Weekly Update #2 - Clans
Welcome to the second pre-launch weekly AtG update! Every Sunday afternoon a new article will go up, and each week will have its own theme. This past week our theme was the clans, and you can also follow along with future (or past) daily updates on Twitter. You can also check out previous weekly updates on the AtG website.
Clans as Economic Game Pieces
Clans are the people which make up your tribe. They arrive in your settlement periodically at a rate determined by how much of the Fame resource you're producing each turn. In the early game clans arrive fairly regularly, but you need to invest to keep them arriving at a steady rate.
Training clans in different professions is how you get things done in AtG. If you want to explore the map then you train one of your clans as an Explorer, and if you want to start harvesting some Fruit to feed your people you'll want to turn someone into a Gatherer.
Every profession belongs to one of six disciplines: agriculture, livestock, metalworking, crafting, discovery, and honor. Over time clans accumulate experience in the discipline their profession is associated with, and this allows them to much more easily switch between professions within that same discipline. Switching to a profession outside that discipline resets all of this progress back to zero though, so it's important to plan ahead and not switch people around too much.
Clans as Characters
Clans aren't just chess pieces though - they also have desires and feelings of their own defined by their 2 traits. There are around 100 traits in AtG, so there's quite a wide variety of combinations. These traits range from a clan starting in a profession upon arrival to not wanting to spend time out in the cold.
Clans can develop desires, and these usually relate to their traits in some way. Most of your clans won't require any special handling, but a few will certainly require attention in every game. If you have a Boisterous, Aggressive clan it's probably a good idea to send them somewhere else.
When clans are unhappy with their situation their mood rating will drop. This results in a penalty to economic and military performance which increases dramatically as they become more restless.
Feuds can also develop between clans, and when this happens the only way to resolve it is to pick a side and publicly punish the other. Punishing a clan strips it of its profession and gives it a permanent mood penalty. Sometimes a disagreement is mild enough that you can safely ignore it, but should it escalate you'll likely be forced to intervene, as it's better to have one useful clan than zero. AtG laying down some hard management lessons, right there!
Poorly behaved clans can also commit crimes, which lowers the mood of all other clans on the tile. When a clan shows up who you know will likely get into trouble it's usually wise to act proactively and send them off on their own where they can't stir up any trouble. These sorts of events are never truly random, so there's almost always room for some good strategy and proper planning to prevent an even tougher situation down the road. That said, there will be games where it seems like everyone who shows up is some kind of problem child or another. AtG ain't always fair like that!
AtG Before Clans
Despite how fundamental clans are to the gameplay of AtG there was a lengthy period of time early in development where they simply didn't exist at all.
In the initial design your settlement contained only a generic population number that ticked up a bit each turn. Training units required population, but there was no personality, no names, nothing. Just train what you needed and go.
In the end I decided to move away from this model and add a new fundamental system at great cost to the project's schedule simply because it was necessary for AtG to develop into a fun, replayable game. The original concept involved migration, seasons, and exhaustible resources, but that was about it. There was no greater arc to the game, no real sense of progress. Because you were regularly packing up and moving and leaving no structures or roads or anything behind it just felt like you were continually starting over. It really wasn't fun.
So I had to find some way of making it feel like you were actually accomplishing something, even if you found yourself moving a great distance across the map from where you started. Since you couldn't build anything permanent this progress had to be something you could bring with you. In the end I borrowed an idea for a future game, drew some inspiration from games like King of Dragon Pass and Crusader Kings 2, and ended up with the clans system.
It was a long, hard road that basically involved rebuilding the entire core of the game, but it's paid off. The game is a lot of fun, so much so that even I as the designer still really enjoy each and every game. And that's not something I can say about any of my previous work.
The theme for next week's updates will wrap up our look at the economic side of the game, and dig into resources, the caravan, and more. You can follow along throughout the week on Twitter, or check back here next week for a new article.