Civilization V lead designer Jon Shafer today announced that he has formed a new Michigan-based studio, and launched a Kickstarter to fund its first game.

Shafer, previously lead designer at both Firaxis Games and Stardock, has founded Conifer Games, a studio dedicated to designing strategy and hardcore RPGs.

The studio currently consists of Shafer as president, Kay Fedewa as art director, and Jonathan Christ as architect, and its first title will be the Kickstarter-funded At the Gates.

At the Gates is a 4X turn-based strategy set during the fall of Rome. Players take on the role of a barbarian tribe that is looking to carve a path for itself through all of the destruction.

With this latest project, Shafer says that he hopes to explore new angles on the empire building game genre, adding that he believes smaller, agile studios are more suited to shaping innovation in the games industry.

Shafer's Kickstarter target is set at $40,000 -- a modest sum compared to many of the campaigns that have been run by industry veterans in recent times.

[Mike Rose wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra.]