July 2013 Update - Alpha Testing & Resource Appearance
Hey all, fairly short update this time - news I'm sure many of you are rejoicing over!
The plan is to kick things off in late August or early September. I'll be wrapping up a couple more big features next week, but before spending a lot of time on playtesting I want the AI to be capable of the basics: defending itself, claiming resource deposits, taking out hostile tribes, etc. We have a good idea of how it will do this, and now it's time to actually put that in code. AtG is very much playable right now, but ultimately, until the AI is competing with you it's impossible to get a good feel for what state a strategy game is in.
Our second topic is those big features I alluded to above.
As you all know, in AtG it's important to be thinking about the opportunities in front of you, be it migrating, claiming a valuable resource that just appeared, or taking advantage of a surprise diplomatic request. Resources in particular are a major factor which drives the game, and lately I've been working on how they're distributed across the map, and the rate and manner in which new ones appear.
One of my goals is for different regions of the map to have character, instead of everything feeling like one homogeneous mass. To help achieve this, inside the random map generator I added the ability to produce clusters of items. These can be resource deposits, neutral-owned improvements, goody huts, you name it. I call these "Region Traits," and down the road I might flesh them out even further and allow for properties that aren't simply objects which occupy tiles.
I've had to make several tweaks in order to achieve game balance, and no doubt many more will be necessary. Fortunately, I knew this ahead of time and the system is very flexible. You can throw down basically any type of object with it, define what terrain must (not) be present, which other traits must (not) be present, etc. The old, scattershot distribution logic is still in there and everything is in XML, so modders should have a lot of fun playing around with all the knobs.
The other resource-related feature I've been working on is resource appearance. At the start of a game a small percentage of them are visible, and new ones pop up over time. I've thought a lot about the best way of doing this... should the appearance of new deposits be completely random? Should you have to send a unit off to find them? Is there some kind of abstract investment players can make to speed up the rate? Unfortunately, there are problems with each of these.
Units manually checking each tile is nothing but tedious busywork, and wasn't something I particularly enjoyed in SSI's Imperialism. Overall I liked that game, but there really wasn't any strategy to finding new resources. Off-map investment is too abstract, and doesn't fit thematically in late antiquity. And while deposits just popping up out of nowhere works, it's a shot squarely across the bow of suspension of reality: if everything else in the game requires sending units out to do it, how are you coming across this perfect geographic information?
The design I've settled on is a mix of the best elements of those problematic ideas, joined up with a couple new ones. When you first encounter a new resource deposit it's "shrouded." You can tell if it's a rock, a plant or an animal, but not exactly what it is, nor can you use it. To resolve that, a "surveyor" unit has to go out and identify the deposit. New resources do appear somewhat randomly over time, but instead of seeing a "large iron deposit" appear in the fog, the information you're getting is basically just hearsay that needs to be verified. The deposit may not even exist at all!
There are several reasons why this is the approach I've settled on.
First, it dangles a carrot out there for players, and gives them something to get excited about and plan around. It also requires active involvement that can be prioritized, shifted, etc. I didn't want a system where you just waited around, hoping that at some point in the near future the game decides to be nice and serve you dinner.
And, gameplay aside, what I really like is that it makes sense. While a scout is off running around he might come across a shiny metal in a pile of rocks or find animal dung on the ground, and you should at least have some information about what you just found. Or rumors about some metal to the east might circulate, but there's no way to know for sure. In the end, drawing accurate conclusions requires someone with experience taking a look.
This new feature will be one of our focal points with the upcoming alpha test. As always, there's a chance it's just plain unfun or has other major problems, and we have to go back to the drawing board - but hey, that's game development!
seconds to go
Pledge $1 or moreYou selected
● Our sincere appreciation for your support, along with a digital hug... act now, while supplies last!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
● An exclusive “Sponsor” badge to be displayed next to your name on our official forums showing off your generous support of ‘At the Gates’, upon request.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
● A digital copy of 'At the Gates', five dollars off the planned release price. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $30 or moreYou selected
● A digital version of our 100+ page manual/strategy guide, including designer notes (to go with your digital copy of 'At the Gates'. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
● An invitation to the 'At the Gates' private BETA testing group. Starting January of 2014 (approximately), you will receive beta builds of the game through the Internet and be granted access into our private testing forum. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $80 or moreYou selected
● An invitation to the 'At the Gates' private ALPHA testing group. Starting July of 2013 (approximately), you will receive alpha builds of the game through the Internet and be granted access into our private testing forum. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $125 or moreYou selected
● Full access to the 'At the Gates' design documents in Google Drive. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $200 or moreYou selected
19 backers Limited (131 left of 150)
● A autographed boxed copy of 'At the Gates' ONLY available by contributing to our Kickstarter campaign. Also contains a 100+ page manual/strategy guide with designer notes. *See “Reward Tier Details” below. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
● Name one mountain range AND river AND lake which will be added to the ‘At the Gates’ random map generator. *See "Reward Tier Details" below. ● Your name or online handle will be added to the special thanks section of the credits, upon request. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
● Name a CITY belonging to one of the barbarian factions, which will be added to the 'At the Gates' name generator. *See “Reward Tier Details” below. ● An invitation to an exclusive Skype chat Q&A session with the development team. One session is scheduled for a weekend in April 2013 and a second for a weekend in May 2013. Should you be unable to attend either you'll instead have the opportunity ask questions via email. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $750 or moreYou selected
● An invitation to the 'At the Gates' release party and the opportunity to hang out with the development team. All travel arrangements are the responsibility of the backer. ● Name one SEA, which will be added to the random map generator. *See "Reward Tier Details" below. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)
● The development team will write a 1000+ word article on a game design topic of your choice, to be posted on on the official 'At the Gates' website and Jon Shafer’s design blog. Your name will be credited as the inspiration for the article, upon request. ● Name one CONTINENT, which will be added to the map generator. *See “Reward Tier Details” below. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $2,500 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (4 left of 4)
● Design the visual look, gameplay traits, etc. for one of 'At the Gates' barbarian factions and its leader. *See “Reward Tier Details” below. ● All of the above rewards.Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)