Unlimited expansion by us and the players

By on November 28, 2008 12:28:45 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Some of the concepts we're talking about will be hard to envision without actually having the game but one of the real innovations we're trying to introduce with Elemental is the concept of unlimited expansion.

The key to this is not hard coding civilization capabilities but rather leaving them open-ended.

So let me start at the beginning:

When someone first gets into Elemental, the relationships will be simple between things. A player who wants to design a horse mounted knight will need to have researched animal husbandry which lets them train horses. They will need to have a city that has used one of its tiles to make use of a herd of wild horses on the map. They will need a mine on a metal deposit to create the armor.  And once they have all those things, it'll be a matter of training and equipping the knight.

The above example is one of the more complicated relationships one will see initially in Elemental...

But what about users who want to keep making more and more sophisticated relationships?

Maybe I want to have knights equipped with sunfire dread chain mail riding tamed Demon steeds and the knights have a secondary power of carrying tomes of unmaking which vastly increase their damage in battle?

Well, there would be a host of technologies one would have to have researched. There would have to be spells researched as well and new city buildings that produce these tomes and then have been enchanted to make these tomes magical. The demon steeds would require various technologies and the finding of demons to be tamed in the first place and so on and so on.

How do you control the level of sophistication here so that it doesn't become too complicated?  The answer is with a new series of game options that are practically games unto themselves.

Because, did I mention, that all the things mentioned in the second example were things produced not by us but by players and broadcast to all other players so that you have access to them automatically? No expansion packs needed. No paying for mini-content needed. It's just thousands of players creating cool stuff and broadcasting it to one another.

So here's how players control it.  They have a screen called the Bestiary where they can control what types of creatures are in game. When someone broadcasts content, Stardock moderators rate and define it more closely. From this screen, players can decide what types of creatures they want, the quality of the submission desired (we will rate the broadcasts in terms of production values as well), etc. These creatures will have associated technologies that are attached to them that are required.

There will be additional screens for managing resources, techs, etc.

So for most players, they will probably stick with what we include or maybe a handful of expansions that Stardock provides. Others will insert some content made by other players. And still others will go for a truly huge scope experience.  But the point is that players control this.

Now someone might say that a lot of this sounds too ambitious. But Stardock already does a lot of this, today, right now, on WinCustomize.com with its non-game stuff. 

Now what is the gameplay result of this? One of the cooler things that will result is that the units that players make use of will really be different from game to game. And there will be a real pay off in the battles for players who have managed to assemble the necessary components to create some of the truly sophisticated units.

In multiplayer, the default it going to be the least common denominator settings. We will probably have other options but we won't know until we've had a chance to play it online with you guys to see what other settings are the most fun.

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November 28, 2008 12:34:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Awesome.

Can't find other words...

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November 28, 2008 1:04:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sounds really good. I guess this wouldn't work for SP since how the AI would identify what is better to produce? (I hope this game have SP...) If there is I hope this path don't let the SP too limited in production for the ones who like it. Hope its another feature, and not one that would exist and eventualy cover other productions. If not, is just great to allow, seems viable, and will certainly be used and make the matchs more different and varied, without changing the vanila gameplay way since they are still chains of production with it being increased/decresed (or resource being rare) has balancement is needed. I think this is the right game to make use of this.

And in the close-up battle animations, will Demon Steeds (and other player produced material) be it? If so I imagine what will be changeable are the units skin with some skin editor 'a la' spore and their stats. But great to implement nonetheless. Basic models avaliable for player change/modifications will all be pre-designed for use? Or is it to player be able to design things?

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November 28, 2008 1:05:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

wow. Incredible.

For multiplayer, could be nice to establish what's available before the game starts by auto-getting what's missing. There could be a screen where each player can vote or chose custom stuff and when everything is decided, the game auto-download what's needed and then starts.

Just a suggestion, you probably already have better ideas hehe

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November 28, 2008 3:15:22 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Sounds really good. I guess this wouldn't work for SP since how the AI would identify what is better to produce? (I hope this game have SP...) If there is I hope this path don't let the SP too limited in production for the ones who like it. Hope its another feature, and not one that would exist and eventualy cover other productions. If not, is just great to allow, seems viable, and will certainly be used and make the matchs more different and varied, without changing the vanila gameplay way since they are still chains of production with it being increased/decresed (or resource being rare) has balancement is needed. I think this is the right game to make use of this.

I'm coding the AI and designing the system so it will definitely work in single player too. The AI will adapt.

Look at how the AI in Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor automatically adapts to player mods. This is just taking it a few steps further.

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November 28, 2008 4:10:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you Frogboy for the description, it is indeed very promising, lets hope users will have tools to make a lot of different looking units variants, maybe it could be used by "delocking" textures depending of powers combined in the items.

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November 28, 2008 4:11:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think this won't work for MP unless there are mods grouped together in "sets" that are widely accepted. Even then, if the gameplay changes a lot, one may or may not want to use such mods. So it's a great idea, but I believe one must be able to submit mods which are "just" the sum of some other mods. Eventually, a few such mods will emerge and be more or less widely adopted by MP community (for instance the Candle Bre Mods in Dominions: often used for MP games but some shun them because you have to re-learn the game and srength and weaknesses of your nation you spent months mastering).

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November 28, 2008 5:40:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hm, as great fan of MoM and AoW:SM I'm a little bit confused of your design goals. You want to write a fantasy 4X-all-is-possible-nothing-is-unpossible-game with the biggest map you ever seen with tons of units and so on? I can't believe that is possible. There are too many game mechanism to work together in the right balance.

PS: Do you think about updates of the screenshot gallery?

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November 28, 2008 5:47:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So for most players, they will probably stick with what we include

Count me among them.  What you describe sounds cool, but I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to game content.  I'm also a firm believer in Sturgeon's Law: "99% of everything is crap" and I believe that it applies doubly to game mods.  You guys may be ranking and sorting them based on production value, and so forth, but that won't address issues of game balance.  It's difficult enough to create a balanced game in the first place, but when players can now piece together 45 different mods at once, game balance will be nonexistent.  I also worry that with many people playing with non-standard units, spells and features, the feedback and discussions on the balance of the core game itself will be significantly reduced, and that it may suffer in the long run.

I'm sorry for being so negative, but I figure from the line of yours I quoted above, you recognize that there are many people that feel this way.  To me, playing a game created by input from thousands of players is like watching a movie created by consensus of thousands of viewers.  I'd much rather see a coherent, consistent, and tight production from a single writing/directing team.  With that said, I look forward to playing with all of the official Stardock-produced content, and only that content.  I'm sure it will be well designed and well balanced.

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November 28, 2008 6:17:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am so happy to hear there is going to be a "what is in the game" options menu that will be really expansive with AI that adjusts to it.

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November 28, 2008 6:33:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Damn, but I love ideas that make me revisit my past assumptions. I'm, so far, seriously 'conservative' about my 4X TBS fixation. I've never done multiplayer because I've never had both easy access to a LAN and friends who loved a game I loved at the same time. And MMO-anything has pretty much read like so much BS to me, even well before I saw the painfully insightful episode of South Park called Make Love, Not Warcraft. (I know and love folks who are that sort of gamer, I'm just not one of them.)

But we're terribly early in the dev cycle for Elemental, and Stardock game devs are unusually game-centered folks, so I'm letting myself get hopeful. Sturgeon's Law is fun and/or handy for much of one's reading, but that 99% needs some immediate discounts here for both genre (4X TBS) and dev shop (Stardock). Plus, I am a role-player at heart, and that "balance" talk has always seemed like jock crap to me and has no value if you're talking about some amazing fusion of playing a Napoleonic or US Civil War miniatures game and re-imagining one of your favorite fantasy novels.

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November 28, 2008 6:35:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Do you have a way to handle ownership and adapting other people's work? For example, someone might make good art and attach it to bad game mechanics, or vice versa. Or the things they have made not quite balance against the other races in your game, and so need a little adjustment.

Often successful mods are based upon an aggregation and then distillation of various people building on each other's stuff, starting of course with the original game developer. Would there be a way to ensure this happens, without people feeling they've had their work stolen?

I would suggest some sort of version history, including what changes made by who, might work. It might overcomplicate the system though, I'm not sure.

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November 28, 2008 7:24:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very awesome!

But I'd like to have some idea of how the design tools actually work, specifically when it comes to doing the visual representation of the units. When I make a 'demon steed' model, do I have to use a third party tool like 3DS Max (just giving out an example) or will it be like GC II and Spore where the models are all built in and it's just a matter of connecting the pieces together as I or any other user sees fit?

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November 28, 2008 7:32:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cauldyth,
Count me among them.  What you describe sounds cool, but I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to game content.  I'm also a firm believer in Sturgeon's Law: "99% of everything is crap" and I believe that it applies doubly to game mods.  You guys may be ranking and sorting them based on production value, and so forth, but that won't address issues of game balance.  It's difficult enough to create a balanced game in the first place, but when players can now piece together 45 different mods at once, game balance will be nonexistent.  I also worry that with many people playing with non-standard units, spells and features, the feedback and discussions on the balance of the core game itself will be significantly reduced, and that it may suffer in the long run.

I'm sorry for being so negative, but I figure from the line of yours I quoted above, you recognize that there are many people that feel this way.  To me, playing a game created by input from thousands of players is like watching a movie created by consensus of thousands of viewers.  I'd much rather see a coherent, consistent, and tight production from a single writing/directing team.  With that said, I look forward to playing with all of the official Stardock-produced content, and only that content.  I'm sure it will be well designed and well balanced.

Totally agree.

Most game mods just don't work for me. Either they destroy balance, add inconsistencies (either in graphics or game mechanics) or are just missing something else.

There are very good exceptions of course, but they're quite rare. There are some very good mods for CivIV for example, but even the better ones often lack either graphic artists or good writers to make a really coherent and tight product. (I don't want to diss the Fall of Heaven mod, which is great, but it's one of those examples where the graphics (and sounds) are more often than not scrapped together from various sources, thus lacking coherence, which a professional product wouldn't have (a good professional product of course .) Not to speak of the very long developement cycles amateur products naturally have.

 

So yeah, I don't really care for the introduction of user made content and I hope StarDock delivers enough content that I don't have to fall back on it. Call me lazy or snotty, but I don't really want to browse through hundreds of entries and posts to find the few gems that exist and would be nice fitting in my oppinion. (And I'm quite sceptical that a review process would really work that well for a product that relies on coherence as much as a 4x game...)

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November 28, 2008 8:18:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Plus, I am a role-player at heart, and that "balance" talk has always seemed like jock crap to me and has no value if you're talking about some amazing fusion of playing a Napoleonic or US Civil War miniatures game and re-imagining one of your favorite fantasy novels.

Well, those latter two would be considered full conversions, and thus would be internally consistent.  I've got no problem with things like that, but what was described in the journal entry was a mechanism to incorporate all sorts of things from different sources into a single game.  The role-playing aspect, which I can completely relate to, actually worries me as much as the balance (and by balance I meant terribly unbalancing things, not the subtle things that Starcraft or Civ4 players get worked up over).  I like consistent worlds, which follow their own logic and have a history and reason behind everything.  If I suddenly see Drow battling Balrogs, while an enemy channeler summons an army of walking genitalia, it'll sort of break the immersion for me.

Stardock game devs are unusually game-centered folks

This is why I'm not truly worried, as I'm sure the out-of-the-box game will be great.  In addition, Brad already acknowledged that most people will play the stock game, so I'm sure it won't be neglected.  I just want to voice a counter-opinion to all the enthusiastlcally supportive ones.

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November 29, 2008 12:35:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nice to know that the AI will adapt to mods. I play Single Player a lot. I hope this game manage to have an attractive multiplayer tough, with co-op. I'm sure I'll join this one.

I really think the custom stuff will be somewhat balanced for this game. This will be just a matter of having some different things  for your many games, with also different stats/characteristics. Balanced content will have a separated section, and Stardock might test and guarantee the most popular ones. I'm also the kind reluctant to use modification unless balanced. I beleave, many people would use this feature, at least to add 2 spells and 1 cool rare creature for their next game, etc. It's not about changing the whole game (maybe only if picking packs).

I keep in the line when I think if its better to have a world with it's own strong characteristcs very emphased (The creatures that existe in it, what is magical and what not, for it to have its own story and feel unique) or feeling like an open place to put things into. Maybe it will feel has both.  I think it will be good to pick a few units/objects/powers to change the experience in bits especially if the matchs are durable (reads: Epic). And also be easy to compreheend with a list of what the chain of productions are. Better yet will be having a list of prefered and balanced cool new additions, and allow the game pick a few of them by random to add to the vanila world, especially if there will be fog, which I beleave will. It might feel like hearing your shuffle music [They are all good but what am I going to get this time?]. I would never change vanila too much, unless there are very well made packs that change the whole thing, for some matchs.

I guess many will use it, if the skins are well reproduced and beliaveble during close up battles. And I hope matchs are durable, so you can remember them like, that "Demon Steeds match" etc. Also from the 'picture' I'm getting that almost everyone will be capable of producing material? I heard it will be similar to Spore uploaded content system somewhere.

[Some people talking about balance, has I see it: For exemple, an unbalanced content can exclude everything else that there are in the world. If Gold Armor sources are abundant why use the Metal Amor, and what will be the valor of the Gold Amor if everyone can have it?. Lets say the Demon Steeds are very powerful and relatively rare to find a group of them, then it can even only have a medium chain of production for it, but its 'resource' or the groups of it, will be very scarce troughout or in very especific habitats and be hard to tamme/train if it gots agressive behavior. But if a channeler (player) appears more close to it or find it, then the game might turn in his favor. Everything needs to be balanced to be fun, and can be, in a way]

Sorry the english mistakes.

EDIT:

Another game that have chains of production and resources. This feature sounds has like is used in the Railroad games where varied resources and animations really adds to the fun. I can't forget for exemple, a game (in SM: Railroad) where I happened to have my start industry in the northeast, a region that were good for grape and had many productions of it (~90% of the avaliability). I happened to be successful there and considered myself the Grape KING, and that was a memorable match to me. Another matchs, the gameplay is intact, but I could transport cattle, gold or cars that had different models, animations and ways to deal with, so the game would feel yet more fresh while mantaining the core gameplay. The more possibilities the better.

Likewise in Elemental, a player can happen to start in the south Icy Regions and beggin to set his cities there. In that game was added a blueish white kind of steed, that happens to live at that habitat. He found 90% of the sources of it there since the map generated only one big polar region. In another region of the map a second player got access to the Demon Steed that live at inospit places; it is more powerful than the Frost Steeds but not has docile or easy to train, meaning access to less numbers and he also only got 30% of its total sourcers. He might look for another source type and mix his army mounts if needed. First player will be known for his characterists of having battalions of men only with the finest Frost Steeds in march in that match. A third player got access to another source of rare Demon Steeds and also magical Forest Bears or Wood Elfs that live there and are willing to help, if you can convince them.

All these were added apart from the vanila ones that everyone already played with to much, and yet balanced to feel like vanila stuff. Vanila were Griphons that habit mountain caves and Hardened Horses but you played with them a lot. This can be changed and balanced just like the Railroad game that can have many different resourcers types with different characteristcs (gold, corn, cattle, grape, cars, iron, passengers, mail, etc, that don't fit into the same match) to give more uniqueness to matchs that will come subsequently. Some almost equaly good, some not so good, some incredible great but scarce or hard to produce. Strategy (what to do, how to do) and some luck (exploring) is what makes the gameplay.

Gold might be the best mineral to make armors, but in another match you can make extremily rare Titanium comes into play, or let the possibility for randomness to emphase exploring even more.

Kind of like Spore ideology too for mods, its not to change the core gameplay like most mods usualy do in other games, its just to add differenciation and variety to it. Vanila gameplay will still be there. This just need to be well implemented and will be a success. At least that is the way I see it and would like; if there is a way to the mod units and spells to feel solid in the simulated battle screen, that'd be amazing imo, but seems complex. It can be player's or company's content, but I liked the variable idea anyway, that is, to add new things in the world to come into play (or change), when they are balanced.

 

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November 29, 2008 1:41:34 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Will there be a way to add content other than units?

Why not adding some custom dungeons (with the ability to create the dungeon map, the creatures, place them, place traps, maybe even events like, for instance, push that lever to open thaht door, water level rises or you have 4 turns to reach the exit, etc... !!! )

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November 29, 2008 1:57:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting vieuxchat,
Will there be a way to add content other than units?

Why not adding some custom dungeons (with the ability to create the dungeon map, the creatures, place them, place traps, maybe even events like, for instance, push that lever to open thaht door, water level rises or you have 4 turns to reach the exit, etc... !!! )

I know players will be able to add new Spells other than Units. Maps will probably all be randomly generated following customizable settings. Don't know if there will be dungeons, but they could also be randomly placed, pre-maded or not. Sounds fun.

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November 29, 2008 12:57:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'd like to see an option for multiplayer in which people could bring in a certain number of custom units.  That way, that particular MP game would play out similar to a CCG in which you have to decide what special units you're going to bring to the table.

I do like opening the game up to a player's imagination.  It means you can never be quite sure what you're going to run into out there.

 

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November 29, 2008 1:34:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sounds interesting and all, but I have a few concerns:

1) Is stuff going to be broadcast the moment players make units? I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a private person. As such, I think that any units (or other stuff) I make is my own damn business unless I decide otherwise.

Besides, as with Galciv 2, my units names will likely take the form of a shortened list of stats (tech prerequisites to be more precise). As such, many players might not realise that the "Skt M5 SAL-465-S5" is supposed to be my Soul Knights.

2) About copyright issues. Do players who makes stuff have copyright on their material? How about if they keep it to themselves? How about if they submit it so others might use it in their games? How about if they become good writters, and wish to make a novel/TV Show/Movie about their creatures and other stuff? Do they have to be concerned that someone might show up to cause legal troubles if their material achieves the fame that Harry Potter has?

The reason why I ask is because I heard about stories about that any creature made by using the game, Spore became copyright of EA. This would even go so far as to allow them to use player created creatures in ads and commercials.

3) Can players package and submit content? Maybe a single player with an artistic talent, or atleast a talent for making this game's units, decides that he wants to create a small universe of units and creatures. Maybe a bunch of friends decide that they have made a healthy ecosystem of monsters and wants to share.

Once a universe is made, could players then provide a history for this world in general? How about giving each unit, spell, or other stuff their own description, history, and impact on society?

If I had this feature, I would make it so that my Soul Knights were fierce enemies of Necromancers. I would have it so they had a history of fighting along side other good aligned units and creatures. Perhaps I would have them being fierce rivals of the famous Paladins.

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November 29, 2008 6:03:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Awesome! With such new content the game won't become boring and each game can be a truly unique experience. And each player has the choice to play as he likes. Sounds almost too good to be true ...

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November 29, 2008 6:27:02 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Do you have a way to handle ownership and adapting other people's work? For example, someone might make good art and attach it to bad game mechanics, or vice versa. Or the things they have made not quite balance against the other races in your game, and so need a little adjustment.

Often successful mods are based upon an aggregation and then distillation of various people building on each other's stuff, starting of course with the original game developer. Would there be a way to ensure this happens, without people feeling they've had their work stolen?

I would suggest some sort of version history, including what changes made by who, might work. It might overcomplicate the system though, I'm not sure.
Wincustomize has a long history of sharing content.  Some content is posted as "open source" but many artists there simply contact other artists asking to use thier work.  As long as permissions are included with the upload (email with headers) the moderators pass it through.  The moderators there rely on the community to identify rips from this or that artist.  A quick PM to the mods showing the original work andthe new work will result in the work being pulled until ownership or permission is clarified.

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November 29, 2008 6:32:36 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

1) Is stuff going to be broadcast the moment players make units? I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a private person. As such, I think that any units (or other stuff) I make is my own damn business unless I decide otherwise.
No.  It is your option to upload.
2) About copyright issues. Do players who makes stuff have copyright on their material? How about if they keep it to themselves? How about if they submit it so others might use it in their games? How about if they become good writters, and wish to make a novel/TV Show/Movie about their creatures and other stuff? Do they have to be concerned that someone might show up to cause legal troubles if their material achieves the fame that Harry Potter has?
If it follows the WC model, the artist has copyright to whatever they upload.  Stardock has the right to use it. 
3) Can players package and submit content? Maybe a single player with an artistic talent, or atleast a talent for making this game's units, decides that he wants to create a small universe of units and creatures. Maybe a bunch of friends decide that they have made a healthy ecosystem of monsters and wants to share.
Again, based on the Wincustomize model, content can be shared publicly or privately or in collaboration.

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November 29, 2008 6:48:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I had a thought about this question that no one seems to have raised yet.  How does this concept relate to the different factions?  The way factions/races were differentiated in MOM was by what kinds of units and buildings they could build.  If the kinds of units and things you can build are more controlled by the presence of resources on the map, how does this relate to how one faction is differentiated from another?  I liked the cities of different races in MOM, and how this controlled how useful a certain city was, and what you could produce there.  Just curious, hopefully there will be more information available on this question at some point.

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November 30, 2008 11:02:17 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm flat out drooling.  The possibilites mean replayability will go through the roof.

Preordered and climbing the walls waiting fot the beta!

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November 30, 2008 2:34:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

OMG, Frogy I love you! you guys are my number one game company!

Can we get a date for when the beta will start? I'm flat out broke (student life...)  and I want to start hording money for the pre-order.

 

Warder

*/going to the corner to drool/*

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