It is the dark, brutal days of late antiquity. The Roman Empire is collapsing and the end of the world seems to be at hand. As civilization itself crumbles, you lead a fledgling barbarian kingdom which seeks to fill this vacuum of power and establish itself as the new master of Europe!
But it won’t be easy. Ambitious rival kingdoms will stand in your way, and while the Romans may be weaker than they once were, they are still proud and formidable foes. However, external enemies are only one concern, and in these hard times even the land itself can be hostile...
If you contribute to our campaign to the $25 tier or above, you will receive a copy of At the Gates for Windows, Mac and Linux!
- February 25: At the Gates is coming to Mac, Linux and iOS! Not just that, but at $200k we'll develop an expansion pack where you'll be able to play as the Romans! And everyone who contributes at or above the $30 tier will receive it for free.
- February 19: We've received many questions about the strategy guide and designer notes, so we went ahead and added a new $30 tier where you can get them in digital form, in addition to the game!
- February 18: We just added a great new reward: you get a boxed copy of At the Gates autographed by the team, plus a manual/strategy guide!
- February 11: Can't use Kickstarter, but still want to contribute? Well, now with the help of the PayPal widget on our website, you can!
Hello! I'm Jon Shafer, founder of Conifer Games and lead designer of Civilization V. I'm very excited to share with you all my latest project: At the Gates, a historical turn-based strategy title for the PC.
At the Gates is an empire builder similar to Sid Meier's Civilization. Starting with a small tribe, you must explore the world, exploit its scarce resources, and eliminate or outsmart potential enemies. The game starts simple but grows in complexity until you command a mighty economic and military powerhouse.
Over the course of a single game your tribe will migrate to more lush and bountiful lands, conquer and barter with other clans, work alongside the Romans, learn from them, and finally destroy them. Along the way, you'll need to master the art of war and craft cunning plans to strengthen your kingdom - all while enduring the worst mother nature can throw at you!
1) A Longer Summary
2) Key Features
3) Current Status of At the Gates
4) Meet the Team
5) Want to Learn More?
6) Stretch Goals
7) Reward Tier Details
8) Risks and Challenges
At the Gates features several innovations which separate it from other empire builders.
A single playthrough of At the Gates becomes more interesting the deeper in you get, unlike many strategy titles which lose steam when victory becomes assured midway through. Over time, the world’s resources are slowly but inevitably consumed, forcing you to seek out new sources of food and wealth if you hope to survive. The most satisfying victories are those which are hard-earned!
But the world is much more than simply a canvas for resources. At the Gates takes the traditional concept of randomized maps to a new level. As time passes so do the seasons, transforming the very landscape which surrounds you. Once-fertile grasslands become barren dirt. The waterways you've grown familiar with will freeze over, thwarting or aiding your travels. Accounting for the environment is essential not only when planning military campaigns, but also planning for the harvest necessary to feed your hungry clan.
At the Gates innovates on the diplomatic front as well. Relationships are cultivated by completing situational requests for other leaders, giving you the ability to dramatically reshape the political landscape. If Attila’s people are starving, then providing him with a timely gift of food could very well earn you a friend for life. The tools for forging powerful alliances are always right at your fingertips.
While making friends is always nice, there will be times when discussions break down and you must take to the battlefield. Success in combat requires careful timing and management of supply, particularly during the harsh winter months. Starving an enemy into submission can be a powerful tactic - but first ensure your own troops are fed!
- Adapt to an ever-changing landscape as the seasons change. Craft plans where you not only survive but hope for fields to dry up, marshes to flood and rivers to freeze solid.
- Build a robust economy by finding and exploiting new resources. Deposits slowly deplete so you need to always be on the hunt for more - even if they belong to your neighbors. If none are nearby, a better option might be to migrate your entire tribe to a different part of the world!
- Vanquish enemies on the battlefield by deftly maneuvering around them and destroying their chains of supply. But make sure your own are protected, as tactical victory means nothing if your armies then starve to death!
- Forge lasting diplomatic relationships with other leaders by lending them a hand in times of need. If Attila’s people are starving, sending him grain might earn you a friend for life.
- Fight or cooperate with the Romans - and become more like them. Barbarian kingdoms become more “Romanized” and gain access to powerful new technologies as they interact with the two halves of the Empire.
- Play on a geographically accurate map of Europe or 100% randomly-generated worlds.
- Lead one of eight factions, each with unique strengths to take advantage of and challenges to overcome.
At the Gates has a significant head start over many other projects that show up on Kickstarter. Our team already has a fully-playable prototype which includes a rough implementation of every major feature. Maps can be randomly generated, you can order your armies to crush enemies, basic diplomacy is possible and so on. We’re very happy with the current state of the game!
So if that’s the case, why am I asking for your money?
The short answer is that in spite of that progress, the road ahead is still a long one. While At the Gates is technically playable, the mechanics are still extremely rough. Iteration is the most vital element of game development, and the current version of At the Gates is just a first draft. The AI - essential for any single player strategy game - is still in its very early stages and will need significant development time and resources to provide the challenge strategy gamers expect.
The art style is solid, but there's a significant amount of polish work we'd still like to do. Portraits have been completed for only one out of the ten leaders. There’s zero animation work done for either the units or the landscape. We have no sound effects, nor music outside of a single title theme.
So, yeah... our to-do list is pretty packed!
Conifer Games is a brand-new studio. We’re not sitting on a massive pile of cash, we don’t have a publisher and, as of right now, any future expenses will come directly out of the team’s pocket. In other words, without your support At the Gates will never be finished.
$40,000 is not a large budget for a game with this kind of scope. But it's sufficient to finish At the Gates because we've already made significant progress, and have a very small development team. Raising more than that would let us add even more features to the game than we've talked about here, so we're certainly hoping to not just meet this threshold but shoot beyond it!
Our launch target for At the Gates is the first half of 2014.That date is obviously pretty far off, but we believe in setting realistic deadlines and being honest with you all about what to expect. A game like this can't be built in six months. Well, not a good one, anyways!
After At the Gates ships, Conifer will continue supporting it with patches and new content. And, should this Kickstarter be a success, once development on At the Gates ultimately winds down we’ll begin work on other fresh, deep and ambitious titles. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves now!
With your guys’ support we can make all of that a reality. Come and be a part of an amazing game and a new company with a bright future. We promise we won’t let you down!
Conifer Games is a new development studio based out of Michigan. It's made up of a core of three developers aided by a handful of part-time contractors.
So what are we all about?
Our team is committed to delivering deep, satisfying gaming experiences on the PC platform. We firmly believe that incredible opportunities still remain hidden within the strategy genre, and our journey to prove that begins with At the Gates!
You might be wondering where the name "Conifer Games" came from. Our team is comprised of a group of nature-lovers. We all live in a house together in a small patch of woods. We also wanted a name that highlights our goals as a company - starting small, but eventually growing into something amazing. We believe that At the Gates is just the beginning of an amazing journey - not just for us but also for those who will play our games!
I (Jon!) am the president and founder of Conifer Games. I also serve as designer and gameplay programmer for At the Gates. You might know me as the lead designer for Civilization V.
Prior to founding Conifer, I worked for Firaxis Games and Stardock Entertainment. I've been in this business for a total of 8 years now and have six titles under my belt. I also write game design articles on my website and co-host The Game Design Round Table podcast.
I originally hail from Colorado and am a huge history buff, a baseball fanatic and enjoy the finest games that the strategy and RPG genres have to offer. I've been making games since I was 9 years old and I still have to pinch myself to make sure that I am in fact lucky enough to be doing this for a living!
Kay is the art director for At the Gates. She is a Michigan native and has been making art since she could hold a pencil. In her free time she not only reads graphic novels but also creates them.
Kay has also been a fan of computer games from an early age. I asked her what her favorite game was, but she said she's played too many to pick. So, yeah... If this whole games thing doesn't work out my future probably won't be in investigative journalism!
Kay's other hobbies include learning about science and nature. She's an avid fan of documentaries, and has seen hundreds relating to these subjects. Ask her to explain string theory sometime, I dare you.
Kay also owns over fifty plants and several pets, including a dozen crested geckos, a sugar glider, a parrotlet and a domesticated Siberian fox named Anya. Actually, scratch that. Two parrotlets now.
As art director, Kay's goal is to ensure At the Gates features a fresh, clean style that's immediately recognizable and doesn't get in the way of the game. She's very much rooting for the success of this campaign, as the funding will allow the team to flesh out much more of the game's art. And let me tell you, she's more than a little tired of me grabbing stuff from Google Images and plugging them into the game!
Jonathan is the architect for At the Gates. He brings 10 years of professional programming experience to the table, and is a lifelong gamer to boot.
As part of working on At the Gates, Jonathan is writing ElfTools, an extensive game development toolset for C#. He plans on releasing this library for free to the public once development on it is sufficiently advanced. Jonathan hopes this will help smooth over the many gaps in existing technology and open up new doors for current and would-be game developers.
Jonathan was also born and raised in Michigan and is a lover of all things elven - hence, ElfTools. He spends much of his free time playing League of Legends, working on a variety of programming hobby projects and raising the bar on fiction through his writing.
Jonathan is also very excited for the anticipated release of At the Gates, which will be his first credit on a game title as a professional. Woohooo!
If simply reading about At the Gates hasn't yet whetted your appetite, make sure to check out our first gameplay video. It's 15 minutes long and provides a good sense for what a game of At the Gates is like. We're still only in the prototype stage, so please forgive the lack of polish!
You can also listen to our awesome theme music in full:
Additionally, whether you’re a backer or not, you can continue following the development of At the Gates over the coming months either right here or over at my website. Throughout February and into early March a new article will be posted every couple of days further detailing the features in At the Gates, plus the story behind its development.
Stop on by - we can't wait to tell you more!
Thanks for your generous support everyone! Needless to the say, the first week of this campaign have blown well past what we were hoping for.
Our first set of stretch goals is focused on modding, which as many of you know is something near and dear to my heart. We know that some folks have no interest in making or playing mods though, so we’re also including a goal to expand the number of playable factions from 8 to 10!
And for those of you who have been wondering about the game being available on other platforms, this is something Jonathan and I are looking into now. Mono looks to be fairly promising so far. We’ll let you know what we find out!
✔ $50,000 - XML Mod Support
Through XML you’ll be able to add or modify units, terrain types, etc. Values in code used to determine the game rules will also be exposed and modifiable.
✔ $60,000 - Map Editor
The team will create and release an editor with which you’ll be able to build entirely-custom maps.
✔ $70,000 - DLL Mod Support
You’ll be given the source code for the interface, AI and map generation, allowing for full customization of these systems. This will make it possible to mod At the Gates into virtually any language!
✔ $85,000 - Two New Playable Factions
At the Gates will feature 10 playable factions instead of just 8.
$125,000 - New Map Options
It will be possible to adjust the percent of land or water, the shapes of the landmasses, the quantity and density of resource deposits, and more.
This stretch goal will also mean we include a map of the earth to go along with the map of Europe we're already planning on delivering.
$200,000 - Playable Romans Expansion Pack
Our team will develop an expansion pack for At the Gates where the Roman factions are playable. Many of the core mechanics will remain similar, but we'll be re-tooling the game experience specifically for the declining, non-nomadic empire.
As the Romans, your focus is very much on using your diplomatic might to try and manipulate the barbarian tribes which surround you. There will also be a replacement for the Romanization system that allows you to obtain goodies more technologically advanced than the barbarians could dream of!
Should this stretch goal be hit, everyone who contributes at the $30 tier or above will receive this expansion for free.
The box will be approximately 7.5 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. It will contain:
- A printed manual/strategy guide. We have no idea how long this will be since, well, it hasn’t been written yet! But you can expect something over 100 pages. As suggested, it will be more than just, “this is how you install the game!” and also offer gameplay tips, delve into possible strategies, and include design notes explaining the team’s intentions behind the features being described. It should be pretty cool!
- Autographs from each member of the core development team (Jon, Kay and Jonathan).
- A CD or DVD of the game that contains all versions of At the Gates, stored in a paper sleeve.
Naming In-Game Items
All of the reward tiers which allow contributors to name or set the direction for an in-game item are subject to approval by Conifer - after all, we have to make sure whatever you choose is actually appropriate for the game! As an example, let’s say Jonathan likes Elves and wants to name a city "Elftown." This city name doesn't really match the theme, but if we Romanized it into "Elfinium," then it would be. We will work with you to help come up with an appropriate name if necessary.
If you're curious what it means to "add a name to the random map generator," this is how it works:
In randomly-generated maps, certain geographic features will be given names that are visible in the game. If your contribution reaches the appropriate tier, your names will be added to the pool of names that the map generator picks from. Your names will be distributed with all copies of the game so that anytime someone generates a random At the Gates map, your names will have a chance to be displayed!
Risks and challenges
As noted above, the prototype version of 'At the Gates' already serves as a solid foundation, so we’re not going into this thing with just a piece of paper or an idea. Assuming this campaign is funded, it would basically take a global extinction event to stop this game from coming out! That being said, every project has potential hiccups.
As a small team, we don’t have a huge quality assurance department. The plan is to have a large beta test group that will help us weed out issues, but that will never be a replacement for a large professional staff.
Our team will remain dedicated to the game post-release and put in whatever time necessary to improve it. We know you have high standards, and we wouldn’t be making this type of game if we didn't have similarly high standards for ourselves.
LEVEL OF POLISH
We live in an era of big-budget games that show up on the cover of every magazine, are advertised on TV and have uber-realistic graphics that serve as the source for thousands of fan art creations. But all of this costs time and money - a lot of it.
With 'At the Gates,' our team is placing its bets on gameplay instead. Conifer Games is dedicated to creating experiences that are deep and strategic. Our budget for audio and graphics may not be that of today’s AAA releases but our visual style will be suited for the game and genre we're working on. We hope that this is a tradeoff that most of you will not just accept, but appreciate!
'At the Gates' isn’t going to be made in a black box, where you only find out what you’re getting into on release day. The team will be posting regular updates detailing progress on how the game is coming along. Once we’re close to release a demo will be made available so that everyone can give it a shot and see what they think.
SMALL DEVELOPMENT TEAM
The 'At the Gates' development crew isn’t a large bunch, and there are inherent risks with that. But we're all very dedicated and want to see 'At the Gates' succeed.
This is an amazing opportunity for us, and we want nothing more than to show that deep PC games can be developed by only a few people. We have a lot of other great ideas we'd love to work on as well, and if you're willing to have some faith in us we'll make sure you don't regret it!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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