The Black Death

Dev Blog #55: Ongoing Beta Features, Current Beta Build Notes & Beta Build Progress

Greetings citizens of Mercia and welcome to Dev Blog #55!

This is a bonus Dev Blog issue for you all that will be focusing on our Beta branch and what we are working on with our upcoming update. We’ve got our ongoing Beta features section with what we have been working on and adding to the Beta, our current development build notes and some recent Beta updates in the form of patch notes too.

In today’s Dev Blog we will be covering: Item Rarity, Equipment Slots, AI Types, Resources, Comparing UI from Live to Beta, Updates in the current Beta build, Updates for the next Beta build, How to download our Beta branch & Submitting Beta bugs to the team.

Ongoing Beta Features


New AI Improvements

Large A.I. improvements made with their logic and large increases in population including a new wide variety such as:

  • Groups of Infected Beggars that spread infection and hound you for much needed gold but will retreat with fear if attacked.
  • Deadly Beggars that will kill in sheer desperation, only with fists they will punch their way out of any fight.
  • Bandit Spearman that deal large amounts of damage and flank violently.
  • Outlaw Crossbowman that tactically seek distance and cover between them and their targets.
  • Shielded Templars that push forward with shield in hand putting pressure on even the most advanced player
  • Templar Knights that wield giant two handed weapons dealing large amounts of damage but are slower and more calculative.

Need a good amount of building materials? track down the new bandit woodsman that carry copious amounts of wood.

Here are a couple of new GIFs showing off more of our new AI types, that’s right ranged enemies are back in business! Here is our new Outlaw Crossbowman, those bolts pack a punch.

Here is our improved and reworked Bandit Archer!


Extra Info On Resources

Resources are now fully procedural to ensure no matter where you are in the map there will have plenty to find, this also allows us to tweak how rare or even how common a certain resource is making sure there is always enough. Lots of tweaks have been made to make sure they don’t spawn in unreachable or unrealistic places. However don’t fret, our procedural spawning system also allows some resources to spawn more likely in certain areas such as ore near a mine.


Item Rarity

We have decided to change up how our item Rarities work in The Black Death. Crafted and purchased items, weapons and armour will now have set rarities, this also includes harvested resources in the wild.

The item quality system was causing problems which we wanted to address. The core being:

  • The underlying system meant that we weren’t able to stack items
  • Balancing items was complex as we had to balance the same item 5 times (the values for each quality)
  • There was no clear order as to what item was better than another (e.g. was a rare stick better than an awful sword?)
  • Having multiple durability bars, colours and names was convoluting the UI

After much discussion in the office we decided to pivot the design into item rarity instead. With item rarity we only have to balance an item once. This allowed us to create a clear order of what item is better than what. We assigned each item a specific rarity; Common (Grey), Uncommon (Green), Rare (Blue), Epic (Purple) and Mythic (Yellow). This relates to how good the item is and allows people to quickly read in the UI its value. The other important outcome of this is adjustment was that it allowed us to implement item stacking, which has improved the flow of the game and helped to make the UI easier to read.

Our new system:

  1. Common (Grey)
  2. Uncommon (Green)
  3. Rare (Blue)
  4. Epic (Purple)
  5. Mythic (Yellow)

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Equipment Slots

Our new equipment slots now free up your visual Inventory space by having your armour in it’s own tab. Armour values are also now show correctly on items in your Inventory. The Epic Kettle Helmet and Mythic Lamellar show off our new colour tabs on items too for a quick glance on item qualities.

It is also now possible to right click on items to drop, split and use them.

Speaking of loot, there is more loot in the world for Players to find, use, craft with or sell too! Make sure you get out there and explore the world of Mercia.

Here is a quick GIF showing how easy it is to click and drag your armour to the equipment slots at the top of your Inventory panel!


Screenshot Sliders – Comparing Live to Beta

Here are some screenshots of our current Live build (V0.23) compared with our Beta (V0.24), using our sliders you can see the differences between our old and new HUD.

Note: The current build V0.23 (Live) images are on the left hand side and our Beta build V0.24 (Beta) images are on the right hand side.

Starting things off, this is our main HUD in game. We have took our old HUD and given it the theming and style of our Inventory and recipe UI. With the addition of our new Quick Slot Bar and tidy information surrounding it we feel this makes it much cleaner. The green bar in the centre of the Quick Slot Bar is your XP bar! This is now more visible and can also be seen at the top of the Journal tab for classes too.

Moving on to our Shopkeeper window, notice how the items feel more separate in the new layout, along with item qualities now being displayed by coloured tags on their item icons.

To show some of our smaller changes here is our Camp Fire utility. You now have the ability to craft more than one of an item if you have the required resources to do so.

Here is a comparison of our old Plague Doctor recipe window. The new UI is much sharper than the previous one, with some of the dirt effects on the journal cleared up for text clarity.

Our last slider is a smaller change. This one simply shows when you enter and exit an area the pop-up tab at the centre top of the screen now matches with our new UI theme and also features an audio effect when these appear.

Here is a quick GIF showing our new Days Survived pop up. This version is more compact and tidy with it’s information and does not cover your Health and wellness any more. It is now situated above our new Quick Slot Bar.

Updates In The Current Beta Build


  • Made it so you can upscale the chat window size for people with bigger resolutions, see in game settings under “gameplay”
  • Items now stack in inventory (apart from tools, clothes and weapons)
  • Added a survey on game close, when on beta branch, to help us identify key problems/areas
  • Money is now an item and not a separate system. E.g. money can be taken from a lootable when you click loot all rather than being a separate thing you have to click at the top. Money can be split dropped and split added to chests.
  • Inventory items/shop items/lootable items can now be right clicked to bring up contextual options such as, use, drop, split etc
  • Inventory now has a tooltip, when hovering over items and recipes so that you can learn more about the item.
  • There is no longer a combat mode when you draw a weapon, this is to help the flow of player based combat.
  • Damage is effected by the material being hit and the material being used to strike with. E.g. wood against metal is not very effective but metal against wood is effective.
  • It is now possible to craft more than one of an item if you have enough materials in your Inventory
  • Being stunned by projectile weapons now stuns you and slows you for a brief moment
  • There is now lots more loot in the world for players to find, use, craft with or sell.


  • update – centre the mouse out when enter the inventory, Exit Menu, House menu, to be more fluid
  • Removed timer for holding E to bring up context wheel. now instant, only shows if object has more than 2 interact options
  • You can now move while picking stuff up, instead of pausing for a full body animation
  • Doors that you own can now be open/closed quickly with just a press of E (No context wheel)
  • Removed use, equip and un-equip from the context wheel now that we have quickslots
  • Removed background from the inventory and house workbench menus so you can see through
  • Infection system updated, now the player only has one stage to infection and the timer for being infected has been reduced. Instead of instantly taking away health it drains your food and hunger which when they hit 0% it causes you to take damage.
  • Tweaked size of text on the main menu initial message
  • Made layout tweaks to the house ui to help make it easier to read
  • Made it so you can now see your xp bar and how many points you have to spend in your HUD, so you can see how close you are to leveling up. Also made it so you can see the number of xp you get when you do a task
  • Moved around hud elements, now pickup item info is in the centerplace in the screen so its easier to see.
  • Updated the UI of the inventory to be cleaner and easier to read.
  • Added small camera shakes to the player when hit in combat, making strikes and landing from jumps
  • Updated the bow mechanics to make more smooth and include more audio feedback
  • Now show Arrow count throughout the UI
  • Adjusted the rate at which the stamina drains and regens during combat
  • Did a quick update for the stick club striking anims


  • Optimised the tick rate of the main menu level blueprint
  • Optimised the UI (Exit Menu, )
  • Optimised Traps tick rate
  • Optimising textures
  • Streaming audio changes
  • Compressed animations
  • Deleted old resources blueprints
  • Deleted old AI blueprints


  • Adjusted player speeds


  • Fixed up a bug which would cause the camera to freeze if you brought up the interaction menu while in the exit menu
  • Fixed errors that slowed the game down when it is being cooked off
  • Fixed using well water pickup sound and vfx not playing
  • Fixed emote wheel so it opens up.
  • Fixed problem that stopped you moving when using the bow

Updates For The Next Beta Build

We are hoping to have a Beta build today (22/01/2018) on our Test Beta Server. These are fixes that we have done today that will be in the new build:

HUD fades in after loading screen has finished to be more fluid
Lowered the opacity of the chat when it is not active so that it doesn’t draw the players attention away from gameplay.

Poison now effects the player over time (similarly to how bandages do), updated UI to show the effects.

Fixed visual bug in UI when entering exiting an area, also reduced volume of sound effect that plays

Fixed bug which caused items to be already partly damaged when you pick them up/craft them

Fixes to the AI spawning

How To Download Our Beta Branch & Send Bug Reports

As always, if you do find any bugs or issues when playing on our Beta Test Server please fill in a Bug Report over on our Google Bug Form, every bug counts! When submitting bugs make sure to select “Version V0.xx (Beta)”.


For details on how to get onto our Beta branch check out this Steam post here.

There is now a Google Form that will appear in your web browser once The black Death has been closed after playing. This form will only load in your browser if you have been playing on the Beta branch. It is designed to help us gather feedback whilst it is still fresh in your thoughts after playing so we can get a clear impression on Player thoughts. We greatly appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Thank you in advance for your submissions.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and see you next time!

// The SIG Team

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