Welcome to the monthly dev update for King under the Mountain and possibly the biggest news the game will ever have – King under the Mountain is launching to Steam Early Access on November 24th! In an earlier update I mentioned that I was working with a publisher, well that ended up not panning out, so instead this is me entirely self-publishing and this has necessitated moving the release date forward from around February to what is now less than a month’s time. This does mean the planned content has been cut back a bit – instead of launching with Alpha 10 completed, the game will be launched up to Alpha 8 instead. Primarily this means that combat and content based around combat won’t be in at launch, but will be coming shortly after launch, and there will still be a simplified combat in the form of hunting coming in the next update.
I was hoping to have Alpha 8 released in time for this post but it needs a few more days yet. So while you wait just a little, here’s what I’ve been working on over the last month, which unsurprisingly is what’s coming in Alpha 8!
First of all there are now other creatures in the world in addition to dwarves – at this stage only covering a few animals that can be found in the wild. This included reworking what was classed as a “humanoid” type of entity into a more generalised “creature” to cover these cases.
I’m extremely happy with how the animal sprites have turned out. They’re the work of artist Katie-Beth Tutt who has produced a whole heap of excellent animals to be added to the game now and in the coming months, and she’s also produced the in-game graphics for the other races (orcs and elves) which are also being added before too long.
The animals make use of the same colouring tricks used with plants in the game where the (moddable) game files define a range of colours to be used to add subtle variety to the range of creatures that you encounter.
The main feature of Alpha 8 is that these animals will exist in the world, and you will be able to hunt (or in some cases just want to keep away from) them. But hunting essentially requires combat, and combat requires tracking the health of creatures, which has led to this latest update being very large “under the hood” despite not adding a lot for the player at this stage.
The largest part of this is that each creature is part of a “race” which defines many things:
- A range of values for a strength attribute. You can think of this attribute as being similar to the one for a character in a tabletop RPG – where 10 represents an average human strength, 15 is very strong, and 20 is superhuman. For now creatures only have this single attribute but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up adding more when combat becomes more fleshed out. Dwarves have a strength anywhere from a value of 7 to 19.
- A reference to a body structure which I’ll go into more detail on below.
- A list of body shapes for the race. So far dwarves have had visually distinct “fat”, “average” and “strong” body shapes, as reflected in the sprite artwork. These bodyshapes are now selected based on the attribute(s) of the creature (strength in this case), so now a dwarf with a “strong” body shape will be because they actually are strong in the game (which has an associated melee combat damage bonus) which is quite pleasing.
- A set of colours to apply to the character artwork. These can be a swatch (a 2-dimensional range) of colours to select between as with the fox fur colour you see above, a palette/colour chart which is what is used for dwarven skin and hair colours, or a specific single colour. Until now these colour ranges were not moddable, so it is nice to continue to open these things up to a future modding community.
- A behaviour section which defines which needs (food, drink, sleep) apply to the race and a reference to the actual AI implementation to use (which is between settler and wild animals currently).
- A section for gender distribution and likelihood of “hair” (which is used for antlers on male deer).
- A section for physical “features” such as the different materials for skin, bones and meat, damage reduction that the skin applies (if any) and surely more to come.
Perhaps the most important of these (and another large part of this update) is the “body structure” which is a separate mod file which defines the different parts of the body and any critical organs they contain. Each body part can have further body parts linked to it, for example on a humanoid the torso is the “root” body part, linked to the head, arms and abdomen, with the abdomen linked to the legs, and the legs to the feet and so on. Each body part specifies how large it is in relation to the overall creature, and each organ defines how large it is within that body part. Here’s a visual representation (not to scale) of the humanoid body structure as currently defined (if you can excuse the programmer “art”):
So destroying an arm or leg would also destroy the relevant hand or foot, or destroying a body part which contains critical organs would destroy those as well. I decided early on that I wanted to go down such a detailed Dwarf Fortress-like simulation of the body for calculating health and injuries rather than going to the other extreme of something like a number of health points like simpler combat systems might use. I always describe King under the Mountain as simulation-based and modelling things to such a detailed level (hopefully) introduces interesting emergent interactions and gameplay from these systems working together.
All of this is done so that in combat, rather than just losing a number of hit points, each attack lands on a certain part of the body, perhaps piercing through to a vital organ, and the effects of the damage on this body part or organ are then reflected in-game. Anything but the lightest damage to the brain will kill a creature, whereas losing a single kidney or lung would be survivable. Losing one or both eyes impairs vision which will have its own effects.
I felt that all of this was necessary for combat in the game, and so by extension was necessary for hunting of wild animals too which is essentially combat as well. So there will be a limited form and amount of combat in the game at Steam launch, but fully fleshing this out with a wider variety of weapons, armour and actual control over your military will come a little later.
With this in place I was finally able to implement hunting, including a new section on the UI for selecting which weapon a dwarf should have equipped. Expect this to be expanded upon shortly.
So that essentially covers Alpha 8 which should be releasing soon! It’s a lot of groundwork, as many of these early alpha releases are, to allow for the more important upcoming content. As always though, there’ll also be a bunch of bugfixes and quality of life improvements thanks to the feedback from the community on Alpha 7 – absolutely invaluable stuff which is helping shape the game to be much better than it would otherwise. On that note I’ve created a bug/issue tracker which you can view, though I’ve not been particularly focused on this for the last couple of weeks as I’ve been stuck deep into figuring out all the health/combat/body structure stuff above.
November will see me focus almost exclusively on bugs and improvements rather than new content as we move towards the release date on the development side, as I’ll also be having to don my marketing hat to get word of the game and it’s release out into the wider world. If you want to get involved with the community, or have something you’d love to get onto the issue tracker, best to join the Discord server and get in touch that way. If not, or either way, see you next month for the Steam release of the game!