The Home Stretch

 

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Hey all, a relatively short update this month, as I’ve been really busy with the game and I’m trying to stay as focused as possible!

 

What’s New

Much of my time since the last update has been spent on the game’s help system. AtG won’t actually feature a “tutorial” as most people would describe it, as I’ve found that they’re never fun and usually skipped by an extremely large percentage of players (who have caught on to this fact!).

Instead, popups will very occasionally appear describing basic concepts, and presenting a list of related concepts that players can continue reading about if they so choose. It’s very similar to the philosophy behind the game’s fancy new tooltips-in-tooltips feature: here’s something concise, but you 100% control the depth to which you can dig further in. A button in the upper-left corner will take you to the ‘Help Screen’ that contains a full list of the game’s help tips. Tips you’ve already seen will be dimmed out, both here and in the popups, so it’ll be easy to keep track of what you have and haven’t learned yet.

I know some people do still prefer a more traditional tutorial, but given how small the team is we really have to be ruthless with how we prioritize. Furthemore, AtG is a fairly Hardcore game. It honestly isn’t aimed at more casual 4X players who are comfortable hitting end turn a bunch of times in a row and checking in on things every so often. AtG offers several strong hooks for digging deeper and learning more (tooltips-in-tooltips!), so beyond the help tips and existing built-in teaching I’m comfortable saying, “Hey, I’ll explain the basics of how to get rolling but after that it’s time to start using your noggin'”.

Aside from the help system I’ve also been playtesting a lot, and fixing bugs along the way. An options screen is coming online soon, and the AI is now functional on defense, though it still needs some work on offense. We’re also in the process of updating the game’s interface and “title” art, which I can’t wait to show off soon.

 

Faction Traits

As for what’s left, the last remaining gameplay task is attaching differentiating traits to each of the playable factions.

I’ve spoken in the past about making the game and its factions more asymmetrical and ‘roguelike’, and this is a big place where that philosophy sees action. Instead of having a set of symmetrical tribes who are all available at the start AtG takes more of a Binding of Isaac approach, where only one single faction is available when you first start playing, and the rest are unlocked over time and play quite differently from the “core” experience.

Also like Binding of Isaac, the design thought behind the factions is for each to provide a unique gameplay experience, rather than the aim necessarily always being to achieve perfect balance between them (the lack of multiplayer makes this possible). If you want a ‘vanilla’ Binding of Isaac experience you play Isaac, and similarly in AtG if you want the default, ‘canon’ experience you play the Goths. Unlocking factions will be fairly straightforward though: to do so either capture that player’s settlement, or get them to agree to a permanent alliance, which is a new diplomatic option which requires a fairly high amount of Leverage to get a leader to agree to.

I like this design because the focus on variety provides more replayability, and also allows me as a designer now freedom when designing the factions. Sure, some of them will be imbalanced and maybe even broken, but that’s okay. As long as the faction is still fun to play that’s what counts for me. If you want to play the Huns and conquer all of Europe by turn 100 in every game then you have my blessing! I’ll be patching and improving the game post-release of course though, as something that’s broken often becomes unfun quickly. The goal is variety, and we’ll continue refining the design in order to best achieve that.

That’s it for November. I’ll be back early next month with a big announcement, so stay tuned!

– Jon

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