Elemental: How game mechanics evolve (long)

By on March 29, 2010 5:23:49 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Internally we are constantly playing, testing, and trying out new ideas. 

Here are some examples of discussions we have had:

 

To:    Team
From:  Brad
Date:  Feb 2010
Re:    Tile density

One of the things I’m a bit concerned about is how barren the world is. We want to make sure that Elemental’s world is filled with interesting things that make each game different.

Here’s a picture with an example of what someone might find early on:
image

Here’s another:

To:    Team
From:  Brad
Date:  Feb 2010
Re:    Making turns count

One of the absolute goals in Elemental is to make sure we balance it so that every single move means something.

I want us to avoid what we had in GalCiv where there were a lot of “pass” turns, we want to enrich the world such that game flow proceeds with a disciplined design.

So as we’re balancing things, we should be cognizant of how different elements fit together.

For instance:

Turn # / What happens

1. Player builds city.

2. Player clicks on city, queues up a command post and a study to be built, sovereign explores.

3. Command post gets completed (hence, we need the command post to only take 1 turn to build), player trains a pioneer, moves sovereign again.

4. (a quest tile comes into view this turn), player moves sovereign (getting a goodie hut)

5. Player sees quest objective in LOS and moves towards it, a low level champion shows up on LOS (this champion is simply a free pioneer). Player can recruit this champion easily.

6. Study gets built (which means study should only take 3 turns to build). Champion pioneer is near a rock quarry which provides 2 material per turn when built. Player moves Champion pioneer towards quarry. Player moves sovereign again towards quest, player queues up a hut in their city. Civilization level 1 technology achievement is made. I choose farming. Add farm to my queue. First tech should take 5 turns to get. I switch tech to adventuring.

7. Player reaches quest objective (killing local bandit terrorizing people). Reward: 10 people go to your outpost plus you receive boots of speed which, when equipped, gives your sovereign +1.

8. Pioneer in city gets built, player moves it from city, queues up a peasant defender. Sovereign sees a sider and moves towards it.

9. Sovereign attacks spider, wins, gains 50 gold. Champion pioneer reaches stone quarry, builds quarry and is consumed.

10. Pioneer continues north. Sovereign moves west. Hut gets built.  Adventuring level 1 gets completed. I choose Ruin Delving.  In my LOS 1 ruin is displayed along with a stone golem. I choose Warfare level 1 next.

11. Sovereign moves west. Encounters champion builder known as “Boboth the Builder”. He has an a magic hammer that causes things in cities to be built 1 turn faster. I send him to my city. In my city, a peasant defender is built in my city. Gold is too tight to build another one at this time.

12. My pioneer is heading towards stone golem in his LOS and heads towards it. My sovereign moves north. Boboth the builder heads words my city.

13. My pioneer closes in on the stone golem. My sovereign sees an ancient ruin (goodie hut) in his LOS and heads towards it. Boboth the builder heads towards my city.

14. My pioneer reaches the stone golem. An event pops up with a piece of artwork (like a quest dialog) telling me how the Titans built golems as soldiers and they obeyed whomever activates them and asks me if I want to activate. I choose yes. I now have a golem with my pioneer. In my LOS I see an ancient spring, I send my pioneer towards it. I send the golem back towards my city. My sovereign reaches the ancient ruin which contains jewels worth 100 gold. My farm is complete and the hut is now queued up.  Warfare level 1 is reached. I choose “equipment”.  Some crummy armor is added. I go to the design screen and design a unit that has crummy armor. The crummy armor adds 5 gold to the cost of creating the unit (hence, we now know that designing units involves gold, metal and/or crystal). The pop up card design randomly chooses “Imperion” out of its lengthy random unit name. I am okay with it and am also okay with the randomly generated quote “I fight for my people”.  My unit has a club so it has 3 attack and now 1 defense thanks to the crummy armor and costs 6 gold total (5 for the crummy armor and 1 for the club).

15. My sovereign encounters Lord Capitar and we agree to be friends. Boboth the builder reaches my city. My pioneer reaches the spring and builds a majestic spring on the spot which increases the prestige of my city by 1 and consumes the pioneer.  I queue up another hut in my city. In my sovereign’s LOS I see an orchard and head near it so that I can build my second city when I reach there.

And another:

To:    Team
From:  Brad
Date:  Feb 2010
Re:    City / Unit construction

One TBS crutch I’d like us to try to get rid of is the reliance on things taking N turns to build where N is dependent on resources.

The reason is that this forces us to abstract out the economy in such a way that trivializes the kind of economics that I think a lot of players would like to see.  In GalCiv and Civ, players produced “shields” or what have you and that determined the number of turns it took to do something.

In Elemental, I’d like us to move towards a system broadly describes as “Materials & Labor”.  Labor is what determines the time to produce a thing and materials is the up front cost. 

This way, I could have a given thing require a lot of different types of materials (depending on how powerful and sophisticated it is) without the user having to sit there calculating out the time it takes.

For example, with this system we could have all kinds of rare and interesting things that can effectively only be built once.  I find the plans to build a Dread Golem and it requires a midnight stone to build. As a player, I now know that if I want to build this, I must find a midnight stone (that maybe I can find on a quest or something).  In essence, I can have units and buildings that are very precious, rare and interesting by having a richer economic system without making the game a spreadsheet.

Thoughts?

A lot of these discussions make it into the game. A lot of them end up being rejected or not working out because it turns out not to be fun or turns out to increase scope too much or what have you. 

In Elemental beta 1Z, we have started going towards the direction of making the game a lot richer and more interesting – more density.

image

A lot of this becomes possible by alterations in the economic system – simplifying construction thus enabling greater sophistication.

For example:

image

One of the big changes we’ve made that resources are now global instead of per city.

I’d like to take credit for that one but the beta group collaborated on this:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/378334

And it turns out to make the game much much more fun. I can’t even begin to describe the potential for fun by having this system.

image

When a player acquires a resource, it shows up on screen in their resource list.  At the start of the game, all they have is food and population.  Build a workshop and now you get 1 “materials” (our catch-all for building materials) per turn.

Build a garden and now you have 2 food available (food is handled as your net food production).  A hut provides population but consumes food.  But now you don’t have to worry about where your food comes from.

Roads and such increase your production through trade.

Moreover, now quests, goodie huts, and such can provide as many different types of resources as we (or modders) want to provide and have weapons, equipment, buildings, etc. consume these resources.

From a “fun” perspective you end up with a much more sophisticated economy but one that is remarkably straight forward to understand and play.

Beta 1Z also introduces the pioneer.

image

Pioneers are the answer to an often requested feature by the beta group that also solves the “density” issue I was complaining about previously. 

Originally, only cities could build improvements because resources were local to the city.  Now that they’re global (again thanks http://forums.elementalgame.com/378334) we can let players build pioneer units who go out and can build on resources that aren’t part of a city.  The pioneer is “consumed” (since they’re settling on that resource) but now you get that resource.  Of course, the downside is that someone else can capture those resources pretty easily unless you send out units to protect your territory. 

Pioneers also give players a logical rationale to control their territory rather than just their cities.  Historically, control of the countryside has mattered and now it matters in Elemental as well.  Hence, the player that creates a massive single army may indeed be formidable but could quickly find themselves starved out by a more nimble (but smaller) opponent that controls their countryside.

I won’t even get into how cool all this stuff looks in the full mode (graphics engine turned on).  But this way, every game feels and plays very different because we can have lots and lots of different resources. You might play 200 games and suddenly get a quest that gives you the plans to build a diamond golem – provided that you find the star diamond located on some distant island (you get the idea).

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March 29, 2010 5:35:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

sounds promising.  perhaps a good mesh between Civ3 colonies and MOM food production limits?

 

--edit--

 

though it's obviously all about implementation.  I hope to see some interesting mechanics rather than just a more intensive Civ4 system with a random materials generator thrown in.

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March 29, 2010 5:39:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm curious to see how having global resources, a trait usually reserved for RTS games, will handle in a TBS game. The direction the game is taking in this post sounds very enticing though. I look forward to testing it.

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March 29, 2010 5:39:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Is it Thursday yet?

 

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March 29, 2010 5:42:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting docbates7,
sounds promising.

Indeed...can't wait for 1Z...and YAY for the pioneer unit! Some specialist unit like this was a must have.

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March 29, 2010 5:42:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Whacky Wild Stuff.


I love getting a glimpse into the sausage factory.

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March 29, 2010 5:47:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Lost_WLd,
I'm curious to see how having global resources, a trait usually reserved for RTS games, will handle in a TBS game. The direction the game is taking in this post sounds very enticing though. I look forward to testing it.

 

Lost- If you are looking to see the mechanic I would try Civ 3 or Civ 4.  Both awesome games.  Civ 4 and its mods, Fall From Heaven in particular, both tease this mechanic out.  Basically you harvest a resource and you share the resource with all the locations you have trade connections with.  Made specific units, buildings, etc.

 

-edit--

Forgot to note that Civ 3 has the abities for workers to create "colonies" to harvest resources much the same way as "pioneers".  Civ 4 go rid of this mechanic, however.

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March 29, 2010 5:48:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Looks good, cant wait to try it out. I think ill have to in order to understand it fully.

As for the resources, do you have an income and an amount stored or just an income?

Or is it seperate for perishable(food) and nonperishable(materials)?

 

 

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March 29, 2010 5:55:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Freaking Awesome! Man waiting for the update to be pushed out!

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March 29, 2010 6:04:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

By the way, one thing I would really like to see added to spice up the landscape are unique geographical features, some possibly tied to the Cataclysm itself.  Perhaps a volcanically active region where the planet's crust is thin and lava flows freely, or perhaps a great rift in the earth.  These would be unique features that wouldn't show up in every game.  Some may be relatively mundane, apart from being a navigation obstacle, but others may prove to be of magical or strategic importance.

Perhaps there could be a quest or research item to investigate a given feature once it's discovered, which may unlock something once completed.  Perhaps that great rift in the earth eventually allows for the summoning of some foul beast not normally available, or those lava flows permit forging of new materials or items.

 

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March 29, 2010 6:10:21 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

One of the absolute goals in Elemental is to make sure we balance it so that every single move means something.

One word for you: Zugzwang

Just kidding

Pioneers look like a good iea.

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March 29, 2010 6:16:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

God, I hate you.  Why post this and tease?  I want 1Z already, damnit!   

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March 29, 2010 6:26:10 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Great post!

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March 29, 2010 6:49:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cauldyth,
By the way, one thing I would really like to see added to spice up the landscape are unique geographical features, some possibly tied to the Cataclysm itself.  Perhaps a volcanically active region where the planet's crust is thin and lava flows freely, or perhaps a great rift in the earth.  These would be unique features that wouldn't show up in every game.  Some may be relatively mundane, apart from being a navigation obstacle, but others may prove to be of magical or strategic importance.

Perhaps there could be a quest or research item to investigate a given feature once it's discovered, which may unlock something once completed.  Perhaps that great rift in the earth eventually allows for the summoning of some foul beast not normally available, or those lava flows permit forging of new materials or items.

 

I support this 100%. And with Stardock's proposed system of implementing user content into the game, they would probably only have to provide a relatively small amount of unique features that could be expanded by modders as the game goes on.

 

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March 29, 2010 7:26:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Elemental just keeps sounding better and better. Although I do wonder will it be possible to take a rare material like the star diamond you mentioned and use it to create something else besides the Diamond Golem?

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March 29, 2010 7:43:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting docbates7,

Lost- If you are looking to see the mechanic I would try Civ 3 or Civ 4.  Both awesome games.  Civ 4 and its mods, Fall From Heaven in particular, both tease this mechanic out.  Basically you harvest a resource and you share the resource with all the locations you have trade connections with.  Made specific units, buildings, etc.

Not exactly as "deer", "Elephants", and other resources in Civ were primarily a trade good. The food was based off of tile improvements around the city.

Anyways, I'm sorry to see this feature go in as for me I expect to find a major immersion breaker. I also don't see how making city placement less strategic can be fun. It seems to me like we're on the fast track to making city building irrelevant and we'll instead have the shapeless blobs of "Influence zones" meaning anything.

To go from disapproval to open mockery I think Elemental "Needs LESS Vespene Gas".

YMMV

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March 29, 2010 7:45:26 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

give me!!!! but if you fail like spore did i will hunt all that gave a helping hand in making this.

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March 29, 2010 7:53:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Blegh, I was hoping you could get away from "worker" units since you're planning to keep track of villagers.

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March 29, 2010 7:57:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Global resources! A very nice addition. Since these games could last SOOooo many turns, anything that reduces the tedium.

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March 29, 2010 8:35:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting psychoak,
Blegh, I was hoping you could get away from "worker" units since you're planning to keep track of villagers.

 

But why keep track of villagers unless they are to be a valued resource that must be spent?

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March 29, 2010 8:46:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Blegh, I was hoping you could get away from "worker" units since you're planning to keep track of villagers.

From what he said the Pioneer is far from a "worker" unit.  He is member of your population with the specific task of extracting a resource by setting up an outpost.  If the unit wasn't consumed upon capturing the resource, I'd agree with you. He is more in-line with a "settler" unit then anything.

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March 29, 2010 8:57:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Myles,

I support this 100%. And with Stardock's proposed system of implementing user content into the game, they would probably only have to provide a relatively small amount of unique features that could be expanded by modders as the game goes on.

 

I rememeber something about us being about to design map "Segments" that are randomly inserteed in the map during world creation.

If that works the way I think it does it should be relatilivy easy(or already planned" to have something like that.

 

Edit: forgot quote

 

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March 29, 2010 9:12:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Rishkith,

Quoting docbates7, reply 6
Not exactly as "deer", "Elephants", and other resources in Civ were primarily a trade good. The food was based off of tile improvements around the city.

Anyways, I'm sorry to see this feature go in as for me I expect to find a major immersion breaker. I also don't see how making city placement less strategic can be fun. It seems to me like we're on the fast track to making city building irrelevant and we'll instead have the shapeless blobs of "Influence zones" meaning anything.

To go from disapproval to open mockery I think Elemental "Needs LESS Vespene Gas".

YMMV

Rith - Actually Civ 4 had iron, coal, copper, and...oil i think that were "strategic resources" that you had to find otherwise you couldn't build specific units.  FFH took this one step further and added buildings that couldn't be built w/o a specific resource (mana types), buildings that would process resources into other resources, etc.  Also FFH had specific resources (copper, iron, steel, mithril) actually upgrade certain units to be more effective, and added a few disadvantages as well.  So it seems like that's exactly what's going to happen here

I'm seeing that these resources that Frogboy is talking about sound almost exactly like Civ 4 strategic resources, i.e. you need them to build things. Also the food rec seems like a MoM overall food resource usage, i.e. needing a certain amount of food production to sustain a given population.

Doesn't seem like a "bad" thing, just seems like the same things we've seen before.  Particularly with the pioneer units.  Its all about implementation, though, so I hope that my initial "eh" moment is over.  Hard to remake the wheel when the wheel already works so damn well.

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March 29, 2010 9:54:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It will be interesting to see how non-food global resources will be handled. I was just assuming that Ore/metals, ect would be determining how long it takes to build things. Im guessing that certain buildings then will reduce the "timer" for units??

Since the accumulation of Material Wealth can't be a time determinator, then perhaps we will have buildings like a Forge or Factory that reduces completion timers by 1?? (like that great engineer dude).

Anyways, im interested in where this is going.

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March 29, 2010 10:08:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There are labor camps and such that reduce the amount of time it takes the to build things.

 

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March 29, 2010 10:20:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Splendid.

now onto materials ...

if your making 20 iron per turn (12 from city A, 4 from city B and 4 from city C), and all three of your cities are building an Iron Plated Swordsman, will the Iron be divided up by each city? (will this take time? or somehow be an upfront cost??)

Hmm, or instead does Swordsman 1 use his 15 Iron on turn 1 and Swordsman 2 uses 5 iron on turn 1, and Swordsman 2 uses 10 iron on turn 2 and Swordsman 3 uses 10 iron on turn 2, and then swordsman 3 uses 5 iron on turn 3 (assuming its a 15 iron upfront cost in materials)

Im just not seeing how materials=upfront cost will work without stockpiling resources unless equipment has the potential to take several turns to make (like we have seen *teased* in previous builds). Will labor be the absolute only time spender, and everything else is upfront? meaning that we now have stockpiles of resources? Or is it more complex than that ... (puzzled face)

thank you for your quick response about labor times. It was much helpful. Honestly I think I might just have to wait till playing the 1Z before expecting my queries (like above) to make any sense. I mean, maybe there is something I am not seeing ... but if all non-food resources are income only AND global then Im hesitant to consider the victory automatic. Food works as a global resource because Food is always stockpiled (via potential max food/ population) even in a game without stockpiles ... because your Population is your stockpile. Also with Star Diamonds ... you complete a quest to get a stockpile of one Stardiamond, as opposed to an income of 1 star diamond per turn.

Just as a reiteration, I can intuitively tell that global resources will be fun ... Im only wondering if there is need to separate some resources as global and some resources as local. Or even if we are seeing a re-introduction of stockpiling.

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