Metro-themed management sim Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up is now available to wishlist on Steam, ahead of an Early Access launch planned later this year.
An alpha build of the pausable RTS/basebuilder, which is set on the London Underground, will also be playable by the public at EGX Rezzed – London’s premier games event - next week. To mark the announcement we've put together a short Alpha trailer, and I've decided to detail the progress that I've made on the game this year. You can see it on our steam page.
As ever, I have been working hard on Overcrowd since the last blog and in that time have made lots of incremental progress, plus some key feature additions that are really bringing the game together. Here's a broad overview starting from low level more system stuff going up to larger gameplay design.
Contextual cursor, GUI and UI
First up, and lowest level is GUI work. I spent a fair amount of time on updating the cursor to include contextual information about what you are doing/what mode you are in at that time. So when you’re in build mode, you can see how much you are going to spend and on what.
If you have staff in deploy mode you can see that, and if you are hovering a tool to pick up/de-equip it will tell you that too. This makes (I suppose unsurprisingly in retrospect!) a huge difference to how it feels when you’re playing the game, because basically you know what’s going on all the time.
Overcrowd is (I suppose) fairly complex in so I think it’s good to explain as much as possible. In a similar vein all buttons and GUI elements have a hover over tool tip, but that’s been in place a good while.
Some other GUI updates include more status alerts to show you problems – eg. If you run out of power and several other things, and some new text alerts that explain what is upsetting or making a commuter sad. This helps to convey what your commuters are feeling – which directly impacts on your station reputation.
I also added a bunch of other lower level stuff like volume sliders, redefinable control mapping, user defined screen scroll/push margins and acceleration, plus more hazard icons to highlight things like dropped litter, rats, vomit and fumes when you hit pause (spacebar by default). Thre is also more GUI to show commuter anger level as an icon that fills up red, plus improvements to staff files, showing negative effects when hungry or sad, and how this might make them perform worse.
I also recently added a new UI which hugs the edge of the screen, letting you see more play area, and has a smarter more modern feel with a flatter look.
Trains are obviously a key part of the Overcrowd experience! A tube station without trains would clearly be a bit of failure. Up until Autumn last year I only had 2 carriage trains. This update I added the ability for having trains of any length. But this was tricky.
In terms of gameplay, the ability to have trains of different lengths was really critical. The game is all about designing the best space for maximising commuter turnover, so having a longer platform allow longer trains was key.
Finally I have formalised the way procedural terrain generation works. When you enter a new map a play area is generated with a different size, different starting shapes and different rocks. A selection of track blueprints are placed (where you can decide to build platforms) and pavements at the perimeter (where you can choose to build entrances). Each track or pavement comes with a set of figures – commuter rate (how fast commuters enter/fill train from said point), and then some baseline commuter behaviours mean anger, health, money, crime rate, litter rate. The commuters who enter from that access point will have behaviours randomly grouped around those values.
The idea here is that each map is a sort of dynamic puzzle space. You will have a target to shift a certain number of commuters, and to use a certain number of tracks/entrances. The starting floor space is free, and also permanent (you cannot sell it). In this way you get to choose how to use the space – taking into account the type of commuter you might get from each access point, and how many.
Want to use those doors with a high flow rate? Sure thing, but beware because they are really angry when coming from that doorway. But that might be ok because you have staff good at coping with angry people (ie high security skill). Or perhaps that entrance is a bit hard to build to, being fairly distant and costly to reach.. but the commuters from there are happy and do not litter much, so it’s worth it, because this means you will save on buying so many bins.
On top of the commuter behaviour aspect, is the pure design of the station, allowing enough space, directing the commuters in a shape and that makes sense.
In addition there are obstacles like rocks, water and grassy areas that cannot be built on, about which you must design your layout.
Applicants are now generated procedurally per station with different base skills and abilities. More skilled or more able staff cost more to hire and pay. You can choose who you want. Maybe you want a super fast staff member with low strength as they are only doing one job. Or maybe you want an all-rounder who costs a bit more, but with high perception. Perception is fairly valuable as it governs how large a radius staff will autonomously act on their priorities. Aside from that staff can be manually deployed, in a pausable RTS style.
Something I’ve long planned as a mechanic is heat and thermoimaging. Heatwaves have always been a possibility in the game, but now I’ve gone ahead and added full temperature modelling which required a crash course in Newtons Second law of thermodynamics. I’m not saying its totally physically accurate of course, but the net result is all objects now have a heat capacitance and temperature conductivity is modelled. Over time machines and humans will generate heat which will gradually disipate into surrounding areas. If people get too hot they will pass out and need medical attention.
This feeds into the dynamic puzzle nature of the station design. If you build too small an area it will heat up all the faster with resultant problems – although it will be cheaper. Further we’ve added a bunch of objects you can procure to mitigate overheating. Multiple classes of fans and also air conditioning are possible to help – but then you have the pay off of more energy use. And of course.. power generators are one of the biggest heat generators.
Currently you can let heat out of your station by building grills, and I hope in the future we’ll have a full air duct building, however that wont be until we are later into Steam early Access if at all.
The mechanic further plays into environment considerations: build near water and you can have hotter things because the water is great at soaking up the heat. (although, of course, what if there is a flood!? I say no more just now!).
Procurement (tech) tree
Unlike other base builders, there are no resources to harvest as such in Overcrowd. However transporting commuters acts as a kind of resource, in that the more people you shift, the more “currency” you earn with City Hall, who will pay you bonds. These can be spent to unlock new tech to either further automate, improve or expand your station. Alternatively, they can be used to hire staff, as an initial one off fee (following that staffa re paid hourly with money from station funds). I have now implemented this system and it seems to be working fairly well in testing. I feel like it completes the game loop well.
Depending on stability, optimisation and testing, I am cautiously optimistic that I can hit Early Access in the nearish future. I hope you can follow the dev and maybe consider wishlisting Overcrowd on Steam and maybe even helping shape the game throughout early access and beyond.