It’s been a fun and exciting month! Here's a look at some of the things we've been adding to the game lately, plus some behind-the-scenes stuff, as work on the next pre-alpha update for the game.
In the next version of the game you won’t just have Murderers to worry about, you’ll also have Slavers prowling your town. Adam just finished coding it. Some survivors are happy to threaten others in your town to do their bidding. These Slavers capture the unemployed and build up a little posse behind them.
It’s funny when you see a nine year old with five adult slaves trailing behind her. It’s less amusing when you see an adult with multiple child slaves...
Slavers get their needs boosted due to having slaves helping them. Bad news for their Slaves though: they’ll die young and their own kids (when we implement breeding) are likely to become slaves as well. However, slavery also stops people being unemployed and in Update 7 unemployed people have an increased chance to commit their own social issues, so by enslaving them you’re “policing” your town.
You decide who to keep happy.
The bit I like most about this is that it brings a big decision-making aspect to the game, which I've wanted. Now you can't resolve all social issues at once. You’ll have to choose what matters most to you and then wait until you have enough "authority" to implement another solution. The more issues we add, the more you’ll have to plan ahead.
We have more issues we want to add to the next update. Stay tuned.
Update 7 will introduce another ethical solution yet to the game – encouraging a social issue. You will soon be able to encourage your citizens to commit a deed more in future. Want more Murderers or want more Slavers? Go for it! But the fallout (no pun intended) is on you.
Although this might sound like an option for players who want to create a dark or chaotic town, it will become enticing later on. For example, when we add in positive social issues, there might be some behaviours you want to encourage.
Nick is still hard at work coding this so it’s too early to share concrete details, but currently Encouraging will make issues happen more often and it will also cause more migrants to arrive who like what you’ve encouraged. For example, if you Encourage murder, you’re going to have waves or murderers who hear of your town being a sanctuary for their way of life and come flocking towards it. You'll start to resemble the things you approve of.
Propaganda Station Building
As existing players will know, condemning an issue requires a Prison or a Punishment Centre. Encouraging (and later, Tolerating) an issue will require its own building too – a Propaganda Station. You can’t convince a whole town to do your will without getting your message out.
The ultimate point of this is (aside from giving you a new building challenge) is to make it so a very permissive town looks different to a very authoritarian town. Different buildings for different styles. The design of the Propaganda Station is based around an old cellphone tower and it has noticeboards outside telling citizens what to do on it.
News Feed Feature
Update 7 will also, thanks to Nick, feature a new UI element in the bottom left of the screen (see above) that reports about the most recent events in your game. This really helps you learn about all the crazy deeds that are going in your town. I tried to avoid putting this feature in for a while as it seemed a bit of an old-fashioned feature, but in a game where you have 100s of people constantly doing different things, a news feed is essential. I think players are in for some shocks when they see what is really happening in their towns in Update 7.
In Update 7, all citizens have their own randomly generated Biography. This was one my favourite little tasks to add to the game. I like how adding just a few characteristics can give an otherwise bland person a personality. These characteristics don’t affect gameplay, they're just fun to read and make your citizens feel more like people. We've written lots of answers so there should be a lot of possibilities.
Making the Game Stay Fun Over Time
One thing I’ve been giving a lot thought about lately is how to make the challenge of the game scale over time.
At the moment Atomic Society is tense and tough until players figure out how to get going, and then it gets easier until you hit the population cap. It's still fun, growing a city, and the social issues add a lot of randomness, but I want to bring back that initial panic that players experience at the start of the game from time to time.
It’s way too early to discuss what we might do to improve this, but we have plans in mind. I’m raising it now as I’d love to hear any suggestions people have for ways to bring back the panic.
Mariana has been artwork crazy over the last month and has created 5 new models for buildings that will be coming to the game over subsequent versions (see screenshot below). These are the “second tier” of buildings for the game and they'll fill in the gaps in the build menu. But with new buildings will come new problems those buildings will fix so the game is going to get tougher.
Things you can build at the moment are core structures every town needs just to survive. Over time, we’ll be adding in the next tier of buildings – things you’ll want to make the town thrive. These buildings generally rely on first-tier buildings to function, so you’ll have to start thinking about supply-chains.
Of course not all of these buildings in the screenshot will make it into Update 7. It takes weeks to design, create, code, and test a single building. But a start has been made.
Our goal for for now is to get the Chemist building in the next update (for reasons that will become very apparent) and a Maintenance Shack. The Shack is inspired by Caesar/Pharaoh games. Build several of them so workers can maintain your structures and or your town might start falling down - killing people inside. This help keep the gameplay lively even when your town is self-sufficient.
Sound Effects & Video Options:
Update 7 will at long last have sound effects for several core interactions. Nick has now prepared a really awesome system for adding and tweaking them and I've been going through sound libraries to find just the right effect. Although this isn’t the most exciting feature, I think it’s going to add a lot more to the game than people realize. It makes everything that little more satisfying when there's an accompanying noise with it.
In addition to that, Nick has also expanded our video options a lot more so players on low-end hardware, or just those who want to tweak how the game looks will have a bit more customisation soon.
Mysteries in the Wild
Update 7 will also introduce a small feature that will help tell a little story in the game... If players can find it. We're hiding it across the maps. This feature is just there to give the world a bit of backstory and flavour, and to give you something to hunt down if there is a lull in your town.
Decorative Buildings Useful + Post-Apocalyptic Shrubs:
This month we’ve made Decorative buildings (formerly known as cosmetic) useful beyond just looking pretty. Now every time a citizen now walks past one of the artworks there is a chance to be “refreshed” and gain a boost to their needs. You actually need to think now before you place a Decorative structure. There isn’t much point putting one in a region where nobody will walk past it.
We've also implemented another player suggestion and created a new Decorative building, a planted tree growing in a flower-bed ringed by salvaged car tyres. So you can bring a little greenery to your outposts soon.
New Map & Ruin:
Update 7 is bringing the new map "Wasteland" to the game. It's one of the biggest maps so far. A river down divides the land in two, aside from very narrow land-bridges. This is the final desert themed map we’ll be adding to the game. I do like a good desolate region for some reason. Only 2 more maps to go after this and we'll have implemented every area in the game at least in a basic form.
Mariana also created a new salvageable ruin for us that was also based on a player suggestion, so thank you. I'm not going to say what it is yet, you'll find it eventually.
Adam loves dirty jobs. Plague? He made that. Diarrhoea? He implemented that. Slavery? Yep. We try to give him non-grim jobs but he goes into a mad rage and so this month we had to pacify him by letting him add a starvation aspect to the prison. It was the only thing that would calm him down.
This was something we didn’t quite have time to add the game for Update 6, but in the next Update you will see prison workers going out and fetching food and drink for their inmates. And you’ll also see a pile of corpses if you run out of food and drink.
Lastly, a little behind-the-scenes stuff before I wrap up.
In April one tiny Youtuber made a video of the game just by chance (we’re not sending out any codes for the game). Then a second, slightly larger Youtuber made a video. And so on. And so on. Until we were receiving emails from people like the Yogscast with their 30 gazillion subscribers.
Here's a playlist of all I was able to find.
Thanks to this, and a lot of positive reactions to the videos, we have doubled our pre-alpha player size in less than a month. Aside from the fact this means (for the first time) we might actually be able to pay ourselves something over the summer, the most important thing is seeing people enjoy the game even in this early form. That helped motivation so much.
I finally got to see strangers actually having fun with the game and wanting more. The core is there. It just needs polishing and expanding. I spent hours watching every single video and reading all the comments (a scary job) and it's really given me a lot of confidence that we're on the right track even though there are bugs (we're not on Steam yet for a reason) and with a bigger player-size comes a lot more pressure/emails!
Because this question comes up every week from someone, I made this thread on our official forum giving our position on combat. In short, please don't buy Atomic Society expecting battles or combat or raiders.
June should see us squeeze in the remaining features for Update 7, and then July will probably be spent ironing out all the new bugs and re-balancing the game so it’s fun again. And then we'll release the new update. That’s usually how it works.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek and what we've been working on. There's a lot more to share about Update 7 coming soon.
The Road to Release
Every month we release a personal and honest look at the making of Atomic Society.