June 2019 Update – Alpha 2.2 Released


An ever-so-slightly late update this month (oh no it’s July already!), and we’re celebrating that Alpha 2.2 has been released. The main feature in this version is that you can now discover giant mushrooms (they’re rare, they prefer to hang out in the larger caverns that you can discover in the middle of the mountainous regions) and harvest them as an alternative to lumber/logs from trees.

For now this is mostly just an unusual colour alternative to the kinds of wood you’re used to, but in the future as the economy is added, giant mushrooms are very rare and much-prized by the dwarven community, so this will be a particularly valuable resource to export or craft with. Also, different materials will have different properties – perhaps giant mushrooms are softer/springier than normal wood and you might be able to find a use for this (a better material for a bow, perhaps?).

Alpha 2.2 also includes quite a number of small bug fixes and quality of life improvements. Bugs in systems-driven games like this tend to be darkly amusing and one that I quite liked is that previously, dwarves would jump up out of bed the moment they’re starving or critically dehydrated. A change in Alpha 2.1 allows dwarves to sleep at least for a while with a life-threatening unmet need like this. The unintended consequence of this was that dwarves could now die while asleep in bed which they wouldn’t do before. As this wasn’t noticed during development, it’s been possible for dwarves to die while in bed and quite literally stay in that bed forever, decaying away to a skeleton as each dwarf is responsible for getting itself out of bed (i.e. there’s no job to go and pull a dead body out of a bed). Instead of the grisly task of removing bodies from beds like that, dwarves now fall out of bed when they die as shown in this dev mode video:

The main changes in Alpha 2.2 are those behind the scenes – I’ve implemented the artifact-based mod loading and parsing as described in last month’s dev update. This massively speeds up the time to add and process new assets that make up the base mod, as well as being a future improvement for modders to make use of.

The other main improvement is that until now, when adding sprites to the game I would manually trim the PNG images down to eliminate unneccessary padding/whitespace from the edges and calculate how this would affect the offset of the sprite being rendered in-game. That was an extremely laborious, time-consuming process which I’m sorry to say I spent quite so long on sometimes. Now that I have a good understanding of that process, I’ve been able to write a simple automated tool which performs the same job, but taking milliseconds rather than minutes of manual effort! This will also form part of a suite of tools modders will be able to use to make it easier to add assets to the game.

The next milestone, Alpha 3, is the modding release. First I’ll be tidying up the existing data structures and mod files so there’s better (or at least some) consistency in the data files for modders to expect, as well as a general cleanup of unused or incomplete asset files and data. Part of this includes adding the Kickstarter-backer-specified natural resources to the game! I’ve only received about half of the possible responses to the email for that reward so please do get in touch if you haven’t already and you were a Kickstarter or Backerkit backer who had “Add a natural resource” as one of your rewards.

Otherwise, see you next month and thanks for reading this update!

May 2019 Update – How Modding Works


Welcome to the update! I had been hoping to show you giant mushrooms (which can be used as an alternate source of lumber) in this update, but it’s still not quite ready, though I don’t think it can be far away now.

A giant mushroom in the current mod tools – but how big is it?

Most of the work accomplished this month has been preparing the way for mod support, which is due to make up almost the entirety of Alpha 3. For this monthly dev update, I’m going to go into some detail on what mods in King under the Mountain actually are and how I expect them to work.

The Basics

One of the design goals of King under the Mountain is that it is data-driven, which is that most of the stuff in the game (i.e. items, terrain, jobs, professions, even some AI decision-making) are not “hard-coded” into the game engine but instead loaded in from data files. That could mean binary data like .wav sound effects, .png sprites for characters, items and furniture or, in most cases, a machine-readable text file which provides data to the game but is also easily understoo-editable by humans. In our case we use JSON as it’s a bit shorter and more readable then XML, although you lose the safety net of having a strict structure that you get with XML.

If you want to take a look in the /assets directory wherever King under the Mountain is installed, this is where all the game’s data files (except player-specific data like saved games) are stored and loaded when the game is launched. You’ll find a large selection of .json files containing all sorts of data for the game, music and sound effects, and perhaps most importantly, spritesheets in the “tilesets” directory. The largest and most important is diffuse-entities.png and here’s how it looks as of today:

There’s a few points of interest in this image. “Diffuse” refers to the fact there’s a matching normal-entities.png with the normal-mapped versions of the same set of sprites. You can think of the diffuse images as the colour version, and the normal is alternatively called bump-mapping to make the lighting system work. “Entities” is the term I’m using for things in the game, currently categorised into items, furniture, humanoids and plants (with animals likely to also be part of this list). You can see that some (mostly the different outfits currently in the game) are coloured, while the rest are in greyscale. This is because a lot of the entities are coloured in “on the fly” by the game engine, usually depending on which material they’re made out of – the different materials and which colours they are drawn as is specified in the JSON files.

2D games use spritesheets like this, which are all the images in a single image/texture, so that it can be loaded into the memory of the graphics card once and then accessed many, many times to draw different regions to different parts of the screen. Separately loading each sprite as a new texture, drawing it, unloading it from the graphics card and repeating the whole process would just be too slow in most cases.

The above hopefully explains what the assets used by King under the Mountain are. Most computer games ship with assets exactly like this, and a lot of the time they’re compressed and/or obfuscated, meaning they’re difficult to modify by the player. Usually this is to prevent cheating (particularly for multiplayer games where the integrity of the game’s files will be checked by an anti-cheat tool) or just to help protect the developer’s artwork and media from those who would copy and distribute it illegally. Still, that usually doesn’t deter some fans, who modified (or “modded”) game files to change how a game looks or plays, and its out of this that the modding scene was born.

Processing Assets

Most games now embrace modding and provide guides, tools and engine support for mods, and King under the Mountain will be no exception!

Armed with the above knowledge, you could go into the /assets directory and change things to modify the game, and this would indeed work. Modifying the spritesheets would be awkward  but possible, while the JSON files are relatively easy to manipulate. One or two members of the community have already done this in fact. To share their mods with others though, they need to keep and distribute the changes in the assets directory with others.

This works relatively well for when a single person has modded the game, but what if you wanted to add several mods to the game from different sources? You’d have to keep track of which files each mod changes, and attempt to put them all together without causing any conflicts – mods might want to change the same file, say one of the spritesheets, and at that point you’d have to pick one or the other to apply and lose some of the changes from the other, which might have poor or even disastrous results.

This is where mod support comes in. Alongside the /assets directory, there’s also a /mods directory in the game location. Currently this will only contain a single directory, “base”, which is effectively the source files for what gets processed into /assets. Looking in the “entities” directory, you’ll see JSON files defining what types of entities there are, several .png sprites for each of them, and asset descriptors (more JSON files) which describe how the entity sprites should be used.

The sprites for metal plates alongside their JSON descriptor

The different item types and other entity types are processed, and the image files are combined into the relevant spritesheet – coloured sprites into the diffuse spritesheet and the _NORMALS versions into the normals spritesheet. Similar processing happens for everything else in this base mod directory to produce the contents of the assets directory.

Example of the different file structures

The important point here is that the game’s data files, everything under /mods/base is treated as a mod itself. The upcoming work is to then allow for other mods to live alongside this which can be layered “on top” of the base mod to add new assets and behaviour, change existing assets or adjust settings and constant variables used by the game. This also solves the problem that would come from directly modifying the assets directory – multiple mods can be used at once and the mod system defines how they interact with each other – either additively providing more content or replacing the settings of previous mods.

Mod “Artifacts”

Until recently, every time a change was made to the game’s base mod – that is, whenever I’ve been adding more assets to the game – the entire /assets directory was deleted and re-created. It was a quick and dirty solution that was perfectly “good enough” throughout the early stages of development. Now that the entities spritesheet is getting quite large (see above) and complex, this has been taking more and more time, eventually becoming a bit of a drain on gamedev time, just waiting for the assets to be processed between minor changes.

The main progress this month has been designing and implementing a much better solution – mod “artifacts”. Simply put, an artifact is a single file or group of related files in the assets directory. Each set of entity type descriptors is one artifact, the entity spritesheets are another artifact, the terrain spritesheets yet another artifact and so on. Now, instead of deleting and recreating the entire assets directory, the mod processor checks for any changes in the “source” files (the files in the mods directory which feed in to each particular artifact) and only recreates the artifact if any changes are detected (by running a quick checksum on the contents of all the input files and checking them against what was last processed.

Diagram of single artifact processing

This also extends perfectly into layering mods on top of each other. As new mods are added to an installation of the game, a mod may only be made up of certain artifacts rather than all of them. The mod processor then knows it only needs to process these artifacts, massively speeding up the process of swapping mods in and out of the game. Here’s an example of how a mod which only changes the entity and terrain sprites would be applied:

Example of mod layering

 

And that’s how mods work in King under the Mountain! As I continue development of mod support, I’ll go into detail on how the mods will be packaged and distributed from modders to the larger playerbase. Of course there will also be much more in-depth guides and documentation covering how to add and change game assets. Most likely a wiki site will be launched soon. I’ll also be covering the current plans for code mods, in addition to data files as described above, which will allow for all-new in-game functionality.

If modding isn’t your thing, then don’t worry! There’s still a fairly big update coming as part of Alpha 2, wrapping up a lot of player-requested features and some new content additions. I’d hoped to have this released in May but as always, it’s been a very busy month! Finally, if you’re interested in modding the game or just want to get involved with the community, the best thing to do would be to join the Discord server. See you next month!

 

April 2019 Update


Alpha 2 is upon us! The main feature is that the placeholder production of metal (which was simply and easily turning raw ore into metal ingots) has been replaced by a more in-depth production chain. Raw, mined metallic ore needs crushing down to remove the useless stone and get to the usable ore. This is then smelted at a bloomery furnace into a “bloom”, following how iron was historically produced before modern mass-production. The bloom is then hammered by a smith into usable metal, which can be worked into its final form. This update also introduces fuel in the form of coke (refined from coal) and charcoal (produced at a charcoal clamp using wooden logs).

Alpha 2 also includes the most-requested feature by players – a screen to view and manage all of your dwarves! This was teased in last month’s update but it has now been released, head on over to rocketjumptechnology.itch.io/king-under-the-mountain to download Alpha 2 if you already have a copy of the game, or purchase it if not! It’s still early days for the user interface (I’m treating the whole thing as a placeholder) but this work solved some of the problems of dealing with the UI (most importantly a way to draw entities like the settlers as interface components) so expect more to follow – perhaps most importantly a screen to manually organise crafting and production so that the player has direct control of what is being created!

Following the “add a natural resource” reward emails which were sent out previously (please do get back to me if you’ve received one and not responded yet, or if you think you should receive one and don’t remember seeing anything), more recently emails have been sent out for the “Add an animal species” and “Design a farmable crop” rewards. In the end there were only 8 of the former and 4 of the latter, with two super-backers covering both! Unlike the “add a natural resource” these will all require custom artwork to be created so I look forward to sharing these in the future.

As it had been so long since the Alpha 1 release, Alpha 2 was actually released early while there was still more content intended for part of this release milestone. First of all, metal plates are to be added as a new intermediate product so that constructing furniture out of metal is a bit more sensible – rather than hammering a few metal ingots together to form an elaborate construction, instead plates will be forged by a blacksmith which are then put together along with other mechanisms to produce some of the machines used by the dwarves (such as the ore crushing station). Expect this to feature more heavily when brewing is added due to the number of metal tanks needed as part of the brewing production chain.

Also on the topic of working with metal – dwarves in King under the Mountain are the only race to know the secrets of producing steel, superior in strength and quality to iron which will be important when different materials have different in-game effects, particularly in combat! Central to this is the crucible furnace, which will be the largest piece of furniture in the game so far, used to convert iron to steel in sizeable quantities.

Long-rumoured to the world of King under the Mountain are giant mushrooms – mushrooms so large, tall and tough that they can be used as an equivalent to trees! A later update will see a visual rework of the game’s funghi, but I wanted to have using-giant-mushrooms-as-trees in one of the earlier updates.

With those features added the next major milestone (Alpha 3) will be all about mod support. Modding is an absolutely central pillar to the design of the game and I can’t want to see what people are able to come up with once the ability to mod the game is thrown wide open. It’s these early days of modding which will shape exactly how mods work and what they look like, so if this is something you’re interested in, please get involved (ideally via the Discord server) and help me to add what it is you want to be able to support mods.

March 2019 Update – (Not) Reading from a script


It’s not released quite yet, but here’s a sneak peek at the much-requested Settler Management screen/feature coming in Alpha 2 of King under the Mountain:

Alpha 2 is on the horizon now, potentially including a resource management screen as well as this settler management one. It’s taken a lot longer than I’d have liked to be able to go from Alpha 1 to 2 but there’s some good news there – I’ve secured several days in April for development of King under the Mountain and I’m sure we’ll see a big jump in progress, and with a pinch of luck, some form of Alpha 2 being released in April.

I forgot to mention that last month saw the start of gathering information for Kickstarter rewards (other than copies of the game), specifically emailing those backers who had one or more natural resources to add to the game. If you think you should have a “pick a natural resource” Kickstarter (or BackerKit pre-order) reward, you should have received an email asking you for the details of this. Try searching for the subject “Claim your pick a resource reward for King under the Mountain” in your inbox or spam folder. It’s now over a month since these were sent out but only 47 resources out of a total 169 have been received so far, so please get in touch with me at ross@kingunderthemounta.in if you think you should have this and can’t find it.

After Alpha 2 is released, the big focus for Alpha 3 will be to enable modding in King under the Mountain. Since the early days of the project, making as much of the game data-driven has been a key goal. This means that things like items, plants, resources and so on are all defined in (JSON format) data files that are loaded and used by the game. The majority of these reference .PNG image files which are also loaded and used to make up what you see when you play the game, or .wav or .ogg audio files for sound effects. Most games combine these “assets” into compressed or obfuscated packages to make the download size of the game smaller but also so they can’t be easily modified by users. Instead, King under the Mountain plainly exposes its assets (take a look in /mods/base in the game directory if you’re curious) so modders can see how things work to add their own.

This works for adding new things to the game with different values and assets, but doesn’t cover adding new functionality to the game, which require the game code to be modified in some way. This month I spent some time investigating this. Initially I was planning to add some kind of scripting engine using a language like Python or Javascript, which would open up the game to small scripts of code to be run. I was worried about the performance of this (although there’s quite good options for running snippets of these languages in Java) but also how it would expose the classes and functions used in the core engine for these scripts to make use of. In the end I settled on a different approach, very similar to the one used by Rimworld, where small libraries of additional Java code (the language the game is written in) can be loaded and used by the main game. The main benefit of this is that modders will be able to write code mods that make use of the entire codebase of King under the Mountain, albeit in a controlled manner where certain new classes can be added, rather than just letting a mod change any code within the game.

The way the AI works is heavily inspired by this post by the Starmancer devs, where I have a system of Goals made up of Actions. The Goals are JSON files (look in /mods/base/ai/goals) which are made up of a set of selectors to determine when a settler chooses to select the goal to complete, and a set of Actions which are Java classes used to fulfil a certain, well, action, with a success or failure state. Until now it would only have been possible to add mods implementing new Goals using only the existing Actions. As a test case I had the game load in a new Action from a mod and use this instead, which proved modders will be able to add their own AI steps to the game as well as overall goals. The same can be implemented for basically anything that has a range of different implementations rather than just data values, such as different job types and their effect on the world, and hopefully going as far as new UI screens and views possible in mods. I’m really excited to see what people will be able to come up with in mods and I’ll have a lot more to say on this (and guides!) in the near future. I’m sure it’ll be an evolving process as some things that I’ve not really considered might not be possible to mod yet, but I’d be able to open it up as the modding community makes requests.

So it’s another relatively short update for the month. Again, I’m very sorry at the lack of tangible progress since Alpha 1 was released but I’m fully committed to breaking through that wall and getting the next major build to you guys soon. If you’re already playing the game and haven’t joined already, we have a friendly discord server at discord.gg/M57GrFp and if you’re just discovering this game for the first time now, you should head on over to rocketjumptechnology.itch.io/king-under-the-mountain and grab a copy of the game while its still in earliest access! Itch purchases will include a Steam key when the game is ready to move on to Steam.

February 2019 Update – The road goes ever onwards


February was a quieter month after the hectic buildup (and aftermath) of the Alpha 1 launch. The main part of development was fixing bugs that became apparent with the much bigger playerbase (nearly all fixed now) and re-organising the roadmap based on player feedback. By far the most common piece of feedback is that players are desperately missing a way to keep track of all their dwarves through some kind of management screen so that has been bumped up the priority list to the top!

Until yesterday, the amount of exposure generated by the alpha launch was very disappointing. Very few gaming new sites picked up the story (thanks GamingOnLinux!) and most (but not all) youtubers who covered the game previously haven’t picked it up again with the alpha release – I assume because there isn’t a huge amount of extra content compared to the pre-alpha builds. The revenue brought in by the launch is very little (averaging around 1 sale per day) which should be expected really, especially without any major sites mentioning the game yet. Oh and many more of those sales than I would have expected include a tip, so thank you very much! Things are looking up a little with an article yesterday on Rock, Paper, Shotgun which I think it a tough but fair preview based on how early in development the game still is.

All in all, it’s not the boost to development finances I had hoped for. Still, the way I’m developing the game is prepared for that. The Kickstarter funding allowed me to fully focus on development as well as commission new artwork and sound effects for a few months to get the game to Alpha 1, but that has all been used up now. This month I’ve had to go back to software development contracting full time which does not leave anywhere near as much time for gamedev unfortunately. This is not a permanent situation though, I’ll need to continue this way for a short while as I stretched the budget beyond breaking and need to build up more funds. After that I’m planning to split my time into a healthy balance between gamedev and contract work, which should give some good results.

This does not in any way mean development is stopping, I’m fully committed to bringing this game through to completion. I thought I’d explain why things have been a bit slower this month and how I’m tackling it, as I’ve always been open and honest about the development process. Making indie games is a super tough business, and only the top 1% of titles break out into being a profitable success. I plan to get there eventually, I think where the game is now is still a bit early to find that breakthrough to a bigger audience, so I’ll just keep striving forwards until it gets there!

January 2019 Update – Alpha One launch!


Potentially even bigger news that the Kickstarter launch – King under the Mountain has just launched Alpha 1 as early access on Itch.io!

The game is still extremely early in development (be sure to check out the roadmap), so the game is only going to be on Itch.io at this stage. Later on it will transition to Steam, so don’t worry, any Itch purchases will also include a Steam key when this happens. The same also applies to any Kickstarter pledges or BackerKit preorders.

If you backed the Kickstarter or otherwise pre-ordered the game through BackerKit, you should have received an email directing you to BackerKit to claim your Itch.io game key. If you’ve not received that, head to kingunderthemountain.backerkit.com and you can retrieve your BackerKit pledge manager which should now include this key. If you’re having any issues with this, please email me at ross@kingunderthemounta.in from your Kickstarter/BackerKit email address, and I’ll sort it out.

There will probably be a lot of updates to the game, mostly bug fixes to begin with and new features later. If you use the Itch.io launcher it will automatically keep the game up to date, but I realise having yet another launcher is a big ask these days, so the game will also notify you on the main menu if a new build is available. It’s always worth updating to the latest version as there will probably be a large number of bugs fixed now that a lot of people are playing the game and finding them! If you do find any bugs (or are not sure), jump into the Discord server where I’ll be available most days to talk through any problems.

The last month saw a flurry of activity to finish off the remaining features for Alpha 1. One important feature is that caves within the mountain will now often include harvestable mushrooms, which can kick off an underground mushroom farm to replace your above-ground crops.

Also finally, finally, you can now build bridges to be able to cross the river. No longer will it be an impassable obstacle to your expansion!

Perhaps most importantly for rounding off the gameplay experience to turn this from a pre-alpha prototype to the first real version of the game, is that your settlers will now die – or worse, go crazy – from not fulfilling their needs for food, drink and sleep. If you are unfortunate enough to lose some settlers, they’ll need burying quickly to avoid the rest of your settlement from getting very upset at being near a corpse! Right now the main challenge is surviving year to year – if you do survive to the next spring you’ll get a bunch of optimistically-happy immigrants to boost, or rather replace, your population.

There’s also a lot of small tweaks and improvements as well as bug fixes over just the last couple of days. The game now includes a changelog.txt if you want to browse through these, though it’s not particularly exciting yet. Look out for fun dwarf-y bug descriptions in the future!

So what’s next? In the short term I’ll be keeping a close watch on the automatic crash reporter to fix any crashes experienced. There’s still one or two outstanding bugs that I’m aware of and working on ironing out, but for the most part the game seems very stable right now. Looking ahead a little, this version does not include translations other than English, and I’ll be working on something to bring extra language support that can also be contributed by the community, rather than just translating to “the big 8” languages. A couple of features, namely producing and using fuel from coal and charcoal, the proper smelting workflow and producing beer has to be pushed out of Alpha 1 so they are at the top of the features roadmap. With all of those in place, there’ll be a big push to open up mod support to the community. If you’re an aspiring or experienced modder, I’d love to hear from you in the modding channel of the Discord.

As ever, thank you so much to all of you who have already joined me on this journey as I bring King under the Mountain from idea to execution. This is a really major milestone to have been hit, and now you should see a steady progression of updates and features, available to everyone from this point onward. See you next month!

 

December 2018 Update – End of a big year


Welcome to the December update for King under the Mountain! Plenty of progress this month, again thanks to the funding from Kickstarter, so thank you to all of you who backed the game!

First up is that in addition to the frequently mentioned “make soup” from the trailer, the dwarves have figured out how to make bread now. Wheat needs to be sown, tended and harvested, then milled into flour before being prepared as dough and cooked using a bread oven to create loaves of bread. There’s more work for your settlers to do in this longer production chain than cooking vegetables into soup, but there’s a big payoff in that wheat crops made into bread is more efficient in terms of food produced per crop tile. The loaves are then served up in a feasting hall in the same way that soup is from a cauldron. Here’s a video of it in action:

The flour mill is a new kind of furniture which requires components to be produced first (the millstone itself) by a stonemason, bringing together the different production chains in a functioning settlement. You can expect to see more of this in the future as the majority of furniture and crafting tables currently implemented are something of a placeholder.

Along with needing to eat, your settlers now need to quench their thirst or risk getting so dehydrated that they die of it! With nothing else available, they’ll have to walk over to the river and drink from it directly like some kind of animal (which makes them a little upset as you can imagine), so now you’ll want to set up some water barrels around your settlement to keep everyone happy and hydrated. This will still require a dwarf to head over to the river to fill the barrel up every so often, but it’s far less intensive than *everyone* having to go to the river regularly so it’s one of the first things you’ll want to get set up. In the future, the wonders of dwarven engineering will provide flowing water to the settlement though underground pipes, but for now they’ll have to do it by hand.

Following on from mentioning the unhappiness from drinking from the river, the first stages of the happiness system have been implemented too!

The current settler inspection window

Dwarves will get upset at sleeping outside and on the ground, so players finally have a good reason to carve nice bedrooms out underground (or indoors when you can build roofing, shortly). Dwarves are quite picky so will still be a little bit upset at sharing a bedroom with others so you might want to cater to their every whim by giving everyone a private bedroom. Fortunately, every new settler has a long-lasting happiness bonus at the optimism of starting their new life – you’ll want to make sure they have a comfortable place to live and work before too long!

Sound effects are finally being added to the game, although this is only in the first stages so it is a bit too early to show this off just yet. Button clicks and other UI sounds are in, and I’m working with Jordan Chin, the talented composer, to come up with fitting sounds for the vast majority of the things that can currently happen in-game. It’s been a bit weird to have the game world completely silent (other than background music) up to this point, and I’m sure having sounds in the game is really going to bring it to life in a very big way!

Finally, immigration has been added, so early each year (after the first) a number of new settlers will join your burgeoning town. They come with their own supplies of seeds for new crops (though you’ll have to work quickly to get them planted in spring) and rations to avoid a food crisis, but if your pantry is particular well stocked you can expect even more to arrive. This is going to need a lot of balancing to get right so expect both of those points to change in the future. It’s worth re-iterating that the game’s current UI is very much a placeholder, and as part of that there’s now a notification system to tell you about important events like the new immigrants arriving:

That brings us up to the present where I’m currently working on map exploration or a “fog of war” (although not a dynamic one) which means you’ll have to mine into the mountainside to see what’s there, with the potential to uncover underground caverns that you weren’t previously aware of. In the future these will often contain useful plants (mushrooms) or dangerous foes, though for now they’ll probably just act as a way of uncovering more of the underground area more quickly.

Past that there’s many more things to work on but it’s going to depend on the order that the new art assets are finished off in so I can’t quite say for sure other than they should all be quite interesting and add more depth to the game!

If you backed the Kickstarter or are a Patreon backer, this is your LAST CHANCE to complete (or modify) your backerkit survey (which can be retrieved from kingunderthemountain.backerkit.com) as they will be locked at the end of December. If you’ve selected any add-ons in Backerkit or placed a pre-order then cards are due to be charged mid-January. To clarify – Kickstarter pledges have already been collected but if you added anything on BackerKit and had to enter credit card details, these haven’t been charged yet as Backerkit prefer project creators to not charge cards until less than 30 days before rewards are due to be sent out (so that refunds for incorrect orders can be applied in the 30 day window). This means they’ll be charged in mid-January as the plan is to release the first alpha in mid-February! If your card being charged in mid-January is going to be a problem for you, please contact me at ross@kingunderthemounta.in using the email address associated to your Backerkit/Kickstarter account and I’ll see what I can do to help.

It’s the end of 2018 (it’s been a great year for King under the Mountain!) and IndieDB have launched their annual Indie of the Year awards. Incredibly flatteringly, King under the Mountain has been chosen in the top 100 for 2018, so I’d massively appreciate any votes in the awards by going to indiedb.com/groups/2018-indie-of-the-year-awards/top100 and voting for King under the Mountain under “Real Time Strategy” in “Upcoming Games”. Thank you and have a great holiday season!

November 2018 Update – Full Steam Ahead


Welcome to the monthly King under the Mountain update for November! This month marks the start of dedicating myself full-time to game development thanks to the funding brought in from the Kickstarter campaign, so thank you so much to those of you who pledged (or have pre-ordered the game), it really is a dream come true! First up, the headline feature currently in development is that your settlers now need to eat food, so here’s a video showing how a cauldron of soup is shared among the population:

This marks the start of really needing to care for the well-being of your settlers – although they currently sleep, they don’t get unhappy from sleeping rough (that’s coming very soon). While they can’t quite die yet (that’s coming soon too!) I think this will mark the beginning of King under the Mountain switching from something of a tech demo to an actual playable game.

In other updates this month, there’s now an options menu in the game(!). It really shouldn’t have taken so long, but now you can set the game’s starting resolution and if it should be windowed or not on launch, as well as some other settings. The main one is that we’ve added automatic crash reporting to the game, so any time the game crashes for a player who has opted in to it, we’ll receive a report on what went wrong and be able to track it down and fix the problem. Due to privacy laws, this needs to be opted into rather than on by default, so the first time you start the game now you’ll be presented with this message:

A little message kindly asking you to let us collect crash reports automatically

Also until now, your settlers have only a single profession assigned at a time, i.e. they’re always just a miner, a farmer, a carpenter, etc. The interface has received something of an upgrade to both display the current needs of the settler as well as an option to add or change professions:

The new settler inspection window

Those buttons showing the profession can be clicked to bring up the change profession window:

All of the implemented professions (technically fishing and hunting isn’t really implemented yet) can currently be freely switched between, but in the future it will depend on the background of the settler and other unlocks based on progression in the game. Also, having experience in a profession (different skill levels) will be very important, but this is coming later in the early alphas roadmap.

Trygve is now a blacksmith!

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed there’s “30 rockbread rations” among this settlers’ possessions. Your starting population bring their own rations to start out with, but it’ll be up to you to plant enough crops to keep them fed through the winter and the following year!

Finally there’s been several bugs tidied up with the help of the community (get involved on our Discord server) and something of a bugbear for players has been fixed – Until now if you queued up the construction of some walls they would all share available resources equally, leading to usually none of them being completed and it being a pain to sort out. Now, they much more sensibly assign resources so as many as possible are completed and the remaining constructions wait until more resources are available before deciding what they should be built out of. Here’s a video to explain:

The rest of the month will see me finishing off adding the need to eat food, including the option of baking bread instead of having to cook soup all the time. Looking a little further ahead, I’ll be finishing off the other key features to mean you really do need to look after your settlers now – they’ll need to drink as well as eat, be kept happy, or else they’ll die!

That’s all for this month – despite now working full time on King under the Mountain it’s only been a single week, so I hope to have much more progress to share next month. See you then!

October 2018 Update – Ironman


Welcome back to the King under the Mountain development updates!

The past month (and more really) has had me hard at work on a surprisingly thorny problem for a game of this complexity – saving and loading the game! I’m very happy to say that – while it’s not perfect and I’m certain there’s some bugs still to be ironed out – there’s a new build of the game publicly available to help test this big new feature! As always, you can grab it from https://rocketjumptechnology.itch.io/king-under-the-mountain-prototype

Unfortunately it doesn’t contain any new gameplay features as all of the recent dev effort has gone into making saving and loading work. However, now when you quit the game, your settlement and everything in it is saved so you can continue next time you load the game. If you’d like experiment, you can press F5 to perform a quicksave, and F8 to load the most recent saved game. As with most things in the pre-alpha, the UI is not as fully featured as it is intended to be – right now you can only maintain a single save file (starting a new game and saving will overwrite it), although the intention is there will soon be a UI to let you manage multiple save files across multiple settlements.

If you do experience any crashes and would like to help get them fixed, please email me at ross@kingunderthemounta.in (or message me on the usual platforms) with a link to your save file which should be found in the “King under the Mountain” directory in your user area (I’d recommend dropbox or Google Drive to store it as its a large file) and a description of what you were doing at the time and the specs of your computer (Operating system, amount of memory/RAM, and graphics card are the key ones). Alternatively jump into the discord server at https://discord.gg/M57GrFp and I’ll be around at some point to help out!

So what’s next? Well I’ve still some bugs to squash and there’s the UI around saving and loading to be added, but past that I can now finally focus on the feature set of Alpha 1 described in http://kingunderthemounta.in/roadmap/ which I’m very excited to get started on to really flesh out the basics of gameplay.

Past that you may have noticed a new entry on the roadmap – Alpha 2. The current intention is that after the first major Alpha release (slated for February), the second big release will be to open up modding on the game properly. Supporting mods as strongly as possible has always been one of the central pillars of King under the Mountain so I want to get this kicked off as soon as possible so that the community can help shape the tools and support that is available for modding. In the meantime however, a few enterprising community members have already started messing around in the game files to make changes. At it’s simplest, King under the Mountain has its game assets (sprites, sounds, data files) laid out in the /mods directory (with the intention being that each mod lives in a separate directory within there) and these are combined and compiled into the /assets directory.

Until today you had to modify the compiled data files in /assets and there was no good way of modifying images and sprites. Along with the new release (Pre-alpha 7) there’s a secret command if you do want to start messing around with mods early. You’ll need Java 8 or later installed, and then you can run:

 java -jar undermount-desktop.jar --repackage

to repackage the files in /mods to /assets. This lets you play around with the current set of base data files, although this still won’t support additional mods (outside of the “base” directory) just yet – watch out for Alpha 2 for a whole new world on modding!

See you next month!
Ross

September 2018 Update – Post-Kickstarter Party


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.
  • 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 ross@kingunderthemounta.in 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 🙂