Welcome to After The Collapse 0.8.6: Nature’s Wrath.
I know I said this update would be smaller than usual, while it’s still technically true it’s not by much. As usual, we’ll only go over the major improvements and changes. The full changelog is at the end of this article.
Fire is a thing now (which we’re using extensively)
Cycle of nature, trees and plants grow, multiply and die over time
Massive performance boost during large raids and within very large bases
New map generator and new biomes
Improved combat AI script, Extensive balance, UI and bug fixing update
After our five weeks of weekly patches, it’s time to go for a proper devlog. There will be another patch soon, fixing a few rare bugs found by one of our regulars, but the main focus now is to add more content. The next large update will be smaller in scope than 0.8.5 (not every update can be a 120+ line changelog), but it’s still going to add a few new fun stuff for you to play with. Beside adding & fixing stuff regarding the expedition battle things and new interactive questlines, it will add fire (which can spread), proper growth for wild trees and plants, and a few more weather and nature related things.
This week, I’ve mostly been playing with fire. If I recall correctly, it was an early development promise too, so one of the few remaining checkboxes is being ticked. I could write 10 paragraphs about fire propagation and how well it’s modeled, but in reality, it seems that starting fires IRL for game development purpose is against the law. I had to make do with an approximation. Here’s a video of the very much “work-in-progress” result:
The video is unedited and a bit too long. Skip to 30 seconds before the end when it gets boring so you can see the new flame-thrower in all it’s glory. The graphical rendering of the fire is still subpar. I will try to find better animations and make better particle systems for it. Don’t hold your breath, it’s not going to be super nice looking either. I’d rather save frames than waste CPU cycles on something over complicated.
Anyway, yes, fire will be a thing. It won’t be a very common thing, though. Stone walls and constructed floors (except wood ones) will keep your relatively safe. And it won’t spread without something that can burn on the tile. It will also add a drawback to the overpowered flamethrowers, balancing them out a bit without making them boring. Heat waves might also cause some trees to catch fire occasionally, and there’s a rare late game event, called “wall of flames” which will be, I reckon, subject of much hate in the future. Oh, and yep, it’s likely that your electric grid might cause a few fires too, maybe 🙂
Rain will of course work against fires, and your settlers will do their best to avoid walking in flames and extinguish them (that, I have yet to implement in the internal build). It’s not out the question that I add more wacky (optional) weather patterns taking advantage of the fire.
There’s also a whole thing about 1st, 2rd, 3rd degree burns that is being added, but I will keep that for the release post.
You might have wondered why trees keep “staying here” after you razed them. The reality is that every month, more trees will spawn next to existing ones, fully grown, at midnight. It is an old, quickly written “hack” to get that done. It’s time to replace it by something a bit more interesting.
I am going to introduce a relatively simple growth system for bushes, plants and trees. The general idea is to have them grow gradually in a manageable fashion. It should even be possible to have different species of trees growing under different conditions. We could have a desert bound cactus and more generic trees in elsewhere. Same goes for the giant mushrooms in some rare underground biomes. All of that being moddable, of course.
There are performances concerns, with trees in the thousands on some maps, it’s not efficient to have each plant running it’s own individual script. Instead I’ll use a more top down approach with a daily “nature” update, probably placed just before the autosave event to make the update un-noticeable, even on extremely large maps. I’m not really worried, but it’ll need some brainstorming nonetheless. 🙂
Expeditions are in a pretty good place, but there’s always more stuff to do. I will likely add more building/maps for some of the locations which are currently using the fallback default layout. It’s quite time consuming, especially for a feature few people are really using, so it’s something I do gradually. I’ll also try to see if I can reasonably make AI factions run their own expeditions. I mean they technically do, but it’s entirely abstracted. The idea would be to allow you to see potential attacks against your production centers before they happen. And optionally be able to intercept them with your own expeditions.
I’m also in the process of figuring how to balance the manual and the automatic combat methods so they don’t feel like being completely different difficulty levels.
With this version being focused on smaller additions, it’s not going to take nearly as long as for the 0.8.5 release. I will continue to go over the various threads/posts to implement requested features, tweak the UI, etc. By now, you probably know the drill. I’m not going to list every single little thing. 🙂
Anyway, that’s all I have to show for now. More will come soon, alongside another small patch.
So, this is technically the second part of the Expedition Overhaul, but it became much larger than anticipated. We have a lot of content to go over and not everything will be covered in the article. As usual, I will only list the major changes in this article. Please, look at the changelog for a complete list.
Explore a whole new array of worlds, buildings and locations
Setup traps to kill your enemies without risking your life
Optional manual combats during expeditions (work in progress)
New event and questline systems
Get rid of enemy factions permanently
Manual Expedition Battles
The promised feature is finally here! I know, it took a while, but here we are. Simply put, you can decide to play combat encounters yourself instead of letting the dice rolls decide. When you select this option, a map will be generated. The nature of said map depends on the location. Right now, only the various factories, the lumber mill and the military base have dedicated buildings and/or layouts, the other locations use a generic layout (a single large building). Enemy selection depends on who (or what) is currently controlling the area. If it’s another faction, you’ll encounter their soldiers, otherwise it might be infected or some hostile fauna.
The battle will happen in a “time bubble”, your base and the rest of the game will be paused. You don’t have to worry about missing a trader or being attacked. Of course, your goal will be to kill everything hostile on the map or die trying as, right now, there are no way to retreat (it’s going to be added later on, don’t worry).
Also, ammunition handling is disabled during those fights. Simply put, both you and the enemies have infinite ammo. It’s unlikely to change as there are no simple, non cumbersome way to make that happen (both code and gameplay wise) . The whole system is still a bit bare-bone, the difficulty ain’t really scaled to its automatic counter part. The enemy placement is not really adapted to the task. And most locations are using the same map layout. Still, the base system is there and it goes without saying that the following patches will be improving the whole thing.
Improved World Generation
Bored of that big and repetitive world map? Well, me too! This is why we have new world presets, rivers, bridges and the ability to have multiple, smaller cities.
See this nice button in the top right? It opens the menu in the center. A menu from which you can choose between 3 (currently) different world map generators. And yes, as usual it can be modded. It’s not just cosmetic, for instance, the Dead Lands map will be mostly desert and scorched biomes while New Eden will have no hostile biomes at all. Rivers are not just there to be pretty either, they block the path of your expeditions (until you find the new amphibious vehicle) which will have to use a bridge to go on the other side.
The improvements don’t stop at the world map either. New buildings have been introduced (various factories) and locations like the industrial zone, the factory and the lumber mill can be settled into. Additionally the amount of buildings in non city/roadside maps is now proportional to the size of the Playable Area. In other words, gigantic maps no longer feel so empty. Finally, the placement of buildings in Village type maps looks more organic.
Quests and Dynamic Locations
Building upon the interactive travel events from the previous update, After The Collapse now includes the ability to build multi stage questlines. The first introduced quest is the new Bandit Convoy event (it’s repeatable). Occasionally, your expeditions will encounter a very well defended enemy convoy. The game will offer several methods to deal with the problem (or ignore it). Assuming you manage to intercept said convoy, one of 3 rewards will get unlocked, 2 of them are rare or expensive loot, and the last one will continue the quest further.
Of course I won’t spoil it further, but going through that quest several times will definitely highlight the abilities of the new system which will be extensively used in future patches and updates. If you’ve ever played Space Rangers or Frostpunk, this kind of short interactive stories should immediately feel very familiar.
Additionally, now that the world map is really dynamic, after unlocking the Radio technology, you’ll occasionally receive radio transmissions from various sources. It might be a trader in your vicinity, a group of civilian asking for help, and so on. Those events will generally add a time limited location on the world map for you to explore. Beside the time limit, the main difference between those locations and the usual ones is that exploring them will trigger a dialog box (like the one in the screenshot above) or a small quest.
Spikes and Traps
Due to popular demand (and completely unrelated to this update’s thematic), you can now build a variety of traps, from simple fall traps your survivors have to reload manually to automated metal spike traps powered by your generators.
Ever thought about building an underground lair filled with your creatures but wondered how to lead your enemies there? Well, with those new fall traps, any hostile stepping on one of them will fall down in the layer below giving a free meal to whatever is crawling there. It’s still a bit basic, and probably not very well balanced, but I think it makes for a fun addition to the defensive roster.
Stuff People Wanted Very Much ™
In no particular order:
Factions can now be wiped out. Yes, no more pesky factions stealing all your outposts. You will have to conquer or at least wipe ALL their outposts before you can attack their HQ, though. I’d love to say it’s a game design choice, but it’s more of a technical one at the moment.
A “Prison Guard” skill/job has been added, which should make it easier to keep those prisoners fed. The value for that skill has absolutely no relevance right now.
To give people more stuff to do in the very early game the “Advanced Carpentry” tech has been removed, Looms and Tanner no longer have a tech requirement and the rest has been put in more relevant techs in the main branch. Additionally you can craft your own (colored) caps and padded vests at the loom.
People with a large screen resolution will be very happy to know that you can choose how many resources you monitor in the “resource info panel” (at the very top of the screen). It’s in the general settings, pay attention to the help bubble if you change this setting mid-game.
Balance, UI and Improvements
Turrets have a way more useful right click info panel / encyclopedia page. Same goes for the new traps. Speaking of documentation, an article about the Pandemonium virus has been added to the Encyclopedia. It explains in details what it does, how to detect it, and how it’s transmitted. All of which might be very critical details for at least some of the scenarios.
The option to focus an expedition loot session on a particular category, which in practice adds stuff (that might not be there initially) to the location’s loot table, is still there, but using it “consumes” the building 4 times faster. So, yes, you can still loot a lumber mill for weaponry and ammo, but it’s gonna empty it much faster.
And of course there are tons of fixes, tweaks and minor improvements on top of all this.
Savegame & Mod Compatibility
This update is (surprisingly) compatible with save-games from previous versions. There are a couple limiting factors, though:
The Prison Guard job/skill will be disabled by default on all settlers. You’ll have to manually enable it.
In the previous version the Genetic Abominations nest (assuming they spawned) might be invisible or impossible to attack or both. It’s a bug that has been fixed here, but it’s a problem that cannot be undone.
Mods for previous versions (unless hopelessly outdated) should be compatible. The only thing is that any mod relying on the now defunct Advanced Carpentry tech might need a small update.
I’m very happy with this update. Between the manual combat system which now has solid foundations for me to build upon and the quest / dynamic location combo there’s a lot of new and pretty unique content that can be added in the future. Best thing is, it’s entirely data driven using elaborated text files. It’s now perfectly possible to add quests telling the player to visit several locations, build specific unique techs/items, and deal with problems going beyond the base building itself.
Speaking of quests, it’s likely that in a very nearby future, the more Sci-Fi elements of the tech tree (sentient robot building I’m looking at you right now) will only be unlocked through such quests which would make a lot more sense.
Of course, I need to warn you. It’s a very big update touching on a ton of things, as such, you can expect new and interesting bugs. They will be dealt with in the usual follow up hot-patches.
Speaking of bugs, now that most of the work for the 0.8x branch is done. I will take some time to focus on some of the few remaining long standing (but elusive and relatively uncommon) bugs and glaring omissions while improving the newly added systems described above.
Now, I’m going to take a week off because it would be nice to see the sun at least a couple times before September 🙂
Balance: Removed “Advanced Carpentry” tech, moved associated items to early branches of the tech tree
Balance: Loom and Tanning stations no longer have a tech requirement
Balance: Hospital bed moved to medical tech (from defunct adv carpentry)
Balance: Pool table and large still moved to the construction tech (from defunct adv carpentry)
Balance: Interactive events during expeditions are slightly more frequent
Balance: During expeditions, focused search (for loot) consumes the “loot left” variable a lot faster (x4) than a standard search
Content: Combats during expeditions can now be done manually. This is still experimental and will be improved upon, but it’s there
Content: Some map locations have unique combat maps (factories, lumber mill) while others use more generic buildings
Content: Genetic Abominations’ main base got its own unique buildings for manual combat
Content: Expedition transports have a new “Noise” value which influences the chance to trigger hostile events
Content: New category of defensive items: Traps (which completes the already existing artisanal mines)
Content: Added several types/quality of spike traps, causing damage and bleeding (at various levels of the tech tree)
Content: Added trap door which will make someone fall in the layer below (various versions at different level of tech tree)
Content: Added recipes to build caps and padded vests to the loom (those are mostly decorative pieces of equipment)
Content: Shamblers and tribals are marked as part of the new “Infected” faction
Content: Lumber mill added to the list of locations you can settle in
Content: Factories & Industrial zones added to the list of locations you can settle in
Content: Multiple world presets making for more diverse world maps to visit
Content: Expeditions are moving slightly faster when on roads
Content: Added “Prison Guard” job/skill, used to determine who can feed and recruit prisoners
Content: Some scenarios have been edited to enforce specific city layouts
Content: Enemy factions can fully be destroyed by conquering all their outposts and then attacking their base directly
Content: Occasional (time limited) traders can spawn on the world map, send expeditions to them
Content: Sometimes, after radio tech, people might contact you and ask for help (besieged communities)
Content: Several new random travel events for your expeditions to deal with
Content: One long, multi staged travel event with multiple good and bad endings (repeatable)
Content: Special, time limited, locations may appear on the world map as the result of various events
Content: New amphibious transport for expeditions (can be acquired during a special event in the mid/late game)
Content: New map location : water tower, produces daily fresh water
Engine: Removed a bunch of no longer used textures and animation files (old versions of crabs, mantis, spiders)
As explained in my previous devlog, this update (and the next) is focusing on the expeditions. A very short summary would be that we can now manage multiple expeditions at once. Of course, as with all major updates, it runs a lot deeper than that. As usual, this article will focus on the main changes while you can find a complete changelog at the very end. Without further ado let’s get to it.
The city map and expeditions are no longer completely abstracted. Both became tangible things connected to the game world. To explain that in simpler terms, you are now able to given direct orders to your expeditions, tell them to move to wherever you want them to, and change you mind mid travel. You can move them on the world map like you would move a survivor in combat mode. You can loot or attack multiple locations with the same expedition and decide when you want them to come back home.
More importantly, you’re no longer permanently limited to run a single expedition at a time. Unlocking specific technologies will increase the maximum amount of expeditions you can run simultaneously to a maximum of 4 in a vanilla game. I made a lot of adjustments to the UI and help screens to make the transition as smooth as possible. For instance, you can track the status of each expedition in the optional panel on the right side of the screen (can be toggled on/off in the filters), clicking one panel will center the screen on the expedition or its garage if it’s not off map.
The Garage building
This new building is pretty much the heart of this update. Your first garage is unlocked with the Exploration technology and will allow you to setup and manage one expedition. Other technologies will permit you to build more garages for more simultaneous expeditions (radio, logistics and garage maintenance).
Garages have to be built on the surface, in a spot from which a vehicle can path to the border of the game map. This is where you can assign a vehicle, people and items to a specific expedition. New vehicles can be found by exploring specific location on the map and from research. Items, right now, can only be found while exploring the city. Vehicles and items will determine how many people you can bring with you, your movement speed and can also influence how good will be your group at given tasks.
Once satisfied with your choices, you can launch the expedition. The selected survivors will hop in the car, leaving any useless cargo behind (and releasing their claim on any personal bedroom or pet). The car will exit the game map and will then be available on the world map. From there, you’ll be able to order it around, tell the expedition to path to any point of interest, attack hostile locations, loot or take control of others.
It’s now possible to order your expeditions to loot a location until it’s empty or until their cargo hold is full. If you change your mind, you can order your expedition to stop the looting session at any time. To recover the cargo found during your looting session(s), you’ll have to manually bring the expedition back home.
You can also decide to get rid of loot you don’t want to make room for more useful stuff. It means that don’t need to go back home each time you collected too many stones. To do so, simply open the expedition’s cargo screen, click on the item you don’t want and a menu will appear allowing you to select how many units you want to get rid of. The menu is still a bit ugly, but I’ll get that fixed soon.
Of course I had to tweak some features to work with this new system. Here are the most important points you should be made aware of:
The whole expedition tech tree has been changed. Techs to increase movement speed, range or capacity have been scrapped. Instead you’ll get techs to repair better vehicles than your default car. The best cars can only be found by exploring specific locations.
Expeditions can be renamed like you would for a survivor: by clicking on their name in their associated panel.
People you rescue while looting a location will automatically be sent to you base. You no longer need to wait for your expedition to come back home, instead a “recruitment” event will popup roughly 12 hours after your expedition is done with the looting.
There is no longer a limit to how far an expedition can travel to. Once you can send your first expedition, the whole map is available to you. It might just take a while for your guys to travel, especially with the default car. In the same spirit, the amount of people you can bring is only determined by the vehicle you’ll be using. Same goes for the cargo space.
Taking over a production center will no longer “consume” the expedition. Instead, you’ll be asked to select people who are still in your base. Once the repairs are over, the expedition will be available again and ready to go do something else.
It is now possible to conduct diplomacy with other factions early (before Radio) by sending an expedition to their headquarter and opening diplomatic channels.
I’m particularly proud of this one and you’ll see a lot more of it in the future. While traveling, expeditions will occasionally encounter situations requiring your input. They might have found something worth investigating, been attacked by bandits, and so on.
You’ll be offered different options with different outcomes. Each option will generally be testing a particular statistic tied to the expedition. A positive outcome might give you loot or a bonus while a failure might damage or even kill some of your people. Once the situation has been resolved in a way or another, the group will continue on its merry way.
This system replaces completely the old non-interactive travel events.
AI Tweaks and Fixes
I also fixed several minor issues with the survivors’ AI. Most notably, there was a problem that if something is being constructed next to a depot, it could temporarily prevent people from accessing it, causing any survivor trying to do so to freeze in place. Survivors are also much better at recognizing that an order has been canceled or is not longer possible to complete: instead of pathing all the way toward the no-longer-relevant-destination they will switch to something more productive.
Savegame & Mod Compatibility
This version is not compatible with previous save-games. If you want to finish your game, you can roll back to the previous version as usual (right click on ATC in steam, properties / beta tab). Most existing mods should be compatible, including those adding or altering city locations. Mods altering expeditions or adding travel events are not compatible but shouldn’t cause any major issue.
So this is the first part of the expedition overhaul. It’s setting up solid foundations for the more content oriented “Part 2”. Switching to a proper “scene” to handle the city as a whole instead of relying on smokes & mirrors took a while, and made me rewrite things I never thought I would need to, but I’m pretty happy with the end result. A lot and I really mean A LOT of new content can now be added to this part of the game.
Speaking of new content, Part 2 will add the ability to manually handle most combat related stuff during expeditions. It’ll also add new things to interact with on the map like travelers, merchants, other factions’ expeditions and roaming beasts. It will also add new terrains (rivers, lakes, chokepoints) alongside new items and events to form a more interesting and cohesive experience.
In any case I hope you’ll enjoy this update, because it was a real pain to write 😀
AI: People are better at detecting that their job target has been destroyed and will no longer travel all the way over something that no longer exists
AI: People are better at detecting that a raze order has been canceled and will stop earlier
AI: Minor optimizations to the job dispatcher
Balance: Marked clothing items as rare to make them less common during trading
Balance: Due to the more permanent nature of expeditions, members will ‘unclaim’ their private room(s) when leaving
Balance: Radio and Logistic techs both allow you to build an additional garage (see below)
Balance: Made sure that city locations with high tier loot (military base, police station) are always at least somewhat defended
Content: First part of the expedition overhaul (multiple groups, new UI, equipment and transports)
Content: New garage building to manage individual expedition settings
Content: Added several new “travel items” which are used to improve an expeditions’ performances
Content: Loot in an expedition’s cargo space can be destroyed to make room for more important stuff
Content: New trade/loot tables and technologies to integrate those new items into the game
Content: New transports for expeditions can be found through technologies, some of which can only be found during expeditions.
Content: Reworked the expedition tech tree to accommodate the new changes
Content: Looting action for expeditions can be run “until the cargo is full / place is empty”
Content: Diplomacy can be conducted before the radio technology by sending an expedition to another faction’s main base
Content: Random events during expeditions are interactive now, giving you control on how to deal with the situation
Content: Added “Police Station” to the list of explorable map locations
Engine: Added ability to cap the spawn of hostiles with RaiderAI, especially useful in Last Stand scenario (settings.json -> RaiderAICap = max number)
Engine: Reworked the save/load logic and format to accommodate the changes (+ some future proofing)
Engine: Initial loading time very slightly reduced (more parallelism)
Engine: Switch from/to world map is now instant
Modding: Removed “CanDrop” and “Tradable” from item data, as it was a duplicate of the “DontDrop” and “NeverTrade” tags. Adjusted all items accordingly.
Modding: Cleaned up base files of outdated fields
Modding: Clutter with a MaxCount per map, can have that count changed via techs (see garage & expedition tech tree)
Modding: Techs are used to unlock new transports for expeditions (see garage & expedition tech tree)
Modding: Filters used for expeditions loot (and pharmacy) got the new WantedName field: overrides all Allow/Deny. Used to force a particular item in the loot table.
Modding: Added “ForceHostility” field to map POIs (the mapgen will use this to override the tile’s hostility if it’s lower than the value)
Modding: New interactive travel events can added/customized (see files data/travelevents)
UI: Right clicking items’ checkbox in the depot menu will display their associated info screen
UI: Added new menus to handle the expeditions from the world map
UI: Expedition message log is kept when saving/loading a savegame
UI: Added scrollbar to the optional ‘research completed’ panel
UI: Added widget to the right side of the screen to display the status of each active expedition/garage (can be toggled on/off in Filters)
UI: Title and text in the recruitment menu is context sensitive (recognizing if from an expedition, escaped prisoners or simple visitors)
UI: Added specific item info screen for the new expedition related items
UI: Updated help screens and the encyclopedia article about expeditions
UI: Pressing the “go to map layer X” shortcuts is now working even from the world map
Fixed: Bow from tribals, if used, could propagate pandemonium infection to unintended target. The bow can no longer drop.
Fixed: The panel shown when you research a tech, find it in an expedition, or find it in loot always had the same title, which might have been confusing
Fixed: Texture for settlers in some menus could be outdated (still wearing an armor they no longer have and so on)
Fixed: When renaming a survivor or animal (or expedition, now) pressing the WASD would still move the camera around
Fixed: Potential crash if one of the survivors is exiting the map (for an expedition) while still being selected
Fixed: Potential crash on the save/load screen if a savegame from a NEWER version is present in the folder
Fixed: In some underground scenarios, “surface events” could still happen before the player breaches the surface (for good this time, my bad)
Fixed: Multiple uncommon/rare issues on the world map
Fixed: Filter menu panel was slightly too short to fit all elements
Fixed: the ‘Escaped Prisoners’ event would display an useless dialog box below the message from the faction.
Fixed: Annoying bug where settlers would seem locked trying to get to a depot when something is being built at the spot they’d use to drop items in said depot
With me working on the next big update, it’s a good time to go into more details about the planned expedition overhaul. Of course, as with all my “design” articles, everything I’m going to write is subject to change depending on how things go during the implementation and testing phases.
Identifying the problems
Before replacing a perfectly functional feature, it’s a good idea to know why. It’s especially important when it’s the second time you’re doing it, as there definitely won’t be a third full rewrite. So let’s look at the different problems with our current system. Of course, your mileage may vary. Not all points will have the same weight to everyone.
1) Only one expedition at a time
This is probably the most obvious problem. No matter how large is your base, no matter your tech level, only one expedition can run at the same time. This is especially annoying when you have to clear a location before looting/claiming it. In the current system, it means that you need to run at least 2 expeditions in a row. Also, due to this limitation, there’s only so many things I can do on the world map before things become too cumbersome.
2) The world map is too static
In other words, the city is a pretty boring place to look at. This is, at least partially, a result of the first problem. The places you can go to are set in stones. Outside of one late game special event, there’s no destinations being added, removed, changed or moved over the duration of the game. For instance, someone mentioned to me recently that “rare traders” (trading artifacts and such) were too rare. With a different system, such traders could instead spawn in the city for a specific duration, and one of your expeditions could try to reach them. In the same spirit, herds of creatures could move around the map for hunting purpose. Bandit lairs could periodically spawn and make some areas more dangerous until they are dealt with.
3) The current system feels disconnected from the main game
This is of course a matter of opinion. Still, expeditions are entirely menu driven and visible on the city map only. Outside of production centers, expeditions are pretty much a separate minigame running within the main game. The removal of the “expedition planning table” from the very first version, while necessary at the time, was probably a step in the wrong direction in that regard.
4) Very limited “exploration”
For something called “expedition” in a survival post-apocalypse game, there’s very little exploration going on here. Of course, with the current system, it’s literally impossible to “explore” the city map. I don’t think that having to launch an expedition just to “uncover” terrain would be well received. I don’t think that adding a complete fog of war over the city would make much sense either. It’s safe to assume that people would have a map or some mental image of the city they live in. On the other hand, it feels weird to have perfect knowledge of the city from the get go (every location you can repair, every faction and their HQ..).
5) Hands-off battles
Last but not least, off map battles, to clear a location or wipe out bandits, are done through dice rolls. While it’s a perfectly okay choice for most encounters, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity. Especially in specific situations like attacking a faction HQ, getting rid of the late game Abominations, etc. having the option to go through a real combat would be a lot more impactful.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, the way expeditions are handled will be scrapped pretty much entirely and replaced by a system closer to what can be seen in games like Frostpunk or Surviving the Aftermath. In short, expeditions will become tangible agents you can move around the city map pretty much freely.
Setup and Settings
The general idea is to add a “garage” building to the game. One garage equals one expedition/group. Said building will be where you assign people to your group. But more interestingly, it’s also where you’ll be able to customize it. I’ll add a new item category dedicated to improving the efficiency of your expeditions. As an example, a car would improve movement speed and cargo space but would make the group more likely to be ambushed. A metal detector would improve loot chances. You get the idea. Once the group is setup correctly, press the launch button on the menu associated with the building. Selected survivors will exit the base and appear on the map as a new group for you to command.
The newly created group will appear on the city map screen. From there, you’ll be able to move it around like you would with a combat unit. Moving around the city will, obviously take time, which is when the “random” events can appear (one chance per tile, with a long per tile cooldown). Assuming you move one of your group to a point of interest, a context menu would appear. Basically the same as the current “Attack”, “Loot” and “Takeover” options. The main difference being that when the action is over, your group will stay in place ready for more orders. If your cargo is full of loot, you might want to bring them back home, otherwise, you’ll be able to move on to a another location.
The “Attack” option, available when a point of interest is occupied by hostiles (or when dealing with other factions) will get, on top of the usual “auto-resolve”, the option to generate a small combat oriented map. If a player is willing to fight off a bunch of soldiers, abomination or mercenaries by themselves, more power to them. Such encounters will be self-contained “time bubbles”. For simplicity sake (and my own sanity), the rest of the world will be paused until the situation is dealt with and ammo consumption will be ignored.
Don’t expect good combat maps in the first few releases, though. There’s a lot of things to do already, mapping will come, just not until all of this is working properly.
There are a lot of benefits to this system. Obviously, multiple expeditions to be managed at once. You can chain multiple “missions” without having to go back and forth. With the dedicated equipment / items, you can customize each group for a particular task. More to the point, with this system, there’s a lot more things that can be added in the future. For instance, groups could have a limited field of vision, so you can uncover special locations by exploring the map. Biomes can have an impact now as well. Places like the scorched biome could need a specific car type or special suits for your group to explore.
Later on, I could add rivers to the city which you can only pass-through via one of the few remaining bridges. AI factions would start to use this system as well: instead of “teleporting” assault teams to your base (or one of your production centers), they’d send groups you could potentially intercept with one of yours. Same could go for bandits, or even the larger animal migrations.
To keep things smooth, survivors you find during exploration will likely travel to your base on their own. I’m not entirely sure how to fill production centers with workers yet, probably similarly to what I do now: once the location is clear, your group will be able to call home and ask you who to send. It’ll just “teleport” your workers there (well, timed teleport to simulate travel time for immersion purpose).
I’ll have to modify the “Exploration” branch. I’ll remove radio, range and movement related techs, as they will be obsolete in that context. New ones will be added to control the max number of groups you can run simultaneously. Same goes for the equipment, which will likely be a mix of tech and loot you can find.
And, of course, I will need to edit the UI to take all that into account. Outside of the obvious new menu for the garage building, we’ll need to keep track of our expeditions from the main UI. It would be too bothersome to switch between the game and the map just to keep track of each group. This is what the vertical space under the mini-map will be for. Each group will be represented by its own icon and subtext. Subtext will be something like “awaiting order”, “resting”, “looting”… Clicking on the icon will of course switch to the world map and center the screen on the associated group.
So, that’s the general plan. Not gonna lie, it’s going to take me a few weeks (at least) to get close to all that. I’ll probably need a few more weeks for bug fixing and polishing. Depending how long it takes in total, I might divide the overhaul into 2 releases. The surface (groups, garage, items) stuff first. Details (combat, biome impact, FoV, etc.) second. I’d rather not, but Valve’s metrics tend to go down the shitter when you don’t release anything for too long.
Once this feature is completed, it’ll be time to schedule the next price increase for the game. It’ll be moved from $11.99 to $12.99. For reference, the 1.0 (first version out of EA) should be released at 14.99. This is half of Rimworld’s price, which sounds more than fair to me.
After we’re done, it’ll be time to work on a building and map editor, so players (and me) can make and exchange hand-crafted content via the workshop. Not entirely on how things will go, but the idea is to offer more varied spawn locations, and make it synergize with the combat stuff mentioned above, again, to offer more interesting maps that what the generator can make on its own.
This should conclude the 0.8x branch feature set. We’ll talk about 0.9x later 🙂
Long time not seen! My apologies for the lack of news on the official website and, more generally, the lack of store-page posts outside of game releases. The first two months of 2021 have sadly been cannibalized by family and personal reasons which I’m not going bother you with. I’m not looking for an excuse, just know it was unavoidable and let’s leave it at that. When forced to make a choice between the two, I always favor writing the game itself over community interactions . As such, those interactions were more limited than I would want them to, but that’s life. It might continue for a while. The best way to catch me is through the discord channel if need be. Don’t worry, I do still get, read, and fix anything related to crash/bug reports as long as they go through the established methods.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the game proper, that’s why we’re all here after all.
The major 0.8.2 update has just been released. Contrary to 0.8.1 which was mostly putting the finishing touches on 0.8.0, it’s a big chunky one hinting at what I envision the game to be when we reach 1.0. Without further delay, let’s dive in the new features.
With my work on the 0.8 branch of After The Collapse taking most of my time, we’ve hit a temporary lull in my release schedule. To keep you waiting, I think it’s a good time to talk about the progress made toward the next major update. Out of the many things planned for the 0.8x cycle, I decided to focus first on what I consider to be ATC’s major issue when it comes to player retention. Namely, a very unfriendly “New Game” menu, and near useless difficulty settings. Of course this first update won’t just stop to those two items, but it’ll be the main subject of this article.
Please note that many of the changes detailed in this article are still under construction. As such, the implementation might vary slightly.
New Game Menu
The three different new game buttons (tutorial, main, custom) are being replaced by a single “New Game” button leading to a very complete scenario selection menu. For those in a hurry, here’s a short video detailing the whole menu and a few other things:
As you can see, the same menu regroups all usual starting positions in addition to scenarios like the good old Last Stand and newcomers like “The Plague”.
Scenarios are a fully customizable and moddable. They define the starting location, difficulty levels, events, your starting survivors, equipment, technologies among a ton of additional settings. They also define what the player can or cannot change before starting a game. For instance, with the “custom game” scenario, you can change pretty much everything about your game. While with “The Plague”, you start with a preset location, survivors, events and difficulty settings. We’ll go over difficulty settings further down.
Anyway, once a scenario is selected, and we’ll use “Custom Game” as an example here, you get to the next screen:
The first tab allows you to customize your faction. You can select your name, flag, ethics and (if the scenario allows it) if you want to start above or below ground. The main feature, beside the ability to select a different flag, is that you can decide to start with a bunch of cannibals or not. Speaking of cannibals, I also added a mature content flag to the settings which I will detail further down this article.
The next tab is your usual equipment customization menu. Not much has changed here except that the menu is larger and a few minor issues have been fixed. Let’s get to the new and interest bit, then.
As requested, you can now customize your settlers, see what they will look like, add, reroll and remove them at will. I still have a small problem to overcome. It makes it too easy to start with overpowered survivors. In the future, I’ll have to find a way to balance that. The obvious (and easy) solution would be to limit the amount of rerolls. But I know all too well how much people love to optimize the fun out of their games. I’m afraid it would incite some people to restart the game over and over again. The alternative solution, which is much more annoying to write, would be to write a secondary settler generator (for this menu only) which would attribute good and bad traits in a fairly balanced fashion. We’ll see. I’ll keep it “as is” in this first release, though.
I’ll skip the surface and underground settings as they are pretty much unchanged from 0.7x.
Finally, assuming you’re playing on a scenario asking you to select a location on the map, this menu has been overhauled too!
As you can see, it got a much needed makeover. It’s not exactly what I want it to be yet, but we’re getting there. You get a lot more information about the spot you want to settle on, It warns you about potential difficulties related to the selected map. The menu also tells you why you can’t settle in some locations like point of interests and AI factions’ headquarters.
And, of course, after the location is selected, the game starts as usual.
Difficulty settings were pretty lackluster in previous versions. Finding a balance between the newcomers who find the game too hard and the regulars who find it way too easy was pretty much impossible. Well, this will hopefully become a problem of the past. As you might have noticed in the previous screenshots, scenarios have 3 drop down menus below their descriptions. Let’s see what up with those.
Clicking the Difficulty dropdown (which comes with several presets) will unlock this sub screen. As you can see, it’s fairly complete and adds a ton of new settings to the game. I am not going to explain each individual one, as you can easily guess what most of them do, but I will still go over a few of the more interesting options.
First we have the “Pandemonium Infection Rate”. It determines the percentage of survivors who are infected by the virus (which will slowly turn them into hostile tribals or shamblers if left untreated). It does not impact your starting people, but it does impact any new recruit. In the same vein, you can now select if the “Sickness” meter is lethal or not and you can disable the negative health effects given by acid rains.
The next setting, which I still have to implement (I am not yet 100% certain it will make it to 0.8.0), is the “Rare Water Sources”. Simply put, it makes water a lot more difficult to get. Water wells will need to be next to actual water sources like lakes or rivers (yes, those are being implemented), and cannot be placed too close to one another, while purified water itself is made a “Rare” item, making it much less likely to appear during expeditions. The idea behind this setting is to give a proper challenge to the most experimented players.
You can also customize other factions, making them easier or harder to deal with. And finally, we have the “Bandit Lair” setting. It’s not yet implemented, and probably won’t be part of 0.8.0 but its goal is to occasionally spawn bandit lairs around the maps. As the name entails, bandit lairs are local bandit groups which will attack nearby bases and points of interest in a regular basis until the player (or an AI faction) destroys the lair.
And of course, game “random” events will be customizable too! The 2 other drop down menus (events and event frequency) both open the same sub menu:
You can filter in/out easy and difficult events and you can even completely remove positive or negative events (or both if you don’t want any event at all). It’s also possible to customize their frequency manually or by using one of the 3 different presets.
Toggle Mature Content
I know that there’s quite a few parents playing the game with their kids and that the recent additions to the game might not be very kid friendly. As such, I am replacing the “toggle blood” setting by a much more complete Mature Content one. If checked, it will disable several of the most ‘controversial’ features:
Blood effects and decorations won’t appear in the game
Cannibalism is completely disabled (with the exception of the Pandemonium virus)
Prisoner buyers and sellers will never spawn (you can still take prisoners if you want to, just not cook or sell them)
On a technical (and moddable) level, events, recipes, items and traits can be tagged with a “Mature” tag. The game will simply ignore everything marked as such when the “Mature Content” checkbox is disabled. As such, mods can also support “kid friendly” versions if need be.
As shown in the video, water looks a lot better now. It’s an animated 256×256 texture (again, fully moddable) which is tiled under the map, instead of being a small 64×64 blueish tile. Lakes will be added to maps (to fill up those map corners and in preparation for the “Rare Water” difficulty settings) both above and under ground. I’m also adding a few new building variants and other small tweaks and improvements.
Nothing major, but do not worry, there’s a LOT more to come in this area. Just not for the initial 0.8.0 release.
I went through most my code, looking for issues, removing duplicate code, optimizing what can be and so on. It’s definitely not as sexy as the previously mentioned features, but paying your technical debt is an important part of maintaining an healthy project. Still, it should make the game way more stable. It’s not like it’s particularly unstable, but all bugs must be exterminated nonetheless. It should be a tad more optimized, but I am not entirely sure it’s something the end user will notice, except in particularly busy situations.
Weather and Climate
Last but not least, the weather system is going through a major rewrite. Contrary to previously mentioned changes, I am still in the middle of rewriting this part, as such the final implementation may vary a bit from what I am writing right now.
As you’ve certainly noticed, the weather in ATC didn’t make a lot of sense, a cold wave could follow a heat wave, and weather could suddenly go from a stormy weather to clear skies in the blink of an eye. While I don’t think it was that much of a concern gameplay wise, it was still annoying. I’d like to replace that by a climate system that will determine the average temperature, precipitations, acidity levels, wind strength, and their min/max variation.
It would have several implications. Firstly, not all starting locations would be equal when it comes to weather. Some regions would be colder and humid while others would be arid. Yes, I know, we’re in a city scale-wise and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but nor do crops growing in 3 days. Scale and speed have to be tweaked to make a game. Secondly, instead of switching from a weather pattern to another every few hours, changes would be more gradual, clouds will appear before it’s raining, temperature will slowly rise up and down instead of toggling between different states, giving you some time to prepare.
Of course, it also means I have to scrap and rewrite the whole weather thing. It’s going to take a week or two and we’ll surely find new an interesting bugs that way.
This 0.8.0 update is going on nicely. The “New Game” menu was incredibly painful to write, the user interface library I am using was definitely not made for that level of complexity, but I am very happy with the end result. I don’t have an exact ETA for the first release yet, but I’m pretty sure it should be ready in early December, hopefully during the first week. I will publish an untested version in the Nightly Branch soon-ish.
So, what next? Well, after the usual cycle of hot-patches, I will start working on the new expedition system detailed in my previous devlog at least as the main focus. I will still continue to improve other parts of the game in parallel.