February 2018 update - Rounding out the edges
Hello from the world of King under the Mountain! This past month involved a lot of tidying up and smoothing over of rough edges that have been hanging around since the Kickstarter pre-alpha demo. Along with a bunch of code improvements, this mainly comes in the form of being able to click on and interact with the game world a lot better! Whereas before you could only click on characters and items in the world and get a (rough) bit of info from the UI, now you should be able to click on everything you see in the game - walls and floors, rooms and stockpiles, things under construction, doors and the river! Even bigger news than this is that you can finally change your mind about where you've placed something as now you have the ability to cancel constructions in progress or remove rooms and furniture that you've built. I've also spent a bit of time supporting high (or low) resolutions (mostly thinking of 4k resolution monitors) so the UI scales up and down appropriately (no doubt this will be configurable in the future).
After talking about getting onto farming "soon", I've ended up having the motivation and/or forcing myself to tidy up all the loose ends that were hanging around from getting the first pre-alpha build done in time. Adding more functionality to the UI and letting you remove furniture was the biggest piece of this, but there's still a few remaining items on the list to finish off, including:
- Slowing down the bushes that currently grow quickly out of control, and doing something similar so trees can grow and spread across the map (slowly) - until now trees have been static since world generation except for changing leaf colour over the seasons.
- The ability to construct/replace floor tiles so your dwarves aren't always living on grass or rock and they can get some nice smoothly-crafted flooring to stand on. More importantly, this extends to building bridges which is a necessity to cross the currently impassable river. This might be put off a little as I'm hoping to get some new art assets created to go along with this feature (more on this soon).
- Adjusting the length of a day and season to something reasonable with a rough UI to let the player know what the time and date is. While this isn't that useful by itself, it'll also bring in a place to put speed controls into the UI rather than having to rely on the 1, 2, 3, 4 number keys.
- Sorting out some art assets that haven't been brought into the game properly - there's a few different profession outfits which were missed out of being included in the current build, as well as some tiny improvements to how eyebrows look.
The above is my current work list for "pre-alpha 2" which is a completely arbitrary milestone before working on "pre-alpha 3" which includes some of the more exciting stuff:
- An update to the dwarven name generator to replace the current Norwegian surnames with something a bit more fantastical. As an ode to the Norse inspiration of dwarves as a concept, I think they'll keep the current Norse given names along with a few favourites thrown in (such as Urist!)
- The first of the basic needs of a character - sleep, which will introduce the concept of a working day to a dwarf, necessitate the construction of beds to avoid sleeping on an uncomfortable floor and become the first step to actual management of a settlement.
- Food, glorious food - For me this is the big one on the way to completing the alpha 1 checklist of the roadmap. Covering both foraging from bushes and planting crops for harvest, and also leading in to the other absolute basic necessity for the characters (needing to eat and drink as well as sleep). Thanks to art assets you might have spotted in an earlier dev blog, there's nothing blocking development of growing crops although we could do with something to represent kitchens, breweries and how food is stored.
- Underground farming - While this could go into the epic mega-feature covering all kinds of food, there's something very dwarven about growing mushrooms underground and this will also lead into the first steps of making the underground (cavern) areas a bit more interesting.
- Death - the other side of having basic necessities is the implications of not satisfying them, and in the case of food and drink that means hunger, starvation and eventually death!
These are some quite chunky pieces of development work which I can see taking quite a while to complete, but its exciting to see the basics of the game emerging from what I still see as the tech demo of the pre-alpha build.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, the rough goal is to have alpha 1 ready and released to the public by the end of the year. This is going to depend massively on what happens around the middle of the year though - the current plan is to launch a new crowdfunding campaign somewhere around July and/or join forces with an indie-friendly publisher to bring some investment to the project. With this in place I'm hoping to be able to dedicate at least a few months later in the year solely to development of King under the Mountain to get it to the publicly-available alpha 1 release. After the disappointment of cancelling the 2017 Kickstarter campaign and the slow build up back to development after the break for 6 months after that, I'm a lot more optimistic now of getting back to a decent delivery timeline for the game.
I'm now in the process of getting more art assets commissioned which is entirely thanks to the many generous backers of the King under the Mountain Patreon page. While it's a bit too soon to show what's being worked on, I'm hoping to have a lot more on this next month. If you haven't already, please consider backing the game's patreon which has opened up a reasonable budget for new assets in the game at a time when I'm not able to finance these out of my own pocket. It really does help, and if you are one of those backers already, thank you so much! It is a huge motivation and sign of approval to see people willing to support the game financially.
Backers at the $3 (and above) level now have access to the first new build since last year's Kickstarter, downloadable from patreon.com/posts/king-under-pre-1-16584405 which lets you play around with constructing walls and seeing some of the other small improvements (such as assigned jobs blinking).
Next month's Patreon reward will be the new build of the game with the UI enhancements discussed above, and potentially some other items from the pre-alpha 2 checklist. Stay tuned!
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