At The Gates is a 4X game that learns from RimWorld and Spelunky


At The Gates is a 4X game that learns from RimWorld and Spelunky
  1. At The Gates is a 4X game that learns from RimWorld and Spelunky
    rockpapershotgun.com
    Jon Shafer has joined Paradox to found and lead a new team and make a new strategy game, but work continues on At The Gates, the project Shafer has been developing independently for years now. It’s a 4X game that casts off many of the recognisable patterns of the genre. Instead of building an empire,…
    Games

Jon Shafer has joined Paradox to found and lead a new team and make a new strategy game, but work continues on At The Gates, the project Shafer has been developing independently for years now. It’s a 4X game that casts off many of the recognisable patterns of the genre. Instead of building an empire, you control a barbarian tribe trying to tear down an empire, or to co-exist alongside that empire. In this case, it’s the Roman empire. To survive, you’ll need to exploit resources, move with the seasons, and build a relationship with the world as well as your neighbours and companions.

At The Gates has been a long time in the making. Kickstarted for just over a $100,000 in 2013, it’s the first project of Shafer’s Conifer Games studio, founded following his work at Firaxis on Civ IV and V, and a stint at Stardock. Shafer believes that strategy design often requires iteration after iteration to find the best version of an idea, or even to find the right idea. With At The Gates this has involved finding the character of the tribes and their members, as well as bringing the map to life as a character in and of itself.

Seasonal change plays a big part in the game. Tactically, the alterations to the map that come with the passage of time can open up new options for attack or retreat as snows thaw or rivers freeze over, and the resources available shift with the weather. Since its announcement and Kickstarter, I’ve seen At The Gates as a response to Shafer’s work on Civ V; an intricate slice of history as dessert after Civ’s main course. I put that idea to Shafer at the recent PDXCON, where we also talked in-depth about his wider approach to design and his work on Civ V.

“Yes, exactly! At The Gates is my version of these ideas”, he replied. “And, yes, it’s something that I’m still working on and it’s definitely going to be finished and released. But it won’t be a Paradox game. Here at Paradox I’m ramping up, building a new team, starting a new project. We’re still in the idea phase. When I go home on weekends, and the rest of the time, I’m doing programming and iteration on At The Gates. It actually works out kinda nice because at Paradox I don’t need to be super hands-on with the programming or really in the thick of it, so I get that aspect of development from At The Gates. It’s almost like having a day job and a hobby, both of which are equally important.”

I’ve noticed while talking that Shafer has a habit of talking about one idea, and then following up with another idea that either builds on it or runs somewhat contrary to it. I ask him if his approach to game design involves formulating responses and reactions to the games he’s currently playing, or that he’s worked on in the past.

“That’s always going to be the case. Everything influences everything. For example, in At The Gates, the characters – the clans – are in a lot of ways inspired by games like Crusader Kings II and King of Dragon Pass where you have individuals that spice up the game. In part that was a response to playing the game as I’d been building it and realising that because you move your tribe around rather than staying in one place, you don’t get to build infrastructure and settlements that become your stamp on the map. You’re not leaving that trace of yourself on the map in the form of a kingdom or an empire.

“With that missing, I realised the game wasn’t all that much fun and I needed to add something else. That was the character system. So the characters are a direct response to a problem that I encountered in the design, but they are also inspired by other games I’d been playing. And of course I put my own twist on it all. Another aspect in At The Gates comes from Imperialism. So the surveying system, where you would uncover resources in that game was kind of micro-managey. It got kind of tedious, but the idea of searching the map trying to find something cool seemed like a good thing to grab onto.

“So in At The Gates, when you first find a resource out in the world, you don’t know what it is. I call that being ‘shrouded’. You then need to send a unit to identify what it is. It’s basically a multi-tiered exploration system. At first you might know that it’s a mineral, but then in the second layer you need to get someone close up to figure out what it is so you can use it. It’s like a second hit. The first one is the discovery, the second is the unveiling.”

This idea of a ‘second hit’ seems relevant to one of my main criticisms of strategy games as a whole and 4X games particularly. There are often rewards, doled out to keep the player invested in the game, but after a while they become part of a few repetitive loops. Fill the construction bar to improve the city, fill…

  1. Review: Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

    Destructoid.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:33 destructoid.com
    I can remember the first time I played Street Fighter II. It was the same day one of my friends brought an SNES copy of the game into school in his backpack, even though we had already planned on going to his house later that day. The dude actually smuggled it in just to flash the cartridge to us -- I don't even remember if any of us thought it was cool. What ensued that night was a flurry of hand slaps, electricity, and hadoukens. Consulting the manual we learned how to do…
  2. Lovecraftian horror game, Conarium, releases on June 6th, gets new screenshots

    Dsogaming.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:27 dsogaming.com
    Zoetrope Interactive and Iceberg Interactive announced that their Lovecraftian Horror game Conarium, will release June 6th on PC. The game will be available through Steam and other digital retailers, with an SRP of $19.99. Conarium is a tribute to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and a homage to the events of ‘At the Mountains of […
  3. Tannenberg – Official Reveal Trailer

    Onrpg.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:25 onrpg.com
    It’s time to return to WW1! The makers of Verdun announce their next title: Tannenberg, a realistic FPS set on the Eastern front. This is definitely NOT to be…
  4. Let’s Talk: Diablo 3 Necromancer Beta

    Onrpg.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:25 onrpg.com
    So I finally got into the Necromancer Beta Test for Diablo 3! I don’t know what I was expecting, but without a doubt, without hyperbole, I’m happy with what I’ve played so far. The class itself has been an absolute blast. Before I talk about it, let’s talk about the supposed controversy. The Necromancer will…
  5. PlayStation Store Now Features Curators

    Consolecreatures.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:25 consolecreatures.com
    Have you been to the PlayStation Store recently? If you haven’t, you should check it out because a neat feature that has big developers curating some of the biggest games available on PlayStation right now. The curator program has just begun and there are some big names on this list, including – Shuhei Yoshida, the […] The post PlayStation Store Now Features Curators appeared first on Console…
  6. Shot Online - Honor Pro Level Unlocks Expert Skills

    Mmorpg.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:25 mmorpg.com
    The latest update has been deployed to Webzen's golf simulator Shot Online. In this patch, high end players at level 200+ will be able to take part in the Honor Pro system that unlocks up to 2200 Expert Skills through earning Honor Points to unlock them. In addition, new motions can be unlocked, new portrait frames for Honor Pros and special clothing options have been…
  7. NOVOMATIC hires international product expert John Morris

    Casinojournal.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:24 casinojournal.com
    Since the beginning of April, John Morris has been strengthening the NOVOMATIC Group in promoting its international expansion in his new roll as the vice president global product…
  8. World Series of Poker and Poker Central ink deal with ESPN

    Casinojournal.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:24 casinojournal.com
    Poker Central has acquired the global television and digital media rights to the annual summer World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las …
  9. Xbox Game Pass Launches on June 1st

    Gamingbolt.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:23 gamingbolt.com
    Xbox One's game subscription service is out next…
  10. WW1 FPS Verdun to get a standlone expansion 'Tannenberg' that sees you going East

    Gamingonlinux.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:20 gamingonlinux.com
    Tags: Action, Coming Soon, FPS, Indie Game, SteamGet ready for more warfare, as Verdun is set to get a standalone expansion named 'Tannenberg' [Steam] that sees you heading East. From the release: QuoteTannenberg will be a standalone expansion to Verdun and the second game in the 1914-1918 WW1 Game Series, this time focused on the Eastern Front! As the Russian Empire faces off against the Austro-Hungarians and their German allies, it will feature new squads, weapons and maps, along…
  11. Arizona Derby video trailers overview of new maps ft. rap songs

    Moddb.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:18 moddb.com
    Here you can find an initial overview of Tropical Paradise and Forest Rampage levels. Race tracks are in progress and this is a visual demonstration. It also features rap artist Burton MC songs, which would be included in the…
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    Moddb.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:18 moddb.com
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  13. How do chess engines think?

    Chess24.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:18 chess24.com
    It’s rare to find a chess player unaccompanied by a chess-engine equipped computer during tournaments or training sessions at home. Gone are the days when in order to analyse a complicated position various grandmasters needed to spend hours and even days to try and get to the bottom of things – often without success. Nowadays it’s a matter of seconds for the “machine” to tell us the best move in any position more reliably than the World Champion Magnus Carlsen himself could manage…
  14. Darkness and Flame: Missing Memories Collector's Edition

    Games.softpedia.com - Games
    05.24 / 13:18 games.softpedia.com
    Restore your uncle's memories and go on a dangerous adventure in this hidden object puzzle…
  15. Wings Gaming vs ACE, players against managers

    Gosugamers.net - Games
    05.24 / 13:16 gosugamers.net
    The drama currently unfolding in the DotA 2 community involving the five ex-Wings Gaming players is a subject that needs careful analysis, as the implications are potentially serious.Click here to read the full…
  16. New Appointment In Hungary Marks Pursuit Of Future Budapest Olympic Bid

    Gamesbids.com - Games
    05.24 / 12:46 gamesbids.com
    Budapest’s Olympic dreams are alive-and-well as the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) Tuesday announced the appointment of Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, one-time head of the stock exchange and President of the Budapest Olympic Movement, to be the committee’s strategic consultant. Szalay-Berzeviczy is charged with “re-evaluating the conditions for a future Olympics organized in Hungary as well as strengthening the Hungarian [&#…
  17. Sports betting in LatAm: Beyond the beautiful game

    Totallygaming.com - Games
    05.24 / 12:28 totallygaming.com
    Sports betting in LatAm: Beyond the beautiful gameWednesday, May 24, 2017 - 12:42Ian Bradley, chief product of officer at SBTech, says those eyeing opportunities in Latin America must be aware that player preferences and...Read…
  18. How the Nintendo Switch Revived the Neo Geo

    Denofgeek.us - Games
    05.24 / 12:28 denofgeek.us
    Want to catch up on the wonderful Neo Geo software catalog without breaking the bank? Get a Nintendo Switch. facebook twitter …
  19. Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind unlock times announced

    Rockpapershotgun.com - Games
    05.24 / 12:27 rockpapershotgun.com
    If you’re of a certain age and disposition, one of your main concerns might be: when can I return to Morrowind and pretend the past fifteen years never happened? Steady on there, creaky clogs. I’m sure you know that The Elder Scrolls Online [official site] will launch its Morrowind expansion on Tuesday June 6th, and…
  20. Verdun expandalone Tannenberg hits WW1 Eastern Front

    Rockpapershotgun.com - Games
    05.24 / 12:27 rockpapershotgun.com
    World War 1 FPS Verdun is off to the Eastern Front in a standalone expansion this year, developers Blackmill Games and M2H have announced. Named simply Tannenberg [official site], after 1914’s Battle of Tannenberg, it’ll see the Russian Empire scrapping with the Central Powers from forest to plains. Verdun is fairly serious as shooters go,…