“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.