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Messages - Jon Shafer

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AtG - General Discussion / Weekly AtG Update #1 The Map
« on: Today at 02:59:27 PM »
Welcome to the first weekly AtG update in the final countdown to the January 23 release date! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This first week our theme has been the map, and you can also follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter.


Map Generation

The map is the most important part of any strategy game, especially a 4X game. I spent 18 months creating the map generation system for AtG, and although in retrospect it was probably a bit much it really is a cool system, and something I'm proud to show off and expect to continue using in future games.

My primary goal with the map generator was to produce realistic-feeling worlds. They aren't perfect, and I've fudged things here and there for the sake of good gameplay, but the goal from day 1 was something that felt right. There should be long mountain chains, vast deserts, lush regions, rivers winding down from high points helping quench the thirst of dense forests.



My primary goal with the maps was to create realistic-feeling worlds.



To accomplish this the map is first constructed by seeding 6-10 "high points" which are randomly grown into mountain ranges, and serve as the "anchor points" for continents and islands. Points which are extensively developed usually turn into large continents, while some might randomly never grow into much. It's not plate tectonics, but it works pretty well. From that point I grow land onto the mountains, first hills and then flat ground. We're then left with the shapes of the land, with nothing on them.

A climate simulation is then run to determine what kind of terrain that land turns into. Maritime currents hit the west edge of continents, resulting in forests and green, fertile areas, but when mountain ranges stop this moisture the result is dry steppe land and even desert. Elevation is also calculated, and this is used to build the paths of rivers down from high points to the sea, and this also helps determine where swamps will end up.



Map generation consists of several simulation layers.


Seasons

Another element which stands out with AtG's maps are its cyclical transformation. Every 24 turns a full seasonal cycle takes place, chilling and then freezing the landscape and changing its properties in a variety of ways. The climate simulation also has a role to play here though, and some areas are affected more than others - the winter can be much more harsh the further north you get.

Summer is the time of plenty, when it's easy to generate food and conduct military campaigns. But this time only lasts so long, and when the map grows cold food production shuts down and the supply your military units rely on to continue operating diminishes and then usually disappears. Armies can encamp to regain supply for one turn, but this leaves them vulnerable to enemy attack, so doing so when in your opponent's territory is usually ill-advised.

Winter comes with benefits as well though, as rivers freeze over, eliminating them as terrain obstacles. Moving through snow is harder than flat ground, but this will often still be something you can take advantage of. Large rivers are normally completely impassable, and so winter is your only opportunity to cross.



The changing of the seasons gives AtG a distinct gameplay rhythm.


Exploration

Exploration is usually the most fun of the four Xs the 4X genre has to offer, and this was something I really wanted to emphasize more in AtG.

One way this has been done is by by making the acquisition of resources from the map require an additional stage: not only do you have the find something, like a plant, and then construct a farm on it, but in AtG you must also determine what kind of plant it is. Now, obviously someone would be able to figure out the difference between wheat and grapes pretty quickly, but this is also meant to simulate the time necessary to determine if the source is at all economical for harvesting. If you find a single grape vine it's not going to be enough to fuel your kingdom-wide wine production operation.

This is a mechanic that was inspired somewhat by the old SSI game Imperialism, where a surveyor had to go out and look at individual tiles in order to see if there were any minerals there. That mechanic was a bit tedious and didn't really offer a ton of strategy (just send your surveyor from valid tile to valid tile until they were all checked), but it did feel good in some way. I've aimed to capture that same feeling in AtG, only with some more strategy. After all, if you find a bunch of unidentified minerals near your starting location that's enough information to start moving towards researching and training your clans as miners, but you won't know exactly what you're dealing with until you send someone out to nail down the details.



Most resource deposits must be identified before they can be used.


One other way I've tried to add more strategy and intrigue to the map is through starting location "hints".

Traditionally in 4X strategy games you can see a very small ring around your starting location, and usually also a handful of resource deposits which might help shape your early build and research choices, but often it's just not enough to make these first few choices interesting. In AtG I really wanted to spice things up by giving you more information. Now, I didn't want to just show you half the map to start, so I've instead shown a preview of a half-dozen or so interesting tiles.

These things might be resources, goody huts, or bandit camps, pushing you in not only economic but also military directions. If you see two goody huts nearby then training an explorer probably makes a lot of sense. A couple of bandit camps though and you might want to get some warriors online first. It's a subtle change, but it really adds a lot to the early game.



Starting location "hints" can help inform your strategies in the first few turns.


The theme for next week's updates will one of the game's most important features: the clans. You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or simply stay tuned here for the next big update!

- Jon

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I'm afraid so, but glad to hear you're interested in the game! We'll have a $35 version of the game available through our website that will include a strategy guide/designer notes, but that's obviously not quite the same thing.

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Re: Will At the Gates have multiplayer?
« on: December 13, 2018, 11:44:35 AM »
Welcome to the forums yavl!

There won't be any multiplayer in AtG, but the maps are all procedurally-generated. The plan is to eventually release a map editor and a detailed map of Europe built into the game that you can play on, but that will be down the road.

It's very much possible to build tall rather than wide. In fact, you technically only ever own one "city" in AtG, which is where all of your originate from. You can train clans in different professions and have them claim things across the map, but focusing on your core area is definitely a viable strategy.

- Jon

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There is no longer an official way of getting access to the game until the 23rd, but send me an email and we'll see if we can find a work-around.

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Re: Release Date: January 23, 2019!
« on: December 12, 2018, 09:12:56 AM »
Okay, cool.  I haven't been keeping up all these years, but looking forward to playing it.

It's finally almost time!


Good luck with your launch!
I saw you got an article on the PC Gamer website Link. Despite some bugs they seemed to like it.
Maybe RockPaperShotgun, Eurogamer and Quill18 would be interested as well?
If you could also get Sullla and the Realms Beyond community on board that could be a real feather in the cap.

Edit: How about a Stockholm Launch Party?

Thank you Coin!

Definitely still bugs and balance issues in the game, will be a couple of the things I focus on between now and January 23rd.

- Jon

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Off-Topic / Moderation Policy
« on: December 11, 2018, 09:01:58 AM »
I'm a firm believer in the free exchange of ideas, so any statement, question, or argument made in good faith is not only allowed here but welcomed. That said, personal attacks against others (whether forum members, developers, or individuals outside our community) are not acceptable and will be removed. "The game balance sucks" is allowed. "The developers are stupid" is not.

Offenders will be given a warning, and after a second infraction the forum admins will issue a 1-week ban. Should a 3rd offense occur the ban will be made permanent.

So, yeah, pretty simple: feel free to be critical, but don't be mean. Please use the forum reporting feature to bring to our attention to any violations of this policy, and feel free to PM me if you have any questions regarding it.

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Post-Release Update Plan
« on: December 11, 2018, 09:01:23 AM »
AtG is almost ready to be released, but that doesn't mean there won't be bugs and it certainly won't be perfect in terms of pacing, balance, AI, etc. So the plan is to release patches over the next several months on a fairly regular schedule:


       1.01 0-2 weeks after release Stability

       1.1 4-6 weeks after release Balance

       1.2 8-12 weeks after release Strategy + Mod Support

       1.3 5-7 months after release AI + Diplomacy


This doesn't mean support for the game ends after this, but the above is already set-in-stone and I want you all to be in the loop with regards to the plan. It's also possible things will change a bit, but if and when this happens I'll be sure to post here and let you know.

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Release Date: January 23, 2019!
« on: December 11, 2018, 08:58:12 AM »
I'm incredibly excited to announce that At the Gates will be officially released on January 23rd, 2019!

It's been a long road, almost 7 years now, and it's a bit of a surreal feeling to be honest. This game now spans over 20% of my lifetime. That's, well, not exactly what the plan was. But here we are. There's some additional work to be done on AI, balance, and a couple minor features, but other than that the game is just about there.

I think it's really good, too. I've been playtesting a fair bit the past few months, and while the game certainly has its rough edges it really is a new kind of 4X experience. It's a tough game, and it can be a slow grind, but from day one I always wanted to build something that would take the basic genre formula and push it a bit more. The game won't be everyone's cup of tea. But from a place of having hard time even launching the game for a while I've now grown to love it, and I know a lot of other people will too.

So thank you all for coming along with me on this journey. I know it's not always been easy. But "the gates" are finally just in front of us now.


Along with this announcement I've prepared a number of different cool things related to the game:


       The game now has a proper Steam page - please wishlist us, even if you've already contributed or pre-ordered!

       We've created an official game trailer.

       The AtG website and these forums have been redone.

       PC Gamer will have a hands-on preview for the game up shortly (will post a link when it's available).


I'll also be sharing a short, interesting tidbit about the game on Twitter every day between now and release, and on Sunday nights a new article will go up which digs a bit deeper into a feature or cool development story.

Thanks again everyone, and I can't wait until everyone will finally be able to play At the Gates!

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Welcome to the New Forums!
« on: December 11, 2018, 08:55:44 AM »
Welcome to the new Conifer and At the Gates forums!

Along with the website and a lot of stuff related to the game we've decided to give the forums a facelift (there now even a mobile version!). Unfortunately I'm a game developer rather than a web developer and the database of old posts got corrupted in the process. I'll take a look at some point and see anything can be recovered, but no promises - my priority at this point is finishing up the game.

The forum is split up into two sections, one for game-specific talk, one for general (off topic) chat. There's also a forum for the private beta test, and when the game is released I'll add another section for reporting bugs and receiving help with technical issues.

Please take a minute to read the forum moderation policy. It's really short, I promise.

Thanks again for visiting, and feel free to start a new thread to discuss the game or ask questions!

- Jon

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AtG - General Discussion / Moderation Policy
« on: December 11, 2018, 08:55:04 AM »
I'm a firm believer in the free exchange of ideas, so any statement, question, or argument made in good faith is not only allowed here but welcomed. That said, personal attacks against others (whether forum members, developers, or individuals outside our community) are not acceptable and will be removed. "The game balance sucks" is allowed. "The developers are stupid" is not.

Offenders will be given a warning, and after a second infraction the forum admins will issue a 1-week ban. Should a 3rd offense occur the ban will be made permanent.

So, yeah, pretty simple: feel free to be critical, but don't be mean. Please use the forum reporting feature to bring to our attention to any violations of this policy, and feel free to PM me if you have any questions regarding it.

- Jon

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