Leaving Early Access
After several years of intensive development, After The Collapse is finally out of Early Access! While this doesn't mean the development is going the stop anytime soon, it's still a very important milestone.
I would like to thank everyone who bought the game early and everyone who contributed in any way, no matter if it's feedback, bug reports, mods, coding advices or general support. Without you, I wouldn't be here. You have no idea how grateful I am.
With that out of the way, let's get to the main new features, this will be followed by a chapter mentioning my immediate plans following 1.0 and the inevitable hot-patches.
This is the major new feature in this release. Story Mode is designed both for new players and those who'd like to have a more directed experience. In this mode, you go through an intro sequence establishing the lore, followed by a reworked (and optional) tutorial touching on most of the basic aspects of managing a base. It will then expand in a four chapters long story about you and the other factions.
This story follows a group of survivors who are fresh out of their bunker and who have to adapt to a strange post-apocalyptic world. It includes four world maps, a couple new factions, new mobs, multiple quests, and unique map locations to visit and conquer. As the story progresses, the more advanced gameplay options are explained as the need arises. As such, this mode is a good way for new players to familiarize themselves with the mechanics by following clear goals.
But this mode is not for new players only. It's hard for me to go into details without getting into spoiler territory, but I really hope the more experienced players will enjoy the second to last acts. I don't pretend to be a good writer or storyteller but I'm pretty happy with the different missions and obstacles put in your way. I also left space for future improvements (both mechanically and story-wise).
Many of you requested this feature after I released the "Rise of the Mutants" scenario. Back then, I wasn't entirely sure it was possible. Well, I was wrong. It's even likely to be expanded upon in future major updates.
Simply put, you're no longer forced to play as a boring bunch of technologically minded humans. There's a whole new framework allowing me to define completely new archetypes with their own tech tree, events, maps, quests, and such.
In practice, in all sandbox modes and many scenarios, you get to choose between 3 completely different archetypes to play with. They determine the kind of survivors you'll recruit and capture, your access to technologies, the type of random events you'll encounter, and so on:
- Survivors: The default faction you're already used to. Access to all techs, flimsy but talented humans. Some might start with a basic gun, some might start with nothing.
- Mutants: Big, green, mean and punch super hard. Limited tech tree, but immediate access to taming and expeditions. They are prone to infighting but don't get depressed. They are pretty fun to play.
- Cannibals: Same as humans but all your recruits will be cannibals, you have access to decent early game bone weapons and to all techs. They are, overall, less skilled than the other humans and spawn with very bad gear.
The whole thing is, like most of everything else, moddable. From a technical standpoint, adding in new archetypes, with completely new tech trees, event selection and playable characters is pretty simple.
Combat: Control Group
Until now, it was a pain to locate and activate only a select few people (preferably holding the best guns) when you were under attack. Sure, patrol zones help a lot, but it's not always an optimal solution. So, I added a "control group" hotkey. If you're not used to the term, it allows you to save a group of people you want to use in combat mode and call them into action with the press of a single hotkey.
In practice, you select the people you want to act as your "emergency defense force" and press [ctrl]+[hotkey] to save this group (or shift+hotkey to add whomever you have selected to the group). And yes, you can add/remove from the control group directly from the population menu.
Once set up, whenever you need soldiers without disturbing the whole base, all you need to do is to press the hotkey. It'll switch them to combat mode, ready to obey your orders. As usual, I updated the Encyclopedia to reflect the new feature.
Combat: AI and Balance Pass
I fixed a few problematic behaviors. One which was particularly annoying when moving many people at once. They wouldn't stay in a tight pack on arrival to their destination, making it a pain to move more than a few soldiers through a building or sewers. Another issue was that people would try to "find cover" when shooting at something which can't fight back. They don't do that anymore: shooting down doors or windows will no longer waste ammunition and disrupt your group's positioning.
To a more controversial take now. I halved weapon damage across the board, it's implemented through a global Damage Modifier option in the settings file (so you can revert this change, or customize it to your liking).
The reasoning is as follows. As the game progressively got new weapon classes and as the average bullet-speed changed from glacially-slow to lightning-fast, combat became incredibly deadly. Initial placement and cover became the only things that really mattered.
This change slows down things so you can occasionally save a badly hurt soldier by repositioning them. Also, it's putting a lot more pressure on your modern ammo production which, until now (when you knew what you were doing) was pretty much never an issue. It's also justifying the existence of melee weapons as backup options.
Of course, the global damage alone wouldn't be enough. Some weapons' damage output has been tweaked/increased. Boss monsters got their bonus health heavily reduced. Advanced melee weapons like the "electric axe" or the "chainsaw" have been added. Some mobs, like the scorpions and crabs, got an armor covering both the head and the body (so they can no longer get one-shot by someone with a half-decent military skill).
Quests and Content
As announced previously, it's no longer possible to research the robot building tech directly. Figuring out how to build giant sentient robots seemed a bit out of the realm of possibilities for a band of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. Instead, you'll acquire the tech through a random event that can trigger once you satisfy various requirements. It'll be expensive and require you to go through a deadly bunker that will appear on the world map once you accept the quest.
I also tweaked some of the existing "mini-quests" you get while moving your expeditions around. Exploring the random loot building can now have negative consequences instead of just being a freebie.
Story mode includes a lot of new buildings to explore through the quest system, some of which will likely be incorporated (with tweaks) into the standard game in the future. In the same spirit, later stages of the main story contain a few monsters you won't find the standard game. They will be incorporated in future updates.
I also added the option to manually defend your production centers when they are under attack. It works basically the same as a standard map battle (except this time you're the one inside the building). It's optional and can be set to always be automated in the gameplay settings if you don't like getting interrupted by popups.
I improved map generation too. In maps where buildings are not bordering a road, said buildings are placed more intelligently. They won't be placed over a river or blocked by a mountain range. As a result, villages in complex biomes look a lot better. It takes a few more seconds to generate the map, but it's definitely worth it. I also added a couple more building types, and tweaked a few formulas, the usual.
I think we're in a good place with those changes. City block generation is still a bit lacking, but I don't think it's a massive issue. I will likely continue to tweak and improve the various map/building generators for a very long time, it's the kind of code I would write for fun anyway.
New helpful articles are featured in the in-game encyclopedia, many context/help menus are more informative and have been updated to make sure they are up to date with 1.0. The weapon info panel show a lot more information.
A lot more things have been added to make all things "gel together" but listing every item would be a bit boring, you can refer to the full changelog for the whole list.
Misc. Improvements and Bug Fixing
Well, I'm not going to list every single bug-fix in 1.0 here, you can refer to the changelog. I'll address a few issues that were present in 0.9.8 (and before)
- The annoying short freezes that would happen sometimes and which would be "fixed" by reloading a save have been fixed. It was a pain to pin-point the root of the issue, but it has been eradicated. On top of that, the overall economy-related code has been entirely rewritten, leading to better performances in larger and older bases. Contrary to the previous iteration, it's also thread-safe, eradicating one the last ways the game could crash.
- An issue with underground and indoor farming was causing plants to (very slowly) degrade when your camera wasn't looking at the layer the farm was in. It was tied to more global issues related to the way I handled light sources. Game will also tell you when plants are dying so you can check what's up.
- The world map was incorrectly handling location ownership, leading to locations flipping back to an incorrect faction after loading a save. This has been fixed. In practice, the late game "mutated horrors" (renamed to The Swarm) perform much better, AI expeditions and enemy hordes are much better at their doing their respective jobs.
- Complete French Translation. It's no secret the French language was left a bit behind during Early Access. ATC contains a lot of text (enough to fill a large book), most of which went through several revisions. As such, keeping the translation up to date was just not cost-efficient. This is corrected. Everything has been translated properly. I can't promise that there won't be any oddities or the occasional overflowing text in some menus, but the game is perfectly playable and understandable in French.
What Now And What Next?
Well, I'll stay around for a couple weeks to handle what I assume will be a deluge of bug reports and complaints regarding years old systems I didn't explain fully, forgot about, or assumed easy to guess. I'll publish the inevitable weekly hot-patches accordingly. I'll also try to add Steam Cards. The game has already been verified by Steam, so it's just a matter of motivation. Then, I will take some time off. This year has been quite eventful, both online and offline, and I really could use some.
After all that, I will get back to coding. I have no todo-list to offer right now. For once, I'll be able to code it on the fly instead of going through a checklist, and that's generally where I shine. The rest will depend on how well received is the game. A graphical and audio makeover ain't out of the question, but that's for much later. Just know that more free content updates will follow. I have the habit of working on my projects long after their 1.0 release, ATC won't be an exception.