Plans for the 0.8.6 release

Hi,

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.

Fire

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.

Nature’s Cycle

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

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.

Misc.  Stuff

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.

Cheers!

Expedition Overhaul Plans

Hi there!

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.

Planned Changes

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.

City Map

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.

Combat

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.

Benefits

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.

Other Changes

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.

Conclusions

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.

The Future

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 🙂

Cheers!

November 2020 Progress Update

Hi there!

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

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.

Event Settings

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.

Map Generation

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.

Game Engine

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.

In Conclusion

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.

After The Collapse: 0.8x Roadmap

Hi there!

With the 0.7 branch being more or less complete, It’s time to talk about our next 0.8.x branch 🙂

As usual with my “road-map” articles, everything I’m going to write is still in the ‘design’ or ‘early implementation’ phase. The details may vary wildly in practice. I may delay or move some of it, add unrelated things as needed. The point is to give you a general idea, not a detailed picture. Also, this post is going to explain what 0.8x will look like at the very end of its development cycle. The initial 0.8.0 release will just pave the way for those features and will, by definition, be much more limited.

Oh, before we start, just a note regarding 0.7.7. I am aware of some small issues with it, which I promised to fix this week. While I was planning to take a few days off, unexpected family-related issues completely negated those. As such, I have to admit that I couldn’t work on the game at all. Be sure it will be my the first order of business next week. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s dive in! 🙂

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Summer Progress Update

It’s time for a new devlog. I will mostly be discussing After The Collapse. And this time, I will be resurrecting a kind of devlog I used a lot with Unending Galaxy, the deep dive in a specific (soon to be released) feature. In this particular case, we’ll look at the expedition system. As usual with this kind of post, everything below is subject to changes during implementation. Still, the core principles should stay consistent.

Anyway, let’s get started! 🙂

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June Progress Update

Anarkis Gaming

Hello there! For once, I’m roughly on time for this month’s devlog. I will mostly discuss After The Collapse’s development and pricing. I will also go over the Steam Summer Sale debacle. For those of you who receive this post through our newsletter, the versions 0.5.8 and 0.5.9 got released in the last couple weeks, you might want to check so posts as well.

Anyway, let’s start! 🙂

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