Mid-December 2017 Update
From here on out most of the updates will focus on the details of what's been added to the game, though I'll also occasional discuss broader design concepts when appropriate.
To kick things off here is the still-WIP changelog for v23, which will be posted to Steam next Friday, the 22nd (and should be up on Humble shortly thereafter):
v23 Change Log (WIP)
- Can now 'Declare Kingdom', which causes the Settlement to become permanently immobilized and costs 25 Parchment, but provides +2 Control range and +10 Fame per turn.
- "Borders" are now back in the game, and all Structures (including Settlements) now have a default Border radius of 1. Borders are now called "Control" both in code and in-game text.
- All Structures must now be constructed within a player's Control.
- Structures can now be "Fortified" by spending an increasing quantity of Weapons, allows their Control Range to be increased to a maximum of 4 tiles.
- Apprentices can now only be assigned to a Structure after spending Boards in order to add "Apprentice Slots". The Resource cost of adding both an Apprentice Slot to a Structure and assigning a Clan as an Apprentice to a Structure increases by 50% each time (can be modified via XML).
- Removed all level 3 and 4 Structures. There will now only be two versions of each structure: a basic Timber-based version that depletes the Resources on a tile, and a Stone Block-based upgraded version that lasts forever (WIP: currently only prototyped with Wheat Farms).
- Added basic conquest victory condition after capturing a Roman Capital.
- Brought back the Watchman Profession, which can construct Watchtowers outside of your Control and start with a Control Range of 2.
- Added support for Resource-harvesting-but-non-depleting Stone Structures.
- The Woodworks Structure (Logging Camp Mk. II) now requires only Stone Blocks to construct and does not deplete Forests.
- Started work on converting over all other Structures to the new design approach.
- Added rudimentary victory screen.
- Improved layout of Clans screen.
- Added tagline ("A Survival Strategy Game") to main menu (mainly to help unwitting Civ players who expect a very different kind of game from what AtG aims to deliver).
- "Fortifying" a Unit to give it a defensive bonus is now called "Digging In" (so as to not conflict with the new "Fortify" feature for Structures).
- New AIPlugin implementation in AI2. Can switch between the new one and the old one by modifying Plugins.xml.
- Pressing F7 will now quit the game from the Main Menu and World Screen (for debugging purposes).
- Can now modify the Control Range of a MapObject via the debug console.
- Expanding Control now makes full use of the localization and rich text formatting system. This will be utilized for all future changes to the Selection Panel (and elsewhere in the UI).
- Added color override support to RichString.Append_RawTextToFormat().
- When using the quickloading debug option while the quicksave is out-of-date the game will now show a popup informing you such, instead of simply aborting the game launch with no feedback.
- Added help info to the new "CONTROL" debug console command.
- Added new CompositeString constructor which takes a raw string. Not super-useful in the long-run, but helpful while the text system is in transition from an older raw text-based format to the fancy new system.
- Fixed bug where missing pillaged Watchtower texture would cause the game to crash when constructed.
- Fixed bug where the Resource cost check when allocating Apprentices would only be applied for a single Resource rather than the full list due to the check being static.
As noted in the previous update the focus lately has been on the midgame, some of the changes for which I'll go into a bit more detail on.
The biggest change in this new build is the ability to "Declare a Kingdom", the main effect of which is to fix the player's Settlement in-place for the remainder of the game in exchange for a couple nice bonuses. The main goal is to provide additional structure to the game, splitting it into three discrete parts of an overall arc towards overcoming the Romans (in a future update I'll be talking about how the final third of the game will play out).
The Fame bonus you receive for Declaring a Kingdom is the real prize, as it's rather significant and allows you to attract a large number of new Clans fairly cheaply right when their arrival really starts to slow down should you not have prioritized investing in it. The other of the two bonuses is directly designed to help mitigate the price of setting down: making it harder to reach new Resource Deposits. The additional Control Range (borders) gives you a relatively cheap way of dramatically expanding what you can reach, although you obviously have to plan ahead and make sure you actually get something out of it.
Speaking of which, the other big change in the game is bringing back "borders", or as we call it in AtG, Control. The previous system dropped borders from the game and required you to move your Settlement around to and fro in order to set up new Resource-harvesting Structures, after which they would remain online and you could move somewhere else. It was kind of a nifty system mechanically, but not super-intuitive and absolutely non-viable after making it possible to permanently glue your Settlement somewhere.
You now start with a small radius of Control surrounding your Settlement and each Structure you build, and this radius can be expanded by spending an ever-increasing amount of Weapons in order to "Fortify" them. I like this design not only because it allows the flexibility of growing one big giant blob or a bunch of smaller satellites, but it provides a distinctly economic role for a traditionally military-exclusive Resource. Instead of deciding between spending your Weapons on this type of soldier or that you can now pump them into something completely different. And of course Weapons themselves come from Iron, which itself can also be turned into Tools. So we now have multiple layers overlapping in a relatively straightforward way. This be how good strategy games get made!
There are, of course, some smaller changes we've made in this upcoming build as well, but pretty much everything is related to these two big features and the midgame generally. I won't go into any more detail here, as I have a tendency to go overboard as it is and we still have a game to finish up!
Next on the agenda is wrapping up the design changes to the game's Structures, a big update to the tutorial, followed by some playtesting, bugfixing, and polishing. The goal is to post a new version of the game reflective of the design changes discussed above and get feedback on what it is we need to focus on as we're wrapping up the game in 2018 (and if the pacing is completely off or the game is super-buggy that's definitely going to be an obstacle).
I have a pretty good idea of what's left (more diplomacy, AI stuff, victory conditions), but how we distribute time to each of these features will depend on what players find most compelling and deficient. If we find that diplomacy is something everyone really feels is weak then it makes sense to spend more time on that than, say, additional iteration on the tutorial or improving the balance of the game's Professions and Structures. As a creator you always need to have a strong core vision for what your project will eventually look like, but without getting feedback it's possible to go down completely wrong roads without even knowing it. Your vision needs to be both strong but flexible. A bit of a contradiction at times, but that's why art is, well, art!
When the next build goes up we'll be including a link to a survey where players will be able to provide feedback in a structured format that will be easy for us to process and digest. I'll let you guys know what the results from that are in January.
Anyways, that's it for now. We'll be back with another update soon. 'Til then!