A while back last year I started playing Minecraft. Great game that, but it was thanks to Minecraft (and its community mostly) that I became exposed to Dwarf Fortress. Naturally my opinion of Dwarf Fortress is horribly, terribly biased. Why? Simply put I am fond of Dwarves as a fantasy species, I like sandbox-style games as well as games that have elements of procedural generation.
My first experience with Dwarf Fortress was a terrible one. I could not work my way around the interface properly and I had no idea at all what was being displayed on-screen due to a lack of familiarity with what all the ASCII symbols represented. Sure I did try my hand at a few of the graphical packs, but I did not feel that they added much to the game.
In order to get a better grasp of how Dwarf Fortress was supposed to work, I did a little more research. 1d4chan was crucial at first in my efforts to comprehend just how cool this game was. From there I went on to read Boatmurdered (and am eagerly awaiting the animation) and am currently reading Internet Kraken's DF Let's Play of Reveredtour. Good stuff.
Since then I have been able to wrap my head around the ASCII symbology... and I actually like it a heck of a lot more than the currently available graphical packs. There is a place for graphical visualizers for Dwarf Fortress of course, but more things like Stonesense IMO that can overlay the basic client.
Naturally, being fond of Evil in gaming, I have started tinkering around with modding Dwarf Fortress. My first major attempt shall be a Dark/Evil Dwarven civilization of some sort. After all, what good is it to kill those darn annoying Elves (for complaining I cut down all the trees, the hippies) if I can't at least make some nice elf-bone objects to trade with the next group that wanders into my territory?
Modding aside, learning to play Dwarf Fortress has been a lot of fun. Flooded fortresses, errors in calculation on magma flow... massacred whole communities when someone goes nuts after not finding the materials they needed and butchering all their friends and family. What's not to love?
If you are trying to get into Dwarf Fortress, I highly recommend you read Boatmurdered, Reveredtour or some of the other Fun bits O' Dwarven Legend that are laying about.
Hmmm. Perhaps if Penguins get added in the next update I will create Prinnies, or even some other Disgaea species too Dood!