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Messages - Jon Shafer

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31
Hey all, I'll try make this post short and sweet (by my standards, anyways!), as I just posted another massive "let's play" video which does a better job of showing off what we've been up to than I can with words alone. Weighing in at a whopping 3 hours this video is by far the longest yet, but don't let that scare you off! I've broken it up into six 30-minute parts that should be much easier to work through in multiple viewings. Much of Part 1 covers the recent changes I'll be talking about below, so if that's all you're interested in feel free to pass on the other five parts. If you prefer text to video though, well, read on!


Diplomacy

Coming up with a good diplomatic system is an absolute beast of a task, but the first couple items on my agenda were actually pretty simple.

I started by modifying the map generation logic so that players are placed in groups instead of 100% randomly. If you want interesting diplomacy it's vital to actually, you know, have someone to talk to. In earlier versions of the game you'd often find yourself completely alone, and may not meet a single soul until you were several years in. Games like that can be fun on occasion, but they were so common that it would have been impossible for a diplomatic system of any kind to shine, regardless of its merits.

The second, sexier addition to diplomacy was allowing players to disguise their warriors as bandits. An issue I've noticed in 4X games is players (and I include myself in this) tend to be reticent to declare war. A public, official pledge of animosity isn't a concept we 21st century humans can really relate to. Instead, we tend to be a bit more subtle and guarded when dealing with our "enemies", and this change is meant to take advantage of that fact. Being able to disguise your clans allows you to wage a proxy war of sorts while still keeping everything on the up-and-up officially. It'll take some time to get this new mechanic right on the balance and AI sides but it's a really exciting new tool in the diplomatic toolbox that I'm hoping will help make AtG unique.

Beyond those first two bullet points the plan was to continue approaching the diplomatic system the same way as I had with other gameplay systems... but it quickly became clear this wasn't going to work. When you're adding something like foraging it's easy to come up with a few bullet points outlining how it differs from the pre-existing mechanics for how structures harvest resources, code up something quick and try it out later that day. But diplomacy? There's no other existing system you can even compare it to. How do you break something down that is defined more by the web of events and consequences built up over the course of an entire game than individual decision points?

After banging my head against the wall for a few weeks I stepped away for a couple, then came back with a new plan: iterative playtesting. Basically, I would play the game a ton, identify the biggest problems/omissions/opportunities that stood out along the way, then tackle just those specific items. Now, that's obviously the kind of thing a designer should be doing with every system, but it's especially important with (and may in fact be the only way to pull off) a feature characterized by intangible complexity like diplomacy. It's an arduous process (especially for someone who plays their turns as slow as me!), but I'm now certain it's the right one.

In terms of nuts and bolts, this approach has resulted in the addition of AI Leaders paying attention to your promises to stay way from their territory and calling you out if you renege. There are a number of other smaller changes as well, but nothing worth going on about at length (this is supposed to be concise, after all!). If diplomacy is an aspect of the game that really interests you though I'd strongly recommend watching the playtest video, as it does a good job demonstrating what we're going for.


Gameplay Changes

Most of the past couple months has been dedicated to playtesting and diplomacy, but I did find some time to squeeze in a couple other gameplay changes.

One involves how resource deposits are identified. The core issue was that only a lone profession was capable of performing this essential activity: the Surveyor. If you wanted to figure out what that rock next to your settlement was so that you could then actually use it the Surveyor was your one and only option, and as such, training one and sending him out to work often felt more like a chore than a fun strategic trade-off. So how do we fix that?

Some test group members had been lobbying to cut the profession entirely, but I'd always liked the niche it had in the game. The solution I settled on was to keep it around but make its ability a bit less... unique. All foragers and builders are now capable of identifying deposits, but the Surveyor is much faster at it and can now also move through rough terrain 'for free' like a Scout. The impact of this was clear in the very first game I played after making the change, as I was surrounded by a half-dozen minerals and excitedly targeted the Surveyor as my #1 priority. I've often talked in the past about how limiting a player can make a game better, but in this case the opposite was true!

One important addition on the gameplay side was a basic scoring system. You now earn points for each clan you control, structure you build or capture, bandit camp you burn, etc. From a mechanical perspective this doesn't change things much, but it does provide a metric for comparing games along with a way to provide players with indirect feedback.


Polish

I could go on for a while about this one, but I'll use actual bullet points to ensure I keep that promise I made about being concise!


In-Game Patch Notes
It's now possible to see a list of what's changed with the game from inside the game. What makes this especially cool is that it dynamically builds the list and shows what's most likely important to you. If you've played the previous version it'll show the complete list bugfixes and all, but if you haven't played in six months it'll only show major gameplay changes.

Group Games (AKA 'Daily Challenges')
This concept is somewhat inspired by Spelunky, a roguelike platformer I've played way, way too much of. Basically, it allows everyone in the world to play on the same map, which is swapped out every day/week/whatever. It's fun because it allows you to compare how you've done with your friends, and also a handy debug tool - when a Test Group member provides feedback or a bug report we now have a frame of reference.

World IDs
And this was something I borrowed from The Binding of Issac. Games with random maps build them using 'random number seeds', which are numeric values (usually) between 0 and ~2 billion. The basic idea is that if you start from the same seed you'll get the same map. In most games this value is remains in number form and forever hidden, but some (including the aforementioned TBoI) instead use six alphabetic characters, mapping them in code to numeric values. Ever wondered what "JON-ROX" looks like in the form of a map? Well, wonder no longer! 
New UI Layout
We haven't yet started on the big, 'real' revamp of the UI, but I've been playing around with the placement of controls in preparation for it, and I'm pretty happy with where the 'world screen' is at now. No doubt things will change though, so don't get too attached to anything!

Research Queue
You can now right-click on 'techs' to add them to the queue. Nothing too sexy, but it does make the game easier to play. It's also especially helpful when resuming a game that you started on a previous day - queuing a few things up before you call it a night can serve as a perfect reminder as to what the hell you were actually thinking before!

Sticky Notes
And last but certainly not least is the feature I might be the most giddy about. You can now attach 'sticky notes' to the bottom of a clan's 'card'. These can be simple reminders, titles you've bestowed upon them, etc. There's a ton of potential here to help out both strategists and roleplayers, so I'm hoping it's something folks will get a lot of use out of.


I show off all of these changes and more in the video, so make sure to check that out if you want to dig deeper. Anyways, I think that's about it for right now. In the coming months we'll continue working on diplomacy, the AI, and shining things up real nice. 'Til next time!

- Jon

@JonShaferDesign | AtTheGatesGame.com | Follow Conifer on Twitter, Facebook, Google+

32
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Private forum.
« on: February 20, 2015, 07:40:09 PM »
Hello there. I just recently bought the early access of the game and wanted to join in the discussion of the game. But it looks like a lot of people are talking about a private forum for mechanical related stuff. I haven't recieved any email detailing this, so I was wondering if it's ok to come with mechanical suggestions here, or if there's some sort of process I can go through to get access to the "secret lair"? :P

For now I do ask that we keep playtest feedback and discussion inside the private forums (I've explained why both here on the forums and elsewhere, in case anyone reading this is wondering what our rationale is).

As for getting access to the private area, if you mouse over the (Re) Play Group Game button in the main menu it'll tell you what to do. There were also instructions provided elsewhere in the game, but it was part of the "Welcome to AtG!" popups, and I know it's easy for one's eyes to glaze over after the first few thousand words I throw at you. ;)

- Jon

33
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2015 January 27 - Economics, in Ink
« on: February 08, 2015, 12:51:22 PM »
I am most curious how the competing tribes AI will turn out.

To me it does not seem to be the most important, that the AI is 100% consistent in it's long term goals, as rulers and priorities changed quite a lot. Especially during the Age Of Migration leaders' decisions oftentimes seemed to be driven by motivations that all but made sense if we look at them nowadays. This was simply because it was an age of illiteracy and superstition and few kings stayed in charge for long.

Nevertheless I think it will be crucial to the game that AI factions are challenging to the player and that they are somehow believable in their actions. So as a player I'd expect my neighbors to follow some kind of state policy - regardless of it being reasonable or not.

Yep, and my #1 goal with the Leader AI is instilling them with personality. Sure, they also need to be competent when developing their kingdoms and on the battlefield, but this isn't chess. There's a reason why Alpha Centauri is commonly-regarded as the strategy game with the best diplomacy, and it ain't because of its IQ! ;)

- Jon

34
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2013 June 24 - AI Design Breakdown
« on: February 08, 2015, 12:48:12 PM »
Wow, this is a lot of work.

No joke! ;) It'll be worth it though. We're one of the few lucky developers who have the 'luxury' of being able to take our time, and I intend to take full advantage of that.

- Jon

35
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Any Luxury Resources?
« on: February 08, 2015, 12:46:05 PM »
You know, for whatever reason adding amber to the game has never occurred to me. As you point out though it'd make a lot of sense and I'm sure we could build some cool gameplay around it, so I'll see if I can find a place for it. :) Thanks for the suggestion!

- Jon

36
AtG - General Discussion / Re: unique clan traits
« on: February 07, 2015, 03:04:01 PM »
Many Traits have a strong influence on what Professions a Clan is best-suited for. Losing one of those right before you finish training someone would be incredibly frustrating, and a good example of what I like to call a "Reload Moment".

Dealing with setbacks is a key element of AtG (and many other enjoyable games), but not all setbacks are created equal. There's only one small difference between setbacks which make a game more fun and those which have the opposite effect: whether or not players are willing to take the blame for it. Setbacks you could have seen coming and planned around are strategically interesting, whereas Reload Moments are characterized by arbitrary and/or particular harsh penalties.

So anyways, what all of that adds up to is that I'm almost certain Clans won't ever lose Traits. That said, the same rules don't apply the other direction and Clans picking up new Traits sounds like a fun idea. It'd be weird if a Clan of sailors learned how to grow plants while at sea though, so that would mean adding a logic framework of some kind. It'd be tough finding room in the schedule for much of anything at this point, but in this case it's probably worth it! :)

- Jon

37
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2015 January 27 - Economics, in Ink
« on: February 07, 2015, 12:57:13 PM »
Trying to watch a long video can be difficult if you don't have the time to watch the video. Splitting a video into parts can potentially make it easier for a viewer to view them, as they can just completely watch a full video consisting of one of the parts and take a breather or go off to do something else if they don't have time to watch the next one.

Ah, I see, that makes sense.

When you're logged into a Google while using Chrome it automatically remembers where you left off with a video, even across devices - something that I've grown so used to that I completely forgot it doesn't work that way for everyone! I'll keep that in mind with future videos, and thanks again for the feedback.

- Jon

38
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2015 January 27 - Economics, in Ink
« on: February 05, 2015, 11:16:28 PM »
I haven't really had a chance to check the video yet but here is some really important feedback - Try not to create and upload one really long video.

I'd recommend as a general rule that if you plan on making multiple videos, try to keep them within 45 minutes. If necessary, break larger videos up into multiple parts.

Why do you say that? I've found that splitting things up tends to fragment the viewership and have actually tried to avoid it, so I'm very curious to hear your thoughts.


1. Marshes are wetlands, which means water. Would that discourage/obstruct units whose clans dislikes water?

Good point!


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2. What will 'Ironman' settings possible hold in regards to this game? Thoughts in regards to Crusader Kings 2 for example.

No concrete plans yet other than the fact AtG will have an Ironman mode of some kind or another.


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2b) How forgiving will the game be in terms of actions - can we change the orders we give around before hitting the End Turn button, or we going the Chess Piece Route where once you touch it, your committed to it?

For the most part things work like your latter example, and the primary reason for this is vision. Most of the time when you move something you reveal tiles in the process, and if it were possible to undo that move you'd suddenly have information you shouldn't otherwise know. And if that's the case many people would ruin the game experience by executing and then undoing every possible move in order to learn as much as possible.


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3. Since Cloth is so important, why not make it similar to how Food works? Sort of how a dual consumable resource in that sort of aspect, you consume cloth like food - though maybe with less serious effects if there is a shortage (or maybe more serious effects for instances such as winter).

Good question, and one I've actually thought a lot about.

I settled on the current design for Cloth because I like that it's not just simple like Food but also different from Food. If two Resources work in the exact same way then at best you're talking about a missed opportunity and at worst a great deal of clutter that subtly and insidiously makes the game less fun.

In the end though it's just one of those game design 'feel' things that's impossible to articulate. There are certainly other interesting directions we could have gone with Cloth, but this is the one that I personally felt was 'right' for this game. AtG will be highly moddable though, and the beautiful thing about that is how it opens the door to all of those other versions of the game living inside other people's heads!

- Jon

39
AtG - General Discussion / Re: unique clan traits
« on: February 05, 2015, 11:03:33 PM »
Haha, well, right now all I have to say is that those are great ideas, and I'll be sure to refer back to this thread when fleshing out that aspect of the game. Thanks guys! :)

- Jon

40
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 05, 2015, 11:02:02 PM »
How, then, will look expanding our borders? Will there be special structures such as fortresses that will expand our influence?

Yep! They still won't grow by much, but AtG is the kind of game where every single tile matters.


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Will I be able to build roads?  :)

The barbarian players are unable to build roads (or bridges), which means the ones added to the map before a game starts are all you'll ever have access to.


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Is when it comes to religion, there will be a special unit of the priests? And whether you will change the religion ?, to be baptized?

The religion system is very simple. Pretty much all you can do is pick which one you follow, and that helps shape the diplomatic landscape. Switching away from another AI Leader's religion will make him pretty upset, so you'll have to think carefully before adopting a new faith!

- Jon

41
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 05, 2015, 10:56:00 PM »
there will be minimap on the game?

We've discussed it but honestly I couldn't say just yet. Minimaps are essential in other 4X games if only to navigate around the map, but in AtG you only ever have one city so there's not the same need for one.


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also it might be good to be the month and year on the screen because like Jon my turn takes an hour  :P  and sometimes i forgot  them.

Veeeeery funny. ;)

- Jon

42
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Ideas, Feedback and Random Thoughts
« on: February 02, 2015, 07:43:40 PM »

1. At the end of the film there is a meeting with Franc scouts. You can see their detailed statstics, which I think is not right. Yes, we should have some information about them since we have met them and our people are able to describe them: "They looked very bad, they were hungry and exhausted. They said they had been attacked by bandits" or " All of them looked good, had some supplies and were very self-confident". Such descriptions could be accompanied with rough statistics. We all know that idenification was often misleading or wrong. I think that you could take it into account to make the fun more fun  :D

2. When it comes to diplomacy, emissaries should be included. What I mean is: we send an emissary with gifts to another king and then we can talk business. Border meetings could be limited to information of the "we want to cross your territory" or "move back" type.

Thanks for the suggestions Piotr!


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3. Do the main leaders (kings, emperors) change? To be exact, do they die or are killed in wars and are they replaced by other characters? And do they have their own character features such as:
- charisma
- fame
- administration skills
- religiousness
- aggresision
- age, health, etc?

The barbarian leaders do not, but the Roman leaders do via an events system. A civil war might break out and a new leader rises, weakening the Romans and changing your relationship with them.


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4. Are there spies in the game?

I'm afraid there aren't. They could certainly make the game more fun, but there's only so much time to implement features!


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5. And now for plundering. Wouldn;t it be better if plunder was not automatically given to the "treasury", but instead the unit had to deliver it to our land? While being burdened with the plunder, the unit would have fewer movement points. In those times it was often the case that Romans destroyed barbarian groups who were laden with plunder when going back to their territories.

I've thought about this, but I think it's one of those things which sounds like more fun than it would turn out to be. If plunder is a tangible thing you have to carry back home you'll often be forcing players to make back-and-forth trips across the same terrain. You make one decision up front ("I'm going to take this plunder home"), and then are forced to perform a large amount of micromanagement to execute it. In game design speak we call this "low-density strategy".


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6. Are we an entire tribe (eg. Goths) or just a part of it? I'm talking about the scale of the game.

The intention is abstractly representing an entire tribe. AtG is a 4X game though, so we've definitely taken some liberties with things though.


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7 Do we have one camp throughout the game, or can we have more of them with time? As time passes and technology moves forward, will our camps transform into villages which won't have to be abandoned by us thanks to efficient agriculture?It seems natural and right.

Just one. It used to be possible to have more, but the Clans system is so complex and deep that needing to keep track of things across multiple cities would add more micromanagement than strategy.


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8. Caravans - who are they? Where are they from? The caravans could deliver or have some information -  I thnk you could consider .it. For example info about wars, kings, cataclisms or even gossip.

Great ideas! Right now the Caravan is pretty much all gameplay mechanics and no flavor, but you're absolutely right that it would be a good place to inject some personality.


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It's all for now. Let me just say that the game looks very special!  :)

Thanks Piotr! Can't wait until the game is done and we can share it with everyone.

- Jon

43
AtG - Developer Updates / 2015 January 27 - Economics, in Ink
« on: January 29, 2015, 01:38:43 PM »
Hello again from the Conifer team!

We've been hunkered down working hard on At The Gates these past winter months, and I figured it was finally a good time to come back up for air.

If you'd like to stay completely up-to-date with all things AtG we're still posting updates every few days on the Twitters, but I know there's at least a couple of you out there who enjoy my 20-page treatises. And should you enjoy updates in the form of colors and shapes moving around we've also just posted a new 'Let's Play' video (almost 2 hours long!) covering much of the same ground I'll be talking about below.

I always like to take people through the same process I've gone through while developing my games, and this post will be no different. If all you care about is what it all adds up to though skip ahead to [So What's New?] below.

My initial plan had been to shift over to diplomacy after posting the last video, but I decided to make a quick detour instead. We'd been playtesting the game quite a bit and were happy with how things were shaping up, but did feel that once you reached the midgame the game seemed to... run out of steam. Fleshing out the interaction with other leaders would certainly help, but we knew that by itself wouldn't be enough.



Pacing Problems

Trying to provide enough food to feed your clans is a fun challenge, but the game's population curve is logarithmic. There's no way around this, as becoming intimately familiar with and invested in 200 individual clans is... not really possible. But this also meant the threat of starvation evaporated almost completely as your economy improved. Once you'd reached the point where you could finally feed 20 clans tacking another 5 on top of that wasn't all that tough.



The old food consumption curve.


Another, similar issue was the relative value of the game's professions and resources. Producing a ton of Cloth is nice but once you have enough to train a Lorekeeper the only thing Cloth was really good for was being sold at a Caravan. While not ideal, that need not be objectively problematic as long as there are things you actually want to exchange it for, but alas, that wasn't really the case. Sure, more food is always welcome and you might need to compensate for a Timber or Weapons shortage every so often, but for the most part the utility of Wealth mirrored that of the overall challenge posed by the game.

Similarly, advanced professions were certainly nice, but rarely something you desperately needed - or even wanted. A profession like the Scribe is really expensive both in terms of research time and resources, but wasn't that much better than the Lorekeeper.

More importantly, learning new professions really wasn't that important once you had enough food. If there's nothing really pushing me any more what's the incentive to increase my Cloth production when I already have far more than I'd ever need, and have already sold much of that for far more Wealth than I'll ever need?



Fixing the Flaws

If you're cringing in expectation of me saying something like, "That was the moment I knew we needed big changes" ... you may safely un-cringe! The issues we encountered in the past were the result of the game lacking a solid mechanical 'skeleton' upon which we could add or change details. But this time around all of the bones were sitting right there in front of us and we simply needed to pull the femur out of our eye socket. Or something like that.

So our problem was a lack of pressure - in a game about migrating tribes facing the harshness of winter and hostile foes what economic force is most likely to motivate people? For some, simply being unable to do anything because you've run out of iron is enough to get them to act, but others are content to sit around as long as a game will let them. But starvation? Now that's something everyone wants to avoid at any cost!

I noted earlier that relative food costs would actually decrease as a game progressed. Well, the fix for that is obvious: flip it around. Ever-increasing costs are a tenet of nearly every game with an economy of any kind, and the trick would be coming up with something that not only made sense but also felt rewarding.

Changing the rate new clans joined you from logarithmic to exponential was never an option, so the only way for food costs to increase while clan accrual simultaneously decreases is to make the clans you already have eat more.



So What's New?

Families

When a clan first shows up it has a single family eating a single unit of food, but each year these numbers both go up by one. This results in a food consumption curve that looks something like this:



The new food consumption curve.


Now that's how you add some pressure! Better still, this small change transforms population growth into something you always strive for, which, in turn, greatly increases the value and sexiness of anything provides it. New clans are now a much cheaper source of labor than the larger clans which have been with you for a while. Those elder statesmen are still important though, as the experience they've built up over the years means they can learn advanced professions much faster than the newcomers.

Okay, so players will need a whole lot more food now. How the hell are they going to produce 80 food per turn on turn 100 when before they only needed 20? New toys which also get exponentially better over time!



A few of AtG's new professions.


Professions

If a Meat Cutter produces 10 food and a Butcher produces 100 you'll have a strong incentive to get a few of the latter online ASAP. Similarly, if learning how to train Butchers is 10x harder than Meat Cutters you now also have a strong incentive to upgrade your Lorekeepers to Scribes and Scholars before you, you know, starve to death!

Another change with professions was simply adding more of them that either produce food or are indirectly essential to doing so. Training a Hunter now allows you to harvest food from herds of Deer. A Hewer turns raw Timber into Boards, allowing you to build Farms which produce ~4x more food than a basic Farm.

The other paradigm shift with professions was interweaving them to a much greater extent. In the past you could significantly boost your food simply by beelining for the Tiller. Their research cost wasn't that high, Tillers were great all on their own, and aside from time they didn't cost a thing to train. Who needs Boards or Hewers or Butchers when a couple Tillers allow you to ignore every other profession and resource in the game?

Instead of Wine Vintners being superior to Winemakers in every way they might instead boost the output of the Winemakers you already have. If you want more Cloth you can buff your Weavers by training a Loomer or an Instructor. Rather than completely filling important niches with single powerful clans you'll now have a strong incentive (and often, a need) to invest in several.

But the interweaving of professions is more than just a speed bump. Not every profession is viable in every game, and resource scarcity is why.



A few of AtG's new resources.


Resources

Many months ago I cut the 'Tools' resource because I felt it added more more busywork and clutter than strategy. Well, it's back - along with several new friends.

The Tiller is now a late-game profession that requires 1 Steel Tool. Every turn. Training even one essentially means establishing an economic chain that includes Farmers, Steel Toolsmiths, Steelmakers, sources of Coal, sources of Iron, and either Smelters or Hewers to boost your production of those base ingredients to a quantity sufficient to keep your Steelmakers busy.

In some games building your strategy around Tillers will be the obvious way to go. In others doing so will be a challenge, but still possible. In a few it'll actually be straight-up impossible and you'll need to come up with a completely different approach to feeding your tribe. If you don't have any Coal then, well, that's that. You'll have other resources you can utilize to get ahead, but Tillers will likely be out of reach.

There are also new roles for most of the existing resources. Your tribe can support only a certain number of clans, and the only way to increase this is with Cloth. Parchment is still required by most Knowledge-producing professions, but now you can instead spend it switching a clan's discipline, making it easier to train in related professions.

Which brings me to an interesting new way to acquire resources...



Foraging

Okay, okay... I lied, and there is actually one new feature!

Foraging originally came into being as I was brainstorming ways to spice up the professions, and allows you to harvest resources without a structure. These were originally 'settled' professions where the clan would remain in your settlement, but I decided to try making them 'active' ones that could run around the map.

This added a completely new style of play - and one I really liked. I even tried bestowing upon these new foraging professions the ability to collect resources outside of your borders, giving them a clear unique advantage over professions which build structures out of wood. Not a tree in sight and the resources that are nearby just a bit too spread out to claim all at once? No problem! A Gatherer or Digger is just what the situation calls for.



Other Stuff

We've also been busy with a multitude of other things, a few of which I'll cover briefly.

Caravans can now have 'specials', where the price or availability of different resources are radically different from usual. This breathes some life into the caravan, as you can no longer know exactly what it's going to have. I played a game yesterday where I desperately needed 10 cloth in order to train a Beekeeper, and the first two caravans of the year had exactly zero. The game and I... had a few words, shall we say.




Armor is on sale! Probably still out of our price range though....



I decided to cut the 'Council' feature, as there are now so many things to do with your clans that it felt like an unwanted guest I had no interest in entertaining. Part of being a good designer is recognizing when something is adding more mental overhead than fun - and then doing what you know must be done.

Outside of gameplay mechanics, there are now icons. Everywhere. I'm a big fan of pairing icons and text to help build associations when players are first learning a game, and I finally bit the bullet and went through each of the ~4,000 text entries one by one to replace key terms with hooks into the new icons system. Needless to say, I'm glad to be done with that.

Something else I'm perhaps more giddy about than I should be is the new in-game notes system, which allows you to write reminders to yourself for later. AtG tends to be a difficult, demanding game where planning ahead is really helpful, and having an easy way to keep track of said plans is, IMO, pretty awesome.


****


I think that's about it for the really noteworthy stuff. So, yeah, we've made a ton of tweaks but no radical redesigns, and at this point I think we've just about nailed the game's economy.




So What's Next?

These are our four priorities entering the final phase of development:
  • Personality
  • Diplomacy
  • AI
  • Polish
AtG is now very sound mechanically thanks to the work we've done over the past few months, and in that arena I'd be confident pitting it against any game out there. But it's also still very raw and dry: When clans want something they express this with a prioritized list - in a tooltip. Our goal is to have 80+ unique clan traits, but we currently only have a quarter of that. The AI leaders generally keep to themselves... which is probably for the best, given how incompetent they are. The game may now appear to lean more in the direction of an economic sim than a clan-focused 4X game, but fleshing out the personalities of the clans will bring this back into equilibrium.

We can easily overcome all of these challenges as long as we spend the time it will take to do so. And now that the economy is finally "in ink" that's exactly what we'll be doing. I honestly couldn't tell you how long it will take. A theme you might have spotted lurking behind all four of those bullet points above is "feel". And there's no way to translate something like that into a production schedule worth the soon-obsolete pixels it's displayed on. My first stab at a clan dialogue system might be right on the money, or it might take ten tries. Most likely it will land somewhere in-between.

Game development is kind of like a poker game, where there are ups and downs and even the best players in the world never know how a hand will end. But just as in cards, one way you can stack the deck in your favor is by being patient, trusting in your knowledge of the odds, and playing the long game.

One way they differ though is that in cards how you play is completely up to the individual, while in game development your fate is in the hands of your investors. Our one and only investor with AtG is you, our backers, and soon that investment will pay off. As always, you have my sincere thanks for being so patient and supportive!

- Jon

44
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2013 June 24 - AI Design Breakdown
« on: January 29, 2015, 01:24:22 PM »
I came across this game and was interested in how the AI development was progressing. I think this is an excellent post laying out the framework of how the AI systems are designed but was wondering how much of this has been implemented and how well it works. Also if you have made any major changes to the AI framework you originally laid out here.

The framework is indeed all in place, although I have yet to really flesh it out with a lot of high-level logic. The basic structures is still pretty much as I laid it out here a year and a half ago, but a lot of the implementation details have changed. I won't go over all of those just yet, as if I start I'll probably end up spending 6 hours writing the post. :) That said, it will be something I talk a lot more about over the next 6-9 months.

- Jon

45
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: Daily Progress Updates
« on: January 27, 2015, 12:44:28 PM »

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