Jon Shafer's At The Gates


I’d forgotten about this game; DasTactic’s video reminded me of it. Wishlisted, thread watched. I will be waiting to see some honest commentary from these forums before purchasing though; I’m not in the position to buy games at full price unless I’m very confident I’ll get lots of hours out of them.


I’m very very interested in this. 2019 seems to be shaping up to be a very good games year.


Weekly Update #3 went up before the New Year, this update revolves around Economics in At The Gates.


Weekly #4, in which he invokes the R-word.


Another element AtG borrows from roguelikes, Binding of Isaac specifically, is how the factions work. In BoI you start with only a single character and unlock more as you play. Your original character is pretty vanilla and provides players with the “base” gameplay experience, whereas all the others are basically interesting variants distinct in one or two important ways. This adds still more replayability to AtG’s already-robust foundation there. Purists will want to always play the Goths though, as the game was basically designed around and for them, whereas Attila starting with a powerful Horse Archer and being unable to own structures is very much not how the normal game plays.

The way you unlock new factions in AtG is either by conquering their capital or forming an alliance with them (the latter being quite difficult now, but will become less so after diplomacy is fleshed out in a future post-release update). This gives the factions an “achievements with actual meaning” feeling, something I also really like in BoI .

I love this, but I understand some people hate unlocking things.


I like it as well. And considering the default way to play is always available, I think he handles unlocks well here. It’s maddening to play a rogue like and feel like there isn’t any way to achieve victory until you’ve unlocked a ton of meta game crap, imo.


This immediately made me much more interested in the game. Love this structure.


I don’t like that something as important as diplomacy is still essentially under development and will come in a post-release update.


Agreed. This may drop from a Day One purchase to wait-and-see.


Oh man. This is very problematic. What if the game doesn’t sell well? How much effort will be put into such a critical component in that case?


I’ve been dabbling in the alpha for years and have yet to actually get out of the early game with this, but that’s still a challenge in itself. I would confidently say that diplomacy is not really a concern at that point, you’ve got plenty of other things to worry about.

I imagine when you start butting heads against other tribes for land and resources it may be, but you can declare war on people. I wouldn’t say this requires a Civ-like nuance to dealing with other factions, not to begin with anyway.


In my mind, there is a distinction to be made.

In many games, unlocks grant powers which primarily make the game easier. I find that perverse… so when you are still learning the ropes, the game is objectively harder, and by the time you know the game well, it is objectively easier. No thank you. Yeah, I understand that this gives some players their sense of accomplishment, but I very much prefer my sense of accomplishment to be encapsulated within a single playthough.

But as far as I can tell, At the Gates has unlocks to provide games that are markedly different, rather than easier. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no problem with that.


You mean like how Slay the Spire let’s your play as just one character at the start but once that run is complete you unlock the Silent, and then the Defect?

I quite liked that.


Yeah, I like it, but I think an argument can be made that it’s not much different from unlocking fighters in Smash or guns in Battlefield. More options, rather than a straight power increase. Some people hate that. They just want all toys available to them at the start.


I get the impression the unlocked factions will not only play much differently than normal, but be quite challenging for players, though.


Right. I think he’s got a good reason for doing it the way he did. Start everyone off with the “primary” experience faction, then unlock harder/weirder factions as players get a better grip on the game’s mechanics. But you know how people are. There’s always going to be the type of player that sees the Hottentots and thinks, “Screw waiting! I wanna be the Hottentots now!”


Jon’s finally shared his story as to what was happening “behind the scenes” as it were. You hear a lot of unfortunate stories about devs and how the work can consume them, but I don’t think I’ve ever read something like this.

I’m so very glad he managed to come out the other side…


Holy shit, I just read that update from the email. I don’t even know what to say, except glad he is turning things around.


An amazing read. Thanks for posting this.


Chris Parks over at Arcen has been going though something as well, which is why AI War 2 has been delayed and delayed. I feel really bad for these developers. I’m glad Jon seems to have pulled through.