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AtG - Developer Updates / Re: October 2018 Update - Diplomacy System: Finished!
« Last post by Jon Shafer on November 15, 2018, 02:07:18 PM »
Very soon! Wrapping up some loose ends but next month after the next update I'll definitely be looking for playtest feedback.

- Jon
AtG - Developer Updates / November 2018 Update - The Home Stretch
« Last post by Jon Shafer on November 15, 2018, 01:10:55 PM »

Hey all, a relatively short update this month, as I've been really busy with the game and I'm trying to stay as focused as possible!

What's New

Much of my time since the last update has been spent on the game's help system. AtG won't actually feature a "tutorial" as most people would describe it, as I've found that they're never fun and usually skipped by an extremely large percentage of players (who have caught on to this fact!).

Instead, popups will very occasionally appear describing basic concepts, and presenting a list of related concepts that players can continue reading about if they so choose. It's very similar to the philosophy behind the game's fancy new tooltips-in-tooltips feature: here's something concise, but you 100% control the depth to which you can dig further in. A button in the upper-left corner will take you to the 'Help Screen' that contains a full list of the game's help tips. Tips you've already seen will be dimmed out, both here and in the popups, so it'll be easy to keep track of what you have and haven't learned yet.

I know some people do still prefer a more traditional tutorial, but given how small the team is we really have to be ruthless with how we prioritize. Furthermore, AtG is a fairly Hardcore game. It honestly isn't aimed at more casual 4X players who are comfortable hitting end turn a bunch of times in a row and checking in on things every so often. AtG offers several strong hooks for digging deeper and learning more (tooltips-in-tooltips!), so beyond the help tips and existing built-in teaching I'm comfortable saying, "Hey, I'll explain the basics of how to get rolling but after that it's time to start using your noggin'".

Aside from the help system I've also been playtesting a lot, and fixing bugs along the way. An options screen is coming online soon, and the AI is now functional on defense, though it still needs some work on offense. We're also in the process of updating the game's interface and "title" art, which I can't wait to show off soon.

Faction Traits

As for what's left, the last remaining gameplay task is attaching differentiating traits to each of the playable factions.

I've spoken in the past about making the game and its factions more asymmetrical and 'roguelike', and this is a big place where that philosophy sees action. Instead of having a set of symmetrical tribes who are all available at the start AtG takes more of a Binding of Isaac approach, where only one single faction is available when you first start playing, and the rest are unlocked over time and play quite differently from the "core" experience.

Also like Binding of Isaac, the design thought behind the factions is for each to provide a unique gameplay experience, rather than the aim necessarily always being to achieve perfect balance between them (the lack of multiplayer makes this possible). If you want a 'vanilla' Binding of Isaac experience you play Isaac, and similarly in AtG if you want the default, 'canon' experience you play the Goths. Unlocking factions will be fairly straightforward though: to do so either capture that player's settlement, or get them to agree to a permanent alliance, which is a new diplomatic option which requires a fairly high amount of Leverage to get a leader to agree to.

I like this design because the focus on variety provides more replayability, and also allows me as a designer now freedom when designing the factions. Sure, some of them will be imbalanced and maybe even broken, but that's okay. As long as the faction is still fun to play that's what counts for me. If you want to play the Huns and conquer all of Europe by turn 100 in every game then you have my blessing! I'll be patching and improving the game post-release of course though, as something that's broken often becomes unfun quickly. The goal is variety, and we'll continue refining the design in order to best achieve that.


That's it for November. I'll be back early next month with a big announcement, so stay tuned!

- Jon
Off-Topic / Re: Full~HQ Watch}}1080p* Incredibles 2 Full Movie 2018 Online Free
« Last post by Buchananz on November 09, 2018, 12:08:44 AM »
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AtG - Developer Updates / Re: October 2018 Update - Diplomacy System: Finished!
« Last post by Hunter on October 23, 2018, 08:53:53 AM »
Well, it is certainly nice to get an update.

Is the game meant to be played right now?
AtG - Developer Updates / October 2018 Update - Diplomacy System: Finished!
« Last post by Jon Shafer on October 18, 2018, 11:52:30 AM »
Hey all,

The focus over the summer was implementing the final mechanical changes on the economic side of the game. Well, prior to that task I'd spent time laying down the basic infrastructure for the diplomacy system, but it was still a ways from being functional. I knew I was onto something, but it would take more time to hook all the different pieces together, especially since there was basically no actual game content yet (e.g. the various interactions that can take place). This month we'll be picking that feature back one up last time and talking about the now fully implemented - though still in need of polish - diplomacy system.

And phew, has it been a big task. I've spoken about it a bit before on Twitter and elsewhere, but this has been easily the toughest game development challenge I've tackled in my career. First, on the design end, there's the question of what "good diplomacy" even looks like. After all, even representing how things work in the real world might not be any fun. And we haven't seen many good examples of strategy game diplomacy being universally praised, so there's not even a particularly good frame of artificial reference to start from. Furthermore, the job gets even tougher when you then need to build a system which is both powerful and flexible enough to accommodate a design which will require a huge amount of real-time iteration. This is the kind of feature you need to be able to tinker with a lot, since the initial numbers you plug definitely won't add up to a fun experience. You can get there, but you're gonna have to do some grinding just to see how things are playing out, let alone identify what to adjust. There's a reason why "great" diplomacy is basically unheard of - in a sense I like to think of it as the 'final boss' of game design.

The Basics

I'll start with a quick review of the basics: there are few different kinds of diplomatic stats (Relationship Level, Influence, and global Reputation) which add up to a Leverage score that determines whether another Leader is willing to do something or not. RL is simply a measurement of how much the other leader likes you. Influence is a "currency" usually earned alongside RL in equal amounts that can be cashed in once in order to temporarily increase your Leverage. Reputation is the same concept as Influence, except it can be spent with any leader, and earning it requires some kind of great or bold act (such as, say, insulting Attila!).

In terms of design, the idea is to use these basic building blocks within a larger system where the focus is on building and managing relationships with other leaders. Leaders will naturally compete with one another due to personality and a bit of randomness, and in so doing will often put you in the middle of their dispute. The choices you make will have long-term, visible impacts. You'll also be able to make interesting choices, such as insulting one leader in order to gain Reputation points to spend with another.

Rather than trying to make AI leaders behave like humans the idea is to lean on the system as a strategy game feature and also inject an interesting personality/storytelling element into our unpredictable, asymmetric world. We're never going to get players to see these computer opponents as human, but we can definitely present a compelling argument that they're interesting characters. Speaking of which…

Leader Traits

Leader Traits are things that mostly work under the hood, shaping the decisions that leaders make (although also occasionally changing how much RL or Reputation or whatnot is earned/lost after specific interactions). This makes it very easy to hook fun, predictable behaviors into the system right as I'm adding interactions to the XML. Being able to do both simultaneously both saves time and makes the implementation a lot more cohesive. Another cool side-effect is that this will also make it super-easy for modders to not only customize leaders but even make their own crazy creations above and beyond what's included in the core game, and with very little effort. Whether those combinations will be fun to play against is a job for them though!

As I've been adding new types of interactions I've been thinking about things like, "okay, so how would a 'competitive' leader behave in this situation?" Because of the cool infrastructure I established a while ago it's easy to add direct modifiers which push leader behavior in very clear directions. One of the biggest issues with diplomacy in other games is that the leaders tend to all seem generic, random, or (gulp) both. The system I've put together for AtG should solve this. That said, everything isn't perfect yet and it's going to take some iteration to get things right, but there's a strong foundation to work from, in large part thanks to the traits system.

First Meetings

The biggest new "bullet point" AtG offers on the diplomacy front is that when you first meet a Leader there's now a special sequence which helps define what the future relationship will look like.

Upon first contact a Leader will now give you a gift, make a demand, or simply say hello. You then get an opportunity to respond, and the choice you make will affect your relationship going forward. If the other leader gives you a gift, you will be expected to reciprocate, otherwise it will actually hurt your relationship (although you will, of course, get to keep the goods!).

Even if a leader simply says hello you still have a choice to make because it's possible to give a fairly cheap gift and earn +1 RL and +1 Influence. This is a one-time opportunity though, so if you don't take advantage of it the turn you meet someone that's it - you'll have to find some other way to befriend them. A particularly fun example of this mechanic in action is when you not only refuse a demand from a 'Haughty' leader but then escalate things even further and then tell them to shove it. This basically makes a permanent enemy out of the other leader, but in return you earn +1 Reputation which you can spend as Leverage with other leaders. Very cool!

The rough percentage breakdown of leaders choosing each of the three FM options is 20/20/60, gift/demand/hello. I like these numbers because usually (60% of the time) the interaction is simple, but also almost half the time something interesting will happen, good or bad. I can't say for sure yet until I've playtested things thoroughly but this feels about the right frequency, as we don't want it to swing too far to either extreme. If 75% of your neighbors all demand your lunch money the game is going to start getting frustrating pretty quickly!

So, why add this system at all?

First, it means there's always something important for you to decide upon meeting another leader, as even if the they simply say hello you yourself have an opportunity to make a small sacrifice and kick the relationship off on a good foot. When you're a small fish in a big pond this can be incredibly useful and satisfying. Second, it helps provide a sense for who this new leader is and what they're all about, rather than doing the usual thing and making a big deal out of meeting a big fancy 3D leader… who you probably won't talk to again for another few hours. Sometimes you even need to play multiple games before you start picking up on what differentiates the leaders, and starting off each relationship with a FM sequence completely avoids that problem - when you spot Attila next door you're going to quickly recognize that means something important! Few previous strategy games have offered significant and early opportunities for leader behavior to shape the game, and I think we can do better.

Diplomacy & Asymmetry

The diplomacy system really starts to shine when combined with the AtG's asymmetrical approach to faction design. Basically, the world will start pre-populated with factions in various states of development. You're not going to be competing against a bunch of equals all trying to achieve the same goal, as in nearly all other 4X games - this is a world your tribe was just born into, and your situation and goals will differ from everyone else's.

As for what that means diplomacy-wise, in each game some factions will be extremely strong, and so you really have to pay attention to whether or not they like you. This helps ensure AtG won't be a game where you can simply ignore diplomacy completely and expect everything to turn out alright. I've focused more on quality than quantity, so the game doesn't have a trade table or lots of little trade options, but if the approach works out well I see it being a real springboard to doing a lot more interesting things down the road. I'm confident the focus on personality, relationships, and meaningful consequences is the right way to go, but we're breaking some new ground here so the jury is still out.

Diplomacy is a feature that takes some time to fully digest, so I don't expect this to be one of the bullet points that really stands out to more casual players, but I do expect and hope that as people dig deeper and play more they'll really see the advantages that this new approach brings to the table. The system does still need work though, and as I've noted already I'm going to need to spend some time playtesting and tweaking the numbers. Thankfully, that's a whole lot easier than designing and building the system in the first place, so I can safely say this side of the game is now in a really good spot.


That's it for the October update. Thanks again for following along, and I'll be back in early November with an update on the last few tasks left before we're finally ready to ship this thing!

- Jon
Off-Topic / Re: Empire: the deck building strategy game
« Last post by Saisupanee on October 10, 2018, 05:58:46 AM »
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Forum Announcements & Questions / Re: Forum Email Now Working
« Last post by Saisupanee on October 10, 2018, 05:58:37 AM »
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