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AtG - General Discussion / Re: An Apology
« Last post by danangleland on March 02, 2018, 10:03:40 AM »
Thanks for getting your communication back on track Jon, it was a happy surprise today when I saw an update on the main site! I understand how hard it must have been to come to terms with a situation you didn't want to be in, and why it took you a long time to be honest with us about it; it's just great to know that you are feeling ready to finish the game now and that we can expect to have this unique game completed in 2018.
Forum Announcements & Questions / Re: Spam Posts
« Last post by clayffo on February 15, 2018, 11:12:53 AM »
ban mondovanut and Aparicio  for spamming
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Issues and suggestions V23 alpha
« Last post by clayffo on February 14, 2018, 11:12:34 AM »
more suggestions:
1.  hot keys for reporting:  there should be a way to have brief but useful reports that can be moved around the screen and hidden/shown with a hot key.  Some useful reports would be 
- potential conflict report between tribes
- activity report (who's working, not working, active, waiting for a task, etc)
- turns to exhaustion of resources being worked
- mini map with color indicators of resources, land marks, camps, enemies, etc)
- expanded notes report.  I think it would be nice to have a report that not only allows you to pencil in who should do what, but also what activities you need to do
Perhaps a standard set of tasks could be created and be customizable with the ability to strike through completed tasks.
- health and well being report per tribe (for example someone's in the wilderness and has less than 50% health)
- available resources that are not being exploited
- list of available buildings that you have the resources and available staff to build
- current relationship with each known AI

2.  Improved automation:  As more tribes get recruited, the amount of tedious and repetitive clicking becomes annoying. 
- passive until attacked or a critical decision must be made (like civ 5/6).  If I have someone picking berries and the square becomes "cold" I want to be able to have that tribe camp in place for the winter and resume picking as available without having to click them passive every turn
- auto explore (same as civ 5/6).  This feature should include an option to set passive the explorer during the winter to avoid dying
- Survey a designated area automatically - should be able to select a grid of squares and assign the  surveyor to identify all
- select at least 3 or more skills to train and prioritize training (for example I want to learn woodcutter, then surveyor, then hunter)
- optional tutorial talking bubble for each tribe with recommended actions

3.  character development:  I mentioned this some in a past post, but it is tedious and frustrating that tribes can only excel at one skill. 
- The first item is that someone trained in a higher skill should have all lower skills automatically available (such as a miner should also be a digger)
- There should be an option for a secondary skill with the ability to field upgrade that skill.  If I have a miner that is 20 squares of forest from my main camp and that mine expires, I now have a tribe that can do nothing for 4-5 turns or an entire winter.  you can't go to the next mine and start it up because there has to be an area of influence in place.
- There should be a way to train and improve the efficiency of skills through experience and not just buying expensive upgrades.  As I've said in previous posts, as the tribe grows, the productivity of the tribe declines.  This is due to many factors, including expensive training costs, lack of resources on the map (RNG at it's finest), tribe is too spread out (too much walking time between jobs),constantly having to retrain due to a lack of relevant resources available, and conflicts between  tribe members requiring someone to be removed .

4.  finally, there should be a way to get rid of bad tribes.  Fire them, kill them, send them to the mines, whatever.
AtG - Developer Updates / Re: 2013 December 1 - Economics & Schedule
« Last post by Aparicio on February 12, 2018, 10:04:36 PM »
I want to know about the content I want to learn more help me?
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Issues and suggestions V23 alpha
« Last post by Aparicio on February 12, 2018, 10:04:07 PM »
Where are all the sources of this learning come from?
Forum Announcements & Questions / Re: Spam Posts
« Last post by Mondovanut on February 12, 2018, 03:57:59 AM »
How do we know it's a spam article? I want to know a lot.
Conifer and the Games Industry / Re: How Do You Become a Game Designer?
« Last post by Mondovanut on February 12, 2018, 03:57:21 AM »
I want to be a game designer. I want to know what I'm going to learn.
AtG - Developer Updates / February 2018 Update
« Last post by Jon Shafer on February 08, 2018, 12:02:53 PM »
Hey all,

Been a while since I've posted an update about the game here, although the plan is to do so from now on. To check out the past few game updates you can head over to the AtG Kickstarter page.

In this update we'll be focusing on two things: the basic design thinking behind the diplomacy system, along with showing off some new elements of the game from a recent playtest of mine in screenshot-form.

The post started to get a bit long, so I've decided to save the specific details as to how diplomacy will work (e.g. Relationship Levels, Global Reputation, Leader Personality Traits and Interaction Types) for the next update. We'll start off though with a high-level look as to the challenge of diplomacy in a complex strategy game.


What "is" Diplomacy?

Diplomacy is one of the biggest challenges in the strategy space, in large part because it's trying to simulate something that's hard to wrap your head around even in the real world.

There are some basic tenets that people agree on when it comes to good military strategy: divide and conquer, pay attention to supply, hold the high ground, etc. But what does "good diplomacy" look like? Sometimes negotiating averts a major war, while other times it simply brings "peace in our time". What looks like prudent flexibility to one can be seen by another as an unforgivable betrayal.

So, yeah, a tough thing to model!

Of course there are elements we can try and incorporate such as personality, trading, making promises, punishing liars and traitors, etc. but it's much harder to simulate all of this than a simple resource-based economy (and even those are hard to get right). Is there room to make something really nuanced and revolutionary here? I think so, but probably not as just one feature among many in an already-complex game.

A few weeks ago I asked on Twitter what people thought made for a good diplomacy system, and I received a lot of good answers. There was certainly some common ground, but the biggest lesson I took was that there was no general consensus - I think mainly due to the challenge I spoke of above.

Another challenge is that diplomacy is meant to simulate the nuance of human interaction. We're not necessarily trying to represent systems here, but more, well, feelings. Alas, this isn't really something that game AI is up for at this point in time, in large part because it's AI, and there's nothing you can do as a developer to convince players otherwise. Regardless of individual moves, it simply feels different playing against a computer. That is starting to change with the kind of work Google's DeepMind has done with AlphaGo, but that is the crown jewel of a multi-million dollar research studio on a game whose rules have been fixed in place. So we've got a long way to go before the 4X genre will be revolutionized in this way.

The AtG Diplomacy Design Pillars

So what are we doing in AtG then?

The focus is to come up with an approach that does something interesting and new while most especially making sure to avoid pitfalls of past games, and with that goal we've settled on three fundamental pillars.


Distinct, Predictable Personalities

"Oh wait, I know this guy… Awww man."

The biggest problem with most diplomacy systems is that they're too random. While there are probably always well-intentioned rules under the hood which enables AI players to reevaluate their situation and change their minds when it makes sense to do so, in reality this usually ends up turning into, "AI declares war, then asks for peace 10 turns later, then declares war again 10 turns after that".

We'll specifically be avoiding this pitfall in AtG in a couple ways. First is through a focus on Personality Traits. If Attila with his 'Aggressive' Trait finds you nearby then you can be pretty sure war is coming soon (unless, of course, you bow before him and give into his mostly-symbolic demands that you know will soon be on their way). Sometimes war will be a good idea for Attila. Sometimes it won't be. But most important of all is the fact that he wants it. Not every Leader will be this extreme, of course, but it's important to know what you're getting.


Tough, But Clear Choices

"Ugh, I was trying to be friends with both of these guys…"

A common problem I see with diplomatic systems in other strategy games is a focus on minutiae, particularly on the trade front. Having a really complex trade system seems like a neat idea, but it usually ends up turning into a game of, "always trade X for Y, then try to exploit the AI out of all their money". In AtG trade will not be a focus - in fact, it won't even be present at all. Instead, the focus will be on the relationships between leaders.

One leader might demand that you choose between him and another leader. In line with the first design pillar though this should always be somewhat predictable - if you try and be friends with a leader with the 'Jealous' Trait you know that also trying to be friends with someone else will trigger him to challenge your loyalty.

Most of the time it's going to be impossible to make everyone happy and keep all of your stuff and your pride - but that's part of the fun of figuring out how to best adapt to and "solve" diplomacy.


A Few Basic, But Powerful Player Knobs

"I'm going to tell this guy to pound sand!"

The final pillar is based around the concept of player agency, and ties somewhat into pillar #2. Players should still be able to steer things diplomatically, even if a lot of the game will be responding and adapting to the other tribal leaders.

Sometimes you just want to vent frustration at someone, and in AtG a lot of the time you'll be able to get your way. A leader with the 'Meek' Trait might always give in to the first Demand For Tribute, making the strategy here more about optimizing what to ask for and when. Demanding something from 'Proud' Attila might be guaranteed to fail every time, and draw his wrath - but in return your Global Reputation might receive a large boost, allowing you to build a friendship with another leader.


In the next update I'll go into more specifics as to how diplomacy will work in AtG (the 7 Relationship Levels, how Global Reputation works, the list of possible Interaction Types, etc.), but for now we'll wrap things up here. But before we go we'll go over some new screenshots and show off some of the new recent additions to the game.



The first couple images here show off the new tutorial system.

It's mostly made up of basic popups triggered by particular events (e.g. if you're running out of food), but the cool part of the system is that most of it is optional. This supplements the fancy tooltips-in-tooltips system we started working on early in the project, and together should provide a much smoother on-ramp into the 4X experience than any previous title.

Optional tutorial follow-up explanations.

The system is also cool in that the tutorial messages themselves can be nested multiple levels deep.

Tutorial messages can now be embedded and link to one another like tooltips.

We've also made sure everything is accessible in one place, just in case you want to go back to something later, or maybe turn off the tutorial system entirely and explore the in-game help at your own pace.

The game help screen.

You can access this screen either by pressing the '?' button in the upper-left or by pressing the ? key. Not particularly fancy, but it gets the job done!

Speaking of ways to make the game easier to play, I may I've touched on the 'Notes' system in the past, but I can't help but show it off here now, as it was a really helpful feature in my latest playtest.

Right-clicking on any Clan Card brings up a screen which allows you to attach a colored note to the bottom.

Adding a note to a Clan Card.

Clan Card notes in action!

This feature is rather handy, as it makes it easy to keep track of who you want to do what, something that's pretty important in a game in large part about managing Clans! It's especially useful when you have to stop playing for the night and would otherwise have no clue what you were up to the next time you pick things back up.

It's also possible to write notes on the map itself in order to keep track of spatial information, e.g. where to construct that Logging Camp or cut a path through the forest in order to make it easier to get around.

Tile notes revealing my grand plans for the forest.

The last screenshot I'll include shows off the new 'Declare Kingdom' button you might have noticed in one of the previous screenshots. It doesn't show much in and of itself, but I promise the button does work! Just need a bit more Parchment...

Declaring a Kingdom! Well... eventually.

These screenshots are actually from a pretty interesting playtest that I've been writing up notes for. I'll probably compile them into a future update post giving a more in-depth look at how the game plays out.

This was a pretty tough and interesting game where I found myself in the far north without many Resource Deposits but plenty of Forests to harvest Timber from. It also brought up some interesting design questions (How accessible should Resources be? How much variance between starting locations should there be?), so it would be a fun game to explore in more depth.


That's it for now. Thanks again for reading, and we'll be back with another update soon!

- Jon
AtG - General Discussion / An Apology
« Last post by Jon Shafer on February 08, 2018, 11:51:00 AM »
I'd like to apologize to everybody here on the forums who's invested their time, energy, or love into At The Gates while I've been away for the past couple years. I burned out pretty hard trying to steer the development of a hugely complex strategy game, and I know now that I bit off more than I could chew. We got most of the way there, but I hit a wall and that was pretty much it. I needed time to step away, and instead of letting everyone know this I tried to fight on, and the harder I fought the harder it became to stick with it. So I apologize to all of you for both the fact that the game has obviously been very-much delayed and also for not being honest about the situation. I should have been better about communicating what was going on, and promise to do so in the future.

Despite that, at its core AtG truly is a great strategy game, and I'm committed to putting in the time and work needed to make sure that it achieves that potential. I didn't launch this project or Conifer in order to achieve riches or glory or fame - it was in order to make something awesome, something that all of you could join in and experience as well.

So where do we go from here?

Anyone who has contributed at least $25 to the Kickstarter campaign can send me an email ( and request a key in order to play the game right now. If you want to play the best version of AtG I would recommend holding off, but all backers deserve access at this point and will receive it if they so choose.

Additionally, I'll be providing a project update on the 1st of every month from now until we ship the game. The plan is to wrap things up by the end of August, but we may go a bit beyond that as necessary in order to finish up diplomacy and make sure that the final experience is polished enough for a full release.

This game will definitely be released in 2018 though. Diplomacy is the final major feature to go into the game, and after that we'll be focused on polish. The hat I'm wearing now is mainly that of producer, rather than that of designer - and the producer's job is to make sure the game gets done. We already have a solid foundation to work from, and it's already a great deal of fun to play. It just needs to be finished now.

If anyone has any questions or concerns I'll be happy to answer them. I'll be here and active on the forums from now on, so let me know if there's anything you need. I'll be going through my PMs over the next few days as well, and if you haven't heard anything in a few days poke me again and I'll get back to you.

Thank you to all who have contributed to and cared about AtG over the years. I know it's not always been an easy process, but we're getting close to the finish line.

- Jon
AtG - General Discussion / Re: Issues and suggestions V23 alpha
« Last post by clayffo on January 25, 2018, 10:02:49 AM »
I played a map today;  good resources, lots of mines, plants, and a few farms to cap.  I was able to create 2 V2 mines, including a  gold mine, an apiary plantation, stone block production via a coal mine, and cloth production via flax.  Unfortunately, at turn 85 the game had a complete melt down that ended in me having to re-install the game. 

However, my primary take away from that game was, again, food.  Despite my great wealth and resources, at turn 85 I had 4 food with -1 food per turn going into winter.  I had explored an area of approx. 40x40 squares in all directions from my starting position and there were no food options.  The map was surprising short on herds and fish; I could not find any and I ended up retraining my hunter as a watchman since he was not doing anything to help me.

really my only choice at that point would have been to hopefully buy any animals the caravan had and to use the meat cutter.  I had the cash to do so, but this would have been a stop gap measure that would not have solved my key problem.  Had a found a food resource even farther into the frontier, it would have taken until the next winter to move my operation and I may not have survived that trip.

doing a somewhat cursory search into Germanic peoples of the Roman era, it was pointed out that tribes like the Mongols and Suevi lived primary off of animal based products; meats and milks.  They primary sources of these were a combination of home grown herds and hunting for game.

With this said, I would have 2 possible suggestions.   
1.  Ranchers would have a second tier skill called animal husbandry.  This would allow the Rancher to continuously produce more of the captured herd.  The overseer of the herd skill could enhance to quantity of herd production from +1 / turn to +3 / turn, similar to the weapons skills
- additionally, create an upgrade to ranchers for milk production as both an asset and a food stopgap should you run out of food
2.  allow squares with forest to have a set quantity of "game."  The hunter could use the forage skill to hunt that game.  The huntsman and lord of the hunt skills would enhance the hunters +food / turn.

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