Alpha II and Beyond

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Alright, let’s talk about what this milestone means for the game itself!


Seasons & Map Generation

This was actually a bit of a detour from the original plan, but I had long known serious work was needed here, and the map is so crucial to everything else that I decided to bite the bullet.

The old system for creating and managing the seasons was extremely primitive – and it showed. Climate zones were assigned in thick bands based on latitude, with small modifications made near mountains. Randomness was leaned on heavily in an attempt to add some fuzziness. In the end, rather than getting large cold fronts advancing from the north you were instead treated to obvious and unrealistic stripes, with the occasional snow tile peppered here and there.

Climate and terrain is closely linked, so when I decided to redo the former I felt it best to step back and add map generation to the task. What we want are believable maps that contain regions with strong character, but the old logic could do little more than produce an even mix of terrain across the entire map. I decided to basically burn everything to the ground and start over.


The Reason for the Seasons

If you haven’t done so already, I ask that you check out the At the Gates Kickstarter page. Our goal is to innovate and take strategy gaming to the next level, but this campaign will be our sole source of funding for development. And hint, hint: the more successful ATG is the more articles you’ll have to read in the future!

To those of you who have already contributed and helped us reach our funding goal, I offer my most sincere thanks!

One of the most exciting features we’ve incorporated into At the Gates is seasonal map change. But what actually happens? How random are the effects? What design risks do seasons pose? And where did we get the idea for them to begin with? All of these questions – and more – shall soon be answered!


Why Seasons?

In my last article I talked about how important random maps are in the 4X genre. To summarize: 1) unpredictable environments force players to adapt their strategies, instead of going through the same motions in every game. 2) They add replayability, as there’s a sense of discovery each time you play.

However, most strategy games have steered clear of maps that change as you play. In part, this is the result of theme and scope, as a game which covers 6,000 years doesn’t really lend itself well to a map that changes from turn to turn. But while understandable, this is still a huge missed opportunity.