Cataclysm DDA: Ultimate Tutorial

Howdy folks, look at this fancy new forum! It’s been a while since I’ve been on site, you may remember me as the one who made the “Animatronic Monsters” aka the FNaF mod. I also made a tutorial series way back when .C first came out(it may have even been .B, yikes). The reason I made that series, was, at the time no tutorials were up to date, and any people who did know the game were at such a high skill level they didn’t explain anything in their playthroughs.

Given that series is well out of date now, I’ve made a new tutorial series that covers just about everything quite thoroughly, as well as including a lot of things I learned since then. Here it is!

Additionally, below will be a text tutorial. For those who prefer to learn by reading, or aren’t into the video format. (This may take a bit of time for me to complete.)

Suggestions and clarifications are welcome. I also want to mention that Cataclysm updates rapidly, several times a day, it might not be long for information to change.

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1. Downloading

Option A:
You can download Cataclysm directly from the homesite if you perfer. I suggest following Option B though. On the right hand side of the screen are the different builds of the game, depending on if you use Windows, Linux, or Mac - each of these has both a Graphical and Console version.

The Graphical build is the tileset version. The Console version is ASCII only. You will want to use the graphical build; you can change it in game to be ASCII if you want later, and I recently tried to used the Console build and it was bugged.


Extract the zip file and you’re good to run it from the .exe. You can always move the folder from your Downloads to somewhere more appropriate if you wish. I also like to make a shortcut to the .exe on the desktop, because as we go through setting up options we’ll need to relaunch the game a couple times.

Option B(recommended):
While getting the game from the homesite is fine, the game now has a very handy launcher available. If you ever used the Starter Pack for Dwarf Fortress, it’s a lot like that. It can automatically update the game, help you install mods, soundpacks, and more. You can get it here - click on “cdda-launcher.exe” below “Assets”.

Once it’s downloaded, like before you can move it from your Downloads to where you’d like it to be, and again I’d recommend giving it a shortcut from the desktop.

2. CDDA Game Launcher Setup

If you did the manual download from the host site you’ll skip this step, but again this launcher is highly recommended.

Launch the .exe - you will see that most options are grayed out. The launcher doesn’t have the game preinstalled. You will see a textbox labeled “Directory:” and on the right side of it, at box that looks like […] - click it. From here you will select where you want to install the game at. (I personally like to put it in the same folder I put the launcher, so I know it’s all in one place).

You can now install the game, notice under the “Launch Game” button you have install options, able to pick between the Tileset and Console versions of the game, and either 64 bit or 32 bit Windows. Pick tiles and the appropriate Windows for you(if you’re computer is moderately new, this should be x64). You can also pick the version number of the game your want. It will pick the latest build by default, later this is what you’ll go to to update the game if you want to. Click “Install Game” at the bottom.

(It can be worth it to peek at the changelog. Every now and again an update can make the game crashy. If I see the last version was a HUGE change to the game, I’ll usually pick an older build for a bit, in case something got broken).

Installation may take a minute, Cataclysm used to be exceptionally tiny, but it’s getting larger now - a good thing! You’ll see “Update Game” replaced “Install Game”, you can click that to update the game later, but you don’t need to now. Up at the top, click the “Mods” tab.

On the left side is the mods that come already installed with the game, and on the right available mods. You can peek through these and see what seems like fun to you. Note that some can be out of date and cause crashes, so do your research.

(I personally grab “StatsThroughSkills IV”. This is a mod that lets you level up your stats through gameplay, as opposed to default where you set them at the start of the game and they don’t increase. The game also comes with a “StatsThoughSkills” mods, however that version makes it so you cannot adjust your stats at the start, and can only update them by playing - in fact you can spend points on them but they’ll reset to 8.)
[I’ve heard rumor this isn’t the case anymore, but haven’t confirmed it]

Select the mod you want and click “Install this mod”.

Click on the “Soundpacks” tab. You see here you have “Basic” installed but not anything else. Pick the one you want and install it, but CDDA-Soundpack is the recommended one. (It’s worth noting if you’re let’s playing, some music will demonetize videos. It’s still worth getting for sound effects, we can mute music later if we need to).

That’s good enough to start so let’s go back to the “Main” tab and click “Launch Game”.

3. Settings and Options

Cataclysm will start, but as you can see it’s a tini-tiny window. We need to fix this. You’ll also notice you can’t click anything. Cataclysm is nearly 100% keyboard based.

The left and right arrow keys will move your selection. This “ping” sound effect is the only thing in the “basic” soundpack, so yet another reason we need to go to “Settings” right now. Arrow over to it, and press enter. A new set of selections opened up, but let’s just press enter again to go to “Options”.

[From here onwards we’re going to have A LOT of options. You and I will both go insane if I explain everything. As you go through the options there will be a brief explanation at the top of the screen. I’m only going to describe things that are important, that you might be interested in, or need clarification. Things where the in game explanation seems good enough I’ll skip too.]

The up and down arrows will move you up and down this list, but now the left and right arrows will toggle options.

3-13: I usually leave “autopickup” options like they are. This is something you can mess with so your character will automatically pick up objects that they step next to. Similarly, autobutcher butcher and pulp will automatically butcher or pulp a body you step on. I leave these as they are too. I also leave “dangerous Pickups” as is.

15-19: Safe mode is an in game toggle where if something aggressive steps into your vision it will pause the game and lock you from moving. It’s a safety measure so you don’t rush into danger without knowing it. I leave it on because you can always toggle it on and off on the fly.

One thing I like to change here is “safe mode proximity distance”, it’s default is “0” which means if /anything/ aggressive is even /remotely/ visible it will pause. I find this is overkill and annoying. I set this to “20”, 20 is the number of tiles of a single block on the minimap, which should be enough to get away from danger. But adjust this as feels right for you. You can also set it here to activate safemode again after turning it off for a certain amount of time, this can be helpful if you’re forgetful, but I like to do mine manually to avoid annoyances.

21: Realtime turn progression is new and scares me, let’s leave that alone shall we?

23-25: Autosave options, in case you want to savescum-- I mean, load up after a crash.

27: Circular distances is a nice thing to turn on. Normally the game is calculated on squares. Vision radius is square, you can walk on diagonals to go warp speed. Circular distances makes vision rounded and corners take a logical amount of time to walk. (The trivia of why this is off by default was it was super CPU intensive, but it’s fixed now)

28-30: I like to keep my empty containers so I leave that as is. Auto notes automatically marks on your map buildings you find staircases in, which can be good to know. Deathcam is deathcam, unlike Dwarf Fortress’ I don’t really understand what’s happening when I watch it, so I just leave it on ask, then usually say “no” when I die.

32-35: Lastly here you have your sound options. On “choose soundpack” arrow over to “CDDA Soundpack” or whatever you installed in the launcher. If you didn’t use the launcher, you’ll have to go get it manually. Remember if you’re youtubing, videos might get demonetized for the music, bring music volume to zero to acoid that, sound effects should be fine though.

To get to the next tab, hit tab!

1-7: Draw your national lines. Here’s where you can set the language, and pick between metric and imperial measurements, and between 12hr time and military time.

9-15: These all sound pretty technical, I don’t want to mess around with them.

17: Turn this to “false” if you have a numpad. What this does is it lets you hold shit and press an arrow key to move on a diagonal. But you can move on diagonals with the numpad, and when I leave this on I tend to accidentally walk the wrong direction – Cataclysm is very CaSE SEnsITiVe and it uses shift for a lot of things, so leaving this on can easily result in missteps, and missteps cna mean the difference between life or death easily.

19-21: Car stuff, I leave it alone

23-35: UI options, these can be fun to mess with but they’re fine as is.

Tab to Graphics.

Let’s tighten up the graphics on level 3.

1-5: Technical stuff again, I don’t want to break something

7-8: Here’s where we can fix this window being so small. This is the width and height of the window. The description will tell you how many pixels it translates to. This will all depend on your screen size, but it’s important to know /don’t set it to your actual resolution/. This is a window, if you set it like that, you’ll lose the borders, the ability to move the window around, close it, etc. For me, I set it 238 width, 63 height - this translates to 1904pixels wide, 1008 pixels high. This is as close to full screen I can get with the border all still fitting in my monitor.

10-17: Here you can turn off tiles so you can be on ASCII again, pick the tileset you want to use, and mess with the minimap. I wouldn’t mess with the minimap. This is why you don’t really need the Console build, you can just make the game ASCII here.

19-23: More technical stuff I wouldn’t mess with, with the exception of “Full Screen”. You can avoid that trouble with setting height and width here. I don’t like full screen, but it looks like there’s a borderless window options here now. I’ll give it a try.

This is where you can cheat.

1: This is how much of the map you start with, it starts at “15” with a max of “20”. I feel no guilt in bringing this to 20, it’s not that much of a difference and doesn’t make you OP or anything.

3-6: This changes points you can spend on character creation, this is really where you can cheat things. Cataclysm is RELENTLESSLY hard though and has only gotten HARDER with time. If the game is getting too frustrating, hike them up. The middle ground I take is just bringing “Maximum Trait Points” to 20. This isn’t actually giving you more points, this just means you can take more negative setbacks to your character, in exchange for points.

10: Praise the Dev that made skill rust being “off” default. It used to be on, which meant if you didn’t use a skill you’d lose XP in it. As if things weren’t hard enough.

12-13: 3D is crashy still, path name is technical sounding. I don’t want to break anything so let’s leave these alone.

[World Defaults]
You don’t have to change these here, you can set them when you create a world. However, you may want to reload a map over and over till you get one with something specific on it you want to see, so setting this every time can be a pain. If you set it here you won’t have to set it every time.

1: You can set this to decide what happens to a world if your character dies, keep, reset, delete or ask. Worlds are persistent if you want to be, a new character can enter the same world and find your last guy’s dead body. I prefer to start fresh every time myself, so I’ll turn it to delete, or query.

3-4: City size and scale, 4’s fine – you’ll still see big cities and small towns both.

5-9: Change the spawn rates here. I would leave most of this where it is. The one thing you might want to look at is NPCs, depending if you want an apocalypse where a number of people survived or if you want it to be emptier. .10 is really low, but this is a fix because 1.00 was absurd how many spawned when it used to be default, the choice is yours. Keep in mind though, NPCs can start with guns, and some will just straight up shoot you, which will be your death early game.

11-12: The game’s hard enough, why make it harder?

14: Placeholder, not implemented yet.

16-20: Things to do with time and seasons. The things to consider here is, starting at night can be good if you want to loot a town early, it’s easier at night. But you can’t craft at night(it’s too dark, so unless you have a lightsource). Changing the season can be interesting, but it’s important to remember /the game calculates as if that time as passed/ fresh food will be rotten if you start in winter.

22-24: Zombie options. Wander spawns are random zombie hordes that move around the map during play, which can be fun, but also can potentially just spawn them right on you without warning. I usually leave it off. Classic zombies disable all the crazy, mutant zombies. Surrounded start is decieving, depending on you starting scenario, even if you turn this on you might not be surrounded. All it does is puts a number of zombies around all the Evac Stations on the map, which is the default start, but if you pick somewhere else you won’t actually start surrounded, but all Evac shelters will be surrounded.

26-27: NPCs! Static ones used to be on by default, but what it does is adds an NPC who spawns with you. They aren’t aggressive, but also have to be convinced to help you. Some special locations in game are also turned on when Static NPCs are turned on. Random NPCs are that value you might have adjusted earlier, ones that will appear out of nowhere randomly, and can be hostile, traders, or friendly.

29: You can turn mutating off if that’s not your cup of tea.

31-33: Z-levels are still crashy, aligning up down stairs can cause issues. Leave em be.

35: I’m not sure why this isn’t over in debug. Remember all those different points in the debug menu for character creation? Here you choose if you want each pool seperate(current “default”) all together(old school option), turn off freeform from options(which is infinite points), or Any (you get to pick at character creation). I’d just leave it on “Any”, this whole option feels redundant.

Press ESCAPE to get exit options, it will ask if you want to save your changes, press “Y”. Don’t forget about case sensitivity!

[To be continued]

Things like this are great, as they help newer players enjoy this game. Nice going.

One suggestion I would like to make however, it that the wall of text in the post above is actually quite off-putting to read. I would recommend you make use of the “Hide Details” function under post “options”.

That way you end up with something that looks likes this:

1. Downloading
2. CDDA Game Launcher Setup
3. Settings and Options

It is also possible to embed your videos into a post like this [below] by having the link on a new line by itself. If it were me, I would pair up each text section to the relevant video, to make it easier for people to use both together. And rack up dem views :smirk:

keep up the good work mate.:memo:

Ah thank you, not used to this forum’s format yet.

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