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 🙂

June 2018 Update – Return of the King


First of all, apologies that this monthly update is a little late, things have been a bit full-on to get ready for the Kickstarter campaign – launching July 17th (that’s less than 2 weeks away!). It came with a tough decision of having to cut a feature from the prototype I really wanted to get done in time, which is getting the dwarves to eat food (and needing to eat food). As it is, you can now build kitchens which will be stocked with water barrels (filled with water from buckets – for now!), worktops (where raw ingredients harvested from crops are stored) and cauldrons. A chef will come along and add ingredients and water to a cauldron before cooking it into a delicious soup. The actual kind of soup produced is procedurally generated based on the ingredients, so just adding carrots will produce “Carrot soup” while potatoes and corn will make “Potato and sweetcorn soup”.

The tricky part with this is making sure that it works well (or at least well enough) in other languages. On that note, there’s now translations in place for English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Polish and Portuguese (both European and Brazilian). If your native/favourite language isn’t there, I’m planning to add an easy way for players to add more language translations to the game in the not too distant future, but not until after the Kickstarter has finished. Languages with a large number of characters (Japanese, Chinese) or those that read right-to-left (such as Arabic) are particularly difficult to implement in the framework King under the Mountain is built in (LibGDX), so while I can’t promise support for those languages yet, I do really want to be able to support them in the future.

It’s a little too soon to show off the new trailer (and Kickstarter video) yet, but as part of the production I’m super excited to be able to share the new track by Jordan Chin titled “King under the Mountain” as it is intended as the main theme of the game!

Perhaps most importantly, ahead of the Kickstarter the latest build of the game is now public and available to download! Ahead of the Kickstarter launching, I’d love to get any thoughts and feedback on this build. Be sure to drop by /r/KingUnderTheMountain to create a general thread or please raise a new issue for any bugs or problems at King-under-the-Mountain-Issue-Tracking/issues.

Which means that’s probably it for dev updates until the Kickstarter campaign. Depending on how the campaign goes I might switch up the current monthly dev update to something else, or at least there won’t be the normal monthly dev update here as all the upcoming updates will be via Kickstarter, at least while the campaign is running.

As always, thank you so much to those of you following these updates and being excited for the game making progress. It’s a huge motivator to know there’s people out there who want this game to be made (other than just me!) and a successful Kickstarter campaign really should, er, kick-start development up to another level. When the campaign does kick off, please share it wherever you think most appropriate to get the word out, as it is that word of mouth that makes all the difference between success and failure.

May 2018 Update – Second Breakfast


This month actually saw a lot more progress than I was expecting, but less visual progress than I was hoping! I’ll get into that shortly, but first here’s a  look at the progress towards food production – kitchens have water barrels that are filled by hand and worktops which collect raw ingredients, but putting it all together is just a couple of days more work away.

I was (knowingly) a bit optimistic with the feature set I wanted to get implemented in time for the Kickstarter campaign – I’ve been hoping to have both food and drink production, along with the dwarves having new needs of hunger and thirst. As these are fairly hefty new systems with a lot of new art assets and other implementation details behind them, in order to still keep on track for a July launch of the crowdfunding campaign, I’ve decided to take out drink production (i.e. brewing beer) and thirst, and just aim to get food production and eating done in time.

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April 2018 Update – Flora and Farming


Another month has flown by and development is kicking up a notch to be ready for the goal of a Kickstarter campaign in July. The over-arching feature currently in development is farming of crops, and so here’s a video showing the latest progress:

First of all though, we’re finally starting to see some fruits of the Patreon campaign, to begin with a new set of sprites representing natural (rough) stone walls and the overlaid ore and gems.
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March 2018 Update – AI rewrite and heading back to Kickstarter


There’s big updates and small updates since last month, so let’s go over the small news first. Firstly many thanks to Alex Esin who has been a huge help with logging bugs at the Github issue tracker. Simulation games are an incredibly complicated programming problem, and bugs/issues are inevitable once there’s a certain number of moving parts in the system (a number which was passed a long time ago!) so getting the community to highlight any issues they are finding is a huge help – particular when like this one they appear to be a combination of Intel no longer supporting older integrated graphics cards on Windows 10 with Java – something I would never have encountered on any of my development machines.

If you’re finding any problems at all with the game, particularly any crashes to desktop, please sign up for a free Github account, get them logged on there (if someone hasn’t already raised it) and I’ll get back to you ASAP and make it a priority to fix. To this end, the game now logs out any information and error messages to a file named “log.txt” in the game’s main directory which will be a huge help with investigating any crashes – please include the contents of this immediately after a crash to desktop.

With that out of the way, the big feature this month was finally giving the dwarves a well-deserved rest – literally making them being able to sleep! (Please excuse the placeholder bed artwork)

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