King under the Mountain

Created by Rocket Jump Technology

A simulation-based settlement-building strategy/management game set in a fantasy world, for PC, Mac and Linux.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

The Z-level Verdict
10 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 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
10 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!

One thousand dwarf stress test version now live!
10 months ago – Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 11:07:23 PM

Hello and welcome to all the new Kickstarter backers! Thank you so much for joining us here :)

I've mentioned in a few places that an earlier version of the game worked (albeit struggling a little bit) with 40,000 dwarves on-screen at once. Understandably, there was a lot of doubt around this claim when other games in the same genre can tend to struggle when the number of characters gets to dozens. What better way to prove it then adding a "stress test mode" to the current prototype that starts the game with 1000 settlers rather than the (I think) 22 it currently loads with?

Well now you can download the new build (Pre-alpha 6.12) from and try it out for yourself with 1000 settlers at once!

1000 dwarves!
1000 dwarves!

I'd love to know if anyone has any issues with the new stress test mode, and if you do, it's probably easiest to swing by the official Discord server and say hi.

In other news the Kickstarter campaign itself is still going great! Depending on which campaign tracker you look at we're roughly on course to hit at least one of the stretch goals. That said, I'm surprised we've managed to maintain the initial momentum so long (into the second week of the campaign now), and it's more likely to flatten out a bit over the next week or two. To keep that from happening, we need *your* help! 

It's very difficult these days to get mentioned in the mainstream gaming press as a Kickstarter from an unknown indie developer (though having a playable prototype showing that the game exists should help), so instead, if you're excited about the potential of this game then please let your friends and gaming communities know to help spread the word. Word of mouth is the only real way to spread the news of interesting video game Kickstarter campaigns in 2018, so anything you do really does make a difference!

And as always, thank you so much for being a backer of King under the Mountain!

100% funded! Also, stretch goals coming soon!
10 months ago – Sat, Jul 21, 2018 at 11:30:35 PM

100% Funded!

We're 4 days into the campaign and we've just hit the £10,000 goal which is absolutely fantastic news! While I've had very high hopes for this Kickstarter campaign, I don't think I'd ever have expected to maintain the momentum from day 1 to hit the goal so quickly! Thank you so much to each and every one of you - and now you can all look forward to receiving the first alpha early next year!

Stretch Goals

King under the Mountain has always had quite an ambitious development roadmap (as you can see here, although note there's still details missing from that list). Regardless of how successful the Kickstarter campaign is, the plan is always to implement everything on that list at least up to the 1.0 release section. It would be a bit disingenuous to take things from the roadmap and list them as stretch goals if I plan to do it anyway, so instead I'm going to look at the "2.0" features which are currently listed as potentially paid DLC or expansions.

I'm going to be listing the "Play as a lone wizard" and "Play as a necromancer" major updates (essentially new "races" to play as) as stretch goals, where is the stretch goal is reached it will be a large free expansions for everyone, in the same way as Enter the Gungeon launched their large free update recently. 

These will still come after the major 1.0 release, so it's a long way down the road, but I'm confident with the extra funding boost we might secure through this campaign is enough to be able to commit to these new, exciting game modes in the future.

And finally...

I'm pleased to announce we're officially signed up with Backerkit to use their excellent post-campaign pledge manager tools. You'll be receiving an email from Backerkit after the end of the Kickstarter campaign to confirm your pledge and any add-on rewards you'd like to add. If you've increased your pledge amount to cover any add-on rewards, this is how they'll be sorted out and confirmed. I've had a great experience using Backerkit as a backer of many other Kickstarter campaigns myself so I'm sure they're the best choice for King under the Mountain.

24 hours in - Nearly 50% funded!
10 months ago – Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 07:28:39 PM

Thank you everyone for backing the game and joining us on the adventure! It's been a phenomenal response so far with us coming up towards 50% only 24 hours after launch! Very confident that means we'll hit the goal and this will be a successful Kickstarter!

In the meantime a few people have been confused with the add-on rewards. It works like this:

  • You pick any of the pledge levels on the Kickstarter (and thank you!)
  • You can then modify your pledge by any amount, to cover the combinations (or multiples) of add-on rewards that you'd like to receive. This is entirely optional.
  • After the campaign has finished, you'll receive an email to a post-campaign pledge manager which will let you pick and choose which rewards you would like to receive using the amount that you have pledged.

Also if you missed the first update, we've launched a Discord server if you want to chat with the community, you can join at