At The Gates Delayed, Still Far Away From The Gates

By Graham Smith on December 2nd, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

'At The Gates' is my euphimism for needing a poo.

At The Gates is the Kickstarted strategy game from Civilization V designer Jon Shafer. It’s been delayed into 2015. In a backer update, Shafer spoke openly about the reasons for the delay.

“Most of the planned big gameplay features are in, but what does it all add up to while you’re playing? Sure, you can explore the map, survey and harvest resources, migrate from one place to another – but why? What the heck are we trying to do here anyways?”

Also it’s all your fault

To solve the problem, Shafer is working hard to implement the game’s intended diplomacy system. Set during the fall of the Roman empire, At The Gates puts you in control of a barbarian faction as you submit to or defy the will of Rome. That means that the structure of the experience – what the player does and what their goals are – is dependent on the Romans and other barbarian rival factions being able to make demands or requests of you.

Why is it your fault? Because it wouldn’t have been possible if the Kickstarter project hadn’t more than doubled its $40,000 target. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to play it before that its new 2015 release date, as an alpha test is running now and the beta should launch early next year. From that backer update:

In the first few months of 2014 we’ll open the game up to beta testing and shift over to ‘tweak and polish’ mode – where we’ll remain for a loooong time. I’ve noted in both the original Kickstarter pitch and subsequent updates that the goal with AtG is not just to make a strategy game that not only breaks new ground but also one that is polished at release. This recipe calls for one key ingredient which has no substitute: time.

AtG could be released as originally planned in mid-2014 as a ‘good’ game. But would it be one of the best strategy games ever? Probably not. As such, I’ve made the decision to push back AtG’s release until 2015.

I know this is disappointing news, but at the end of the day what we all want is a great game, and our team is willing to stick with AtG as long as it takes to get there. This kind of flexibility is only possible because our funding comes from your generosity, and while painful in the short term it will no doubt pay off over the long term. I think I speak for everyone in saying that what we want is an amazing game, even if it means a longer wait.

Which all sounds rather like How Things Should Work.

You can read more about Shafer’s intent for At The Gates by revisiting Joe Robinson’s article from this February.

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21 Comments »

  1. killias2 says:

    I’m sad to see this delayed, but I’d rather see it delayed than rushed. I think the 4x genre needs some genuinely new ideas.

    • Rincewind says:

      I agree. I backed this project, and the longer I have to wait, the better the game will be (I hope). I’m definitely happier to wait for a project to get polished than I am to get an unfinished product early.

    • Jon Shafer says:

      Thanks guys! My original date was a bit aggressive, but I’ve tried to play it safe everywhere else (budget, staffing, etc.) so the only downside of delaying the game is upsetting some our supporters. Strategy fans are some of the best out there though, and I had hoped most folks will understand and be on board with our decision.

      - Jon

      • nitehawk says:

        No, thank you for not attempting a mad money grab by throwing things together at the last moment. Really.

        The “launch fever” big title games get sucked in to tends to lead to failure.

    • GamesInquirer says:

      So would the game be pretty bad and pointless had it only just achieved its initial goal?

      • Jon Shafer says:

        Bad? No. Not as polished? You bet.

        We’re not delaying AtG because we HAVE to – we’re doing it because we want the game to be the best it can possibly be.

        - Jon

  2. Baines says:

    Thinking about it, stretch goals are a bit of an issue when it comes to release dates…

    I don’t think Kickstarter really has anything built in to handle floating release dates, something that would change as extra goals are met. Even if it did, how would you deal with people who donate with an original release date, only to see a successful campaign tack on stretch goal feature after stretch goal feature and seeing the estimated release date similarly climb?

    No, it isn’t a crippling issue. And Kickstarter does ask people to be forgiving of slipped dates. But some of the more successful Kickstarters, or the ones with ambitious stretch goals that can’t really be delivered in their own separate releases, do see their development time increased perhaps substantially simply due to being particularly successful. And it is annoying for a contributor to see an estimated delivery date come and go without a finished game anywhere in sight.

    • Jon Shafer says:

      I agree completely, and think you’re absolutely right to worry.

      Stretch goals are a huge risk and just personally, I don’t like them very much even as a gamer. The stretch goals we added for AtG were intentionally very conservative. Adding more goodies for extra funding makes sense, but most projects completely blow out their scope.

      Unfortunately, I think we’re probably going to see an awful lot of Kickstarter failures here the next couple years, and my hope is that it doesn’t completely sour the gaming audience on the funding model. A game like AtG couldn’t exist without it.

      - Jon

    • Lanfranc says:

      Of the various games I’ve backed on KS, I think at least half have suffered from delays of various kinds. Banner Saga, Consortium, Hero-U, Divinity: OS, Unwritten, etc.

      And I think that’s perfectly fine. it’s not a problem. Kickstarter is not a preorder system, and I don’t really care about whether creators keep to some arbitrary deadline. What I care about is that they make the product that was envisioned, and that sometimes requires more time than was (or could have been) expected before the project was launched. Of course it requires good communication to let backers know what’s going on, but it’s just how things work.

  3. ankh says:

    Let’s hope this game will be as good as the band that shares it’s name. Looks like it could be.

  4. Vegard Pompey says:

    Kingdom further gone, then? I’ll wait in the shadows of neverwhere.

  5. Jon Shafer says:

    Oh, by the way, does anyone know how to change your RPS account avatar? I don’t see an option anywhere for that on the [Edit Profile] page. I’m just not sure I’m, uh, awesome enough to be represented by a pink noodle man…

    - Jon

  6. animlboogy says:

    With the beta playable for much of 2014, this doesn’t really sound bad at all, as long as you have the stomach for playing a work-in-progress.

  7. Strangeblades says:

    Can’t wait for At The Gates!