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Messages - Jon Shafer

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AtG - Developer Updates / August 2018 Update - What's New?
« on: August 03, 2018, 03:21:04 PM »
Hey all,

In this update we'll be going over what additions have been made to the game the past few months. The todo list is shrinking rapidly and the light at the end of the tunnel very much in sight. The next project milestone in early September is "feature design lockdown", which basically means all of the game's gameplay features are in, and only need iteration, balance, and bugfixing before we're ready to roll. At this point I'll be looking for a lot of playtesting feedback again, so if you're in the alpha and looking to help out that's probably the best time to jump (back) in. There will likely be a couple more tweaks made after the next milestone, but nothing that'll take more than a few days to implement. The few months after this milestone will include further work on the AI and diplomacy, and then aside from smaller stuff like improving the tutorial and adding some screens (e.g. settings, clan management, game setup) we'll have pretty much reached the finish line.

What's New

Professions/Tech Tree

Although this isn't a new feature it's probably the most noticeable change to the game given that clan professions are one of the two fundamental elements of the game's economy (resources being the other).

To summarize what's new, the old design had a lot of issues where professions would often not seem very useful, e.g. if the tier-1 version of a blacksmith turns 1 iron into 1 tool each turn the tier-2 version might convert 6 into 6 and tier-3 10 into 20. The problem was that getting to the point where you could even produce the 6 iron per turn required by tier 2 was pretty hard to reach, and so most of your research options felt pretty unexciting. This issue was solved in a couple ways.

First, I did a pass on the whole tree, switching to an approach that looks more like 2-for-2 in the first tier and then 8-for-4 in the second, with the third being replaced by a system where it's now possible to research a couple different "upgrade techs" which allow you to spend resources (e.g tools or boards) to improve the output by ~50% each. The ability to upgrade is fairly cheap to acquire, but the upgrades themselves require a fair number of resources, ensuring there's always something you want to A) research and B) spend your resources on. It's hard to understate how much of an improvement this provides the game, as while playtesting I'm now constantly confronted with tough trade-offs where I have several <i>exciting</i> options to choose from, rather than several equally uninteresting ones. Much, much better.

Additionally, "global upgrades" have been added to the game. These are techs not linked to any particular profession, instead offering an expensive way to acquire a tribe-wide, permanent bonus of some kind (e.g. increased food production, or a morale boost to your entire army). This provides an additional incentive to improve your research rate, especially when the RNG throws a unique starting location at you and making more specialized strategies particularly lucrative or essential.

The new tech tree is a huge improvement over the old one.

Caravan Upgrades

A big update to the professions/tech tree is closely linked to a similar rethinking of several resources, along with the primary vehicle through which they can be acquired or transformed into other useful commodities: the caravan.

This was a system with potential that's been greatly enhanced by the ability to spend treasure in order to upgrade what's available. In the past there was simply a global pool filled with all different kinds of resources, most of which were completely irrelevant until the much further into the game. Furthermore, they were often only available in very limited quantities, narrowing down the number of strategic options available. Players now have the choice of how early and how heavily to improve the stock of what's available, and a particularly treasure/caravan-based strategy can now pay huge dividends. But it'll cost you, so make sure to plan ahead, as paying to upgrade the caravan will only help you the next time it comes around, which might be 6 months if winter is approaching.

Faction Asymmetry

The player's role and how they relate to AI players is now fully defined, with AtG placing you in a pre-populated world more akin to a Paradox game than Civ.

Shifting the game away from a more traditional "4X race" into something more in the roguelike direction is kind of an obvious move given that the game will never have multiplayer and the difficulty in building high-level competitive AI players. AtG was never the kind of game where you could expect the arc of the game to progress in the same way each playthrough, and the way opposing factions fit into the game now reflects this.

Instead of every other tribe starting with a single settlement and three clans you'll now find some on equal footing while others will be 5 or even 10 times your size and strength, making them potent diplomatic forces right from turn 1. If Attila is next door and much bigger you're going to have to pay attention to what he wants, otherwise you might find yourself flattened pretty quickly. The diplomacy system framework is now fully implemented, but the actual behaviors and specific kinds of deals are still being fleshed out, so for now your rivals are a looming presence but not yet an active one: this will change in the next big update in September. Part of the system is working, but it's effect on the game is quite inconsistent right now so I've disabled it until everything is online.

Victory Conditions

Along with the role of the human and AI players the victory conditions AtG offers are now nailed down, providing you with two strategic routes to victory: conquest or economics/diplomacy.

Simply capturing a Roman capital will win you the game, and given the strength of the Romans at the start this will usually be a pretty tall order. But because this is a a fairly asymmetric, "roguelike" game there will be some runs where the Romans start off a bit weaker and get hit with a lot of bad random events and annoy the wrong AI leaders, making for a ripe target. Every game of AtG will offer different opportunities, so being relatively flexible and willing to try new strategies will be important to success.

Should you start further away from the Romans or want to win the game by a different route the 'Magister Militum' victory is now also available. In essence, you have to send 5 of your clans to Rome along with some expensive equipment for training, and they'll rejoin you as mighty Roman Legions. These can be used directly against any foes you might have, but once you've acquired 5 of them the option to send them to Rome and basically take it over from the inside becomes available. Each of these actions has a 1-year timer on them though, giving your rivals the opportunity to slow you down, so keeping folks happy on the diplomatic front will also be important to pulling this off.

I really like the role each of these victory conditions fills, as neither one requires too heavy a commitment until later in the game and they overlap enough to remain viable until fairly late but not so much that they blend into one another. I also think 2 is a good number, as having too many victory conditions not only makes it a lot tougher to figure out what what you're aiming for but it doesn't make a lot of sense, as this was an era where might made right - a cultural victory ain't exactly thematic!

Keeping your clans happy is a big part of the game.

Clan Management

The 'mood' of each of your clans is now something important to stay on top of, and is often based on what professions you assign them.

There were  'happiness' and 'clan desire' systems in the game previously, but they've been fleshed-out and rebalanced to play a more meaningful role. The design goal is for the desires or feuds clans have to be fairly predictable, such that if a 'Curious' clan joins you making them farmers is almost guaranteed to make them upset - but make them scouts or in a profession that produces knowledge and you'll have nothing to worry about. The tapestry of different clans and traits you end up with works really well with this, as you're often tempted by sub-optimal options since, after all, you really, really need that extra warrior, even if the fickle new clan that just arrived comes with a morale penalty built-in.

The clan personality aspect of the game really adds a fun new dynamic, and is something I expect to continue fleshing out in the future, as it's fairly easy to add new traits, desires, feuds, etc.

New Art

A lot of new art has also gone into the game lately, specifically structures and units, which are now basically done. Here are a few examples of some of the new stuff:

Almost all game art is now complete.


The latest build also includes a number of smaller gameplay changes, such as removing the ability to survey unknown resource deposits from builders (this is now exclusive to foragers and the Surveyor profession), adding defenders to each neutral structure (making them <i>slightly</i> less juicy targets), and making it possible to 'ennoble' clans from the start (a good way to make clans happy, and required by some advanced professions). If you're curious as to everything that's new or changed checkout the changelog below. I'll be including changelogs with each future update, so stay tuned if you're interested in that sort of thing.


All of the changes described above are reflected in v24.0, which is now up on Steam and should be available on Humble next week after a Mac/Linux compatibility issue is fixed (the current build is broken on those platforms, but switching to the "internal" beta branch in Steam will allow the previous version of the game to be played in the meantime). I've included the full v24.0 changelog below, in case you're interested in all the nitty-gritty details.

That's it for now. We'll be back next month with more!

- Jon

Link to v24.0 Changelog

(This is a link rather than simply pasted into the post because copying any text into here strips it of all formatting and line breaks, and it's probably better to spend the 30 minutes it would take fixing it on the game itself!)

AtG - Developer Updates / June 2018 Update - Playtest Finale
« on: June 11, 2018, 11:39:22 AM »
Hey all,

First off, I wanted to let you know that starting in July the updates from here on out will mostly focus on the specific changes that have been in the past month, and every post will now include a full change log.

Furthermore, the game will enter design lockdown on July 15. A new build will be posted for alpha testers shortly after that date, and from that point on all of my time will be spent collecting and making use of playtest feedback, iterating on/polishing what's already in the game, and taking care of the final boring-but-necessary elements a game needs to ship (making sure the last bits of art make it in, programming an options screen, replacing placeholder text, graphics performance optimization, creating a final installer etc.).

The next update will be posted after we've hit the July 15 milestone, and from this point on I expect all future updates will go up mid-month-ish. Gonna keep this one short though so I can get back to programming.

We'll pick things up in July with a lot of details - for now though we'll wrap up the playtest report we started a couple months ago. Back soon!


March 5 Group Game Playtest - Turn Log Part 3/3

Where we left off.

61 … October ... The horsemen assault Clan Ingel, which barely holds on and is now down to 70% health. I decide to roll the dice and send Clan Einar into the fray in hopes of breaking the enemy's morale and crippling them, as the bandits' power is equal to Einar's (3.6) which won't be the case for long after their morale recovers. The result is… victory! Einar is bloodied but successful in their attack. Much as I'd like the hobbled-but-still-standing Ingel to follow up and eliminate the vile riders their morale is too low and they refuse, so I instead reform my small army in preparation to finish the job next turn. I tuck Clan Adelbert (Farmer) under the army, as my willingness to take chances with them has lowered dramatically. Speaking of bandits, a captive Miner appears on the far eastern frontier, posing quite an opportunity. With the western bandit threat mitigated I steer Clan Ewout (Archer) back around in hopes of snatching them. My Timber supply is starting to dwindle fast, and even my Woodworks will only slow the bleed. I want to get an Apprentice there and on the Gold Mine, so I switch my research to Woodsplitters so I can start making my own rather than relying 100% on caravans. With only 15 Timber left and -11 per turn I disable both of my Coal Makers to reduce this to -2, which I can afford since I have a pretty healthy supply of Coal. I send the Settlement far to the west, leaving 1 move in order to unpack. I start training Clan Ulfert (Coal Maker) back to a Lorekeeper in order to get my Woodsplitters finished faster.

62 … The army finishes off the bandit horsemen once and for all, though I'm sure they have more friends lurking in the fog. The bandit-controlled Miner has disappeared so I send Clan Ewout (Archer) into the fog to hunt them down, and find them only a tile away.

63 … The captured Miners (Clan Valborg) move a bit further away and towards a bandit camp, but remain within range of Ewout, who I sacrifice to supply damage to use in capturing Valborg. Losing 10% of HP is definitely worth a free trained clan! Unfortunately, Ewout is now in range of 2 bandits on a nearby camp that the Miners were probably heading towards, which is a bit risky. We'll see what happens. My Woodworks is now online, producing 6 Timber per turn, but not the 9 I was hoping for since Clan Habel is efficient (+50% resource production). Hmmm. At first I thought this might be a design issue, but it was in fact a bug, which I spent a bit of time fixing (using the fancy command console to remove and re-apply the Efficient trait). I resume Clan Roehl's Timber-to-Coal conversion, and begin training Clan Ahlert (unemployed but in Metalworking) in Crafting, as I think I'll make them into my Logger Apprentice in order to increase my Woodworks' output (particularly important since they're impatient and take 50% longer to train if the task is at least 3 turns long). While not eager to send my army back west, especially in its weakened state and now facing very-much-angry bandits, I'm the gambling sort and don't want to have my Farmer waiting around doing nothing. Let's figure out what all of those plants are!

64 … The bandits launch an all-out assault on Clan Ewout (Archer) and… wipe them out! The bandits suffer losses, but the combined effects of being outnumbered and weakened from supply loss is too much for Ewout to withstand, and my bold play at grabbing a free Miner instead costs me one of my clans. Ouch. Not only that, but my eastern flank is now wide open, my new Woodworks completely exposed to rampaging bandits. I opt to send Clan Warren (Hunter) back to the Settlement for immediate retraining as a Lancer, and also pull back my western expedition. Time to start playing things a bit more safe. I pack up my Settlement this turn in order to shift them 1 tile NE, allowing me to immediately start training my Lancer next turn (while keeping captured Clan Everard (Farmer) within my control in order to start constructing a Wheat Farm soon).

65 … December … New Clan Sorrel (Gregorious and Thorough, which basically means they really, really want to be in a social profession) joins the tribe. I spend a Parchment increasing Clan Warren (Hunter)'s level in Honor in order to get that Lancer out another turn sooner. The bandits haven't advanced, so I'm in some luck there. Strangely enough though some of their captives are now wandering into my lands, which I'll happily take advantage of when I can. Clan Waldemar (Trapper) has depleted the Sheep herd, so I send them up towards the Deer I had been hunting.

I have a lot of flexibility in training clans in new professions at this point in the game.

66 … I finally hit 20 Stone Blocks and Clan Everard (Farmer) is able to start constructing my Wheat Plantation. I start training my Lancer as well, which will be wrapped up in 2 turns.

67 … The bandit captives seem intent on a death march in the winter through my lands, and I'm hoping I'll be able to grab them with my returned army before they bite the dust. It'll be close.

68 … And I make it! I grab Clan Valborg (Miner) as well as newcomer Clan Herrick (Logger) both in the same turn with my two remaining Archers, and the Gothic family is suddenly a lot bigger. I manage to grab both clans within my own control as well, ensuring they won't take any further supply damage. The AI behind the units' behavior was incredibly wonky and something I'll need to look into, but in this game I'll simply consider myself fortunate and move on! Clan Warren is now a Lancer, and with a whopping 16 Power it's THREE times stronger than my existing army combined. So, yeah, it's definitely time to rumble. I decide to wipe out the threat to the east first, once spring returns. I opt to dig in my Lancer in a centralized location for now for defensive purposes, and I'll have it join my Archers to the east once it's time to begin campaigning again. I start training Clan Ottokar (Wood Bundler) as a Woodsplitter, finally giving them something productive to do again. Having captured both a Miner and a Logger I now need to find new roles for unemployed Clans Ahlert and Ivo, who had been tabbed for the job, but I can decide on this later. Another warrior would probably make sense, although none of the candidates are particularly well-suited and I'd really rather be training Spearman than Archers at this point - I queue them up next after researching Bakers. There aren't a ton of other great options, which starts to show the limitations of the game's current profession/tech lineup, and why it needs a refresh.

69 … Clan Ottokar is now online as a Woodsplitter, and it's now time for me to decide how to prioritize my apprentice assignment. More wealth honestly wouldn't help me all that much, as the current design of the caravan doesn't really allow me to spend much more than I'm already making (soon to be resolved - this is why I playtest so extensively!). Given that I can always buy more timber and food is extremely hard to come by I decide to go for buffing my Wheat Plantation first (I like how difficult this decision is). I start switching Clan Ahlert to Metalworking in preparation for training them as a Coal Maker, as I'll need more once my Baker comes online. I also decide to send my new Miner and Lancer up a bit to the NE to investigate a lone mineral deposit that's escaped investigation thus far. This isn't too risky, is it? Right?

70 … The increased supply cost of my Lancer has caught up to me a bit, as since it's not spring yet I can only acquire enough supply on tiles within my control at present - a fun wrinkle in the use of these units that isn't really the case in a lot of other strategy games. I withdraw them to the tile just north of my Woodworks, which is still well-positioned for their mission. My Archers creep SE through the dense forest, and once they team up with my Lancer in a few turns will be ready to wipe out the eastern bandits, hopefully once and for all. I train Clan Ahlert in Metalworking one more time in order to surmount the 'Impatient' trait training time penalty.

Mounted units like the Lancer are very powerful, but tricky to use because of their supply cost.

71 … March … As my small Archer army marches SE through the forest they uncover a grisly scene of 3 bandit units including a mounted rider having completely decimated one of my hapless neighbors. Having a camp only 2 tiles away from your starting tile is no fun at all! Clan Warren (Lancer) sweeps northwards ahead of Clan Valborg (Miner), and the coast in this direction at least seems clear. I finally start training Clan Ahlert as a Coal Maker, which will keep me at -1 per turn once I train Clan Wilmot (Farmer) as a Baker the following turn.

72 … Clan Valborg finally starts identifying the unknown mineral, and I send Clan Warren (Lancer) back towards the SE to link up with my Archers. I hate spreading my military so thin and leave both my western and northern flanks completely exposed, but I really want to eliminate the known threat and move on. With 10 turns of food left and -0.4 per I finally add an apprentice slot to my Wheat Plantation, add the apprentice and climb back up to a modest +0.3 per turn. The first caravan of the year has finally shown up, and it's a painful one, as coal is in short supply, and I'm only able to purchase 2 (!). I purchase various other commodities and drain my treasury back to 0.

73 … Clan Bader (Curious and Rowdy, so easy to train but prone to stir up trouble and commit crimes) joins the tribe and seems well-suited to becoming a Surveyor to help scout out the lands to the west once I finally wrap things up in this part of the map. My grand army finally combines and prepares to lay siege to the bandit HQ. The supply cost of my Lancer is such that positioning the army for the siege is a bit tricky, but thanks to a wheat field 1 tile N of the camp it's not too problematic, although it certainly could be in other scenarios.

74 … The nearly-crippled bandit rider makes a suicide charge, which I repel with zero casualties, leaving two half-strength infantry units remaining. I settle in for a siege to ensure my losses remain minimized. I again have the 10 Boards necessary to add an apprentice slot, and do so for my Woodworks, bringing me all the way up to +3 timber per turn from -6 (thanks to comboing with Clan Habel's awesome Efficient trait bonus). Clan Wilmot is now online as a Baker, bringing my food-per-turn up to 2.7, which is quite healthy. Feeling really good about my position right now - let's see if I can avoid any surprise visits that ruin things before I can finish training Clan Ivo as a Spearman.

75 … I spend a Parchment to level up Clan Ivo in Honor once more. That's about it for this turn - a rare break!

76 … Clan Valborg (Miner) discovers a stone deposit to the NE. Interesting. I'm not really set up to take advantage of it right now, but maybe down the road. I send Valborg towards my Gold Mine, which will double its already-formidable output once I can add Valborg to it. I finish researching Spearmen, but only have 12 of the 15 Weapons I need to train one, so I opt to finally pack up and head west. It's obviously dangerous to do so without escort, but I did a sweep through the area not too long ago and summers are usually safer than winters. Plus, moving while the weather is nice makes a lot of sense, as trudging through the snow is no fun at all.

77 … June … The siege in the East continues as my Settlement starts moving west. No enemies spotted yet.

78 … The bandit camp is only now starting to feel the sting of my siege (the price of fighting patiently in a hospitable part of the world). At the caravan weapons are on sale, allowing me to add 10 to my stockpile for only 20 wealth. Nice deal! My settlement arrives at its final destination, but lacks enough moves to unpack. I've also just hit 25 Parchment this turn thanks to Clan Waldemar (Trapper) turning plenty of deer into the handy resource, so I'll be able to, next turn, at last, found the Kingdom of the Goths!

79 … I switch Clan Waldemar over to foraging for cloth so that I can plan ahead for expanding my popcap, as with a huge fame bonus incoming I'll need this sooner rather than later. I add an apprentice slot to my Gold Mine and then slot Clan Valborg in, bringing me up to +20 wealth per turn. A nearly-dead bandit appears just to the north of my settlement, so before spending the turn founding my kingdom I start training Clan Ivo as a Spearman, which will take 2 turns. Fingers crossed.

80 … The bandit stays put, but another in the camp to the East launches a suicide charge of its own against my army, while the other runs to the southeast. I follow up by charging through the camp, freeing a captured farmer (Clan Edlef) and wiping out the final bandit. Phew. I send Edlef towards a large field of flax near my settlement.

81 … Clan Ivo is now trained as a Spearman and destroys the bandit hanging around in the West. In the East I split my army up, sending my Archers back towards home and my Lancer around the area to scout, as I haven't seen much of this area yet. To wrap up I push the declare kingdom button, which takes a turn to take effect, and…

82 … The Kingdom of the Goths has been founded!

The Kingdom of the Goths!

AtG - Developer Updates / May 2018 Update - Playtest Report 2
« on: May 21, 2018, 09:13:30 AM »
Hey all!

Back from a trip to Japan to relax a bit while the weather is improving. This update and the one which follows will continue the playtest report we began in the April 2018 update and conclude with me triumphantly founding my kingdom (spoiler alert!). From then on the updates will shift back over to describing recent progress on the game.

March 5 Group Game - Turn Log Part 2

Where we left off.

44 … Bayan of the Avars and Attila of the Huns both pop up asking me to stay away from their territory, and I promptly tell both to take a hike. [This behavior comes from the old diplomatic system and will be replaced in the new system.] Clan Askan is now producing Stone Blocks from Coal… well, sort of. They will once they have enough Coal, anyways. Right now they want to produce 2 Stone Blocks from 3 Coal every turn, but Clan Ulfert is only producing 2 Coal per turn, so I need to get another Coal Maker online. Will have to wait until the Woodworks is up and running though. Nothing to train this turn, but a new clan shows up next turn so it's a good opportunity to move my settlement to the east and get it into position for that Woodworks, so I pack up. I wake Clan Ingel (Archer) up from garrison duty to the SE and move them onto the berries, making sure my move is protected.

45 … Clan Waldemar joins me, and they're Reclusive and Leperous. The latter trait reduce the 'Mood' of all other clans on the tile by 1 (making them less productive and more likely to get upset), so shifting them out of the settlement and into some kind of active profession is probably for the best. [The personality and mood aspects of clans are something I plan on taking more advantage of in the future. Right now it's mostly a secondary feature with a lot of potential, as most of clan management at the moment is focused on economics.] I decide to move the settlement down one tile beneath the berries, as that allows me to add the unknown animal to my control as well. Maybe Waldemar can do something there… Hmmm. Not many other active Professions on the horizon, so let's give it a shot. I change my research efforts from Spearmen over to Livestock, and start training Waldemar in the Discipline in order to give them a head start. Making them into Trappers will allow me to start building up a stockpile of Parchment I can use to found my kingdom. I also shift Clan Ewout (Archer) down from their dug-in position in the woods to the north, as they're now outside my control and vulnerable to supply loss.

46 … I give Clan Waldemar 2 levels in Livestock, then start training Clan Warren in Honor in order to prepare them for becoming Spearmen down the road.

One clan's traits can affect the other clans on the tile.

47 … March … Warm again! Nothing to train this turn since I won't have Trappers researched until next turn. Definitely need to add some kind of alternate way of spending your settlement's turn, as it's no fun to have to completely skip it. We're now down to producing only 1.3 food per turn, so before next year we're going to have to start prioritizing my food production. There's a fair bit of wheat around, so investing in that direction probably makes sense, even after my current two farms are exhausted.

48 … First caravan of the year shows up, and I have 53 wealth to spend. Lo and behold, it has 10 warhorses for sale, at 5 wealth each. Think I might make Clan Warren into Lancers rather than Spearmen! Going to take a while to get them online though, so it might make sense to have Warren do something else in the meantime - could make them Hunters and collect some food or survey some animals. Probably for the best right now. As cool as Lancers are they're not really a major GAME priority right now given my lack of true enemies. I sell the two horses I captured from the bandit camp and buy 5 coal for 10 wealth in order to keep my Brickmaker busy. I also decide to send Clans Ingel and Einar (Archers) to besiege the bandit camp to the NW, and leave Clan Ewout in the east to defend my tribe.

49 … New Clan Roehl arrives - they are Nomadic and Wasteful, giving them levels in Livestock, an extra move, 3 free horses, and a 10% penalty to resource production. Hmmm. Well, they'll still be acceptable as Coal Makers, I suppose. In the meantime I decide to spend the turn training Clan Warren as Hunters.

50 … Clan Warren is sent to the Unknown Animal herd to the west first, as I'll switch them over to hunting the big herd of Deer during the winter when my Wheat Farms shut down. Clan Waldemar (Trappers) starts identifying the herd of animals already within my control (borders). Clans Ingel and Einar (Archers) begin the siege of the bandit camp to the NW, which I can hopefully finish before winter. I start training Clan Roehl as Coal Makers.

51 … I finish researching Loggers, which Clan Habel (Wood Collectors) will be retrained as once they finish their last forage tile. That's it for this turn. 2 turns until a new Clan arrives, 3 until the next Caravan.

52 … Starting to wonder what I might want to do with Clan Ottokar (Wood Bundlers), as they'll need a new Profession after Clan Habel switches jobs. Could use them to produce even more Stone Blocks, and really go heavy down that road [this sort of thing will be much easier in future versions of the game when there will be a lot more Clan upgrades available]. Let's try it out and see what happens!

53 … June … New Clan Adalbert has joined the tribe - they're Adventurous (ANOTHER one!) and Adaptable. Might make sense for them to build a level 2 Farm on one of the remaining Wheat tiles near me. I add a note to their clan card and move on.

54 … Caravan arrives and we're up to 62 Wealth, which I promptly use to buy up all of the available Weapons, bringing me up to 12 - enough for my Lancer with a bit left over to get a head start on expanding my control somewhere as well. I also purchase the 5 available Coal, a handful of Parchment and a handful of Cloth. [I'm starting to realize that with so much money my options at the caravan are fairly limited - it might make sense to allow the caravan to be "upgraded" by spending Wealth or such, just so there are more options available later in the game.] Clan Waldemar (Trappers) finds a second herd of Sheep, which I decide to turn into Cloth for now, as we're still a ways away from needing Parchment to establish my kingdom. I realize I need Tools in order to train my Farmer, so I open the caravan back up, sell off my 3 Horses and buy up 6 Tools. Woops. Well, that won't be as necessary in the future once the Professions are redesigned a bit and all tier 1 professions (like the Farmer) won't cost anything to train. Not something I can rely on in this playthrough though!

I found something productive for the shunned Clan Waldemar to do.

55 … Need to start thinking more about my future food sources. This should be a lot easier under the new design, as right now one of my best options is to construct a level 2 Wheat Farm and add an Apprentice to it… but that currently requires 20 Boards and 10 Alcohol, which is a huge expense at this point in the game. A Bread Maker is another option, but only adds +5 Wheat per Farm, which is less than double, and with only one Wheat Farm compared with my current 2 just keeps me running in place, rather than serving as a long-term solution. I decide to make an ad-hoc tweak to increase the bonus to +8 and the cost from +1 Timber to +2 Timber to help keep the game moving, and make this my strategy. This will tax my Woodworks even more, and I also reduce the Apprentice cost by half. No actual in-game decisions to make this turn though! I have an opportunity to take a shot at the weakened Bandit Camp this turn, but decide to wait a bit longer to ensure I take zero casualties.

56 … And of course a new Bandit spawns, meaning I have to delay my assault a few more turns. Ah well. Nothing else to do this turn either.

57 … Clan Warren (Hunter) identifies more sheep to the west, and I send them towards the large herd of Deer to the NW of my settlement. I finish researching Lancers, and decide to start on Bakers, an upgraded version of the Bread Maker which requires 10 Stone Blocks and 2 Coal every turn but provides a massive +20 bonus to Wheat Farms. Next turn Clan Habel (Wood Collector) finishes their final Forest forage task, so I have a bit of a bridge turn to spend on something. I don't have a good need for my Lorekeeper any more (not great, but a problem that should be solved with the new Professions), so I decide to switch Clan Ahlert's Discipline over to Metalworking, as they can eventually help me make more Coal from Timber. Clan Adelbert (newly-trained Farmer) heads west to start surveying Plants, as there's not much need for a Farmer just yet (plus, they're Adventurous, so +1 movement!). My new Bandit friend has left his camp to head west (saw the writing on the wall?) so I swoop in for the kill, but hold off on pillaging the camp until my other friend is dealt with (this is when having the option to pillage or not after capturing a camp is really nice, as pillaging gives you a big defensive penalty).

58 … The bandit attacks, and inflicts a small amount of damage but is nearly wiped out in the process. I finish the job immediately afterwards, and my western flank is now fully secured! Clan Adalbert (Farmer) takes advantage of this and continues westward. My first (and large) Wheat Farm finally runs out, and my food consumption switches over into the red - not normally what you want to see in August! I begin switching Clan Habel over to become Loggers.

59 … September … Clan Ivo (Vigorous, +1 Move, and Reclusive, prefers active professions) joins the tribe. I don't know what to do with them yet, but probably something out on the map. I have a few clans to keep busy with though, so I don't need to figure out a role for them just yet. I spend the turn leveling them up in Metalworking though, as there's nothing more pressing right at this moment - having them become an Apprentice for the Gold Mine seems quite appealing. I'll now hit my popcap in 6 turns, so I go ahead and spend 10 Cloth to increase it, and switch Clan Waldemar (Trappers) over to foraging for Parchment. Clan Adalbert (Farmer) proceeds further west towards the collection of unknown plants around where I expect to found my kingdom.

60 … NOOOOOOO! Bandit Riders appear from the SW and steal Clan Adalbert (Farmer) from me. So much for having a secure frontier. I scramble all of my Archers and begin marching them towards the raiders, hoping I can save Adalbert before they suffer a terrible fate. Fortunately, the fast Clan Ingel is within range to swoop behind the horsemen and restore control of Adalbert, but they're outmatched. Clan Einar has finished pillaging the Bandit Camp to the NW, and moves a couple tiles away. I recall Clan Ewout from the far eastern frontier, but it's going to be a while before they're of any help. They might be needed to hold off the riders though should they continue eastward, rather than engage my other two Archers. I start packing up the Settlement in order to position it for building the new Wheat Farm after starting on the Woodworks next turn. Good timing! At the caravan I purchase a plethora of goods, including Alcohol, Coal, Boards, and Timber.

The delicate situation I end this report facing.


That's it for now. The conclusion to our story will come here in a couple weeks in the June update. 'Til then!

- Jon

Good thoughts, and definitely things I'll consider. Want to nail down exactly what the role of foragers is before I decide on anything though. I don't think having them simply be "the thing you do before you have enough timber to start building structures" is quite enough, and want to make sure they fit into the broader design.

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / Mid-April 2018 Update - Playtest Thoughts
« on: April 18, 2018, 09:20:27 AM »
Hey all,

This mid-month update will be dedicated to some of the general thoughts I've had while playtesting. It's more or less a copy of my own notes, and should give you an idea of what sorts of things I'm thinking about as both a player and a designer.

I've actually decided to just provide a link to a Google Doc this time around, as the text formatting options here are pretty lame and rather than spend an hour copying everything over and making it look nice it's a whole lot easier to just point you all at something that already works (something I may do again in the future for similar posts!).

Here is the link to the playtest thoughts doc.

We'll be back in a couple weeks with a continuation of my playtest log from last update.

'Til then!

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / Re: April 2018 Update - Playtest Report
« on: April 18, 2018, 09:19:33 AM »
Coming up very soon. Will be doing a big pass through the forums getting everything back in order. Thanks for sticking around!

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / April 2018 Update - Playtest Report
« on: April 04, 2018, 03:49:23 PM »
Hey all,

As I'm working on the diplomacy system the next few updates will follow along with my broader playtesting efforts, which I try to spend at least an hour on every day. Along the way I'll be detailing what's in the game, what needs work, and most important of all: what it's actually like to play AtG. The format will more or less follow my own internal notes that I use to log what happened while playing, what decisions I made and why, and then in a couple weeks I'll post another update with some analysis of how different aspects of the game are working and what might need attention based on my recent playtesting.

(Note: this playtest is for the March 5th Group Game that's now available in the latest Steam build, and it's quite a fun one so if you already have access to the game I might recommend holding off on reading this post until you've had a chance to play.)

This first "chapter" of the playtest report is a turn-by-turn account of the game. I end this post on turn 43, which might sound like a weird number but ended up being a natural stopping point given in-game events that I won't spoil just yet. We'll pick up the story of this game in May's update, so stay tuned!

March 5 Group Game Playtest - Turn Log

Our very, very dry starting location

Our initial lineup of clans.

Turn 1 … April 400 AD ... Nothing pushing me too far in any particular direction right off the bat, so going to start with an Explorer and plan on training Clan Adelmar (level 5 in Discovery) as a Surveyor. Clan Ulfert being both Adaptable (no extra training for switching Disciplines) and Eager (-1 turn to train) will definitely come in handy, and since my Explorer will definitely be retrained within a couple years I decide to make them my initial Explorer.

Turn 2 … New Clan Ahlert (Adventurous, meaning extra movement and vision but unable to Dig In for a defensive bonus or Encamp to avoid supply damage during the winter) is sowell-suited to being an Explorer I just can't resist - time to add another! This is probably a bad idea, but whatever. One of the things I like about AtG is that it sometimes will push you into trying new things, and this is a good example. First Explorer will head southeast and wheel clockwise back to the Settlement, the second will start northwest and do the same.

Turn 3 … New Clan Wilmot (Intimidating, meaning no other Clans on the tile may commit crimes, and Obedient, which means no extra training time for switching Disciplines but gains XP slower) will make a solid Gatherer, as we'll want to retrain them as something else before too long. Looks like the NW passage might be sealed off by bandits, but we'll find out shortly.

Bandit Central. We'll need to be polite and pay the neighbors a visit some day...

Turn 4 … Nope, not sealed off! Can just barely sneak through. That bandit camp will be a pain though. Just realized that Clan Habel, which is quite bad at a lot of other things (due to being Esteemed, and thus double training time in Agriculture, Livestock, and Metalworking Professions) would make a great Wood Collector, especially given that they're also Efficient (+50% Resource Production). Also going to start heading towards Archers, since it seems we have a couple of uppity bandit camps nearby that should be cleared out before too long. The 30 Wealth I got from the goody hut to the SE will be helpful in buying more Weapons.

Turn 5 … June 400 … I find two Tribes to my east. Kind of annoying given that it seems like a lot of good resources are over in this area, but by focusing on Archers early I should be able to maintain the advantage (though with the AI still a WIP I doubt there will be much real competition in this game). Going to have the Surveyor head south to the plants first, as this will allow me to start surveying immediately, then move onto the mineral to the east. My Gatherer can survey the plant north of my Settlement during the winter once its unable to continue foraging Berries.

Turn 6 … First Caravan has nothing particularly special, though the Stone on sale is kind of tempting (Caravans can have special deals, both surpluses on discount and shortages which offer extra cash if you're willing to sell) - will hold onto my money though, as this will allow me to buy more Weapons later. Only 3 Weapons for sale! Geeze. [Fixed this by increasing the amount for sale to 5. This is the nice thing about being the designer: if I run into something I find annoying in the game I can fix it in real time! I originally had this number really small so that players couldn't easily buy up an arsenal, but changes to the economy make this less of an issue in the current version of the game.]

Turn 7 … Decided to go for a Wood Bundler, as it provides a large multiplier on Timber foraged by Wood Collectors, and together will allow me to stockpile a bunch of Timber fairly early. Not sure what I'll do with it yet, but if nothing else I can sell them in order to afford other stuff I need early on.

Turn 8 … New Clan Ottokar is also Esteemed! Should make a pretty good Wood Bundler though (makes me wonder if noble clans should be alright with Crafting professions... hmmm). Couple of goody huts to the southwest are guarded at a chokepoint by bandits. Probably worth the risk though! I contemplate if it's worth having my Wood Collector hold off on Foraging until my Wood Bundler is online, but in the end I decide to simply go for it.

The whole area is pretty flat and dry.

Turn 9 … First Archer is done! Where to send them… First order of business is probably protecting our Surveyor to the south, as there are bandits not too far off.

Turn 10 … Starting to run out of Clans... Just discovered some Flax to the south, so going to pack up this turn and move S-SE in order to grab the Flax and a still-unidentified mineral. Would like to besiege the bandit camp with my Archer, but they outnumber me, so no dice (you need to outnumber the enemy army in order to besiege them, which is usually a really good idea since you can cut off their supply and destroy them without taking any damage). So, yeah, gotta get another Archer online ASAP! So much to do… Might be time to start thinking about bringing one or both of my Explorers home, since I need some more folks working. Speaking of which, my Explorer to the SW has successfully snuck around the Bandits and now has two Abandoned Ruins to feast upon next turn. Woohoo! In terms of research I think it's time to start going after that Flax soon, but winter will be setting in before too long, so it might make sense to wait until next year and have my next Clan become an Archer.

Turn 11 … September 400 … The first Ruins site contains… Bandits! Oh dear. Let's hope our intrepid Clan Ahlert (Explorer) can remain alert and make it out alive. It's going to be tricky now though, as our friend is now quite pinned into a tight little corner of the map, surrounded on all sides.

Not looking good for Clan Ahlert!

Turn 12 … Ahlert managed to avoid being attacked! Phew. Would have been really bad if we'd gotten stuck, as losing a clan this early would have really, really hurt. Now to grab the other Ruins and escape. And the second Ruins provides us with… 10 Weapons! Wow. Quite a haul, and definitely one we can make use of - too bad I already spent all of my Wealth buying the new Caravan's supply. Oh well, can definitely make use of them anyways (especially now that it's possible to spend Weapons to 'Fortify' Structures and increase their Control (Border) range). Our Wood Bundler is now online, providing us a massive +9 Timber per turn. Time to start having Clan Wilmot (Gatherer) survey for a bit, as we've just hit 24 turns of Food (and beyond that you suffer spoilage, so it's quite inefficient to keep driving that number up higher and higher). Training Clan Ewout as an Archer is going to take forever, but whatever. We need more Archers and we don't have a lot of options. Not gonna be doing a lot for the next few turns while we wait!

Turn 13 … Clan Adelmar (Surveyor) finds... GOLD! Wow. This game should be fun. And it might be time to start thinking about changing my plans. The Flax suddenly seems a lot less interesting now. Clan Ulfert (Explorer) has just about returned from the north, which will give us a solid new Clan to train. Maybe a 3rd Archer is in order?


Turn 14 … Going to bank some progress towards researching Woodcarvers while I wait for my current Archer to finish - once that's wrapped up we can move on to getting that Gold Mine online. The question is, do we want to make it out of Stone? (Timber-based Structures degrade after a year or two, while Stone-based Structures last forever, and are thus a huge upgrade - but extremely expensive to bring online.) This should be a tough question in the game, and at the moment I think it is, although it will take more balance testing to say for sure. It's incredibly hard getting enough Stone Blocks to get the thing online, but the fact that it's 10 Wealth per turn until the end of time… well, that's hard to pass up. Let's see how hard it actually is to pull off! Really should have bought that Stone on discount a while back… Our plan will be to buy normal Stone from the Caravan, then have a Stone Cutter turn it into Stone Blocks ourselves. I think having someone speed up our research would be quite handy though, so we'll take a detour towards Lorekeepers.

Turn 15 … Getting really cold and Clan Ahlert (Explorer) is Adventurous… meaning they can't Encamp. Oh yeah. Damn. Well, that complicates things. Time to get home ASAP! Wish I'd known that before. What a brutal-but-fun trait. [This is where some of the roguelike elements of the game really shine, IMO, although I know not everyone will feel the same way. Sometimes you just get bad traits or bad clans and that's the way it is. Figuring out how to make the best of them is part of the game though.]

Turn 16 … Lots of plants to the SW. Should be useful down the road.

Turn 17 … December 400 … Clan Adelmar (Surveyor) uncovers... Sheep. Seems I have the potential for quite the Cloth engine, between these little guys and the Flax I found earlier. That said, there's only so much you can do at once in this game, and with my attention focused on getting that Gold Mine online it'll probably be some time before Cloth enters the equation. Clan Ulfert (Explorer) is trapped in a Blizzard! Well, at least they can Encamp. Clan Ahlert (Explorer) has been quite lucky, and hugging the mild-weather coast has thus far avoided any additional supply damage. As I suspected early on training two Explorers probably wasn't the best idea, but finding the Ruins to the south paid off at least. A bandit has left the camp to the SW, so it seems it's about time for the bad boys to start stirring up trouble.

Turn 18 … Second Archer is finally online! Of course it's now late December, and no one is going anywhere to do anything particularly useful. A new Clan (Ingel) has also finally joined… and happens to also be Adventurous (no Digging In, no Encamping). Great. Given how harsh the winters here are I'm not going to be holding my breath in terms of everyone getting to go run off all the time like they seem to want to. Gonna be a while before another Clan shows up though (7 turns), so it's definitely time to start thinking about how to increase my Fame. Unfortunately Ingel doesn't look like they'll make a very good Archer, so I'm in a bit of a bind there. Making them Miners for the Gold probably makes the most sense, since they don't need as much time to train in active professions.

Turn 19 … Nothing much to report this turn. In the dead of winter. Don't even have anything to train in the Settlement (which isn't great from a game design perspective - will be addressed!). [Despite my earlier comments, I now realize that it might actually make sense to train Clan Ingel as another Archer - despite their inherent weaknesses in the role, they could at least stay within our borders during the winter. Might make sense to give the player the option to write notes upon saving and exiting, in order to remind themselves of what they might have wanted to do before.]

The dead of winter.

Turn 20 … Both Explorers finally return from their adventures, and Clan Ahlert is chosen to become our Lorekeeper (although not started yet in our reloaded version of the game where I went back and turned Clan Ingel into an Archer).

Turn 21 … Not sure what to train this turn. Clan Ulfert (the Adaptable Explorers) as a Stone Cutter once that's done in 4 turns? Might make sense.

Turn 22 … Finally time to begin the siege of the bandit camp! The weather in the area just turned, so we no longer need to worry about supply. [Picking the game back up on this turn after a long hiatus, and I'm now realizing I really should have left myself some notes before taking a break. Think I'll add a "Add notes before you quit?" prompt to help alleviate this.] We definitely need to start thinking about what our next source of food will be, as the Berries are only going to take us so far. The vast field of wheat to the south is quite appealing, but pretty far away. It might be time to spend some Weapons and Fortify my Settlement (increasing its Control range), as that would definitely help. I could also use this turn as an opportunity to move south towards my prize. I decide to Fortify first, spending 5 of my 8 Weapons on the task. I can then retrain Clan Wilmot (Gatherer) into a Farmer and start bringing in a ton of Food - our current stockpile (14 turns) should last long enough to get the Farm online. I shift Clan Ewout (Archer) west to protect Clan Wilmot as they finish surveying.

Turn 23 … March 401 … Time to pack up and move south. Not much else to do this turn. The siege continues.

Turn 24 … Warm again! Just as in real life it's nice to see the color return to the landscape. A wounded marauding bandit appears to the west (Slaves actually - interesting!), making my placement of Clan Ewout (Archer) quite fortuitous. Clan Adelmar (Surveyor) uncovers a Large Herd of Deer, which probably won't factor much into my plans. I'd really like to start surveying some more minerals in order to grab Stone or Coal, but nothing is too well-placed at the moment. A rock to the northwest is too close to a bandit camp for comfort, although Clan Adelmar could always help out on this front. Caravan has just arrived, and it's time to trade a ton of Timber for Stone (and some Parchment to help out with training as well). Going to switch Clan Ulfert (Explorer) over to Crafting in preparation for them starting their task as Stone Cutters next turn.

Turn 25 … Looks like a new bandit has spawned on the besieged camp. This would normally be incredibly annoying, but since I actually have 3 Archers it shouldn't hurt me much. Gonna have to send Clan Adelmar (Surveyor) to a herd of animals to the west rather than the mineral to the northwest, but so it goes. New Clan Askan starts with 3 levels in Crafting… how handy! Can now use Clan Ulfert for something else. Making them my Gold Miners seems like kind of a waste though, given how flexible they are. Maybe this is a job for Adelmar instead? Lines up nicely with finishing the Metalworking Tech next turn, giving them a head start.

Turn 26 … The new bandit attacks us! And the battle does not go well for them at all. Time to find new trees for Clan Habel (Wood Collector) to chop. The northeast is a bit unguarded, but will have to do for now.

Turn 27 … Our bandit camp is starting to feel the effects of the siege. Shouldn't be much longer before we can wipe them out. We definitely need to start thinking about how to increase our Fame, as the pace at which Clans are arriving is incredibly slow now. With our Vast Wheat Farm online coming soon a Feast Master is probably the right fit. Maybe something for our versatile Clan Ulfert to do? Bringing a second Stone Cutter online for a bit might not be a bad idea though, as waiting 20 turns for our 20 Stone to turn into 20 Stone Blocks seems brutal.

The siege.

Turn 28 … Clan Ingel (Archer) joins our combined army, which is just about ready to pounce. This will be just in time as well, as it's time to retrain Clan Wilmot (Gatherer) as a Farmer. Our Stone Block operation is now active as well - and once we get our Gold Mine online we should have a nice, steady stream of Stone Blocks for the foreseeable future.

Turn 29 … June 401 … Bandit Camp cleared out! Thanks to our successful siege we take zero casualties as well. Wondering if it might be time to start dismantling my Timber operation in order to repurpose the Clans its monopolizing.

Turn 30 … That final bandit makes a suicide charge at us. Still 2 more turns until the Wheat Farm is online… yikes. This winter might be close. Might need to retrain someone as a Hunter or something just to get by. Wiping out that Bandit Camp gave us 20 Wealth which we can use to buy a bunch of fun stuff. First off is some Tools for our second Stone Carver, and another 10 Stone for him to make use of. I send Clan Ingel (Archer) south to finish exploring our little corner of the map, and discover an unemployed Neutral Farmer (Clan Everard). Hello there, stranger! I think it might be time for us to start farming some Flax! The remaining Archers fan out to the northeast and northwest to fortify our secured area. I'd like to go after that Slave Camp to the northwest, but there's probably not enough time left in the year to take a shot at it - something to look into in 402. Before we end the turn I decide to try upgrading Clan Ulfert from level 1 to 3 in Crafting before starting to train them as Stone Cutters. It'll cost me 1 Parchment but save me a turn, which is probably worth it. I decide to start researching Watchmen instead of Woodcarvers, as I kind of feel like it'd be cool to expand. Might not be the smartest idea, but oh well!

Turn 31 … Okay, time to decide: a second wheat farm, or a flax farm? We are running low on Food and can always convert the surplus into Fame and Alcohol. Probably a safer bet than starting to invest in Flax, which I can't really use yet anyways. Fine, we'll play it safe for now.

Turn 32 … Seems that was a good idea, as our food surplus after getting the vast wheat farm online is still only 1.2. Yikes. Okay, maybe we will need a Woodcarver to increase our Fame rather than a Feast Master… Archers are spreading out and securing the perimeter - everything looks safe for now.

Turn 33 … Up to 2.7 Food per turn with the second Wheat Farm online. Looking better now. Will need to invest more in our Food infrastructure in 402 though. Time to train Clan Adelmar as a Miner… oh wait, I forgot to buy an extra Tool from the Caravan. Great. [Jon proceeds to cheat to remove enough Timber from his stockpile to have afforded to buy 1 Tool.] This definitely reminds me why base Professions shouldn't need fancy Resources to train… [Will get into this more in the next update post.]

The Goths are expanding!

Turn 34 … Bandit launches a surprise attack on Clan Ewout (Archer) in the northeast. Was not expecting that, but the bad little boy is dispatched without trouble. Good thing I had my perimeter fence in place! New Clan joins: Eldric, who is Obedient but Impatient. A bit annoying, but should still be useful. Next Clan arrives in 10 turns, so we have a bit of a wait ahead of us. Woodcarver time? Will require 10 Tools though, so gonna need to pay the final Caravan of the year quite a visit. Might be easier to just retrain Clan Ulfert (Stone Cutter) into a Blacksmith and convert the little stockpile of Iron I already have. But I need another 6 turns of him in his current job. Hmmm. I can probably make things work if I sell off some other stuff, as I really want to buy up every piece of Stone I can.

Turn 35 … September 401 … Miner is ready, but the Stone Blocks are not. Hurry up and wait… Starting to wonder if it might make sense to declare a kingdom soon. With my massive amount of Wealth coming in I should be able to buy the Parchment I need, and the huge boost in Fame would definitely be welcome at this point. I could settle down out west near all the Unidentified Plants, and Fortify my Gold Mine in order to grab the nearby Flax and Sheep. Only challenge with that setup is that I would have no reliable source of Timber. Might be worth setting up a Watchtower in the dense forest to the east (once the AI is online this won't be so easy though, and would likely require a war - exciting!). Or it might just be better to move my Settlement over there and set up a Stone Block-based Woodworks the old-fashioned way.

Turn 36 … Last Caravan of the year. I sell Timber in order to buy enough Cloth to raise my popcap, and decide to trade in my raw Iron for Tools in order to get my Woodcarver online (I have JUST enough to afford this). I spend a Parchment to continue training up Clan Eldric in Crafting.

The known world.

Turn 37 … Not much to do this turn, for once! Nothing to train even. I decide to use this as an opportunity to pack up and move my Settlement east so that my Wood Collector can continue foraging for Timber throughout the winter - I could actually move all the way as far as I need to in order to get my stone-based Woodworks up in the ideal spot in the large forest, but that moves my Settlement out of range of the Gold Mine, so I'm unfortunately unable to kill multiple birds with one stone.

Turn 38 … I can, however, at least move up a bit to the NE to cover my Wood Collector this turn, when things have turned cold and removed his free supply. We finish researching Woodcarvers, but Clan Eldric will still take 5 turns to train because of his unfortunate set of traits, so I decide to level him up with Parchment one more time. For my next research project I go with Bread Makers, as increasing my Food production will allow me to do a number of other things (e.g. Feast Master, Ale Maker). I pull back my picket Archers so that they don't take supply damage.

Turn 39 … Moved some units around, but that's about it. Farms are now offline, but we have 19 turns of Food in the bank, so things are looking pretty good on that front for the next year. The real question is how to get the next batch of 20 Stone Blocks for my Woodworks. Waiting 20 turns for my soon-to-be-solo Stone Cutter is a bit… eh. We can probably just brute force it with the help of our Gold Mine, so I won't worry about it too much for now. I'm starting to think that turning Wood into Coal into Stone Blocks might not be a bad way to go. A bit roundabout, but doable, and would require only 3 Clans in total to bring in 2 Stone Blocks per turn. To get things online sooner I abort my Bread Maker research to start on Coal Maker, as I want to get Clan Ulfert (Stone Cutter) working ASAP.

Turn 40 … We start switching Clan Ulfert over to Metalworking. We will finally have 20 Stone Blocks and can start on our Gold Mine next turn!

The settled clans of our tribe.

Turn 41 … December 401 … As I start working on the Gold Mine I realize that I'll also be able to assign Apprentices to the Mine, allowing me to really supercharge my economy (Apprentices are Clans in the same Profession as the Clan which built the Structure, and basically increase output by an additional 100%. Only Stone Structures can be assigned Apprentices). The cost is simply another Miner and 10 Alcohol. Think I know what I need to buy next! So many different things to do in this game - one of the big reasons why I love playing it so much.

Turn 42 … Someone new (Clan Warren) finally joins us! And wow, are they built for battle: Wild and Tough, giving them extra Power, Morale, and reducing the Damage they suffer in combat by half. Damn. Makes me want to knock some heads together. Might be time to bring back the Adventurous Clan Ingel (Archer) and retrain them in something where they don't need to be able to encamp… I decide to research Spearmen after finishing up Brick Makers, pushing back Bread Makers yet again. Just imagining Clan Warren as a Spearman makes me giddy. Making them Lancers would be even more fun, but there's definitely no way I'm amassing Warhorses at this stage of the game.

Turn 43 … PERMANENT GOLD MINE IS ONLINE! Now is when the fun really starts. Clan Ulfert is now making Coal, and it's time to switch Clan Askan over to turning that into Stone Blocks - I think this should be a nice, reliable way of producing my permanent Structures.

Gold Mine is now online!


And with that we'll wrap things up for now. In the May update we'll get into some of the fun things I do with that Gold Mine!

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / March 2018 Update - Diplomacy
« on: March 02, 2018, 10:11:38 AM »
Hey all, in this update we'll be taking a quick tour of the design for the new diplomacy system.

In last month's post I talked a lot about high-level design goals, but another important consideration is how things actually play out from the player's perspective, especially with an abstract system like diplomacy. What is the actual thing that you're doing? What is the player trying to achieve? You know, what's the point?

This being a game about Barbarians in the Dark Ages diplomacy in AtG is pretty blunt and straightforward. Your goal isn't building trade networks, spreading your religion, or anything particularly nuanced - the focus here is on war and relationships which lead to it (or not). Having someone declare war on you is the punishment for unsuccessfully navigating the turbulent waters of international politics, and remaining at peace (and thus able to follow through on whatever agenda you're pursuing) is the reward for success.

Success won't come easy though, as some leaders are naturally cranky while others might be in the midst of a feud and expect you to take sides. Who you support and who you snub is a big deal in AtG, because make someone mad enough and you can be pretty sure that they'll show up on your doorstep with lots of unhappy friends.

Furthermore, once you've made an investment in a relationship there should be a tangible reward for having done so. This is often where diplomacy systems in other strategy games fall short, as the fickle whims of the AI RNG can easily spoil a lot of hard work. If the decisions you make don't effectively keep you out of war then everything falls apart pretty quickly, so we also need to make sure relationships in AtG are fairly reliable.

With all of this in mind here are the elements we've included, and the very specific roles we have in mind for them.

Relationship Components


Leverage is simply the sum of the player's Relationship Level, Influence, and Reputation (see below) that is or would be spent in a single transaction in order to get an AI Leader to do something, such as declare war on another Leader. After a transaction is finalized, the Influence and Reputation used in achieving it is spent and forever gone, while the Relationship Level remains unchanged.

Relationship Level (RL)

The most basic metric into diplomatic relationship is your Relationship Level. RL determines how favorably or unfavorably disposed an AI Leader is towards the player. It shapes that Leader's behavior, e.g. willingness to make Demands or go to war. In terms of specifics, it is a fundamental component of how a Leader decides which "Approach" to use (see below) and RL is a factor in determining Leverage when negotiating a transaction. The RL scale ranges from -4 to +4 and normally starts at 0, but can be modified based on a Leader's Personality Traits (e.g. -2 RL if 'Belligerent'). Having 9 total levels provides both enough room to do interesting things but also not so many that keeping track of where you are on the scale becomes a chore - each level matters while still providing enough wiggle room to move up and down with varying granularity based on the situation (refusing a request for aid is bad, but declaring war is really bad).

Influence (Inf)

Influence is, in essence, diplomatic currency with a Leader. It can be spent alongside RL and Reputation in order to increase your Leverage with a Leader when negotiating a transaction of some kind (e.g. asking the Leader to Denounce someone else, or publicly Declare Friendship). Inf is usually earned and lost alongside RL - doing a small favor for a Leader might increase both your RL and Inf by 1. This gives players the option of achieving some kind of bigger diplomatic option once, after which the Inf is spent. The player's options will be more limited after that, but they will still remain friends with the other Leader. The Player can proactively earn Inf by Offering a Gift or Holding a Feast in a Leader's honor (see below).

Reputation (Rep)

The fourth and final Diplomatic metric is Reputation, which is similar to Inf except for being a global currency that can be spent with any Leader (in addition to or instead of Inf). Rep is fairly hard to earn, and usually comes from facing down some kind of difficult situation (e.g. agreeing to help a Leader in need, or refusing a demand from Attila knowing he will go to war as a result). The effect and usage of Rep can differ based on the Leader and their Personality Traits (e.g. an 'Isolationist' Leader might ignore Rep entirely, while it might have double the effect on a 'Gullible' Leader).

Diplomatic Actions

The game contains a list of core actions that can be taken by either the human player or AI Leaders. The full list is as follows:
  • Denounce
  • Offer Gift (Wealth)
  • Hold Feast (Food Gift)
  • Request Aid (Food)
  • Request Alliance
  • Request Denouncement
  • Request War
  • Demand Tribute
  • Demand Denouncement
  • Declare War
Each Action has different requirements, costs, and effects associated with them that I won't bother to list out in full here, as it's a lot of numbers and I mainly want to focus on mechanics. For the most part Actions can usually only be performed once, so it won't be possible to butter someone up by holding feasts in their honor every few months or anything like that (though you can of course declare war more than once).

The effects of an Action are pretty much fully predictable. If Attila Demands Tribute of you, then you know that by accepting your RL will increase and he'll leave you alone. Refuse and it will drop, making you a target but also earning Rep that you can spend with other Leaders (should you survive long enough to take advantage of it!).

AI Leader Behavior

The final piece of the puzzle is how the AI leaders actually decide what to do on their end, and this is ultimately defined by their "Approach" towards each other Leader. Different leaders will have preferences for different Approaches, but the effects of the approaches themselves is fairly consistent.

The early game doesn't involve much diplo - players are simply exploring the map and run into each other. Not much happens on the diplomatic front during the first 48 turns - from this point on things start to get interesting though.

Early interaction mainly takes 3 forms:
  • Bullies trying to put other Leaders in their place, primarily through making Demands (and then following up with war should they refuse to give in).
  • Friendly Leaders (especially those with the 'Social' or 'Needy' Personality Traits) making requests.
  • Leaders who dislike each other trying to undercut their rival with the Player's help.
These behaviors are defined by which one of several Approaches an AI Leader has chosen to adopt for each relationship:
  • Ignore
  • Bully - Active
  • Bully - Inactive
  • Adversary
  • Enemy
  • Appease
  • Support
  • Friend
Similar to the Diplomatic Actions above there are a lot of numbers associated with each of these that I won't bother with here. Which Approach an AI Leader chooses for a relationship very much depends on the RL, with Personality Traits and to a lesser extent randomness also being factors.

A Leader's Approach will often change based on game events, such as being denounced or given a gift. Valid Approaches, along with the percent chance of transitioning between them after different triggers (e.g. receiving a demand) are defined by the Leader's Traits. These Approaches don't predefine what a Leader does, but do define the pool of options and the likelihood of each being chosen after how long (e.g. if demand refused 50% chance of denouncing 3-6 turns later).

I thought a bit about whether or not a Leader's Approach should be visible to the Player, and after going back and forth for a bit I decided to go ahead and make it public and announce all changes via notification. Transparency is very important in a system like this, and having something which fundamentally drives an AI Leader's behavior hidden under the hood felt like a mistake, especially given how straightforward the rest of the system is (RL, Leverage, etc.).

Making Approach visible means announcing changes via a notification is necessary, as the last thing we want to do is encourage players to check the diplo screen with every Leader every turn! This was a flaw in some early Civ diplo systems that I very much don't intent to repeat in AtG. On the plus side, this will help highlight the system for newer players, as although nothing is changing mechanically it reminds you that diplomacy is, you know, a thing, and if other Leaders are starting to get upset at you that you need to get up off your butt and be proactive.

As one last aside, I considered adopting some kind of "storyline" system where different Leaders would follow somewhat pre-structured plans for their diplomatic endeavors, but ultimately deemed it to be too much work for this game - perhaps a project for a future game!

That's it for this month's update. Given that diplomacy is the last big system to go in from here on out we'll probably be focused more on details and less on high-level design concepts.

Thanks as always for reading, and we'll be back in April!

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / February 2018 Update
« on: February 08, 2018, 12:02:53 PM »
Hey all,

Been a while since I've posted an update about the game here, although the plan is to do so from now on. To check out the past few game updates you can head over to the AtG Kickstarter page.

In this update we'll be focusing on two things: the basic design thinking behind the diplomacy system, along with showing off some new elements of the game from a recent playtest of mine in screenshot-form.

The post started to get a bit long, so I've decided to save the specific details as to how diplomacy will work (e.g. Relationship Levels, Global Reputation, Leader Personality Traits and Interaction Types) for the next update. We'll start off though with a high-level look as to the challenge of diplomacy in a complex strategy game.


What "is" Diplomacy?

Diplomacy is one of the biggest challenges in the strategy space, in large part because it's trying to simulate something that's hard to wrap your head around even in the real world.

There are some basic tenets that people agree on when it comes to good military strategy: divide and conquer, pay attention to supply, hold the high ground, etc. But what does "good diplomacy" look like? Sometimes negotiating averts a major war, while other times it simply brings "peace in our time". What looks like prudent flexibility to one can be seen by another as an unforgivable betrayal.

So, yeah, a tough thing to model!

Of course there are elements we can try and incorporate such as personality, trading, making promises, punishing liars and traitors, etc. but it's much harder to simulate all of this than a simple resource-based economy (and even those are hard to get right). Is there room to make something really nuanced and revolutionary here? I think so, but probably not as just one feature among many in an already-complex game.

A few weeks ago I asked on Twitter what people thought made for a good diplomacy system, and I received a lot of good answers. There was certainly some common ground, but the biggest lesson I took was that there was no general consensus - I think mainly due to the challenge I spoke of above.

Another challenge is that diplomacy is meant to simulate the nuance of human interaction. We're not necessarily trying to represent systems here, but more, well, feelings. Alas, this isn't really something that game AI is up for at this point in time, in large part because it's AI, and there's nothing you can do as a developer to convince players otherwise. Regardless of individual moves, it simply feels different playing against a computer. That is starting to change with the kind of work Google's DeepMind has done with AlphaGo, but that is the crown jewel of a multi-million dollar research studio on a game whose rules have been fixed in place. So we've got a long way to go before the 4X genre will be revolutionized in this way.

The AtG Diplomacy Design Pillars

So what are we doing in AtG then?

The focus is to come up with an approach that does something interesting and new while most especially making sure to avoid pitfalls of past games, and with that goal we've settled on three fundamental pillars.


Distinct, Predictable Personalities

"Oh wait, I know this guy… Awww man."

The biggest problem with most diplomacy systems is that they're too random. While there are probably always well-intentioned rules under the hood which enables AI players to reevaluate their situation and change their minds when it makes sense to do so, in reality this usually ends up turning into, "AI declares war, then asks for peace 10 turns later, then declares war again 10 turns after that".

We'll specifically be avoiding this pitfall in AtG in a couple ways. First is through a focus on Personality Traits. If Attila with his 'Aggressive' Trait finds you nearby then you can be pretty sure war is coming soon (unless, of course, you bow before him and give into his mostly-symbolic demands that you know will soon be on their way). Sometimes war will be a good idea for Attila. Sometimes it won't be. But most important of all is the fact that he wants it. Not every Leader will be this extreme, of course, but it's important to know what you're getting.


Tough, But Clear Choices

"Ugh, I was trying to be friends with both of these guys…"

A common problem I see with diplomatic systems in other strategy games is a focus on minutiae, particularly on the trade front. Having a really complex trade system seems like a neat idea, but it usually ends up turning into a game of, "always trade X for Y, then try to exploit the AI out of all their money". In AtG trade will not be a focus - in fact, it won't even be present at all. Instead, the focus will be on the relationships between leaders.

One leader might demand that you choose between him and another leader. In line with the first design pillar though this should always be somewhat predictable - if you try and be friends with a leader with the 'Jealous' Trait you know that also trying to be friends with someone else will trigger him to challenge your loyalty.

Most of the time it's going to be impossible to make everyone happy and keep all of your stuff and your pride - but that's part of the fun of figuring out how to best adapt to and "solve" diplomacy.


A Few Basic, But Powerful Player Knobs

"I'm going to tell this guy to pound sand!"

The final pillar is based around the concept of player agency, and ties somewhat into pillar #2. Players should still be able to steer things diplomatically, even if a lot of the game will be responding and adapting to the other tribal leaders.

Sometimes you just want to vent frustration at someone, and in AtG a lot of the time you'll be able to get your way. A leader with the 'Meek' Trait might always give in to the first Demand For Tribute, making the strategy here more about optimizing what to ask for and when. Demanding something from 'Proud' Attila might be guaranteed to fail every time, and draw his wrath - but in return your Global Reputation might receive a large boost, allowing you to build a friendship with another leader.


In the next update I'll go into more specifics as to how diplomacy will work in AtG (the 7 Relationship Levels, how Global Reputation works, the list of possible Interaction Types, etc.), but for now we'll wrap things up here. But before we go we'll go over some new screenshots and show off some of the new recent additions to the game.



The first couple images here show off the new tutorial system.

It's mostly made up of basic popups triggered by particular events (e.g. if you're running out of food), but the cool part of the system is that most of it is optional. This supplements the fancy tooltips-in-tooltips system we started working on early in the project, and together should provide a much smoother on-ramp into the 4X experience than any previous title.

Optional tutorial follow-up explanations.

The system is also cool in that the tutorial messages themselves can be nested multiple levels deep.

Tutorial messages can now be embedded and link to one another like tooltips.

We've also made sure everything is accessible in one place, just in case you want to go back to something later, or maybe turn off the tutorial system entirely and explore the in-game help at your own pace.

The game help screen.

You can access this screen either by pressing the '?' button in the upper-left or by pressing the ? key. Not particularly fancy, but it gets the job done!

Speaking of ways to make the game easier to play, I may I've touched on the 'Notes' system in the past, but I can't help but show it off here now, as it was a really helpful feature in my latest playtest.

Right-clicking on any Clan Card brings up a screen which allows you to attach a colored note to the bottom.

Adding a note to a Clan Card.

Clan Card notes in action!

This feature is rather handy, as it makes it easy to keep track of who you want to do what, something that's pretty important in a game in large part about managing Clans! It's especially useful when you have to stop playing for the night and would otherwise have no clue what you were up to the next time you pick things back up.

It's also possible to write notes on the map itself in order to keep track of spatial information, e.g. where to construct that Logging Camp or cut a path through the forest in order to make it easier to get around.

Tile notes revealing my grand plans for the forest.

The last screenshot I'll include shows off the new 'Declare Kingdom' button you might have noticed in one of the previous screenshots. It doesn't show much in and of itself, but I promise the button does work! Just need a bit more Parchment...

Declaring a Kingdom! Well... eventually.

These screenshots are actually from a pretty interesting playtest that I've been writing up notes for. I'll probably compile them into a future update post giving a more in-depth look at how the game plays out.

This was a pretty tough and interesting game where I found myself in the far north without many Resource Deposits but plenty of Forests to harvest Timber from. It also brought up some interesting design questions (How accessible should Resources be? How much variance between starting locations should there be?), so it would be a fun game to explore in more depth.


That's it for now. Thanks again for reading, and we'll be back with another update soon!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / An Apology
« on: February 08, 2018, 11:51:00 AM »
I'd like to apologize to everybody here on the forums who's invested their time, energy, or love into At The Gates while I've been away for the past couple years. I burned out pretty hard trying to steer the development of a hugely complex strategy game, and I know now that I bit off more than I could chew. We got most of the way there, but I hit a wall and that was pretty much it. I needed time to step away, and instead of letting everyone know this I tried to fight on, and the harder I fought the harder it became to stick with it. So I apologize to all of you for both the fact that the game has obviously been very-much delayed and also for not being honest about the situation. I should have been better about communicating what was going on, and promise to do so in the future.

Despite that, at its core AtG truly is a great strategy game, and I'm committed to putting in the time and work needed to make sure that it achieves that potential. I didn't launch this project or Conifer in order to achieve riches or glory or fame - it was in order to make something awesome, something that all of you could join in and experience as well.

So where do we go from here?

Anyone who has contributed at least $25 to the Kickstarter campaign can send me an email ( and request a key in order to play the game right now. If you want to play the best version of AtG I would recommend holding off, but all backers deserve access at this point and will receive it if they so choose.

Additionally, I'll be providing a project update on the 1st of every month from now until we ship the game. The plan is to wrap things up by the end of August, but we may go a bit beyond that as necessary in order to finish up diplomacy and make sure that the final experience is polished enough for a full release.

This game will definitely be released in 2018 though. Diplomacy is the final major feature to go into the game, and after that we'll be focused on polish. The hat I'm wearing now is mainly that of producer, rather than that of designer - and the producer's job is to make sure the game gets done. We already have a solid foundation to work from, and it's already a great deal of fun to play. It just needs to be finished now.

If anyone has any questions or concerns I'll be happy to answer them. I'll be here and active on the forums from now on, so let me know if there's anything you need. I'll be going through my PMs over the next few days as well, and if you haven't heard anything in a few days poke me again and I'll get back to you.

Thank you to all who have contributed to and cared about AtG over the years. I know it's not always been an easy process, but we're getting close to the finish line.

- Jon

AtG - Developer Updates / August 2016 Update
« on: August 25, 2016, 05:50:42 PM »
Hey all,

First off, apologies for the lengthy absence - I was dealing with some health problems earlier in the year and just as I was getting back to work I broke my ribs and have been recovering from that over the past several weeks. Needless to say, it's been a tough year! As you might have guessed, this will push back the release of AtG a bit, but development on the game is still very much underway and now returning to full steam. I'm in the middle of updating the schedule and will let you all know what things look like here within the next few weeks.

Speaking of which, to better keep you guys in the loop we'll be hiring someone to handle the communications side of things so that the rest of the team (especially yours truly) can continue to focus on the nitty-gritty details involved with finishing up the game while still ensuring you guys aren't in the dark along the way. So hopefully no more lengthy periods of radio silence from here on out!

As for the game itself we're still knee-deep in AI work but one of the fun things I've started getting back into the swing of things with is unique factions and traits. For those of you in the alpha program I posted a new build last week (v22.1.6) that includes some basic functionality on this front, and a lot more will be coming soon. The goal is for a faction like the Huns to play very differently from a more basic one like the Goths (think completely nomadic, no structures, etc.). To commemorate this feature I'll give you guys a sneak peak at a couple of fun new leaders: Alboin of the Lombards, and Cerdic of the Saxons (both of whom also happen to have names whose modern versions swapped some letters around - hooray for pointless trivia!):

Alright, back to work. More soon!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: This game isn't coming out.
« on: May 13, 2016, 02:15:01 PM »
Thanks Rick, it's good to be back!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Update
« on: May 13, 2016, 07:03:38 AM »
Hey all, apologies for the lengthy radio silence. I've been dealing with some health issues the past few months and had to take some time off. I'm back in the saddle as of today though, so no need to worry about whether the game will be finished or not - you should start seeing updates to the game again next week!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Update?
« on: February 24, 2016, 09:45:44 AM »
Sorry for keeping you waiting guys - another big update will be coming in March!

- Jon

November 24 Update …

The long-awaited project roadmap update has been posted - and includes a release date!

- Jon

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