Shacknews - John Keefer

Civilization 5 lead designer Jon Shafer has kickstarted a new 4X turn-based strategy game called Jon Shafer's At the Gates, coming from his new three-person indie studio, Conifer Games. The game is about half-way complete already and he is looking for a modest $40,000 target to get it officially off the ground.

"The core aspects of the game are all in-place, but a lot of the peripheral, more 'boring' work still needs to be done," he told Shacknews. "Things like sound effects and hotkey systems. We also want to polish up the art and add nice 2D animations for all the units and the landscape. The gameplay also needs iteration time. The features are in but the game hasn't had much playtesting, and I'm sure it's not very much fun to play at this rough stage! There’s also a lot of AI work still left to do."

Shafer has already taken a cue from the Sid Meier school of game naming. "Making games is a tough business, especially as an indie," he said. "You really have to take advantage of every possible opportunity to spread the word about what you're up to. I was very fortunate to have been chosen as the lead for one of the biggest strategy titles of the past decade. As a result there are a few people who actually recognize my name. If putting that in the title will help increase the chance that the game succeeds. As a brand-new businessman I have to take advantage of that. Though, yes, I do feel a little bit dirty about it."

At the Gates lets the player take on the role of a barbarian tribe battling the Roman Empire in its waning days. It may look a bit like a Civ game, he said the differences run deep.

"The fact that the game transforms as you play is a huge difference," Shafer said. "The effects of the seasons means that you have to be more flexible and plan ahead more. Sending an army off in the winter without making sufficient preparations is a death wish. And if you don't have enough food saved up your people will starve. Much of the time in a Civ game you can pretty much just play on autopilot. Hitting the end turn 10 times in a row might not make much of a difference. Well, in ATG that would be a really, really bad idea."

When seasons change, rivers will swell, farms stop producing food in winter, and coastal areas can turn to ice. Shafer said the game's resources will deplete over time, so you can't sit back and hunker down waiting for the enemy to come to you. You will need to continue to explore, meet new leaders and be diplomatic.

"The main way of building relations is through completing requests, and these requests are all situational," he said. "You can't just give another leader some food and expect them to like you. Just imagine how that sort of thing would go over with someone you've just met. But if that same person is starving to death and you give them a meal the context and effects are completely different. That's the idea behind diplomacy in ATG."

Shafer said that there is a possibility of modding for the game as well. "We've been thinking about XML modding, a map editor and even releasing some source code for the game, but it all takes work. Honestly it depends on how the Kickstarter campaign does. ... We'd really like to flesh out the modding side, as well as add more factions and gameplay options. If the campaign does really well, we might even look at crazy stuff like making the Roman factions playable."

With the modest crowdfunding goal, Shafer is optimistic. "Our scope is tight. We don't have a complex, expensive 3D engine, nor are we including multiplayer. We know what we want from the game and there's very little risk," he said. "One of my goals with ATG is to really mix things up with the 4X genre. I feel that there hasn't been a lot of innovation in that space during the past decade, and I'm hoping that ATG shows that there's still a lot of meat that we haven't yet gotten to. I strongly feel that the 4X genre has been underserved and people really want more of these types of games. The fans are a passionate group, and I think they'll be really excited by ATG."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Civilization V may be getting another large chunk of content. A listing for an expansion titled "One World" has been spotted on a database, fueling rumors of more content to come for the world culture simulator.

The executable file listing was spotted on the Steam Apps Database, and then spotted by users on the 2K forums (via Joystiq). This is far from a solid confirmation, especially as Firaxis hasn't mentioned any upcoming content, but it does give eager world-conquerors reason to hope for some more variation coming to the game--as if it didn't have enough already. 2K has responded with the usual "we do not comment on rumors or speculation" line.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Ever keen to experiment with digital distribution, Steam is trying something unusual on XCOM: Enemy Unknown pre-orders with publisher 2K. Rather than offering fixed bonuses, Steam will unlock increasingly fancy goodies as more people pre-order, including extra character customisation options, Team Fortress 2 hats, and a free copy of Civilization V.

Everyone who pre-orders through Steam will help the "reward" drive, which seems to hope it'll inspire a little of that Kickstarter feeling. Customers are fast approaching the first unlock, a pack of cosmetic XCOM pretties including shiny new armour, paints for armour, and a recruit with the classic X-COM: UFO Defense flattop haircut.

The flattop also features, in the second tier, a pack of TF2 goods. This offers that good old flattop for the Soldier, a creepy sort of alien head for the Pyro, and a very swanky medal. Lastly, if loads and loads of people pre-order, everyone will also get a free copy of Civ V, or a gift copy if they already own it.

Of course, Steam's charging the full $50 for XCOM, so you might instead fancy buying it from somewhere that simply knocks a few dollars off the price instead. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is coming to PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 9.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Civilization V recently got a lot more holy with the Gods and Kings expansion, but some of you fence-sitters haven't yet indulged in abusing religion for your own selfish ambitions. If you're still itching to give your theocracy a try, you'll be happy to know that a demo for the game is now available.

You can grab the demo from Steam and give it a try. The expansion adds new civilizations, religion and city-states, new wonders, new scenarios, and espionage. It seems like a pretty hefty chunk of Civ for $29.99, but the the demo is one way to test the waters for yourself.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Firaxis is cutting out Civilization V's existing mod browsing system to slip in Valve's sleek and chic Steam Workshop, publisher 2K Games has announced. As in Portal 2 and Skyrim, it'll let you easily peruse, download, rate, and submit mods through your browser or the Steam client.

While the announcement comes shortly before the launch of Civ V: Gods & Kings on June 19, it's not exclusive to the expansion, and will be patched into the base game too.

If you've yet to use the Steam Workshop, have a gander to get an idea of what's on offer in other games. As for more information on the shiny new things coming in Gods & Kings, the official site has great big bags of it.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Civilization V is getting ready for some of that old time religion, also known as polytheism. To mark the Gods and Kings expansion, Firaxis and 2K Games are offering the game as free to play for this weekend, lasting from today until Sunday, May 27.

If your taste of ruling over kingdoms tempts you to buy the full game, this weekend is a particularly cheap way to do it. All of the Civilization V content on Steam is 75% off, which means the standard game can be had for $7.49. You could get the Cradle of Civilization downloadable content for $2.49, or the Game of the Year edition with extra maps and civilizations for $12.49.

The Gods and Kings expansion is scheduled for June 19 in North America. It will add religion and religious city-states, new diplomacy options with espionage, new scenarios, and a reworked combat system.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

With Sid Meier's Civilization V just about to celebrate its first birthday, publisher 2K has announced a Game of the Year Edition for Firaxis' historical strategy game. Boasting a whole host of downloadable content, it's slated to launch on September 27.

The GotY edition has a sticker price of $49.99, which is fairly respectable considering the included DLC comes to $37.44 by itself. Curiously, it doesn't pack all current Civ V DLC, only most of it. The recent Korea and Wonders of the Ancient World packs, which cost $7.49 together, are both excluded.

Here's exactly what's in the box:

  • Sid Meier's Civilization V (standalone game)

  • Civilization and Scenario Pack: The Mongols

  • Civilization Pack: Babylon

  • Cradle of Civilization Map Packs: Mesopotamia, Americas, Asia and Mediterranean

  • Double Civilization and Scenario Pack: Spain and Inca

  • Civilization and Scenario Pack: Polynesia

  • Civilization and Scenario Pack: Denmark - The Vikings

  • Explorer's Map Pack

  • Sid Meier's Civilization V digital soundtrack

Shacknews - Tyler J. Smith

Shacknews receives a slew of new screenshots and trailers for upcoming games everyday. The most anticipated titles receive their own post, because we know you're eager to see that content. For the rest, we have the Daily Filter, a place to feature all of the media we add to our enormous database on a daily basis.

Today's Filter features a developer diary for Bodycount, a teaser trailer for Deepak Chopra's Leela, and new screenshots for Sid Meier's Civilization V.

Bodycount


Deepak Chopra's Leela


Sid Meier's Civilization V

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

A huge update for Sid Meier's Civilization V launched on Steam yesterday, bringing the long-awaited Hot Seat multiplayer mode along with heaps of changes and updates.

Hot Seat multiplayer lets several players compete in front of the same computer, taking their turns, well, in turn. The changelog also notes, "While play-by-email is not yet implemented, we did include an in-between turn saving option for those that want to play via email."

Complaints about a lack of difficulty have been addressed with pacing tweaks. "Expect to have more of a challenge managing your empire at higher difficulty levels than you did before," the notes state. "Consider dropping a difficulty level if you have problems."

The patch also brings scores of tweaks, changes and fixes. On the AI front, you can expect computer-controlled nations to create better army compositions, behave more sensibly in diplomatic matters, pursue "back-up" victory paths, and properly execute late-game amphibious invasions if land-bound.

Units, buildings, tech, and nations have been all shook up with dozens of balance tweaks. If you load an old save into the new version, the notes warn, "the balance pass may make your existing happiness lower than expected when loading into your existing save post-patch." Plus your once-brilliant army might be a bit rubbish now, of course.

Do check out the huge full patch notes to see exactly what's new.

Shacknews - Xav de Matos
The Aspyr Media-developed, Mac version of Civilization V has just received a swell of new content [via BigDownload]. Premium DLC for the turn-based strategy game is currently available on GameAgent.com and is expected to arrive on Steam soon.

Downloadable add-ons include packs featuring the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Asia, and the Americas for $2.99 each or $9.99 as a bundle. The Babylon Civilization pack and Spain and Inca pack are available for $4.99 and $7.99, respectively. The Mongol DLC pack is also available, albeit for free, and "will automatically download upon launch of the Steam client in Online mode."

The premium downloadable content was first offered as pre-order incentives from multiple retailers before arriving for purchase on PC in December. Civilization V launched in November, two months following its release on PC.

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