Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 8, 2013.

Update #28

December Update

13 comments
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Hey all, it's been a couple months so I figured it was time again to let you know where we're at with AtG.

Alpha testing started up in October and has already paid huge dividends. We have of course found many bugs and made innumerable small improvements, but the biggest benefit has been highlighting the important, high-level questions marks we still need to address.

The biggest hole we've identified relates to structure and goals. Most of the planned big gameplay features are in, but what does it all add up to while you're playing? Sure, you can explore the map, survey and harvest resources, migrate from one place to another - but why? What the heck are we trying to do here anyways?

This is a challenge designers face with every complex empire builder, but it's particularly acute with AtG right now. One reason for this is that true diplomacy has yet to be implemented. Our intention is for the AI leaders to help steer the experience through their demands, requests and general opportunities offered.

The Romans especially have an important job in the early game, as they're basically the 'neighborhood bully' you can either line up behind or defy. Their role changes over time as a variety of nasty events like plagues and civil wars afflict them (but not you!), presenting enterprising barbarian leaders with the occasional chance to flip the balance of power.

Our offensive along this front began a few weeks ago, but there's still a long way to go. We've also made a number of other big changes, which I'll go over in detail.

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Recent Changes

Another issue relating to early game pacing involved migration. In early versions your starting location was fairly cozy and self-sustaining, which meant there was very little reason to move - and when you did it was easier to just spin off small colonies than completely pack up. We've made a number of modifications to address this.

Starting locations are no longer quite so hospitable. You start with a sufficient stockpile to keep your head above water for a couple years, but you now need to start thinking about finding a new place to live right away. This provides a clear goal from turn 1 that the game was previously lacking.

There have also been some tweaks to the economic system. Resources like Metal and Wood are still vital for building Improvements and Units, but maintenance is now paid only in Wealth. Food now serves as a cap on the number and size of Cities that can be supported, and is no longer required by Units. This smooths out some of the unnecessarily complicated wrinkles in the economic system by clarifying the role of each resource without making any of them less important.

Borders are another recent addition, and one that really changes the feel of the game. (You can see our temporary placeholder art in the two screenshots I've attached to this update) Improvements now need to be inside your borders to produce anything, but the high food cost of Settlements discourages them from being spammed everywhere. There is now an interesting tension between having enough Settlements to collect resources, but not so many that you can't feed everyone.

Borders also add some clarity to diplomacy. I wanted each kingdom's area of control to feel 'fuzzy', as this is how it was historically during this time, but gameplay has to win out over realism. You have to know how close is too close, because negotiating with computer opponents is just plain frustrating it's not clear what they want.

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Roadmap

So what's next?

No surprise, our #1 priority in the coming months is diplomacy. Not only is it important in defining the feel and pacing of the game, but getting it right will also take a significant amount of playtesting and iteration. Hand-in-hand are the still-WIP Romanization Perks, which are earned by working with or fighting against the Romans - and if there are no requests to complete for them then it's going to be awful hard to acquire Perks! Once a first pass on these two features are in we'll have a good idea as to the form the final version of the game will take.

Once interaction with other leaders is knocked out we'll be shifting focus to smaller gameplay features that have been on the list for a while: steel upgrades for Units, the valuable Salt resource (which acts like both Food and Wealth), migratory animals, etc. Finally, we'll wrap up the big stuff with important-but-peripheral features like faction abilities and victory conditions.

In the first few months of 2014 we'll open the game up to beta testing and shift over to 'tweak and polish' mode - where we'll remain for a loooong time. I've noted in both the original Kickstarter pitch and subsequent updates that the goal with AtG is not just to make a strategy game that not only breaks new ground but also one that is polished at release. This recipe calls for one key ingredient which has no substitute: time.

AtG could be released as originally planned in mid-2014 as a 'good' game. But would it be one of the best strategy games ever? Probably not. As such, I've made the decision to push back AtG's release until 2015.

I know this is disappointing news, but at the end of the day what we all want is a great game, and our team is willing to stick with AtG as long as it takes to get there. This kind of flexibility is only possible because our funding comes from your generosity, and while painful in the short term it will no doubt pay off over the long term. I think I speak for everyone in saying that what we want is an amazing game, even if it means a longer wait.

Thanks again for your support and patience. As always, don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

- Jon

Comments

    1. Me.small

      Creator Seumas Froemke on January 16

      I'm late to the party on this news, but I'm fine with delaying it for a more polished game at launch. Take the time that is needed. "A rushed game is forever bad".

    2. Missing_small

      Creator Jani Jereb on December 3

      I think sticking to a deadline here is pretty irrelevant. 2015 sounds good to me if it sounds comfortable to the team.

    3. Missing_small

      Creator Pesticide on December 2

      Ill be the last person on here to turn into a detached publisheresque goon demanding deadlines to be met haha, to many of my favorite games suffered badly from that behaviour. Happy to hear you guys are solid on budget and ill happily wait a little longer to have a game that really can suprize me and trow a few strategy curve balls my way that will make me look back at this kickstarter and have huge smile on my face.

    4. Airport_2012_-_220_-_kickstarter.small

      Creator Jon Shafer on December 2

      That's honestly my only real regret, Martin. Bringing in another 2,500 folks into the test group isn't really feasible for logistical reasons, but I'll try to come up with another perk for our backers to make up for it.

      Thanks again for your patience and support everyone. You guys seriously rock (which is why you guys deserve AtG being the best game it can be).

      - Jon

    5. Headshot.small

      Creator Niklas Strid on December 2

      Good to hear that you're not afraid to change parts of the game design at this stage. And if your financial situation allows, it sounds wise to push back the release a little bit in order to deliver a polished game on release. Best of luck!

    6. Missing_small

      Creator Martin Hall on December 2

      While disappointing, I don't have a major problem with delaying the game so that it is as good as you can make it - provided it gets finished eventually!
      Perhaps you might consider giving something to the lower tier KS backers by way of wider beta access in 2nd half of 2014? But not if that is going to detract from getting it right.

    7. Airport_2012_-_220_-_kickstarter.small

      Creator Jon Shafer on December 2

      To be more specific, at our current burn rate there are enough coins in the couch cushions to stick with AtG until at least January 2016 before releasing. Things can change, of course, but that should give you an idea where we stand. My mantra has always been: aggressive with design, conservative with production!

      - Jon

    8. Airport_2012_-_220_-_kickstarter.small

      Creator Jon Shafer on December 2

      Good question Aerouge.

      We've been budgeting very conservatively (hooray for 2D games!), so there are indeed enough funds to cover the additional development time. The fact that we overshot our Kickstarter goal by a fair bit coupled with strong pre-order sales is also a big help. And of course I wanted to always have a longer dev cycle in my back pocket as an option since strategy games always take a while, even when you have a big team. Even if catastrophe strikes and our funds run out there are other options available. Rest assured, AtG is in no danger.

      - Jon

    9. Backer_badge3.small

      Creator Aerouge on December 1

      Hy Jon, while I agree that it is okay to take your time and make ATG great it also leads to the question of budget and available funds.

      Sure you overshoot the initial kickstarter, but do you still have enough cash available to afford half a year of development not planned initially?

      You know while I would love AtG to be GREAT instead of GOOD. I prefer a finished game over a "whoopsie we ran out of cash" game.

    10. Reality_slap.small

      Creator AKASlaphappy on December 1

      Take your time, I agree with you I would rather have a great game then just a good game.

    11. Missing_small

      Creator Antigonos on December 1

      I think the best victory condition is when you need to accomplish a certain number of given goals.

      I find Civilization's victory system rather boring and not flexible enough.

    12. Missing_small

      Creator Thomas Anderson on December 1

      Sounds like it's coming along beautifully so far. I definitely agree with the value of patience, even if waiting can be one of the most frustrating things ever. I look forward to the next update.

    13. 16.small

      Creator Blackstaff The Unknown Obsidian Order on December 1

      Looks great :)

      Moar time ------------------------> Better game :)

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