds of friendships), improved religions (featuring prophets and monastic orders), trade companies, craft guilds, new sites (monasteries, bandit forts and the return of castles) as well as several new night creatures. This release was cut short, leaving out most of the fortress mode and adventure mode villainy, to hasten the Premium release.
Future named releases:
- The Premium release (or the Steam release) (0.??.01): the first commercial release of Dwarf Fortress. also known as Dwarf Fortress Premium. As the primary commercial platform will be Steam, it is also known as the Steam release. It will, most notably, include a complete overhaul of UI and graphics, bug fixes, as well as an official pixel-art graphics set. Most features will carry over to the free version of the game, which will continue its distribution as Dwarf Fortress Classic, but not the official graphics set.
- The villains release (second part) (0.??.01): the second part of the villains release, finishing what was left when focus shifted to the Premium release.
- The myth and magic release (0.??.01): scheduled to be a very long release cycle, it will add myth generation to the game, and a magic system that will tie to the original myths. With the presence of "fantasy ratings" that alter how magically the world will behave (from only humans, to a world filled with the strangest creatures), it is expected to be a complete overhaul of the game that will dramatically alter its gameplay.
- The starting scenarios release (0.??.01): will expand on the laws, property, customs and status framework to provide reasons for your fortress to be and guidelines on how to govern it (different kinds of migrants, different standings regarding the mountainhome, different diplomatic relationships, etc.)
- The boats release (0.??.01): will feature, well, boats, with all that entails (ports, maritime trade routes, pirates, and so on). Probably multi-tile creatures as well, as mechanics on how to make boats (floating superstructures) work will be borrowed to make multi-tile creatures as well.
- The economy release (0.??.01): will piggyback on the new trade and property stuff to establish a new framework that will completely overhaul the old (and deactivated) economy system.
There are 21 near-term arcs in total, and not all may take the same length of time to complete. Each Arc also encompasses certain cores, requirements, bloats, and power goals originally listed in the main Dwarf Fortress development page, which has since been replaced but is still available at the consolidated development page.