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1
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

2
AtG - Bug Reports / Crash on launch with Turkish OS Language
« on: January 24, 2019, 05:54:03 PM »
The game crashing on launch when starting the game on a system with Turkish as the OS language. It's something we're looking into now, but given the nature of the issue it may or may not be fixed within 2 weeks so you may want to consider requesting a refund and coming back later when we have the issue figured out. Apologies for this issue.

- Jon

3
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

4
AtG - General Discussion / Update Plan & Tasklist
« 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. v1.21) 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 an unstable WIP version of the game with the latest changes by switching to the 'developer' branch in Steam (this won't start being updated until February). Note that in-game error messages are turned on for the developer version, so it might be a bit annoying to play unless you're specifically interested in lending us a hand.

Here's what's on the agenda:


v1.01

The first major patch, mainly focused on fixing serious bugs and gameplay issues immediately after release. Target date: 1-2 weeks after release.


Improve Memory Usage (especially after loading a game from within another game)
BUG: Game doesn't launch when OS language is Turkish
BUG: Borders incorrect after capturing a City or Structure
BUG: Title music doesn't play in the main menu.
BUG: End turn gets stuck down after alt-tabbing out (appears as game hanging for a while and then ending up with lots of extra resources)
BUG: Sometimes fortifying the Settlement doesn't increase its borders
BUG: Mac and Linux versions should default to 'Fullscreen' mode (rather than 'Borderless Window')
BUG: Victory screen appears every turn after winning
BUG: Can't train Horse Archers as the Huns
BUG: Gifts from Rome not working
BUG: Unable to Repair Structures
BUG: Settlement can train clan and skip turn to generate Treasure
BUG: Clans disappear after being added to a captured Settlement
BUG: Long paths being calculated strangely (units want to move through water)
BUG: ​Can't disable eating horses
BUG: Can sell Resources for more than they cost for infinite $
BUG: Vast Horse Pasture doesn't grow
BUG: Upgrades remain on Clans who switch Professions
BUG: Weird number sometimes appears on Profession button
BUG: Can't close tile tooltip sections from in-game once opened
BUG: Clan Traits conflict: 'Loyal' and 'Aggressive'
BUG: Missing text description for 'Happy' Clan Mood
BUG: Missing text description for Nailsmith and Armorer Professions
BUG: Missing description text for 'School of Fish'


v1.1

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


BUG: Screen resolution is overridden in fullscreen and borderless window mode
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: Mismatch between the stated and actual move cost of streams
BUG: Can continue clicking 'next page' past the end of save files list


v1.2

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


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)
BALANCE: Lombards too hard to play at the very beginning
BALANCE: Caravan Prices


v1.3

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


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)

5
AtG - Bug Reports / Update Plan & Tasklist
« 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. v1.21) 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 an unstable WIP version of the game with the latest changes by switching to the 'developer' branch in Steam (this won't start being updated until February). Note that in-game error messages are turned on for the developer version, so it might be a bit annoying to play unless you're specifically interested in lending us a hand.

Here's what's on the agenda:


v1.01

The first major patch, mainly focused on fixing serious bugs and gameplay issues immediately after release. Target date: 1-2 weeks after release.


Improve Memory Usage (especially after loading a game from within another game)
BUG: Game doesn't launch when OS language is Turkish
BUG: Borders incorrect after capturing a City or Structure
BUG: Title music doesn't play in the main menu.
BUG: End turn gets stuck down after alt-tabbing out (appears as game hanging for a while and then ending up with lots of extra resources)
BUG: Sometimes fortifying the Settlement doesn't increase its borders
BUG: Mac and Linux versions should default to 'Fullscreen' mode (rather than 'Borderless Window')
BUG: Victory screen appears every turn after winning
BUG: Can't train Horse Archers as the Huns
BUG: Gifts from Rome not working
BUG: Unable to Repair Structures
BUG: Settlement can train clan and skip turn to generate Treasure
BUG: Clans disappear after being added to a captured Settlement
BUG: Long paths being calculated strangely (units want to move through water)
BUG: ​Can't disable eating horses
BUG: Can sell Resources for more than they cost for infinite $
BUG: Vast Horse Pasture doesn't grow
BUG: Upgrades remain on Clans who switch Professions
BUG: Weird number sometimes appears on Profession button
BUG: Can't close tile tooltip sections from in-game once opened
BUG: Clan Traits conflict: 'Loyal' and 'Aggressive'
BUG: Missing text description for 'Happy' Clan Mood
BUG: Missing text description for Nailsmith and Armorer Professions
BUG: Missing description text for 'School of Fish'


v1.1

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


BUG: Screen resolution is overridden in fullscreen and borderless window mode
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: Mismatch between the stated and actual move cost of streams
BUG: Can continue clicking 'next page' past the end of save files list


v1.2

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


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)
BALANCE: Lombards too hard to play at the very beginning
BALANCE: Caravan Prices


v1.3

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


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)

6
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

7
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.

9
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

10
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

11
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

12
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

13
AtG - General Discussion / Weekly AtG Update #2 Clans
« on: December 23, 2018, 02:20:17 PM »
Welcome to the second 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 the clans, 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.



You'll spend a lot of time in AtG managing your clans.


Clans as Economic Game Pieces

Clans are the people which make up your tribe. They arrive in your settlement periodically at a rate determined by how much of the Fame resource you're producing each turn. In the early game clans arrive fairly regularly, but you need to invest to keep them arriving at a steady rate.

Training clans in different professions is how you get things done in AtG. If you want to explore the map then you train one of your clans as an Explorer, and if you want to start harvesting some Fruit to feed your people you'll want to turn someone into a Gatherer.

Every profession belongs to one of six disciplines: agriculture, livestock, metalworking, crafting, discovery, and honor. Over time clans accumulate experience in the discipline their profession is associated with, and this allows them to much more easily switch between professions within that same discipline. Switching to a profession outside that discipline resets all of this progress back to zero though, so it's important to plan ahead and not switch people around too much.



Every clan has two traits.


Clans as Characters

Clans aren't just chess pieces though - they also have desires and feelings of their own defined by their 2 traits. There are around 100 traits in AtG, so there's quite a wide variety of combinations. These traits range from a clan starting in a profession upon arrival to not wanting to spend time out in the cold.

Clans can develop desires, and these usually relate to their traits in some way. Most of your clans won't require any special handling, but a few will certainly require attention in every game. If you have a Boisterous, Aggressive clan it's probably a good idea to send them somewhere else.

When clans are unhappy with their situation their mood rating will drop. This results in a penalty to economic and military performance which increases dramatically as they become more restless.



Keeping your clans happy is a balancing act.


Feuds can also develop between clans, and when this happens the only way to resolve it is to pick a side and publicly punish the other. Punishing a clan strips it of its profession and gives it a permanent mood penalty. Sometimes a disagreement is mild enough that you can safely ignore it, but should it escalate you'll likely be forced to intervene, as it's better to have one useful clan than zero. AtG laying down some hard management lessons, right there!

Poorly behaved clans can also commit crimes, which lowers the mood of all other clans on the tile. When a clan shows up who you know will likely get into trouble it's usually wise to act proactively and send them off on their own where they can't stir up any trouble. These sorts of events are never truly random, so there's almost always room for some good strategy and proper planning to prevent an even tougher situation down the road. That said, there will be games where it seems like everyone who shows up is some kind of problem child or another. AtG ain't always fair like that!



Sometimes choosing sides comes down to who's more valuable.


AtG Before Clans

Despite how fundamental clans are to the gameplay of AtG there was a lengthy period of time early in development where they simply didn't exist at all.

In the initial design your settlement contained only a generic population number that ticked up a bit each turn. Training units required population, but there was no personality, no names, nothing. Just train what you needed and go.

In the end I decided to move away from this model and add a new fundamental system at great cost to the project's schedule simply because it was necessary for AtG to develop into a fun, replayable game. The original concept involved migration, seasons, and exhaustible resources, but that was about it. There was no greater arc to the game, no real sense of progress. Because you were regularly packing up and moving and leaving no structures or roads or anything behind it just felt like you were continually starting over. It really wasn't fun.

So I had to find some way of making it feel like you were actually accomplishing something, even if you found yourself moving a great distance across the map from where you started. Since you couldn't build anything permanent this progress had to be something you could bring with you. In the end I borrowed an idea for a future game, drew some inspiration from games like King of Dragon Pass and Crusader Kings 2, and ended up with the clans system.

It was a long, hard road that basically involved rebuilding the entire core of the game, but it's paid off. The game is a lot of fun, so much so that even I as the designer still really enjoy each and every game. And that's not something I can say about any of my previous work.



AtG has come a long way since 2013!


The theme for next week's updates will wrap up our look at the economic side of the game, and dig into resources, the caravan, and more. You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or check back here next week for a new article.

- Jon

14
AtG - General Discussion / Weekly AtG Update #1 The Map
« on: December 16, 2018, 02:59:27 PM »
Welcome to the first weekly AtG update in the final countdown to the January 23 release date! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This first week our theme has been the map, and you can also follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter.


Map Generation

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

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



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



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

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



Map generation consists of several simulation layers.


Seasons

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

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

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



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


Exploration

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

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

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



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


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

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

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



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


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

- Jon

15
Off-Topic / Moderation Policy
« on: December 11, 2018, 09:01:58 AM »
I'm a firm believer in the free exchange of ideas, so any statement, question, or argument made in good faith is not only allowed here but welcomed. That said, personal attacks against others (whether forum members, developers, or individuals outside our community) are not acceptable and will be removed. "The game balance sucks" is allowed. "The developers are stupid" is not.

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

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

- Jon

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