On Thursday we will be at a ‘hands-on’ entomology afternoon at Harper Adams University, Shropshire, UK. You will be able to play the demo build of the game and talk to us in person. John Connor (lead designer and AI) and Matthew Kent (lead programmer and artist) will be there answering questions, showing people the game and talking about the ant species we have in store.
Plenty of other things are happening – there will be showings of live bugs and collections by Harper Adams students and “live-handling” with Exotic Zoo from Telford, so if you are in the area come along. If you are lucky we may do a facebook live broadcast as well!
We have recently had meetings about the level of control the player (and computer players) should have in light of the very positive response we have received from the demo. Not directly controlling units is one of the main differences between our game and a traditional RTS, however we do stillwant a level of control where the player feels they are directly impacting the game.
As much as players liked the single point control provided in the demo, manyspoke about their desire to send the colony in different directions to cover more areas and defend attacks from behind. Another issue was that soldiers just hanging around a single point is not really very ant like and essentially causes one single big fight then it is over.
These issues become ever more evident with the introduction of the surface. No longer is the player dealing with small corridors, instead they are faced with wide open spaces.
In the next post we will discuss what we have introduced to combat these issues.
It’s been a busy summer for the team so far. We are working hard behind the scenes, tightening the bolts, oiling the chain, oiling the brakes, cleaning the oil off the brakes, you shouldn’t oil your brakes… I digress. The point is that the work is currently quite technical and there isn’t much to show. We have identified some major bottlenecks in the way the game runs and are smoothing those out. This has involved converting a number components created in Unreal Engine’s “Blueprints” (which is a type of visual coding that looks like a flowchart) into C++.
Anyway, seen as things are quiet on the update front, and we don’t have any new insect eye candy, I thought I might be able to interest some of you with a peak into our development process as a team. Our company is technically based in Birmingham, UK but only our lead developer, Matt lives there. A dedicated office is totally out of our price range and so we live and work separately with myself and John in Hannover, Germany and Liverpool, UK respectively. We use a mix of different technologies to collaborate effectively, with new things creeping in all the time.
I think I have to say that our biggest friend so far has been Google Drive.
The ability to create spreadsheets, documents and throw in whatever else into shared folders is invaluable. However, there has never been any strict organization of file structure so navigating is not as efficient as it could be, especially as we now seem to have 3 “Slug Disco” folders spread across our accounts. It is also where Matt uploads his development ‘lecture’ videos for the rest of the team, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a snippet with you. His diagram drawing skills are second to none.
We have also started using a team project management tool called “Asana”. It’s nice for creating & assigning tasks with deadlines – perfect if you enjoy receiving tons of notification emails.
To remain in contact generally we use good old Facebook, because you can always reach someone there. Though, again, not always the most efficient. The following conversation went on much longer than the screenshot suggests, sometimes you need a doodle.
If you have any questions, comments, feedback, game suggestions etc, we always want to hear from you. Contact us on our Slug Disco FB page or throw us a Stomt.
P.S. Thanks to all the Youtubers who have been covering our demo, the response is incredible, and this build is really only a snippet of what we have in store. TheWillyrex just had a go; it’s at times like this when we wish John had paid more attention in his Spanish lessons!
It’s been three weeks since our last major post so it’s probably about time for an update. The dust feels like it has finally settled after our intense crowdfunding campaign and it’s back to business as usual.
During the run up to the kickstarter, and over the course of our campaign we focused our efforts in the direction of game aesthetics, music, and level design for the demo: all very marketable developments, with lots to show off. But now it’s time to revisit the workings under the hood: upgrading skeleton systems that worked well for the demo, but that now need to deliver more: More flexibility, more efficiency, more ants!
The team is currently working in parallel on three separate areas of the game. Matt has conducted the first complete analysis of code efficiency for Empires, otherwise known as “profiling”. His task is to find out where the bottlenecks are in our game when it comes to CPU and GPU effort. Not only is this necessary to ensure that we don’t demand out-of-this-world PC specs to run the game, but by doing this sort of analysis now, we can be alerted to issues and avoid over-using processor-heavy methods when building new systems. He has also got our mini-map working properly!
After an intense 5-hour Saturday skype meeting about the nature of the surface world, including resource collection mechanics, territory and level of player control, John got to work implementing new AI routines for the ants. We want there to be similarities between the control systems above and below ground so that the two environments merge together as seamlessly as possible. However, there are a number of key differences and rules that the ants must obey in the over-world and this means big updates to their little brains.
I have once again been updating the ant job management systems. Trying to find the balance between an autonomous colony-like look and feel, but with enough player control to call our game a “real-time strategy” and not a full-on simulation. The kickstarter demo saw big improvements in this system, but there are still some important changes to implement that will make the workers more predictable and reliable. With the move to the surface there is also a whole host of custom swarm mechanics that need to be moved from the old build and re-created in Unreal Engine.
I hope this explains why there have been no new creature gifs recently. Don’t worry, we will have some new models and flashy mechanics to show off as we start properly testing out the over ground. In the meantime, if you fancy watching John fight with the ant AI, check out his dev stream at https://www.twitch.tv/slugdisco tomorrow at midday (01/07/2016 12:00 BST)
It’s been almost two weeks since the end of the Kickstarter already and we thought it was about time for an update.
Firstly, the winners of the final stretch goal! Welcome to the game Coptotermes formosanus – Formosan termite!
In the end their victory was marginal!
Over the past few days we have been sorting through all of your Stomt feedback, implementing bug fixes and upgrading to Unreal Engine 4.12. We are also re-working the ant job allocation system so that ants can now ‘steal’ jobs from others, which should increase efficiency and prevent ants from wandering away from tunnel-digging jobs that they have already begun. Additionally we have been tackling issues that have caused long compile times in the code. The next big things on the list are code profiling (finding out which parts are slowing things down and need to be optimized), streamlining path-finding for ants in crowds and making demo builds for both Mac and Linux.
We can confirm that of the £18,087 pledged, £17,385 has been successfully billed, which is fantastic news. For those of you not familiar with Kickstarter, backers are not billed until the project is successful so some payments inevitably fail. We have heard this can be up to 10% of the final amount so we have been very fortunate. Kickstarter will take their fee of £1,590.40, leaving us with £15,794.60 to fuel Empires of the Undergrowth. This will see our lead programmer through 9 months of development and contribute to sending us to Develop Brighton, leaving just enough leftover to buy the cheapest Mac we can find, so we can finally bring the ants to our Apple players.
If you wanted to pledge to Empires of the Undergrowth but were unable to because of issues with Kickstarter’s online payment options, or you were just late to the party, you can still help us out and pick up some of the original backer rewards via paypal. Just head to our Late Backers page: http://www.eotugame.com/paypal/
In other news, we have now set up a subreddit for Empires at https://www.reddit.com/r/eotu/. We are not sure exactly how this will be used yet, and the posting rules are likely to evolve over time. If you want to discuss demo tactics, ants, or even other ant/simulation games, this seems like a good place for people to gather. Note that if you have feedback on the game, especially related to the demo, we would still like you to post it on our Stomt page: https://www.stomt.com/empires-of-the-undergrowth.
Finally we would just like to thank again all of our backers, demo testers, youtubers and other patient fans. You are all antastic.
Our Kickstarter ended with a 24 hour live stream, packed full of loads of games, competitions, insect eating and more! We ended at 180% which is an incredible result! We want to thank everybody for really helping out, spreading the word and of course making pledges!
If you missed the live stream you can watch it on our twitch channel:
And if you want to see us attempt to eat giant water bugs, skip to 23h 54m. Spoiler: John does not handle it well.
It has been an incredible experience. So many have offered support and have been spreading the word about the game. We are very grateful to everyone, it means a lot to us.
Now we have a game to make! We will keep you posted about developments of the game as we move on and will soon be sending out surveys for backers to fill out so we can get rewards out when the time comes.
We have had a great Kickstarter campaign so far, but it is not over yet! Things are about to explode!
We have a great line up planned for our final week on Kickstarter. This will include development streams, a release of a band new demo filled with updated features (and an extra level for backers), increased information coming from our social media and much more!
This will culminate in a 24 hour live stream to finish the Kickstarter. We will be playing games that have influenced us, doing time trials on the demo and inviting other developers to chat on stream. All of this whilst we are sleep deprived, what could be better?
If you want to catch up with the developers live streams we have been doing, they have all be uploaded to YouTube:
We had an explosion of interest in the project yesterday on Kickstarter. Cutting to the chase we are now 68% funded and rising, that is a jump from 45% yesterday morning. I still can barely believe it!
Additionally Kickstarter have featured us at the top of games which will have continued to push us on! The momentum the campaign has is amazing.
Many backers will have found us from an Imgur post we made about the game. We were not expecting it to do as well as it did, take a look for yourself: http://imgur.com/gallery/33Bvi
Thanks so much to everyone checking the project out, sharing it and of course backing it. This has been pretty overwhelming we are so grateful to each and every one.
I will be streaming some game development later today on our Twitch channel at midday (GMT). I will be editing a level so I would be very happy to show you the process and how our systems work in the demo build and I will be happy to answer any question you may have.
Additionally a few people have asked about a couple of the rewards. We have come up with a basic mock-up of of the posters and also have an image of the toy larva prototype. I will add these to the campaign page but take a look here:
Thanks once again and let’s keep this momentum going! We can do this!