September 2018 Update - Post-Kickstarter Party
12 days ago
– Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 05:53:03 PM
Hello and welcome to the return of the regular monthly dev update for King under the Mountain! The last one was put out in June, because the Kickstarter ran over July and August. That feels like a lifetime ago now with how much work and energy went into promoting and managing the campaign, but it turns out it was all worth it because it was a great success!
I've said it many times before but thank you so much to each and every one of you who have backed the game in some way! It's a dream come true for me to be able to bring in funding to focus on the game's development and get it to release that much quicker!
The planning for, running of, and post-campaign management for a Kickstarter campaign takes up a lot of time, which unfortunately meant that game development was put on hold for the duration. The great news is that the funds brought in will enable me to increase the artwork, music and sound budget as well as dedicate a lot more of my time to game development, in fact I'll be taking a 3 month sabbatical from the day job to focus 100% on King under the Mountain which really should kick-start development straight up to the Alpha 1 release in February!
If you're a backer of the Kickstarter campaign and/or a backer of the Patreon, you should now have received an email inviting you to BackerKit to claim your rewards. Any and all contributions made to the Patreon (in USD) were converted to GBP at a rate of 1 USD = 0.777189 GBP as this was the exchange rate on the day the Patreon contributions were added to BackerKit. There's quite a bit of info to run through regarding the BackerKit so here's a Q&A:
I didn't receive or have lost my BackerKit email: You can retrieve it from https://kingunderthemountain.backerkit.com/ If that doesn't work for you either, please message me through Kickstarter or Patreon. if you have received your survey, please complete it ASAP (you can change it later) so I can spend less time chasing down those people who don't fill them in.
When will the BackerKit survey be locked out to changes / when will my card be charged? BackerKit prefer project creators to charge cards less than 30 days before rewards are sent out, so any refunds over disputes can be processed in that 30 day window. The main part of rewards from the campaign will be the sending of the Alpha 1 game keys, which is due for mid-February. Due to this date, card details in BackerKit won't be charged until mid-to-late January. If you'd prefer your card to be charged now instead, that's fine and can be done, just email me at email@example.com and I'll get it processed. As cards won't be charged until early next year, I'll be leaving the BackerKit surveys open to modification until the end of 2018.
My card was declined on Kickstarter, what should I do? You will still receive the BackerKit email, you'll be prompted to fill in card details on BackerKit to make up for the funds missing from your Kickstarter pledge. You can also change your pledge to a lower or higher pledge amount, if you wish.
When will I receive or be asked about the other rewards i.e. content design rewards? These will be in several phases throughout development of the project, after Alpha 1 has been released. I'll be back with more details in the future.
And with that out of the way I can get onto the actual development update!
By far the most-requested feature for the playable prototype was the ability to save and load the game, which admittedly is a super important feature you'd just expect to be there in a game of this type. So that's what I've been working on since the Kickstarter finished (well, other than some small quality of life improvements). It's a very big feature in terms of development effort and not at all interesting or visual to be able to show any progress. Really just to say I'm beavering away at saving/loading games and hopefully next month it'll be done and I'll be able to tell you what I've gone on to then!
In the meantime, now is a perfect opportunity to throw any questions you may have into the comments. Also if you've not already, you can join in to the community Discord server at https://discord.gg/M57GrFp to chat with other backers of the game or throw any questions my way as I'm usually online if I'm awake :)
End of campaign wrap-up and thanks!
about 1 month ago
– Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 10:10:23 PM
Well we're finally at the end of the campaign and it nearly broke £22,000! That's an amazing result as it looked like it was going to be lucky to hit £20k for most of the campaign, there's been a real surge in the last few days so thank you to those of you who've just joined the adventure, and of course to each and every one of you for backing the game!
What happens next?
Until end of August - The very next thing is that Kickstarter will be processing pledges and charging your cards. If your card is declined please sort it out as soon as you can, as that sets things back for everyone. I'll be adding a few quality of life improvements to the game which have been requested by players during the Kickstarter campaign and that haven't already been implemented in one of the updates to Pre-Alpha 6.
Mid-September - Once the funds have been released by Kickstarter I'll be sending out the BackerKit pledge manager for you to confirm your pledge and any add-ons you'd like to select (you don't need to do anything until you receive an email asking you to claim your rewards from the campaign). You'll also have the opportunity to switch to a different pledge level if you wish while the pledge manager is still open. I'll be working on the first of the Alpha 1 features - saving and loading games! Most likely the monthly dev updates will start up again here too (you can read the previous ones here) and they'll be sent out as Kickstarter updates.
Rest of 2018 - Thanks to the funds brought in from this Kickstarter I'll be able to devote much, much more time to development of King under the Mountain than I have so far, which really is a dream come true, thank you so much for your support! I'll be working on the features that make up the Alpha 1 release detailed on the roadmap. The BackerKit pledge manager will stay open for modifications by you during this time, most likely until the end of December.
January 2019 - Any extras you've selected in BackerKit beyond what you pledged in the Kickstarter will be charged to your card. This will be done in January because BackerKit prefer project creators to charge cards no more than a month before rewards are due to be shipped out (there's something of an assumption that Kickstarter rewards will be physical) so that if someone wants a refund it can be processed within 30 days of the charge. I'll be beavering away to get everything ready for...
February 2019 - Alpha 1 release! If everything goes to plan you'll receive an itch.io key for your all-new paid-for digital download for the first alpha version of King under the Mountain. From here the plan is to release monthly or bi-monthly updates following the development roadmap, all the way up to version 1.0. One of the first major updates following Alpha 1 is to open up modding support so you can start adding to the game yourselves (if you so wish!)
Why itch.io? Why not Steam or GOG or...?
First of all, King under the Mountain won't be going to Steam Early Access until at least halfway through the development cycle of Alpha 1 to full release. Despite the "Early Access" moniker, the Steam audience isn't very forgiving for rough and early versions of games that launch on the platform. I'm certain that if Alpha 1 went straight to Steam Early Access, it'd be bombarded with negative reviews for being very incomplete and nowhere near the fun game it has the potential to be. This would be absolutely disastrous to the income potential of the game, and by extension the development budget, so don't expect to see a Steam version until the game is much more polished and final than it will be upon the Alpha 1 release. This is the approach taken by some incredibly successful indie games, even ones well-suited to Early Access like Factorio, Kerbal Space Program, Prison Architect and Rimworld - they all spent a significant amount of time available to purchase and play in an early form before moving to Steam when they were more developed, and the resulting Steam reviews and sales figures show this approach to be a winning strategy.
So now that Steam is initially ruled out, why itch.io? In short it has all the features I could want for hosting and managing the game's downloads - there's command line tools and a build plugin to automatically upload new builds to their site, and even an API for the game itself to check for new updates to let you know if the game has an update available and you're not using their download manager (so you don't have to use their app - knows as itch - if you don't want to, but it's recommended). Once the game does progress to Steam Early Access, you'll receive a steam key for each itch.io key you received.
What about content design rewards e.g. design a settler?
Please note that despite the "estimated delivery date" being February 2019, this doesn't apply to all the content design rewards, which covers almost every extra reward other than the game itself. This is because in some cases (design a settler) I'd rather have more content in place (such as more variety in hairstyles and beards) or even that the content won't exist for a while (new races of orcs and humans). Stay tuned for details on how you'll be able to manage and design these rewards, but for now I can say that you'll be able to change any choices you make in the design of your settlers, so if you make a dwarven settler for now, you can change it to an orc or human when those races are released and your settler in the game will be updated appropriately.
Paying it forward
And finally, if you're already feeling withdrawal symptoms due to not following a live Kickstarter campaign and are interested in something similar to King under the Mountain, check out Kubifaktorium by Dr. Mirko Seithe. It's a colony builder with a strong focus on automation and transport systems, partly inspired by Factorio which is another favourite of mine. Similarly they have a free demo available from Itch.io so you can see the game already exists and is well into development.
The developer has previously released Boss Constructor which also looks great (it's on my wishlist but I seem to spend all my free time developing a certain game), so at least you know they've already successfully developed and released a game previously unlike other Kickstarter games (like ours!) which come from an unknown developer.
Please let me know if you've any questions in the comments. If you want to get involved in the King under the Mountain community, either jump in to our Discord server or start posting in the r/KingUnderTheMountain subreddit. Otherwise I'll see you in the next update!
Final 48 hours!
about 1 month ago
– Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 12:00:52 AM
It's the exciting last 48 hours of the campaign and time to give it that final push! I've already messaged the great majority of you individually, but just to ask kindly again - if you're part of any gaming communities or news sites that you think might be interested in King under the Mountain, please do let them know and let's get the word out in the last two days!
I'll be putting out a bigger update when the campaign finishes to explain what's next, but for now, thank you so much again for backing King under the Mountain, it really means a huge amount to me and the rest of the team that there's so many people (over 1000!) bought into the vision of the game already, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback has been fantastic :)
The Z-level Verdict
about 2 months ago
– Tue, Aug 07, 2018 at 11:32:45 PM
If you've not seen it already, the previous update went into detail on "the Z level question", so check that out first if you're wondering what that means. In short I was listing the pros and cons of including Z-levels in the game (at great time and cost) and asking for feedback from you guys.
And what a response! Over 90% of the comments were of the general opinion that Z-levels shouldn't be added based on: wanting to stick to the current exciting roadmap; not really working with the visual style (3D or isometric would be a different story); and generally just not fitting with my original vision for the game which would massively extend the timeline/delivery of the game and add a lot more work (or rather time) to development.
That's the view I'd already come to myself, but it's great to have so much of the community validating that decision. I realise there's something of an echo chamber effect with only people that have backed the Kickstarter able to comment on the update, so there's some bias compared to the gaming community at large, but I think it's sufficient evidence that the majority would rather I keep working to my vision of the game, to make it the fun game I always wanted to play, rather than open up to (more) scope creep and features with a poor cost/benefit ratio requested by a more vocal minority.
In the end, there were maybe 2 major reasons that people wanted Z-levels to be included: to add to the exploration and discovery aspect of the map, and to simply have more space - and more interesting space - to construct the settlement within. There's now a new update at rocketjumptechnology.itch.io/king-under-the-mountain-prototype which more than doubles the available map size. You'll notice there are now some very large mountain areas, and within these mountains are large cavernous regions which in the final game will be populated with interesting flora and fauna to discover. Digging further into the mountain brings with it the risk of digging deeply into one of these caverns which could contain a hostile civilisation (or worse) but also access to more valuable raw materials, which is one of the requested benefits of multiple levels. The other point is also somewhat covered by there being an inclusion of an "underground" layer for laying out pipes and mechanisms for the player to build interesting traps and contraptions with the actual gears and machinery hidden away. Finally there will be the opportunity to discover cave entrances to deeper levels which can be explored with a team of adventurers to uncover loot and hidden dangers (before they come after you first), which loops back in to the gameplay mechanic of exploring what's living underneath the mountain.
All in all I hope this satisfies the majority of reasons people wanted to have Z-levels in the game, but without the massively increased cost and time which would have threatened lots of other features on the roadmap and keeping the game on track to release and according to what's been promised in the Kickstarter. I'm sure there'll be players who are ultimately disappointed that Z-levels will not be included, but as the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time, so I'm going to stick to my vision of the game as something that I've always wanted to play myself, so I hope that you'll join me on that journey!
The Z-level Question
about 2 months ago
– Thu, Aug 02, 2018 at 07:09:06 PM
Hello backers! For those of you who aren't aware, by far the most common feedback the game receives is that people are disappointed about the lack of "Z levels" i.e. multiple levels to turn the game from playing on a 2D plane into mutiple 2D planes stacked on top of each other (effectively making the game 3D, though still from a 2D viewpoint).
Early on in development I decided not to implement Z-levels for a whole bunch of reasons that I'll get to shortly. One of the major benefits to a long early access period is being able to take on and respond to player feedback while the game is still in a malleable state. It'd be a lot of work, but not impossible to take a stab at adding Z-levels while the game is still early in development, so I'd really appreciate any feedback and views on what you guys think about adding Z-levels or not.
To get the ball rolling, here's the reasons I have for not adding Z-levels to the game (and in italics, mitigating factors for each of them):
It's a very complex addition to the codebase. It can be done, but it affects everything, making most other features more complex too, probably adds at least 12 months to the development roadmap in total, during the alpha phase before the game is likely to be profitable. Liquid flows in particular are very difficult to handle in 3D. There's probably no getting around this one.
It's also very complex visually from a 2D viewpoint - Ideally you would want to show levels lower than the current one where there is a gap in the floor, probably either blurred or greyed out in some form. Being able to represent walls and ramps across many floors at once in "2D" is probably just too difficult without a full time artist on the team (which the budget won't allow for until the game becomes very successful, if ever). The compromise would probably end up only showing the current floor and nothing above or below, levels below the current one would be completely featureless. I really don't like this compromise, if there were Z-levels, I would really want to show things on layers below the current one, but I don't think this can be done well with the art style of the game, I believe true 3D or an isometric viewpoint would be needed.
Even taking away the problems with showing multiple floors at once, "ramps" / tiles which represent a floor tile arching up to the next level, are very complicated to represent due to the many different layouts they may end up being in. It's not great but probably doable while cutting some corners.
The true dynamic lighting is already very complex and most likely too difficult to extend into working across multiple floors. Dynamic lights would end up only illuminating the floor they're on with no spill-over to adjacent levels, which wouldn't be great.
Rather than the map being, say, 200,000 tiles, that number is multiplied by how many floors there are, a minimum would probably be 10 so we're looking at maps of 2,000,000 tiles or several times more, which probably pushes lower-spec machines out of being supported (perhaps not a big issue by the year the game is fully released) and potentially slows everything down a bit too much. Much more memory use which is already quite high for such a simple looking game. It'd definitely kill off 32-bit support, though I'm heading that way anyway. That said, the game is written with some good performance tweaks and I think it could be managed.
(Perhaps the most important one) The game becomes a lot more complex to play, Dwarf Fortress veterans will be fine but newcomers to the genre might struggle or be confused with not being able to see everything that is going on very easily. Is the game really not approachable when split over multiple levels? As an alternative and part of "play it your way", there could simply be an option to play on a 2D map for those who prefer it.
(Most important to me) Following that, even if you're fine with and get used to navigating your own settlement in 2D slices of a 3D map, a huge feature of King under the Mountain is exploring other people's settlements. These would go from having simple to understand layouts and entry points to a potential nightmare of lots of tunnels and stairs hidden away in a very confusing labyrinth of levels to navigate. Don't think this can be helped either, other than people playing on 2D maps only getting to explore other 2D maps as a compromise. Don't really like the sound of that.
Although a lot of combat will be melee-focused, ranged combat across multiple levels gets really, really complex fast. Line of sight is difficult to account for both for the developer and the player when they can't see what's going on easily. Imagine approaching a fortress across a plain only to be riddled with arrows from a tall watchtower that you couldn't see due to fog of war until you got too close. Disabling ranged combat across levels would be a big no-no so I don't think there's any getting around this one either.
The game is still viewed and played from a 2D plane, you wouldn't be able to see all of your settlement at once which takes away one of the goals of being able to sit back and watch things get done. It sounds small but it's a big factor in the "feel" of the game, as something a bit more chilled out and peaceful (even enjoyable!) than its peers. You could build most of your settlement on the "main" level but there's no way of enforcing this.
And arguments I'm aware of in favour of Z-levels (again with counter-points in italics):
The biggest one is that the game is themed around digging under a mountain, which doesn't feel quite as epic when this is approximated as digging deeper in a sideways direction. The mountain regions on the maps are big and can be a lot bigger, that's a lot of space that's going to be filled with interesting things which you can dig "into" for a long time.
You can come up with interesting layouts for tunnels and traps either underneath or on different levels to your main fort - you could wire up traps and contraptions using gears and mechanisms hidden away on a different level. In 2D I'm planning to include an "underground" layer that is solely for pipes and gears/mechanisms (much like the pipes and electricity cables in Prison Architect) to cover this use case.
It's more efficient for the player to stack rooms on top of each other, or put stockpiles underneath workshops, that kind of thing. I'd much rather have a design constraint on the player of keeping everything on a single plane so settlement layout is more of a challenge, more interesting, to get an efficient layout working.
Z-levels would enable the gameplay feature of digging to deep and too greedily, surely a must for dwarves at least, where the more valuable materials are deeper underground but so are nasty things lying in wait. This can be approximated by digging further "into" a mountain region in 2D or else sending an expedition down a cave entrance to a lower level that is linked to from the settlement but not really part of the settlement itself. Not a great compromise.
The maps are arguably more interesting in 3D, consider the interesting cave systems of Minecraft compared to how much variety is really possible in 2D. The maps are also a lot harder to explore and understand in 3D viewed in a 2D slice. They'd probably have to be relatively flat - not covering anywhere near as many levels as Dwarf Fortress maps do - perhaps numbering multiple levels in single digits. Maybe.
Lots of people seem to want it! I'd love to know more reasons why other than "DF did it and Rimworld didn't". These are the more hardcore player audience and catering too much one way will cut out the more casual end of the audience. That said, I sit on the more hardcore side myself and I'm making this game because it's the game I want to play, I'm expecting it to be a niche product - I'm not planning to appeal to a large audience.
I think that's it from me, I would really appreciate feedback and comments on this one if you have any feelings on it at all!