This is a design document explaining After the Collapse‘s game flow. As we’re still way before the alpha stage, not everything is set in stones and is still subject to changes. That being said, while details may vary, it will still give you an idea of how the game is going to play. It will also put the devlogs into context. Comments are welcome, of course.
First, you’ll be asked to choose a location for your group of survivors. The location itself will be procedurally generated, but it will be inside or near a city or major point of interest. Said location might be a (couple of) large building(s), suburbs, a factory, etc. You’ll likely have access to some sliders to customize the area. Then it will be time to select your initial 5-10 survivors from a pool of randomly generated and premade ones alongside their starting equipment and resources. To keep things balanced we’ll likely use some sort of point system. Better survivors costing more points than trash ones.
Your first hour or so will be spent setting up a basic base for your survivors. You’ll build them some shelter, with places to sleep and eat using the resources you brought with you. Meanwhile, you’ll tell some of your survivors to scavenge the area for resources. Depending on your selected starting location, the map might be less or more rich in resources and you might be able to save some building materials by using an existing building as your base. You will also setup your first crafting stations, so you can build basic weapons and equipment for later.
This is where you’ll notice a few major differences from other base building games. Firstly, due to a more urban environment, resource collection is done by searching boxes and destroying existing structures instead of cutting trees and breaking rocks. Secondly, resources on your map are very finite and will run out pretty fast. It means that, at some point, you’ll have to find resources by other means.
Early to mid-game transition
This is where the grace period ends. Until that point the game was pretty gentle and let you build pretty much uninterrupted with happy survivors. The next phase will begin with an attack on your base, it’ll likely be quite easy to dispatch (a few under-equipped bandits). After looting their bodies you’ll find 2 key components of the game: a radio and an artifact.
The radio will allow you to build a radio station which will be one of your most important buildings. By assigning a survivor to the station, you’ll be able to communicate with other groups and listen to chatter. Through that mean, other survivors might want to join you or trade with you. You might also learn about possible locations to loot in your general area. Artifacts are rare, valuable, multi-purpose items. Some of them can be equipped by your survivors to boost their stats, mood, etc., traded for goods, or used to craft late-game items.
As the game progresses you’ll find better tech, build a generator to power up automated turrets and so on. If you’re reading this, I assume you get the basic idea of a base building game. It’s also a bit early to get into the nitty-gritty details. Your main goal will be to maintain a well defended base, recruiting new survivors, keeping them happy, building defensive structures, dealing with increasingly bigger environmental and physical threats. You’ll keep yourself supplied by sending some of your people to scavenging, exploration and trading missions. You’ll lose many of them during those missions, but the few who survive will get better at it as the time goes on.
To elaborate on the mission and scavenging part, the game has the ability to manage multiple areas simultaneously. So, we hope you’ll be able to (optionally) watch and give directions to the squads you’ve sent on missions. It depends how well it will work on top of the base building part. Also you might feel uneasy about losing many survivors, but After the Collapse will be played at a larger scale than, let’s say Rimworld. A small early to mid game base will contain 20 or more people, late game ones 50 or more (well, we have yet to see how well it will run, but so far it looks like very achievable goals).
Here we get into more hypothetical scenarios. Do we want a “winning state”? How to keep a balance between ramping up difficulty and a “too big to fail” base? I won’t pretend to have the answers at the moment. We’re too early to make a decision either way, but we can still lay down a few ideas. Heck, we might allow you to choose your poison by the time we reach 1.0.
First there’s the “you’re doomed” option. Simply put, ramping up the threats and making supply harder and harder to come by until the player can no longer cope with the increasing difficulty. It’s kind of the ‘classic’ system used by many games in the same category. Some players like the challenge, others would rather get a proper ending. There is no right or wrong answer here. On a technical level it’s probably the easiest method, but as a balancing act, it’s quite difficult to get it right.
Then, there’s the “optional Armageddon” option. We can consider that Dwarf Fortress uses that option. At some point you get so big that even the armies the game throws at you won’t even breach your perimeter wall. However, you can still dig “too deep” and unleash hell on your fortress (pretty much literally). It’s a fairly elegant solution. The player stays in control, get all the time in the world to prepare and when they think they are ready, they build/activate the MacGuffin plot item that will unleash a devastating response from the game. On my side, the good thing is that it doesn’t have to be close to balanced. The bad thing is that it has to be fairly unique compared to the threats the player has faced before which mean a lot of additional work for something only a fraction of the player-base will watch.
Thirdly, we have the “on the move” option. Simply put, you’re trying to go through that radioactive, mutant infected hellhole and each base is a temporary respite place for the player’s group. Of course the closer to the goal, the more difficult it gets. Thematically, it would work well with the game, and you wouldn’t necessarily have to start from scratch each time. You’d keep some of your tech and equipment and people. Given the urban environment, you could use the available buildings on the map. The drawback is that it might get repetitive. It also incites the player to “farm” the first (easier) levels no matter how slow or boring it would be.
Of course, this design document only covers After the Collapse in broad terms. More specific ones, regarding the nature of the world, your survivors, the threats you’ll face, and so on will follow, mixed with the usual devlogs.