Devlog 12

   Posted in: Devlog

Hi there! I’m looking at the blog and I can hardly believe that it’s been so long since the last update. I can only apologise for such a long radio silence and if you reading this – thanks for staying interested in Overcrowd! It’s fair to say this project has taken so much more time and work than I imagined when I began it. But that, as they say, is game dev.

So what’s been happening? One thing that’s been happening is appendicitis. Late last year, a night of agony ended up with me in the hospital and having that most vestigial of organs removed. It took a while to recover from the surgery (abdominal surgery is like that apparently). During that time I played Pillars of Eternity, and that was pretty fun.

Following that it was back to full time Overcrowd, a short Christmas break and, since then, aside from a few days, non-stop dev. In case you doubted, I can assure you, this game IS getting made!

So what’s been happening in the game? In short, many aspects have been improved, bug-fixed, re-written, re-specced, revitalised or revised. There’s another new GUI (long time readers will not be surprised at this). The entire system of staff control has been improved/redone. Commuter AI has been improved. Most importantly, the way the game is really going to work has crystallised for me too. Sure there was always a plan, but now there is an overarching structure to the game, including a map you unlock, persistent staff, and a tech shop where you can access new tools and items.

Let me explain, because I’ve decided to say a bit more about what this game might end up like. While there is an open play mode (currently) – where you build as you go, expand, and deal with what happens, the thrust of the game is more in the so-called campaign mode.

Here you see a tube map, and starting in the outer zones you visit a station (level), where you have a set challenge (eg. Shift X commuters in Y days). You get a budget, a play area with different rock formations, and predetermined (multiple) track positions and entrance possibilities, meaning you have to decide what you think the best station design for that play area is with your given budget.

When you complete a station you unlock more staff to choose from, and more tech contracts which are spent on the campaign screen to unlock better tools and more efficient facilities to build in game. So maybe you want to unlock a bigger plant to make people happier (plants make people happy right?), or buy a more efficient power generator to use at your next station. This could evolve into a fully-fledged tech tree further down the line.

You also take your staff with you between stations. Staff learn skills as you use them, so they get better at doing certain things. When you take them to the next station, you can use them on the jobs they are best at. Hopefully in the future you’ll be able to change staff names or nicknames.

After one station is unlocked you can visit the next one on the line. The aim is to make it to the centre. There are multiple routes, so you can go different ways, perhaps choosing to unlock more tech or staff at easier stations, levelling and training your team as you go, before visiting higher zone stations which are harder. A station challenge can be failed if your reputation (determined by how happy your commuters have been) hits zero, or if you run out of time.

It’s a cliché but I find it hard to pigeon-hole the game. From the screenshots, you might expect a hands off “management” game. But it’s not really that. Controlling staff is hands on and pretty granular, and the game is actually fairly tactical and tense. You deploy your staff to areas and equip them with the tools they need, and you set their priorities. You have to react and decide who responds to what when problems crop up. And you have to make sure workers are well-rested and nourished in the staff room.

These aspects of Overcrowd are similar to a pausable real-time-strategy game, where instead of fighting an enemy, you are fighting the degradation of your station (when technician skills are added anyway), littering, and various types of commuter behaviour.

But you’re also building your station for good commuter flow, plus you have the option of ushering commuters through choke points if you want to use your staff like that, which doesn’t really have an equivalent in RTS. The fact you can unlock new tech and items to build too is more akin to traditional builders.

You have to think about the station environment too. This means being conscious of space. Space is money, and the more space, the less crowding and easier it will be to play. Space is convenience to your commuters too: where is the best place for that one bin you can afford so that it is close enough for commuters to use between two platforms? Where should you place your power generators, which produce harmful fumes, when space is at a premium? The potential future addition of heat simulation will further add to the environment considerations.

And then you need to watch your money, not least because staff need to be paid. But you can earn more from shops (if you have unlocked them), so you have to decide on restocking levels and price points. Later down the line, shops may have functional uses too: maybe coffee will speed up your commuters allowing you to transport more over time.

Finally, I’m planning on making the challenges on the map somewhat or entirely procedural, meaning that it’s also a rogue-like, er, station-builder with high replayability.

We’ll see! I think everything should be fluid in the game design and that’s why Overcrowd will go into Steam Early access: nothing is set in stone. It will be good to get there. I can’t say when exactly, but I can say it will be as soon as possible.

Here’s a list of some of the things I achieved the past few months. It’s not exhaustive but covers the key things.

0.67 Build mode alerts on side of screen so can always see what build mode you are in, what controls do what and what cost to build curent item is
0.67 Commerce pop up for individual shops to review and change stock and prices for each shop
0.67 Commerce review pop up to review all shop status in one place and change prices and stock
0.67 floor highlight affects floor not entire earth column using a new norm_col system
0.67 track placement does not highlight entire earth column just the floor
0.68 updated existing skills to act only with radius scalled by perception
0.68 updated and refined building/selling/sculpting/editing mode alerts which slide in on right of screen
0.68 Commerce report now functions listing all items for sale in shops, edit price and stock.
0.68 Shop menus now contain price and stock data and ability to edit
0.8 KO’s wake up after a random time, but balance is reduced so more likely to fall again
0.8 Commuters spawn with probablity threshold for reaction to external stimuli per encounter – eg disgust is no longer cumulative, but the chance to become sick next to sick is fixed, limiting snowballing. Others are balance index (slipping or getting knocked down) and panic index (running form rats, bodies or other feeling people)
0.8 reduced strength in staff means less tools to be carried
0.8 implemented pay per hour salary system
0.8 Can only build an entrance on predefined edges (in normal mode) to create more of a spacial puzzle element
0.8 Can only build tracks along selection of predefined track blueprints to create more of a spacial puzzle element in challenge mode
0.8 removed shifts. Too fiddly. Staff are manually toggled either on or off shift, during which time they draw wages and have life needs
0.8 power gens produce gas clouds that disperse and makes people ill. Gas clouds cannot disperse through walls so building in a room is advised!
0.8 out of power gui icon above objects with no power
0.8 todo list made with challenge objects
0.8 staff have entire new skill system. 5 core skills – people, refuse, medic, technical, security that are learnt by performing said action and govern chance of success for a task
0.8 staff no longer have a fixed role – they can do any job if they have the tool, but success is governed by their skill level
0.8 staff pathfinding redone to better operate, shows breadcrumb trails to destination, shows radial effect when click based on perception area
0.8 altered navgrid size to better accomadate commuter pathfinding, improves ability for commuters to properly go through stairs, narrower spaces and not get caught on walls
0.8 added lost state for commuters, can be assisted by staff with the assistance tablet equipped
0.8 implemented overarching game structure – campaign starts with a tube map, selected which to start on and complete challenge. Unlocks new staff. Next station on the tube map is now accessible. Take your staff with you to next station challenge.
0.8 Beyond job skills, staff have 4 core abilites governing speed, strength, stamina, percation which govern all tasks they do
0.8 staff learn a skill by doing it, but also earn XP that eventually levels up 4 core attributes. Strength goversn how many tools a staff can carry at once. Stamina governs recovery time between fumbles. Percepotion is radius within which a staff will address a task that his tool can fix, speed is.. speed.
0.8 Staff have priority queue for jobs they can do. This is determined by what tools they are carrying. Eg if carrying litter pick and watering can can do either. But you can change which is higher priority
0.8 New staff gui to show what tools they are carrying and which is the higher priority
0.8 New task system – when a staff does a job, they need to be carrying correct tool. A job takes a certain amount of time, and during that time GUI shows the job progress. Job may fail (labelled a fumble) in that time and they must attempt again from start. Chance of a fumble depends on staff skill in whatever area, eg refuse, medical and also the level of the tool used
0.8 New tool system means tools can have limited uses before needing ot be recharged at base, also have variable quality so you can have level 1 litter picker but a level 2 litter picker performs a job faster and boosts chance of task success for the staff using it
0.8 staff needs implemented. Staff despair meter increased as they fail a job
0.8 Staff have health, thirst, hunger, tiredness
0.8 staff deployed into staff room rest, produce little zzz particles
0.8 staff in staff room automatically eat and drink if provisions available
0.8 can build sofa, TV, drinks machine, water cooler that staff use if they have the need. TV increases happiness when used.
0.8 wrote staff priority system for addressing needs, using the best item that addresses the direst need in the room in priority order over time
0.8 Commuters have new icon when having a behaviour over head eg. lost, angry, late etc.
0.8 reimplemented overcrowded behaviour, when surrounded by people a commuter feels overcrowded and stands still for short time
0.8 created tool, megaphone, for crowd dispersal/ushering – relieves overcrowded state
0.8 commuters flee disgusting or scary things
0.8 panic has a chance to spread to nearby people
0.8 k.o. speed of falling varies
0.8 fallen people rotate better now
0.8 new cursor code takes account of ground that may be occluding presumed grid hover location
0.8 new pause mode puts game in black and white, leaving hazards in colour to highlight danger. Draws gui label over litter to help.
0.8 bins have gui label to indicate fullness
0.8 new level 1 power generator
0.8 challenge system awards tech tokens when you complete challenge. WHen you go back to campaign screen you can spend the tech tokens on new items to unlock and then use. For exmaple, level 1 plant must be unlocked before you can use it. System in place to roll out amny more items and better tools etc that can be unlocked and used dependin gon chosen focus of your team
0.8 made zoom in and out smooth/ie it doesnt jump to new zoom level it pans out
0.8 added basic tools for all the basic jobs
0.8 New ticket machines are placed on ground not part of wall
0.8 improved track placement
0.8 improved rotation around centre view
0.8 created whole new campaign mode, with persitance between stations, staff persist between stations, tech levels persist between stations (and save loads), and a tube map awith multiple routes and stations as challenges. Completeing a station unlocks next station.
0.8 redid game menu/re coded new button gfx
0.8 added Overcrowd wallpaper on home screen
0.8 added SFX and music volume sliders
0.8 ability to change resolution in game, not just before game starts
0.8 created a test campaign with 12 maps
0.8 Created station set up phase. When you start you cannot open your stattion unil minimum requirements of track, 2 turnstiles, ticket machione and power met. Turnstiles and track must also have direction signage configured so commuters know where to go.
0.8 Many many commuter AI improvements to prevent bugs. Commuters generally working pretty well.
0.8 Added defined map play area with perimeter walls. Surprisingly never in place, now each station/challenge has a set area within which you must build station. In conjuction with fixed (but multiple options of) entrance sites on top floor and fixed (but multiple options) of track blue prints when you can build within the play area, this means during set up phase depending on your budget there is a slight element of spacial puzzle solving or station design to make an efficient station but not spend all your money. You can sell floor in game, but smaller spaces mean more confined spaces and more overcrowding so space/crowding a prominent mechanic, which is fitting given the name of the game.
0.8 Perimeter tiles have grass on them which looks nice and literally grounds the game
0.8 fixed commuters leaving at night correctly
0.8 Redesigned the GUI again! Not graphically, but changed the buttons to better split the objects you need to use so fewer clicks, more logical order
0.8 New staff file pop up showing staff character stats and inventory where you can change tool priority
0.8 new blood particles system means blood lands on the floor properly when people punched
0.8 optimised the way the floor is drawn to make more use of tiles and reduce GPU load
0.8 implemented shadows on people
0.8 windows are moveable in game
0.82 lots more minor tweaks
0.82 made optional tutorial (‘Tutorial town’ on campaign map)
0.82 can change resolution and switch from windowed to fullscreen in game now
0.82 alt-enter toggles windowed mode correctly
0.82 made all controls user-defineable in options. Map key or mouse to any action in game.

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