Author Topic: The Road Ahead  (Read 8130 times)

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
The Road Ahead
« on: March 07, 2013, 01:44:36 PM »


Well, weíve finally reached the end of this amazing journey everyone! If you'd be so kind as to help spread the word in these final few hours you'll have my gratitude!

Honestly, knowing this is the end is a bittersweet feeling. I'm sad that such an amazing experience will soon be over, but I'm also incredibly excited to get back to full-time development on the game.

Iím truly humbled by your incredibly generous support. Had we just barely cleared our goal it would have been sufficient to finish the game as weíd originally outlined, but now at 250% of our target weíve added many more great features to our plate, from extensive modding to new platforms to extra leaders.

But let's keep things in perspective. This is an important moment for AtG, but in reality it's just one important landmark on a long journey, and weíre not even at the halfway point yet. So where are we now? And who's driving this bus anyways?




Returning to Reality

As I discussed in more detail in an earlier update, my life have been consumed by the Kickstarter campaign for the entirety of the past two months. It's been a ton of fun, but Iím not gonna lie - at this point Iím pretty exhausted.

So for the next couple weeks Iím going to do my best to disconnect, unwind and return to a (more) normal schedule. Iím sure my friends and family will very much appreciate that!

I finally managed to beat Derek Yu's incredible Spelunky a few weeks ago on try #998, but I have my eye on winning the hard way. Before my schedule became crazy in early January I made it about 60 hours into Persona 4: Golden. There's no doubt I'm going back to finish what Iím convinced is the best JRPG ever. After that, it's time to get back to work!




Back to Business

The aspect of AtGís development that Iím most excited to return to is, of course, design. I've received a number of great suggestions over the past month that I canít wait to dig into.

One interesting one is having "movable" resource deposits, such as herds of livestock. Right now all resources come from fixed structures, which ignores that several tribes were herders that crossed the landscape with their animals. I like the idea of adding new viable strategies to the game, but it would be a big change that also has art implications, so I'll have to do some brainstorming and see what might fit in with the existing mechanics.

Another feature Iíll be ruminating on is the victory system. As I noted in my article from earlier this week Iím not 100% sold on the current design of ďgain 1000 glory and then capture a Roman capital,Ē and will be considering some alternatives.

One that seems promising is having two different ďphases.Ē The first would be the buildup typical in 4X games, with the second being the dramatic conclusion as the barbarians attempt to take down Rome. I have no idea how you would transition from one to the other, but there might be some potential here.

The last big design topic on the agenda (for now, anyways) is nailing down the specific effects of pillaging. My original thinking was that torching an improvement would destroy it forever. Iíve started to question this approach, as it's quite harsh - a single loose enemy could completely dismantle your economy in short order. The softest penalty for pillaging could be disabling the improvement for a few turns, but this doesnít have nearly the same ďpunch.Ē Suffering this fate would be annoying, but not something you dread. Another alternative would be a middle-of-the-road approach where an improvement could be pillaged twice before being completely destroyed.

So I'll have to sit down, figure out what impact I want pillaging to have on the game, then decide which mechanics best achieve that goal. And I'm sure we'll iterate on it five or ten more times - such is the nature of design!

On the art side, our biggest task is nailing down a style. We like the clean, saturated 2D look, but are considering different twists on that basic concept. The watercolor  landscape and leader paintings are very attractive, and we might try to push the in-game art more in that direction.

Now that weíve committed to extensive modding, Jonathan and I are going to have perform a major reorganization of the code to make this possible. Classes will have to be moved to new projects, and wrapper layers added to allow them to communicate with the rest of the game.

Once everything is in the right place, our next tech objective is to add serialization, which basically allows for games to be saved out and loaded. There are some iOS-specific concerns to take into account here, as players can shut their device off at any point, and Iím pretty sure folks wouldnít be too happy if their 5-hour game disappeared forever!




The Long Haul

That covers what we have on our plate for the next couple months, but we also have a long list beyond that. Iíll cover the highlights right now.

The AI is still very basic. In fact, we donít even have A* pathfinding in yet. After our immediate goals have been taken care of this is the corner of the game that Jonathan and I will be focusing on heavily. The more time you have to spend on the AI the better a strategy game will end up, so weíre hoping to really get that ball rolling in next month. Improving the AI and playtesting will occupy the vast majority of my time from here until the end of the project.

Once we've fully committed to an art style the next order of business will be animations. A large part of the funds raised on Kickstarter will be used to pay art contractors, and unit animation is the bulk of that. Every unit needs a full walk cycle for 4 different directions, plus loops for fighting, dying and others that seem appropriate (e.g. Laborers building something). This is all going to take quite a while, so like the AI animation work is likely to conclude near the end of development.

We also want to animate the map, although the exact scope for what is possible here has yet to be determined. Our hope is to add waves to the ocean, blizzards in cold areas, smoke coming out of chimneys, etc.

Our list of miscellaneous engineering tasks to be knocked out is pretty crazy, so I won't go into detail. Just think things like hotkey systems, minimaps, notification queuing and unit cycling logic.

The biggest challenge will be multiplatform support. With the help of MonoGame we were able to get Linux and Mac versions of the game running fairly quickly. (There is an issue weíre having with screen resolution in Ubuntu though, so if you are or know an expert with MonoGame or Linux, please direct the relevant parties this-a-way!)




The iOS version is a whole different kettle of fish compared with the secondary PC platforms. Unfortunately, Jonathan and I werenít able to perform a full functionality test because the new version of MonoTouch is not only quite expensive but also requires a yearly license. But given the success we had with the Mac and Linux versions, we feel there shouldn't be any serious technical hurdles. The smaller ones are likely to be confined to the interface and performance - phones and tablets donít have quite the horsepower of modern PCs.

Iíve been a heavy iOS user from its birth and at heart I'm a user interface/experience junkie (itís probably what I would do if I werenít in games), so Iím confident weíll be able to make a solid mobile version of AtG. But there are obvious limitations that come with smaller screens and a lack of keyboard/mouse. The fact that tooltips are basically impossible makes me weep.

I like the idea of incorporating gestures heavily, but given the precision required in a serious strategy game like AtG Iím unsure as to whether weíll be able to go beyond the simple stuff. If anyone has any good examples or articles for me to read I'd love to take a look.

Oh, and what about game design? Well, if you've been following my articles you already know that this aspect of development really never ends! Iím sure Iíll be brainstorming right up until the last day of the project, always hunting for improvements floating out there in the ether. I'm sure most of the topics Iíll be contemplating in a few months will be news to the me of today!

So where do our generous backers - you guys - fit in?

As promised on our Kickstarter page, weíll be starting alpha testing for AtG sometime around June of this year, and beta testing in January of 2014. If you want to get ahead of the game and havenít done so already, register an account here - we're eager to get the game in front of a real playtesting group!

For those of you not in one of the testing groups, there will be regular updates for AtG posted here every few weeks until the game is finished, so keep an eye on these forums, our Kickstarter page or my personal website. A week or two before the release date we'll be releasing a full demo.

And although the Kickstarter campaign may be over, you can still contribute to the tiers listed here us directly by using PayPal over on our website. I've you've already contributed at a lower level and decide you would like into the beta or alpha you can simply contribute the difference. We'd love to have your help!

Alright, I think that about does it for now. I have some sleep debt to make up!

Thanks again everyone. Donít be strangers now.

---

Email: Jon.Shafer@ConiferGames.com

Twitter: @JonShaferDesign

www.JonShaferOnDesign.com


If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 04:55:45 PM »
And sorry I haven't been very active here over the past week - trying to get things wrapped up. I'll be back in action soon. :)

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 05:25:28 PM »
Congratulations Conifer! Now get to work and make us an awesome game.

Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2013, 06:41:28 PM »
Congrats! Can't wait until Alpha-testing... really... I don't mind being a pre-Alpha tester. Whatever that's called ;)
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Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2013, 09:58:20 AM »
Very exciting.  I'm ready to connect my forum account to my pledge amount whenever you are  ;D
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Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2013, 08:47:05 PM »
Congratulations! Although I can't contribute at the moment, I'll be jealously following any development updates.

The last big design topic on the agenda (for now, anyways) is nailing down the specific effects of pillaging. My original thinking was that torching an improvement would destroy it forever. Iíve started to question this approach, as it's quite harsh - a single loose enemy could completely dismantle your economy in short order. The softest penalty for pillaging could be disabling the improvement for a few turns, but this doesnít have nearly the same ďpunch.Ē Suffering this fate would be annoying, but not something you dread. Another alternative would be a middle-of-the-road approach where an improvement could be pillaged twice before being completely destroyed.

You could just give improvements the ability to bombard enemy units. ;)

As a serious suggestion, you could let civs pay to muster a weak, stationary unit on any improvement (representing a militia of the local workforce) which disable improvement until disbanded or defeated. This would buy you some time to defend against that single enemy unit, but wouldn't slow down the pillaging when a sizable force comes through, since it wouldn't be worth buying the militia.
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Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2013, 06:23:26 PM »
Glad to hear the news! I enjoyed reading all your articles. I believe you guys have a wonderful project ahead of you. You have already accomplished much. I hope now you rest well. You seem to have a long list and I am sure you are aware it will probably get even longer. This production will be a tough one. But I smell the potential a new kind of 4x game will be created here..

Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2013, 04:16:54 PM »
Firstly, a well deserved congrats!

As soon as I saw a link to the Kickstarter via a website, I knew I had to throw money at this game. I've really enjoyed reading all the ideas and concepts. I can't believe there has been so little Strategy/RTS/4X that has taken advantage of weather and climates. Sure as a graphical change its been around, but as a layer of strategic thought... outside of my History books, I hadn't considered it in my gaming!

Really looking forward to seeing how things like Religion will be implemented (I noticed it on a few of the images so far, because you frankly can't beat a bit of Arian/Nicaean Christian in-fighting in Late Antiquity), as well as the factions in general. Can't be an easy choice of which Barbarian factions to choose from.

Anyway, looking forward to the future  :)


Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2013, 05:47:45 PM »
Phew, okay, finally back in action. I'll be responding to your guys' recent posts here on the forum tonight and tomorrow. :)

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: The Road Ahead
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2013, 05:55:23 PM »
Jon,

Welcome back! I hope you had a restful hiatus. ;)

Best Wishes,
Joseph
Steam
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Intel i5 Quad Core 3.2 GHz
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AMD R9 270 2GB
1600x900