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Messages - Dtolman

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I'm not Jon, but as someone who played a lot of the backer beta when it was still being updated - the beta game is basically only that "initial" 10 hours and is a lot of fun - I don't necessarily agree with his solution, but that 10 hours won't be boring. Its really unlike any other 4x game out there (still), and you have an interesting game where you put down temporary roots, exploit local resources, and then have to decide the best time to move on - you don't want to be trapped in the Winter in a bad spot. Instead of upgrading buildings, you gather and upgrade clans within your tribe with specific roles (and likes/dislikes).

Hopefully he opens up the beta to more backers - I think the game (untouched the past 18 months) is a lot of fun, and is really only lacking a metagame goal/endgame.

Short version, with moderate snarky commentary - Jon and Paradox bounced off each other hard, he admits he totally burned out on the game previously, and that once he wrote it - realized his original vision wouldn't work and he couldn't figure out what to do with the late game. Now that's he's out from Paradox, he has some new ideas on how to redesign the late game, and is re-energized to work on the game. Again. Also, he's totally going to update once a month. Promise. If he doesn't burn out (again), he thinks mid-2018 is doable. He'll keep us posted, Gloomhaven style, if things slip. Totally.

ps - new late game will involve settling with permanent structures, and he's toying with the idea of borders... if he can figure out the transition. Sounds like he'll need to design whole new systems for perm structures, and its a possible fatal design creep - but he says he has ideas and its not as bad as I think it is. Fingers crossed. Toes too.

Long, Original Version:

Hey all,

You may have heard, you may not have, but recently I've parted ways from Paradox. In the end it really was creative and cultural differences - I can't go into details and will simply leave it at that. I still love Paradox and its games, but things sadly just didn't work out. I'll still always be rooting for all my friends over there, and wish them the best of luck.

So what's next?

I'll be focusing on At The Gates again. I can honestly say it'll be nice to go back to working on it full-time now that I've had some space and can return with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.

So what's happened with AtG?

I got burned out, to be honest, and ultimately wasn't really sure how to wrap things up in a way I could be proud of. I'm a perfectionist, and at times that trait definitely works against me. It sounds obvious of course, but when you're years deep in a project, have a task list a mile long, and run your own company with one full-time employee it's easy to lose sight of the fact that actually finishing something is more important than making sure it's perfect. Needless to say, it's been a hard lesson. I'll probably always lean a bit too far in that direction, but at least now I'm aware of that and can fight against it.

I made a few attempts at getting back into things but it became truly overwhelming at a certain point, so I stepped away. I'm not proud of that, and I apologise to all of the people I've let down. Making a full-scale 4X game mostly by yourself is an insane undertaking, and not one I would recommend. I thought I could pull it off within the time frame of a normal game's development cycle, but that was an incorrect assumption.

I had hoped my time at Paradox would serve as a source of inspiration, and fortunately I was definitely right about that. I learned a lot even in the short amount of time I was there, and have a clear plan on the design front for how I want to finish up AtG now. I've also recruited new help on the production and AI programming side to assist in shipping this bad boy, so it won't all be on my shoulders any more.

So what's the plan then?

The main places where AtG still needs attention are the mid-game (somewhat) and the late-game (a lot). The first few hours are very solid (aside from bugs and an outdated tutorial), so the goal now is a complete experience from start to finish.

To achieve that we're going to modify the arc of the game from what was originally pitched. I kept banging my head against the same wall over and over again, but the time away has allowed me to explore a new approach I'm confident will be superior. Instead of just migrating around the map for ten hours as resources run out all around you, roughly a third of the way in you'll start to settle down before building a secure kingdom and eventually confronting the Romans directly.

While this might sound ambitious the mechanics actually won't need to change much. 90% of what's in the game now can stay exactly the same, though we will be incorporating permanent structures in order to foster this new approach. I've also brought borders back in a related change (the main challenge right now is how exactly to transition between transient and permanent ownership of map structures), but we have yet to fully playtest the change - I'll keep you guys updated on the results.

Speaking of which, from here on out I'll be posting a project status update on the 1st of every month. I've been bad about this in the past, I know. I basically stepped away from social media last year, but I'll be active again here and on Twitter so if you have any questions (or justified rants) I'll be around to answer them. As for when the game will be done, I can't say for certain until I've built a task list based on our new, final objectives and had a couple other folks double-check things, but the target is mid-2018. Estimates from the last year or so have been based on part-time work, which is incredibly hard to get right with a big project like this, so I'm optimistic that things will turn out better this time. Could the game slip again? Of course, but I'll make sure to let you know if it does along with what progress we're actually making along the way.

Thanks to all the backers and fans who've hung around over the years. I promise there truly is a good game here, we just need to finish it. It's been a long road, both for the game and me myself. But now it's time to finish what we started. Thanks for sticking with us!

- Jon

Dtolman, thank you very much for sharing this, I don't check the kickstarter regularly but I do drop in the forums 1-2 times a month. When I saw the news he left paradox I thought he might return to work on ATG now for basically the reasons he outlined.

Looks like he posted a new update - again. So STILL alive. Will post a new thread.

I suspect whether or not he hit any milestones, it'll be radio silence until he's ready to release (assuming that milestone ever occurs).

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Jon Shafer joins Paradox!!!
« on: June 14, 2017, 02:52:02 PM »
He's now half way though his promised 3 month sprint to the next milestone on July 31st. Hoping he'll actually stick with coding through then and actually deliver... with that in mind, probably best he avoids backers to keep his spirits up - LOL.


To summarize:
By July 31
Jon-Design and code victory conditions, diplomacy, siege combat, map editor (appears map editor is designed/coded from other posts)
Programmer-UI and Combat/Economic AI work
By September 30
Jon-Additional diplomacy work, Roman AI, Faction Traits, Combat AI
Programmer-Combat/Economic AI work, Difficulty levels
By November 30
Jon-Additional diplomact, faction traits/AI,
Programmer-Finish map editor, additional combat AI, UI, setup work
By January 31 (release)
Jon - Balance/pacing adjustments
Programmer- Steam achievements, finish UI work, modding

He basically estimates 2.5 man-months worth of work to be done each two month period... by two people. Only a third of which is fully dependent on him. I leave the realism of this schedule being achievable to the reader.


In a possibly related development, he also announced that he is going to be working on some interesting bill-paying endeavors with (presumably) a gaming development group. Hey, if it keeps him happy and focused on getting his development work finished each month... more power to him.


-map editor finished
+End Game Victory Conditions (to quote verbatim):

Victory Conditions

The big gameplay advance since the last update is the solidification of the design for the victory conditions. I've decided to make them fairly straightforward, as I think that's better than a less intuitive approach that can be confusing in the early going.

-Roman Conquest: your goal is simply to capture Rome (or Constantinople). The Romans then give in and allow you to build a kingdom without their interference.
-Tribal Conquest: it's unlikely you'll be able to wipe everyone else out before completing some other condition along the way, but should you do so victory is yours!
-Tribal Council: after having met all of the major factions, a tribal meeting will take place a few years later, and you win if you have a certain amount of wealth with which to pay everyone else off. An alternate model would be for players to spend a certain amount of wealth in order to pay off each tribe individually, but the exact details will be worked out during playtesting.
-Roman Successor: you win upon completing 10 quests for one of the two Roman factions, the last of which is guaranteed to be quite tough. Each failed quest counts against you though, and you only have one shot at completing the final quest, so make sure you're prepared!

This should provide a good mix of conquest, economic, and diplomatic goals to pursue right from the start of each game. Things are obviously subject to change between now and release, but these are the four victory types I'm happy with.


AtG - General Discussion / Re: Projected Finish Date Please
« on: February 14, 2017, 11:56:42 AM »
We'll always have the alpha version to play with. Its fun, though sad because of the wasted potential. So close to being a complete game...

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Seriously, WTF
« on: December 12, 2016, 02:36:42 PM »
Last update I've seen (on the kickstarter page) was that everything public facing was on hold while he discussed the project with investors (I guess to finance the final push, and get a few more full time developers on board to finish it?)

AtG - General Discussion / Game update posted on Kickstarter page
« on: November 14, 2016, 03:17:44 PM »
Was in a comment and probably missed...
Hey all,
Just wanted to update you on the latest goings-ons. AtG has obviously taken a fair bit longer than expected but we're still dedicated to finishing the game. The reason for the recent radio silence is that I've been in discussions with a partner to provide financial assistance to finally bite the bullet and hire full-time staff (in addition to just myself) to help get it out the door once. Once the deal is done and I'm contractually allowed to talk about it we'll fill you in on the details.
For anyone who's no longer interested in waiting I have no problem offering a refund of your contribution via PayPal. (As an aside, if I were a charlatan then I'm obviously not a very good one, having cashed out my retirement to pay for development!)
- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Seriously, WTF
« on: August 19, 2016, 11:40:36 AM »
Apparently the project is still alive - a new updated version was posted this week.

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Seriously, WTF
« on: August 09, 2016, 02:49:25 PM »
I think he's a talented game developer going through some personal problems thats tanking his dream of being an independent developer. Damn shame, as the alpha is really just missing an end game/meta goal.

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Seriously, WTF
« on: July 28, 2016, 03:35:52 PM »
Last communication I've seen from him was a note on a general gaming forum that he was alive, and still working on the game ("Currently working on faction traits").
That was a month ago.


AtG - General Discussion / Re: Whats up with this game ?
« on: June 28, 2016, 02:23:04 PM »
He posted on another general gaming forum saying he was alive and working on it (again). Specifically "Currently working on faction traits".
This was last week.

Maybe he's avoiding here until he has something tangible to show... Lord knows I'd find posting here a bit awkward after a half-year break.

AtG - General Discussion / Re: This game isn't coming out.
« on: June 10, 2016, 09:48:28 AM »
The game system itself is fairly challenging - managing your tribes, moving your base camp as the seasons change and resources are used up, keeping everyone fed and supplied.

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