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Empires of the Undergrowth
« on: December 06, 2017, 05:40:41 PM »


Ant colony management game, in a fast-paced real-time strategy style. The player excavates their nest underground, constructing tunnels and chambers to store food and raise brood. On the surface, the ants claim territory, gather resources, overwhelm fearsome arachnids and clash with other colonies.


Official Site: Here
Forum: Here
Steam: Here
YouTube: Here
Demoi: Here


Single-player:

Lead your Ant Colony to Dominance!

Early Access Trailer



About

"Your queen has set up home beneath a rotting log. She is fat, and vulnerable. Her first brood will need to move quickly if the colony is to survive. Their priority now is to find food, and there is plenty around; but there are other hungry creatures in the undergrowth. The workers will need to be vigilant."

Empires of the Undergrowth is an ant colony management game, in a fast-paced real-time strategy style. The player excavates their nest underground, constructing tunnels and chambers to store food and raise brood. On the surface, the ants claim territory, gather resources, overwhelm fearsome arachnids and clash with other colonies. Nest design, army size, composition and attack timing are key to securing victory.

Missions are narrated from the perspective of a documentary film maker studying the ants, who offers intelligent insight into the goings-on of the colony and the undergrowth beyond. The primary game mode in early access is Formicarium, where you take ownership of a home colony of unique DNA-harvesting ants as they work to assimilate the desirable traits of their foes. You can upgrade them by playing one-off missions, sometimes with your home colony and sometimes with other ant species.


•   Carve out and construct your underground nest to suit your strategy
•   Engage in fast-paced colony versus colony combat above ground
•   Play as different ant species and explore their unique traits and weaknesses
•   Encounter and overpower dangerous beetles, arachnids and other awesome arthropods
•   Grow your pet formicarium over time by completing missions



















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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2017, 05:48:53 PM »
Ha, funny thang that.

I once played "ants" in the mid ninetees on Amiga for a couple of weeks.

I found the structures of state building insects fascinating and it was a way to learn some more about them while gaming.

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2017, 06:32:41 PM »
I played the ants games as well :)

I have this and will hopefully let you know what I think  :thumbsup

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2017, 06:26:32 PM »
0.1142 Change Log
Empires of the Undergrowth - Slug Disco

For now this is available in windows. We will try and get the mac and linux builds up in the next couple of days!

At the moment these are still mostly bug fixes, however there are a couple of balance changes and additions in there as well! We very much appreciate your feedback and do keep letting us know if any issues occur.

Additions and Improvements
•   Added photo mode:
  o   Please note - this is an early feature. It is fully possible to see off the edge of the map or inside the terrain with this feature. Additionally, there are some issues with shadows that will be looked into in forthcoming builds
  o   By default F9 will enter photo mode. This Pauses the game, hides the UI and gives you control of a unique camera allowing you to get closer screenshots and interesting angles. Additionally, you can unpause and re-pause the game whilst in this mode. Note the photo mode camera is tethered to a limited distance from the initial point the camera was activated
•   Digging out the tunnel to the surface is now done in the same way as tagging any other tile to dig
•   Formicarium ability purchases can now be swapped for the other (but for the full cost)
•   Subtle increase of light levels underground
•   Formicarium challenge mission button graphic updated to make it more obvious it is a mission
•   Alert message added about seeds dropping on the surface each time you receive seed rewards
•   Changes to Mac build to allow lower OS requirements
•   Updates to Formica ereptor queen animations
•   OpenGL has been added to windows (considered alpha)

Balance Changes
•   Beach wolf spider nest behaviour has been changed - It will now path to random nursery tiles for 40 - 60s. During this time it will not attack the queen. This should give players time to respond to the attacks even if they have nurseries right next to the queen.
•   Pop cap changed to 100 / 125 / 150 (from 50 / 100 / 150) allowing more ants to be used for formicarium challenge 1
•   2.1 Night creatures will now attack the player if they are attacked at night
•   2.1 When a night creature takes damage on the surface it may attract other night creatures (1 every 5 seconds) to its location

Bug Fixes
•   Fixed an issue where dead spiders (and possibly other creatures) could not be harvestable if they die on top of the surface tunnel (let us know if this still happens)
•   Fix added for mass of eggs appearing at the queens rear. This was caused by a tile being deleted before it received an egg. The job is now removed as well as any eggs currently in transit to the tile
•   Collision shape fixes for surface tunnel - ants should no longer get stuck in the walls
•   Creature instant kills (water, spiders, tile removals) now always kill the creature
•   Fixed an issue where upgrading an ant would not update its maximum health stat
•   Fix added where pheromone markers placed on tunnel exit could sometime hit an invisible sphere and end up in the sky - the ants could not reach it and froze
•   Removed code that stopped multiple version of the game being open at the same time (It was happening if you had any Unreal Engine game open which has undesired effects)
•   Large Beach Wolf Spider devour ability now removes the ant it eats, rather than the ant floating in the air, along with other fixes for the ability
•   Possible fix added for Oculus Home opening when the game was started. Let us know if this is still happening!
•   Fix added for surface torch being on in the ending cutscene
•   Fixed some pebbles in 2.1
•   Disabled access to the wiki from the tech tree (currently wiki only has placeholder text)
•   Time bonus has been removed for levels 2.1 and 2.2, as these levels cannot be completed any faster
•   Fix added to reduce (and hopefully prevent) creatures getting stuck when moving from above to below ground
•   Fixed some issues that could cause eggs to be dropped on floor where there is no nursery
•   Fixed some issues where text would appear un-wrapped then suddenly wrap in tooltips
•   Royal Jelly tooltip in tech tree corrected
•   Fixed a typo on the rapid fire wood ant tooltip
•   Fixed a typo in challenge mode

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2018, 05:01:18 PM »
February 2018 Newsletter
12 MARCH   - MIKE

Hi all - gosh, March already! Time flies when you're having fun - and for that reason it certainly flies when you're developing a game about ants. We've recently been assessing the way we tell you all about the future of the project, and we realize there's a deep need for us to communicate better - as we posted in a mini-update a couple of weeks ago. Although we have been developing Empires of the Undergrowth for several years, we only launched on Steam in December and therefore we're new to having a big community that we have responsibilities to. We want you guys to feel justifiably assured that things are progressing well (as they are) - and for this reason we're going to be doing our best to communicate here. We've been doing these newsletters for some time - but this is the first time we've worked out that we can actually post them properly formatted to Steam, rather than just a link to elsewhere. Always learning.


Screenshot credit: Garenator on Steam

We're certain that we don't want to rush - and that's always been the case. Our modus operandi has been quality first - ultimately, we're making our dream game here and we want it to be great just as much as you do. Given our limited resources (our team size is 3) we've made decisions - like not releasing small, incremental updates and instead focusing on the bigger picture with larger updates. That's because the whole process of an update is a drain of resources and time. In a larger team or for a game of lesser scope, this might be doable. We feel we're in the right place here.

With that clarified, due to many understandable requests, we've made what is often referred to by makers of early access products as a "road map".

Road Map

A road map refers to a rough outline of how a developer intends their project to progress. It's usually an abridged version of the internal plan the developer has, as it is in our case. This is ours for the remainder of 2018.



You'll notice that it's rather vague - this is deliberate; as we'll talk about later in the newsletter - software development is so unpredictable that even the most seasoned veterans have real difficulty in pinning down exact release dates. However, you can see that we plan on releasing the third tier of the Formicarium in the summer (Major Update 1), and the Freeplay mode before that. All of this, by necessity, comes with the caveat that it's subject to change.

Freeplay

John, after moving house, has been continuing his work on Freeplay mode. He's recently been working on the vast amount of options that the mode will allow - the difficulty slider will feed in to many different things that affect how the game will play. In this stream recorded in February, you can see him tweaking things such as creature temperament, and connecting all the disparate systems that need to work in harmony in order for this game mode to become a reality.


A poppy head "landmark" - this will drop seeds for your colony in Freeplay

It's clear from the complexity of Freeplay that a lot of its enjoyment factor will come down to the setting of parameters - and for this reason it's definitely going to be a mode that will be balanced and tweaked extensively. We're going to need your feedback on that one - and that brings us to the matter of when we release it. As mentioned earlier (and is discussed more extensively below) deciding on an exact release date in this line of work is folly until you're sure - and even giving vague guesstimates is usually pointless. The best we can give on this is "a few weeks". We hope you guys understand why.


A tiger beetle guards a dead fish in Freeplay

John is continuing his streaming after a short break for the aforementioned house move - it's usually on a Thursday afternoon, Greenwich mean time. For now, John is working the notice on his day job and that will continue until the Easter break. After that, he's a bona fide full-time Empires of the Undergrowth developer and the streams are likely to become more scheduled and regular.


A landmark occupied by aphids - landmarks can take a wide variety of forms.

A Little About Leaf Cutters

As previously announced, the next species of ant added to the game will be Atta cephalotes - a South American leaf cutter ant. These ants don’t eat meat - although they can give you a particularly nasty defensive nip with those huge mandibles, they're in it purely for the leaves. The colony forms distinct trails as it searches for suitable leaves, before cutting them down in a variety of ways and transporting them back to the nest. Here, the leaves decompose due to a mutual relationship the ants have with a special kind of fungus - and it is the fungal growth itself that the ants feed upon.




Although we've had a bit of variation of sizes between ants before (between workers, soldiers and upgraded ants) that's just peanuts to leaf cutters. Atta cephalotes is a very distinctly polymorphic species - meaning it has within it several "castes" of ant that exhibit obviously different traits. The "minors" are undeniably tiny compared to the "majors" - which can be several times as long and more than 100 times the mass of the minors. They have unusually-shaped heads that house the huge muscles needed to power their slicing jaws. There is also an intermediate "medium" caste.


An Atta cephalotes major, giant mandibles and head muscles visible. Photo by Alex Wild.

In our game, the majors will certainly be formidable in combat - huge, imposing and a target for enemies (we will be introducing a "taunt" mechanic that makes enemies want to attack them preferentially). However, all 3 of the castes will be intrinsically involved in what leaf cutters do best - cutting leaves. Each one will have a distinct role that, when used efficiently, will speed up production of your colony-sustaining fungus. We don't want to spoil it too much, so we'll leave it there for now!

Dealing With Delays aka "when it's done"

So, a bit of self-reflection and commentary on development as a whole for this section of the newsletter. "When it's done" has become a meme relating to game development for good reason. We suddenly have a large audience - and with that comes expectations. That’s been a bit daunting but we'd like to think we're learning quickly from the experience.

Delays are frustrating for both developers and consumers. It’s a considerable risk to even give an estimate of when a feature or product will be ready without total certainty. A recent example of that unexpectedness for us is the way that we've been decorating our levels - the Unreal Engine that powers our game has changed in such a way that the method we were using is no longer viable. So, Matt has been working on a custom plugin to help him do the artwork - as a necessity, but it's a drain on time we couldn't have predicted before it happened. On the plus side, in this case - the new method comes with a performance boost.




In 2015 we failed our first Kickstarter - and took a philosophical approach to our failings. We're always learning.

Communication is key - from the point of view of our small team of 3 developers and 1 social media guy, 3 months is not a long time between updates - however, in the eyes of the consumer who is used to quick patches for their games, it sets off alarm bells that the game is abandoned (we've heard that word used more than once in concerned forum posts). This isn't the case - we're just a smaller team and things are going to take time to be done properly. We don't have the resources of the team behind the excellent Factorio, for example.

In a small way the early access model doesn't help these concerns - people know they are paying for an incomplete product and therefore have to have some faith that the investment they're making now will be returned by a great complete product. We'd just like to assure you all that things are progressing well, and the deep transitional phase that Slug Disco is currently undergoing will soon be finished. Once is it, we'll have 3 full-time developers working on Empires of the Undergrowth.

Screenshot Central

We like to trawl through the Steam screenshots of EotU every so often. Here's a few of our favorites from the past few weeks! To get some great screenshots yourself press F9 (by default) in-game to enter Photo Mode.


It's all about that butt - because that's where the eggs come from. Credit: Serafine


Invaders! Credit: Charles the Bald


Sorry, but our queen is hungry. Credit: vervedan

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2018, 09:22:13 PM »
Beta Testing - Freeplay Mode
11 APRIL - MIKE

Hi guys!

We're approaching a point where we can get Freeplay mode out, without the saving functionality. After some internal discussion we feel our closed beta testing group isn't going to be big enough for feedback for this one, since it's a complete unknown and such a hugely randomised game mode that balancing it is going to be really tricky.

So, we're going to open up a beta branch on Steam to owners who don't mind testing. There are some important caveats, please read:

•   THERE IS NO SAVING YET. This is the most important one - Freeplay mode will eventually be save-able since we intend games to last several hours, but for the purposes of the beta, this functionality is not yet available. If you'd like to play a long game, please clear some time for it!
•   There will be crashes and glitches. Our usual approach has been to really polish things before making them publicly available but in a beta things are different.
•   Some deep fundamental changes to the way the game works means that other things may be broken - including the current campaign levels and formicarium mode. We would appreciate testing on these too.
•   Whilst you are welcome to post ideas and suggestions, we are mainly interested in balance and bug fixing at this point. So please do not think your ideas are being ignored (we always read everything, even if we can't reply to everything) but for the sake of beta we are looking to fix the build, not expand upon it.
•   This is not technically an "open" beta, but a beta that is available to all current Steam owners of the game. You will need to own a copy of the game activated on Steam to participate.

This will happen in the next few days. A code will be given out on our Steam forums that people can activate to access the beta branch - instructions for those unsure how to do that will be included in the post. Keep your eyes on here for announcements!


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2018, 09:23:49 PM »
Freeplay Beta now available - How to Join!
14 APRIL   - MIKE

We have activated the beta for Freeplay and are opening it up to all owners on Steam! If you'd like to participate and are familiar with joining beta branches on Steam, here is your access code:

betatestants

If you're not, please follow the instructions in this post on our forums:

https://steamcommunity.com/app/463530/discussions/0/3211505894108961652/

That post also has a detailed changelog; there have been many fundamental changes to the game that this update introduces.

As an added bonus, we're also adding in the Battle Arena at the same time! This mode allows you to test creature army compositions against each other to see how they work. Find it in the "Other Modes" main menu option along with Freeplay.

We're interested in hearing your feedback with regards to balance, glitches and crashes. Note that the beta version does not have saving, but the final release of this update will - so for now if you'd like to have a good long session, free up your afternoon!


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2018, 02:33:38 PM »
March / April Newsletter 2018
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

Well met, one and all, for the March / April newsletter! As many of you know, a lot has happened since our last newsletter - the most important of which is the public release of the Freeplay beta. If you weren't aware of that and would like to participate, there are details on how to do so in the rather extensive section below this arbitrary introduction. In fact, let's end this arbitrary introduction and get straight to the best bit.


There are some pretty amazing Freeplay setups - like this one from Steam user Enablin

Freeplay Beta

We've been working on Freeplay - a mode without a definite endgame and intended to take a long time - since shortly after early access release. The idea is to give players the opportunity to run a colony at their own pace, and deal with threats to it as they come along. A selection of choices in how the difficulty changes means that (hopefully) it will be a different experience each time.


Want to fill your entire underground with ants? Beta tester Pontus Meths did - and it took an afternoon

Freeplay works in such a way that initial starting conditions affect the long-term outcome of the game. These are very difficult to judge, and we've been asking for feedback on it by making a public beta for all owners of the game on Steam. If you haven't heard about this yet and would like to participate, and you are on a Windows system, please follow the steps below:

1) Find Empires of the Undergrowth in your Steam library, right-click on it and choose "Properties"
2) Choose the "Betas" tab
3) In the box titled "Enter beta access code to unlock private betas", enter the following code: betatestants
4) After the "Access code correct" information appears, make sure you've chosen the beta from the "Select the beta you would like to opt into" drop-down menu
5) Press close - the game will now update to the beta branch.

By doing so, you are acknowledging that this is a beta and things are not in their finished state. The biggest issue currently is that THERE IS NO SAVE FEATURE IN THE BETA. If you would like to play for a while, clear some hours in your schedule! The main Freeplay release will feature saving but that feature is not ready yet.


It's all going on in this busy Freeplay screenshot from Steam user AK_tion_47

There is a small inherent risk that save files might become corrupted when testing beta, due to the fundamental changes the game has undergone in the time since the last patch. We don't expect this to happen, but just in case we strongly recommend you back up your formicarium saves before you play:

You will find your saves on Windows in:
C:\Users\[YOUR USER NAME]\AppData\Local\EotU\Saved\SaveGames

Note that AppData is usually hidden; you can either un-hide the folder in the files settings or just type it into the bar. If you make a copy of this folder and save it somewhere else, you can restore your saves by replacing this folder with the backed up one.

The beta will be getting some changes - and we're working on the save system. Right now you can't save, but since it's a mode designed to last several hours we will want the save system working before we release it on the main branch. Your feedback is much appreciated - please visit our forums (either on Steam or our own official ones). At this point we're interested in bug reports and balance issues rather than ideas for new content. The finished update will of course be available for Mac and Linux but right now for testing purposes it's Windows-only.


Freeplay's Uber creatures in all their glory - showing their characteristic glow

GamesMaster - Full Circle

In their very young days, developer John and community manager Mike (who is typing this in third person and feeling a bit weird about it) went to the GamesMaster exhibition. Back then, GamesMaster was a TV show hosted by Dominic Diamond and the late, great Sir Patrick Moore - it still exists in the form of a very popular monthly magazine. We were utterly delighted to see a review of the early access build in their most recent publication, and even more delighted when we saw how kind it was. The article only exists in print form so here we're linking a tweet by its author, Leon Hurley.

https://twitter.com/LeonHurley/status/974698523840086016

Artificial Hivetelligence

Essential to the next set of single-player levels is a fully autonomous AI to control enemy colonies - Liam, who is leading the development of this feature, has called it "HiveBot". It will work intelligently to play the game in a similar way that a human player would - digging out a nest underground, placing pheromone markers, evaluating its options, identifying sources of food and tactically deciding what and when to attack.

As well as being needed for the next set of levels (which as revealed previously will feature leaf cutter ants, Atta cephalotes), HiveBot will be integrated into Freeplay mode! The current freeplay map, The Dunes, has four underground spaces and the player is randomly assigned one of them on game setup. AI-controlled colonies will be an optional addition, cropping up in one of the unused underground spaces that the player doesn't occupy. Future Freeplay maps will follow a similar format.

In the below video, you can see the HiveBot deciding how it's going to dig out its underground nest space, both in the presence and absence of obstacles in its way. It tries to be efficient - in EotU it's usually best to build your nest chambers in a hexagonal pattern where you can, for tile efficiency - and to have corridors that ants can use to efficiently move through the nest space.


Battle Arena

The Battle Arena is a feature that is intended to help the player work out how army and creature compositions play off against each other, and due to some speedy work by John we've been able to include it in the currently active beta build along with Freeplay. If you've ever found yourself asking the question "who would win - 150 ants or 25 tiger beetles?" then you need look no further. This feature is included in the beta build detailed above but will otherwise be accessible for all players soon.


Full-time Boys - John

Matt has been full-time on the project for a good long while now. John took this unassuming yet poignant selfie a few weeks back - it's him packing up the remainder of his belongings at his previous day job. John is now a full-time Slug Disco developer, and his day job is Empires of the Undergrowth! This has only been possible due to the amazing love and support you guys - our community - have given to the project. Liam will soon be joining him, and then all of our developers will be full-time on the project.


John on his last day at his old day job - he was devastated!

Entomology Society 2018

John and Mike took a day out to visit Harper Adams University - we set up a booth for the game at the Entomology Society outreach event. The idea is to get secondary-school aged people interested in entomology (insect studies) - and for some crazy reason the organizers thought having video games involved may help attract that clientele. This was the second time we've been to this event, and it's been a cracker both times. It's great fun meeting young people considering a career in science.

https://twitter.com/SlugDisco/status/986174575523311616



https://twitter.com/RoyEntSoc/status/986228261654007808

Screenshot Central

As always, we love seeing the interesting screenies you guys capture - so here are three of our favourites from the last few weeks! If you'd like a more interesting camera angle for your screenshot, hit F9 (by default) and follow the instructions. Please keep uploading your favorite shots to Steam - that's the easiest way for us to see them. Otherwise, email them to mike@slugdisco.com


Caught in the act of hatching - by Steam user The PILOT


A remarkably detailed yet hapless morsel - by Steam user MrDolly


An almost Brutalist nest layout in this Freeplay screenshot from Steam user Inixus             

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2018, 02:35:16 PM »
Freeplay Beta Patch 0.121 Released
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

We’ve just released our first feature-adding, bug-fixing and balance-altering update to the Freeplay beta build! We’re currently in the testing phase for Freeplay (sandbox) mode and it’s open to all owners of the game on Steam - if anyone would like to participate who currently isn’t doing so please see our most recent newsletter for details on how to join in (please note - the beta is Windows-only). Now, let’s get to the fun stuff.

New Features

•   Freeplay mode now has the option for Attack Waves. These are sent at the player periodically (every eight minutes) and comprise of random creatures of increasing power. They will give you no food when killed and will not be attacked by other creatures. They offer a real challenge for those looking for something truly hard in Freeplay. Every 5 levels there are special creatures added to the pool to make the fight extra hard. Be prepared if you make it to wave 15!
•   Battle Arena now provides some basic stats for score and survivors that can be reset. Additionally, the battle arena panels can now be hidden (and are hidden in photo mode).

Bug Fixes

•   Fixed an issue where attack and gather buttons were resetting or setting erroneously
•   Funnel Web detection area and slow is now correctly removed when the landmark disappears in Freeplay
•   Landmark spawn locations have been moved slightly further from the map edge on The Dunes
•   Fixed an issue meaning creatures that spawned at map edges could get stuck (mostly an issue with ladybirds)
•   Fixed an issue where “scale with colony” Freeplay difficulty only worked if you were in a specific underground starting location
•   Fixed an issue that centred markers on closed tunnel exits when trying to place one on them
•   Fixed multiple issues with victory and defeat animations on various campaign levels including issues with fading in and out. Please let us know if there are any more of these.
•   Slow resistance is considered when slowing creatures on a funnel web; larger creatures should slow down less
•   Fixed an issue where rapid-fire wood ant purchases were activating the wrong abilities
•   Fixed an issue where green glow effect (and others) could be applied after death
•   When looking for food or enemies, line of sight is now only blocked by tiles. This should solve issues of food being stuck on ramps.
•   Removed Freeplay restart button
•   Fixed an issue causing colonies on 2_2 to no longer be allied
•   2_2 nest entrances now have the correct colours
•   Fixed a graphical issue with the surface painting on 2_1 and 2_2
•   Nest group will no longer count food and speed tiles
•   Fixed the camera focus on Freeplay defeats
•   Fixed an issue preventing queen abilities announcing they have been activated
•   Fixed an issue where ants did not always die on tile deletion
•   Fixed an issue where creatures that did not contain food could spawn a corpse
•   Fixed an issue that would sometimes cause spiders to not walk to the end in Battle Arena
•   Fixed an issue where after queen abilities activate the queen would stop animating
•   Fixed an issue where hats were causing collision and nav mesh changes

Balance changes / improvements

•   Freeplay ramp rate doubled (should get harder twice as fast in ramp game difficulties)
•   "Scale with colony" difficulty in Freeplay now takes upgrades into account as well as colony size
•   Enemy pack sizes in Freeplay are now affected by difficulty (should be smaller below 100% and larger above it)
•   Food harvested in Freeplay will now spoil after 3 minutes and disappear. Should stop the map being covered in small amounts of food.
•   On transition to night or day if nocturnal / diurnal is selected several creatures will spawn based on the current difficulty (this is to make up for the ones leaving due to nocturnal / diurnal)
•   Main menu music will play over loading screen and will fade out as the level begins
•   Slight optimisation added to minimap rendering
•   Surface minimap will now fade in when tunnelling to the surface
•   Minor performance improvements

Known Issues / Request for help

We need help replicating these issues. If you manage to figure out how to achieve these issues we would really appreciate a step-by-step of what caused them. Additionally, any information about what was happening at the time the issue occurred will help.
•   Ants getting stuck underground / appearing to want to walk into walls
•   Creatures disappearing when attacking the queen (specifically the large Beach Tiger Beetle)


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2018, 02:47:11 PM »
May 2018 Newsletter
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

Good afternoon, morning and variations thereupon ladies and gentlemen. We're back to the monthly newsletters after the dual one last time - we're about to pick up pace on the news front! It's very near the end of the transitory phase now - all three developers are full-time on the project from now on, and we're finalising the plans for everything going forward. However, we do have to give a special mention to one of our team - John, our lead Freeplay developer, has been celebrating the arrival of his baby daughter. Congrats to him on the expansion of his colony!

Freeplaying All Day

The Freeplay beta is continuing and we're still digesting all of your feedback. Remember, even if you don't get a direct response from Mike or another team member for your suggestion or bug report, we are reading all of it. There's just so much to read that it's not feasible to always reply, but we do our best! John is currently finishing off the saving system. Once he's done with that and a few other pressing changes have been made, it’ll be time to put it on the main branch so that all owners of the game can play it. You can still join in the optional beta testing (without saving) right now if you haven’t yet - see the top of our previous newsletter for instructions. The beta is for Windows only, but when we put Freeplay on the main branch Linux and Mac users will also be able to access it.


A very ordered nest layout and lovely poppy display in this Freeplay playthrough by Switch

Full-Time Boys - Liam

Last time, we reported that John was able to quit his job and go full-time on the project. We're delighted to report that now, Liam has done so too - completing our trio of developers now working full-time. Up until a couple of months back, only Matt was dedicating his whole professional time to the project. We feel a bit like a record on repeat in saying it, but it's entirely true - only the support of our fans has allowed this to happen. Making the leap of leaving a long-held job for the unknown future of a home-grown project is a terrifying step - and one that we've only been able to take because of you guys. We owe you a really good game in return, and we're going to make that happen.

Enjoy these picture of Liam finishing his last day at his old academic job in Germany - getting in some last-minute ant revision, then enjoying his final currywurst before returning the the UK to work full-time on Empires of the Undergrowth.





Artifical Antelligence (why didn't I use this title last time?)

Liam is now working full-pelt on the AI for a computer controlled colony. Whilst we have some basic AI options for colony control in the project, these currently boil down to scripted enemies with pre-built bases, sending waves out on regular timers. The current task of having a fully independent AI player, able to make informed decisions is a much taller order! This week the computer controlled colony (known in the project as “Hive Bot”) is being taught how to detect and avoid dangerous caverns whilst digging underground, or how to incorporate them into their base. For a human player, it is easy to spot the red exclamation marks hovering below the surface, but Hive Bot needs a little more help. In the picture you can see our new cavern data object; this is what the bot will see and will give it an idea of how much food and danger might be present if it digs through.


The Hive Bot's helping hand

The implication here is that AI colonies will, for all intents and purposes, operate in the same way that a human player does. They'll start off with a queen and a few workers, evaluate their surroundings, then decide on an appropriate form of expansion. The solution they decide upon will be different each time the game is played. Properly functional AI colonies are essential for our plans for the next tier of the Formicarium campaign mode, and will also be integrated into Freeplay.

Choosing Ant Species

A lot of thought goes into the selection of ant species we include in the game. Not least because once we commit, we have to put serious time into them! Both Formica fusca and Formica rufa were chosen primarily for being iconic temperate ant species - and the rufas obviously for their real-life acid spraying abilities, which fitted our RTS-style game rather well! For leaf cutters, we chose a fairly ubiquitous species with Atta cephalotes (picture below) which has lots of polymorphism (in-species different body shapes, allowing us to have fun with different castes of ant). In the very old versions of the game, there were many more ant species but they were much less fleshed out. Our philosophy now is definitely “less is more” - fewer species, but more love given to each one.



We’ll be showing some of the artwork for leaf cutters as we complete it. As an interesting note, we do stretch reality somewhat in the game but where we can we want to be realistic - so we recently asked one of our favourite entomology groups how they’d feel about the realism of Atta cephalotes coming into conflict with an as-yet unannounced species. They gave it the thumbs up! It’s nice to have those checks in place.

Zealous Emerge

We were invited along to the Zealous Emerge awards a couple of weeks back. It was a fun event - and Empires of the Undergrowth won in the game section! Seeing that only his name is engraved on the trophy, Liam is currently taking quotes from contractors for a custom-built shelf to house it. We would like to thank the judges and the organizers for all of their help, particularly Guy Armitage who has spent the last week beating the game (but certainly not during work). We were joined in our booth by AsobiTech and their magical flying cat game Mao Mao, it's loud and colourful and should be coming to several different platforms this year. We wish them the best of luck with their launch! http://aso.bi/maomao/

https://twitter.com/asobitech/status/994667121132167169

Screenshot Central

Time to showcase some of our favourite screenshots of the past few weeks! Keep uploading your shots to Steam, or submit them via email to mike@slugdisco.net. Remember you can enter photo mode by pressing F8 (by default) to get some really cool angles for your shots.


AK_tion_47 proves he's still the king of Freeplay screenshots with this stunner


A simple but aesthetically pleasing shot of a Formica fusca queen by 3Rk4n


Welp.... Slam was unlucky enough to be attacked by two uber creatures in Freeplay. RIP.

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2018, 02:49:11 PM »
Freeplay Beta Patch 0.1213 Released
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

With this update to the Freeplay beta comes saving! Due to the complexity of this there are likely to be bugs here and there and we would very much appreciate reports of them. As this will affect saves we strongly recommend you backup your saves before trying this update.

We’re close to the end of the beta period for Freeplay and it will soon be made available for all players, but if you aren’t yet participating and would like to please follow the instructions here:

•   Find Empires of the Undergrowth in your games library
•   Right-click and select “Properties”
•   Find the "Betas" tab
•   Enter the code "betatestants" (without quote marks) and press "Check code"
•   Make sure you've chosen the beta from the drop-down menu
•   The game will now update to the beta branch version

As always, thanks for your help with this. We will soon be ready to test on Mac and Linux then finally release Freeplay officially.

New Features

•   Freeplay games can be saved
o   WARNING: Whilst we are testing this we STRONGLY recommend backing up your game before trying the new update
o   At present Freeplay games do not save backups themselves; we will be introducing this in the future
o   You will notice the Freeplay colonies you have already made available to load when you open Freeplay – these saves will be incompatible, please delete them as loading them may cause a crash (they do not have level data saved with them)
•   Fog of War added to Freeplay
o   This hides all enemies on the surface unless you have an ant close to them
o   Due to the difficulty this adds, it dramatically increases your score
•   Some Freeplay setup options now add a multiplier to your score
o   Nest invasions increases score by 50%
o   Uber creatures increases score by 10%
o   Attack waves increases score by 10%
o   Fog of war increases score by 150%
•   Placing a marker will temporarily draw the trail the ants are likely to take to reach it
•   All ants have an icon on them which roughly describes their role (worker, melee, ranged, tank)
•   Hovering over a chamber will now give information about the room (ants, eggs, tile levels, storage)
•   The nest group can now be selected and can have aggression and gathering turned on and off
•   Realistic mode added in general options (hides tile surfer outlines, food outlines, path arrows on markers and marker icon overlays)
•   Request to dig to surface can now be cancelled
•   Minimap darkens as the day darkens
•   Game will now pause when notifications are open (can be toggled on and off via notification button or option)
•   Some tech tree icons have been updated
•   Some furniture added to main menu screen


A screenshot showing two new features - classic RTS Fog of War (Freeplay only) and the ant trails being temporarily drawn when you place a pheromone marker

Bug Fixes

•   Fixed an issue that could cause all creatures other that colony ID 0's health to be halved in Freeplay
•   Fixed Royal Decree (thanks to Rayalot72 for reporting this)
•   Potentially fixed issue with some hardware causing large black shadows to appear in 1_1 and 1_2
•   Fixed a crash that could happen in levels with no surface
•   Fixed a bug with the last chance worker in Freeplay
•   Fixed an issue with the spawn point of waves in Freeplay
•   Fixed some text capitalisation inconsistencies
•   Changed title of Other Modes
•   Fixed the "Reload last save" button in Freeplay

Balance changes / improvements

•   Uber creature corpses can now be harvested by 8 ants at a time
•   Stunned swirl updated
•   Performance improvement added for rendering the upgrade overlay
•   Several minor optimisations added


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2018, 02:51:02 PM »
Freeplay Beta Patch 0.122 Released
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

There have been many changes since the last beta update. This will hopefully be the final version before general Freeplay release. Many of the changes have focused around having a better game experience, making the end game more difficult and improving performance. Along with this many bug fixes have been added.

Features
•   Population upkeep cost added to Freeplay. This feature has been added in order to make the end game more challenging whilst also keeping performance high. The end game is now more difficult with fewer creatures.
o   This is a soft population cap and will increase the cost of ants beyond a specific population
o   Workers have a seperate population
o   Cost increase is exponential (starts small and increases rapidly with each ant)
o   This can be disabled in setup, however doing so will reduce score by 60%
o   Added in notifications for a few things in freeplay
o   Fog added to minimap when Fog of war is on

Bug Fixes
•   Fixed an issue where moving the marker between the surface and underground could cause ants to walk to the edge of the map
•   Fixed an issue where ants could get stuck facing walls underground, especially when there were a lot of ants about
•   Fixed an issue where resource score was lost when a game was loaded in Freeplay
•   Fixed an issue where hovering chamber info could be seen in the death animation
•   Fixed an issue where dead creatures would disappear if brought underground with Fog Of War on in Freeplay
•   Fixed an issue where stored corpses despawned on game load in Freeplay
•   Time now restores correctly for scoreboard on loaded Freeplay games
•   You can no longer save Freeplay if your queen is dead
•   Fixed the levels displaying incorrectly on chamber hover information
•   Slightly altered queen start position on The Dunes Freeplay map
•   Fixed an issue preventing ladybirds spawning at the the correct rate for the difficulty in Freeplay
•   Fixed an issue where ants when loaded from a save would immediately go home from a trail end
•   Fixed an issue where ants would spin on the spot when walking or picking up food at the bottom of ramps
•   Fixed an issue where wood ant projectiles could hit a lip on the tunnel exit
•   Fixed an issue where ants were moved towards the queen on load if they were nearby (still exists but not as bad)
•   Fixed an issue where saved fish would have their food restored on load and could duplicate
•   Right clicking a notification now unpauses the game
•   Word cost removed from build tooltips
•   Fixed right clicking on harvestable resource placing marker correctly
•   Prevented photo mode when in a cutscene
•   Fixed an issue where ants would be very slow to register to a marker with no ants assigned
•   Funnel Web spiders will no longer attack wave creatures in freeplay
•   Minimap damage notification will no work no matter where your starting location

Changes / Improvements
•   Loading throbber returned to the loading screen
•   Tunnel exit tagged for excavation restores when loaded
•   Changed the information on chamber hover to be more relevant to each chamber
•   Reduced ant reaction time (wood ants should no longer reach targets before starting to fire)

Freeplay
•   Ant fog of war vision radius has been increased (nearly double)
•   At higher difficulties creatures will now drop less food (starting from 50% difficulty) and be much more likely to attack the player in Freeplay
•   Later waves will now produce higher level ants
•   Wave power significantly increased
•   Wave timer has been reduced to 5 minutes and a 12 minute setup time has been added.
•   Every 5th level wave creatures changed
•   Added a warning to the player if they do not tunnel to the surface when waves are queing up to spawn
•   Ubers can now spawn in all waves after wave 15
•   Wave number is constantly displayed once they start spawning
•   Added wave number to Freeplay score screen
•   Chance of Ubers spawning increases with difficulty
•   14 landmarks will always spawn at the beginning
•   Landmarks types are now evenly distributed
•   A new landmark spawns every 150s down from 180s
•   Uber creatures stats reworked, should attack slower but be more deadly and deal AOE damage
•   Prevented smaller creatures spawning in waves later on (tiny spiders and devils coach horse larvae)
•   More creatures spawn at lower difficulties
•   Added a reload button on defeat in Freeplay

Performance Improvements
•   Refined collisions for substantial performance improvements
•   Performance improvements with certain animations
•   Performance improvements with skeletal mesh updates
•   Small optimisations added in for Freeplay
•   Blueprint Nativisation in use for substantial performance gains
•   Major optimisations in nurseries
•   Creature decision making moved into C++ for major performance boost
•   Job management speed improved
•   Minor array access improvements
•   Minor creature AI speed improvements
•   Multiple minor optimisations


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2018, 02:55:55 PM »
Freeplay Mode Launched!
Empires of the Undergrowth - Mike

Freeplay Mode Added


Customisable - play your way!
Freeplay is a highly customisable game mode giving the player full control over what creatures and landmarks can spawn, how hard they want the game, how the difficulty of the game will change as time goes on and much more.
The Dunes Freeplay map – a monster of a map!

The Dunes is the largest map in the game to date, made possible through optimisation of the surface tiles allowing us to get more for the processing power. It boasts:

•   4 possible start locations for the player’s colony
•   120 by 120 surface tile grid (the previous biggest being 96 by 126)
•   80 locations for landmarks to spawn and 25 locations for creatures to spawn

Save-able
Freeplay colonies can be saved and returned to later, allowing you to take your time and even try that horrible attack wave again. For now saving is manual and there is no backup; we are planning on introducing backups in a future update.

Landmarks – let’s make this interesting!
Landmarks are various interesting points on the surface. They are randomised in look, functionality and location, will appear and disappear as your game progresses and scale with the difficulty setting.

Aphid Farm
•   Has between 2 and 4 patches of 10 aphids
•   Has randomly generated plant decoration
•   Ladybird attacks increase with difficulty

Poppy Plant
•   Will intermittently drop poppy seeds; the dropped seeds have a limited lifetime

Funnel Web Nest
•   Generates dead creature chunks
•   Contains funnel web spiders that will kill nearby enemy creatures (from the player’s colony… or anything else it is big enough to take on!)
•   Number of spiders increases with difficulty
•   Has randomly generated stones nearby

Dead Fish
•   A large source of food
•   Will attract enemy ants

Infestation
•   Attracts large group of enemies of a specific type
•   This large group stays around the central point
•   The size of the group increases with difficulty

Creatures fight each other
In Freeplay mode creatures on the surface will duke it out with one another. However, they will not just attack anyone! Some of them will not attack larger creatures, or will ignore the smaller ones. In Freeplay every creature has a list of other creatures they do not want to fight.

Random start location
The player will start in a random pre-prepared start location. These undergrounds are similar in the resources that are available but the locations of resources are different, including where they start on the surface.

Day / night cycle and spawning
If turned on, the game will slowly tick from day to night and back again. When day turns to night nocturnal creatures will come out, and diurnal creatures will hide. Some creatures are about in both time periods. A full 24 hour cycle lasts 30 minutes in game-time.

Food spoiling
Creatures killed in Freeplay mode have a limited time to be harvested before they “spoil” and disappear (3m). Additionally, food generated by funnel web and poppy plant landmarks do the same so as to not cause too great a buildup of food.
Uber creatures – oh boy, it’s a big one!

Ubers are souped-up versions of some of the larger creatures. They can be identified by a red glow, increased size and will be announced in a message when they spawn. There are 4 types that are as difficult as each other and all provide 1000 food when killed. They take much longer to spoil than other creatures because of this (10m). The 4 types are uber hermit crab, uber beach tiger beetle, uber devil’s coach horse adult and uber beach wolf spider. Enabling Uber Creatures increases your score.

Attack waves
Up for a real challenge? With this enabled waves of enemies will spawn every 5 minutes after an initial setup period of 12 minutes. These wave will get stronger over time and do not drop food. How many can you survive? Enabling attack waves increases your score significantly.

Difficulty settings
Difficulty is handled differently in Freeplay mode. The difficulty changes as the game goes on and affects things such as the spawn rate of enemy creatures, how aggressive they are, how much food dead creatures drop and the difficulty of landmarks. You can set the start point of the game difficulty and how you would like it to change as the game progresses. There are several options.
•   Constant – the difficulty remains at the value initially set and gets no harder.
•   Ramp – the difficulty gradually increases at a steady rate.
•   Spikes – the difficulty remains constant however it will spike up in difficulty every now and then. It spikes for a
•   random amount and for a random length.
•   Ramp with spikes – the difficulty steadily increases as the game progresses but will every now and then spike up in difficulty. It spikes for a random amount and for a random length.
•   Scale With Colony – as your colony size increases so does the difficulty, meaning you should always feel a bit pressured no matter how well you are doing.
•   Random – every so often the difficulty is randomised and stays there for a random amount of time. Note you may end up starting at some very hard difficulty.

Nest entrance can be dug out, and are hidden until done so (visible on minimap)
In Freeplay, your route to the nest entrance is not dug out to begin with - giving you the freedom to plan your nest your way. You will know where the entrance is from the minimap, however you will need to tunnel to it to reach the surface.

Select your species
Choose from one of the species from the campaign (currently black ants or wood ants) or chose one of your Formicarium colonies to play Freeplay with! If you choose one of your formicarium colonies all the upgrades you have chosen for that colony will be available for your Freeplay colony (note the ants themselves do not transfer, just the upgrades).

Fog of war
Enemies and food will be hidden from you unless you are nearby, what will be lurking for you in the shadows? Fog of war greatly increases your score!

Soft population cap (Upkeep)
After a certain number of tiles have been built, further tiles will begin to increase in cost. This makes the end game more challenging whilst also keeping performance high. Workers have a seperate population. This can be disabled in setup.

So, what’s the point?
•   You are free to build up a colony and try and survive as long as you can! You can also try to score as high as possible as you will be given a score on defeat. This score is affected by several options:
•   Nest invasions increases score by 50%
Uber creatures increases score by 10%
•   Attack waves increases score by 10%
•   Fog of war increases score by 150%
•   Disabling population upkeep reduces your score by 60%


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2018, 01:12:09 AM »
June / July Newsletter 2018 - Leaf Cutter Progress!

Greetings everyone! This has been another one of those months where the general timings and various circumstances have meant we've not managed to get the newsletters done to the regular schedule - so enjoy this newsletter for both June and July! The biggest news since the last newsletter is obviously the release of Freeplay mode on the main branch. It's been available for everyone for several weeks beforehand in beta form, so those of you who were most keen are likely to have been fairly familiar with it when it finally landed for everyone on 2nd July. We've also got some great progress to show you with our next Formicarium update - Leaf Cutters ants!



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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2018, 01:13:54 AM »
August 2018 Newsletter

Greetings all! We hope you've enjoyed your summer. Time moves on relentlessly, and as we chug the first pumpkin spice latte of autumn we've made significant strides in the progress of the leafcutter levels as well as plenty of other exciting things. We've recorded with our voice artists Mary Jo, Eric and Callum (Scientist 1, Scientist 2 and Narrator respectively) for the next levels and we're delighted with their work. Before we conclude our work on 3.1, 3.2 and Formicarium Challenge 3, there are some missing bits and pieces in the existing game that need finalising in preparation. Our current plan is to do an interim update between now and the leafcutter update, and that's going to be fairly soon. Let's get on to what that'll include!



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