We’ve put many of our best years into Empires of the Undergrowth, and it is finally released. Welcome to our first newsletter in a post-1.0 world! For all of the many new people who are joining us, you are most welcome, and we hope you’ve been enjoying the game since launch on Friday, 7th June 2024. It’s been a rollercoaster of a few days for us, to say the least, and we’ve got a lot to talk about – so let’s get to it.

Matabele ants in a custom game from Zvistic

First and foremost, thank you so much for making sure that our launch to full release was a successful one. So far, our highest concurrent player count was on the Sunday after launch – peaking at 6,367 – absolutely annihilating our previous best of 2,509 which happened nearly 2 years ago when the fire ant update was set live. These are stunning numbers for our little ant game, far higher than we could have hoped for, and we will be eternally grateful for that.

On launch day we also posted a new roadmap, detailing some of our plans for the immediate future of Empires of the Undergrowth. This newsletter will mainly deal with that, but we’ll also talk about some of the coverage that the game has been getting and how the launch itself went.

1.0 Launch

In the early evening of 7th June, we took a short break from our preparations to do a short livestream celebrating the reach of 1.0. It was great being able to take a quick breather with more than 800 of you watching at one point, and to be honest this was for us as much as it was for everyone else! The recording of the livestream is available on YouTube for anyone who would like to have a look:

We did all the traditional things you do in a launch livestream – briefly interrogate an environment artist, mix a themed cocktail, that sort of thing. Cue me getting through the entire livestream in good humour only to get emotional at the very end of it – an absolute classic. As always, a privilege to share a little about our process and our team at the end of the road. Well, at the end of this road, anyway.

The Immediate Aftermath – Roadmap

Even after a project that has done objectively fairly well for several years, you can never guarantee that that will translate to a bigger player base at the end of proceedings. Thankfully, you folks came out swinging for us, and we had both our best day of sales AND concurrent player count on launch day, up until that point (beaten over the following weekend, however!).


On the day of launch we also released an updated roadmap. While our roadmaps are always subject to changes in ordering and even inclusion, it gives a good idea of what our immediate priorities are to continue content and improve what’s there. Let’s go through the roadmap now and discuss the major points in a bit more detail.

Fixes & Improvements

Our first port-of-call is to fix the inevitable list of glitches and issues that pop up when a lot more eyes are on the game all of a sudden. Obviously we did our best to get everything tested properly before release, but with a small dev team and a volunteer focus group (as well as some limited professional QA) it isn’t possible to catch everything until a whole bunch more people are seeing it. Over its long development time, Empires of the Undergrowth has become a fairly big project, after all.

Some of the very common ones have already been identified and fixed, and we in fact hope to get back to doing optional betas fairly regularly. The first of these may well be ready in the short term – so look out for that.

In the above pictures, we’ve included some improvements to the ambient occlusion system that are currently in the works in a before / after form – this should add extra detailing to bare areas like the open parts of the savannah. We hope to get this into a test build as soon as we can.


When in a closed testing environment, one of the things you have to be aware of is that everyone who is involved is at least somewhat familiar with the game and therefore things are likely to be a touch easier for them than the average player. This is really a ‘feel it out’ kinda situation, and although we’re relatively happy with how the difficulty turned out there is certainly some work to be done here. 5.1 could probably do with being a shade easier on lower difficulties, for example, but the general consensus will develop over time in what we need to be doing here.

Balance therefore won’t be one of the things that is worked on immediately (we’ll be working on glitch fixes first) but as it becomes clearer what direction we need to go in it will come a little bit later.

Tier 5 Achievements

One of the things we were a bit perturbed to have to leave out of 1.0 is achievements for the final tier of the formicarium story. This was simply a time thing, but we absolutely intend to go back in and finish off the ‘chieves for tier 5. We promise not to make them too devious this time. Maybe.

Rainforest Art Refresh

About 3 years ago we hired a dedicated environment artist to the team. The 3 core devs are all generalists, really, because that’s what you have to be with an ambitious project and a tiny team! DanC’s art has now defined the look of Empires of the Undergrowth, and the last bastion of the old style remains in the rainforest biome that the third tier of the game takes place in (as well as some extra levels and custom game maps).

A trail of leafcutter ants from Heolx

We have gone through the game and updated the earlier artwork, so the rotten log and the beach are now up-to-date with the more modern look. The rainforest was left until last, since it certainly represents the best of the older style. With 1.0 now out of the door, there’s time to go back and update the jungle to fit better into the rest of the game.

Savannah Maps

Our lovely new savannah biome has a sort of semi-arid beauty to it, and it’d be a real shame if we didn’t create some custom game maps using them! At least 2 new custom game maps using these assets are planned in the short term, perhaps with more to follow. They will of course feature the towering spires of the termite mounds, which are the primary visual feature of the savannah.

Driver ants clash with stink ants in this shot from AntBZK

CSV Setup for Custom Games

This system is still very much a work-in-progress, but the idea here is to allow users to create custom game setups via CSV (comma-separated value, or spreadsheet). It will require the users to learn a little bit about the system (we’ll provide some simple documentation when the time arrives) but it should allow for some more funky stuff to be achieved than just basic setup saving.

If this all goes to plan there’s no reason why we couldn’t open this up to the Steam workshop, and allow people to share and download clever custom game setups that way.

Ubers / Huge Creatures

We are also due some variants of the tier 5 creatures being added properly into custom games. The sun spider, African giant centipede and emperor scorpion are all due to make an appearance as huge creature landmarks in their larger or ‘titan’ forms.

The emperor awaits, from Orion (Dilphy)

5 new creatures will also get uber variants, because who doesn’t love a walking lightshow that is an existential threat to your colony? I won’t spoil all of them now, but one of them will be the uber alligatorback scorpion.

New Extra Levels

Freed from the stress of completing a nearly decade-long project to 1.0, we will have a bit more time to do some of our more fanciful / experimental (or both) levels. For those who haven’t tried them yet – making extra levels takes practically no time at all compared to the campaign, because they typically don’t involve extensive new asset and / or system creation. Given that they exist outside of the canon of the game, they also give us creative license to be more experimental and create scenarios that wouldn’t be appropriate to the campaign.

An overview of Adventure, one of the more ambitious extra levels

As the roadmap says, these extra levels may come at any time as they are devised. They take a few hours to a couple of days each to produce compared to months for the campaign, and if developer John (who has made all the extra levels thus far) gets an idea he likes he may well just do it and release it in fairly short order. We’ll try to give a little bit of a heads-up about that, though, so keep those eyes peeled!

Further Custom Game changes

It is likely that custom games will remain an area of tweaking and changes for some time to come, and it is by far the game mode with the most subjective taste involved. Although it is very customisable, getting those default values right always takes experimentation and iteration, as well as getting the gist of player consensus as well. Another option open to us, which we haven’t used yet, is individual stat changes to creatures that are different to the campaign.

The AI is also due further tweaks and changes, and although its newer decision making system is more sophisticated than the old one by a large margin, there are still some areas where it can get stuck in a logic loop that prevents it from sending trails out, and we’ll be weeding this issues out as we continue.

Firecracker Mode

No comment. Coming 2025. Boom.

And more!

We’ll be continuing to do changes, new maps and extra levels, and perhaps even bigger updates for the foreseeable future. The roadmap will continue to be updated every 6 months, and we’re very happy to have been secured by the successful launch to continue work on the project. There is a lot more stuff we want to do, and we now have the chance to do it.

Thank You

The part of the launch live stream that turned me into a big soppy mess was when it came time to thank you, our players. You have been exceptionally kind and patient with us, as we completed our dream game and brought it to fruition, over a far longer time than we ever expected it to take us. Oh, our naivety all those years ago!

Thank you to our players, those who have contributed with testing and suggestions, our supporting artists and voice talent. Also to Hooded Horse, our co-publishers, whose guidance and superior wisdom has steered us through the trickiest part of the project.

Screenshot Central

It feels like it’s been an age since I got to do my favourite part of the newsletter, but it hasn’t even been 3 months (it feels like a year). If you’d like to contribute to this section in the future, the easiest way is to get on our Discord and post in the appropriate screenshot channel there. Alternatively, you can post to the Steam community and I will occasionally have a search through there. This month it is, predictably, tier 5-themed.

An Aloe shadow looms over the savannah from ~SlushieChris~
A basking rainbow lizard from NightEqual2374
Bonk! An emperor scorpion stuns its prey from AhYesAnts