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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2019, 11:40:04 AM »
Version 1.0.1.6 Released!
27 Aug @ 10:53am - Far Road Games


The next big content update to Atomic Society has now been released, adding new features like a barter and trade system, research, building upgrades and a wind turbine, and a lot of fixes and general polish, including a brand new camera system.

Full details can be found below in the patch notes.

I’ll post a (much needed) dev blog soon when the dust has settled. We’re already preparing for another big update after this one.



Note: Due to the large changes in this version won't be compatible with existing save games. Players will need to make a new settlement.

Latest Features:

• Barter/Trade Feature Added. You can now build a new trade shack building to get rid of supplies you have too many of, or to find items you need without salvaging. Trade is done via a barter system so it’s down to you to work out the best price. Don't necessarily trust the trader's first offer!

• Wind Turbine Building Added. The wind turbine has been added. The wind turbine is expensive to make but will produce charged batteries that can be used to upgrade various buildings around your town.

• Research Centre Added. Several buildings in the game now need to be researched before you can construct them. This requires you to build the new Research Centre and unlock buildings via its menu. This adds an extra level of strategy as you go about expanding your town.

• Structure Upgrades Feature Added. Players can now decide to upgrade buildings with electricity to improve their functionality by spending charged batteries. There are various types of upgrade to get, and it’s up to you what buildings should be upgraded first. The game has been rebalanced to make upgrading feel important.



• Night Lighting Feature Added. When you upgrade a building with electricity, it switches on a light, allowing you bit by bit to visually restore electricity to your wasteland settlement. Is a cosmetic feature that lets your town really stand out at night.

• Camera System Completely Redone. We have completely rebuilt the game’s camera, making it smoother and easier to control. We have fixed all bugs relating to the camera getting stuck in scenery and it now automatically adjusts if something obscures your view. A range of camera sensitivity options have been added and you can now scroll the camera by moving the mouse to the edge of the screen.

• Cloud Saving Feature Added. The game now uses Steam’s built-in cloud saving feature so your towns will travel with you

Bug Fixes/Gameplay Tweaks:

• The population goal has now been increased to 400 due to the extra content expanding the game.

• Fixed a bug where sometimes you could not destroy the Punishment Centre manually.

• Fixed some framerate issues on the title screen and when saving that might speed up save times for some people.

• Fixed an issue where if you changed your scavenger loot focus while the leader was inside looking for something, they could get stuck.

• Fixed a bug where the Town Hall radius effect graphic was incorrectly appearing when you opened the Town Hall outpost.

• Condensed the storehouse menu slightly, removing some outdated resources. This may help with an issue where players at 4k+ resolutions were having trouble with it.

• Changed the forum link button so that when you report a bug it goes to the new Steam forums, not the old pre-alpha ones.

• Fixed a missing title on the video options panel.

• Fixed some spacing issues with text in a few places where things could get cut-off at certain resolutions.

• Fixed the missing tooltip and icon for garrisons in the jobs priority list if you make a ruin into a garrison.


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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2019, 11:28:35 PM »
Dev Blog #35: New Content Progress
Mon, 28 October 2019



Here’s a look at what we’ve been working on for the next big update. Apologies it’s been a little quiet around here since we released the last patch. We’ve just been quietly working away on the new version and not paying much attention to the outside world or social media, but everything is going pretty well (if slowly) on the team.

I’m always around on our Discord server if you want to ask me something about the game or development, or you can email us if you have any problems/questions.

New Buildings In the Works

At the moment we're working on more new buildings to add to your towns. Nani (artist) has made models for the new Courthouse and Canteen structures while Adam (coder) makes them work. The new Courthouse structure will let you deal with the negative side-effects of setting laws (like innocent people being educated) and the Canteen is a building that can improve the quality of the food and drink your settlement produces. It needs supplies of lumber to keep the stoves burning. The Canteen and Courthouse have been on the to-do list of potential buildings to add for years, so I’m glad to finally see them in the game.

We’re also working on a building to upgrade your morale structures. It was a little challenging trying to think of a single building that can upgrade a theatre, a tavern and a chapel, but in the end we've gone for a Brewhouse type building where homemade “wine” can be made and then delivered to these structures so they work more effectively (I’ll word the text so you can imagine it’s non-alcoholic if your town's religion doesn’t allow booze!)

I don’t think any of these buildings are particularly drop-dead exciting, but they do add a bit of extra depth and some end-game structures to think about. The goal is for everything to have a way to be upgraded.



New Social Issues

We're overdue to add some new social issues so we intend to add at least a couple more to the next update. Social issues are probably the most fun thing to design for me. It’s more interesting working out how a citizen should morally behave than how a well makes water, for example. We have 3 new social issues in the works at the moment: prostitution, capitalism and patriotism. I won’t go into too much depth about how these actually affect your town yet (as the coding hasn’t started), but citizens will eventually be engaging in those 3 activities and you can encourage or discourage them in the usual manner.

Achievements

Steam achievements should be coming to the next update too. None of us have ever made a game before, so we had to do some homework on how these work first, but we've got them up and running now. It turns out to be pretty simple, when you know what you’re doing, it’s just a bit tedious inserting all the triggers for them. We have a long list of achievement ideas going right back to the start of the project. I hope we can at least get 5-10 in the next update. I’m not a big fan of achievements myself, but I think they’re good at helping players learn the features of the game, and encouraging them to play in a certain way.

Pathfinding/Navigation Improvements

We’re presently upgrading the intelligence of our citizens (yet again) so they stop taking bizarre routes. This seems to be a never-ending job in a game like this. It came up again when Nick (main coder) started trying to fix a single pathfinding bug and then discovered the cause of that bug would be having an effect on the whole game, so he’s now spending weeks redoing the navigation stuff. There’s always things to redo if you scratch the surface of this game. I dislike redoing stuff of course, but this should fix many quirks with citizens taking weird paths, so it’s got to be done, even though it will delay the version. Basically, until now, our landscapes have been automatically “scanned” for the AI, which defines which bits of the map are walkable and which aren’t. Unfortunately this automatic scanning led to less than perfect results, and was making citizens think they couldn’t go a certain way. To solve this, Nick now has to manually “paint” all the walkable areas onto all 9 maps, which is dull work, but it will ensure accurate data for the AI. I once again understand now why so many city-builder games use flat maps now…



Other Things We're Working On...

All of the stuff I've mentioned is keeping us pretty busy with the game at the moment (along with some extra bug fixes or bits of polish that are too dull to go into here), but there’s still more we'd like to add if we have time.

I'm probably being optimistic, but I hope this next update will more or less round-off the Early Access version of the game in terms of content, and then everything after that can just be polish and refinement. Who knows if it will work out that way, but that’s the plan. We have to think quite far ahead on this game as things take ages to make. This update alone might take us until Christmas to finish if I'm being realistic.

In order to make the game feel “content complete” I’d like to come up with some kind of ending to the story element of the game (the tale of you leaving a bunker to recreate society), even though the game is endless. I have some ideas about you building a radio tower to contact the bunker and tell them your mission is complete when you’ve finished the goals, but it doesn’t seem to be exciting so far. We’ll see.

A lot of people will probably be pleased to hear we are also (at long last) investigating adding paths to the game, e.g. seeing trails form where citizens walk most frequently that gives them some kind of speed boost. A few indie games have used this system lately and given how awkward and uneven our landscapes are, it’s the only way we can add paths to the game. We’re just playing around with it for now, looking for something that works and looks good.

Lastly, Nani is adding some more decorative buildings to the game (ornamental stuff) so if you have any ideas for an ornamental/decorative building you think would be fun to put around your town, let me know!



Behind the Scenes Views

I always like to include a bit in these dev blogs about the process of actually making a game, as this is our first ever game and we're making it up as we go along. It’s interesting to document that process (for some). These are just my personal views and don't necessarily reflect anybody else on the team.

It’s now been 1 year since we launched on Early Access, and we’re still here, still (slowly) making updates and things haven’t really changed a great deal in that time, although I’ve changed a bit as a person. I care a lot less about being a success, and “making it” and what we sell, and things like that.

Launching on Early Access last year was just so stressful for me that it probably broke something in me, and I think that’s good. I now feel too old (or frail) for that level of hype and intensity. Nowadays I’d rather just look after my mental well-being, even if means potentially losing popularity and money.

I’ve pretty much given up on things like the Steam forums, comments, and Twitter, etc. I just can’t face them anymore though I wish I could. I don’t know what the review rating is for our game. I don’t even check our sales (though others on the team do, so I can’t ignore it totally). I’m trying to live more in the present moment and see if you can live life just taking it one step at a time, avoiding stress. So far, it seems you can.

Sales seem to tick on by no matter what I do, or don't do. They were getting pretty low (as I was informed), but now they’re back up since the last update. I’m still working as a part-time janitor though. On bad days I’ve thought of chucking that job in, but I know the money from Steam will stop one day, so I keep it. It helps that we’ve all been broke for years, so any kind of extra income feels generous. But I would just like to let people know that ignoring the outside world while making an indie game is doable in my experience. For people who hate marketing, as long as your game is interesting enough to attract YouTubers occasionally, you’ll probably be okay, even if you live under a rock by choice. I just generally don’t think the internet is a very healthy place for humans to interact and though we have some really lovely fans of this game, and people who make great suggestions, I struggle to interact with them online.

Because I live under a rock with pretty much everything, it was a total surprise to me when someone told me a big developer (the people who make Tropico games I think) went and released an Early Access post-apocalyptic city-builder that probably overshadows ours in many ways. If I had heard this a year ago, I probably would’ve fainted with anxiety, but nowadays I really don’t mind, which is much nicer. I went through all this stress when Frostpunk was announced so I’m over it now. Our sales didn’t change when Frostpunk came out, and they’ve gone up slightly when this new game came out (possibly unrelated). They are what they are.

I can’t really speak for how the rest of our tiny team is feeling, as I’d just imprint my feelings onto them, but if I had to guess I’d perhaps say people feel like they're at the end of a marathon. We've all been making this game for about 4.5 years now now, and though it’s been a real blessing, fun and profitable, I think we’re ready to wrap this baby up and apply what we've learnt to something even better. But there’s definitely a lot more to add to Atomic Society we can move on with a clean conscience, so we keep working and will do so until we've made the best game we know how to/can afford to.

Ideally, by summer 2020, I’d like to be working on something new (while maintaining support for AS) but that’s just a possibility. If I want to live in the present moment, I can’t think that far ahead. We'll see how things pan out.

Thanks for reading and I'll keep you informed when this big new update is closer to completion.





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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2019, 11:54:45 PM »
Version 0.1.7.0 – Courthouses, Prostitutes, Patriots, Cooking & More
Tue, 24 December 2019

That's not the title of my autobiography, but another update for Atomic Society, featuring some new social issues, some new buildings, and a lot of polish and fixes. Thanks for your patience with us as we continue to take this game to the finish line. We hope you enjoy the latest features.

More improvements are already in the works…

Version 0.1.7.0 Patch Notes

Note: Due to some big changes to the game’s code, this update will not be compatible with existing save games. You’ll need to start a new settlement once the update has been downloaded.


New Content

• New Social Issue added - Prostitution: Citizens may now act as prostitutes and take time off work to service clients at the nearest tavern (if available). This provides a shelter bonus to the client and prostitute, but decreases work productivity and it isn’t always safe being a prostitute in the post-apocalyptic world…

• New Social Issue added – Patriotism: Certain citizens now feel very patriotic about your fledgling new town and want others to feel as they do. They will periodically attempt to “convert” others so that they feel patriotic too. If successful, their target will join the town’s belief system and gain some morale. If not, the target will be offended and leave town. You can decide how to handle the patriots,

• New building added - Courthouse. You can now improve the justice system of your town by researching and building a Courthouse. The new Courthouse is used to prevent negative side-effects such as innocent people being executed, etc. You’ll need 3 of them if you want to block everything.

• New building added - Canteen. Citizens can now cook their food and boil their water at the new Canteen structure. Once researched, the Canteen acts as a communal kitchen for the town. It must be built within walking distance of a storehouse. This building will improve the food/drink so it provides more sustenance. But this building does need a regular supply of wood to keep the stoves burning so you’ll have to handle that.

• 2 new decorative buildings added. You can now add even more post-apocalyptic style to your shanty town with the new “gazebo” decorative building and the stylish new “tyre tree”. It almost feels like paradise…

• New pathfinding (navigation) system added: Last but not least among the major changes (and one of the reasons why this update has taken so long), is the new pathfinding system we have added to the game, replacing an older/buggier one. This new system should cut out a lot of quirks/bugs and make people choose more sensible routes in general.





Other Changes:

• The game now gives you a reminder to save every year. This message can be disabled in the interface options.

• Builders now have a max range radius and won’t construct anything that is too far away from their workplace. This will help players who like to build several small settlements, as before builders would frequently die trying to walk long distances to construct something on the other side of the map.

• Made the camera automatically zoom out for convenience when you switch into Overview Mode.

• Character appearance and naming options now persist between games/quitting to desktop.

• Made it so defence/guard tower coverage always shows when placing any kind of building, so you know where to put things. You can disable this in the interface options if you don’t like it.

• Added some story text and artwork when you first build the Trade Shack, giving some extra details on the trader and where he comes from.

• Added sound effects when you agree to research something or make a deal with the raiders.

• Improved salvaging UI slightly so it’s clearer when scavenger focus is enabled that the search is still working.

• Various buildings have had their upgrade (electricity) costs adjusted.



Important Bug Fixes:

• Fixed: A bug where sometimes the game refused to load a save game (duplicate name issue).

• Fixed: Issues with the research centre being unusable if it collapsed.

• Fixed: A bug that let the town leader gain infinite bag space if you saved and loaded at a specific point.

• Fixed: A bug that let the leader run through rivers and lakes.

• Fixed: Some inaccurate news feed messages regarding the Town Hall and Tavern.

• Fixed: The culture critic effect was affecting all needs, not just morale, making people receive less from boosting.

• Fixed: A bug where buildings/citizens appeared highlighted when they weren’t selected.

Happy Christmas!


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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2020, 01:52:53 PM »
Dev Blog #36: Development Progress
Sat, 21 March 2020




It’s been a little while since I checked in, but progress is going nicely on the next update. Here’s some of the things we’ve been working on lately…

Paths

The next version of Atomic Society will feature paths at long last!

We’re using an auto-pathing system that organically creates trails where the citizens walk most frequently, similar to other games. We're just ironing out the last technical tricks to it at the moment.

One challenge has been making it play nicely with the scenery, which changes as you place buildings and likes to mess up the paths, but we're figuring it out bit by bit. The screenshot below is just a work in a progress shot (textures will change), but it definitely makes the settlements feel more like actual lived-in places.

There will be a small speed bonus for citizens using a path, and trails will fade away if citizens stop using them.



Leader Family System

The other big new feature we've been working on over the past couple of weeks is the Leader's House, a new building that will be awarded to player's after a certain period of time, if their town lasts that long.

The Leader's House, aside from giving you a "trophy" building, also allows you to raise a family and pick 1-3 spouses (depending on your preference). Same-sex spouses will be allowed if you've legalised homosexuality.

This is mostly just for fun, but it also adds a goal to the game, and creates fun stories as you see your spouse and/or children getting up to all kinds of bad behaviour around town, and meeting with cruel fates. We may expand its functions later.

You can obviously procreate and raise a brood of kids, and you can choose whether or not your spouse(s) should work. You can even choose to make your family immune to prosecution, but this will make it harder to convert citizens as they'll see you as being hypocritical.

This features is almost finished now, and we're just at the final testing phase.

The UI elements you can see in the picture below are still placeholder elements at the moment.



Other Upcoming Changes

Apart from these two big features (which have taken up most of our time so far) we're also continuing to monitor the bug situation, so thanks to anybody who's contacted me with a bug report lately. We investigate all the serious ones, if we can reproduce at our end.

We're also continuing to make little tweaks to the UI and other parts of the game, as needed.

There could be another morale-related building in the works as well, but we'll see how time goes as we want to get this update out as soon as possible.

All being well, and that's a big "if" these days, I'm hoping the next version should be ready by early May.

Slow But Steady

It should be no surprise to anybody who's been following our game that the big updates can take us a quite a while to produce, which I'm really sorry about, but it's just the pace we can work at while juggling full-time jobs and various health issues that never seem to go away. Thanks to everybody who has patiently supported us so far and left feedback.

Ideally, I would like to get the game out of Early Access this year and move onto the polish phase of the project as we'll need to find new work soon. Unfortunately the coronavirus is already having its effect, which I didn't expect to be writing a few weeks ago. One team member has already lost their day job due and another is now having to care for an elderly relative, but everybody remains focused on getting this next update out and smoothing off the rough edges to the game. We're not going anywhere until we've done all we can.

I'll be back in the coming weeks (if the world still exists) to post the full patch notes for this version and let you know how the release is going.

Thanks for reading and supporting our little indie game.





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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #19 on: May 31, 2020, 01:15:44 AM »
Dev Blog #37: Difficulties Explained
Sat, 30 May 2020



Hi everyone. I know the new version isn't ready yet but I thought I'd post a new update to keep everyone informed on what's happening. Hopefully the version won't be delayed much longer!

Warning: This is going to be a long one...

​Update on the Delay

​Firstly, I'm sorry the new update still isn't ready. I had high hopes it would've been finished weeks ago and this delay is really frustrating. Nobody wants to see progress on the game more than the people making it, especially when the company is bleeding cash. This is not a conscious choice to sabotage our own success by working slowly.

Instead, the delay is the usual nasty problem of us trying to add something cool to the game that players wanted, and which seemed pretty straightforward to code - a naturally forming path system under the feet of your citizens - only to find out it's a complete horror show to implement as we reached the halfway stage.

But by that point, we'd spent so much work (and money) on the feature we didn't want to give up. We knew there would be a way to finish it, if only we kept banging away at the problem. And suddenly 6 months went by. Days can be a blur when you spend them staring at a computer screen.

The reason this feature has been such a pain to add is because it connects to the AI navigation system, which is probably the most complex aspect of the game, and has given us numerous headaches in the past. Until this version we told our citizens to pick off-road routes, and they did so by calculating a line across the terrain and adapting on the fly as necessary. Now we want them to (sometimes) ignore that system and pick paths that another citizen formed, a path that possibly didn't exist 5 minutes ago. But not always. Sometimes following a long path doesn't make sense when you could just cut across a field, so we needed to add in decision making factors and give each route a "cost" which the citizen weighs up.

​And such tricky navigation issues come after all the graphical issues we've already (mostly) solved. For example, paths that form themselves underfoot also need to automatically form good looking intersections that still look good as more and more paths connect to them. And they need to look good on flat and mountainous terrain, and in snow, forest or desert biomes. Oh, and sometimes the player will want to slap down a huge building right in the middle of that complicated intersection just as 10 citizens were approaching it with urgent deliveries while being chased by enforcers. And all this has to work flawlessly.

It hasn't been easy, and solving all these problems is the job of just one man, our main coder Nick, a guy making his first ever game (like the rest of us) and who’s working alone at home with no one to support or advise him on the technical issues. Don't get me wrong, I think Nick is a genius-level coder, and building something like AS as your first game is amazing. I can give him literally any feature request and provided he has enough time, he will somehow work out how to do it and make it run efficiently no matter how complex it is. And he does all this on pity pay (my term), and with serious health issues that are no joke. He never complains or loses his temper with us (perhaps he does with Unity) and accepts tasks from a first-time game designer who can't even work a calculator, let alone understand programming.

Which is why this version - which I personally expected to be out in April - still isn’t ready. Knowing our difficulties doesn’t change reality and give our players new content, but I hope it shows you the state we’re in.

To be frank, I wish I hadn’t put this feature in the game and I'm still unsure if we should keep working on it. I don't think it's worth the damage it’s done to our finances (or review score) over the past 6 months. The trickle of money we earn from AS is more important than ever due to day job losses from the coronavirus pandemic, but that precious money is currently flowing into a feature that is purely cosmetic and adds probably less than 30 minutes to an average play time (the extra time coming from people gawping at the path system and wanting to expand their town further). My mysterious calculator says we'd have to sell about 3000 copies to break even on this feature. And we sold 200 copies last month. Hmm… I think I'm learning something important about videogame production.

We're in a problem of our own making. This is not me begging for sympathy or complaining to you, our wonderful players. This is me publicly sharing my own idiocy and learning painful lessons as a developer.

Which I guess is what a dev blog is for!


Blame the Banished Guy!

All this hassle and delay with the path system has forced me to look at the deeper problems in our company, problems that have blighted our team since day 1.

What is our biggest problem as a team?

We’re slow.

Why are we slow?

I (jokingly) blame the guy who made Banished.

5 and a half years ago, back when we were starry eyed noobies who wanted to try and make our first ever game, we decided to make a 3D city builder (as opposed to a 16-bit style 2D game like most sane startups). If one person made Banished, we wondered, how hard could it be for 3 beginners to make a similar game? But I didn’t realise at the time that the guy who made Banished had 10 years industry experience. Nor did I think twice about designing a game even more technically ambitious than Banished. In Banished you could only look down, you could only build in a flat forest, and you could only build in a grid system. Wouldn't it be cool if we did away with all those technical limitations on our first ever game?! I'm sure first-time coder Nick can make all that while simultaneously pumping out new buildings and gameplay features to keep the fans happy.

Well, here we are. 5 and a half years later. Still wrestling and suffering from the implications of these early naive decisions.

If we hadn't recruited a second part-time coder (Adam) by simply begging on Reddit, all our working hours would be consumed with fighting the technical foundations of Atomic Society. That’s not how you make an Early Access smash hit. But like all the stickiest problems, we were just good enough to scrape through the hard work rather than hitting a brick wall. If we'd hit a brick wall it might have actually forced us face harsh truths. Instead, we discovered if we banged our heads against any problem long enough it went away, at least for a while.

But I don’t recommend headbutting as a long-term career.

On top of struggling with over-ambition, one of the worst parts was not even knowing the path we'd chosen was supposed to be hard. We work in relative isolation. I personally don’t have any other developers to talk with. Working in a vacuum can all too easily lead to blaming your co-workers, or blaming yourself, when in fact nobody's to blame. It's just that you're in an extremely difficult situation.

Which is why I was deeply relieved when I recently stumbled across a dev blog written by the man who actually made Banished…

Perhaps you wondered why there hasn’t been a Banished 2. At least one of the reasons is he's having the exact same struggles we are. He's trying to make a game that is a lot more like Atomic Society on a technical level. Large portions of his dev blog could’ve been written word for word by me.

​This man made Banished. He is certainly not behind schedule because he lacks talent or experience. But no matter who you are, certain game features are painfully time consuming and difficult to implement. And unfortunately, we decided to make our first game with a bunch of these features.

To any aspiring indie dev reading this, beware! Here be monsters. Especially the most vicious monster of 3D pathfinding. AI pathfinding is literally a full time job on bigger teams. Stick to games where the AI is on a Super Mario level of complexity. We spent much of the last version redoing our pathfinding system to eliminate bugs and now we're spending even more time trying to integrate a new feature into the pathfinding system.

And it's bleeding us dry.

Brick Wall Time At Last?

The real reason our team is slow is not just because we tried to expand on Banished. We also add features that have no financial benefit, and we proudly stick with them even if they prove to be incredibly difficult to do. I’m astounded by my own naivety.

Right up to the present version we assigned tasks by me asking Nick or Adam "is this feature doable", which basically means "can it be done in 3 months"? If the answer was yes, we just went for it. I never stopped to think of the value of said feature.

Let's assume you're in the privileged position of being able to pay your development staff (British) minimum wage. 3 people working full-time for 3 months on a single feature means that little feature will cost nearly £14,000 in wages, and that's assuming it doesn't run late. 14k decisions should not be taken lightly, it's the price of a small car. But we'd been working for free for so long before coming to Steam that we'd developed bad habits, like implementing whatever felt good at the time. And if a thing took ages to make, we had nothing to lose but time and sanity. That kind of attitude doesn't lead to a sustainable salary.

These recurring mistakes placed us in a vicious circle. We’re running out of money fighting problems we shouldn’t be fighting in the first place, and because we’re distracted and exhausted from fighting such problems, we lose momentum on updates and serious bugs slip into the game, which leads to bad reviews, more delays and lower sales.

I like to be as open as possible on these blogs because most people presumably aren’t hate-reading them, and maybe they'll help someone out, so I don't mind saying that in 6 months our little company will be flat broke, broke to the point of literally going (back) to the welfare office. In January we had 12 months runway (Silicon Valley speech for “time to poverty”) and we blew half of that on this path system. I know we’re talented enough to eventually make it through anything - even going bust - but there has to be more to life than survival.

I think I made a whole game about that...

What To Do?

In summary, we're insanely ambitious (emphasis on the "insane") when we should be ultra cautious because we're poor beginners. Technically simple games sell just fine. We choose tasks with little consideration of their financial implications and whether they will meaningfully increase player engagement (and therefore sales). And we're stuck making a game that requires 6 months of work to implement cosmetic features. These sound like obvious mistakes, and they are, but until now we were in a survival mentality of "just get it done".

​At least now I know why Atomic Society has been such a slog. The next question is what to do about it...

The simplest but scariest solution is to totally scrap the dreaded path system that’s taken 6 months, fix the worst bugs in the game, and let Atomic Society be what it is: a small but at least stable and cheap curiosity on the Steam store. Most of our bad reviews are about bugs rather than content, which is understandable. We'd fix them and move onto a (much, much simpler) new project with all our hard earned knowledge before poverty really kicks in around Christmas and perhaps live to fight another day. This is probably the smart choice.

But can I really ask Nick to scrap all his work from the past half year, just chalk it up to a learning experience, and give up on a feature that is probably 90% complete? If I wait a week or two it might all come together…

And more importantly, am I willing to walk away from my beloved Atomic Society?

I recently went through our task list, getting rid of ideas that would never get done (employing a little of that cost analysis stuff) and just erasing plain bad ideas that were invented 4 years ago. After this long clean up, I was still left with 219 features that could make great additions to the game. Ideas ranged from mundane stuff like achievements and foreign language translations to schools and a full on end-game story, involving you taking on the raiders once and for all and being reunited with the people from the bunker. If we put these ideas into the game, we’d have a game to be proud of, right? We'd be an Early Access critical "success".

Maybe. If we’re willing to work for free for another 5 years, and sadly the world has already moved on from this game.

Despite romantic notions of the plucky entrepreneur, nobody really works for free - unless they’re immune from basic survival needs. Somebody has to pay the bills and put food on the table. If it isn’t you, it’s your wife or family or loan shark, etc. We self-funded Atomic Society before Early Access through day jobs, primarily through our artist's (Nani) day job. Her salary allowed the rest of us to focus more on AS. She was the agriculture to our early civilisation. But her day job doesn’t exist anymore thanks to coronavirus.

This all feels like I'm considering a breakup... with a videogame. Atomic Society and our team had a whirlwind romance, we could be so good together, but it's been almost 6 years, and every day feels like a battle. Maybe we could make it work, but maybe the smartest thing is to leave while we're still friends.

I don’t know what the answer is yet. We’ll have to talk as a team, but I think we're getting close to some big, life-changing decisions.

Anyway, that's why the version is running late! :)



Anything Else To Talk About?

The last six months have not just involved 4 people stressing over a path system and deep introspection into one's own business limitations. A few other things are happening...

The Save Bug

Thanks to our players reporting it, we are definitely aware there’s a bug in the game that can sometimes cause saving to freeze at about 50% which is something we want to fix urgently. This is the worst kind of bug but annoyingly it isn’t a bug we’ve been able to reproduce at our end. We’re trying to catch it, but if anybody suffers from this bug, it would be lovely if you could quit the game when it happens and email us a output_log file.

Here’s how to find the file after you've quit the game:



We will fix this bug and your file could make all the difference.

​New Building: Terraforming Station

While Nick has been busy with the path system (understatement alert), Adam has been busy beefing up the patch notes with some new content. We’ve started on a terraforming/mining/digger station (haven’t nailed down the final name).

I’ve heard that players would like more control over the layout of the landscapes and this building will let you do just that. After building it, you can mark out areas for workers to flatten and they’ll go over and crush the landscape, kind of like when you place a building. This should help players expand their town, especially on the more mountainous maps. But naturally, I’m a little concerned about the bugs this might create, as anything that changes the landscape can affect the AI and the dreaded pathfinding won't like that... But we’ll see. Hopefully this isn’t a task hiding a handful of complications. We're trying it out anyway and it's coming together.

Here's Nani's work in progress model for it:



Trees Now Have A Function!

When we released Atomic Society, I was weirdly adamant I didn’t want the game to involve cutting down trees. It sounds foolish, but I was so burnt out on crafting/Minecraft games at the time I just didn’t want to make a game where you start by hacking down trees. I even went so far as to research why cutting down trees might be a bad idea after a nuclear war (they’d be radiation sponges from the toxic rain). This wasn’t just my anti-lumberjack prejudice, there were a few technical issues, like balancing the maps that don’t have many trees, and persuading the pathfinding to cope with disappearing trees (hi pathfinding). Altogether it just didn’t seem worth the effort. But I’ve always wanted to do something about this criticism. Therefore the upcoming version will at least let you gain something from trees.

​The Scavenger Hut now has a radius circle around it (work in progress visually), and the more trees in that radius when you build it, the more bonus lumber you’ll gain on a periodic basis. This increases the strategy in building as you may want to expand towards natural resources and rely less on salvaging. We’ll balance the game so this doesn’t make it too easy, but it's ready to ship.



New Music!

The next version comes with a new track from our composer Dawid Dahl. It’s a special guitar track that will play when you finish all the goals, including the new goal to raise a family/heir.

Working with Dawid on the soundtrack was one of the best creative moments of the whole development process for me, hearing his demo tracks for a game I was designing felt magical. Whatever happens with AS, I'm really happy with our soundtrack.

​And there’ll be a bit more of it in the next version.

Personal: Do I Like Games Again?

To get into the weeds again, around November last year I lost the desire to play games entirely. It wasn’t depression, I’d guess it was burnout from viewing games through a professional lens for too long. I’m someone who wants to make games passionately and scrutinises the slightest detail of almost every game ever made – which is not really how you fall in love with games. It can actually turn you against them. I felt “done” with games.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt such a loss. It happens every so often, but this was the longest time such apathy had stuck around while I was making AS. I got slack at making dev blogs, and lost some of my fire as the unofficial director of our little team, which was contagious on the others, or so my ego likes to think. It also caused inevitable “is this game dead?” forum posts.

Sometimes I think games are kind of pointless, and making them is folly. In a sense I’m right. Games don’t matter. The coronavirus outbreak didn’t change my mind about that when 700+ people were dying every day in my country. I felt trapped. I wanted a career where I don’t have to worry about reviews, missed deadlines, and being paid.

And then as summer bloomed, all my gaming passion came back. For the first time in 6 months, I genuinely wanted to play games again. The burning passion for games that’s been with me since childhood resurfaced. It’s weird, like a tap that can shut off and on. If I had to guess, I’d say I’d matured a bit and started to see games as my best shot at a career no matter what I thought about them - which led to me figuring out the problems with our slow development. Games are not just artistic expression, they're a livelihood.

I’m almost 38, but I’m a part-time janitor. If I want a career, it’s probably make a (popular) game or scrub floors. Scrubbing floors is actually pretty chill, but I like to think I have some talent for designing games too. I don't think it's just coincidence at least 3 big studios took a shot at making a post apocalyptic city builder after us (Frostpunk, Endzone, Surviving the Aftermath), and some even marketed themselves on the law changing aspect. Or maybe it is a coincidence. Either way, I now really want a second swing of the bat and to employ my newfound design knowledge and understanding of game development. I feel ambitious again. We've learnt too much to give up. AS was just the apprenticeship.

​And ultimately playing a good game is just so much fun…

​Where Next?

I've obviously gone on for way too long. This is probably the longest blog I’ve ever written.

To wrap it up, we will come together and decide whether to keep struggling with the path system or just push out what we've got, like the family system and other things above. Or perhaps the path system will suddenly come together at the last minute. Either way, I will try to keep people updated more frequently on how things are going and what the future of the game is.

​I hope somebody benefited from reading my avalanche of words, and that honesty about the project counts for something. Thanks for reading and I hope you're enjoying the apocalypse!





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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #20 on: June 18, 2020, 11:58:35 PM »
Update 8 on the beta branch / full patch notes
Thu, 18 June 2020


A big new update is now available to try


Update 8 for Atomic Society is now available to try on the beta branch, featuring the new family system!


The family system unlocks at year 3. Citizens will award you the new post apocalyptic mansion structure to dominate the skyline of your settlement. Once constructed, it lets you tackle the new challenge of finding a life partner (or three) and raising an heir as your town expands.

Survival and setting laws suddenly seem more impactful when they can have serious consequences for your loved ones. Spouses and kids can and will commit the same social issues as anybody else, which also creates some very darkly amusing stories of life in a post apocalyptic town (don't exile your wife).

Apart from a new building and goal, and changes to scavenging that improve map differences, this version also comes with many bug fixes for all the serious issues players have told us about. Thanks to everyone who took the time to let us know about a bug, we couldn’t have found them all on our own.

To access the beta branch and the new update, here's all you need to do.

1.   Right click Atomic Society in your steam library and select properties.
2.   Select the betas tab and from the drop down menu select "beta - Public beta branch".
3.   You do not need to enter a code for this public beta. Just close the window and in your library Atomic Society will automatically update to the beta version.
4.   You can now play the Atomic Society Beta (or switch back to the main version anytime)!


 
Please do let us know if you discover anything serious or have feedback. We're running a beta to be safe and we may be able to tweak it in the coming week. We've tried to catch everything but being just 3 people it's hard to say for certain. We'll update the main branch of the game as soon as everything looks solid.

(And it sure does feel good to have an update out again…)



 
Update 8 - Family - Patch Notes (Beta)

All the features are now available on the beta branch.

New Content and Improvements:

•   New Feature – Leader’s Mansion & Family After your town has survived 3 years, your people will award you the Leader’s Mansion structure. Building this impressive new structure lets you tackle a new goal – to have a life partner and pass on your unique genetic code to an heir. After choosing who to be with, you can see your spouse (you have up to 3 if that suits you) getting up to mischief in town as you play, and worry about whether or not your children will survive (or be murderers – family members can commit the same traits as ordinary citizens). You can choose to make your family immune from arrest, or let them be locked up like regular criminals but this makes people harder to convert. Laws you set will impact who you can be with in the first place.
•   The Scavenger’s Hut now passively harvests lumber from any nearby trees at a slow rate. This change makes the placement of the Scavenger’s Hut a lot more strategic. You must now consider how close it is to ruins while trying to get the most from any nearby trees. This change also means forest maps play differently to desert and snow maps.
•   In response to player feedback, the bonus Raider Story Event can now be enabled or disabled whenever you start a new game for those who just want to build in peace (though you still need guard towers to make people feel safe). However, because the Raiders are now optional, their impact has been scaled up (it varies by difficulty) making the Story Event a lot more damaging if you do switch it on. We have also changed the wording around the Raiders to make it clear they're simply a text-based story event.
•   The Town Leader will now automatically keep salvaging after finding a bag upgrade, until that new bag is full.
•   A new guitar-based song (“Safe”) has been added to the soundtrack. This song will play after all the in-game goals have been completed.
•   The Canteen building is now upgradeable with electricity, allowing more people to visit it simultaneously.
•   Added a new “ultra” graphical preset that has increased shadow distance and resolution. You can switch to it in video options.
•   Several new sound effects added for various actions.
•   Countless UI tweaks implemented. To list a few: buildings with an radius effect (AoE) now display icons on the ground to help players understand what the effect does. The Town Hall stats screen has been made a lot more readable. The Courthouse and Trader UI has been improved. A quick way to access the menu button has been added to the top left. Extra shortcut buttons have been added to the main panel. Almost every menu has had a little touch-up.
•   Several new alert messages added. These will explain what certain features do, or alert you to problems in the town that players were previously overlooking.
•   Several text improvements and adjustments. For example, the opening story now implies the (super-speedy) Town Leader may not necessarily be an ordinary human being but created to rebuild society for the humans - which is interesting when it comes to raising an heir. New game tips have also been added to cover new features and hazards players often fall into. The tutorial has been streamlined and refined. Building descriptions have been made clearer, etc.



Bug Fixes:

This version comes with many important bug fixes…

•   Fixed: A bug that could cause saving to freeze permanently on certain maps with certain ruins. Thanks to our players for finding this and sending us the vital game info to solve it! We are monitoring this one on the beta branch to make sure it's fixed for everyone, but hopefully we've found the cause.
•   Fixed: A bug that let the player try and save while saving, or delete a save while saving thus causing the save process to break.
•   Fixed: A bug where guard tower workers would stop collecting weapons if one of them lost their job while coming back with weapons.
•   Fixed: A bug that meant upgraded guard towers were not protecting structures in the extra radius.
•   Fixed: A bug that could sometimes cause your Town Leader or engineers to teleport across the map if you were following them with the camera as a building was converted.
•   Fixed: The Research Center can no longer be destroyed by raiders or collapse due to lack of repairs in order to prevent a rare and unrepeatable bug where researching could get stuck (you can still manually blow it up).
•   Fixed: A very rare memory leak that could cause the game to crash when loading a saved game under specific circumstances.
•   Fixed: A bug that was letting citizen builders leave work whenever they wanted, thus making them frustratingly ineffective even if they were even slightly unhappy.
•   Fixed: A bug that could sometimes cause the repair building icon to get stuck on the screen if the building collapsed.
•   Fixed: Fixed a bug that caused several sound effects to be unaffected by the volume slider.
•   Fixed: A bug where Enforcers could get confused if Raiders changed a law while they were working on it. Also improved the Enforcer code in general to make them more reliable.
•   Fixed: A bug that caused the food and drink statistics on the Town Hall stats menu to be linked, showing identical numbers. They now show accurate numbers.
•   Fixed: A bug where the leader could get stuck behind the fence after helping to build the Research Center and only moved out by using mouse clicks.
•   Fixed: We’ve reduced the size of the output_log file the game creates while you’re playing to save on hard drive space (and make it easier to email to us if needed).
•   Fixed: A cosmetic bug where construction areas were rotated at a different angle to the way the player had put the building down.
•   Fixed: A few alert messages were spamming the player too frequently (like a Courthouse Lacks Workers, etc). These will appear less often.

Balance Changes:

Here are the latest balance changes in response to player feedback…

•   The beginning of the game has been re-balanced to make the initial citizens survive longer, letting new players get their bearings before people drop dead. This change does not affect hard mode.
•   The canteen has been made a little less thirsty for lumber to encourage players to use it.
•   Guard towers now only need 2 workers so players have more staff to spare.
•   Wind turbines have been re-balanced so that you can only build 1 per 100 citizens, to avoid people exploiting them batteries for trade.
•   The Luxury Tower now takes longer to research, meaning the other houses are suddenly more useful.
•   Citizens are twice as likely to belong to your belief system passively (without needing conversion) so you can spend less time torturing or educating in the Info Station. This should result seeing more convictions in the early game.
•   Tundra is now shrouded in fog of a nuclear winter, making it harder to scavenge as you can’t see as far ahead.
•   As mentioned, if this story event is enabled, the “Raiders have arrived” alert now appears when you hit 200 citizens, not 250. Their chances to kill, destroy, or damage buildings have been slightly increased. The Raiders can still be completely neutralised by upgraded guard towers.

Quick Update On Development

Anybody who read the last recent dev blog will know we've had a real battle on our hands with this version and went down some development dead-ends that really slowed us down.

This version was supposed to have a "star" feature of a visible path system but we just couldn't iron out the technical hassles. When I last wrote we were at a crossroads about what to do. In the end, even though it was 80% complete, we made the painful choice to scrap 6 months of hard and costly work in order to get this update finished and save the company.

This update is not quite as full as I'd like therefore, but at least we're back on track, and Update 8 does noticeably improve the game.

We've done some serious analysis of where we've been going wrong on a production and design level this month, with thanks to some wonderful advice from a more experienced indie dev. The passion and excitement is back as never before. We're going to go for broke addressing the remaining player complaints and requests in a practical and timely manner from now on as we head the Early Access finishing line.

We're here to shape the game with our players and no review or forum post will be left unattended. Last week I studied and catalogued every single review (including all the bad ones, needed a beer after that!) and all recent forum posts to find out what essential areas we still need to look at. We're now designing practical solutions that can fit into the game and are doable, given we're a first time, no budget part-time team. I'll have a lot more to say about this new focus (and our restored love of making this game) in the next dev blog, including a totally refreshed Early Access roadmap to show people how we intend to finish this game… and maybe save our sanity and company in the process.

Thanks to everyone who tries the beta and for all the supportive players who have helped us keep going. Making games is never easy but it didn't need to be as hard as we were making it. Hope you enjoy the new update. You won't have to wait as long for the next one.


 
Keep In Touch

Any questions, ideas, suggestions please make a post on the forum. I'll read all comments down below of course. Alternatively you can contact me below. Always happy to chat with players who are interested in the game, though bear in mind I have a day job, but I'll get back to you.

Good luck raising a family in the apocalypse!



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Re: Atomic Society
« Reply #21 on: June 25, 2020, 01:07:04 AM »
Update 8 Now Out On Main Branch
Wed, 24 June 2020



Following a successful week on the beta branch, Update 8 is now available on the main branch for all players to enjoy. As mentioned, this update bring the new Leader’s family system, for you to take on the challenge of having a spouse and heir, many vital bug fixes, and a lot of smaller improvements.

Patch notes are repeated below. Thanks to everybody who took the time to try the game during the beta.

We’re hopeful we’ve caught all the serious bugs, but we’ll continue to monitor bug reports and forum feedback of course.

New Development Roadmap

Our old feature roadmap was a bit out of date and I’ve now updated it to show what our core focus is for finishing Atomic Society:

You can read it here, on the discussion forum https://steamcommunity.com/app/514500/discussions/0/2572067496656687982/

Comments, ideas and suggestions are welcome as always. We’re really trying to shape the core of Atomic Society around what players do and don’t enjoy (as best we can with our tiny team and day jobs) so the more we get the better! Thanks for helping to make the game better.

Coming Next

Work has already started on Update 9 with new little improvements already being added. The main goal of this update is polish and stability before we carry on adding major new content to make sure everything is working as intended. The good news is this means it shouldn’t take so long to get out (by our standards) as there isn’t any scary epic new feature for us to tear our (remaining) hair out over!

I promise to keep in touch with dev blogs even if the blog is just me basically saying “everything is on fire” as one thing I learnt from my last blog is that players just want to know what’s going on, even if things aren’t going well, that's part of the Early Access journey. However we've really changed a lot about how we work this summer, so I'm hoping we can get better updates out faster. That's the plan.


Update 8 - Family - Patch Notes (Final)

New Content and Improvements:

•   New Feature – Leader’s Mansion & Family After your town has survived 3 years, your people will award you the Leader’s Mansion structure. Building this impressive new structure lets you tackle a new goal – to have a life partner and pass on your unique genetic code to an heir. After choosing who to be with, you can see your spouse (you have up to 3 if that suits you) getting up to mischief in town as you play, and worry about whether or not your children will survive (or be murderers – family members can commit the same traits as ordinary citizens). You can choose to make your family immune from arrest, or let them be locked up like regular criminals but this makes people harder to convert. Laws you set will impact who you can be with in the first place.
•   The Scavenger’s Hut now passively harvests lumber from any nearby trees at a slow rate. This change makes the placement of the Scavenger’s Hut a lot more strategic. You must now consider how close it is to ruins while trying to get the most from any nearby trees. This change also means forest maps play differently to desert and snow maps.
•   In response to player feedback, the bonus Raider Story Event can now be enabled or disabled whenever you start a new game for those who just want to build in peace (though you still need guard towers to make people feel safe). However, because the Raiders are now optional, their impact has been scaled up (it varies by difficulty) making the Story Event a lot more damaging if you do switch it on. We have also changed the wording around the Raiders to make it clear they're simply a text-based story event.
•   The Town Leader will now automatically keep salvaging after finding a bag upgrade, until that new bag is full.
•   A new guitar-based song (“Safe”) has been added to the soundtrack. This song will play after all the in-game goals have been completed.
•   The Canteen building is now upgradeable with electricity, allowing more people to visit it simultaneously.
•   Added a new “ultra” graphical preset that has increased shadow distance and resolution. You can switch to it in video options.
•   Several new sound effects added for various actions.
•   Countless UI tweaks implemented. To list a few: buildings with an radius effect (AoE) now display icons on the ground to help players understand what the effect does. The Town Hall stats screen has been made a lot more readable. The Courthouse and Trader UI has been improved. A quick way to access the menu button has been added to the top left. Extra shortcut buttons have been added to the main panel. Almost every menu has had a little touch-up.
•   Several new alert messages added. These will explain what certain features do, or alert you to problems in the town that players were previously overlooking.
•   Several text improvements and adjustments. For example, the opening story now implies the (super-speedy) Town Leader may not necessarily be an ordinary human being but created to rebuild society for the humans - which is interesting when it comes to raising an heir. New game tips have also been added to cover new features and hazards players often fall into. The tutorial has been streamlined and refined. Building descriptions have been made clearer, etc.


 
Bug Fixes:

This version comes with many important bug fixes…
•   Fixed: A bug that could cause saving to freeze permanently on certain maps with certain ruins. Thanks to our players for finding this and sending us the vital game info to solve it! We are monitoring this one on the beta branch to make sure it's fixed for everyone, but hopefully we've found the cause.
•   Fixed: A bug that let the player try and save while saving, or delete a save while saving thus causing the save process to break.
•   Fixed: A bug where guard tower workers would stop collecting weapons if one of them lost their job while coming back with weapons.
•   Fixed: A bug that meant upgraded guard towers were not protecting structures in the extra radius.
•   Fixed: A bug that could sometimes cause your Town Leader or engineers to teleport across the map if you were following them with the camera as a building was converted.
•   Fixed: The Research Center can no longer be destroyed by raiders or collapse due to lack of repairs in order to prevent a rare and unrepeatable bug where researching could get stuck (you can still manually blow it up).
•   Fixed: A very rare memory leak that could cause the game to crash when loading a saved game under specific circumstances.
•   Fixed: A bug that was letting citizen builders leave work whenever they wanted, thus making them frustratingly ineffective even if they were even slightly unhappy.
•   Fixed: A bug that could sometimes cause the repair building icon to get stuck on the screen if the building collapsed.
•   Fixed: Fixed a bug that caused several sound effects to be unaffected by the volume slider.
•   Fixed: A bug where Enforcers could get confused if Raiders changed a law while they were working on it. Also improved the Enforcer code in general to make them more reliable.
•   Fixed: A bug that caused the food and drink statistics on the Town Hall stats menu to be linked, showing identical numbers. They now show accurate numbers.
•   Fixed: A bug where the leader could get stuck behind the fence after helping to build the Research Center and only moved out by using mouse clicks.
•   Fixed: We’ve reduced the size of the output_log file the game creates while you’re playing to save on hard drive space (and make it easier to email to us if needed).
•   Fixed: A cosmetic bug where construction areas were rotated at a different angle to the way the player had put the building down.
•   Fixed: A few alert messages were spamming the player too frequently (like a Courthouse Lacks Workers, etc). These will appear less often.

Balance Changes:

Here are the latest balance changes in response to player feedback…
•   The beginning of the game has been re-balanced to make the initial citizens survive longer, letting new players get their bearings before people drop dead. This change does not affect hard mode.
•   The canteen has been made a little less thirsty for lumber to encourage players to use it.
•   Guard towers now only need 2 workers so players have more staff to spare.
•   Wind turbines have been re-balanced so that you can only build 1 per 100 citizens, to avoid people exploiting them batteries for trade.
•   The Luxury Tower now takes longer to research, meaning the other houses are suddenly more useful.
•   Citizens are twice as likely to belong to your belief system passively (without needing conversion) so you can spend less time torturing or educating in the Info Station. This should result seeing more convictions in the early game.
•   Tundra is now shrouded in fog of a nuclear winter, making it harder to scavenge as you can’t see as far ahead.
•   As mentioned, if this story event is enabled, the “Raiders have arrived” alert now appears when you hit 200 citizens, not 250.

Their chances to kill, destroy, or damage buildings have been slightly increased. The Raiders can still be completely neutralised by upgraded guard towers.





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Atomic Heart

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