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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April 6, 2010 7:39:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Rishkith,
Honestly, can someone tell me what was so broken about the economic system before?

I thought it showed a lot of promise and was heading in a good direction with some new content and less filler. City placement was tactical and meaningful. Road caravans gave a reasonable bonus and were worth defending, though not totally crippling to lose.

I didn't think it was broken and I don't understand why they through it out for a blah system that has been tried by many other games before and never excited anyone. Seriously, stockpiling of global resources is different from Warcraft 2 economy how?

Agreed.

Quoting vieuxchat,



Quoting RisingLegend,
reply 169

I want simplicity, yet depth.  As I ramble, this is what I really want.  This is what dwarf fortress lacks.  It has complexity and depth.  If we get to a place where things are simple, yet there is great depth then this game will be great.
Its extremely hard for simplicity and depth to coexist. What we can agree on is that we want depth in this game. As soon as you focus on making the game "simple enough" you are going to lose depth and you are going to lose immersion. almost guaranteed.


Well the game "go" is fairly simple, yet is one of the most complex game.

What we should remember is that simple system that interact in interesting ways is the way to go.

EWoM will have depth, that is for sure. Schools of magic, unit design, tech trees etc. The introduction of global resources removed some strategic elements from the game -this is why I don't like the idea- [+local res. system is much more "realistic"], but you will spend less time on micro. Either way, the devs cannot please everyone...or wait, that is wrong. Everyone will be able to play their own fantasy game, because of the powerful modding features.

So =>

I think it's time to stop the arguing over the "global vs. local resource system", the decision has been made already.

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April 6, 2010 8:02:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Rishkith,
Honestly, can someone tell me what was so broken about the economic system before?

I thought it showed a lot of promise and was heading in a good direction with some new content and less filler. City placement was tactical and meaningful. Road caravans gave a reasonable bonus and were worth defending, though not totally crippling to lose.

I didn't think it was broken and I don't understand why they through it out for a blah system that has been tried by many other games before and never excited anyone. Seriously, stockpiling of global resources is different from Warcraft 2 economy how?

You mean the system in 1G? For one thing, you didn't actually need any of a resource to build things that require it. There was no stockpiling at all. Hooking up a resouce reduces build times of things that use that resource, and that's about it. You also had to build a city near something to capture it, or "snake" improvements over in downright bizzare ways.

The new system allows for rare resources, has better options for trading, and doesn't require you to spam cities just to pick up a mine. Since you can build a city basically anywhere now, there are more factors in deciding rather then just "oh I need that resource, better build a city."

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April 6, 2010 8:24:48 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, the new system reduces the need for cityspam and house-spam, and instead allows for a larger countryside of improvements to support your one or two strategically important cities.

Afterall, the location of your first city STILL MATTERS ... its just that city snaking and city spam are no longer needed. It fits much better into the (cities cost increasingly more to maintain) because we don't need Civ like city spam anymore.

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April 6, 2010 8:41:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting RisingLegend,
Agreed. I would rather see this game push boundaries and experiment rather than fall back on dull systems used in every other game in the genre. Elemental does not need to be Civ IV with magic. I don't know why so many people seem to want that

I'd dare to say that a lot more people find Civ 4 fun then find Dwarf Fortress fun.

I think Stardock should let us play each of the original camp ideas in the beta builds (when they get more stable so people can't use bugs as an excuse ) and I guarantee you that people would find camp 1 (or something similar to it) a whole lot more refreshing in the end. Yea, it may look complex on paper, but once you get the hang of it, it turns into depth. Just like with Dwarf Fortress, use the wiki while you play and you can sort through the "complexity" and find the magic in it.

You're right, the forum crowd will like it. But we already know that, there's no need to delay the game another month to rewrite the economy a few more times in order to figure it out.

I'd also say that it's not a lot of depth that it adds, but a lot of logistics management. At some point I want to go raise armies and level terrain with volcanoes, not tell the game to move Iron from city X to city Y so I can build more helmets.


Other games get old because the simplicity makes them repetitive. Dwarf Fortress can never get old, and will live on indefinitely because its different all the time, and the immersion allows for different stories to be crafted every time. The depth is so much greater than a game like Civ could ever create. Because take the economies in both games for example, DF would be considered "complex" but is different every time you play. Products have different values, and rarity. When you find a supply of something special you know it could be gone, you have a limited supply. Civ has a simple system. You find it once and you have it forever unless someone takes it. No values, no certain amount and it all turns out to be boring as hell to play by the end game. Both games have depth, but the complex system stays interesting throughout a play through.

Tell me how many times you've quit Civ cuz after a while it just got boring..? I know I do. Every time I finish a play through of DF I am left feeling a sense of awe and my mind is still racing with imagination of the world I was playing in. That's what Elemental needs to create, and That's what a sophisticated, well engineered (NOT simple) economy can supply.


It's a niche game. It serves that niche very well, and has exactly zero appeal outside of fans of that niche. (Also, the 1Z economy looks a good deal different then Civ 4, primarily because there isn't infinite iron for all eternity from a single mine. Global storage is a lot more interesting, if the numbers are tweaked right.)

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April 6, 2010 9:01:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting RisingLegend,

Tell me how many times you've quit Civ cuz after a while it just got boring..? I know I do. Every time I finish a play through of DF I am left feeling a sense of awe and my mind is still racing with imagination of the world I was playing in. That's what Elemental needs to create, and That's what a sophisticated, well engineered (NOT simple) economy can supply.

That amount of replayability in DF does not come solely from the economy of the game. I'd venture to say that the economy contributes less than 10% of the replayability. I think that comes from all the different stuff that you can do and that can happen. In fact, in the games I've played, the economy works out the same everytime. Dig, setup stone/woodcrafting, wait a bit, setup woodburning, smelting, and forging, then expand as you gain new materials. Sure, there's some variations that come based on availability, but that's not what makes it fun.

What makes DF fun is the goblin raids that come and screw everything up. Or the stupid dwarf who falls through a well and breaks a leg so a heroic peasant can save him. Or the crazy miner who goes on a rampage. Or the crazy miner who goes into a strange mood and makes a legendary artifact. Or the ability to learn about a 'living' world that has a history and records what history you make. Or the... well, I think I've made my point.

The economy doesn't make DF great. Does it add to the immersion; a little bit. Does it add a little bit of accomplishment when you create a functional economy; the first couple times. Is it the most important part of DF; not by far.

 

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April 6, 2010 9:36:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Three cheers for Myles!

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April 6, 2010 1:52:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The economy doesn't make DF great. Does it add to the immersion; a little bit. Does it add a little bit of accomplishment when you create a functional economy; the first couple times. Is it the most important part of DF; not by far.

Haha snooted   Ok, I concede. Victory to you guys  

but dammit, myles, i thought you were on my side 

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April 6, 2010 2:06:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If the real "Infrastructure" that is required to make items via Forges, Smithy, Smelters etc, are left "Local" to individual towns, while the "Supplies" required to actually produce said items remain "Global", there is still hope for some Depth in unique Cities to be had.

If it comes down to having a Forge in a City to provide simply more "Storage" space for iron ore, and not a prerequisite for Sword production in a City, then it starts to cloud how/where the Unique aspects will come from between Cities. Everyone will require as much iron ore as they can muster and store.

It will quickly become obvious very early one to anyone who plays the game, using the currently presented "Global" model that it is a storage "wins" based game and that storage is KING.

I also agree that I will hold off judgment on the new resource model until after 1Z is Compiled, Staged and installed on my PC, and tested thoroughly, before getting to...

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April 6, 2010 2:20:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting RisingLegend,

but dammit, myles, i thought you were on my side 

Sorry man, I've been swayed by the darkside

Really though, I've changed my mind to the opinion that nearly all the depth created by having a complex economic system can be accomplished using the system they've changed to. If not, I will be leading the charge to mod 'Elemental:WOM Complex'.

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April 6, 2010 2:26:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting John_Hughes,

I also agree that I will hold off judgment on the new resource model until after 1Z is Compiled, Staged and installed on my PC, and tested thoroughly, before getting to...

I would hold off judgment until a couple of balancing passes after the global economy has been implemented.

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April 6, 2010 2:43:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 Really though, I've changed my mind to the opinion that nearly all the depth created by having a complex economic system can be accomplished using the system they've changed to. If not, I will be leading the charge to mod 'Elemental:WOM Complex'.

Yea I agree, i think i've seen the light. (the light of the darkside?  lol) this system may work. But should the day come, I will follow you in that charge 

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April 7, 2010 1:11:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There can always be an "Orbis Mod" of Elemental some-time in the future.

In any case, I am glad that you will be giving the global economy a chance. Even though there is a Niche Market for Orbis Mod, Official Version of FFH2 reigns supreme in MP usage.

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April 7, 2010 2:23:10 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I like the importance given to economic. It is one of the biggest fun you have from a 4x game. Humans just enjoy accumulating. As I understand it, the economy is not simplified in Elemental like having a Production resource but rather works with materials and its chains of production. I was playing The Settlers 7 demo and noticed how much fun that is, it is incredible fun for me and also because in there it is very easy to see your items and they even call it "Inventory" and the player feels very close to those; with just passing the mouse over the inventory labbel you can see all of it, not even a need to click as just another "check out screen". And they all just have nice - easy to recognize and clean - images.

I think that in making a game with lots of replay ability, the Team should pay a lot care in making checking the easiest as possible, even going beyond the "with just one click..." by having accessibility with just a passing of the mouse for what is important. The strategic use of this makes players closer to the game and diminishes the amount of clicks that 4x games already have by nature that do can add to early tiriness and with more importance for multiplayer. In that regard, in The Setllers 7 you can even just click anywhere on the map to bring the build menu which eventually showed the huge impact of ease interface to me, tough it is a realtime (Anno 1404 also have a quick build just by cliking anywhere). Overproduction being done by better but harder to produce food in there is what I imagine has the "larbor" looking alike.

It's good that Stardock isn't afraid at all to learn from what is there, use it, and go further. That made the awesome game that is Galactics Civilitions. Tough, I constanly feel there is to many clicks involved (the interface is great, but the many features still make a demand) especialy when using Constructors. I admit I don't use the rally point yet tough because its a bit different from what I was accustomed.

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April 7, 2010 7:08:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have a question. If I understand correctly only base resources like Iron will be stockpilled in the game and these will be consumed when you produce stuff like swords, but these 'refined' resources will not be stockpilled, either globally or locally, right?

My question then is: will there be building requirements for a city to produce weapons and other equipment? So if I want to train a 'knight' at a certain city, will it be necessary that there is at the very least a smithy in that city, and possibly a barracks, forge, armorer and/or stables too? Or can the same unit be trained at an undeveloped outpost as well, although probably taking a lot longer?

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April 7, 2010 9:00:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

it would be nice to have like snow terrain that slows units down and if they get in a blizzard they slowly die till they take shelter and ice would be nice like ice between an island and mainland so soldiers can use ice to cross from mainland to island of course its gonna be dangerous for the soldiers but whats the fun with no risk.And I hope that the clothes/armor for your sovereign will be just for looks so you can make him look how you like not make him look cool yet some other sovereign comes with plate armor and kills him with a baseball bat i hope its just for looks wene it comes to sovereigns since i hate how plate armor looks like well i hate how most armor looks in general i would like my guy to be in a robe with a hood like the grim reaper with a Katana and Fire maginc with Wind magic since Fire feeds off from Wind a combo of fire + wind makes the fire spell stronger

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April 8, 2010 12:57:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I was under the impression that you did not need a forge in 1Z, but thats a good idea.

For beginning metals (like copper) I am fine with not needing a forge ... however once people start to get IRON ... perhaps a city will need a forge to build things that require Iron??

I'd also like to see a difference between Iron and Steel .... with Steel perhaps being Iron + Forge?? and requiring a certain technology .... although im not sure if you can make an Iron Sword w/o it being steel, would it even be as strong as copper sword? It seems like wielding a sword of Iron (and not refined steel) would be kind of like wielding a stone sword.

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