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Messages - Jon Shafer

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AtG - Developer Updates / Revisiting the Design of 'Civ 5'
« on: February 13, 2013, 03:50:49 PM »

Upon first telling people about At the Gates I'm often asked, "How does it compare to Civ 5, the last game you designed?" Well, in this article I'll be providing an in-depth response to that very question!

The short answer, though, is that there's no guarantee if you loved Civ 5 that you'll also love ATG, nor that if you hated one that you'll also hate the other. My goal is to lay out the similarities and differences with complete clarity so that both existing and potential contributors know what they're signing up for.

However, before really getting into the details (this is a long essay folks!) I'd like to step back and wax philosophical for a moment.

Civ 5 was a great success both critically and financially, and Iím especially proud of what the team accomplished. But there's no ignoring the fact that Civ 5's gameplay didnít live up to everyone's expectations.

I have no problem admitting that my design wasnít perfect - we improve through constructive criticism and self-reflection, and that is another reason why I'm writing this. It wasn't always easy, but I've answered many of the questions that at one time perplexed me. If my past work has given you reason to doubt my talents, I hope that this article might then help replace that with a new confidence.

Below, Iíll be sharing the design lessons I learned during and after Civ 5's development, along with explaining how I'm actually applying said lessons in ATG.

Alright then, it's about time we got this show on the road!


Out of all aspects of Civ 5 that I was involved with, I'm particularly proud of what our team accomplished with the UI.

Picking up a new strategy game is always tough, and a key factor in shaping that learning curve is how much help the interface provides (or doesn't). We did a great job of focusing the playerís attention on what really matters. The size of each interface element reflects its relative importance, e.g. the end turn button is bigger than the button which shows toggleable map options. Rarely-used actions like disbanding a unit were tucked away into sub-screens. I have very much carried this philosophy forward into ATG.

My one disappointment with the UI was the general lack of "power features" tailored for hardcore fans. Ultimately, we didn't end up with as many information overlays, screens or modes as I would have liked. One of my early goals was to have an alternate "expert" switch that you could flip, adding a significant quantity of detailed information to the screens and mouseovers. User-created mods have added this feature to both Civ 4 and Civ 5, but integrating it into the full games is obviously preferable.

This functionality is already supported in the structure of the ATG interface system, and it won't be much work to flesh it out in full. I'm looking forward to seeing the community's reaction to the finished version, and improving it even further during the alpha and beta testing process!



My experience with developing Civ 5's diplomacy system has had the strongest influence on my present-day game design philosophy; the next most significant isn't even in the same ballpark.

My original goal was for the AI leaders to act human. But humans are ambiguous, moody and sometimes just plain crazy. This can be interesting when you're dealing with actual, real humans, but I learned the important lesson that when you're simulating one with a computer there's no way to make this fun. Any attempt to do so just turns into random, unproductive noise.

I came to realize that while diplomacy is a unique challenge, it's ultimately still just a gameplay system just like any other. Regardless of whether your enjoyment is derived from roleplaying or simply a game's core mechanics, if your opponents' goals and behavior aren't clear then you'll have absolutely no idea whatís going on or what to do.

In Civ 5, you might have been lifelong allies with a leader, but once you enter the late-game he has no qualms backstabbing you in order to win. With this being the case, what's the point of investing in relationships at all?

By no means should AI leaders be completely predictable. However, they do need a clear rhyme and reason behind their actions. The computer opponents in Civ 5 were completely enslaved to their gameplay situation, and as a result they appeared random and very little of their personalities shone through.

They were all crazy, and in the exact same way. In the months after the game was released I modified their behavior to be more predictable, but it was too late to completely change course. The biggest takeaway from this is that the only thing which matters in a game is the experience inside the player's head. It doesn't matter what your intentions are or what's going on under the hood if the end result just isn't fun.

Like other 4X games, diplomacy in ATG is built around your "relations" metric with other leaders. But compared with Civ 5, what goes into that number and what it does is very clear. For example, if you're at -5 with a leader, he'll never trade with you, while at +10 he'll always agree to help out in a war if requested. Rather than trying to decipher what the RNG (random number generator)-based AI is "thinking," your objective is instead to find as many ways as you can (afford) to boost that Relations number. Once you've done so, a variety of options for how your new friend can assist you become available.

Diplomacy is more than just fiddling with numbers though. There is still some randomness in the system, but not nearly as much as in Civ 5. Leaders in ATG have very distinctive agendas and behaviors: Attila the Hun is honorable, but vicious. Athanaric of the Goths is a religious fanatic. Drest of the Picts is kind of crazy, and you know you can't trust him.

Out of everything related to diplomacy, leader requests are probably ATG's "sexiest" bullet point. In many other 4X games the road to friendship often involves little more than giving someone a big pile of money or technologies.

In ATG building up relations is primarily done by completing requests for leaders when specific crises afflict them. Coming to Attila's aid in a war or giving him food when his people are starving in the middle of winter will earn you major, major points. Sure, giving him a fat stack of cash certainly won't hurt, but building true friendships isn't quite that easy!

Our goal with ATG is to produce the best diplomacy system. Ever. It certainly won't be easy, but with what I've learned, a strong combination of character personalities and solid mechanics I believe that this is a goal very much within our reach.



The AI in the base version of Civ 5 was... not as strong as it could be, shall we say.

Working on this system was another experience that taught me a great deal about design and development. I wrote the AI code that handled the computer opponents' high-level strategic goals, economy and diplomacy.

Like most engineers, I really enjoy architecting elegant and flexible structures. Civ 5's AI was a beautiful mesh of interwoven systems, and even included the ability to record virtually everything to a massive log file. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of building caused me to fall in love with the design rather than its actual impact. I was very proud of my code. But it really wasn't very good.

What many people don't know about AI programming is that one of the greatest challenges is getting your artificial players to actually do what you think you're making them do! The AI code in a big strategy game is typically so complex that you end up with a variety of pieces that either don't function as expected, or worse, don't do anything.

Another problem with my AI was the randomness, which is something I've already talked about at length. The computer opponents were weighted towards a variety of possibilities, with a healthy serving of RNG (random number generator) on the side. This meant they floated from one "strategy" to another without any real cohesion behind those decisions. This approach is nice in theory, but if you want a strong AI there are times when you need to force it to behave in very specific manner.

What all of this adds up to is that with ATG I'm staying completely focused on the end goal: results. This means a much simpler AI system, which in turn will result in a much stronger opponent. When you as the developer know exactly what an AI player is doing and why, it becomes much easier to recognize bad behavior and fix it. And the fewer moving parts you have the easier it is to tell what's going on.

Along with my new approach with AI design, Jonathan, our architect, is a programming wizard and has several ideas for how we can make this code super efficient. This will allow us to use far more processing power than we could otherwise, while keeping end turn lengths short to boot. I'm by no means the most skilled programmer in the world, but with the two of us together I have confidence the AI in ATG will offer players a very real challenge.



One of the big changes I made to Civ 5 on the economic front was the shift from resources being "boolean" (where you either have them or you don't) to "quantified," where you can have zero of a single resource type, or two of it, or maybe eighteen. I still feel that making them quantified was a solid design decision, but for a variety of reasons the execution wasn't everything I wanted it to be.

Civ 5 featured a "popcap" resource model where eight Iron basically provides eight "slots" that you can use to build (you guessed it) eight Swordsmen, or Catapults or whatever. ATG will instead feature a more traditional "stockpile" resource model where quantities build up over time and are then spent all at once in chunks. This requires more micromanagement than the popcap model, which was one of the reasons why I steered clear of it in Civ 5. In ATG, though, the focus is on the strategic level (empire-wide resource management) instead of the tactical level (city and population management), making this a much better fit.

In Civ 5, players ended up with easy access to a bit of every resource and there was almost no reason to trade. In the real world, swapping goods is worthwhile because of the effects of supply and demand. In Civ 5 there was almost no demand since you could be virtually self-sufficient. This will be completely different in ATG, where the threat of critical shortages will always be right around the corner, and bringing in much-needed resources via trade might very well be necessary for survival.

My removal of the health system in Civ 5 also had repercussions elsewhere. This greatly reduced the value of non-strategic resources (like wheat), and in retrospect it's clear that I didn't manage to fill that void with something else. ATG has far fewer resource types than Civ 5, but the ones which do exist are all very important. The map is absolutely vital in a 4X game, and that needs to be the case for everything on it as well. If you see something on a tile and think it's not a big deal, that is a flaw that needs to be fixed.

Another issue with the Civ 5 resources system was that the difference between having 2 and 5 Swordsmen isn't really a big deal when compared with the possibility of not having any Swordsmen. If I were able to go back and change the design I probably would have resources show up in more limited quantities and make the units and buildings they unlock much more unique and powerful.

Most armies would be composed of "lower tier" of units like spearmen, with the occasional swordsman or catapult spicing up the battlefield by serving as targets or threats to avoid. It would require some work to balance and players would all need roughly equal access to resources of some kind, but I very much believe this type of approach could work.



I made a number of tweaks to the traditional Civ economic system with v5, and as with the resources the results were a mixed bag.

My intention with the global happiness mechanic was to make it possible for smaller empires to compete with much larger ones. The problem was that a global metric butts heads with the natural cadence of the entire genre. I mean, the second X in 4X stands for "expansion" for crying out loud! I lost sight of this as I pursued other objectives.

The problem was that happiness strongly encouraged you to stay small and the penalties for not obliging with this demand were quite harsh. It was virtually impossible to build the large, sprawling empires which had always been a feature in the series and served as the entire point playing for many people. I still believe that there are ways to make smaller empires viable, but it shouldn't come at the expense of those who enjoy expanding. Penalties should be challenges to overcome, not an insurmountable wall to be frustrated by.

Carrying forward lessons from my experience with global happiness, ATG is much more freeform when it comes to expansion. There are factors in the game which discourage mindless spamming of settlements, but none of them are as heavy-handed as exponential maintenance, corruption or empire-wide unhappiness.

For one, the world of ATG is much more dangerous than that of Civ 5. Everyone is hungry and searching for cheap and easy snacks. Balancing economics and defense is absolutely crucial, and intentionally a tricky tightrope to walk. Additionally, the economic value provided by settlements is not particularly significant, as most resources can only be produced by improvements.

Further, each individual settlement you control eats into your food supply above and beyond what the population consumes. Food is extremely important, and wasting it extremely foolish. You can certainly build a massive empire in ATG if you so choose, but always make sure you can feed and protect it!

My removal of the research/commerce/culture sliders also came with positives and negatives. I've always found fiddling with sliders in strategy games to be boring busywork, and in that sense I don't miss them. But the sliders also had a hidden value that I didn't realize until later - they gave players the ability to shift directions at any time.

I've written at length about the importance of adaptation in strategy games. Unfortunately, once the sliders were gone players were basically permanently locked into their past economic choices. There was no way to sacrifice research in order to upgrade your army, for example. Rewarding long-term planning is certainly a worthy endeavor, but you still need to provide tools to allow players to change course when necessary.


Policies (Government)

I like both the Policies system featured in Civ 5 and the Civics system from Civ 4, which are simply two different takes on the same concept: the ability to shape the "character" of your empire. With Policies, I wanted it to feel like you were slowly accumulating this identity over time. After all, Japan and Germany changed significantly after World War 2, but they're still Japanese and German, and maintain that legacy of honor, hard work, etc.

By contrast, Civics allowed you to completely reforge your empire on a dime. Sure, there were costs associated with doing so, but it was very much possible to transform from a pious peace-loving people into the warmonger scourge from hell. This is kind of odd, but it has a huge gameplay benefit.

Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but I now find the design of Civics more appealing, because of that capacity to make sudden and dramatic shifts.

In ATG we've basically rolled the tech tree and government systems into a single Romanization Perks system. A new Perk can be chosen for each Roman city you capture and Roman diplomatic request you complete. As with Civics, you can later re-allocate your choices, although doing so temporarily lowers the stability of your empire (which reduces taxation, troop morale, etc.).

Along with my belief that adaptation is good just on principle, there's another reason why I took more of a Civics-esque approach with ATG. The game is hard. The seasons are usually working against you. Resources are running out. Your neighbors are constantly eyeing up your improvements. The Romans are significantly stronger than you much of the time.

Players need tools to overcome these challenges, and one of those will be the ability to switch Romanization Perks at any time. This allows you slide into a completely different strategy to deal with whatever hostile and ever-changing circumstances you're currently facing.

Not only is there a good gameplay reason to make it possible to easily change Romanization perks, but there's also a historical one. During late antiquity the identity of the barbarian tribes evolved dramatically over short periods of time. After all, you don't see Goths walking around these days! ... Okay, come on guys, you know what I meant!



By far the most significant change I made with Civ 5 was to way in which wars were fought. Instead of large stacks of units crashing into one another as had always been the case in the previous Civ games, there was now 1UPT (one unit per tile). This forced players to spread out their armies across the landscape, instead of piling everything into a single tile.

This was a model very much inspired by the old wargame Panzer General. On the whole, I would say that the combat mechanics are indeed better in Civ 5 than in any other entry in the series. But as is the theme of this article, there's a downside to consider as well.

One of the biggest challenges unearthed by 1UPT was writing a competent combat AI. I wasn't the one who developed this particular AI subsystem, and the member of the team who was tasked with this did a great job of making lemonade out of the design lemons I'd given him. Needless to say, programming an AI which can effectively maneuver dozens of units around in extremely tactically-confined spaces is incredibly difficult.

The reason why this wasn't an issue in Panzer General was that their AI didn't actually need to do anything. It was always on the defensive, and a large part of that game was simply solving the "puzzle" of how to best crack open enemy strongholds. It was plenty sufficient if your opponents simply ordered a single tank to stir up some trouble every so often.

What made Panzer General fun was you blitzkrieg-ing through Europe while your enemies quickly and dramatically fell before your might. However, in a Civ game, the AI has to be capable of launching full-scale invasions, sometimes on different landmasses. Needless to say, we're talking about a challenge on completely different scale.

Speaking of scale, another significant issue with 1UPT was that the maps wasn't really suited for it. The joy of Panzer General was pulling off clever maneuvers and secretly encircling your helpless enemies. Unfortunately, in Civ 5 nasty bottlenecks aren't uncommon and this tempers much of the natural value added by 1UPT. Ultimately, there just wasn't enough room to do the fun part.

To address this, I could have done something crazy like added sub-tiles to the existing grid. I really don't think this would have been a good idea though, as the whole point in having a tiles is that everything happens on the same playing field, which makes it very easy to tell what's going on. Once you start muddying the waters of what goes where, you lose that clarity and mechanical chunkiness tiles offer. And at that point, you might as well just get rid of them entirely.

Speculation aside, the reality was that the congestion caused by 1UPT also impacted other parts of the game. In every prior Civ title it was no problem to have ten, fifty or even a thousand units under your control. Sure, larger numbers meant more to manage, but hotkeys and UI conveniences could alleviate much of the problem. But in Civ 5, every unit needed its own tile, and that meant the map filled up pretty quickly.

To address this, I slowed the rate of production, which in turn led to more waiting around for buckets to fill up. For pacing reasons, in the early game I might have wanted players to be training new units every 4 turns. But this was impossible, because the map would have then become covered in Warriors by the end of the classical era. And once the map fills up too much, even warfare stops being fun.

So is there a way to make 1UPT really work in a Civ game? Perhaps. The key is the map. Is there enough of room to stash units freely and slide them around each other?  If so, then yes, you can do it. For this to be possible, I'd think you would have to increase the maximum map size by at least four times. You'd probably also want to alter the map generation logic to make bottlenecks larger and less common. Of course, making the world that much bigger would introduce a whole new set of challenges!

In fact, there were technical reasons this wasn't really feasible - our engine was already pushing up against the capabilities of modern computer hardware. Drawing that many small doo-dads on a screen is really expensive, trust me. Well, unless you make your game 2D, like ATG!

Speaking of which, what about combat in ATG? Well, for one thing the game will allow for stacks of units!

The main reason for this is one of my high-level goals for the game. As I touched upon earlier, ATG is designed to be a strategy title which takes place primarily at the strategic level, rather than the tactical. The region of the map where you've stationed your armies, how well you've prepared your supply network, etc. is ultimately more important than if you were able to wheel one of your infantry around the flank of another enemy infantry unit.

A major factor in this decision was ensuring all of ATG's features integrate with its most important one: map evolution. My objective is really to play this up in every way possible. With combat, this is done through the supply system. Units which lack sufficient supply rapidly become useless, similar to Unity of Command.

Every tile has a certain amount of supply available for units stationed there. The largest fraction of this comes from the tile's terrain type which, of course, changes radically with the seasons. The remaining fraction comes from the effect of nearby supply camps and settlements.

And supply is what the entire military side of the game is geared around - Planning ahead to make sure you have enough of it. Fighting in areas which have a lot of it. Ensuring that your supply nodes are safe, and so on.

In fact, the units themselves are almost a secondary concern. ATG is not a game where you follow the epic tale of a single warrior as he levels up and upgrades through the various technological eras. Instead, it's more like a late-game chess match, when nearly any move can settle the battle, and a pawn in the right situation can be just as powerful as a queen.

No doubt, this is a very different approach from the one taken in Civ 5. However, by now it should be obvious that ATG is in no way Civ 5, but instead stands on its own as a unique and innovative new member of the 4X family!



The Civ 5 team was one of the best I've ever had the honor of being a part of. That group put a ton of love and great work into the game, and it really shows in the art, audio and tech.

Civ 5's gameplay had several rough edges at release, but those were all due to decisions I made with the design. My friends over at Firaxis have done an excellent job improving the gameplay following my departure, and I can't wait to see what they do next!

As I promised in the intro, I'm not shy about my flaws. The fact is there's still much I have to learn. But every project is a new opportunity to improve and show everyone what you've learned. I'm very excited about ATG not only for this reason, but also because it's a great chance to spice up the 4X genre and help point it in a interesting new direction.

I'm sure I'll make more mistakes along the way, but I'm wiser than I used to be and can now the see problems from much further away. I ask that you join me on my journey, help contribute to At the Gates, and discover together the amazing places we'll end up!

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Welcome to the Conifer Forums!
« on: February 12, 2013, 01:38:35 AM »
When would you get access to the design documents at the $125 level? After the kickstarter ends?
They'll be made available late March-ish. Have to do some cleanup work!

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Trials & Tribulations of Kickstarter
« on: February 11, 2013, 08:53:20 PM »

This post originally began its life as a humble comment on our Kickstarter page, but after writing for a bit I realized it would be even better as a full-blown article!

What Do You Have to Consider With a Kickstarter Campaign?

Many people don't realize creators ultimately end up with a fairly small slice of the Kickstarter pie. You can immediately cut 20% off the top due to processing fees and failed transactions. Then there's the cost of fulfilling rewards, marketing (yes, it's important), both planned and unplanned contract work, licensing multiple software packages - the list goes on and on.

Oh, and as with everything in life, the taxman always wants his share. It's particularly rough if you make a large amount of money from your campaign, and then nothing for the next two years, as you'll be taxed at a much higher bracket than you would if the same amount of revenue had been spread out. Suddenly that amazing $1,000,000 Kickstarter haul starts to look a lot more like 300 or 400 thousand. Yikes!

In retrospect, I'm very glad I did extensive research on all of this ahead of time. I can see how teams end up in big trouble by overestimating the actual funding they end up with, either due to a lack of research or worse, just sheer excitement. The cost of physical rewards can really sneak up on you, and this is why we've been so conservative about what tiers we're offering for ATG and the $ figures attached to them. This is a sad tale, and I imagine it will be one that's increasingly common. It's particularly depressing because I also have a personal connection with that project.

Kickstarter & At the Gates

In case anyone was wondering, yes, I have done my homework! $40k is not a large budget for a complex strategy game, but itís possible because I know exactly where every cent will eventually end up going. Having a small, very talented team comprised almost entirely of your friends really helps! (Thanks again, guys!)

That's not to say success is guaranteed - for us or anyone else. There's risk with every large project. This is especially true for games, which can be both beautiful and well-engineered but end up being zero fun to actually play. It honestly surprises me how optimistic people are about the probability of most Kickstarter projects following through on their claims. The rate of failure here is likely to be in the same ballpark as traditional games development... and that number ain't good. It might even be worse, as large companies have staff paid to ensure projects do succeed!

This is why I welcome and even encourage folks to challenge us on not only what we're doing with ATG but also how we plan on doing it. (Yes, that is an open invitation - fire away, I promise I can take it!)

In my personal opinion, Kickstarter is neither charity nor even patronage. It instead serves as a means for customers to pre-order products directly from their creators, providing the funding necessary to develop innovative concepts. Patronage can be a part of that, but only when the chances of ending up with something at the end are very high. Accordingly, there's no way I would launch a Kickstarter campaign without having a fully-playable prototype ready to show off. In my mind you just have to be able to demonstrate what you're actually building, regardless of your track record.

This is also offers a built-in advantage to the developers. We're already about halfway down the road of development, and much of what remains is simply polish work. Not bad!

The Future of Kickstarter

I often wonder how Kickstarter will change once the first big failures hit. I have great faith in the model and believe it's how a significant chunk of future PC games will be funded. There are a large number of people who agree with me on this. But there's no guarantee the larger community will maintain that opinion after throwing thirty, two-hundred or a thousand dollars at vaporware.

What about you? If games you've contributed to go down in flames with nothing to show for it, will it lower the chances you contribute to future projects? And what risks associated with ATGís development concern you the most? Let me know what you think!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Stats! Tell me about the stats!!!
« on: February 11, 2013, 08:44:45 PM »
Great idea Hunter. Definitely would like to work that into the game somehow. I'm thinking the Huns will also be very mobile, so we'll have to find ways to differentiate one "fast-moving faction" from all the others.

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Stats! Tell me about the stats!!!
« on: February 09, 2013, 10:15:24 AM »
Most of the faction abilities have yet to be designed, but I do have a few ideas in mind. A couple of the Germanic tribes will get bonuses relating to supply in the winter. The one I'm most excited about is the possibility that the Huns can't actually own any fixed structures of any kind, even Farms - meaning they have to stay on the move constantly and keep pillaging everything in sight.

Other suggestions also welcome! :)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 09, 2013, 10:07:42 AM »
I've played the second one a bit and found that it's better than any of the releases in between.  I find the first one (still) good because it is sleek, or 'harsh' might be a compromise term we could agree on  :).  I find the simplicity and starkness quite a relief from unneccessary fluff which weighs down many games and the choices you are left with are strategic. It also fits the theme.   (I'm not much of a RTS battle player though, so I don't play it all that often.)

The sound effects were well done because they underlined what was happening in the game.  (I guess you could say that they were integrated into the design?)  Hitting the end turn button made you feel like the future was being decided.  Moving an army on the campaign map sounded like a moderately important decision, loading a game an important one, the cymbal crashing of catching a shinobi sounded mysterious and notable, etc.

Often sound effects are just so much fluff and a couple of games I've found are actually better without them.  Okay it is good to know that your keypress has been registered but really the sounds should add to the game experience, for example, taking an important diplomatic decision should lead to a notable acoustic feedback for the player.  On the other hand having an impressive and intrusive sound for every time a unit moves is more than likely to irritate players and detract from the game (from the little I have seen about how ATG plays).  But the capture of a Roman city?  That probably should 'sound' significant.

Perhaps all this is worth thinking about for At The Gates?  (I'm not in a position to contribute to the game financially but ideas are free, aren't they?  ;))

No problem Peter, thanks for the suggestions! Everyone can contribute in their own way. :)

Sound is very important. I'll be tackling that side of the game myself (with some help from Kay), so any ideas there are definitely welcome. Does anyone know of any good sound libraries we could license for ATG? Obviously our budget isn't massive, so we probably can't use what most other developers do.

- Jon

Off-Topic / Re: In the meantime, what are you playing?
« on: February 09, 2013, 09:20:43 AM »
I haven't played any games in a couple months now (!) but I was in the middle of Persona 4 before things got crazy. I also have a HUGE backlog... Wanna get back to CK2, XCOM, Dishonored, Shogun 2, Unity of Command and so many others. I've bought CoE3 but still haven't played it. But first, gotta finish P4!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:20:55 PM »
I recently played Shogun TW again (the first one) and was amazed by the sound effects.  Particularly the load game sound and the end turn sound but also various other sound effects on the campaign map like the one for when you catch a Shinobi.  I am NOT referring to the dated voice overs...  I'm not one for flashy graphics and expensive sound bytes (prefer the effort to be spent on game mechanics/balance etc.) but the effect for me was remarkable. 

ATG has quite a different theme but you could do a lot worse than quickly revisiting STW sound effects when thinking about the ones for this game.
Wow, the first one? I tried playing it for the first time a year or so ago and it was... rough.

Have you played the second one? I bought it but never found the time to actually dig in...

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:19:17 PM »
With the success of an Ironman mode in XCOM and Eador, and some very nice 'roguelikes', I would definitely like to see a default to ironman mode in ATG. This means that winning should therefore be a real success, and you should often lose, and still enjoy the game.
I've really gotten into roguelikes recently (whoa, tongue-twister) and I totally agree. I don't know about defaulting to ironman, but making it an option definitely sounds good. :)

Be nice if the availability of resources pushed you in particular directions strategically, without ever completely defeating you. If you can win with just horses and iron in one game, and stones and wood in another, but using quite different strategies, that would be interesting.
Yeah, this is something we're going to have to work out through iteration. I'm sure the balance of the game as it stands right now is awful, but that's why we're not planning on releasing until mid-2014!

It seems like the game MAY be simple enough that you could use a logical inference engine as one part of the AI. Maybe. I know this is hard, I've tried. At least the AI has to be TRYING to advance its own interests - it seems that AI design that assumes something else goes off the rails easily.
Jonathan and I have yet to decide what approach we want to take with the AI, but that's definitely on the table.

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Like your ambition
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:15:51 PM »
We've got some fun ideas in the works - definitely looking forward to making more awesome games after we wrap up ATG. :)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Announcing: At the Gates!
« on: February 08, 2013, 02:20:58 PM »
I like the art style - clear and crisp.

The setting is interesting. It has been a long time, but in my youth (maybe before you were born?) I played Decline and Fall, a boardgame at the grand strategic level on the same period. Have you played it?

I like the sound of the design elements as they are portrayed at the moment - supply, weather, resources, etc.

I expect that the AI and diplomacy elements will be critical to making the thing fun and replayable.

Best of luck with it all.

(and backed, of course).
Thanks Hunter! No doubt, the AI and diplomacy will definitely be a challenge. That's one of the reasons why our release date is still so far off. It just takes time to iterate and polish up a complex strategy game!

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Concerning the artwork...
« on: February 08, 2013, 02:18:22 PM »
Something we're considering is more of a watercolor painterly style as in the landscape and leader paintings, but it'll definitely still be clean 2D no matter what direction we end up going. I agree with you 100%!

- Jon

Off-Topic / Re: Introduce Yourself!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:43:39 PM »
Thanks guys, and welcome to the forums! Can't wait until we can get the game in front of you!

- Jon

Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: Welcome to the Conifer Forums!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:42:20 PM »
For $80, you'll be able to play in just a few short months! ;)

- Jon

AtG - General Discussion / Re: Announcing: At the Gates!
« on: February 06, 2013, 12:41:51 PM »
Almost. I'll get back to you soon.

- Jon

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