Long time no see. It has been a long hot summer and a busy one. We had planned initially to release the game in July, but by the time Q2 ended it became obvious the game was not where we wanted it to be and we’ll be releasing it in a very noisy marketplace, with a lot of games competing for attention. So we decided to reassess the development timeline since it was clear we will be postponing the release and look for a new window, later this year. The extra development time was and will be put to good use – and here’s a list of features and QoL improvements that have already made it into the game since the NextFest demo.

New Smoke Spreading Mechanic

Our dynamic fire system has been unanimously appreciated so we’re adding now a new one that will pleasantly tingle your inner tactician senses: dynamic smoke/gas. The cloud will grow and decrease over time and – most important – it will spread through open spaces only. That means a closed room will contain the smoke while breaking windows and opening doors will dissipate it. The uses for the smoke/gas will be plenty and will come in the shape of new grenades (starting with the most obvious, a smoke grenade that will break LOS).

Refined NightOps Mechanics

Night ops will now benefit from a refined light system, with each individual game tile having its own light intensity, instead of a generic light setting that affects the entire map. What this improvement brings is the ability to implement light generating gadgets (flares and all other illumination devices) that will make night combat quite interesting.

The LOS mechanic has been overhauled too and we added an option to manually finetune the ranges. We found out that the old automatic system was generating ridiculously small visual detection distances when the player was using stealth at night. Speaking of detection ranges, we added much needed UI helpers for zombie spawners so you will no longer bump inadvertently into one.

Perks & Attributes

A much awaited development was that of the attribute progression of your characters. As promised we have implemented a system of “grow by use” that will naturally develop your team members according to the actions they perform most often. If for example you will use a certain sheriff to block punches with his face and get KO’ed a lot, that will improve his Endurance (assuming he makes it alive through the process). Successfully dodging melee attacks on the other hand will improve his Agility. And so will sneaking. These are just a few examples, but there are a lot of ways to improve your squad for you to discover.

Another essential system is that of individual Perks. The concept behind them is that they define your team members specialization and provide them with significant bonuses in their expertise area. Some of the perks will be related to the character’s background, others will be gained by performing activities your fighter is already good at. For example, once your Dexterity is above 75 you will be able to earn a specialization perk. Constantly using knives for attacks, you will slowly unlock the Bladed Weapons perk/specialization.

Enemy AI Improvements

A major shift in AI mechanics has been going on behind the hood. Initially the game used an implementation based on the Behaviour Tree system. That system was based on priorities and was up to a point predictable and repetitive. Based on it, if throwing a Molotov would have the highest priority, a NPC would always use it. We have switched gradually (and now completed that switch) to an Utility AI. This system assigns scores for each possible action and the AI NPC constantly goes through a decision process and picks the action with the highest score dynamically. An example would be a NPC bleeding. A “normal” behavior would be for the NPC to bandage itself as a high priority default action, ignoring the fact that it has an enemy 3 meters away lined up for a perfect shot. With the new AI system it will dynamically weigh its chances and pick the best option according to specific circumstances and roles.

The Utility AI also brings an interesting new upgrade to the table. Simply boosting the score of the Healing behavior for a specific group of AI will turn them from basic grunts into field medics. And with the addition of new behaviors, such as reviving fallen teammates with stamina boosters, the new enemy medics will make the tactical field a lot richer. As a matter of fact there are so many cool new things that happened and will happen in the AI department we’ll reserve the next devblog just for it!

Inventory & QoL improvements

Inventory management was the area where we received and processed the largest chunk of demo feedback. A lot of the fixes and improvements come from demo players’ suggestions and for that we can only say a huge Thank You! Examples include the ability to donate shelter resources directly from the base stash, the ability to craft directly from stash/loot containers, content filters that stay selected when switching between inventories and make locating those elusive bullets much easier, etc.
Another long-awaited feature is the overhaul of the corpse looting. Now when a character dies, it will drop a backpack with all the loot, easy to see and open. More than that, the loot from the same tile will be compacted into a single container so gone is the annoying game of trying to click through a pile of 100 dead zombies to claim your drops. We also decided to keep the “Drop All” system. We feel that we should rather find solutions to balance the inflation of items/weapons than “magically” disintegrate the items NPCs use against you. And speaking of looting too much, we added the option to drop items onto the ground.

Campaign & Time Management

Many demo players have voiced concerns regarding the time pressure when exploring sectors in real-time. Although the day/night succession was a cool effect, the speed at which it happened had players make rushed decisions, instead of focusing on tactical planning. You do not want to make a great night attack plan then find out it’s already morning because you had to take a phone call or you took too long surveying the enemy routes. In addition, each hour spent planning and generally having fun in combat carried a huge cost in resources back home. A cost that most players felt was too aggressive so we switched off the game time acceleration (time flows but it’s a real 24h clock).
Of course, time and resource management is a must-have. We do not plan to throw away this component. We are just migrating separating it from actual combat so you can enjoy both aspects. When moving between locations, time will flow normally so there will be day/night combat and your base will consume resources while you travel. But we still have more work to do on this meta layer for a proper survival experience and this will be a major focus on the remaining time until release.

So, release, when?

When we’ll be happy with our metagame and the balance between all the economy and gameplay systems (looting, crafting, industry, traders, scavenging teams, time passing, incoming horde, etc) we’ll be ready to put the dot on the i and announce a proper date for release. Until then, our release is still set in 2023. On the updates front, in addition to the extended blog post about the new AI features, expect a devblog regarding the RPG campaign, which has also progressed a lot. Until next time!