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When generating worlds that are old (1k-10k years), I have a very hard time stopping civilizations dying out and every fortress I visit in Adventurer mode is abandoned.

What aspects of world generation effect fortress abandonment and creation? Can you have an old world without many abandoned fortresses, or are they just abandoned as time progresses.

What greatly effects civilizations dying out? How can I generate an old world that has a balanced amount of beasts to civilizations? (i.e. not end up without any beasts nor without any people)

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Use short history. The longer the history, the more civs get wiped out. –  mxmissile Jun 6 '11 at 16:43
    
Don't civilizations ever emerge/come into being? (other than at the beggining of world creation) –  Annan Jun 6 '11 at 17:11
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I cannot find the reference for all this, but I thought I read somewhere that they either die off or get taken over by other civs. No new civs are introduced. Taken with salt as I cannot find the reference. –  mxmissile Jun 7 '11 at 15:50
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Try adding [NO_EAT] to the various races' RAWs. They tend to starve a lot, these days. –  Raven Dreamer Dec 14 '11 at 18:22
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1 Answer

The DF wiki has a page on world generation. Relevant bits:

History
Higher values will also increase the number of abandoned (sacked) towns and fortresses

Maximum Number of Sites
This is the maximum number of sites such as towns, hamlets, elf retreats, etc. Turning this up is advised for adventure mode games.

Number of Beasts
Since beasts can attack civilizations, more beasts may reduce the population of the world a little bit.

And from the page on advanced world generation:

Population Cap After Civ Creation
Each race may have up to 100 civilizations each, and each civilization a maximum population of 10,000. This means that if you set this parameter to -1 ("No cap"), you can quickly be overrun by sites and population

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