Alpha Testing... We Are Go!
The first playable alpha version of At the Gates is now available! For those of you who generously contributed $80 or more, a download link for the alpha version of AtG should be on your Humble Dashboard along with a complimentary Steam key.
If you haven't used the Humble Dashboard before, just head over here to Humble's Key Resender and enter the email address you have associated with your Kickstarter (or PayPal) account. This Dashboard is where new versions of the game will also be posted, so keep the address handy.
Didn't pledge at the $80 tier, but all this talk of steamy, hot, barbaric, 'frozen-and-crossable-rivers-in-the-winter' strategic action just too much to resist? Well, no problem! You can still join in on the fun by pre-ordering the At the Gates Early Access Bundle.
If you choose to do so but you also made a contribution in the past we're happy to refund your original pledge via PayPal. Just fire us a quick email at Contact@ConiferGames.com and we'll process your refund within a day or two. Those of you who contributed at the beta-testing tier ($50) will be granted access in Q1 2014.
Okay! So before we all get too excited about the idea of playing AtG I'll offer a reminder that THE goal of our test group is to help identify what's fun (or more likely, what isn't). It's not to simply experience said fun. Good games end up good only through hard work. Or, well, luck, but I'm not betting on that, nor should anyone. In any case, AtG is still very rough and it will take time for the game's true form to take shape. And that's completely forgetting the annoying bugs you'll run into along the way (I'm not kidding here - imagine your best gaming experience ever ruined with no way of continuing it. Not fun.).
As you might imagine, personally, I prefer waiting until a game is completely finished before playing it, but I know others feel differently. Conifer would be the proverbial 'barbarian tribe in the winter sans food' without the absolutely invaluable feedback provided by our testers, and we're indebted to them for their efforts. Make no mistake though, this sort of work isn't everyone's cup of tea. If you're hoping to, you know, have fun playing At the Gates... well, the alpha testing group probably isn't for you.
Those of you brave souls who are in fact a part of this distinguished cadre, I encourage you to use the Steam version (included on your Humble Dashboard page). Steam comes bundled with several handy features that make the lives of the dev team easier and should, ideally, result in a better game. In particular, Steam automatically updates to new versions (ensuring everyone is on the same page, saving us time when hunting down problems), provides Conifer with extra debugging tools when the game inevitably runs into problems, and gives us information about what computer hardware our community is using. Of course, if you prefer the direct, DRM-free download that is also (and always will be) an option.
For now, only the Windows version of AtG is available for testing, but the plan is to add support for both Linux and Mac within the next month or two. For a while now our architect Jonathan and I have been completely focused on getting the game testable period, so we now have to spend some time catching the other platforms back up. Fortunately though, all versions should remain in sync and functional once we do reach that point. And my most sincere thanks to those waiting on the iPad version, as the wait there is going to be a while - not until the PC version is done and ready to roll.
Alright then! Without further ado, here's a quick rundown of the major features available in the alpha version of AtG:
In Right Now:
- Full economic system
- Full combat system
- Seasonal map changes
- Random world generation
- Supply system
- Resources and Goody Huts
- Basic AI logic
- Unit animations (except for the Scout, which is already in)
- The majority of non-terrain art
- Diplomacy (aside from declaring war)
- Romanization Perks (a system similar to scientific research in other 4X games)
- Victory conditions
- Faction differentiation
- Smart AI logic
Additionally, many of the on-map items are still represented with (purposefully gaudy) placeholder graphics, and we have several gameplay items on our to-do list for improvement as well (e.g. terrain seasonal effects, combat resolution).
In other words, pardon our dust and please watch your step as you enter the construction zone!
I know that many of you aren't part of the alpha testing group and this announcement is little more than a cruel tease. As recompense I'll provide an update for our upcoming development road map, which should hopefully whet your appetite, at least to a small extent!
Over the next month we'll be incorporating feedback from the playtest group and making any big changes to the gameplay the team deems necessary. We might have to completely revamp the economic system, or there might only be minor tweaks. There's honestly no way to say for sure, and all I can say right now is "Welcome to iterative design!"
From there, the focus shifts over to diplomacy and player-AI interaction. You can declare war now but not much else. Fulfilling requests offered by other AI leaders and dealing with the Romans are both meant to be major features that anchor the mid and late-game. As such, we need to establish a feel for what we actually have there within short order, then figure out whether if we're actually going down the right path.
After that we'll shift back over to the AI. It's already capable of the basics, such as managing resources, surveying and harvesting new deposits, taking out nearby hostile camps, etc. but more advanced actions are beyond its capabilities. My aim is for AtG to have the best AI of any 4X game ever made, so we certainly still have a long way to go in achieving that goal!
Heading into the new year we'll shift over into 'beta testing' mode where we'll start bouncing around quite a bit and fighting fires as they appear. Again, your guess as to what that involves is as good as mine. The only thing I'm sure of is that a significant percentage of my time from here on out will be dedicated to AI development.
I'm really happy with our progress, but AtG is very much still an alpha, and as such needs a ton of work. We have a long road until release though, so there's plenty of time to polish things up. Thanks again for your support and interest, and I can't wait to find out where we'll all end up!