Ex-Civilization V designer wants to see an end to ‘dead turns’
Conifer Games founder Jon Shafer has told Press2Reset that he aims to correct many of his common gripes about strategy games in his upcoming title At the Gates.
Shafer said, “I’ve always believed the key to a good strategy game is giving the players the ability to build strategies. Then when they’re executing them, force them to adapt along the way.”
Set as the Roman Empire is starting to crumble under the pressure of invading barbarian tribes, At The Gates casts the player as one such threatening force. Players will lead their tribe to conquer one of the two Roman capital cities. Shafer’s first innovation is to have the map itself provide a challenge.
At The Gates plans to have players adapt to ever-changing conditions by having a map that evolves as the game does. Each turn in the game represents a month, and with the passing seasons new conditions will challenge the player. Summer will dry out areas, rainy seasons will flood river valleys, and coastlines can freeze solid in winter to provide temporary ice bridges for troops.
On top of the seasons, Shafer says the land’s resources will deplete over time. This will force interaction with neighboring tribes and the powerful Roman Empires, whether it be by way of war or diplomacy. As the game progresses, players will see sources of food and wealth vanish forcing hard choices to either migrate elsewhere, or take it from others.
Add in random events that will send the world into chaos, and you have a challenging scenario that has players making tough calls and compromises. Shafer said he believes gamers will enjoy the density of each game turn, adding, “At The Gates will actually feature fewer turns than most empire builders, but there will be more going on in each one.”
Conifer Games plans to keep the pace high in At The Gates by seeking to prevent the mid-game drag that frustrates Shafer. He counters this pitfall with a game that gets progressively harder, but still provides adaptive strategy options. Romanization perks that help your tribe build ships or siege weapons can be reallocated if your current strategy is failing, or is inappropriate given new game conditions.
Shafer explained, “The fun in strategy games is being faced with a challenge, coming up with a strategy, executing on that strategy, having to change the strategy, and it working, and you overcoming whatever that challenge was.” Shafer said the variety of strategy options in At The Gates translates into a better product, “If you’re able to give players the tools to overcome more challenges, then you’re going to derive more enjoyment from the game.”
Shafer added that his game will be relentless but rewarding, “There won’t be any dead turns where you’re hitting ‘End Turn’ ten times in a row. Every turn is going to have a lot going on that’s important.”
Conifer Games is aiming to have At The Gates released for mid 2014. The game is currently campaigning on Kickstarter, where it has received pledges that take it past its $40,000 target, totalling $75,435 with 9 days of the campaign still to run.
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