May Newsletter

As we steam ahead in our run up to early access May has seen many developments.

The process of putting a level together involves rapid iteration between our team members, and each level being added is more complex than any of the demo levels!

In putting these together, all aspects of the game have been affected. Here are some of the recent changes and updates to the game – please note that you’ll get your hands on these when we go into early access; there are no more planned updates to the demo.

Creatures

Models

Each level introduces an increasing pool of creatures. Formica rufa – the wood ant – has had multiple models added. These fulfil various roles in the colony from worker, to melee attacker to ranged attacker and the different models gives some visual representation for these. These have all required unique animations.

AI

Many of these creatures will follow the standard ant colony behaviour we have been developing from the start, however in order to make each feel both more realistic and unique a whole raft of new abilities and behaviours are being added.

Combat behaviour

Other creatures in the game will now have different behaviours to better reflect their natural tendencies. They can attack and fight furiously to the death, (which is what they do in the current demo), they can flee, they can ignore you or they might attack only in response to being attacked themselves.

Self-cast

Some abilities are not damage abilities and are instead buffs for the creature using them.

Ability triggers

Creatures can now trigger abilities based on more than just having an ability available to use. Certain abilities (such as the woodlouse bunker down) will be triggered when a creature takes damage, or when their health hits a certain level.

Totally Unique AI

Some creatures need to perform specific tasks and the default AI structure did not fit. These creatures have very unique AI and they may for example attack only when another creature enters their lair or they may target your colony’s eggs rather than the ants themselves.

Projectiles

Some creatures fire projectiles such as the wood ants below. Damage done by these is handled differently than melee abilities as there needs to be a check to see if it collided with its target.

Level design

With audio being added to the new levels, this needs to be triggered at certain points in the mission. This requires an extra careful approach to level design to make sure things fire at the right moment. That being said the maps themselves are coming together very smoothly. The tile-based tools we have developed to put levels together are really starting to pay for the effort that went into making them! Once the levels have had their basic design and gameplay pass, they can go to our art person to get them looking the part.

Game modes

On launch, early access will focus around one key game mode. This mode has a home colony (Formica ereptor) that the player keeps coming back to, unlocking upgrades and ant types to strengthen their home colony. To unlock these the player must complete other missions. Here the player can play as other ant colonies from nature in scenarios based on the natural habitats of those species.

During early access, we plan on releasing new species along with missions based around them that will allow you to further upgrade and personalise your home colony! With all this will come even more enemies, unique abilities and behaviours.

We have planned other game modes as well, including endless modes that get harder, survival-based wave modes and other more unique modes that we plan to add as early access progresses.

Interfaces

We want to deliver information to the player in an unobtrusive way that is easy to find out more should you want to. Most information in the game will be delivered through an in-game wiki with a search function. This will give both gameplay information and facts about the creatures in nature.

During play, the player will be given notifications when there is something new to read about. These can be ignored or turned off from the options menu and will open the wiki to give further info if the player requires it.

Additionally the whole home colony section of the game requires a unique interface to upgrade your colony and make other decisions.

Saving and Loading

In order to make the home colony work it needs to be able to be saved and loaded. We are still implementing this however we have made good progress – it’s one of the things we get asked most through our Stomt feedback page and we’re glad that we’re working solidly on it now.

Key Bindings

One of the most requested features are more hotkeys for interacting with the game world and interface, and a way to change those keys to a player’s preferences. We’ve taken some time to make all hotkeys completely rebindable to your liking from the menu.

April Newsletter

On our return from EGX Rezzed we set about preparing a demo update to include the new features and bug fixes we had done, as well as finalise our plans to get the game to early access.

If you have not done so already you may want to try this update available on IndieDB and GameJolt, and backers can download it from the usual link.

http://www.indiedb.com/games/empires-of-the-undergrowth/downloads
http://gamejolt.com/games/empires-of-the-undergrowth/144667

This month a lot of work has gone into the interfaces and options (including key bindings and game setup and the groundwork for loading and saving). Additionally you should all have your steam keys! If anyone has a problem with their keys please do get in touch and we can help sort the issues.

We have finalised the voice lines for early access, found our voice actors and recorded the lines!

Here is a sample from one of the levels:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmsgPk3-XnQ

This update caused an unexpected revival of interest from streamers and YouTubers (especially as it included no new content). There was a lot of coverage on YouTube but here are some of the bigger ones:

TheGamingBeaver
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBeUqd3qU_w

BaronVonLetsPlay
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFehuhCtKEI

Blitz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW_RURd6VsE

GrayStillPlays
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXODTnCUwOQ

everynightxRIOT
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm_bA8FWl_4

paulsoaresjr
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD0Y1k8xDnA

There are many more and we appreciate each and every one! Type the game name into YouTube and you will see quite a range.

Following EGX Rezzed we also released a video giving a first look at the surface. This shows how your colony will interact with the surface and other colonies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXHwXauNzzw

Additionally we put together a short video showing our experience at EGX Rezzed, if you came along you may spot yourself!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2QGUOSrwlU

With the multiple colonies have come team colours, you can see some in this screenshot below. Are there any colours you would like to see in the game (maybe some more natural ones) ?
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=681.0

That is it for April’s happenings, things are really coming together now as we march towards the beta test and early access!

Back the game before Early Access – get the Backer’s Demo on itch.io

A number of our players have asked if there’s a way to back the game and get access to the Backer’s Demo. We did have a way set up using PayPal, but it was a clunky system that was causing us several problems, so that option hasn’t been available for some time now.

We’ve settled on a way for people who wish to support the project to do so before we enter Early Access in the summer and have started selling the game on itch.io, which you can get to by going to the EotU main website and clicking “Support the Development”, or just visiting its page here. Itch.io is well respected, completely secure and automated. Also, unlike when we had the PayPal setup, you won’t need to wait for one of us to manually send you the links!

Support the Development on itch.io

The price using this method is $19.99, which is what we will ultimately be selling the Early Access / final version of the game on Steam for also. This will give you immediate access to the Backer’s Demo which includes the exclusive “Holdout” endless score mode. You’ll also get a Steam key that will give you Early Access as soon as that begins in the summer.

This is perfect for those of you who have very kindly expressed a desire to help us out, and for those of you who weren’t aware of the project when the Kickstarter campaign was on and missed the chance then.

Steam keys for backers released!

Please note: this is not the release of the game, but the Steam keys in preparation for your Early Access this summer!

Backers, rejoice! Steam keys for Empires of the Undergrowth have now been sent to your emails. This will be the email associated with your Kickstarter account, or with your PayPal account if you backed after the campaign – so please check that for your key (also check your junk mail folder just in case, sometimes your email provider can confuse things as spam).

There are a few things to be aware of here, so please read them:

  • If you are a beta backer, your key will allow you to download the Backer’s Demo through Steam immediately! When the game goes into beta testing in a few months, your Backer’s Demo will update to be the beta Early Access version.
  • If you are not a beta backer, your key will allow you to add Empires of the Undergrowth to your Steam library, but not download anything yet. When Early Access is released this summer, you will have immediate access to it through Steam.
  • If you backed a tier that includes additional copies of the game, you will receive additional normal keys (not beta keys). You are free to share these with your family and friends, and once activated, they will also get Early Access in the summer.

The guys are now soaring ahead to the Early Access release this summer. Once things have settled down from the Steam key release, the three of them will be knuckling down hard to reach that goal, so there won’t be any more demo updates until early access, barring major bug fixes. The upside of this is – there’s only a few months to wait! Early Access will bring the surface, lots of new missions, new ant types, and new modes of play. Exciting times ahead!

Go ahead and redeem your Steam keys now! We’re really excited to finally get to this stage – it’s been a long time coming.

Entering Early Access this summer! Steam page is up!

Early Access

Since releasing our first demo in Spring 2016 we have received mountains of feedback from the community, which has been constantly shaping the game’s core mechanics and features.

We feel this has ultimately resulted in a better overall game and we want to continue moving forward with help and suggestions from players.

A side effect of this iterative community focused development, is that whilst we have been putting more time into tweaking the game’s inner workings to create the ideal mix of ant colony realism and compelling gameplay, it has put us behind schedule in terms of producing a final product that we can label as “complete”.

We are fast reaching a point where we are able to release something far grander than the original demo. However, while we are confident about the state of the game’s mechanics, and the amount of playable content (including the overground, new ant species and other creatures), there are additional game modes, creatures and abilities that we are still working on. All of these will need balancing, and that process works best with player input.

It seems to make little sense holding back the game’s release for what could be another 8-12 months of development whilst we work on additional levels, and features. We would much rather continue our work in the same manner as we have done for the past year: with the help of our enthusiastic ant-loving community.

To some of you this will be welcome news, to others who are skeptical of early access titles, it may not be what you want to hear. We cannot avoid the fact that there is a lot more we decided to do with the game than we had originally planned for.  We were left with options of releasing a rushed game, pushing back release (potentially to 2018), or continuing on in Steam’s early access. For those who still prefer to wait for the final game, please be patient, we will get there in the end.

The early access version will include four new stand-alone missions with unique creatures, music and narration as well as a “formicarium” story mode. This content will be beta tested before we release in early access. Over the course of early access, we plan to introduce new content as blocks of complete missions, ready to play.

 

The Beta Test

It is important that we iron out all the bugs before we release into early access. The beta test will take place in the month before release, though we do not yet have an exact date. If you backed on this tier you will be given a game key that allows you to install the game before release.

 

Steam Page

The “Coming Soon” steam page for the game has been made live to allow us to start building up interest for the game in the steam community. You can check it out here:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/463530/

It goes a bit more into detail about the early access plans for the game. As a result of the steam page going live we will soon be sending out the rest of our surveys on Kickstarter and will begin sending keys out to backers.

Empires of the Undergrowth build 0.06 Change Log

Please note the 0.06 build of Empires of the Undergrowth is undergoing internal testing and will be available to the public when testing is complete.

Also note not all changes have been listed.

 

Trails have been reworked

  • Half of the ants assigned to a trail will now remain at the end of the trail, and when a new trail location is placed, the ants at the end of the trail will head straight to the new location. This makes the control system feel more responsive whilst maintaining the some of the natural trail behaviour.
  • Two new groups have been added allowing more trails.

 

Ant movement reworked

  • Ants will no longer move through one another in combat (no more weird death balls)
  • The front line is now a thing; you can physically block a corridor and limit attacks coming in
  • Ants will make constant attempts to get around one another
  • Larger creatures will no longer path to where they cannot reach (such as right next to a wall)
  • Many other changes designed to make movement feel a lot better
  • Massive efficiency savings, your FPS should be significantly higher (doubled in some cases)

 

All food values in the game have been increased by a factor of 5

This should not affect gameplay but gives us more design space to work with. A few examples:

  • A seed can now contain 5 to 15 food, up from 1 to 3.
  • Black ants cost 50 food to place a tile, and 5 food to hatch a new one.

 

Dig speed has been decreased by a factor of 3

It was too easy to tunnel out huge areas and this change should lead to more thoughtful tunnelling.

 

Creatures will no longer pass through one another if they are near an enemy

You should no longer have large numbers of creatures on the same spot moving slowly after a battle, additionally creatures cannot push through each other to reach the front line.

 

Right clicking a call to arms will no longer remove it

You must use the interface button to do this

 

All colony ants will regenerate health slowly (player only)

All ants now regenerate health at a rate of 1 per second (queen, worker and black ant). This only applies to the player colony, and not enemy ants.

 

Creatures

  • Large balance changes for Devil’s Coach Horse Adult
  • Small balance changes for Beach Tiger Beetle
  • Beach Tiger Beetle now performs an AOE stun periodically
  • Food rewards from all creatures reduced

 

Levels

  • Multiple small balance changes for levels
  • ‘Surrounded’ now prevents larger creatures from spawning until a certain time (shorter timer for harder difficulties)
  • Backers’ level becomes a lot harder after 22 minutes (halved wave timer after that point)

 

Bug Fixes

  • Multiple small bug fixes
  • Devil’s Coach Horse Adult will no longer deafen people upon death (sound level has been reduced)
  • Creatures passing through one another will no longer push other creatures
  • Ants will now drop food if there is no space to store it
  • Non-worker ants will drop food if they spot an enemy

Upgrade system

This is not yet implemented, but the user interface icon is visible.

March Newsletter

Hi Everyone!

This is the first in a series of monthly roundup newsletters that will point you to the location of news and interesting things about Empires of the Undergrowth and its development.

March has been an extremely busy month in the run up to EGX Rezzed. Over the course of the month the first surface biome (the beach) has come together along with enemy colonies. It is still very rough around the edges but we took it to EGX Rezzed and received some extremely positive feedback and plenty of suggestions. There is a video on the way showing our experience at EGX Rezzed so keep an eye out for that.

What follows are links and short descriptions of interesting things that we have shown this month (also those from last month as we are catching up).

Back to development!

Screenshots

4th Feb – Early Beach
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=85.0

11th Feb – Beach Tiger Beetle
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=87.0

18th Feb – Aphid Farming
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=89.0

25th Feb – Artwork Poster
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=91.0

4th Mar – Fish Food
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=93.0

11th Mar – Leaving the Nest
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=109.0

18th Mar – Beach Wolf Spider
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=443.0

25th Mar – EGX Rezzed Poster
http://forum.eotugame.com/index.php?topic=533.0

Videos

Developer Interview – Liam – Music, Swarming and Bot AI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtFCsBceRy8

Developer Interview – Matt – Artwork, Engine Specialist and Titans
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqlLliviJYI

Developer Interview – John – Level Design, Ant AI and Gameplay
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGM7nx3NfwA

EGX Rezzed 2017

This weekend, the Slug Disco team will be in London for EGX Rezzed. This is an event that has particular focus on indie developers, and like last year, we’ll have a booth. However, this time we’ll be exhibiting Empires of the Undergrowth as part of the Unreal Developers Showcase, because we’ve decided to build our game using the amazing UE4 engine.

We’re very excited to be showing off some of the new features we’ve been working on, in particular the surface (all of the demo levels currently take place underground – you’ll have access to both in the finished game). Come along to the Powered By Unreal section of EGX Rezzed to be one of the first to play this entirely new aspect to the game.

We’ll be doing our best to document our time at EGX, from arrival, to prep, to exhibition, to celebration – so look out for a video sometime in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, there’s still lots to do, so we’d better get back to it!

The Mysterious Formica Ereptor

Of the species that emerged from the Event, without a doubt the most intriguing is the recently discovered Formica ereptor ant. As unique and mysterious as the island on which it is found, it gets its name from a Latin word for thief, and it very much lives up to it.

The closest analogy seen is in old-world slave-making ants. However, rather than enslave the offspring of rival colonies like those more familiar species do, Formica ereptor literally harvests the DNA of its conquests. This allows it to spin polymorphic DNA into its genetic code, giving birth to offspring that exhibit the traits of their foes.

The ereptor ant lives a unique nomadic lifestyle centered around a super-colony on the island that serves as its breeding site. The recently mated queens fly far from this fertile pinnacle, with the intent to bring fresh genetic material back to the larger colony. As she does this, she diversifies her workforce and it is the most diverse colonies of this species that tend to be the most successful.

There would be far too much genetic material to include every desirable trait into their offspring, so Formica ereptor selects only the choicest gene sequences to splice into its own double helix. The method by which it does this is unknown, but research continues into the matter.

Formica ereptor is as competitive with its own species as it is with others, since competition is the driving force of evolution. In the end, only one colony will dominate atop the ancestral mating grounds, and take its place among the great Empires of the Undergrowth.

Introducing the Antbassador

As the guys get properly elbow-deep in code, artwork and audio, they find themselves with less time to dedicate to the social aspects of game development. Which is a real shame, because interacting with a burgeoning community is one of the most joyful things about building a game from the ground up. Something must be done about this.

Introducing me. I’m Mike, and the Slug Disco guys have taken me on to be their community person, or “antbassador” if you will. Some of you will know me from Youtube – I own the MasterMike7000 channel, and I did some videos around the time of the Kickstarter introducing the game mechanics and suchlike. If you supported Empires of the Undergrowth around the time of its successful Kickstarter you’re likely to have seen one of my videos.

It’ll be me handling the social media side of things as well as answering questions on all the various platforms we use. I have a Twitter account @MikeSlugDisco, but will be mainly posting on the official @SlugDisco. We have some exciting news coming up in the near future regarding the game, so keep an eye open for that soon!

Thanks, ant community. Thantcommunity.