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How to avoid meltdowns, by understanding the game’s happiness mechanics.
This guide is current as of Early Access version 0.11.221102 (3 November, 2022).
What causes meltdowns?
Aside from a few very rare scripted game events, meltdowns have a chance to happen anytime a survivor’s happiness falls below 20%. Therefore, the easiest way to ensure meltdowns never happen is simply never to let a survivor’s happiness drop below 20%.
But how you ask? You have armchairs and dart boards and comfy beds and Emelin’s gourmet meals… and they still have meltdowns. It may not seem like you have much control over this, but you have more control than you might realize once you understand how the game’s happiness mechanics work.
The happiness meter
A survivor has 4 meters, as shown on the Overview tab:
- One for their overall happiness
- One for how hungry they are
- One for how tired they are
- One for how stressed out they are
The last three are fairly simple to take care of. Feed your survivors, and give them time to sleep and relax, and you can keep those bars mostly full. However, doing that by itself won’t guarantee that your survivors are happy.
There is a little arrow along the bottom of the happiness bar that shows you their current mood. This indicates where their happiness is trending; their happiness will slowly move in the direction of that arrow over time.
For example, in this image Krista’s happiness is currently at 44%, however it is slowly moving toward 68%, assuming their mood remains the same.
Since a survivor’s mood directly influences how happy they are, your only real concern is to keep their mood — i.e. that arrow — as high as possible.
A survivor’s mood is made up of all the good and bad things that have happened to them recently. How much these things affect their mood is shown on the Happiness tab:
Survivors have a baseline mood of zero. They’ve crash landed on a primitive world where they have to fight for their day-to-day survival, and they really miss having an internet connection to play their Steam games. It’s a not a situation to be happy about.
Anyway, there is nothing complicated here. You simply add all of these values up, and that will tell you where the mood arrow sits on the survivor’s happiness bar. In this example, Krista’s mood is increased by 77% from the positive things that have happened to them, and decreased by 9% from the negative things that have happened. Therefore, the arrow is sitting at 68%, and their happiness will slowly change toward that value.
Note that a survivor’s mood can never go above 100%, nor can it drop below 0%, no matter how happy or miserable they are. However, anything below 20% means they will eventually be at risk of having a meltdown if their mood doesn’t improve.
Like most people, the survivors will get over their bad experiences after a while, and conversely the good experiences will be too far in the past to continue making them happy. If you hover over one of the mood modifiers with the mouse cursor, it will show you how much longer each one will continue having an effect on the survivor.
Note that there are a few modifiers that don’t have an expiration time, such as being in love with someone, however those are the exception not the rule.
The non-obvious part
On the surface, this is a fairly simple system. However, there are three very important things that make it more complicated.
First, a survivor’s happiness bar is locked whenever the survivor is sleeping. It doesn’t matter what their mood is. If they go to sleep at 42% happiness, they will wake up at 42% happiness, no matter how long they have slept. When they wake up, their happiness will resume moving slowly toward the value of their mood.
Likewise, a survivor’s stress/relaxation bar is also locked whenever they are sleeping. If they were 97% relaxed when they went to sleep, they will be 97% relaxed when they wake up. This
seemslike it would be a good thing, but this can actually work against you as we’ll find out later.
Finally, as mentioned above, nearly all mood modifiers stay in effect for a fixed amount of time before expiring. This timer does
NOTpause while a survivor is sleeping. If they are happy because they enjoyed a nice mug of ale, and then sleep for 8 hours, they may not still be happy about it when they wake up. (Kind of like real life sometimes.)
Putting it all together
The most obvious takeaway from everything above is that any work you do to make your survivors happy is completely wasted while they sleep. Their happiness can’t improve while sleeping, and the mood buff they get from those things will mostly expire during that time.
This can lead to a double-penalty if you have a survivor relax before sleeping. If they go to bed fully relaxed, they will wake up fully relaxed and therefore will refuse to perform any more relaxation activities, robbing you of the chance to refresh those important mood buffs.
This isn’t quite as bad with eating. They will lose their “well fed” mood buff while sleeping, because their hunger bar is not locked and will drop while they are sleeping. But this allows you to make them eat again in the morning to get the “well fed” mood buff back for a while. However, this is wasteful and creates extra work for your cook(s).
TLDR – How to avoid meltdowns
Since a survivor’s happiness can’t change (nor can they have meltdowns) while they are sleeping, you can send them to bed in an absolutely horrible mood — nearly starving and completely stressed out — and they’ll wake up no worse for wear. Actually better since at least they won’t be tired anymore.
You can then feed them right away, which very quickly fills their hunger bar, then have them relax for a couple hours. Now you have the food, rest, and relaxation bars nearly full, and more importantly they will start their work shift with a full set of mood buffs that won’t expire for a while.
This allows their good mood to push their happiness bar upward for as long as possible, and away from any risk of a meltdown.
One final trick
The AI for the survivors is currently… sub-optimal. They don’t pay attention to when their next relaxation time will be. Frequently they will do genius things like:
- Walk super far away right before relaxing time
- Harvest one plant, instead of the whole field
- Drop that one harvested plant on the ground
- Go for a walk to relax since there is nothing else fun to do nearby
- Run back home and eat at 1:00 AM while everyone else is trying to sleep (disturbing them)
- Get to bed late and oversleep while everyone else gets up (and disturbs them back)
This is incredibly frustrating, and I hope this gets fixed before the game leaves Early Access, because the only reliable solution right now is some fairly intense micromanagement.
However, there is a trick that works reasonably well right now, and it synergizes very nicely with everything above. Survivors do seem to respect their scheduled sleep time much more than relaxation time, and will stick to that schedule better than others. Therefore, you will get the best results if you structure their day as Work -> Sleep -> Relax in that order.
This will cause them to work as long as possible, then go directly to sleep (fairly close to the desired time), then wake up and eat/relax so all of their mood buffs are refreshed. However, this only works reliably if they aren’t below 50% hunger when it’s time for them to sleep. Otherwise they will try to eat first.
The solution to that second problem is not to have one giant work shift each day like most of us do here on Earth. Instead, break it up into two equal 12-hour shifts. The survivors in this game don’t mind getting their sleep in shorter chunks, as long as they stay fully rested.
I use the schedule above for my survivors, and it has worked out great. There is still the need to occasionally micromanage someone, but 99% of those cases are just forcing someone to sleep instead of eating before bed because they dipped slightly below 50% hunger.
Anyway, I hope this guide has been helpful so you can spend less time dealing with meltdowns, and more time focusing on the other parts of the game!
That's everything we are sharing today for this Stranded: Alien Dawn guide. This guide was originally created and written by spacedog. In case we fail to update this guide, you can find the latest update by following this link.