Thank you everyone who has supported, tested and played the recent release! We’re very happy with the reception, and it sets us in good stead to press forward to the completion of the campaign. There are some issues that have cropped up, and those are at the forefront of the next patch that is likely to come in a few weeks, along with some other stuff.

A six-spotted tiger beetle swarmed by fire ants by Gimpsimian on our Discord

This newsletter will mainly concentrate on what you can expect from that next patch, and what is more likely to trickle in over some smaller patches afterwards. The team is very keen to press forward with completing tier 5 now, so that is their primary focus – but there are some other things that will be coming very soon.

The 0.31 Update

This was an unusually large update – the patch notes themselves took over an hour to write up! There were some fairly large changes to the game, and we’re glad to say the changes have (mostly) been well received. There’s always anxiety when pushing an update that makes some fundamental changes and of course we didn’t expect everything to be universally accepted across the board, but things went better than expected in that regard.

Whilst everything is now in place with respect to the freeplay AI changes, it’s clear that there’s still some work to do there and we’ll detail that in its own section after this one.

Almost everyone seems to be enjoying the new beach artwork – with one exception, the dead fish asset! The new one is higher fidelity and is more fitting for the rockpool setting, looking partially decomposed and consumed. I think the fact that people can no longer imagine dropping the fish straight into a hot skillet with some chilli oil and crushed garlic may account for some of the disgust!

Billy Bass is so done

There’s a few more tweaks to come for the beach art – some seaweed has recently been added, and we want to make some changes to the living sea urchin before we move it to make it a bit more visible! You can currently see the sea urchin by going into photo mode and looking at the far east of the map in 2.2 Queen of the Hill.

A sea urchin!

While we’re on the topic, I thought I’d just write a paragraph about our versioning convention. Although the build number of the most recent release starts in 0.31, that does not mean the project is only 31% complete. When we release the final campaign levels we’d be at version 0.4 with the current rate of versioning, but it’ll just be that during testing – when we release it completely to the world, what by this convention would be 0.4 will be 1.0.

It was never a linear or particularly well-documented convention. If this all sounds convoluted and weird, that’s because it is.

Further AI Improvements

The new custom game AI system is vastly improved over the old one in all aspects – it can plan attacks, help allies, guard resources and make analytical decisions on when to attack or defend. As part of this, we felt some confidence in changing the way cheats are applied to AI.

Cheats were always intended to help make up the shortfall that an AI colony has compared to a human player, and we’d hoped that the much more capable AI would need significantly less help. Whilst this is generally true, it’s clear that there’s some ways to go in optimising the AI and helping it with getting the best out of its new brain.

It’s now a modular system, and new behaviours (processes) can be bolted onto it. Liam, who has coded the new system, would like some feedback on how it can be improved, but there is a caveat – he is keen to continue working on tier 5 from now on and therefore additional time he gives to the custom game AI needs to be carefully thought out.

AI leafcutter colony underground construction

An example of a process that would likely help out the AI is one that would allow it to harvest food from defeated colonies – that would take quite some time to implement, so decisions on making new processes like this will be more carefully considered before being put into development. However, some changes are very quick to make and these are likely to come first.

We are interested in feedback on the ordering and priorities that individual colony types should have. An example of this was done during the beta test – leafcutter ants were told to only make minor workers until their first chamber is completed, and this better organises their priority list. These kinds of changes are very quick to make.

If you have suggestions (for all kinds of colony) please post them on our discussion boards with an appropriate title. I’ll be collating the feedback and presenting it to Liam, who will decide which simple changes are best and which are worth investing some more development time to make new modular processes.

Coming Soon

The roadmap we released back in May has been mostly fulfilled, and when the time comes to update the roadmap again we’ll be expanding and detailing what’s left to complete to get us to 1.0.

Done that, done that, haven’t done that…

It’s looking very much like the “true interim update” that is detailed on the left-hand side will indeed be broken into several updates that will come over the next few months. Some things are just around the corner, and we’ll detail those now.


A full achievement list for the rest of the currently existing game is very close to being ready, so this is one of the first things that will arrive! There will be achievements for all of the campaign levels, as well as some special ones for seasonal levels. Perhaps we can tempt you back to the Festive Spider level later this year with this one?

Some Naughty Some Nice – beat the Christmas spider level with at least half the gifts remaining under the tree.

…or maybe you’d prefer this one for 4.1 inspired by a classic British dish?

Toad In The Hole – tunnel out all underground food by the second night and beat the level on hard difficulty.
All told, we’re shaping up to have well over 100 achievements for those of you who like to go hunting. There’s both the more standard ones (ie, beat level X on difficulty Y) and the more fun ones like Toad In The Hole detailed above.

Freeplay Maps

There is at least one freeplay map arriving shortly, but it isn’t the one that’s on the roadmap. That one – Wetlands – is currently awaiting the completion of being able to save fire ant bridges in a custom game.

That’s a more complicated task than it may appear, and for that reason we may release a beta version of a swamp map that has fire ant bridging with the proviso that level saving will, initially, be disabled for it.

That way, we can gather some feedback about how bridges (and competing fire ant colonies trying to build bridges) work in a custom game before the saving system is fully completed – do you think that’s a good idea? Would we be better off just waiting until things can definitely be saved, or would you be okay with testing a custom game map without being able to save it? Let us know in the discussion forums.

Sand Spit

So let’s talk a little about the map that is much closer to being completed, and it’s a quite uniquely shaped one – Sand Spit, which is designed with skirmishes in mind (although you can absolutely play any freeplay setup on it) in a 3v1 format.

Sand Spit from the player’s side (work in progress)

The player colony lives on a spit of land protruding from the edge of the mainland. With this unusually asymmetrical layout, the map still has the characteristic lower ground that is awash (pun intended) with resources that carry that inherent extra flood risk.

Sand Spit overview (work in progress)

As you can see from the top-down overview, the map is clearly intended to be played against 3 enemy allies – their nests are close together and they’ll be gathering resources mainly from the same area. You can absolutely alter the setup to have every colony for themselves, but it’ll be a little cramped over there on the mainland if you do that!

Sand Spit from the enemy alliance’s side (work in progress)

We’ll update you all on the progress being made on getting fire ant bridge saving working closer to time – but for now, Sand Spit is very close to completion and it’s looking very likely it’ll be arriving sooner rather than later.

Not Coming Immediately – Tier 4 Challenge

For the time being, tier 4’s challenge mode is being pushed a little further down the schedule.

It’s an important addition and we want to do it justice, but we thought we should let you know that the plan is currently to circle back round to the fishing spider’s debut once the current development push for tier 5 is further along. All 3 of the developers and our environmental artist are now focused on the final formicarium tier – we don’t want to lose the good momentum we’ve recently been building on that front.

SimFest 2023

Starting on the date of publication (20th July, 2023) Empires of the Undergrowth will be taking part in SimFest 2023 on Steam! The game is currently at a historic discount of 20% off, and if you’ve somehow read all the way through this newsletter without owning the game already then firstly, I salute you, and secondly I thought I should let you know about that!

Most of Slug Disco’s other publishing projects are also involved in the festival – Ecosystem, Adapt and Horticular are all present and correct.

Gamescom 2023

Empires of the Undergrowth will be at Gamescom 2023 in Cologne, Germany next month! The entire team will be there, so if you’re attending then please drop by to say hi. There will be more details in next month’s vlog which will be closer to the time.

Screenshot Central

If you’d like to submit a screenshot for this part of the newsletter in the future, by far the easiest way is to join our Discord and post on the appropriate screenshot channels. You can also upload to the Steam Community page, and I will occasionally scroll through there looking for some standouts. To get great screenshots, hold shift whilst you enter photo mode (F9 by default) – this will uncouple your camera from the ground and allow you to get some better angles on the action.

A green lynx spider is mounted by fire ants from NappyB_TheDankest
Ratatouille – EotU edition from Gimpsimian
The amblypygid’s end, also from Gimpsimian