Don’t be afraid of the sausage factory

By on October 31, 2009 4:38:15 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
+1477

If you’ve been through Stardock betas, none of what I’m going to say is going to be news to you.

But for everyone else…

Most companies – the smart ones anyway – carefully control the message.  You won’t see early screenshots or quick sketches shown to the public of most games because internally, most games change dramatically during their development.

We game developers like to give the impression that we have the MASTER DESIGN from the start.

We know what we’re doing.

From the start.

Right?

No.

Many well known games that seem genius today actually started out very different. But gamers don’t know that.

But I’m not a game designer. Not really.

I’m a gamer who happens to make games.  That’s how most of us at Stardock feel. We are GAMERS first.

Our games are not a work of art or a craft or even a job.

They’re games designed to be fun and we’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure they’re fun.

With Elemental, we have an unprecedented budget (for us) to work with.

  • We did Galactic Civilizations II with 3 programmers and 2 artists in 18 months.
  • We did The Political Machine 2008 with 1 artist, 2 developers in 6 months.
  • With Elemental, we have 8 developers and 7 artists.

Still small but it’s really not but we can do a lot with relatively few people.

And for those who are interested in seeing how the game industry those reading these journals can see the iterative process of how things are done – including when we change our minds on things.

It also means we’ll be very open about what games we like and get influences from. 

Inspiration

Here are some great games we play and can look at for ideas for instance:

Let’s see if you guys can guess all these games from their screenshots:

image

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image

image

image

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The Soul of a game

One of our major goals for Elemental is to ensure the game has a soul. What I mean by this is that we don’t want everything abstracted to the point where the player doesn’t feel like they’re IN the game. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not having Orcs and Elves in the game. If someone else wants to make those fantasy races, that’s fine.  But we want Elemental to have a very definitive game world that it is in that brings the player into the game’s world. Then, later, if they want, they can add in their own orcs and elves and what not into the game. 

But we don’t want to just have a bunch of different factions and races that are simply generic and just different stats.  That was a problem in Galactic Civilizations that I don’t think was really solved until Twilight of the Arnor which finally gave each race its own unique technology tree.

In Elemental, I just think there’s so much more possible because we have the luxury of making a game with you guys instead of simply foisting a game on the public.  There’s just too much of an opportunity here to make something that’s new but brings forward some of the best elements from games we all have played and loved.

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October 31, 2009 5:06:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just getting the posted games right:

 

first one is MoM

second i do not know

third is ascendency (great game)

fourth is x-com of course

the last two i can´t name

can someone help me out? (i guess the last one is MoO  edit: just checked it is MoO)

 

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October 31, 2009 5:10:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

1 is MOM, 2 is Dominions, 3 is Ascendency, 4 is XCOm, 5 is Fall from Heaven, 6 is MOO2.  Great games, all.

Winni

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October 31, 2009 5:11:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The fourth one is the Civ 4 mod Fall from Heaven II.

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October 31, 2009 5:13:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The last two are Fall from Heaven 2 and Master of Orion 2.

The second one i also don´t know.

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October 31, 2009 5:15:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ah ascendency, never played that for long. Fifth is definetly a Civilization IV mod, though I don't know which, and I'm pretty sure six isn't MoO although I havn't played it in a long time so I might be wrong -.- And X-Com rules!

Edit : Doh... I post too slow...

Agree with the generic factions in early versions of GCII, but I only play Twilight of the Arnor so no worries  I'm now interested in how are factions in elemental going to vary? Will there also be variations in technology trees and/or buildings and units etc?

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October 31, 2009 5:15:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Screenshot identification time:

Master of Magic

Dominions?

No idea

Xcom/UFO: Enemy Unknown

No idea, but looks great! (heroes of might and magic 5 maybe?)

Master of Orion 2

 

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October 31, 2009 5:24:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 Having been in a lot of betas, there is one thing unmentioned that I really like about Stardock betas.

Many game are designed entirely from the top with little weight given to the bottom. By which I mean:

  • Top company managemtent
  • ^
  • Developers
  • ^
  • Beta Testers
  • ^
  • General Customer Base

They'll take your bug reports and even your feedback, but design goes entirely top down. I've been in many betas for great games where someone at the top got a "bright idea" and revamped a major part of the game. They care if it is buggy or not, but feedback about the design is ignored with phrases like "You'll really like it in release", "I think this will be well received by the target market". But the overwhelming feedback from the development team and testers isn't wrong, and the General customer base thinks the same thing and the now released game flops.

That was the opposite of my Stardock experience beta testing Twilight of the Arnor. I've also seen with Elemental so far that not only do they listen to everyone's feedback, they seek it out. Go "Total Quality Management"

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October 31, 2009 5:38:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This game has a lot of potential. However, Stardock must be very careful...the expectations are big. Right now I am worried about the combat system for example...maybe it will be way too simple. We don't know too much at the moment, and this ATT/DEF/SPEED system is very primitive. If the devs want to create an epic fantasy TBS game, it must be improved real fast. [Yes, I am talking about elemental/magical dmg types & resistances & immunities, or even physical dmg types. + lot of others things should be mentioned, but if we won't even have a system like that, it's pointless to talk about anything else to be honest.]

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October 31, 2009 6:27:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think its truly a great thing what Stardock is doing, and am more than happy to see it in action with Elemental.

I am happy to see a screenshot of Fall From Heaven 2 up there. Its one of my favorite games, truly, and even FFH has many modmods, and modmodmods out there, which add much to gameplay, and some even drastically change the way in which the game is played. I am an avid "multiplayer" type person in games such as this (FFH) ... sadly I must say I haven't played most of these other games.

I started with Empire Earth, went to Civ 3, then Civ 4, and then Rome n Medieval Total War, and then to the Fall From Heaven 2 which I love and adore

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October 31, 2009 6:41:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Someone else loved ascendency ? Wooooo

There's too much good games for only one topic.

The soul of MoM is the ability to customize your world and the fact you could win with magic.

The soul of Dominions 3 is the way Dominion is used.

The soul of ascendency is the not so usual way to do research.

The soul of X-Com is the several options you had in combat : need a door ? Create it with grenades.

The soul of Fall From Heaven is the really different ways to play factions : some have a different way to build cities or can open doors to other dimension etc.

MoO2 is too far away in my memory.

Well, let's summarize : customization, different rules for the sovereign, a not so usual research, good combat options, diversified factions. Well, Elemental is in good shape.

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October 31, 2009 6:55:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Actualy its like this:

1. Master Of Magic

2. Dominions

3. Ascendancy

4. X-com

5. Fall From Heaven Mod

6. Master Of Orion

 

Played all of them .

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October 31, 2009 7:03:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

1. Master of Magic

2. Dominions 3: The Awakening (very good)

3. Ascendancy

4. X-Com

5. Fall From Heaven II mod for Civ IV

6. Master of Orion II

 

And to add to vieuxchat's post: MoO2's strength was definitely in its customization possibilities - create your own race, create your own units. The "perk" system was great (though it always pained me that I couldnt create a little overpowered one! lol). Oh yeah, and the stellar conventer still sits in my mind (i think i will never forget the cutscene when this baby cuts through a planet).

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October 31, 2009 7:14:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I guessed every game but Dominions, lol.  I'm impressed that you listed Ascendancy--- what an incredible game.  It didn't have play mechanics quite as conscielient as Master of Orion 2, but it had the most creative and original setting of any space 4X game.  Setting wise, it was the most original game ever made (check out the Tone Rebellion, by the Logic Factory, too.)  When I played Ascendancy, I felt like I was in a distant alien star cluster.  Glad to see it's on the list of inspiring games

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October 31, 2009 7:38:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's really hilarious that I mentioned Ascendancy in another thread before I saw this one.  That was an interesting game.

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October 31, 2009 8:21:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Dominions 3 is the best. I have played it from start on more than 3 years ago. the game is so deep and has the best MP mode ever.

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October 31, 2009 8:51:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting calmon,
Dominions 3 is the best. I have played it from start on more than 3 years ago. the game is so deep and has the best MP mode ever.

Indeed, it's the best tactical TBS right now. It has it's weaknesses [AI, economy], but the combat&magic system is epic in the game.

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October 31, 2009 9:35:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

well, I like the strategy of FFH (which is like ...99.99% of Civ4 being strategy) ... as far as nation-building goes, Civ 4 is my personal favorite, and the beauty of FFH was A) how varied the nations were (the soul) and B ) how much they were able to stretch the simplified Civ combat system into a decently intricate magic system. (the spice)

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November 1, 2009 12:15:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

FFH2 is quite well done, almost a new game.  Their improving on what is already a great game is quite an accomplishment.

Frogboy, have any of you played the old Avalon Hill wargames like Squad Leader, or ASL?  Some great work there too, especially for the 60s-70s.  They've not be well translated to computer, which is unfortunate as the computer would make a great moderator for games like SL.

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November 1, 2009 12:16:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

We did Galactic Civilizations II with 3 programmers and 2 artists in 18 months.

Amazing stat that, very exciting for elemental that you have so much more to work with.

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November 1, 2009 1:39:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm really glad that Stardock are keen to introduce a soul into Elemental, as that was something severely lacking from GCII, which was more about numbers than people and personalities.

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November 1, 2009 1:42:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hopefully, none of you play as gnolems.

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November 1, 2009 3:08:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Nick-Danger,
FFH2 is quite well done, almost a new game.  Their improving on what is already a great game is quite an accomplishment.

Frogboy, have any of you played the old Avalon Hill wargames like Squad Leader, or ASL?  Some great work there too, especially for the 60s-70s.  They've not be well translated to computer, which is unfortunate as the computer would make a great moderator for games like SL.

SL had a comp version : steel panthers. And the calculations were really really intricated. No things like A+B / C. There were so many variables and battles oddities taken into account that you really couldn't optimize your placement. You just had to think in terms of warfare more than in "numbers".

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November 1, 2009 5:13:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ascendency had a lot of great ideas in it but bad Ai sealed its fate

How many many hours i spend in it.

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November 1, 2009 5:53:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

there is an ai patch for ascendency if it is too easy for you (you can get it now on abandonware)

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November 1, 2009 9:59:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

How are you finding the larger team? Where I work, the Mythical Man Month is something of a creed, and I have never been on a project with more than 6 people. So, I am curious as to whether having 15 people on a project makes things harder or not?

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