Exilian

Exilian Projects => Computer Game Development - The Indie Alley => Topic started by: JeffNevington on April 22, 2017, 10:39:44 AM

Title: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 22, 2017, 10:39:44 AM
I have been working on an ant colony management game for a while now and posted around here a few times in relation to that.  We just put out a new demo (with some much overdue performance enhancements) and so it seems like a good time to do an announcement about it in the indie alley.  You can grab the demo (0.064) for Windows here: http://www.indiedb.com/games/empires-of-the-undergrowth/downloads (http://www.indiedb.com/games/empires-of-the-undergrowth/downloads)

It's a bit like the original dungeon keeper, crossed with sim ant. I stress "a bit like", I don't know if we can truly do either of those immortal titles justice. 

You start each level with a queen and a couple of worker ants, and you have to build up from there.  You need to gather food, build more workers and soldiers, and most importantly, defend your queen.  Currently in the demo, you can only explore underground maps - but you can see overground in action on our steam "coming soon" page. http://store.steampowered.com/app/463530 (http://store.steampowered.com/app/463530)

This is how the underground looks (after a lot of digging)
(https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/18056474_1505046949514631_194343206320886119_o.jpg?oh=5845914c28d067b5ddc9edecc318c0df&oe=594D56A2)

And here is a shot of the overground (the beach)
(https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/17158863_1454452661240727_2695192140554555445_o.jpg?oh=8896146d300f4fc7d2ae2d663741521b&oe=5985C3EC)

Our team is really small, there are just three of us, and only one gets to work on the project full-time (slowly eating away at our modest kickstarter pile). We have to try and do as much as we can on a tiny budget. That includes making our own sound effects:

If you have any trouble with the demo or have any feedback or anything else, let me know  :ogre:
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 22, 2017, 05:47:25 PM
Ah yes, I was doing that sound-generation method for my own game recently!

I'll check it out, been looking forward to test-driving this one for a while :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 23, 2017, 12:07:31 PM
That's great. You seem to give everything a go :D

One day it would be nice to have mod support too. A few people have already expressed an interest in making their own scenarios.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 23, 2017, 11:58:54 PM
OK, I've had a few runs through the three available maps!

Main reaction - kudos, it's a lovely game. It looks pretty - not just "looks the part", but the whole thing is really quite visually pleasing, the sounds are good, the controls are smooth and make a lot of sense. I sense there's a lot more content to come, but what's there is already an actual fun game and I've enjoyed playing through it. The fact it's quite scenario-driven thus far perhaps limits replay value a bit, but the scenarios are good fun; the "critters" and "the nest" took me 3-4 attempts each before getting the knack of them. Surrounded I wanted to play more of to see more other enemy bugs but I also enjoyed it less, I think simply because I don't like the "fight waves until you die" RTS scenario style so much.

Detailed thoughts/notes:
- When I first booted it up, the graphics settings were weird and so fuzzy I could barely see the camera until I tweaked them (I should've got a screenshot but didn't, sorry)
- It definitely makes my fan boost up quite a bit faster/laptop heat up a bit, don't know if this is normal
- I definitely wanted more of an info base - like mousing over enemies to see what they were or something (both in terms of their species and in terms of getting some sort of tactical sense of how tough they were). The research is clearly good behind the game, and it would be good to see more of that coming through.
- Similarly I needed a bit more clarity on my own side - I guess some of this may be covered by the tutorial, but even so it might be good to flag up "worker ants are workers, black ants are soldiers" more clearly within the UI.
- UI stuff in the top right corner might be a bit small, I wasn't using it much & found I preferred to just look at where the scent markers were
- I felt like I wanted more tactical options at times, though I imagine this is something that will be fixed as more content comes in/different maps - the scenarios as they are work well for the game as it is, but Critters and The Nest at least are fairly pure rush-tactics styley, especially the second half of The Nest (though that bit is good fun!)
- The scent-trail mechanic works very nicely, I really like that and the way it pushes towards a non-micromanaged playstyle
- For Critters and The Nest, I found there was a strong weighting towards learning a map with a couple playthroughs before winning it - because it's not always clear when you're going to hit a chamber with critters in it, learning roughly where those are gives one a huge advantage

I'd very definitely be interested in scenario building if the option was available :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 24, 2017, 10:03:48 AM
Awesome feedback, thanks!

What you say about it being "scenario driven" hits a chord with me.  We have been aware of this for a while and although I was working on a full blown bot colony AI, it has taken a back seat for the moment as we ramp up to early access (which will be primarily scenario driven).  The fact is that it is much easier for us to make engaging content in this way than create a balanced bot AI that changes tactics.  The plan is to release 4 new scenario style missions for early access (with a bit more of a story, including narration), and a "pet formicarium" mode, which is a bit more free and the danger is controlled by the player.  After that, I want to pour effort back into the bot AI and developing a nice skirmish mode.

I have noticed all sorts of things happening with graphics on first boot of the game.  We need to look into that prior to release. As for your fan - it is a pretty heavy game. We have been working on getting the CPU load down: the main culprits here are movement, collision and individual ant behaviour AI.  The GPU load is also high; this is a symptom of having free reign of UE4 graphics.  There are still optimizations to be made there, but the main thing I think we want to do is make sure that lower graphics settings still look nice (we haven't paid much attention to anything below maximum so far).

Having more info on the species is really important - as they are real species. Hovering over for their name seems sensible - also there is health bar info if you hold down "alt", perhaps that could include some stats too. We want a creature wiki in the game anyway to give all of this information but that's not so helpful in the heat of battle.

Clarity on how to use your ants is understandably difficult.  When I watch people play on Youtube, I find it incredibly frustrating "NO NOT LIKE THAT, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG".  Totally our fault as we have no tutorial yet. Distribution of ants in your groups has a massive effect on colony efficiency, and arguably the most important group (the "home" group) is unlabeled.

More tactical options should emerge as we include more ant species.  The next one planned is a type of wood ant, which sprays acid as a defense mechanism (so.. ranged ants  :P). The introduction of tile-based upgrades should diversify your army more and effect who you want to send in first.

Again - with the scenario based missions, learning the level is a significant part of it.  Actually I don't like chamber shapes being unknown - I don't think we will be having long elaborate cave-ins in the next missions (unless they don't contain enemies).  You should always know if you are about to dig into danger (at least to a large extent).

Really appreciate you taking the time to give such a thorough breakdown of your experience!
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 24, 2017, 11:31:21 PM
No probs, I'll probably have more thoughts when I've played a bit more :)

Additional scenario content sounds good and I definitely think a "campaign mode" would be a decent addition.

Query that's probably quite basic: I've been instinctively putting hatching areas near the queen under the assumption that the workers are supposed to take eggs from the queen to the tiles - is this how it works? Conversely, it doesn't feel like there's any reason to put food tiles near the queen, in "The Nest" I often build small blocks of new ones as I go forwards to make the food-gathering chains shorter and more efficient, don't know if this is how it's intended to work...
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 25, 2017, 02:19:41 PM
Food tiles have actually begun to annoy us as they don't really seem to serve much purpose game-wise. If I was to start again, I would just have the ants bring food to the queen, but they have sort of become woven in and will probably be more trouble than it's worth to remove them.  - You are of course using them as any good strategy player should (putting them near by food as you move further from the queen).  I don't really like this and we are coming up with some quick ways to combat it in future.  Our first plan is to have food tiles be very expensive, but with reduced cost for each neighbouring food tile (so investing in a large food chamber is more sensible than small satellite ones).  This should at least reduce the number of random food tiles that players put wherever they please.  Future plans include having creatures that steal food, and the ability to create food networks (jobs for ants to move food from one storage area to another).

For hatching areas - the workers (primarily those in the far left "home" group) will take eggs from the queen to the tiles, which then hatch at the cost of some food and are then replaced, again by the workers.  Short distance from the queen helps with this, and you start to feel it when you have big nests and are replenishing 30-40 ants after a big battle.  Another thing to consider will be tile upgrades.  Although not available at the moment, if you hold down AltGr, you can see the level of the tiles (graphical representation of level is a WIP).  A tile's level is increased by surrounding tiles and walls; once it reaches a certain level, then you will be allowed to upgrade it (which then in turn increases the level of all those it touches).  This will promote large rooms, enclosed by walls in the final game.  Another thing to be introduced that will effect nest architecture will be that ants will move more slowly over hatchery / food tiles.  This will encourage the player to create corridors with satellite rooms, so that when the ant paths to a location, they avoid built tiles and hence move more quickly.  So even though digging out a massive area will allow ants to travel in straight lines, they wont be as efficient as they would if you had created a network of tunnels.  Hopefully this will organically lead to people building nests that feel more realistic.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 25, 2017, 11:56:33 PM
Hmm, I think just having the neighbouring tiles rule would lead to players making forward-base food zones - I think if you want food to be returned to central areas it may need some mechanism whereby it actually has to be eg carried to the queen in order to spawn eggs or something. Food stealing enemies sounds like a good plan though, and I like the sound of the tunnel requirements.

Does being in the home group make ants much more likely to do egg stuff? I always ended up making a group then tasking it around the queen, which may not have been efficient...
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 26, 2017, 04:36:21 PM
The home group is a strange thing that is left over from before you could actually control the ants with pheromone markers. In the first demo of the game, all you could do was build and the ants were entirely autonomous.  There were no groups and all workers would do jobs including building, digging, carrying eggs, and collecting food automatically; soldiers could only fight and would go toward the nearest enemy, wherever it was.

We then introduced 1 group marker just for soldiers as an experiment (and decreased their aggro range from encompassing the whole map, to just a few tiles), people really appreciated this control.  After that, multiple groups appeared and we muddied the waters with regard to who can do what: we let workers fight, and we let soldiers collect food.

As soldiers could collect food, it started to feel like food shouldn't be universally visible to the ants, and so in the same way as we did for combat, we reduced food detection range to just a few tiles - you must now tell ants to go near food with the marker or they wont collect it.

The three other jobs that only worker ants can do: digging, building and egg carrying are still universally visible (wherever the job is, they will do it).  This is controlled by a 'job manager' that calculates the most efficient distribution of jobs within the nest and then assigns them to workers accordingly; updating periodically and swapping jobs if necessary (see the travelling salesman problem). The job manager also checks if the worker is in a group, and has its pheromone marker placed down: if the marker is not near the job, the job manager won't assign it.  This means if all of your workers are in a group, and that group marker is set in location A, and you dig in location B (far away), no one will come to dig.

If you put your workers in the nest group (or any group with its pheromone marker currently disabled) - the job manager will automatically tell them to take eggs to tiles in an efficient manner.

If you want your workers to prioritise taking eggs to a specific room, you can actually use the pheromone marker to send them to that room; the job manager will then only give them nearby jobs, and they will fill up that room first.  Though, this would probably be a very specific scenario emerging possibly in a future build (say you had a small room of highly upgraded tiles, or specialist ants, and you wanted those replenished before any others).

The nice thing about this whole system is that as long as you tell the player to "keep some workers in the home group", even if they don't really understand the mechanisms behind everything, they can play the game fairly well and it feels quite intuitive.  However, when someone wants to really figure out how to do something efficiently, they need all of this explained properly - and the above is going to be difficult to get across in a short tutorial.  We will try though.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 26, 2017, 11:45:58 PM
I think the main thing you need to help with that from an intuitive perspective is a marker in the UI to show that the home group is a specific home/nest group, rather than just "the bit before you assign workers". So essentially have some sort of little tab marker above it or something, maybe with an image of the queen or similar?
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 27, 2017, 02:48:57 PM
Definitely, It needs a little queen or a house or something like that yeah.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 28, 2017, 11:40:14 PM
Yes, either would work :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: WarpDogsVG on June 03, 2017, 11:19:21 PM
Gonna be following this one, definitely love all the games you list as inspiration, and man, it's crazy there hasn't been a modern version of Sim Ant! Looks great, duder
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Silver Wolf on June 12, 2017, 10:12:39 AM
This looks very interesting, I'll give it a try. ;)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on June 12, 2017, 10:04:11 PM
Can confirm, is indeed very interesting! :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Silver Wolf on June 14, 2017, 03:42:14 PM
I'll have to give it a try next month on my other computer.
My laptop's video card is messing up the game.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on June 15, 2017, 12:38:50 AM
Oh dear - what's happening? Can you get a screenshot?
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Silver Wolf on June 24, 2017, 12:43:13 AM
It's just my old Nvidia (Geforce GT520M cuda) graphics card. ;)
It's probably severely outdated and doesn't seem to be supported. I got a warning about that problem when I started the game.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on June 26, 2017, 02:16:41 PM
Ahh its a shame you couldn't get it working.  That is quite an old card, its worse than integrated intel graphics available these days (which are also not really recommended for gaming). 

We are not entirely sure what the spec requirement will be yet.  So far we have listed "nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB" as the minimum.  It might run with lower spec hardware than that, to a point, but this should give you some idea.

Whilst you are pricing up your new rig, here is a video of our new wolf spider  :ogre:

Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on June 26, 2017, 11:46:06 PM
Ooh lovely :) What species of wolf spider is it, assuming you've gone for a specific one? :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on June 27, 2017, 09:31:23 AM
This is Arctosa littoralis, also known as a Beach Wolf Spider. Her and her spiderlings cause problems for a wood ant colony trying to establish a nest on the beach.  I want to add quite a few more spiders eventually, everyone who played Sim Ant seems to remember the big spider.  For early access we are working on one more spider, Segestria florentina, who is quite different.  She makes funnel webs in cracks and holes, the player will find her underground.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on June 27, 2017, 10:26:45 AM
Oh, lovely :) I really like spiders. If you want any arachnological contacts at any point, my mother is a specialist on the fen raft spider (Dolomedes plantarius) and is conservation officer for the British Arachnological Society so I may be able to be useful there!
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on June 28, 2017, 01:23:01 PM
What an awesome floating beast! This reminds me, we promised fire ant rafts to our backers.  There is a long road of development still to go  :gandalfgrey:.

Although the game doesn't really focus on arachnids, they will no doubt become a major feature and I love making contacts with people interested in the game from a more scientific outreach / biology perspective.  We exhibited the demo at ENTOSCI 2016 (entomology conference for schools) and that went down really well (mostly because we were the only ones with a computer game in a hall of school children.. haha).

We are really busy at the moment as you can imagine, but more opportunities to showcase the game to a niche crowd are always welcome.  If she knows of any events / competitions etc, especially where younger people might be involved, and where promoting a video game wouldn't be frowned upon (that can be a tricky one in this setting), I would be very interested to know.

By the way Jubal - the forum you advised us on is trundling along quite happily.  It isn't growing much anymore but we have some regular visitors now.  It should look nicely established by the time we release the game so thanks for the help with that! -> http://forum.eotugame.com/ (http://forum.eotugame.com/)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on June 28, 2017, 04:57:30 PM
I'll ask some of the contact I have about possible showcase venues etc and see if anyone has any ideas :)

Glad to hear that the forum's doing well! I should really visit it more but time is always against me...
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on July 07, 2017, 05:32:37 PM
Sounds great .

No need to visit the forum, you have enough to deal with here. The main thing is that its working out quite nicely with the fans, I look forward to dealing with hordes of spam on the boards when the game releases.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on July 08, 2017, 06:59:32 PM
Aye, good luck! :)

I included the Arctosa Littoralis as an EotU section for the latest Updates from the Forge newsletter:
http://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5194
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on July 14, 2017, 12:38:41 PM
Awesome description, thanks!  I will let our friends know, I'm sure I know some people who would be particularly interested in Township.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on July 15, 2017, 11:25:30 PM
Thanks, I spotted the tweet - and definitely, the more teams we can get sharing the newsletter, the stronger it & its readership get as a whole, it's a positive feedback loop :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on October 04, 2017, 01:46:02 PM
We are fast closing on our closed beta and early access release.  It's making me very itchy.  There is still no demo update but we are considering producing another just after release with the latest, much needed optimizations.

I have a nice selection of images and videos for the last month of progress here, things are really coming on:
http://slugdisco.com/september-newsletter/ (http://slugdisco.com/september-newsletter/)

 :ogre:
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on October 06, 2017, 02:36:04 PM
I love the death of a queen video, well played :)

The spiders with hats are fun too (did you know that there's a sorting hat spider (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38325099), Eriovixia gryffindori? :) ) I think for most arachnophobes the scuttling motion is more of an issue though so I'm not sure it'll help them much (but it's a great idea!).
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on October 06, 2017, 02:55:03 PM
Ha, thanks.  That was a lot of fun to put together, really hits hard what you let happen to your poor queen :P

I had no idea there was a sorting hat spider!!! We should have just changed all the spiders to this!  That really is an awesome little beast.  You are of course right about the hat having little effect on arachnophobes. That fact alone, I find quite hilarious (that we added the feature and it doesn't help at all)- though I think some people are quite serious about not wanting to be scared by spiders.  The idea came up (though may not be implemented for some time yet) to have an "arachnophobia slider":  The higher you set your arachnophobia, the bigger the top hat is, and on maximum it is just a big mobile top hat.

Obviously we don't want to get too side tracked pouring time into that, not when ants are still getting themselves stuck on nest entrances.. Damn 3d pathfinding.  :ogre:
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on October 06, 2017, 03:09:34 PM
Ugh, I can imagine - I've seen game projects get really hung up on their 2d pathfinding, let alone 3d!

Yeah, it was a fairly recent discovery, it's a very cool creature! I do end up getting quite a lot of arachnology gossip on the grapevines, which helps in finding out these things :P
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on November 18, 2017, 11:30:40 AM
So the Beta has been running for 3 weeks now and we finally have a date for early access.  I'm so worried about the thing flopping, I feel completely out of my depth in the marketing department.  The reception of early access has me worried too, my biggest concern is that the game only has between 5-7 hours of content as it stands (another 2-3 if you count demo levels, which I guess most people wont).  Steam ratings can be quite harsh if people feel there isn't enough.

So I am worried about everything. Maybe that's a good thing.  I saw the October newsletter by the way; really kind words from Jubal, thank you!

Anyway, here is the release trailer for anyone reading this far into this thread!
:ogre:
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Clockwork on November 18, 2017, 11:46:42 AM
Congrats dude, good luck :)


If you check out the competition (I'm sure you have dw!) War for the Overworld has tagged their game as God Game and RTS as well as the ones you have, might help visibility or something? Not sure if you even have a say in it or if the steam community does it tbh! :P Universe Sandbox has the Sandbox tag, which might apply as well.


I mention this because steam is telling me your game is similar to This War of Mine and Domina whereas the other two have Warhammer: Total War and Spore as similar which (I think?) are more akin to what you'd want. They at least have building and growth anyway.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: SLiV on November 18, 2017, 05:22:58 PM
Wow that trailer looks great!

The reception of early access has me worried too, my biggest concern is that the game only has between 5-7 hours of content as it stands (another 2-3 if you count demo levels, which I guess most people wont).  Steam ratings can be quite harsh if people feel there isn't enough.
If would say that's quite a lot for an Early Access title, especially seeing a lot of users have a lot of games that they only play for a couple of hours total anyway. But Steam reviews are a fickle beast, I suppose. ::)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on November 18, 2017, 06:05:39 PM
Congrats dude, good luck :)


If you check out the competition (I'm sure you have dw!) War for the Overworld has tagged their game as God Game and RTS as well as the ones you have, might help visibility or something? Not sure if you even have a say in it or if the steam community does it tbh! :P Universe Sandbox has the Sandbox tag, which might apply as well.


I mention this because steam is telling me your game is similar to This War of Mine and Domina whereas the other two have Warhammer: Total War and Spore as similar which (I think?) are more akin to what you'd want. They at least have building and growth anyway.

Thanks! I looked into this after you posted as I didn't fully understand the Steam tagging system.  There are two areas, one is "Genre" which we set and has a very limited number of options, and the other is "User defined tags" which anyone can set.  The user-defined tags that appear will be the most popular by vote, so we don't have much control over it.  I think people without the game must be able to vote too because I don't know anyone with a  beta copy who would have tagged it as "free to play" (which comes up if you expand the list :P).

Here is my expanded view now:
(https://i.imgur.com/xvfpmwo.png)

I guess once it is out, this should start to reflect the game more sensibly.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on November 18, 2017, 06:11:58 PM
Wow that trailer looks great!

The reception of early access has me worried too, my biggest concern is that the game only has between 5-7 hours of content as it stands (another 2-3 if you count demo levels, which I guess most people wont).  Steam ratings can be quite harsh if people feel there isn't enough.
If would say that's quite a lot for an Early Access title, especially seeing a lot of users have a lot of games that they only play for a couple of hours total anyway. But Steam reviews are a fickle beast, I suppose. ::)

Thanks! I slaved over it for a while. That opening shot of the ant carrying the egg is completely in game and all I had set up was a button to activate the camera movement.  Took me at least 100 tries before I caught an ant at just the right spot  ;D

As for the reviews, I guess I will have to wait and see.  If we get 7/10+ I will be happy, but I hate reading the bad stuff. Everytime someone says something negative, even if it is constructive, it is really difficult to take in.  I have read a lot of harsh feedback during the last few weeks of beta, and while the harsh feedback is arguably the most useful, it really takes the wind out of my sails.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on November 19, 2017, 05:15:29 PM
Ditto all the above regarding the trailer, it looks fantastic :)

When you release to early access, we can put a specific front-page announcement out just for that - it may need to be a few days after your actual release date though, to give Updates from the Forge some time at the top of the homepage first.

And yeah, negative reviews are tough to read... I always try and couch critiques to sound upbeat when I give them, but some people seem to just delight in ripping others down which sucks.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Clockwork on November 19, 2017, 10:26:16 PM
Yep I was able to vote without a copy, that seems like a weird Steam loophole.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on November 21, 2017, 10:21:56 AM
Ditto all the above regarding the trailer, it looks fantastic :)

When you release to early access, we can put a specific front-page announcement out just for that - it may need to be a few days after your actual release date though, to give Updates from the Forge some time at the top of the homepage first.

And yeah, negative reviews are tough to read... I always try and couch critiques to sound upbeat when I give them, but some people seem to just delight in ripping others down which sucks.

This sounds great. Your feedback is always well thought out Jubal, on Empires and other games you try out here.  We made a couple of changes too after your first round of feedback - mostly trying to put clearer tooltips over buttons, you also prompted us to re-think how food tiles work.  By the way, if you can think of some competition format, we could give away a free key on Exilian with that announcement. 

Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on November 22, 2017, 11:24:35 PM
I'm really glad it was helpful! (And I always like the reward of being able to look at bits of games and have bits I helped on) :)

I'll have a think on competition formats and get back to you - that sounds a fantastic idea, thankyou! :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on December 03, 2017, 12:36:06 AM
The game is out!  The launch has been insane.  Steam rejected our submisison last minute, then we spent the next 12 hours scrambling before they changed their mind.  I am completely sleep deprived and I am not really sure what is going on now, I have about 100 emails to get through.  On top of this I am actually away at an academic conference for my real job at the moment (great timing I know), and I think juggling the two has really started to send me strange.

Anyway, check it out on Steam.  You don't need a link, because we totally own the letter "u"   :P

(https://i.imgur.com/rK3WGVG.png)

Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on December 03, 2017, 10:28:07 PM
Great stuff! And we're go on the "Imperators of the Undergrowth" competition & FP announcement for this, found here (https://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5440). :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Silverspook on December 23, 2017, 10:48:12 AM
Congrats, it looks like you guys won Editor's Choice: Best In Show for 2017 on IndieDB!

http://www.indiedb.com/groups/2017-indie-of-the-year-awards/features/editors-choice-indie-of-the-year-2017
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on December 23, 2017, 11:58:36 PM
Ooh, that's fantastic - ditto the above post!

A few feedback points on the game at present:

All in all I'm really enjoying it at the moment, though, I got my formicarium through the levels pretty fast (found the first challenge tougher than the second I think, though I see you've upped the ant limits to compensate since I did so).
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on December 25, 2017, 05:49:01 PM
Congrats, it looks like you guys won Editor's Choice: Best In Show for 2017 on IndieDB!

http://www.indiedb.com/groups/2017-indie-of-the-year-awards/features/editors-choice-indie-of-the-year-2017

Thanks! This was a nice surprise. Crytivo are an interesting lot, working on The Universeim - we are waiting for it to come out
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on December 25, 2017, 05:59:20 PM
Ooh, that's fantastic - ditto the above post!

A few feedback points on the game at present:
  • Needs more info/intro when you start your first formicarium. I imagine this is coming, but had I not known how the thing was meant to work I'd have found the start a bit confusing - not so much in terms of the actual controls, which are really nice and intuitive, as the overall setting - one of EOTU's biggest selling points is that it has really nicely researched actual creatures in it, and so I think you need to make it clear early on (and ideally as part of the voiceovers) that the formicarium is a kind of contrivance that functions as a base/home camp and that they will soon get some more natural-feeling games. At present I think it'd be too easy for a new player to assume that EOTU was actually a sort of mad science game from the way things start.
  • In the Rising Tide level, my ants didn't seem to be able to gather properly from the fish, they just milled around down there. Is this meant to happen?
  • I think the tile upgrade stuff bombards the player with too much info. I'd change it to a more colour-based visual, where an outer hexagon around the tile has the six bars coloured according to how much "support" the tile is getting from each direction, and the centre has the level-flags and maybe an X/8 number to show how many more support-grades are needed (although there might be a neater way of doing that too).
  • In terms of mission variation, I think at some point a build & destroy mission taking on another colony directly would be fun. Likewise, flipping the idea behind Rising Tide (perhaps with a different core threat) and relocating your own colony would be a cool "protect the objective" mission starting point.
  • Suggestion from my mother - ant spiders, which mimic ants in appearance and have front legs that they raise if spotted to mimic antennae. This would provide a great higher-level challenge as they'd be "infiltrating" enemies for the player to deal with that could slowly pick off parts of their colony. I can get you some more info & a relevant paper if helpful.

All in all I'm really enjoying it at the moment, though, I got my formicarium through the levels pretty fast (found the first challenge tougher than the second I think, though I see you've upped the ant limits to compensate since I did so).

Great feedback as usual. We are light on intro info and tutorial stuff generally. It definitely needs more of an explanation as it takes a while to feel things out.  One of the problems is that the whole scientist thing was a bit of an afterthought that we came up with around 8 months ago when we realized that a full campaign was going to take too long and we needed to switch to an Early Access game. So it doesn't sit perfectly.

- In the rising tide there shouldn't be a fish. Unless John added one without telling me, I thought it was just on "queen of the hill" and it should be quite difficult for your ants to get down that far past the rival colonies.  I think the max number of ants that can harvest a fish at any one time is 6 or 8 so if there are more than that, the rest will wander around.  If you hover over the fish you should see a number "X/8" or similar.  If not, you may have found a bug.

- I don't like the tile upgrade info overlay, it was our art guy's first pass and he just left it as is. We probably want a 2-tier overlay: a simple colour based one for everyone, and then the ability to add the numbers if you really want them.

- Conquest missions where you destroy an enemy queen are on the way.  We will experiment with it in the upcomming "freeplay mode".  A new tier of missions is going to take a while as we want to do a bulk batch of 9 in one go (mainly due to the expense and time investment associated with working with the voice actors).

- Love the idea of ant mimic spiders.  The spiders in hats have been a big hit, I think it is likely that each new tier of missions will come with their own spider :D
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on December 26, 2017, 12:55:22 AM
Agreed re the campaign... I think it's do-able to make it fit, it's mostly a case of bringing in & clarifying for the player "don't worry, we'll get you out into some real undergrowth soon" at an early stage, IMO.

Ah yes, it was on Queen of the Hill - sorry, got confused. I decided to try playing it on easy, and went for the bottom right fish, and none of my ants seemed to be harvesting/returning with fish bits.

And yeah, the option for the complex overlay would be worth it - a default colour overlay sounds good though :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on November 30, 2018, 06:41:38 AM
I can't believe its been almost a year since all of this post-release chat.  What's more worrying is that a lot of this feedback still hasn't been properly addressed...

It's incredible how much time we have sunk into optimisation and bug fixing over the last 11 months, I think in the run up to release we became experts at brushing issues under the rug.  Anyway, I'm much happier with where we are now in terms of a robust ant simulation game foundation.

The team is now desperately trying to speed towards a major content update where we unveil leafcutter ants.  There will be more creatures added than were in the original early access release, and some really in-depth mechanics to emulate the complexities of leafcutter society in game-form.  I'm just hoping people are still interested (especially those who haven't bought Empires of the Undergrowth yet!).  :ogre:
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on December 01, 2018, 10:12:14 AM
I've not played much in a while, but I'd definitely be very keen to jump in and have another go when the leaf-cutters become available :) I should actually write or video-log something about the game really, I do think it's a really interesting implementation of natural processes in a gamified form and I'm definitely interested to see more as it appears.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on December 03, 2018, 01:45:38 AM
Yeah, I would hold out for the Leafcutters if you want to see something new.  A video log would be superb, if you wanted to do that, I'd post it around heavily :D.  I can't say that will make you famous though.  I'd actually like to do one myself, I don't get any opportunities to just play the game as a whole.  I'm always just testing little pieces of it.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on December 15, 2018, 01:13:05 PM
Heh, I'd have given up before getting to ten years running this site if it was fame I was looking for! And I really very much know the playtesting but never playing issue as well. I'll see what I can do video-wise over Christmas, the Exilian Channel on YouTube could definitely do with some new content...
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 10, 2019, 10:08:29 PM
I am dying in a sea of self imposed crunch.  There is something wrong with sound concurrency, half of the music isn't ready, we're trying to crow bar German and Chinese subtitles into the game, the whip spider's inverse kinematic legs are getting stuck on ledges, the preying mantis sometimes gets an ant perpetually stuck in its mandibles, but one way or another its going to be sorted by the 25th. 

Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 11, 2019, 09:04:50 PM
The leaf-cutters do look great though :) I'll have to have another run at playing it when the new stuff is out!
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 24, 2019, 06:30:37 PM
Just mopping up the last of the horrific game breaking issues now...

Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 24, 2019, 10:07:29 PM
Awesome! Really looking forward to the new stuff, and the short play trailer looks neat :)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 24, 2019, 11:41:13 PM
Awesome - I hope you enjoy it.  It will be interesting to see if this breathes much new life into it.  I worry a bit that its not that much content wise, it's basically another 2-3 hours worth.  It just takes so long putting it all together. 

At least we managed to get the new spider hats in. 
(https://i.imgur.com/yfs602L.png)
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 25, 2019, 09:08:42 PM
Is there any chance of a level editor turning up at any point? I feel like that's something where you could get a chunk of extra content once people had got their teeth into it.

Also, good job on the fez :) And what kind of spider is that?
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: JeffNevington on April 30, 2019, 02:16:50 PM
I would love to put in a level editor - you are right it would give it so much more replayability.  Our original in-house engine that ran our 2015 mobile version did actually have an editor for 1v1 missions against an enemy colony... Amazing how that has gone from a reality to a distant, complex goal in UE4.

I'm not sure what the best way of doing a level editor would be these days.  You would think it would be easy as we use hex-grids for everything, but the ants go up and down ramps that are neatly placed by hand.  The ant entrances are also placed by hand, there are invisible pathing penalty zones and impassable walls on ledges that have to be edited manually in certain circumstances.  Even if we made a system whereby those could be placed easily, painting the surface is also not automated, its also a manual process, blending the non-tile grid objects into the tile-grid ones.  Finally we would need a way for the user to add enemy colonies, define their behaviours, trigger creature spawns & events etc... Would be quite a lot of work.

We are going to have a meeting next month to assess the current situation and what we need to do next.  The leafcutter update has been really well received but as we feared, its really just a 3-4 hour additional burst of content.  Once it's done, it's done (unless you have a thing for harder difficulty modes).   Skirmish mode, map editor, multiplayer & improved freeplay will all be on the table for discussion.  I would also like to finish the game in this lifetime...

The fez spider is not technically a spider.  They are of the order Amblypygi but commonly known as "whip spiders".  Not a scorpion - not a spider, something a bit similar to both, but is actually neither.  It walks on 6 of its legs, its two front legs have become long modified antenna-like structures for feeling around (the two big arms on its face are enlarged pedipalps).  One crawls on Ron Weasley's face in The Harry Potter movie - Goblet of Fire.
Title: Re: Empires of the Undergrowth: A game about ants
Post by: Jubal on April 30, 2019, 11:20:45 PM
Mm, yes, I can see the difficulty. And whilst it's a good way to get member-generated content, it's maybe harder to distribute that than it once was? I've been a little sad at how few people have picked up the skins I've made for Son of a Witch, but it seems like it's harder to pull so much of a community together around games than it used to be. Nonetheless, if you do add one, I will be very happy!

And ooh, neat stuff re the whip spider, thankyou!