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1
AtG - General Discussion / Rebalancing Food + New Unstable Version
« on: April 19, 2019, 03:18:22 PM »
I had originally planned for v1.1 to be focused on quality of life improvements before I came back around to work on gameplay, but having thought about it some more getting the survival and economic aspects of the game in a solid place will affect the gameplay experience a lot more and for a larger number of players. Ultimately, my priority is making the game more fun to play before I make the game easier to play. I’ll be refreshing the update plan soon, but wanted to give everyone an idea of what I’m up to in the meantime.

I wanted food stored as turns in order to make it easy to keep track of how much you had left, but in the end the system has ended up being really hard to balance and I now believe it would be best to simply make food a resource like any other and adjust all the numbers accordingly. Because you could bank stored turns when your costs were cheap it was almost a “reverse inflation” where the more you invested earlier the easier the game would become. The goal is for there to be the constant threat of starvation, but unfortunately it actually turned out to be quite easy to avoid as long as you knew what you're doing. The ability to stack lots of multiplicative bonuses just makes it easier. So the plan for v1.1 is now to take another look at food, starvation, and resource production balance generally.

The target full release date for v1.1 is mid-May, but I'll soon start posting new builds to the unstable branch in Steam every Friday afternoon, with the first going up today. The balance is definitely off and things will continue to change, but if you want to follow along with how things are shaping up feel free to have a look.

If anyone has thoughts on this topic feel free to post them here. I'm also happy to answer any questions, and will post design and implementation updates in this thread as v1.1 progresses. The next patch after this update (v1.2) will be focused on quality of life improvements. No specific ETA on that yet, but it'll probably come in the month or two after v1.1.

In terms of specifics, foragers, timber structures, and stone structures will be separated into 3 distinct tiers. Previously they all kind of overlapped, but now they're a clear hierarchy in terms of both output and cost. You will use and need all 3 in each game now. Food is now much more important, so don't ignore it! You can stay ahead if you prioritize it, but it can also sneak up on you pretty quickly. If you run out of food the mood of your clans will start to drop, and if at least half of your clans become resentful they’ll actually overthrow you and the game will end.

Here’s a changelist for all the stuff that’s in the new unstable v1.0.1.1:


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

v1.0.1.1

2019 April 19

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


MAJOR FEATURES


- Food is no longer stored as turns, but is a normal stockpiled resource like all others. Surplus food production no longer spoils. Players now start the game with only 5 turns of food, which will disappear quickly!

- Starvation now results in the Mood of all Clans dropping by 1 per turn. All other penalties associated with starvation have been removed. If more than half of a player's Clans are Resentful when the turn ends the player will lose the game.

- Each subsequent Family now joins a Clan in 10% less time than the previous one. Families now provide a Clan with a Combat Power bonus, but no Resource Production bonus, as this ended up breaking the game's economy and food balance.

- Significantly rebalanced the cost and output of most Structures and several resource refinement Professions.



MAJOR BUGS FIXED


- Fixed rare crash in Goal AI.



GAMEPLAY TWEAKS


- Increased XP required to gain a Level in a Discipline. This means it will generally take longer to train Clans in the midgame.

- Increased rate at which new Clans arrive.

- Increased Cloth cost of increasing the Popcap.

- Skipping the Settlement's turn now produces 1 Treasure and 1 Fame per resident Clan (previously always 5 Treasure).

- Stone Structure Apprentices now produce as much as the base version of the Structure. Adding an Apprentice slot now costs 20 Boards and 10 Parchment.

- Paths now increase movement speed by 3x.

- Caravan price balancing. More to come.

- All Plant and Mineral Resource Deposits now last for 24 turns (previously it was a mix between 24 and 18).

- 'Resentful' Clan Mood is no longer permanent.

- Free food goody hut result now provides 10 Food (previously 5).

- Increased cost of Tinkerer to 30 Tools (previously 20).

- Watchtower Apprentices now cost 20 Weapons (previously 5) and produce 20 Fame per turn (previously 5).

- Cooper now provides 4x food (previously 2.5x) and costs 3 Boards per turn (previously 2).

- Armor upgrades for Warrior Professions now provide a larger bonus.



MINOR BUGS FIXED

- Fix for borders not visually updating after capturing structures.

- Fix for crash when loading a save file when a 'new faction unlocked' notification was up.

- Minor text fixes.



MISC

- Resource stockpile now shows the current number of turns of food left, now that it's no longer automatically stored AS turns.

- Brought back 'STARVATION' label in the resource stockpile panel.

- Caravan Screen: re-ordered price and quantity labels, and softened gold-colored buttons for specials.

2
AtG - General Discussion / v1.0.1
« on: February 22, 2019, 11:05:10 AM »
v1.0.1 is now live on the main branch in Steam and on Humble. Here is the full changelist relative to v1.0:



MAJOR BUGS FIXED


- Fix for most out-of-memory crashes.

- Fix for game not launching in Turkish.

- Fix for main menu title theme music not playing.

- Purchasing Food from the Caravan now provides a turn quantity based on current food consumption. This will make Food a much better value early compared with later in the game.

- Fixed bug where capturing a Structure would result in it having no Borders afterwards.

- Fixed crash that could randomly occur when starting a new game roughly 1 in 26 times caused by null character in map seed.

- Fixed bug where the Huns and Avars were unable to train Horse Archers.

- Possible fix for end turn button getting stuck down after alt-tabbing (or possibly clicking) out of the game. This would often show up as a huge increase in the amount of treasure a player had (and a greatly advanced number of turns).

- Fix for infinite Treasure exploit when the Caravan would have a Resource on special but none for sale, resulting in the sell price being higher than the buy price.

- Fixed bug where using the Fortify command to expand Borders wouldn't actually work if you gave your Settlement another order later in the turn. The effects of Fortifying are now instant.



MINOR BUGS FIXED

- Clans can no longer enter foreign Settlements or Cities.

- Possible and purchased upgrades now disappear after retraining a Clan.

- Can no longer train something and skip the Settlement's turn to generate free Treasure.

- Fixed bug where victory screen would appear every turn after winning the game.

- Added missing description text for Clan Moods.

- Must now be in debug mode for the delete key to work.

- Fixed minor text bugs.

- Fixed Instructor description (claimed it cost 20 Parchment to use, when it's actually 50).

- Fixed reference to 'EMPHASISed' in text string.



MISC

- Can now change display settings from the in-game options screen.

- Improved Logging Camp description.

- Tweaked link text colors to be more subtle.

3
AtG - Bug Reports / v1.0.1
« on: February 22, 2019, 11:05:01 AM »
v1.0.1 is now live on the main branch in Steam and on Humble. Here is the full changelist relative to v1.0:



MAJOR BUGS FIXED


- Fix for most out-of-memory crashes.

- Fix for game not launching in Turkish.

- Fix for main menu title theme music not playing.

- Purchasing Food from the Caravan now provides a turn quantity based on current food consumption. This will make Food a much better value early compared with later in the game.

- Fixed bug where capturing a Structure would result in it having no Borders afterwards.

- Fixed crash that could randomly occur when starting a new game roughly 1 in 26 times caused by null character in map seed.

- Fixed bug where the Huns and Avars were unable to train Horse Archers.

- Possible fix for end turn button getting stuck down after alt-tabbing (or possibly clicking) out of the game. This would often show up as a huge increase in the amount of treasure a player had (and a greatly advanced number of turns).

- Fix for infinite Treasure exploit when the Caravan would have a Resource on special but none for sale, resulting in the sell price being higher than the buy price.

- Fixed bug where using the Fortify command to expand Borders wouldn't actually work if you gave your Settlement another order later in the turn. The effects of Fortifying are now instant.



MINOR BUGS FIXED

- Clans can no longer enter foreign Settlements or Cities.

- Possible and purchased upgrades now disappear after retraining a Clan.

- Can no longer train something and skip the Settlement's turn to generate free Treasure.

- Fixed bug where victory screen would appear every turn after winning the game.

- Added missing description text for Clan Moods.

- Must now be in debug mode for the delete key to work.

- Fixed minor text bugs.

- Fixed Instructor description (claimed it cost 20 Parchment to use, when it's actually 50).

- Fixed reference to 'EMPHASISed' in text string.



MISC

- Can now change display settings from the in-game options screen.

- Improved Logging Camp description.

- Tweaked link text colors to be more subtle.

4
AtG - General Discussion / v1.0.0.3
« on: February 08, 2019, 05:50:03 PM »
EDIT: v.1.0.0.2 has been replaced with v1.0.0.3. The only difference between the two is another possible fix for game not launching on Turkish language OS.


v1.0.0.2 is now live in the 'unstable' branch. Most of what's planned for v1.0.1 is in this beta update, although not everything. Several of the bugs listed for v1.0.1 I haven't actually been able to reproduce, so either things are either actually working as designed or involve a rare edge case I need to investigate more. In any case I expect v1.0.1 to go up on February 22nd assuming no surprises pop up.

Here are the patch notes for v1.0.0.2:



MAJOR BUGS FIXED


- Purchasing Food from the Caravan now provides a turn quantity based on current food consumption. This will make Food a much better value early compared with later in the game.

- Fixed bug where capturing a Structure would result in it having no Borders afterwards.

- Fixed crash that could randomly occur when starting a new game roughly 1 in 26 times caused by null character in map seed.

- Fixed bug where the Huns and Avars were unable to train Horse Archers.

- Possible fix for end turn button getting stuck down after alt-tabbing (or possibly clicking) out of the game. This would often show up as a huge increase in the amount of treasure a player had (and a greatly advanced number of turns).



MINOR BUGS FIXED

- Clans can no longer enter foreign Settlements or Cities.

- Possible and purchased upgrades now disappear after retraining a Clan.

- Can no longer train something and skip the Settlement's turn to generate free Treasure.

- Fixed bug where victory screen would appear every turn after winning the game.

- Added missing description text for Clan Moods.

- Fixed reference to 'EMPHASISed' in text string.

- Must now be in debug mode for the delete key to work.


MISC

- Can now change display settings from the in-game options screen. These may still have some issues, so please report them in this thread if you notice anything strange or not working.


---------------------------------------


ORIGINAL POST


v1.0.0.1 is now available in the new 'unstable' branch on Steam. This isn't the full v1.0.1 outlined in the update plan but it includes a few preliminary important fixes that will be rolled out to the main branch once it's been tested a bit. It took longer than expected to get this first patch out since the two big fixes (the out of memory crash and crashing on launch in Turkish) were both much tougher than expected, and on top of this I had to completely rewrite the game's build and publishing script post-launch (the Mono version of the game needed some critical surgery right before the release and the process for uploading builds had to be mostly redone from scratch as a result).

On the plus side we've made a ton of progress on the memory issues, so crashes related to this should be much less common now. The executable location might be off for the Linux version unstable branch - if it doesn't launch just go back to the default branch and I'll have this fixed early next week. Once we've verified v1.0.0.1 is working for folks it'll be pushed to the default branch.

With this annoying stuff out of the way now updates should roll out much more smoothly going forward. The new target date for v1.0.1 is February 15 on the unstable branch and February 22 for full release.

- Jon

5
AtG - Bug Reports / Crash on launch with Turkish OS Language - FIXED
« on: January 24, 2019, 05:54:03 PM »
If the game is crashing for you and you're running a Turkish language OS please try uninstalling the game, deleting all files in the installation directory, and re-installing. If this doesn't work please post here and we'll dig into the issue further.

- Jon

6
AtG - Bug Reports / 'Out of Memory' Crash Info
« on: January 24, 2019, 05:53:36 PM »
This is something we're working on and should be improved in v1.01 as well as in future updates. It mostly happens when loading several games in a row, or quitting back to the main menu and starting a new game. Please post in this thread if you ever see it without having reloaded the game.

- Jon

7
AtG - General Discussion / Update Plan
« on: January 24, 2019, 01:41:31 PM »
The purpose of this thread is to keep everyone up-to-date regarding plans for future work to be done on AtG. In this top post I'll keep an updated copy of my project tasklist so you can see the exact agenda I'm working from.

Note that the plan below can and is likely to change but I'll make sure to always post here when it does. Also, there will certainly be smaller incremental updates (e.g. v1.2.1) to fix bugs or make important-but-small additions. The bigger updates will take time, so I ask for your patience. With a small team and a complex game there's a fair bit of testing that needs to go into each release, and simply programming as fast as I can and immediately uploading things is a recipe for adding more bugs than I fix.

Speaking of which, you can find a work-in-progress version of the game with the latest changes by switching to the 'unstable' branch in Steam.

Here's what's on the agenda:


v1.1

The second major patch, mainly focused on fixing serious gameplay issues and improving basic UI and UX. Target date: Early April.


Improve Options Screen (e.g. display options)
Add ability to change how often autosaves are created
Game Setup Options/Difficulty Levels
Improve Caravan Screen
Add Clan Management Screen
Improve AI
Display an Army's supply needs
Improve Resource Production/Consumption Info
User Interface Scaling
Add tooltip to supply boxes on the map
Improve Text Colors
Notification when civilian unit captured.
Notification when unit suffers supply damage.
Right-clicking when besieging should besiege instead of attack.
Allow disabling of all conversion of specific resources (e.g. Cattle)
Allow clans inside structures to be punished
EXPLOIT: Livestock-to-caravan-and-back
BUG: Purchasing food from the caravan gives too much (immediately converted into turns)
BUG: Changing screen resolution doesn't work
BUG: Approach showing up as 'ERROR' in Diplomacy Screen
BUG: Clans can start feuding the same turn someone shows up
BUG: Clean up handling of clans sent to train as Roman Legions
BUG: Mismatch between the stated and actual move cost of streams
BUG: Can continue clicking 'next page' past the end of save files list
BUG: Diggers can't forage from special iron sources
BUG: Woodsmen trait slows down Explorers in forests
BUG: Strange behavior after finishing tech tree

BUG: Clan Trait conflicts:
  • Loyal + Aggressive
  • Loyal + Peddler
  • Curious + Rustic
  • Strong + Surveyors
  • Woodsmen + Explorer


v1.2

The third major patch, mainly focused on gameplay balance, the user interface, and AI. Target date: June.


Improve AI
Improve Gameplay Balance - General
Improve User Interface - General
Improve camera movement when different Clans are selected
Add ability to play specific map seeds
Add setup option to skip intro maps
Mood penalty countdown after punishing? (instead of being permanent)
Incentives and timing of migration
BALANCE: Lombards too hard to play at the very beginning
BALANCE: Caravan Prices generally (exploits and bugs will be fixed sooner)


v1.3

The fourth major patch, mainly focused on diplomacy, the late-game, AI, and modding. Target date: October.


Add New Diplomatic Options
Improve Diplomacy AI
Improve Late-game Strategy and Balance
Improve AI
Full Mod Support
Europe Map


Future?

Support for fan translations (if enough interest)

8
AtG - Bug Reports / Update Plan
« on: January 24, 2019, 01:41:05 PM »
The purpose of this thread is to keep everyone up-to-date regarding plans for future work to be done on AtG. In this top post I'll keep an updated copy of my project tasklist so you can see the exact agenda I'm working from.

Note that the plan below can and is likely to change but I'll make sure to always post here when it does. Also, there will certainly be smaller incremental updates (e.g. v1.2.1) to fix bugs or make important-but-small additions. The bigger updates will take time, so I ask for your patience. With a small team and a complex game there's a fair bit of testing that needs to go into each release, and simply programming as fast as I can and immediately uploading things is a recipe for adding more bugs than I fix.

Speaking of which, you can find a work-in-progress version of the game with the latest changes by switching to the 'unstable' branch in Steam.

Here's what's on the agenda:


v1.1

The second major patch, mainly focused on fixing serious gameplay issues and improving basic UI and UX. Target date: Early April.


Improve Options Screen (e.g. display options)
Add ability to change how often autosaves are created
Game Setup Options/Difficulty Levels
Improve Caravan Screen
Add Clan Management Screen
Improve AI
Display an Army's supply needs
Improve Resource Production/Consumption Info
User Interface Scaling
Add tooltip to supply boxes on the map
Improve Text Colors
Notification when civilian unit captured.
Notification when unit suffers supply damage.
Right-clicking when besieging should besiege instead of attack.
Allow disabling of all conversion of specific resources (e.g. Cattle)
Allow clans inside structures to be punished
EXPLOIT: Livestock-to-caravan-and-back
BUG: Purchasing food from the caravan gives too much (immediately converted into turns)
BUG: Changing screen resolution doesn't work
BUG: Approach showing up as 'ERROR' in Diplomacy Screen
BUG: Clans can start feuding the same turn someone shows up
BUG: Clean up handling of clans sent to train as Roman Legions
BUG: Mismatch between the stated and actual move cost of streams
BUG: Can continue clicking 'next page' past the end of save files list
BUG: Diggers can't forage from special iron sources
BUG: Woodsmen trait slows down Explorers in forests
BUG: Strange behavior after finishing tech tree

BUG: Clan Trait conflicts:
  • Loyal + Aggressive
  • Loyal + Peddler
  • Curious + Rustic
  • Strong + Surveyors
  • Woodsmen + Explorer


v1.2

The third major patch, mainly focused on gameplay balance, the user interface, and AI. Target date: June.


Improve AI
Improve Gameplay Balance - General
Improve User Interface - General
Improve camera movement when different Clans are selected
Add ability to play specific map seeds
Add setup option to skip intro maps
Mood penalty countdown after punishing? (instead of being permanent)
Incentives and timing of migration
BALANCE: Lombards too hard to play at the very beginning
BALANCE: Caravan Prices generally (exploits and bugs will be fixed sooner)


v1.3

The fourth major patch, mainly focused on diplomacy, the late-game, AI, and modding. Target date: October.


Add New Diplomatic Options
Improve Diplomacy AI
Improve Late-game Strategy and Balance
Improve AI
Full Mod Support
Europe Map


Future?

Support for fan translations (if enough interest)

9
AtG - General Discussion / Weekly Update #6 – Art & Sound
« on: January 20, 2019, 09:13:21 PM »
Welcome to the sixth and final pre-launch weekly AtG update! Every Sunday afternoon a new article has been posted, and each week has had its own theme. This past week our theme was the game's art and sound, and you can check out previous daily updates on Twitter and weekly updates on the AtG website.

As with last week this update will be a recap of the daily updates posted on Twitter so that I can focus on getting this bad boy out the door on Wednesday.



Update #1

We decided on a painted watercolor art style for At the Gates very early in the project, as it's an approach both suggestive of its historical subject matter and a bit unique compared with other strategy titles. When your game is 2D you really have to lean on style over fidelity.




Update #2

One of the first things I did after starting on At the Gates was bring the supremely-talented @geoffknorr on board to craft title theme song. I asked for something that felt a bit mournful and featured my favorite instrument, the cello. And he nailed it.

Oh, and pardon the old logo on the video. The project has come a long way, but the music sure didn't need to!

At the Gates Title Theme (YouTube)


Update #3

One of the visual elements of At the Gates I'm actually most proud of is the beaches. Shorelines almost always look bad in strategy games, as neither the 'puzzle pieces fitting together' nor the 'spline-based generated 3D' approaches look great (without a ton of extra work).

In AtG we do have fixed pieces which we attach to one another, but we also have a large number of special multi-tile pieces designed to provide a more realistic look than you can get with repeating tiles. It took some work, but the results were up to my high expectations!




Update #4

At the Gates doesn't have looping background music, and this is by design. Instead, we play short pieces of music after important events to help highlight these moments. It's a more cinematic approach, and means you won't actually want to turn the music off in AtG!


Update #5

Another way At the Gates makes the seasons something you truly *feel* is through the background ambience. Because there's no looping music that frees up audio space for the sound of the environment to really immerse you in what's going on. When it's winter in AtG you'll know it.



And that does it. There's nothing specific planned in terms of updates from here on out, but I'm sure I'll be on Twitter sharing lots of fun stuff between now and Wednesday, so feel free to hang out with me there in the final countdown to release day. A 7-year journey is finally almost complete!

- Jon

10
AtG - General Discussion / v0.9.9.2
« on: January 19, 2019, 09:16:16 AM »
v0.9.9.2 is now live in the main Steam branch. Please post here if you have any trouble with it. There is a known issue with the game not launching on some Linux systems that we're looking into.

- Jon


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------                                  --------------------------------
------------------------------           v0.9.9.2           --------------------------------
------------------------------                                  --------------------------------
------------------------------     2019 January 19     --------------------------------
------------------------------                                  --------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



MAJOR BUGS FIXED


- Fix for crash on startup for some Linux versions.

- Fix for missing road texture crash.

- Fix for rare AI pathfinding crash.



GAMEPLAY TWEAKS


- Training a Trader now requires 20 Timber (previously free).



MISC

- Structure descriptions now note which Professions can actually construct them.

- Added Credits Screen.

- Text tweaks.

12
AtG - General Discussion / Weekly Update #5 – Development Stories
« on: January 13, 2019, 12:39:19 PM »
Welcome to the 5th pre-launch weekly AtG update! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This past week our theme was development stories, and you can follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter. You can also check out previous weekly updates on the AtG website.

With only a week and a half left before the game's launch it's important that I stay focused on the game itself, so for this week's update I'm going to keep it really simple and just link to the 6 daily project updates posted on Twitter since last Sunday.

Almost there!



MONDAY

I originally came up with the idea for At the Gates while listening to [ur=https://twitter.com/mikeduncan]@mikeduncan[/url]'s amazing History of Rome podcast. I wanted to prototype a new 4X concept with a lot of dynamic energy and a cyclical environment, and the migration period seemed like a perfect fit on both fronts.

Here's a link to the podcast page. It's a long one, but worth every second! Also check out his new podcast, Revolutions, as it's equally exceptional.

http://thehistoryofrome.com/episodes/




TUESDAY

The core AtG team was originally based out of Detroit, Michigan but over the years contributors have also come from Maryland, California, Canada, Slovenia, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. The team is small, but diverse!


WEDNESDAY

I've fought through some dark moments between when I started on At the Gates and today, and barely made it. It's a tough story to tell, but one I'm proud of now that the finish line is in sight. Thank you to everyone for all your support over the years.

https://jonshaferondesign.com/2019/01/09/how-at-the-gates-took-7-years-of-my-life-and-nearly-the-rest/


THURSDAY

I now follow a pretty strict daily schedule, starting with coffee, a small breakfast, studying Swedish, gym, and a salad. I don't actually get to my keyboard until 1 pm, then "work" for only 6 hours. And I get far more done now than I did in twice the time earlier in my career.

Multi-post thread continued here.


FRIDAY

On a bit of a lighter note, today's update is a look at my current workspace. Dual-wielding elevated laptops, baby! And no, I didn't pick the wallpaper.




SATURDAY

The core engine for AtG was built on top of XNA by Jon Christ back in 2011 and 2012. It has a lot of work to do, too, as the game uses several shaders and render target switches to achieve the watercolor look. Like other strategies the result might look simple, but the process is anything but!



Next week I'll be talking a bit more about the art and sound of At the Gates. AtG might be a 2D indie game, but a lot of thought and effort has gone into both the look of the game as well as how it sounds. After that we'll start the final countdown clock before everyone can finally play AtG!

You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or check back here next week for a new article.

- Jon

13
Welcome to the fourth pre-launch weekly AtG update! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This past week our theme was asymmetry, and you can follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter. You can also check out previous weekly updates on the AtG website.



Your starting location can be very different from game to game.


Roguelike Asymmetry

One of the biggest differences between AtG and nearly all past 4X strategy games is that AtG has fully embraced an asymmetric single-player approach. Similar to the roguelike genre, every playthrough will vary in difficulty and feel thanks to being unpredictable in terms of the terrain, climate, resources, and clans you'll strategizing around. This isn't a game with a smooth, predictable arc from start to finish. You'll have to adapt strategies, and some starts will just be a bit unfair. This isn't the kind of game for everyone, but that's part of what makes AtG unique. The goal wasn't to build a game for everyone. The goal was to make something new.

That said, I've added some normalization to ensure the first few games are always pretty close to the middle of the road, just so new players have a chance to get their feet under them. After that the training wheels come off though and there's no telling what you'll face. I still get excited every time I start a new game, just to see what the procedural world builder has in store for me. This is a game with a truly immense amount of replayability, and I think it's why even I as its designer still really enjoy playing it. Every game is different, and I'm still constantly trying out new strategies. That's pretty incredible after working on this thing for almost 7 years now.

This was only possible though because I was willing to forgo including any sort of multiplayer mode. If your objective as the designer is to ensure a balanced experience for a symmetrical set of players who you all want to have an equal chance of winning then you're really binding your hands. Don't get me wrong, playing a strategy game in multiplayer can be incredibly fun (I have literally thousands of hours of Civ MP under my belt), but it changes how you're able to design the game.

Sure, maybe in a theoretical world where there was no such thing as opportunity cost and you could work on something forever you could make two completely separate game modes that were optimized for each, but in the real world you have to make compromises. Give one player a gold deposit and start another in Greenland and you have a recipe for a game that feels really unfair in multiplayer. In single-player though? That's part of the whole point of playing. It's certainly possible to have asymmetric-but-balanced starts or factions, but that requires a huge amount of design and balancing work.

Add that to the large amount of work required just to get MP functioning, let alone how it warps how you develop the game (make sure you send everything via messages!) has meant that my decision on day one to forgo multiplayer was clearly the correct choice. Future games? Who knows. But for AtG being single-player-only was the right move.



Cerdic starting with a Galley makes for a fun, unique early game.


Factions

Another element AtG borrows from roguelikes, Binding of Isaac specifically, is how the factions work. In BoI you start with only a single character and unlock more as you play. Your original character is pretty vanilla and provides players with the "base" gameplay experience, whereas all the others are basically interesting variants distinct in one or two important ways. This adds still more replayability to AtG's already-robust foundation there. Purists will want to always play the Goths though, as the game was basically designed around and for them, whereas Attila starting with a powerful Horse Archer and being unable to own structures is very much not how the normal game plays.

The way you unlock new factions in AtG is either by conquering their capital or forming an alliance with them (the latter being quite difficult now, but will become less so after diplomacy is fleshed out in a future post-release update). This gives the factions an "achievements with actual meaning" feeling, something I also really like in BoI.



Factions vary dramatically in strength and strategy.


Victory Conditions

There are two ways to win in AtG: conquer the capital of either the Eastern or Western half of the Roman Empire, or replace the emperor peacefully by sending five clans to Rome fully-equipped as new Roman Legions, after which you can take over the army and declare yourself in charge. The former is obviously a military victory condition, the latter an economic one.

Similar to the rest of the game the difficulty of meeting each condition will vary quite a bit from playthrough to playthrough. If you start incredibly far away from the Empire off in some corner of the map your path to the economic victory condition will be far easier than marching an army through several hundred kilometers of winter snow.

It should also be noted that AtG isn't a "race" like other 4X games. You're not competing with any other factions in the game also trying to win, and many of your neighbors will start off stronger than you'll ever become. AtG is more like a Paradox game where part of your job is the navigate between the big fish as you try to enact your strategies. They won't always be the smartest on the battlefield, but even so if the Romans ask you for a favor you might want to pay close attention.



Can you replace Rome?


Next week I'll be sharing some stories behind the curtain of how AtG has been made. It's been a long road, and as you might expect there have been both a lot of both ups and downs. We're not quite to the finish line yet, but it's close enough now that I don't mind looking back at the journey a little bit.

You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or check back here next week for a new article.

- Jon

14
AtG - Bug Reports / Bug Reporting Info
« on: January 04, 2019, 08:58:31 AM »
Thanks for your help in finding and fixing problems! Since I don't have a big team or a QA department in many ways you guys are the first and line of defense. I sincerely appreciate you spending your time and energy on this.

When posting a bug please skim the existing threads to make sure there's not already something that looks similar.

When reporting a bug PLEASE always create a screenshot of the error message, then try and reproduce the bug from your most recent save file. If you can provide me a save RIGHT before the bug happens and all I have to do is click one button then the odds of it getting fixed quickly are basically 100%, and that means more time spent on things like improving gameplay.

Thanks again, and if you have any questions or there's some way I can make things easier for you guys don't hesitate to let me know.

- Jon

15
AtG - General Discussion / Weekly AtG Update #3 – Economics
« on: December 30, 2018, 01:03:06 PM »
Welcome to the third pre-launch weekly AtG update! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This past week our theme was economics, and you can also follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter. You can also check out previous weekly updates on the AtG website.



The Settlement is the nexus of your tribe, economically and otherwise.


The Settlement

Each of the playable factions starts the game with one Settlement, which is roughly equivalent to a city in other 4X games. It can produce units by training Clans in new Professions, and it also happens to be the place all new Clans will arrive. But a big difference from other games is that you'll only ever have one. That's it. Whatever you want to build or do you have to do it one at a time. As such, what you spend this training time on is one of the most important strategic decisions you'll have to make while playing.

This makes the game a fair bit tougher to play than your average 4X, which are often mostly fire-and-forget, and allow (or force) you to speed through several turns without much of interest happening. AtG is very much the opposite. I've spent ten minutes thinking about a single production decision, and although I'm on the slow end of players no doubt it serves as a good example of what this game is all about.

An added bonus of this approach is that there's very little micromanagement. You won't be commanding hordes of dozens of cities or workers, all performing some small and mostly-irrelevant task that you need to constantly revisit.

The concept of having a "single, central economic hub" is something I actually borrowed from the old SSI strategy game Imperialism. It's not a model that works in every game though. If AtG spanned all of history there would be no way around the fact that sometimes you're producing tanks in one city and planes in another, and abstracting that down to a single production queue is something that is almost board game-level and not a great fit for most computer game players who want a bit more simulation to go with their chessboard.

The other big way AtG's Settlements are special compared with other games is that they can actually move around the map. And doing so is important, as you'll eventually want to start building Structures in order to harvest resources more efficiently, and this requires a tile to be within your borders - and thus relatively close to your Settlement.

Moving around is also forced on you a bit by the game, as eventually resource deposits will become exhausted and you'll have to find new ones. Eventually you'll be able to build permanent structures out of stone, but this isn't something that will be possible until the midgame.



You may not go far, but expect to move your Settlement several times.


Resources

Another major concern in the early game is keeping your clans fed. You start off with a small stockpile of food, but this will run out by the end of the coming winter, so you have to start collecting more relatively quickly. Food can be harvested from several sources, and initially you'll be doing so with the help of Clans trained in Foraging Professions like Gatherer and Digger. These units can collect resources from anywhere on the map and identify new deposits, making them quite flexible, but their overall output is less than more advanced Timber and Stone-based structures, which you'll want to start bringing online once you have a nice little economy set up.

In AtG you want to specialize your economy, as it takes quite an investment to get things rolling, and spreading your tribe too thin means limiting your overall potential. Training a Blacksmith or Weaponsmith early is a common strategy, as this will allow you to start producing the all-important Tools and/or Weapons you'll need a lot of in the early game in order to develop/fight your way into a stronger position. Without iron though you're going to have to pursue a different strategy, but thankfully there are quite a few to choose from. Every game I play I find myself doing something a little bit new, which is really cool from a game I've played so much.

Just because you lack Iron nearby doesn't mean you can't get Tools or Weapons though, as three times per year a caravan will show up, allowing you to trade resources you have for those you need. This makes the caravan essential in most games, and you'll likely want to spend a fair bit of your money upgrading it to provide more and better resources. Caravans don't make a visit during the winter though, so you have to make sure you have things squared away by autumn, as it's going to be 6 months before any future help will be coming.



Don't be afraid to rely on the caravan for important resources you lack.


Founding a Kingdom

Once you've developed your economy it will be time to start thinking about Founding a Kingdom. This permanently fixes your Settlement in-place, which is a pretty big deal, but in exchange you'll receive a great deal of extra Fame and your borders will grow significantly. So it's a nice boost in the mid-game when you might otherwise have trouble stretching your clans or your control and have a place in-mind you want to stick around.

This is also around the time you'll be transitioning your economy over to advanced Stone-based structures. These versions last forever, so once you have one online you never need to worry about it running out and needing to completely reconsider what your future economic strategy will be. Furthermore, you can also supplement Stone structures with Apprentices, which allows you to greatly increase their production. By the end of the game you'll have built up an immensely-powerful, but hard-earned economic machine.



Welcome to the midgame!


I'm really excited for this upcoming week, as both the daily Twitter updates and the capstone article next Sunday will explain how AtG has embraced asymmetry down to its very core, something that really helps separate it from nearly all other 4X strategy games.

You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or check back here next week for a new article.

- Jon

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