The idea of multiple discrete victory conditions is excellent.
In the following, I would like to introduce an idea about an additional one as well as furnish some suggestions regarding some of the existing ones. First, regarding two of the existing ones.
I. Quest Victory: By no means do I think the Master Quest victory should be the accumulation of many smaller quests, as we have often heard, nor should it be completed by the completion of one single large difficult act, such as slaying a dragon. Rather, I think it should have a dynamically generated narrative element, along the following lines, whereas the single elements of the following “story arc” should be able to be interchanged from a central pool governed in part by feedback from the current game world. The following is an example for a Master Quest Arc available to a member of either the Human faction or the Fallen faction. Other Quest Arcs could involve faction-specific stories (see below).
1. Sovereign hears a rumor from NPC Q regarding an ancient tower in land L, believed by the populace to have existed since before the Refounding of the world and believed to hold secrets regarding a dangerous plague.
2. Sovereign investigates, finds tower locked. He must either find key or otherwise gain access.
3. In tower, sovereign finds scroll regarding plague. Scroll indicates that magician M in land L has hidden a magic urn which will release the spirit of a demon who will grant its releaser any wish in the world. There is supposed to be a map where the general location of the urn is indicated hidden in a cave in L2. L2 should be a place far away from L, to be determined dynamically by the computer.
4. Cave in L2 is guarded by Protector P. Sovereign must somehow gain access, either by stealth, wits, guile or strength.
5. Map is found in L2, indicates location L3, which might even be required to be behind enemy lines. L3 should, when investigated, uncover a small neutral settlement where the location of the urn will soon be stumbled upon and uncovered by prospectors if the sovereign isn’t fast enough.
6. Sovereign should find urn guarded by a magical ward, requiring for its penetration 3 relatively rare items. Sovereign must find out where to obtain these items, then obtain them, then mix them together in a magical way so as to obtain the “key” in unlocking the urn.
7. Sovereign releases demon, who will grant sovereign victory – IF he is able to fetch the demon’s heart, which is buried in the guarded chamber C in location L4.
Not only should there be a large pool of different Story Types which can be told (e.g., Wish Urn, sketched above, or Plague, Rescue the Personage, Find the Needle in the Haystack, etc.), so that many games might transpire before a similar Story Type is unearthed, but each different Story Type should have a pool of Quest Elements that differ from game to game in those games in which they do take place.
For short games / very small maps, some of these steps can and should be removed, e.g. Quest 7 is easily removed by merely having the demon grant the wish after completion of 6. Quest 6 is also easily removed by having sovereign gain her wish at the end of Quest 5. Etc.
Each game should select each step from a large pool of possible choices, so that a narrative story in each game is recognizable but different.
Additionally, there should be substantial rewards for the completion of each Arc section, for balance reasons, namely: In amassing a large military force, for example, a player reaps immediate rewards for many aspects of her realm, but thereby also directly helps in obtaining a Conquest or Military victory; building up your armies is something a player will be wanting to do and doing anyway, even if the player is not consciously attempting a Conquest victory – building units and researching war tech is a “reward in itself”. Something similar can be said for research of the arcane arts – this is something probably every player will be doing to at least some degree, because it is a “reward in itself”, it helps on many levels – but is also the prerequisite of achieving a victory condition (whose current designation is not clear to me presently). I believe the same thing can be said about getting along well with neighbors and its relation to the Diplomatic Victory condition. The Master Quest victory condition may deviate from this pattern slightly, and hence it appears wise to me to have smaller rewards for completion of its components.
II. Diplomatic Victory: I think a diplomatic victory should be more than merely forging alliances with all those possible; it should also involve a mechanic by which all of those with whom an alliance can be formed need form a group, and all members of this group need to perform one act together – be this a Quest or be it merely the agreement upon an Ultimate Sovereign to whom they pledge their oaths (much like being elected Chairperson of the UN in CivIV).
III. New Victory Condition: Cultural / Artefactual. Unlike CivIV, I would certainly NOT like to see culture being a part of Elemental which governs how a player’s borders expand. Rather, I would consider “culture” a quantifiable representation of arcane or theological or otherwise supernatural interest and power. Consider this concept – whose designation I find suboptimal; I am merely calling it “culture” for lack of a better term at the moment – akin to the concept which, if made into a quantified game mechanic, say, makes the Golden Wood of Lothlorien into more than just a bunch of trees, or, say, the region of the Ephel Duath in Mordor more than just a bunch of rocks. These areas possess a special transcendent quality; their very being exudes a tangible atmosphere of imbued power – for some, an enchantment, for others, a mere feeling. Ephel Duath is creepy to humans and (possibly) reassuring for Fallen – for a reason. Since Elemental is about rebuilding and repopulating a wasted world, but also about re-enchanting a disenchanted one, I feel that a player should be able to have an alternative way of showing her power of domination – one which involves her ability to have the land itself imbued with a transcendent arcane quality.
This victory condition would be special in one sense: it would be relative. When a particular sovereign’s realm has produced a certain quantum of culture MORE THAN another sovereign’s realm, that sovereign has demonstrated that her realm is the most dominant and hence wins. This is to say: no realm can win by producing an absolute value of culture; it must always be relative to other realms. Before I say how I think culture can be represented in-game, let me sketch two options:
Option 1: Each time any nation falls behind any one other single realm’s culture by the Value of Q or more, that realm loses and is eliminated from the game. (Option 1a: their cities and units become “neutral”, much like the independents of GalCivII. Option 1b: their cities and units disappear from the map, as their sovereign has become meaningless.) In single player, if you fall behind any AI’s culture value by the value of Q or more, you lose. You win if your culture value is Q+30 more than any other realm’s culture value.
Option 2: No realm can be eliminated via culture. Any realm wins if their culture value is Q+30 more than every other realm’s culture value. This option might be considered to be “easier”, since you would only need 1 additional nation N to “block” another nation from winning a cultural victory; one need only ensure that there is at least one other realm whose cultural value is within Q+29 culture from the leading nation’s cultural value. In Option 1, everyone must ensure that they not fall behind; in Option 2, one need ensure that there is competition. Note that this method would increase the number of options a player had at her disposal by increasing the advantage of well-balanced strategic choices. Consider: You might have a strong Culture Value, and AIs A B C D and E are far behind, but you do not have enough to win because AI Nation F is obviously within 10 culture points of you. You might win culturally by merely keeping enough culture to be ahead of ABCD and E by 30+ and then eliminating Nation N *militarily*, granting you the immediate cultural victory.
Some ways I see quanta of Culture produced:
- Spending an amount of Essence to imbue something I am now calling a Rare Natural Artefact, such as a Great Waterfall, with transcendent attraction. This would generate culture per turn. I would consider a Rare Natural Artefact some inherent feature of terrain on the world map which differs from a resource in that it requires no tech to be viewed or “discovered” and would otherwise yield no particularly tangible benefits to the player in whose realm it might happen to be. Note that powerful late-game spells which greatly alter the global map should be able to alter or destroy such Artefacts, thus also denying a realm cultural income.
- Obtaining control of a certain type of “resource”, let’s call them: Ancient Ruins. Unlike the Rare Natural Artefact example above, a player need not spend any of her Essence to glean culture per turn for obtaining control of these resources. Rather, like any other resource, you need to have researched an appropriate tech to see these Ancient Ruins on the map; unlike other resources, you do not need to build an improvement on it in order to “harvest” it, but rather you need to cast a particular spell on it to make it accessible, and it must be within your domain of control. If these resources are captured or somehow fall within the domain of an opponent, he or she should have to put their own spell on it to be able to reap its culture, which is generated per turn. (One can imagine that these Ancient Ruins are then, for all intents and purposes, visited by arcane priests or what have you.)
- The building of certain buildings in a player’s city, let’s call them Temples, might generate a small amount of culture per turn if the cities in which the Temples are built fulfil certain requirements P, Q and R (such as: have a certain population, have a certain magic affinity, and have access to a particular resource).
- Some events may be able to trigger a one-time culture accumulation (not a per-turn culture income).
- Some rare entities (let’s call them: Genies, or Faeries (human only), or Demons (fallen only)) might be able to bestow your realm with a quantum of culture (one-time event only) if you can convince them to do so.
I think this victory condition might fit in well with the game’s background and story. I also readily admit that the designation of this victory condition is suboptimal; I don’t quite like the sound of “Culture” or “cultural”, it smells too much of Civilization, and “Artefactual” sounds too extravagant.
Thank you in advance for your constructive replies.