Elemental: Christmas time Status Report

By on December 20, 2009 6:48:05 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Greetings!

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.

Beta 2…

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.

..Beta 3…

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).

…Beta 4…

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.

…Beta 5…

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.

image
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!

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December 20, 2009 6:59:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Grammar Nazi Strikes!

I imagine magic duels being the funnest

It should be, "most fun."

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December 20, 2009 7:16:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I just want to say how much I have really enjoyed reading your posts about the development of this game.  It has all been fasinating and I really appreciate the time you have spent doing this for us.  It must take a bit of time away for the actual game development to put out the number of posts per week that you manage to do -and again, I really enjoy reading them.  It also take time (if your post was not absolutly clear to everyone) to mop up the resulting confusion and quell fear of folks that might have a singular vision for the game. 

What I am saying is that all in all, it must be a bit of a headache to do this.  It also takes a bit of a thick skin to work so hard on something you obviously care about, write about the guts of the program you are dealing with, and then now and then have it slammed by some fans (who really just want the best game they can imagine but in some cases lack some tact).       

Well, thanks for doing this.  It has been great free entertainment and really informative.

Have a wonderful christmas Brad!  And everyone else too! 

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December 20, 2009 7:28:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nice update and Merry Christmas

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December 20, 2009 7:30:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


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.

*cough*Elemental Societies?*cough*

Which are at this point in time the plans for autobattle? Could ge get something in the lines of Heroes V? I liked to get autobattle first and then be able to choose to keep the result or redo the battle yourself (and accept the result of the new battle). I know many reasons not to do it and stick to the "Autobattle or Manual Battle" but I surely enjoyed that feature of Heroes V (if it's in another game, I haven't played it and cannot mention it... obviously).

I'd ask about Hotseat but I suppose that it'd not be the best of moments to do so. (if it ever is)

Anyways, thank you for the update.

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December 20, 2009 7:34:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great update and Merry Christmas. Can't wait for more features to play with in Elemental. Its really starting to shape up.

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December 20, 2009 7:49:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the update! .....but:

 

Most people will never play multiplayer

Why do you think so?

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December 20, 2009 7:58:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

1 A. Seriously can't wait, especially for the full implementation of the magic system. Being able to change the land ala Populous style sounds awesome too though. When raising land for a barrier you'll have to make sure there's some kind of impassible terrain type at the top to create a effective "wall", not just something that takes a little extra time to walk over.

2 A. I'm actually still a little confused by the Dev Journal on "Succession" as there hasn't been a Dev response in it since the initial posting. How can there be "Succession" for the player if the game ends when the player's sovereign dies? "Sov Death = Game Over" hasn't changed has it? Whether it has or hasn't I'm fine either way, I just want to know for sure before I work up a proper response in the thread.

3 A. I can't wait to start testing multiplayer. Hopefully we'll have some matches against each other so I can lay the smack down on the big Frog himself

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December 20, 2009 8:11:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

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.

Thanks, thanks, thanks, Frogboy!

There really need to be some differentiation between the races/kingdoms/empires, not only by stats but also by how to play them. It would be sad to have the same swordsmen, archers, horsemen for all armies.

Creating different techs trees could help model armies along historical lines (like, you guessed it, in Dominions ): some could be focused on horses and horse-mounted archers like you said you wanted some Genghis Khan race. Other could be like precolombian indians: knowing neither horses nor wheels. There could be legions and phalanxes, egyptian charriots with razor blades on the wheels, there could be..... )

By the way: the guy who designed all races/artefacts/units in Dominions is a professor in religions and Brian Reynolds who designed Alpha Centauri (a game with a soul if there was ever one) has a licence in philosophy. Did you consider hiring a specialist in ancient and medieval warfare (in exemple) to help with the different tech trees of the different civilizations?

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December 20, 2009 8:27:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tormy-,
Why do you think so?
Because multiplayer simply isn't big in this genre.

 

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December 20, 2009 8:35:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Raven X,


2 A. I'm actually still a little confused by the Dev Journal on "Succession" as there hasn't been a Dev response in it since the initial posting. How can there be "Succession" for the player if the game ends when the player's sovereign dies? "Sov Death = Game Over" hasn't changed has it? Whether it has or hasn't I'm fine either way, I just want to know for sure before I work up a proper response in the thread.

 

I think it was mentioned somewhere that there would be an option for channeler death not to mean the end of the game for those concerned, where channelers would 'abdicate' if they realized their opponents had them in a box they couldn't escape from.

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December 20, 2009 8:42:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Interesting stuff....... haven't really gotten aroung to playing 1C yet, but so far things are looking good............ will the AI continue to be "smartened" after the official release of the game?

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December 20, 2009 8:47:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

will the AI continue to be "smartened" after the official release of the game?

Heh. Any GalCiv II players want to answer this for Scoutdog?

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December 20, 2009 9:20:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

will the AI continue to be "smartened" after the official release of the game?
Heh. Any GalCiv II players want to answer this for Scoutdog?

 

Sure, like every single update. Go see the changelogs for all the Galciv updates

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December 20, 2009 9:22:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

(that would be a resounding yes) when the big man in charge has programming AI's as (one of?) his first love(s?), it is a fair bet that they will continue to be updated as long as he remains  in that chair.

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December 20, 2009 10:10:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks Brad. I know you get a lot of crap from places (like Qt3) for various reasons, but Stardock's efforts with Elemental have been something beyond anything I've ever seen as far as community involvement. I have, and I think with good reason, hope this will be one of the all time classics in the 4x and Strategy genres. Keep it up, tell your team we love what they're doing.

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December 20, 2009 10:30:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hehe I should get back into Elemental. I think it was less fun than I thought it was going to be, but every time Frogboy posts the beta schedule I get pumped up again. I've also gotten into GCII recently, I didn't like the demo for the longest time but after actually buying the full game I'm loving it

 

Tactical battles (or graphics... or quests... or dungeons... or fun) will probably turn me on to the beta the most when it comes out, but I hope to get back into this probably by beta 2 (cuz I'll be too busy next month with Mass Effect lol, and I'll be done with all my college applications and stuff by then too)

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December 20, 2009 10:38:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I upgraded directly from vanilla GalCiv2 all the way to TOTA - all I can say is that normal difficulty was a breeze in the origina;, and provides good solid competition in TOTA. And the great thing was it wasn't due to any cheats, the AI did indeed get TONS better about evaluating what you were trying to accomplish andthrowing a monkey wrench into things.

It was literally night and day. I expect if Froggy takes advantage of multiplayer (and I am sure on games they host they will be able to see exactly how people strategize and exploit things - then he can will make the AI behave like the best players in multiplayer....should be incredible, I hope I am not forced to go to Easy difficulty to ever win a game though!

Merry Christmas FrogBoy and the rest of the SD staff, and all the rest of you guys. Apologies for being a bit too strident of late regarding many different things.

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December 21, 2009 3:01:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great news !!

One question : Will the diplomacy system ever use any "spying" system ? Because atm you know everything you need to know about your enemies thanks to the diplomacy windows (what techs they have researched, their diplomacy level, etc.)

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December 21, 2009 3:55:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Everything sound nice but i cant see how will tactical battles work in multiplayer ? Like real time battle but both player will be able to pause it ? Never played Total War and dont know if there is multiplayer option in that game,so can somebody plaese enlighten me...Since battles wont be turn based,guess thats no hotseat available as option

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December 21, 2009 5:12:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Rishkith,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 12
will the AI continue to be "smartened" after the official release of the game?
Heh. Any GalCiv II players want to answer this for Scoutdog?
 

Sure, like every single update. Go see the changelogs for all the Galciv updates

 

Indeed.  Brad is well-known -- if not downright famous -- among GalCiv2 players for improving the AI in every patch/update.  It's pretty much his baliwick now. 

So yes.  We can safely rely on the AI in Elemental being continually updated throughout the life of the game.   

 

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December 21, 2009 5:56:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great job so far imo!

I would be having a lot of fun with Beta 1 if only i could play a match for longer than 30 min without the game crashing

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December 21, 2009 7:16:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Luckmann,



Quoting Tormy-,
reply 6
Why do you think so? Because multiplayer simply isn't big in this genre.


 

I don't agree....just take a look at Dominions 3...on the other hand it was designed to be a PBEM MP game mainly...so who knows. Either way I had lot of online matches with AoW 2. - SM as well.

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December 21, 2009 8:23:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The point is that despite Demigod being a MP-orientated game, less than half (can't remember exactly how many) of players have EVER played online.  For a game like Elemental it wouuld be even lower.

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December 21, 2009 10:05:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting astrath,
The point is that despite Demigod being a MP-orientated game, less than half (can't remember exactly how many) of players have EVER played online.  For a game like Elemental it wouuld be even lower.

The number is 23%

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December 21, 2009 11:52:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the excellent update Frogboy and team, hope all get to enjoy some well deserved family time etc.

 

Merry Christmas all!

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