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This is a tool for helping you play Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (CDDA). CDDA is an open source post-apocalyptic roguelike. It's a lot of fun, and this tool will make it easier to play on Linux (and possible macOS and other Unix systems).

Please note that if you're on Windows there is a much more polished GUI launcher, the CDDA Game Launcher.

How to Use It

You can download a binary version of the latest build on this project's GitHub releases page. Put this in a directory in your path. Since this is released with goreleaser you can also use godownloader to install it if you prefer.

You'll need Docker CE installed in order to play the game since it's launched inside a Docker container. See the linked docs for information on installing Docker CE.


Before launching the game you need to set the launcher up. This is mostly to tell it where to store files:

$> catalauncher setup

This will ask where you want to store game files (and in the future may ask more questions). By default files are stored under $HOME/.catalauncher. Accepting this default will make your life a little simpler. Otherwise you'll need to tell it where your config file lives every time you run it.


To launch the game simply run the launch subcommand:

$> catalauncher launch


  • --config - The location of your config file. This is accepted by all subcommands. Note that if your config file is not in the default location, $HOME/.catalauncher, then you'll need to pass this every time you run the launch subcommand.
  • --build - This is an option for the launch subcommand. Pass this to specify which build you'd like to launch. By default you always get the most recent build.

How It Works and What It Does

When you run launch there a number of things that happen.

Fetching New Builds

First, the launcher checks for a new binary build in These builds are created via Jenkins.

If there is a new build it will downloaded and untarred (unless you asked for an older build with the --build flag).

If the launcher is fetching a new build it will open the Jenkins CDDA changes list in your browser so you can see what's new.

Character Creation Templates

If your most recent local build has any character creation templates, those are copied into the new build automatically (unfortunately these must live under the game's directory, rather than in a shared location).

Extras (Mods & Soundpacks)

The launcher also provides some mods and soundpacks. These are maintained in the houseabsolute/cataclysm-extras-collection repo. If you want to add a mod, soundpack, or tileset, please file a PR or issue there. If a mod is causing the game to crash, please file a PR or issue to remove it.

Whenever you run the launcher a local copy of that git repo is pulled/updated. The contents are then copied into the per-build game directory (unfortunately CDDA does not work when these directories are symlinked).


The game itself is run in a Docker container using my houseabsolute/catalauncher-player image. This image is built using the Dockerfile in this repo. This avoids the need to install any libraries on the host system.

This container is run with quite a bit of access to the host system in order to make video and sound work. I'm using Docker primarily for convenience rather than isolation. Notably, the container is run with access to the following files/directories/env vars on the host system:

  • /etc/machine-id
  • /run/user/$USER_ID/pulse
  • $HOME/.pulse
  • /dev/dri
  • /tmp/.X11-unix
  • /var/lib/dbus
  • The $DISPLAY env var

However, The game will be executed using your user and group ids, not root.

Given this it's not clear to me whether this will work with Docker on macOS or Windows (or even a Linux system that is very different from my own desktop running Ubuntu 18.04). Patches to handle a greater variety of host systems are welcome!

Game Files

The launcher stores your game config, graveyard, and save files outside of the per-build game directories, so they will persist as you run new builds.

Todo and Known Issues

When your character dies (which will happen a lot) you'll see an error about renaming some memorial files. I'm not sure why these are showing up. The graveyard does contain records of character deaths so it doesn't seem to be a major error.

As mentioned above, the way Docker is run in order to provide it access to video and sound on the host system greatly reduces container isolation and may be very specific to my desktop.