Product Update - Valve
A Civilization V SDK update has been released. Change list:

- World Builder would hang indefinitely for some users rather than loading into the main menu. This is now corrected.
- Visual C++ 2010 Redist and .NET 3.5 are now installed automatically, removing a required step after the initial install.
Product Update - Valve
A Civilization V update has been released. Change list:

- If you build defensive structures in your city, then save and reload, the hit-point bonus would disappear.
- Hun Battering Ram promotion which allows it to only attack cities is now lost upon upgrade
- Civ5 Touch - Fixes the oddness when rotating tablets
- Graphical - Fix issue with Rock of Gibraltar not showing up correctly.
- Fix the bug where the Maya AI didn't have to pick a different GP for each Baktun
- Fix an issue on a city flip/gift which would cause loss of city plots forever.
- Fixed a bug where liberated CS would not show their vote correctly in the Victory Progress UI screen
- Fix graphics bugs when the game was restarted too many times in a row.
- Shortcuts created through the launcher now function correctly.

- Fix a crash that happens when an AI loses its capital, but still has units, so is still alive.

PC Gamer
At the Gates 201

As of the writing of this article, there is just over a day and a half left in the Kickstarter for At the Gates, the upcoming, Dark Ages 4X game from Civ V designer Jon Shafer. The team at Shafer's new studio, Conifer Games, has already demolished the original, $40,000 goal. Notable stretch goals already met include full mod support and two new factions. We caught up with Jon in a follow-up to our announcement interview to get his thoughts on how the campaign went, and what we can expect from At the Gates after it's funded.

PC Gamer: The Kickstarter is almost over, and you guys have already doubled your original goal. What has the experience been like, overall? How has the level of success compared to your original expectations?

Jon Shafer: I was pretty confident going in that we’d hit our $40k goal and expected that we’d finish a small bit above that. But you really never know. Hitting our target in under four days was a big surprise, and we had to nail down our stretch goal plans sooner than we’d planned. Based on the number we’re trending towards I would definitely say it’s surpassed our expectations by a fair bit.

Was there anything in particular that surprised you?

"Another surprise was the number of other companies that reached out after seeing the Kickstarter campaign."Yes, there were a few surprises along the way.

The first was the sheer volume of questions and supportive messages we received. For a couple weeks I was getting over a hundred messages per day, and there were definitely times when I was tempted to waver on my commitment to answer everyone individually. But the activity calmed down eventually and I made it through to the other side.

It was great to see people I’d never met or spoken with take up the At the Gates banner and wave it as their own. When people say that Kickstarter is more than just a way to fund a project but also a marketing campaign in and of itself they’re not kidding. This wasn’t even something I’d thought about before, but based on my experience the effect is very real.

On a related note, another surprise was the number of other companies that reached out after seeing the Kickstarter campaign - many of them through Kickstarter. Investment, distribution, localization, conversion to other platforms, IT, music... you name it, I’ve been asked about it. I’ll probably be sorting through these opportunities for several weeks after we’ve wrapped up. So far nobody’s offered a huge pile of free money, but I’m still holding out hope!

The core team at Conifer is about as lean and indie as you can get.

Are you still planning on keeping the team very small, or will some of this new funding allow you to expand a little?

The higher budget will definitely allow us to hire on more contract work. Prior to the campaign I was unsure of how much animation we’d be able to incorporate in the world, but we’re now looking at utilizing it for pretty much all the art. It’s also likely we’ll bring on some help to help with modding tools like the map editor.

"I want to explore new ideas and experiment with innovative features. They might not all work out, but with a small company they don’t have to."Aside from that, the core team and the goals are the same as they’ve always been. We’re mainly viewing the extra funds as giving us the ability to polish the game more than would have otherwise been possible. The gameplay is still our focus. I feel that many companies that smash through their funding goal and dramatically change their scope lose sight of that a little bit.

What is/are the best thing(s) about making a game through Kickstarter without the oversight of a commercial publisher?

The biggest perk is that you can focus entirely on making the best game possible. Every publisher wants to deliver great games, but large businesses have to be focused on the bottom line. If they’re not, people lose their jobs.

The advantage of being an indie is that you can set priorities for yourself. I certainly need to make enough money to keep doing this, but beyond that my goals are all creative. I want to explore new ideas and experiment with innovative features. They might not all work out, but with a small company they don’t have to.

Have you discussed post-launch content among the team members at all? Might we see some of the stretch goals (if they don't end up getting funded) as paid DLC or expansions down the line?

It’s possible. I’m not a big fan of the traditional DLC model, but the prospect of making the Roman factions playable really intrigues me, as that would require making big changes to the core design. My general philosophy is that as long as there are interesting ideas to explore I’m there.

I wouldn’t hold your breath for any map packs or sequels from Conifer though. If you do right by your community and offer an adequate level of modding then they can take care of that themselves.

What do you feel like you'd do differently, having just about wrapped up your first Kickstarter experience?

"If you do right by your community and offer an adequate level of modding, then they can take care of that themselves."I tried to prepare as much as possible before we launched and the campaign as a whole went fairly smoothly and has obviously done incredibly well. If I could go back and do it again there are a couple changes I’d make though.

Big, meaty articles are a great way to show potential and existing backers that you’re serious about what you’re doing, and that they have reason to trust in your promises. But each one requires a major time investment, and trying to squeeze those articles in with everything else can be exhausting. “Current me” would be a lot happier with “past me” had I been able to knock those out before hand.

The leadup for getting the Kickstarter out the door was also pretty rushed. In a recent update I shared the story behind the creation of Conifer, and those final couple weeks were pretty intense. Fortunately, next time I won’t also be launching a company at the same time, which should simplify the process quite a bit.

I’d also tweak the reward tiers. I received many comments along the lines of “I’d like to give you more than the base amount, but I’m not willing to go all the way up to a hundred bucks - what can you do for me?” We made an early decision to avoid physical rewards, but there are still other opportunities like digital strategy guides, soundtracks, etc. We added some of these after the launch, but a more organized approach would have helped both us and our backers.

Thanks to Jon for talking to us, and keeping us posted about the project all along the way with some very detailed dev blogs. Those interested in backing At the Gates still can—$25 gets a DRM-free copy of the game.
Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on Sid Meier's Civilization® V, Sid Meier's Civilization IV: The Complete Edition & Sid Meier's Civilization® III Complete!

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

PC Gamer

Jon Shafer, designer of Civilization V, has successfully funded his upcoming At the Gates on Kickstarter with 22 days to spare. Today, in an update on the Kickstarter page, he took a long and merciless look into the mirror of self-criticism, admitting what he perceives as mistakes in the design of Civ 5 that he hopes to make up for in this new project. Everything from AI programming to unit stacking is dissected.

One particular element of Civ 5 he singled out was the AI design, and the way that many of the computer-controlled leaders would behave somewhat randomly. He pins this on a very complex diplomacy system with lots of moving parts, that often didn't present any kind of outward logic to the player. "The only thing which matters in a game is the experience inside the player's head," he wrote. "It doesn't matter what your intentions are or what's going on under the hood if the end result just isn't fun.

"With I'm staying completely focused on the end goal: results. This means a much simpler AI system, which in turn will result in a much stronger opponent. When you as the developer know exactly what an AI player is doing and why, it becomes much easier to recognize bad behavior and fix it."

He was also very critical of his decision to institute the One Unit Per Tile rule, explaining that it caused issues with everything from AI to production times.

"In Civ 5, every unit needed its own tile, and that meant the map filled up pretty quickly. To address this, I slowed the rate of production, which in turn led to more waiting around for buckets to fill up. For pacing reasons, in the early game I might have wanted players to be training new units every 4 turns. But this was impossible, because the map would have then become covered in Warriors by the end of the classical era. And once the map fills up too much, even warfare stops being fun.

"...The key is the map. Is there enough of room to stash units freely and slide them around each other? If so, then yes, you can do it. For this to be possible, I'd think you would have to increase the maximum map size by at least four times. You'd probably also want to alter the map generation logic to make bottlenecks larger and less common."

If you're in the mood for a long read, you can check out the full essay, which goes through just about every design element in Civ 5 and puts it under the microscope, offering solutions to his perceived problems that will be used in At the Gates. In case you missed it, you should also peruse our interview with Jon about the game.
PC Gamer
Civilization V Gods and Kings Gustavus

If you've been holding off on buying Civilization V in the hopes of snagging all of the released content in one package, your day has finally arrived. Civilization V: Gold Edition includes the Gods & Kings expansion, along with all of the map, civilization, and scenario packs for $50. That's $10 cheaper than buying just the base game and the expansion separately on Steam. Of course, this won't be the complete collection for long if the rumors about the upcoming One World expansion are true. But it's still enough content to keep you busy for a while. (180 hours, in my case.)

Compared to vanilla Civ V, you'll be getting Korea, Spain, the Incas, Denmark, Babylon, Polynesia, the Celts, the Netherlands, the Mayans, Carthage, Byzantium, the Huns, Austria, Ethiopia, and Sweden. Not to mention some pretty cool scenarios, including my personal favorite, Fall of Rome. If you'd like to see Gods & Kings in action, check out my Civilization V Chronicles, our review of the expansion, and the Steam demo.
Product Release - Valve
Sid Meier's Civilization® V: Gold Edition is Now Available on Steam!

The Gold Edition contains Civilization V, Civilization V: Gods & Kings and all of the Civilization V DLC in one bundle!

PC Gamer

Civilization V designer Jon Shafer has come down from the mountains, into our frozen world, to reveal At the Gates. To develop it, Shafer's new studio, Conifer Games, is asking for $40,000 in funding on Kickstarter. Check out the video above for an overview of the game, then dive into some finer details in our interview with Shafer below.

PC Gamer: I noticed you have unit stacking implemented right now. This was famously absent from Civ V, and personally, I was one of the people that really loved the more tactical warfare that model allowed. What was the reasoning behind bringing unit stacking back for At the Gates?

"Think of it as a well-developed game of chess..."
Jon Shafer: The focus with warfare in At the Gates is supply. Every tile has a supply rating which is based on the type of terrain and whether or not it’s within supply range of one of your settlements or supply camps. Timing when your invasions take place is critical, and success usually comes down to holding out or cutting off the enemy’s supply, rather than building a front line (a'la Civ 5) or who has the biggest stack of units (a'la other 4X games). Think of it as a well-developed game of chess where each side is waiting for the other to provide an opening, and once one is exploited resolution comes fairly quickly.

One of the big reasons why I went this direction is to really play up the new seasons system. The weather had a huge impact on the way wars were fought, and I wanted to make sure combat took advantage of not just the mechanics in the game, but also had a nice tie-in to history.

Your tribe captured a stronghold at one point in the video. What benefits do these give you, and how do they differ from settlements and cities?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure yet! They may turn into normal settlements at that point, they might just serve as trophies for your victory, or they could have some unique effect. Something I still have to figure out!

"I really wanted the economy to be much more strategic."
Is it possible to build new settlements (both mobile and immobile?)

It is. The Pioneer unit is able to build new settlements.

Can settlements "settle down" and become cities?

There will be ways for them to become fixed—for example, if you build walls. There will also be Romanization Perks that give you a bonus, but come with the drawback of your settlements becoming fixed to where they are. Roman cities are also obviously cannot move.

Do you need to stay in proximity to an improvement to benefit from it? Or can you gain resources from as many as you can defend?

The latter. The role of settlements is more limited than in other 4X games, in that they produce a small amount of wealth, serve as supply nodes and are able to build new units. But you’re not going to be managing what tiles they’re working or anything like that. I really wanted the economy to be much more strategic. There’s a nice tension where you have to decide between moving on to new lands and protecting what you still have.

Does winter have an effect on the outcome of combat, beyond limiting supply?

The primary effect is definitely supply, but the changing of the terrain also affects defensive bonuses, movement costs, etc.

What are the benefits of holding a city (as opposed to strongholds and settlements)?

Roman cities produce quite a bit more wealth via taxes, and they’re also eventually able to build special types of units that you can’t from your plain ol’ settlements.

Is it possible to build your own roads eventually? What benefits do roads offer?

Nope, no roads for you. The roads on the map are fixed from the start. They provide a movement bonus, as in other 4X games, but that’s pretty much it.

What years are covered by the game?

The game starts in 375 AD, and will definitely wrap up within a hundred years. The specific dates and number of turns is still up in the air, as that will be determined by gameplay.

Something else I should note is that the turns in ATG are much more “dense” than in other 4X games. You have the seasons to consider, depleting resources to manage, diplomatic requests to watch for, etc. Production for most items is immediate, so you won’t be hammering the end turn ten times in order to finish things. You really want to be paying attention at all times!

Can you tell us anything about the other playable leaders besides Attila?

The final list hasn't been nailed down yet, but the goal is to make them very distinctive from one another. Everyone has an idea of Attila in their head, but this is obviously a period of history that few people are really familiar with. That’s great in a sense because it gives us some room to play around with ways of differentiating them, but it also necessitates that in a way, as Fritigern is a whole lot less well-known than, say, Julius Caesar.

Do specific tribes have special abilities, such as North Germanic bands being more equipped for harsh winters?

Absolutely. This ties heavily into the idea of each faction being very unique. As you noted, some tribes will be able to deal with the harsher seasons better. For the Huns I’m considering something very different, where they can’t actually own any fixed improvements or cities, and can only acquire resources by moving around and pillaging. Still have to playtest it to make sure it actually works, but it sure sounds like fun!

"I didn't feel that a heavy emphasis on 'city' development would really make sense in this era."
How many climate zones are there?

At the moment there are seven ... I’ll probably make the system more granular later when I have more time.

Does population play a role in the game?

It’s required when training new units, and they provide wealth each turn but that’s about it. As noted above, I really wanted the focus economically to be on your empire rather than specific locations. I didn't feel that a heavy emphasis on “city” development would really make sense in this era.

How many religions are in the game? Do they have any effects beyond diplomacy modifiers?

Just three: Nicene Christianity, Arian Christianity, and Paganism. Their effects are limited to diplomacy, so there’s no missionaries, conversion system, etc. Religion certainly played a large role in this era, but it was mostly as a diplomatic and political tool. I didn't want to burden the game with a complex system when I felt I could get exactly what I wanted from it by keeping it as a fairly simple but still powerful diplomatic knob.

Can you make requests of other tribes, or manipulate them to fighting each other/your enemies?

The specific requests system showed in the video is limited to the AI players, but there are definitely ways to ask them for favors, alliances, etc. though, and their willingness is very much tied to your relations. Finding ways to get that number up is a big part of the diplomatic game.

How close is the art in the game right now to the final version?

The plan is for the game to be released in the first half of 2014 and most of the art development time is still in front of us, so I would expect it to change a fair bit. I couldn't say how exactly, as that will ultimately come out of the iterative process. One major difference is that the units and landscape will be animated, whereas right now they're obviously all static images.

How large is the map, in comparison to the total area shown at the end of the demo?

The video showed the entire map used in that game, but you’ll be able to play on ones that are much larger if you’d like. Don’t know what the exact dimensions will be yet, but it will be at least four times as big as what you saw there.

Is it possible to subjugate other tribes?

That’s still up in the air. I certainly like the idea of it, but I have yet to come up with a design that I’m happy with. The trick is for it to be more useful than just conquering the tribe and running it yourself!

What does the Glory resource do?

Glory is basically your score. In order to win you have to have at least 500 Glory and capture either Rome or Constantinople. Not sure if that will remain that way in the final version of the game, but that’s how it works right now at least!

Thanks to Jon for taking time out of coding and pillaging to speak with us. There's a bit more info available on the At the Gates official site.
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."

PC Gamer
Crysis 3 Ceph-thrower

On the cusp of an open multiplayer beta for Crytek's maximally lustrous Crysis 3, Nvidia released an early version of its GeForce 313.95 drivers today. The GPU giant claims the drivers boost SLI performance for Crysis 3 by up to 35 percent in addition to other "sizeable SLI and single-GPU performance gains" in games such as Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3.

Nvidia says users should expect a 27 percent gain in graphics performance while playing Assassin's Creed III, 19 percent in Civilization V, and 14 percent for both Call of Duty: Black Ops II and DiRT 3. Just Cause 2 improves by 11 percent, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, F1 2012, and Far Cry 3 all improve by 10 percent.

Demonstrating its mastery over orderly green bars, Nvidia also supplied benchmark charts for these games using four of its most recent cards: the GTX 650, 660 Ti, 680, and 690. With the 313.95 drivers, the company declares GTX 690 users can max out all settings in Crysis 3 and still achieve 60 FPS.

Grab the new drivers and check out the charts at Nvidia's website. Also try out the GeForce Experience—which we've talked about at length—to automatically optimize and configure your games based on your PC's hardware.