So, first the bad news – I’ve been humming and hawing over whether it’s worth patching this month. Nothing that’s currently being developed is ready for the game, and so it would be a case of doing a weekend of bug-fixing and then releasing a patch that is incredibly slim – slimmer than anything we’ve put out before. Seriously, even if we fixed every outstanding bug it would be a shockingly small set of patch notes. So, I just decided that no, there will be no patch this month. This is pretty typical for this time of year – August/September is when the start of the new academic semester starts to loom. As such it’s a desperate rush to make the best use of the time I have available to progress work stuff and then an equivalent rush to prepare for the coming year. This has been an easier period than most for me, since this time last year I was neck deep in legacy marking, new courses to design, moving house, and fighting a referendum. That relative lightening of responsibilities thought doesn’t change the fact that there’s not going to be enough done to justify a new patch.

But there is good news.

I am 95% sure that the next patch will finally bring strongholds into the game!

See, that’s where all my effort has been invested at the moment – the strongholding system. It’s now feature complete in terms of what its first iteration is going to have. It’s not ready for the live game though since it’s full of place-holder text, bugs and clunky syntaxes. The polishing phase of this needs some serious attention, and that’s what’s going to happen this weekend instead of the usual bug-fixing push.

The system has come a long way over the past couple of months – all the random furniture you currently find in the game has been converted over to stronghold data files, and the mechanics for dealing with walls, carpets and positioning are in place. The plan is that all the existing ‘randomly’ generated rooms will be ported over to use the new stronghold architecture. We’ve always had some degree of randomness in template rooms (such as the bathrooms and living rooms you wander through in Alphabet Street) but it’s never had enough in the way of moving parts to be very *good*. If you weren’t paying attention, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all copy and pasted descriptions. It’s also been pretty inconsistent in terms of the salvage system – bits of the furniture were salvageable, others weren’t. My intention is for all of these rooms to be fully dynamic from the next patch onwards.

To show you what I mean, let’s look at a randomly generated bathroom[1]:

This small square room is clearly the bathroom – it doesn’t take a genius to recognise one, after all. The south, north, east and west walls have been covered in white matte enamel paint. A contemporary black fibreglass basin is leaning up against the east wall. It lends a contemporary look to the room. A replica white cedar bathroom cabinet is leaning awkwardly up against the west wall. The cabinet is in a good state, with the brightness of the white being particularly striking. A replica beige ceramic toilet is to the right of the contemporary basin. Home comforts like the toilet are in short supply these days.

Update this room, and we get:

This small square room is clearly the bathroom – it doesn’t take a genius to recognise one, after all. The floor of the room has been covered in lavender quartz alternating floor panels. The east wall has been covered in lavender clay swallowtail panels, lavender limestone swallowtail panels covers the west wall, the south wall has been covered in lavender sandstone swallowtail panels and misty-rose granite swallowtail panels covers the north wall. A traditional yellow mahogany bathroom cabinet is nestled up against the west wall. It’s somewhat unexpected to see the a cabinet looking in such a good state of repair, given the state of the world. Against the north wall is an inexpensive purple chestnut shelving unit. Home comforts like the unit are in short supply these days. Leaning up against the north wall is an antique white aluminium toilet. The an unfortunate state of repair of the aluminium speaks to the hard time the toilet has had since the apocalypse. Near the antique toilet is a curved yellow iron basin. It looks pretty futuristic.

All of this is drawn from the stronghold data files and put together into something approximating a procedurally generated room description. I know, miles to go before I sleep and all that, but that’s only the start of it – you see, everything in this room is an actual furniture object too. It’s a bit hard to see what’s going in in that dense text, so let’s look at a simple example:

This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. In the centre is a coloured yellow plastic recycling bin. It adds a splash of colour to the surroundings.

The bin is a storage container that saves its contents, and it’s one of the things you’ll find scattered around the game world. Do you like it? Take it!

> remove bin
You remove the coloured yellow plastic recycling bin from the stronghold.

> look
This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era.

Actually, what the hell dude? I don’t know what I was thinking – that’s my bin, you can’t have it. Put it back. Put it against the north wall though so I don’t trip over it quite so often:

> place bin so it is resting against the north wall
You install the coloured yellow plastic recycling bin in the room.

> look
This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. Resting against the north wall is a coloured yellow plastic recycling bin. It adds a splash of colour to the surroundings.

That’s better. But you know, this is a nice room and I’d quite like to rest in a bath looking at the bin. So, let’s say I find a bathtub somewhere and I ‘remove’ it like I did above. I can then drag that bathtub to my stronghold and put it in place:

> place bathtub so it is opposite the bin
> look
This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. Resting against the north wall is a coloured yellow plastic recycling bin. It’s somewhat unexpected to see the a bin looking in such a fine state, given the state of the world. An antique white aluminium bathtub is opposite the coloured recycling bin. It looks very old and classy – like your mother.

I’ve already shown off some of this, but as I say – this is what you’ll be able to do in every randomly generated residential room in the game. These are the nuts and bolts of the system – each bit of furniture has a role to play too in managing your stronghold. The recycling bin is storage for equipment, but also stronghold supplies like food and water. A bed is comfort, increasing morale, but it also increases the number of NPCs you can recruit to the stronghold. Finding the best stuff and building it into your stronghold isn’t just about decoration, it’s about giving yourself the resources you need to prosper. Eventually you’ll see stuff like CCTV cameras and monitors making their way into the system, sniper nests, alarms, laser grids – really, anything you want I’ll do my best to add.

This extends to the wall coverings and floors – if you find a bit of carpet you like as you wander around, you’ll be able to lift it up and take it with you before you place it in your stronghold. You won’t be able to scrape paint off the walls, but you’ll be able to remove wallpaper. My plan is to let you make your stronghold look exactly like you want it to, if you have the scavenging luck and the skills to make it happen. Obviously, you should expect a raft of crafting patterns to come with it in time, but not in the first instance.

I’ve already posted a lot of what the system will offer, but for those who don’t want to look back at previous posts[2], here’s a partial list:

* NPCs you can hire and send on missions for the strongholds
* Equipment that generates food and water and power for the stronghold, which in turn allows you use these resources for your own purposes
* NPCs as trainers that offer skills to those who visit your stronghold
* Setup your own stronghold shop, with trade agreements you form with other factions
* Store your own equipment in the containers you place around, and have it stay unless someone steals it

Future versions of the system will come with stronghold moral dilemmas, maestro events, and a pile of other things – but the above is what you can expect from the first release. It’s a very meaty system, and it needs some dedicated attention at the moment to make it happen – so I’m sorry we won’t patch this week, but I promise it’s for a good reason.

Drakkos

[1] Bearing in mind what I said above about how much polishing is required before this is ready to release
[2] Why not? I’m fascinating.