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Author Topic: Empires of the Undergrowth  (Read 5822 times)

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #30 on: July 09, 2019, 11:35:53 PM »
June 2019 Newsletter - Next Ants
9 JUL @ 3:50PM   - MIKE

To start with, a small distraction from the main event - Steam have recently held a summer promotion whereby leaving reviews gains you points. The recent reviews have been pushed into "overwhelmingly positive" territory - and we recognise that's directly down to you guys. Thank you so much! Now, on to the actual content of the newsletter!


Leafcutters doing their thing in this widescreen shot from Steam user Himmuguegeli

We've recently had a meeting to discuss the direction for the rest of the game. We were almost entirely sure of what the next playable ants would be, and the meeting has cemented that decision. Many other things were also decided, and they will have an impact on both the long-term and short-term development of the game.

Fire Ants

The focal species for the 4th tier of the formicarium will be fire ants. The blanket term of 'fire ant' comprises many species, but they mostly share the same notorious traits - aggression and invasiveness, and a particularly unpleasant sting. We haven't entirely decided on the exact species that will feature but it will be of the Solenopsis genus.


Read on

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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2019, 02:03:21 PM »
A Quick Mid-Month Update Post!
19 Aug @ 11:36am - Mike

Just a little interim news post in lieu of the full newsletter to let you guys know we're still working hard! We're currently in the midst of lots of deep, boring changes to the code that don't produce much in the way of visual excitement. Expect the newsletter in a few days!


A work-in-progress shot of a side mission

John has been streaming what will become a feature starting from the next big update - regular side missions! The idea here is to give you guys more regular content that doesn't have the huge scope of the main missions, whilst also giving you a way of building up formicarium resources without too much replaying. More info to come with the full newsletter, but check out the streams on YouTube.

Livestream - Side Missions! #1




Liam has been working on new path finding algorithms (remember what I said about deep boring stuff!) to speed things up a bit, and Matt has been combing through the code to find all the nooks and crannies where unneeded calculations are being done. This is all in service of allowing things like larger army sizes (those fire ant colonies have a lot of ants!) and smoother framemrates for everyone. It's an important step before we go charging headlong into the 4th tier, and as always we appreciate the infinitely patient bunch of lovely people that is our community.

Empires of the Undergrowth - Jump Point Search Pathfinding




To finish, just a reminder that if you'd like more regular updates then follow out social media! We'll be posting screenshots on Saturday, letting you know when we go live for some development streaming, and getting up to all sorts of ant-related things.

http://www.twitter.com/SlugDisco
http://www.facebook.com/SlugDisco
http://www.twitch.tv/SlugDisco



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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #32 on: August 22, 2019, 01:03:20 PM »
July-August 2019 Newsletter
22 Aug @ 7:42am - Mike

We are now deep into our open-engine surgery of the game which will streamline and reduce computational overheads allowing for bigger armies, faster frame rates and smarter enemies. We detailed this a fair bit last time. Whilst this is happening we've also been working on a new, hopefully regular feature that will be debuting along with the next large update - extra missions!


An ereptor colony takes on a wolf spider from appropriately-named Steam user wolf


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #33 on: September 07, 2019, 12:29:26 AM »
Steam Cloud Saves Now Active

Automatic cloud saving is now enabled

All Steam users of Empires of the Undergrowth now have access to cloud saving! From now on, your games are backed up automatically to the cloud when you exit the game. This means that for people who log in on another system or those who come back to the game after changing their setup, the saved games they've made should always be ready for after launching the game from Steam.

Cloud saving is enabled by default. The only issue we foresee is people who have different saved games on multiple systems - if Steam detects a discrepancy between the local files and the cloud ones it will ask you if you wish to push your local saves to the cloud or download from the cloud, overwriting the local. In these cases you can choose which to save, or disable cloud saving for EotU on machines you do not wish to be overwritten.


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #34 on: September 20, 2019, 01:30:17 PM »
August - September 2019 Newsletter
Fri, 20 September 2019

A Summary for the end of Summer, and Introducing Ecosystem
With the summer coming to a close we thought we'd publish another newsletter for you guys. This time we'll be talking about a few extra systems we've been working on (such as achievements) as well as talking about us as a company taking the intrepid steps into working with some other indie developers. So, we'll be introducing Tom and his game Ecosystem a bit further down!


A dramatic shot of leafcutters battling wood ants in freeplay from Steam user hugo27rex


Getting There - Updated Systems

Over the last few weeks progress continues to be made on the updated movement / collision system and a large round of profiling. Methods have been tightened to reduce computational overheads, new algorithms have been refined and the old has made way for the new. We're now nearing the end of our self-allotted time for this large task, and when that happens we’ll need your help testing it.




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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #35 on: October 25, 2019, 11:39:30 PM »
October 2019 Newsletter
Fri, 25 October 2019

Read on for details of the climbing system that will allow ants to swarm their enemies!
Autumn (or fall if you're that way inclined) has well and truly began to take a hold in our part of the world. The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping and there is some fun stuff being worked on for Empires of the Undergrowth. Or boring technical stuff, depending on your point of view. Either way, we shall detail it here for your perusal!


Nighttime crab hunting from Steam user Bald Hippo z

With there not being much in the way of visual newness at the moment (a large majority of the recent work has been on systems and algorithms rather than artwork) I asked each of our three developers to give me some background information about what they've been working on. John has been expanding current systems to handle the upcoming fire ants, Liam has been finishing off his overhaul of the movement code, and Matt has been working on a long-anticipated feature, the titan climbing system!

Titans of the Undergrowth - Matt


In real life, ants do not live on a flat plane with incremental steps, battling their enemies from the ground. They swarm and conquer, clambering all over their foes to get at weak spots they otherwise couldn't reach. Although we are definitely making a game rather than a simulation, and many of our game systems are reliant on the incrementally-layered flat plane, we want to introduce some more three dimensional elements when it is both fun and appropriate to do so.

Having ants swarm and climb over their foes has been in our plans for a very long time. We liked the idea of describing the larger creatures as the Titans of the Undergrowth, and they had the climbable functionality to distinguish them from smaller creatures. There are some videos from very early development, back when we were using our own custom-built engine, of this system being tested. When we made the move to Unreal Engine 4 this system fell to the wayside somewhat when the planned levels for the start of early access did not require it. Now is the time to bring it back. Matt has recently been working on doing just that.

As a test case until he has models for new creatures, he has been using the whip spider from the leafcutter levels. It's a suitably massive creature, and although he doesn't promise that it will be climbable in the game it seems quite likely.


Whip spider with skeletal "cart rails" to help ants climb it.

The system he's creating works in a similar way to how leafcutters climb plants in the current game. In the above GIF, the green lines represent "rails" along which "carts" travel. In this example, an ant will get close to the titan, choose a climbing point, and board one of these imaginary "carts". The cart travels along the length of the green path and deposits the ant at the end (the end representing a weak point on the body that ants would attack) which along with its walk cycle animation will give a very convincing representation of the ant scurrying over the titan. At the end of its allotted time, or when the titan is defeated, it will board another imaginary cart back to the ground and end up back on the normal ground plane.

The exact mechanics gameplay-wise of how this will affect the damage to the titan are yet to be entirely worked out, but the visual side of things is coming along nicely. The system is a very flexible one - although in this example Matt is using six paths, any number can be added to creatures for variety. It'll see heavy use in the fire ant levels, as the furiously aggressive fire ants overwhelm their enemies.

Movement Code - Liam


Although Liam's new movement and pathing code is up and running, there are lots of little outlier issues that were solved in the past and need to be thought about again. This is what happens when you remove a core piece of the game engine that has been built upon since 2016!

Below you can see the new overground tunnel exit. You should notice that the whole thing is now made from hexagons, so it fits snugly on the tile grid (in the real levels you won't be able to see the join). Whilst we were doing this, we took the opportunity to change the exit hole layout (they used to all face the same way). You can also see some colourful spheres and lines, if you really want to know what they are about, read on.



Movement on the over ground tile grid is very predictable: the creatures are always walking horizontally at a multiple of tile block height and for any given point on the plane X,Y, there is only one tile. Each tile contains a "node" that links to 12 surrounding nodes - these relationships are used for the fast jump pathfinding algorithm (so ants know how to get from A to B). The highlighted overground tunnel exit piece works a little differently; nodes can have heights between two tile levels (on the ramps) and there are areas that have two viable locations for a given X,Y position (down the tunnels and above the tunnels). Not only does this complicate the pathfinding system, so that X,Y locations on the overground tunnel link to arrays of pathing nodes rather than single nodes, we also need a way to “sew in” to the surrounding tiles.

The turquoise arrows show the pathing information on the exit itself – this is like a directional net (the ants can travel anywhere the arrows point to). The black hexagons indicate the edges of the exit that need to attach to surrounding tiles. The red lines represent these attachments, any tiles they connect to are aware of links to both the exit (red) and links to normal tiles (blue). The pink spheres are just to brighten Liam's day as he works.

Fire Ants and Extra Missions - John


Breaking Your Own Rules

Recently John has been working on the fire ants and trying to bring something new to the table with this fascinating species that works with them narratively. Several of their new abilities attempt something that is new to the game. One variant of them has the eggs hatch for free if the egg has been on the tile for longer than a minute leading to an attack-retreat style play to get the most value out of the colony.

A recent issue has been making multiple ants hatch from the same tile. One ant per tile has been a rule since the first demo and is ingrained in many core systems of the game. For instance, tiles are often used to work out how many ants should join a trail quickly, whether an enemy colony should attack and even saving and loading the colony. All of these are expecting to work with a single ant. Similarly the UI needed to be updated to work with the array of ants rather than a single object.

Fire ant tiles will allow 2 ants at level 3 and we are very much looking forward to how this will change your strategies when playing with this species.

Extremis

John's upcoming survival map Extremis (previously known by its working title of Holdout Extreme) now has a unique unlock system - upon defeat, you will be given points to spend on unlocking ants and abilities for your next attempt.



Extremis will be just one of what we hope will be many extra missions that are apart from the main campaign, beginning with the next large update to the game (which will focus on freeplay, as detailed in a previous newsletter).

Screenshot Central


The most fun part of writing these newsletters for me is looking through the recent uploads on our Steam community page to find the best screenshots. We're consistently blown away by just how amazing you guys are at making our game look gorgeous! If you'd like to submit something to Screenshot Central, simply upload it to Steam (F12 by default takes a screenshot, and you'll be given the option of uploading upon exiting the game) or manually sent it to me mike@slugdisco.com. F9 will take you into photo mode to get some great angles, and holding shift whilst you do that will break the camera free of any restrictions.


Jumping spiders are such cuties in this shot from Steam user germinal.ronse

https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steamcommunity/public/images/clans/28521019/0e31c9ab92582cc9cdca323cc781f03f55626cab.jpg
The stuff of nightmares - a mess of whip spiders in the battle arena from Steam user DeltaX06

https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steamcommunity/public/images/clans/28521019/4c31085b8e791259fa91cf128f5d542328517454.jpg
Where did all the trees go? Atta cephalotes colony from Steam user CaptainCarrot


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #36 on: October 30, 2019, 03:02:49 PM »
The Hungry Spider Level Returns!
Tue, 29 October 2019

The Hungry Spider is back, and he wants his breakfast. Feed him!
The Hungry Spider level is now back for the spooky season! This devlishly difficult level sees you play as the aforementioned arachnid as he eats his way through a web-shaped map. Okay, enough alliteration.

Unlike other levels, you control him directly with the mouse or buttons you'd usually use for moving the camera. There's a special apparition on the main menu to let you access the level - see the YouTube video for help in finding it.




Be warned: this level is legendarily difficult and very, very few have succeeded! Those enemy spiders are a real killer. If you don't beat the level this time round, it'll also show up on full moons.


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Re: Empires of the Undergrowth
« Reply #37 on: December 02, 2019, 11:27:41 PM »
ANovember 2019 Newsletter
Mon, 2 December 2019

And so, winter came. And with it, the season of darkness and cold but also the season of goodwill and cheer. A little bit of a shorter newsletter this month, as we are still (I know, I know) working through the last of the movement code changes. Keep an eye open for the beta announcement - before putting it onto the main branch, we will run an optional beta for all Steam Windows players to help us pin down the last of the issues.


Night-time jungle from returning contributor MorPacke

There are a couple of new things to show, however - the extended time it's taken to get the rewrite done has meant that John has had the time to get ahead on some other systems whilst Liam and Matt are busy with that. We're ready to show off the creature that will feature in challenge mode for levels 3.1 The Harvest and 3.2 Front Line, so let's get right to that!

Phorid Flies


The mortal enemy of many ant species, the tiny phorid fly may look as unassuming but it harbours a deadly secret. It can quickly lay its eggs on the bodies of vulnerable ants. The eggs will hatch into maggots that burrow into the body of the ant, eating its innards and inevitably killing it.


Innocuous-looking and tiny, but deadly - the phorid fly

Read on



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