Overland Newsletter — November 2016

Adam Saltsman
Nov 30, 2016 · 6 min read
Something isn’t quite right with the planet.

Wow crazy ok welcome to the November newsletter for OVERLAND, a new strategy game about surviving a post-apocalyptic road-trip across the United States, a scenario that is slightly less fictional than it was in the last newsletter, but… that’s probably fine. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

So What’s Happening Man

If you follow Adam on twitter you might have picked up some elements of the game’s setting and backstory this month, albeit in a slightly darker fashion than we’d initially hoped to share them. To summarize, Overland is a story about a problem that is buried for a long time and suddenly becomes a catastrophe. It’s inspired by a lot of natural things — global warming, the Cascade subduction zone, Yellowstone, basically every volcano ever, and so on. But also some man-made things, maybe in more ways than we initially intended.

It’s been a strange month.

Anyways, that’s not actually what I want to talk about this month. For a lot of reasons I’d much rather talk about the thousand awesome things that we’ve been working on since our big E3 trailer back in June.

We’ve Been Pretty Busy

In our second newsletter in August, we stepped through some of the features we were working on, including vehicle upgrades and a new set of character traits. In September, we shared a little design story about our big new environment art drop for the Woodlands biome. Well, a lot has happened since then.

Not all of the work has been that easy to brag about or like make a big marketing deal over, but it’s still stuff that’s very important to us. For example, infinite undo stack for non-destructive actions. Any move that doesn’t involve peeking into the randomness of the future gets put on a stack and you can rewind as far as you want. This was a pain but the results are so excellent.

Don’t have to worry about freezing to death anyways!

We also tweaked the way ramming and impacts work, added a cool haze effect to heat sources in the game, set up a play history and stats tracking system so folks can compare previous runs, and expanded the new terrain system we built for the Woodlands into the other biomes.

But Wait, There’s More

In addition to the new terrain visual style, we also set up a new “ground damage” layer, so blast marks, ash, and ground cracks can persist through the level and on save / load too. We also added some new items like the fire extinguisher and road flare (more on this in a moment). We refined some of the character abilities — for example, characters with the Lighter trait can ignite their own torches, or a friend’s flammable bottle.

Then we made some major changes to our Twitch integration. Previously, streamers had the option to use viewer names as their survivor names in-game. We’ve added several new options to the menu though, including a polling system to let viewers vote on the next destination, and a role-play system to let viewers control their character’s in-game speech bubbles.

Somehow the whole concept of voting has soured for me slightly but this is still pretty dang good.

Oh I Almost Forgot

Oh yea we also completely rebuilt the game interface. Players can directly interact with their character inventory, and freely trade items between characters with simple drag and drop motions. A new universal label system is helping with clarity, and we consolidated all our weird ground outlines into a unified system as well.

This would have been a lot easier if I had any idea what I was doing.

This same tech is used to warn the player if they’re about to abandon a teammate and more. But perhaps the thing I’m most excited about is we can finally draw walking paths! Gone are the weird detective shoe-prints and woefully confusing implied motions. Yeah, it’s been a busy Q3.

There’s not even a thing over there. It’s almost like this encounter was STAGED.

Ah, Just One Last Thing…

So Overland has a simple day night cycle — each location you stop in advances through Dawn, Midday, Sunset, and Night. For a long time this was mostly cosmetic, part of the road trip aesthetic and all. We have some connections to character trust and some other things but it’s still mostly cosmetic.

Until now.

It’ll be fine! I promise. This is fine. It’s probably fine. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It might be fine!

Welcome to Night Mode! Fun for the whole family, including new visibility items like the road flare, a renewed emphasis on torches and fires, and new character traits like night vision for puppers. If you wanted Overland to be much, much, scarier, you’re welcome. If you didn’t, well, watch the time of day closely, and plan accordingly. Save up a little extra fuel and spend the night in places you were going to skip anyways… it’s up to you.

Maybe this is all just a narcissistic and long-winded way of saying it’s been a long road to get from June to where we are now. Maybe this is our way of saying thanks to our community for helping us get this far. We couldn’t have done it without your support and especially your feedback. Thank you!

Oh yeah, all of this is available now on overland-game.com.

Just sayin’

Oh Shoot One Very Last Thing I Promise

A little while back, our audio director Jocelyn Reyes created this sound preview for our Grasslands biome. I love it to pieces and can’t wait to make sound previews for the other biomes too.

Ok That’s It For Real Real

Unless you count Flixel, this whole “open development” thing is pretty new to us. It’s hard to tell sometimes if we’re oversharing or spoiling the magic or leaking a secret better saved until later. I think there’s a lot of value in just being honest about process though, as long as we aren’t ruining too much of the sense of discovery for players. Hopefully we’re walking that line more or less the right way so far. If you have thoughts don’t hesitate to share, you can email us anytime at hello@finji.co.

Anyways, time to get back to work on bug fixes and new features! Don’t forget to check the Finji shop for sweet pupcar shirts, and the trello for the nitty gritty on our daily progress. As always thanks for reading. You can follow Overland on twitter, facebook, tumblr, youtube, and twitch. You can also wishlist Overland on the Steam if you’re into that. Safe travels ❤


Compendium of Finji’s Overland articles and monthly…


Compendium of Finji’s Overland articles and monthly broadcasts.

Adam Saltsman

Written by

game maker and dad. staying busy running @FinjiCo w @bexsaltsman


Compendium of Finji’s Overland articles and monthly broadcasts.