Announcing: At the Gates

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I have some big news that I’m very excited to share with you all!

A few months ago I founded Conifer Games, a small development studio dedicated to building ‘meaty’ games like strategy and hardcore RPGs. Our first project is At the Gates, a 4X turn-based strategy game which takes place during the fall of the Roman Empire. Players take the reigns of a fledgling barbarian tribe trying to forge a place for itself within the new order.

Our team has been working on At the Gates for a while now, and we feel it’s finally time to start showing it off. We already have a fully-playable prototype completed, but the game still has a long way to go.

The development of At the Gates is being entirely funded through Kickstarter, so please consider contributing if this is a project you’d be interested in. The game is jam-packed with what I believe are very, very cool ideas, and I truly believe it will open up a new chapter on the 4X genre.

There’s already a ton of info about the game over on our Kickstarter page and our official website, but we’ll be adding even more to that in the coming weeks. Folks, you might want to change your homepage, as I’ll be posting a new article describing a major aspect of the game or its development every couple days for the next month!

It’s going to be a wild ride, guys. I hope you join me and see where it goes!

– Jon

20 thoughts on “Announcing: At the Gates

  1. I’ll be honest, 25 bucks feels too much. If it was 20 bucks with a 15 buck limited early backer tier, I’d pledge immediately, but right now I’m leaning towards “wait for release and reviews”.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Captain Person. We felt that 25/30 was fair for a complex 4X strategy game, and I’m sorry you don’t agree. Hopefully we’ll be able to change your mind at some point, either now or after release!

      – Jon

      1. I get the impression, that his comment wasn´t so much about 25 being too much for a complete 4X game, rather that it is too much for the advancement payment, for the possibility of a game which may or may not reach it´s goals, and which may change during development.

  2. Will there be melodic death metal playing in the background?

    1. Our people are talking to their people. 😉

      – Jon

  3. Game design looks really solid, but my biggest concern is the reliance on AI. You say that the AI is the most important part of a single-player strategy game and I have to say ‘bullshit’ (forgive me for using such strong language, but I am really, really excited about the project and this is a common pitfall for 4X games – I see At the Gates to be a game that could potentially stand the test of time, and I wish it to succeed at that). Here is something I wrote in a forum post about AI in singleplayer games:

    ” so far, the best way to create challenge in single player games is to have lots of independent pieces that have simple, easy to apply actions and patterns. Generally, giving AI actions available to players is bad (since they would be too ambiguous for an algorithm, which is what even the most sophisticated AI is) and giving players actions available to AI is also bad (since that would be very flat). If the actions rely on specific conditions (like positioning), gradient and timing that is a good way to create ambiguity and inherent complexity for the player to deal with. If the actions react to, and use player conditions you can create a curious feeling of “playing against yourself”, as the AI uses player actions to hurt the player, but the player is forced to act. This also creates a double link, where the player can use her actions to make monsters do something, though this should happen *very* rarely and should require some sort of payment on the part of the player. The monsters would be easy in homogeneous groups, but once you start throwing different monsters with different actions and patterns at the player, that’s when things get interesting and a lot of inherent complexity will rise up.”

    Anyways, the point is, if you look at XCOM (the old one), and how it stands up even now, it’s because the AI in there has an ‘unfair’ advantage of having access to tech and units unavailable to the players. A player is a thinking, learning, adapting being, while AI is an algorithm, no matter how many steps it has, so it *needs* that advantage to keep even the expert player at his toes. The trick is not making it cheat (or even if it cheats, make it interesting for the player to deal with). At the same time, if an AI can play a game competently, it’s probably not a very deep game.

    1. Great thoughts Dasick, I agree with your assessment. I replied in a later thread, but the idea in ATG is that you’re battling more than just other AI players. The game itself presents an obstacle to players, and this is what helps reduce or eliminate the snowball effect present in so many 4X games. I really love the idea of the player competing with a greater power of some sort, rather than fighting ONLY equal foes. In fact, this may be something that features prominently in all of my future games. 🙂

      – Jon

  4. Hmmm, how come this is yet another kickstarter? Seems like exactly the sort of game Stardock would be interested in developing? (Or Paradox).

    1. The advantage of Kickstarter is that it allows developers to run completely independently. Working with a publisher certainly has its advantages, but it does mean giving up (sometimes a significant level of) control.

      – Jon

  5. Looks like some interesting points in the design – I’m hoping to chip in soon as I exit my being broke period.

    I am definitely interested to see what you can come up with when working on a project with your own studio. That removes some, uh, constraints 😉

    1. Thanks Solver! I’m not sure if you’ve contributed to a Kickstarter campaign before, but if not they don’t actually change you until the campaign ends (March 8th, in our case). Actually… can you even use KS over there? If not, we added a PayPal widget to our website ( just in case. 🙂

      – Jon

  6. Wow, this is really a game worth waiting for. I’ve just watched the gameplay video and it was nice to see so many original features packed in a historically themed game that is balanced and challenging. I can’t wait to get my copy and judging by the pace of pledging there are lots of people eager to play it. I wish you the best of luck, Jon, and hope this game will be the first in a long series!

    1. Thanks crisp, I can’t wait until the game is out and everyone can play it for themselves! 🙂

      – Jon

    1. Woohooo, thanks Chris! 🙂

      – Jon

  7. Congratulations on your new project, close to reaching the goal now. I share a lot of your views on strategy games, for the mid game loose of interest consider establishing mid term goals that will give take you to different paths. I will join the alpha if the DLL modding is available, bit selfish on my part but for me it is all about modding, had to wait so long for CivV’s one. Also for the tactical combat take a look at Battle for wesnoth I think they did a very simple yet interesting mechanism.

    1. I completely understand Carlos. We’re not too much further away from the DLL modding now, so hopefully we’ll be able to hit that goal and we’ll be able to see some awesome mods! 🙂

      – Jon

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