Lead producer Nikhat Ali speaks with GamingBolt about the strategy title.
Haemimont Games’ Surviving Mars was one of the most unique and engaging strategy games to launch in 2018, so it’s no surprise that publishers Paradox Interactive are looking to double down on its success with more of the same- or similar, at any rate. Surviving the Aftermath – currently in early access on PC and Xbox One and being developed by a different team at Iceflake Studios – takes the core concepts and ideas of its predecessor, and applies them in a post-apocalyptic setting, while peppering in ideas of its own. The results are already looking promising, and though the game is still a year or so away from is final launch, there’s plenty of reason to be excited. Recently, hoping to learn more about the game, we sent across a few of our most burning questions about Surviving the Aftermath to its publishers at Paradox. You can read our conversation with lead producer Nikhat Ali below.
"As we were developing Surviving Mars, we knew were onto something special and wanted to keep making Surviving games."
What prompted the idea for taking the ideas behind Surviving Mars, and then taking them into a much more grim post-apocalypse setting?
As we were developing Surviving Mars, we knew were onto something special and wanted to keep making Surviving games. Before Surviving Mars launched we were already looking into expanding our Surviving brand and explore more ways to apply the survival management mechanics. Around this time, Iceflake pitched us their post-apocalyptic colony builder, Surviving the Aftermath. They had exactly what we were looking for in a Surviving game, you could say we were the perfect match.
How does Surviving the Aftermath adjust its colony-building mechanics to bring them in line with the more ragtag and desperate nature of surviving in a post-apocalypse?
Surviving Mars tasked players with building a colony capable of sustaining human life on the inhospitable surface of Mars. In Surviving the Aftermath, Earth has suffered a world-ending event that has made the planet an inhospitable wasteland. Both games require players to secure basic resources and overcome challenges if they wish to survive. While technology and atmosphere are different, the core survival colony-builder gameplay experience is similar enough that players who are familiar with Surviving Mars will feel at home in Surviving the Aftermath.
The world of Surviving the Aftermath is populated with other survivors who are also struggling to survive. These groups of survivors can join your colony, trade their resources with you, or even threaten your people and safety. Players can send Specialists out into the world to explore the surroundings, gather resources, and even make contact with other colonies or bandit groups.
Since Surviving the Aftermath is in Early Access right now, we are taking player feedback seriously. If there are survival features our community would like to see, they can tell us and we can look at incorporating them into the game.
Given the game’s post-apocalypse setting, one would assume that combat and conflict are inherently going to be an important part of the process of surviving and expanding- can you talk about that aspect of the gameplay a little bit?
Player choice and how they interact with the other groups of survivors is a major element in Surviving the Aftermath. As survivors arrive at the player’s gate, the player can choose to let them in, turn them away, or trade resources. These choices can have lasting consequences that affect the colony’s future. The world map is populated with bandits and rival colonies players can engage with Specialists.
Each of these elements is going to get fleshed out more throughout the Early Access period. One example is we plan to introduce expanded diplomacy options players can utilize when dealing with another colony. We have a major update in the works that will enhance the world map features and how players interact with the world around them — be on the lookout when it goes live later this year!
"The current version of Surviving the Aftermath is focused on letting players establish their colonies and dealing with the immediate struggles of survival. We’re still far out from releasing end-game content that will go into making colonies sustainable in the long-term."
Surviving the Aftermath’s name suggests that the main goal in the game is less about rebuilding the world, and more about surviving. What sort of a balance is the game looking to strike there? Does it start out as pure and simple survival, and gradually, over time progress into building a secure future for your colony (maybe even beyond)?
As the game’s name suggests, it’s about survival in the aftermath of an apocalypse. Civilization has been wiped out and the world is in shambles. Players are tasked with building a sustainable colony for their group of survivors, how they survive is entirely up to the player and their choices. As the game progresses, players can find themselves working towards a sustainable future for their colony and people.
The current version of Surviving the Aftermath is focused on letting players establish their colonies and dealing with the immediate struggles of survival. We’re still far out from releasing end-game content that will go into making colonies sustainable in the long-term. We can share more details on what’s coming when we get closer to release.
What impact are the environments and the various biomes going to have on how players play?
Each biome offers unique challenges for players. Different resource types are more available in different parts of the world, even soil quality and temperatures are different depending on the biome. Biomes also have location-specific hazards that will change how players approach building their colonies and adds more layers of strategic gameplay to the experience.
We have plans to add more unique elements to the biomes during the Early Access period. Some features include biome-specific hazards affecting specialists and bandits as well as a quest system that updates based on the biome.
What sorts of different natural disasters are players going to come up against? Are you planning on adding more of these disasters to the game before its 1.0 launch?
Currently players can face a wide range of disasters including heat waves, droughts, lightning storms, meteor showers, and space debris. Each disaster affects the colony in different ways, some will destroy buildings while others will affect production. Players will need to react quickly to each disaster if they want their colony to survive.
We have plans to increase the variety of disasters throughout the Early Access period leading up to launch including outbursts of nuclear waste deposits, catastrophes that affect the temperature, and even making the post-apocalyptic wildlife a dangerous part of the environment.
"We have built an entire event system to handle all in-game events in Surviving the Aftermath. Throughout the game players will face single events, like a meteor falling, or a chain of events, like a Quest to learn more about the world. "
Can you talk about the “Events” and how randomized they are in nature? Do you see them as a major avenue for storytelling in the game?
We have built an entire event system to handle all in-game events in Surviving the Aftermath. Throughout the game players will face single events, like a meteor falling, or a chain of events, like a Quest to learn more about the world.
There are two different types of events players will experience: Gate events that happen at the colony and World events that happen away from the colony. While any colony’s Specialists are out exploring the world they can enter a “hot-spot” which will trigger a World event based on a “Hazard Value” that is assigned to each zone. Meanwhile, Gate events are thematically tied to what happens at the gate, like bandits arriving at the colony or traders looking for a deal.
We’ve actually built out an “overseer” of sorts into our dynamic difficulty options called the Gatekeeper that monitors the player’s progress and triggers events based on how well their colony is performing. If a player’s colony is doing well, then the Gatekeeper may trigger a meteor shower or heatwave. Likewise, if a player is struggling to get by, the Gatekeeper is less likely to trigger cataclysmic events. We don’t want our players to lose hope when playing, it’s supposed to be challenging, not impossible. We also made it so the Gatekeeper can be adjusted in the starting screen menus when a player is adjusting their difficulty.
We’re experimenting with ways to use the events system to build out the world’s story and we have some ideas. We can’t go into specifics just yet, but we can say that there will be some story-related events coming in future updates.
How much of a focus is there going to be on directly challenging the players with hard decisions?
Surviving in the aftermath of an apocalypse is not an easy task, and neither are the decisions you have to make if you want your colony to thrive. Choices can have consequences, some good and some bad, but we want players to always feel like they are in control of their own actions within the game. The world will react to the player based on their choices. For example, turning away all survivors at the gate may protect you from thieves or sabotage; however, your people will miss out on the skills those survivors bring to the colony and you will not be viewed favorably by the other groups in the world.
The player has the freedom to react to these situations however they please, but the world outside of the colony is watching and can respond.
What are the most important things you’re looking to achieve with the game’s fairly sizeable early access period?
One key thing we want to show players is that we are listening and we want our community to feel like their voice matters. We launched Surviving the Aftermath into Early Access so we can co-develop the game alongside our community, when their feedback can have the biggest impact.
Our players helped us make Surviving Mars into the success that it is today by giving us great feedback after it launched. We want to make Surviving the Aftermath the best Surviving game it can be and we know we can do that by working with our community from the beginning.
"Surviving in the aftermath of an apocalypse is not an easy task, and neither are the decisions you have to make if you want your colony to thrive. Choices can have consequences, some good and some bad, but we want players to always feel like they are in control of their own actions within the game."
Do you have any plans to launch on the Switch?
We have not announced any plans for Switch at this time.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements. What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
Surviving the Aftermath currently has higher graphics settings on Xbox One X and this will continue with future updates. We’re hoping to support 4k at 30FPS at launch, but for now, we’re shooting for solid 1080p/60FPs on Xbox One X.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
Currently, our team is aiming to have similar performance and features on PS4 Pro that will be available on Xbox One X.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Our current target is to maintain a stable 30FPS at 1080p. While this may shift slightly during the Early Access period, we will continuously work towards optimization and improving performance to reach our targets by official launch.