So, we’re in Empires of the Undergrowth’s release year now! That’s a terrifying and exciting concept. If you watched last month’s vlog, you’ll have seen that we’ve managed to narrow down the release window of the game to a slight 12 months. Well done us.

The Nian Beast encounters firecrackers in the New Year’s Feast level. From Orion (Dilphy) on our Discord

Just a reminder that November’s newsletter contains the roadmap that should cover what to expect as we approach full release of the project – so refer back to that if you’d like some clarification on what’s happening over the coming few months. I’ll try to keep this newsletter relatively brief – in this time shortly before we start revealing stuff from the final tier, news is a little slight. However, next time should be full of exciting reveals! There’s definitely a few things worth discussing now – let’s dive in.

2024 Release

So, the big news I spoke about in the previous vlog at the end of last year is that Empires of the Undergrowth will be releasing in 2024! Upon this announcement being made, the memes almost immediately began saying things along the lines of “One second before 2025 confirmed!”, which I must admit made us giggle.

I don’t want to narrow down the launch window any further just yet, but I will say the aim is definitely for this to not be the case. Our internal decision on the release window is getting surer by the day, and as is always the case the rest of the team is holding me back from just blurting everything out! Believe me, I’ve been biting my tongue for months.

Creature Features

In the lead-up to us revealing stuff for the final tier, we’ve started doing semi-regular ‘Creature Feature’ videos on our YouTube channel. We hope these can introduce the critters from the game to everyone, and might even be mildly educational at the same time. We’re aiming to go through the game, highlighting some of the creepier crawlies as we go. Who knows what will happen when we reach the end of the existing campaign?

Daily Devlog

Now would be a great time to join our Discord, where I’ve recently started a new channel called Daily Devlog. A few times a week, I will go into Empires of the Undergrowth’s source control (software we use to keep track of code and assets as they are being developed) and see what has been committed recently.

I get to use [REDACTED] at work without working for the government. Neat!

This is a fun way of keeping track of what we’re up to in these last few precious months before release, and although I won’t be posting direct spoilers there (at least not until we’ve officially revealed something) it’s well worth a look if you’re curious about what our small team gets up to on a day-to-day basis.

New Year’s Feast Now Active

Our annual New Year’s level, fittingly dubbed New Year’s Feast, is now active and ready for play. Click on the Chinese lantern that has appeared on the main menu to jump in – it’ll be here all the way until the end of February (covering the Lunar New Year too) so you’ve got plenty of time to get those spicy new achievements before Spring comes around.

We like to take a fanciful approach to our holiday levels, as opposed to the more reality-based settings of the documentary levels in the campaign.

The fire ant queen is making her famous New Year’s Eve hotpot, but her daughters have forgotten to bring her the ingredients for the broth. Help them find the correct spices in time for the New Year celebrations, whilst making liberal use of festive firecrackers to clear enemies and shorten your path. Rescue lost invitees to diversify your colony!

Map Contest Over and Out

Thank you to everyone who has played since the Custom Game & Achievements Update went live just before the Christmas break! I thought now would be the right time to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who sent in a map suggestion – although we could only pick 2 winners, it was a joy going through the submissions and seeing all the wonderful ways in which your brains work.

Custom game maps Strawclutch (designed by Noctazar) and Imprisoned (designed by 鶴轟) are of course now in the game forever, as a testament to the creativity of our players. We may well do some more contests like this in the future – but likely after full release at this point. Time for us to crack on!

Here’s a list of everyone who sent in a valid entry, in no particular order. I hope your imaginations are working overtime for the next one.

Meatboi HucklebertTom SUngar
ΩhmegaShaon BAlexmadness
Samy UMarcelo287xpSolstitium
Hell_wolfMatesThat one Mutter Trucker
Cody BLeviathanMeep
Zac DJackowackoRoGaVil
Dino nerdHeolx你们都打猎字了
A lava guySidekick9,500鶴轟
Wiz JoAntbzk64小学生200
Diego O-CPug小非Jeffy
Owen HTheRealStormCZE蒸鱼不哼哼
Nich BW.D gaster剧本有限的无归
AntwarmasterVincent H 2005伽攲
Scraptainred_xiOOGA BOOGA邢小说
Daniela OPogonomyrmex Badius宁管这叫名字
Pierce LLight_Rider3000爱养ants的小睿
Eleanor BDani1005只是个货郎
Sebastian ROrion (Dilphy)大蓝冰块
Nicholas LMr. Tank Gaming YT

Honourable Mentions

A map design built in Minecraft!

Ungar, who made a 15 minute video describing their idea

Heolx, for cheekily submitting a Heart of the Swarm map.

Buglife charity donation

Back in April of last year, we had the enormous privilege of being part of the organising team for Steam’s Earth Appreciation Festival and associated sale. Empires of the Undergrowth was of course featured, and we donated a portion of our revenue from the event to our favourite UK-based invertebrate conservation charity, Buglife. We were able to raise £2224, which gets doubled up via the Big Give No Insectinction Campaign to £4448.

Click the logo to visit the Buglife blog entry!

I had a quick chat with Nikki Banfield, Communication Officer for the charity, and with my answers she put together an article about our donation, what some of the money will be used for, why we chose Buglife and what we’ve found inspiring in our time developing Empires of the Undergrowth.

Read the article on Buglife’s blog here!

With the help of our players, we hope to be able to do more charity drives in the future for conservation concerns close to our heart like this one. Thank you so much to everyone who participated, and everyone who’s bought the game – please know that you’ve helped put us in the position where we can support a charity we love.

Thank You

Thanks for reading our first newsletter of 2024 – things are about to get very exciting! Before I see us out with Screenshot Central, I’d just like to thank each and every one of you for being with us on this long journey to make our dream game, from early beginnings so long ago to now going through the process of preparing something fully realised to completion. We would not have been able to do this without the understanding and kind patience of a community who genuinely want what is best for us, and are willing to wait for quality.

You’ve made Empires of the Undergrowth what it is, and made us what we will continue to be.

Screenshot Central

Always a treat getting to this point of the writing – share your screenshots on the Steam Community tab, or more easily (for me) you can join our Discord and post them up in the appropriate channel. Remember – if you hold shift while you press the photo mode button (F9 by default) you can uncouple the camera from the tile grid, allowing you to get some lovely snaps.

Attacking big-headed ants from WarriorAntGaming, who has posted whole sagas on our Discord
Fire in the swamp from Vanguard on our Discord
The Nian Beast being formidable from Orion (Dilphy) on our Discord