Apparently the release of Build 41 was a major success in regards to more people playing:
Let's remind you, before this new wave the 2020 and 2021 already displayed major upticks, but this is now completely dwarfed by the influx of new players.
And then the team made a new blog post regarding their plans for 2022:
The major next feature they want to implement are NPC that can be recruited to build a bigger base, also working together with multiplayer, so your base can be mixed actual players and NPCs. That is another bigger feature. To avoid longer waits for builds they decided to split the dev team into two. One team works on the new and bigger tech like NPCs while the other is polishing issues with the last build and adds smaller scaled features.
This means that build 42 will be such a smaller update, while build 43 will introduce NPCs. Despite build 42 being smaller it is planned to contain some important steps. This includes balancing of skills. What that means is probably a lot more recipes to learn to build useful stuff with so far underused skills. Electronics comes to mind. A big goal in this is also the long-term sustainability of a base with recipes filling the gaps of stuff that so far must be looted. The devs say, that it should be possible to build and long-term sustain a "post-apocalypse nu medieval community" (their words). This means you could play on a server for many in-game years with the theme slowly changing from a crumbling society to the build-up of a new one.
Not necessarily with build 42 alone, but the additions in recipes and skills should provide the goal (to cite the devs):
"Ultimately to build up to the point that Alexandria / Hilltop / Kingdom style communities can form years after the apocalypse, giving more incentive to keep playing and building on existing worlds instead of intentionally replaying the early game because there is no real late game."
"All this would be a time sink and require a group effort and wouldn’t be compulsory for those who prefer to just die repeatedly in the early apocalypse days, but the hope is to allow for a much greater level of community building, and facilitate trade and potentially years of stories and rich history from within a single world, be it NPC populated or an MP server, spanning numerous player lives (so it can still be the story of how you died)."
Another thing they want to add is crafting surfaces. This means some crafting recipes need a specific workstation, be it a simple flat surface as in a table, or a workstation especially outfitted for the purpose of this skill. It all depends on the recipe in question, some may still be made just on your person. This is targeted to make a more involved complex crafting system with the possibilities to upgrade workstation and the ability for multi-stage crafting.
The system on procedurally generated in-game events should be extended (currently you can find specific scenes, like a burned house with a fire fighter car outside and multiple firefighter-zombies).
I look forward to all these new additions, while being content trying out and playing all the cool stuff we got before the holidays.