Jon Shafer's At The Gates


Didn’t Jon have “broken ribs” at one point during the most difficult part of this?
Though I could see substituting a physical ailment for the psychological trauma he was going through.


Just finished reading that after getting the email. Very heavy stuff, for sure, and a brutally honest assessment of issues I’ve seen other projects struggle with in a considerably less open manner. Fantastic to know Jon is on a better track, spared at last from that vicious, self-destructive cycle.


This could be a huge boon to others who have thought about going on stimulants, whereas maybe the best thing in the end is an excellent psyche who can identify the issue within the person and design a solution like what Jon found out for himself.


Just finished reading this also when I realized I had the email.

I have been sometimes vocal in the past about pulling for Jon, and forgiving, and many times privately pulling for him, so reading how he has turned things around for himself is really awesome. I think I was an early $80 backer and not concerned whether I would ever play the game again, as long as Jon ended up okay. Reading about this turnaround and the chance to play the game soon is great to hear. Hopefully his journey will help others, and give him the strength to continue a long, successful life now.


I think we were all worried about Jon. I don’t know how AtG will turn out to be, but I’m much more thankful he’s okay than that he finished it.


Well said. As a Kickstarter backer I always wanted the game, but I also felt Jon’s well being was most important. I’m glad he managed to turn around, because no project or job is worth your well being like that.

Good luck Jon. I hope At the Gates is something you can feel proud of and I’m glad you are in a better place now personally.


What an amazing story. I had assumed he had health issues but I’m in awe of his ability to share to this degree. Highly recommend that everyone read this, even if you have no interest in Jon or the game. It is a story of pure human survival.


I’m really glad that Jon’s doing better now, that was a hard but important read.


I will buy It and support him myself. My time in Attila: Total War still makes me mesmerized about the era.

Plus he is a long proven designer.

I will wonder when the game is “finished” as is my historically obnoxious stand.


Building a complex strategy game mostly by yourself is no small feat but I was actually pulling it off.

@Jon_Shafer if you are reading this as one developer to another, I am begging you. Mentally prepare for failure. Build up your defences now before you release.

To paraphrase Lee Iaccoca, he said he was never afraid of a meeting or a business decision because he always examined ahead of time what he would do if he failed. Then he could go into the business without fear, because he knew what he would do if he fell flat on his face. He had a mental defence plan for failure.

Have a plan. What are you going to do a month after launch and its clear sales are not what you want them to be? What if there are over a dozen previously undiscovered game breaking bugs that you and testers missed? What if after you fix those bugs by crunching even harder than you did during development you are clearly selling nowhere near enough to to justify carrying on with the project? What if your reviews are mixed (or worse)? What if the games press kindly ignore it or less kindly hate it? What if some players hate you and your game? What if they tell you should should kill yourself its so bad? What if at the same time you know the game achieved what you set out to do and you love it?

Whats your plan to mentally handle that? If you dont have one get one. Please.

You can make other games you can get other jobs. One game does not define your self worth as a human being, hell making games doesnt define that.

Just because your game is great for you and your beta testers does not mean its going to succeed financially or critically. Its succeeded for you and you completed it and fixed any bugs, that’s enough of a win. Know when to take the win , do right by your customers, then move on.

I say this because I took a similar (but much safer) road to you. I took a year off to make a complex strategy game entirely solo and all the above happened to me. Even though I gave myself the advice I am giving you, it still was a massive punch in the face, and I had a few million bucks in the bank as a safety net. I dread to think what dark places I would have gone to if I wasn’t financially comfortable and mentally prepared.

Hopefully my advice will look laughably foolish in a few weeks and we can all celebrate. But just in case, please start thinking about Plan B now. You might need a light in the dark to follow in the weeks ahead. Hopefully you will never need it but start prepping.

I daresay other developers here who have made games solo will give you similar advice.

Good luck and cant wait to play!


What game did you make?


Cults and Daggers



I genuinely enjoyed that game!

There were a few small parts I didn’t understand, but I had a great time with it and completed more than one game to the end. I should check to see if I ever made a Steam review for it…


I enjoyed it as well despite a rather clunky (and I think Rod will admit this) interface.


For anyone worried that some crappy shovelware is going to be thrown into the public - I’ve been playing the latest beta and its a fascinating game with a lot of replayability (full disclosure, I’ve yet to formally win). There are a lot of small bugs around the help system - hopefully they’ll be fixed before release.


I’ve beenin/seen comments from enough betas that the phrase “Hopefully they’ll be fixed before release” always tells me exactly what bugs will not be fixed before release!

But, if the only bugs are around the help system (and often documentation is written at the end of a project!), that’s not so bad.


I can concur with this. It’s mainly little things - unfinished tool-tips, the odd missing texture… In the December game-build I think I had one CTD in total? The balancing of the clan traits (in terms of what you’re given) could be better but really I think I just didn’t want the tough choices I had to make xD

It will probably lack the breadth and, outside of resource management, depth that some people may be expecting, but the planning and specialising of your tribe is very engaging.


It seems that the consensus on Steam is that the price is too high? I suspect that’s probably the consensus on most Steam boards however. Ever thought of doing sales? I know some people think that’s not the way to go but it has certainly got me to buy a lot of games that I never would have otherwise!


@Rod_Humble I remember seeing this before. It certainly looks interesting.

I’m sure you’ve been asked this before but have you thought about giving it a graphical/UI makeover?

The subject matter seems to me like it’ll be eternally interesting.


Here’s a very recent Let’s Play of what I assume is an up-to-date build.
Not familiar with the You Tuber but he seems competent.