As we reach the end of the year, we can take stock of where we are and where we’re going next.
…our story so far…
About 3 months ago, we released the first “beta” of Elemental. Designed to let players help us mold the game mechanics, the beta has been going very well so far.
Through beta feedback, the economic system for the game has been changed a great deal, streamline and generally put into place something that will be fun, deep but should also keep players from getting bogged down.
Also thanks to beta feedback, we came up with a different technology system that is, ironically, quite similar to what was in Master of Orion 1. This is an area that is proving a wealth of future fun for us as we prepare to create different technology pools for the different factions.
In addition, again thanks to the beta players, the diplomacy system has been heavily modified. We just released a beta update that includes the basic diplomacy skeleton. There’s litlte content but it allows us to greatly expand up on it over the coming months.
…lessons and trends…
If I were pressed to list what the biggest trend in the beta feedback has been so far it is this: Make sure the game has a soul.
Nearly all of our changes in Elemental thus far have been to increase the opportunity to inject story and life into the game play.
…The remainder of beta 1…
So Beta 1 will have at least 3 more updates which will take us well into February. The good news is that people who pre-order the beta and are currently waiting for Beta 2 will likely get one of the updates because the Impulse team wants to test out the “pre-load” features of Impulse and we lobbied for Elemental to be the test case so we could let some of the people who have been waiting in.
Now, as a reminder, Beta 1 isn’t fun “to play”. It’s less a “game” than it is a public game proto-type.
The screenshot you see above of the beta engine isn’t even in the game yet because we don’t want the game to have to rely on being pretty to be fun.
What’s coming up next are the quests, the magic system, and the dynasty system. We’re talking to players right now about specific quests they’d like to see. We’ll have lots of journals on that.
The Magic system should be very fun to work through. Though, the tactical battles are where I imagine magic duels being the funnest. Still, being able to morph the land and change it Populous-style should add a layer of strategic depth that will be very fun.
The dynasty system is something we’re all very excited to play around with. I suspect it’ll go through a lot of iterations through the beta as we discover ways to make having characters in the game more fun.
This Winter we’ll have Beta 2 which is the multiplayer beta. Most people will never play multiplayer but we have ulterior motives for having multiplayer – I want to learn how to get good at the game online so that I can incorporate strategies into the single-player AI.
There will be special modes for multiplayer developed (you’ll be able to play them single player) so that there are ways to play Elemental in 30 minutes all the way to 30 weeks depending on the game mode. But we’ll talk more about that as we get closer.
During Beta 2, the beta team will decide if the game is “fun enough” to move to Beta 3.
Beta 2 will probably last about 2 months. But it may be less or it may be more depending on whether there’s a consensus on the game’s quality at this point.
It’ll be in Beta 3 that players will really start to see what Elemental is about. The way we think of it is that Elemental is a strategy game that exists within a giant role playing game world.
Beta 3 will be pretty short (i.e. about 1 month).
That’s when we start to get into the tactical battles. This will be a major part of the game (And yet totally skippable with auto-resolve for players who aren’t into it).
This beta will still be fairly short though since it’s really all about the tactical battles. Probably about 6 weeks.
This will be the polish beta and ironically, this will be the first beta that would be considered a “true” beta. The previous betas could have been considered alpha builds because it’s only in Beta 5 that the game is “feature complete”. Beta 5 will start getting people into modding the game and getitng us to expose more and more of the engine.
I don’t know how long Beta 5 will take. Probably a solid month.
…other notes from the field…
As some of you are aware, we are hoping to do a 64-bit version of Elemental. The main hold up is Intel’s Havok as we are using it for the animation (we don’t use the physics in it). Intel has just released a 64-bit version of Havok so we have to see what is involved in getting it. We’ll let you know how that goes.
We will probably make some of the editor features available to beta testers before Beta 1 is over. At least the map maker. If not it’ll be during beta 2.
Like every Stardock developed game, Elemental’s multiplayer will be client/server. And in fact, our plan is to set up servers across the world that people can join.
However, we also plan to make it so that people can set up their own servers with their own mods, rules, and such for their friends to play or for others to join. We did this with Stellar Frontier years ago and it worked out fantastically. People would make their own modded star systems with their own races and ships and planets. Plus, it lets someone set up a LAN game for their friends.
Stellar Frontier allowed users to set up their own servers and mods. This screenshot was the Master of Orion 2 mod for Stellar Frontier. A user could create their own star system and others could join in and play with their mods. This is similar with what we’re going with in Elemental except people would set up their own worlds.
This upcoming year is going to be really exciting!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!