Elemental: Tough love for beta 1B

By on October 15, 2009 2:48:52 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Let me cut to the bad news right off.  Beta 1B isn’t ready to go yet. It needs to be pushed.  But for your convenience, I’m going to walk through the problems with the current internal build.  Now, before someone who isn’t paying attention closely sends me a flame PM, please read this: I work at Stardock.  It’s my job to be critical of the game. The only thing unusual is that I’m airing our internal dirty laundry to the public – but there’s a point to that too and that is so that beta testers can participate in those discussions.

So let’s walk through the things that are in our current build that need to be addressed before we release a public beta 1B which is known as the “economic” beta.

The Good

Bees and wheat are in.

imageimage

Or more specifically, we are starting to add a lot more resources into the game.  The reason this is important is that we want to begin populating the world with resources that can share city improvements OR have their own improvements.

 

 

Info Card system is in

image

A UI convention pioneered in Sins of a Solar Empire by Ironclad is in Elemental now. If you hover over something of interest, an info card comes up – except here we have decided to go with an actual playing card motify ala Magic the Gathering.

The City UI is cleaned up

image

Managing cities has gotten a bit easier. the buttons have gotten moved over.

A lot of under the covers stuff has gotten fixed/improved

Performance is vastly better. The economy is technically in there.

The Bad

While the economy is in there now, it’s no use to the beta testers if the user interface doesn’t convey the information to them.  As Tom Chick would say “show me!” and right now we’re not and without that, beta testers can’t give feedback on whether they think the economic system is worthwhile.

Economics are hard to see in action.

image

Besides the fact that the info cards are way too big, they don’t convey useful information presently.  Why does it take 5 turns to complete an Inn? I dunno. What could I do to make Inns build faster? I dunno.  Why does the Inn cost $100? I dunno.

Under the covers:

The time and money to build an improvement = Labor + Materials.

The cost of the labor and materials determines the cost and the time to gather the materials and for the labor to execute determines the time.

Now, the card doesn’t need to display all of that.  But it should display how much wood is required.

image

The info card (not shown here) should display what the Inn does and what it requires to be built.  The player should be able to see the city data on the right (not a duplicate of the Inn here) so that they can decide what improvement to build and what resources they have on hand to build them with.  How much wood do they have? How good is their labor? Do they need the benefit the chosen improvement provides? Without this information, the player is left guessing.

image

 

There’s been a lot of overall progress. But Beta 1B is a specific milestone for the economics so we have to be able to display this kind of “stuff” very clearly to players.  So it’s looking like it’ll be another week.

Of course, that also buys me a little more time on the AI (which has been improving with these builds as well though it’s all C++ right now and not Python yet).

Stay tuned.

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October 15, 2009 3:00:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A bit of a disappointment for those who are anxious to participate in testing and providing feedback, but I can see how releasing that now would do you any good.

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October 15, 2009 3:01:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I wont lie, ive been checking a couple times a day for the update, haha.  But I am VERY excited for the new improvements!  I can wait as long as it takes for it to be done right ^^.  Keep at it Frog Boy!  We believe in you!

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October 15, 2009 3:03:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Don't you mean beta 1B? Hey man don't flame stardock if you don't even know the beta schedule  

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October 15, 2009 3:04:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the update!

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October 15, 2009 3:17:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

1 more week? Ah well.

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October 15, 2009 3:17:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, it looks like you guys have a foundation for an economy with resources etc. I think the real test for the economy will be much later when we can see how the different resources benefit the player and interact with each other. If I need honey to make traps to rid my sewers of zombie rats, can I buy some from my neighbor for iron ingots?

I'm not sure I see how the economy can mean anything without the rest of the game in play. I wouldn't dream of trying to 'finish' the economic system until you at least have the magic system and diplomacy in. Any resources you have now will necessarily be arbitrary. I say put them in and then revisit the economy once you have more to go on. 

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October 15, 2009 3:19:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Brad,

Thanks for the update (and for correcting it to say 1B).  Please let us know if there's anything we can do to help.

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October 15, 2009 3:23:38 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Don't you mean beta 1B? Hey man don't flame stardock if you don't even know the beta schedule

D'oh!

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October 15, 2009 3:24:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like the info cards Can't wait for the update. The new city icons look nice too!

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October 15, 2009 3:24:36 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Well, it looks like you guys have a foundation for an economy with resources etc. I think the real test for the economy will be much later when we can see how the different resources benefit the player and interact with each other. If I need honey to make traps to rid my sewers of zombie rats, can I buy some from my neighbor for iron ingots?

I'm not sure I see how the economy can mean anything without the rest of the game in play. I wouldn't dream of trying to 'finish' the economic system until you at least have the magic system and diplomacy in. Any resources you have now will necessarily be arbitrary. I say put them in and then revisit the economy once you have more to go on.

Indeed. And we can't even begin with that portion unless the elements are presented to the player. Otherwise it's all voodoo.

 

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October 15, 2009 3:31:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yep, we have, more or less, found the big bugs ... now we're waiting for mooooaaaarr !!!

Keep up the good work !

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October 15, 2009 4:17:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Under the covers:

The time and money to build an improvement = Labor + Materials.

The cost of the labor and materials determines the cost and the time to gather the materials and for the labor to execute determines the time.

Now, the card doesn’t need to display all of that.  But it should display how much wood is required.

 

So wait, we have to harvest wood now?  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but wood is necessary for all buildings.  (save stone).  Doesn't this add to more micro?

 

Image if in MoM you had to ensure you had enough lumber to match with the production for your buildings. 

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October 15, 2009 4:19:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have no problems with micro. Mats required to build certain stuff [buildings, armors, weapons etc.] is a must have imo. It adds to the strategic deepness of the game. [IE: Controlling important mines/special resource locations or even forests..]

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October 15, 2009 4:23:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ah bummer. And here I was looking forward to hopefully having something to test this week.

By the way, I find it kind of cruel to see all those pictures now, but... no patch to see them in! 

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October 15, 2009 4:31:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I can't believe this Frog-guy thinks he can just get away with flaming the work being done on Elemental. Who the hell does he think he is, the CEO of Stardock or something? Lets Lynch him guys!!!!

J/k Frogboy. If anyone doesn't know who you are by now they don't have any business being on the forums to begin with.

I had a feeling it would be pushed back again honestly. Seeing as they will be allowing more people to get in on the Beta at the end of Fall I don't think we'll be getting many more new builds to test between now and then. From a business sense it gives Stardock more time to work on things and a better incentive for customers/beta testers to buy the game when more beta's come out. Why put out too many more Beta builds if people aren't spending money to get in on the beta? As awesome a company as Stardock is, their main goal is still to attract customers and make money. If the beta builds fly out too fast it cuts their ability to build up "Hype" for the game and for people to spend money buying the game that can then be used in the development.

Still, new info is good info.

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October 15, 2009 4:33:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So wait, we have to harvest wood now?
  Not necessarily, our resource system is built around a 'BONUS' mentality, opposed to a 'CAN/CANNOT' system.  The only resource you NEED is the required gold. Everything else either gets pulled from storage or gets factored into the otherall 'Time to Build'.

So let's say a Watchtower has a base labor cost of 10 and requires 15 units of Lumber. If you have enough Lumber in storage, then you're looking at 10 turns until you get that Watchtower. Lack the lumber, and that difference simply gets added to the overall 'time to build' (no lumber = 25 turns to build).

It's a simple system that won't confound lightweights but allows skilled players to optimize production.

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October 15, 2009 4:40:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just wondering, has there been any success addressing the issues regarding being able to launch the game, crashing to desktop, the distorted UI some users experience, etc?  If so, can we expect a significant improvement in the next patch?  My own experience is that I have not been able to launch or play the game on two different laptops.

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October 15, 2009 4:44:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tormy-,
I have no problems with micro. Mats required to build certain stuff [buildings, armors, weapons etc.] is a must have imo.

Tormy, I totally agree. I think we've agreed multiple times in multiple threads, maybe we're on the same page for what we want this game to be in the end

Great post Frogboy, really good to hear!! Especially about harvesting the wood and caravans transporting different things, i like the touches of realistic economies coming into play 

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October 15, 2009 4:53:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would suggest the costs are put on the top of the cards for more lisibilty.

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October 15, 2009 4:58:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

[sarcasm] Who is this BoogieBac guy and HOW DARE HE BE CRITICAL OF STARDOCK!!!

[/sarcasm]

 

Had to spread the "love"

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October 15, 2009 5:21:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting BoogieBac,

So wait, we have to harvest wood now?   Not necessarily, our resource system is built around a 'BONUS' mentality, opposed to a 'CAN/CANNOT' system.  The only resource you NEED is the required gold. Everything else either gets pulled from storage or gets factored into the otherall 'Time to Build'.


So let's say a Watchtower has a base labor cost of 10 and requires 15 units of Lumber. If you have enough Lumber in storage, then you're looking at 10 turns until you get that Watchtower. Lack the lumber, and that difference simply gets added to the overall 'time to build' (no lumber = 25 turns to build).

It's a simple system that won't confound lightweights but allows skilled players to optimize production.

They had something similar in the Final Frontier mod for Civ4. I have to say it wasn't very compelling. The thing you want to watch out for is that resources can easily become irrelevant. It means that a huge empire is a huge empire, and they don't need wood because they make up for it by being a huge empire.

In FF, I learned to ignore resources and focus on expansion, because the effort needed to secure resources was the less profitable path. If I endeavored to secure a resource, I knew it was just for fun, and that it wasn't really helping me win. Fighting over resources was out of the question, as obtaining them helped me very little, and denying them to my opponent did very little harm. If I wanted to hurt him and help me, I had to attack his star systems.

In Civ4 by contrast, you need oil/copper/iron, and you need it bad enough that you may need to fight over it before you're fully ready!

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October 15, 2009 5:32:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting BoogieBac,

So let's say a Watchtower has a base labor cost of 10 and requires 15 units of Lumber. If you have enough Lumber in storage, then you're looking at 10 turns until you get that Watchtower. Lack the lumber, and that difference simply gets added to the overall 'time to build' (no lumber = 25 turns to build).

With this model will diffrerent weighting factors be used?

Not having 15 lumber or not having 15 titanium ingots seems to be very different. I would think higher level, more refined or more rare resources would be worth say 5 or 10 turns for each you are missing.

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October 15, 2009 6:48:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting cephalo,

They had something similar in the Final Frontier mod for Civ4. I have to say it wasn't very compelling. The thing you want to watch out for is that resources can easily become irrelevant. It means that a huge empire is a huge empire, and they don't need wood because they make up for it by being a huge empire.

In FF, I learned to ignore resources and focus on expansion, because the effort needed to secure resources was the less profitable path. If I endeavored to secure a resource, I knew it was just for fun, and that it wasn't really helping me win. Fighting over resources was out of the question, as obtaining them helped me very little, and denying them to my opponent did very little harm. If I wanted to hurt him and help me, I had to attack his star systems.

In Civ4 by contrast, you need oil/copper/iron, and you need it bad enough that you may need to fight over it before you're fully ready!

The normal Civ4 model had some problems. If you just happened to have Iron and Oil next to your starting city, you had a huge advantage over someone who didn't by simple RNG.

In the Elemental model, you're looking at more then double the normal production time if you don't have the resource. That's significant. But it's also not "ha, you simply can't make half the units!"

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October 15, 2009 7:07:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tridus,

The normal Civ4 model had some problems. If you just happened to have Iron and Oil next to your starting city, you had a huge advantage over someone who didn't by simple RNG.

In the Elemental model, you're looking at more then double the normal production time if you don't have the resource. That's significant. But it's also not "ha, you simply can't make half the units!"

I agree, as I said in another post, ~double production time for lacking the resource is a good number (2.5x is fine too, close enough). That means you definitely want the resource, cutting your production in half is nothing to ignore - but it's not so horrible that the item in question isn't worth building at all if you lack the resource.

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October 15, 2009 7:47:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Had a feeling this would happen. But thats ok, the more time the better. New updates are great! I like the idea of fighting over resources, makes things get interesting.

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