Game Mechanics: The Ultimate Balancing Act

By on July 21, 2010 7:19:39 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Loosely speaking, here are the 5 different technology paths and what you’re supposed to accomplish with them.  Our challenge is to make sure each of these 5 paths are meaningful on their own as well as can be mixed and match to create an endless combination of strategies.

During the betas, we have been turning on and off different trees in order to get a sense of how effective any given path is.

The purpose of this journal entry is to discuss with you guys things you think would be interesting in these 5 areas that have not been present in existing betas.  Some of these ideas will make it into the RTM version, others will make it into the release (day 0) version and some may make it into the future.

First, let’s recap the 4 victory conditions since ultimately all objectives lead to one of the 4 conditions:

  1. Conquest. You killed everyone.
  2. Spell of Making. You cast the spell to bring in a new Forge of the Overlord (you win).
  3. Quest of Mastery. You find and put back together the old Forge of the Overlord (you win).
  4. Diplomacy. You get everyone to ally with you.

Imperium/Civilization

The world has resources. And your territory expands as your influence grows to make use of these resources. This tree allows you to increase your utilization of these resources. The most important resource here is Gildar (gold).

Adventure

There were a lot of resources before everything blew up. More than that, there was a lot of really powerful stuff out there that’s now gone. The purpose of adventure is to give players access to increasingly powerful items and resources that will aid them in their pursuit of one of the 4 objectives. Also leads to the Master Quest. What you are looking to do here is to build a band of powerful champions armed with magical items you have collected.

Warfare/Conquest

Other factions have resources and stuff you want. Take it from them by building armies of increasingly lethal weaponry and defenses of your design. The most important resource here is metal. You need it. Others may have it. Might makes right.

Magic

Besides giving players access to the Spell of Making eventually, the spells you learn can help you achieve any of the 4 objectives when used right. The key resources here are Arcane Knowledge (how fast you learn new spells) and Essence (the maximum amount of mana your casters can hold).

Diplomacy

Sometimes you don’t have the stuff you want and you don’t want to have to conquer everyone. Diplomacy lets you do this.  Diplomatic Capital is the resource here. The more of you get get, the more people love you. Trade others to get more of it and they’ll like you even more or trade it away to get other resources or get others to attack each other so that they’re too busy to get after you.

 

So there you have the basic game mechanics of Elemental. And on the surface, it’s a pretty straight forward game.  Of course, actually accomplishing your goals in the game is another thing.  And over the course of the next several years, the depth beneath the surface here will increase.

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July 21, 2010 7:34:17 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

need a treaty that allows you to do quests in other peoples territory as well as quests not being bland and almost a meanlingless task.

I think Refined stuff should be capped like you can only get a few in that area and which bonus you get would have more effect on gameplay. eg you can only get like refined 5 times under Civilization i think that would be fun if thats balanced out.

and Forge of the Overlord twice for a victory? i didn't think the quest was fun

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July 21, 2010 7:40:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'll have more to add on the others later, but Warfare/Conquest is the largest issue right now imo. It is too easy to climb the ladder. One technology gives you all the basic armors, another all the basic weapons etc. -- These should be broken down into "Basic Swords", "Basic Clubs" etc. - This will also make it so that you choose a few weapon types and can't just build everything every game- This would also distinguish the factions from one another.

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July 21, 2010 7:42:31 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting strager,
I'll have more to add on the others later, but Warfare/Conquest is the largest issue right now imo. It is too easy to climb the ladder. One technology gives you all the basic armors, another all the basic weapons etc. -- These should be broken down into "Basic Swords", "Basic Clubs" etc. - This will also make it so that you choose a few weapon types and can't just build everything every game- This would also distinguish the factions from one another.

It used to be like that and it was terrible. Spend 20 turns researching "Daggers" then "Swords" then "BroadSwords" 

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July 21, 2010 7:50:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Brad you keep mentioning the RTM version, my question is, do review sites review the RTM or day 0 version? Things might be bad if they don't update

 

And magic / adventuring are a bit... well overpowered? You can rush them and your enemies will never know (though they will know that you're conquering all their cities if you chose conquest)

 

And diplomatic capital still confuses me as to what it does and how much of it you need to win

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July 21, 2010 7:56:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Would it be possible to have "rare" metal deposits (a subset of the existing metal mines) that give your troops better weapons and armor? These deposits would NOT be random but strategically placed in dangerous areas (open terrain, strong monsters guarding it etc...). If the player wishes to pursue these resources at the risk of losing a lot of men/having a not-so-defensible position then he/she can do so. You could call these mines "mithril" deposits (or whatever the equivalent is in the lore) and the difference would be graphically noticeable in tactical battles (glowing white swords/armour).

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July 21, 2010 8:05:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Thrawn2787,
Brad you keep mentioning the RTM version, my question is, do review sites review the RTM or day 0 version? Things might be bad if they don't update

 

And magic / adventuring are a bit... well overpowered? You can rush them and your enemies will never know (though they will know that you're conquering all their cities if you chose conquest)

 

And diplomatic capital still confuses me as to what it does and how much of it you need to win

They traditionally review the release version which is typically the same as the day 0 version.

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July 21, 2010 8:11:19 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

i like the idea of "mithril" should be other rare/limited metal out there maybe even for Mounts and other resources. be cool if you could tame a Drake and use it for a mount as well as being able to give mounts armor.

Seems like at this point Warfare/Conquest has the most tech, Magic is a bit out of place since you also have to learn spells but i will assume it has use for enchantment and other magical things of nature.

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July 21, 2010 8:20:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The only thing I can think of right now is linking passive bonuses of tech trees to your champions. I've been doing a lot of brainstorming recently relating to champions because, to me at least, they are a very important part of the game and they just currently are just like a peasant that can buy stuff in a shop and levels up.

Anyways I think you could have champions and the tech trees interwined by giving bonuses to the respective hero classes that could relate to a tech tree. For example if you had 5 techs on the adventure tree your adventurer heroes would gain a bonus to health (or to whatever). It wouldn't neccesarly have to be tied to number of techs, it could be tied to an actual tech too.

What would you gain by doing this? Well the way I see it is if maybe you stumbled across and adventurer type early (or your sovereign is one) then maybe you would be inclined to go the adventure path for these bonuses. More options are awesome and this could make games even more varied since having a certain type of champion would make you think "hmm maybe I should try for these bonuses by going down X tech tree".

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July 21, 2010 8:28:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

well, there are a few things i would like to see.

1.  i have already posted this in the ideas section, but to recap. i want alot more kits for customizing units.  i love the ranger kits, and the healers kits, but i want more.  i need more options beyond just weapons and armor to make unique and interesting units.  i want kits and other equipment that gives traits to come from all tech areas. my idea was to eliminate the stagnant prebuilt units for customized ones that can remain useful throughout the game.

2.  i would like for the terrain to affect visibility.  i came across an interesting thing in the beta last night.  while i was away a group of bandits stood in a forest next to a caravan route and when it got closer they attacked it.  i loved this.  what i want is for them to be hard to see in that forest.  basically i want the scout kit to be able to see the invis units in the forest, where i cannot.  this would go for hills, swamps and other tiles that would normally have low visibility.  when i equip a unit with the scout pack i can see these hidden units up to their visual range. i want to teleport into and hide in a forest or in some hills with an army, and if they don't have a scout or something watching i can sneak attack. (i realize this doesn't fall into the categories but it was to cool of a moment to pass up)

thats all for now.

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July 21, 2010 8:40:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I found that removing the main resource buildings (farms and mines mostly) out of the Imperium category helped a lot in making Imperium balanced toward the other categories. You are no longer forced to start every game by researching Imperium to get the most basic buildings.

I would suggest doing the same thing for the Conquest category, by improving the weapons and armors selection that doesn't require any technology. Equipment that is relatively expensive (both in gold and in resource), but is not very good would allow the player to build some non ridiculous units without having to go through the Conquest category.

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July 21, 2010 8:40:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ok.  With Diplomacy- why would the player want Diplomatic Capital in return for giving up resources?  If you can bribe the AI with Diplomatic Capital, there needs to be a reason for the player to offer something for Diplomatic Capital from the AI, and the AI needs to offer such trades.

 

Maybe Diplomatic Capital should be spendable to get minor civs to join your empire peacefully, and the AI should do this also.

 

Another thing I'd want to see down the road with the tech trees.  Cross-branching.  Maybe Magic+Diplomacy tech combined could unlock certain spells.  Maybe Adventuring+War techs would unlock specialized units, such as unusual cavalries.  Maybe Imperium+Magic  could unlock magical farms/houses/mines.  Maybe Adventure+Diplomacy could allow for spy actions.  I can see possibilities, though I'd want the AI to be able to do anything I can.

 

 

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July 21, 2010 8:43:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One area in general that seems lite in terms of purpose is the water on maps. Seems like each tree could expand to use water more. Trade ships which act like caravans to support the diplomacy tree. What about sea creatures for our adventurers to beat up??!

 

Warfare:

- More techs which benefit armies in tactical battle. Things like spear formation which increases attack verse calvary or coordinated use of shields which increase defense verse arrows, etc...

- Horse armor!

- Allow armies to block trade routes

- Allow armies to camp in enemy territory. When camped they have a small area of influence and can therefore camp near a resource denying a city from building on it.

- More city defenses. Moats, defensive towers, decorations of intimidation that lower the moral of attacking armies, etc..

- Defensive harbors

 

Diplomacy:

- Force cease fire between two of your allies who are currently at war with one another

- More underhanded type diplomacy actions such as inciting war between two players. If you can't make them ally with you, persuade one of your military centric allies to take them out.

- Request military assistance

 

Adventure:

- The tech that allows for recruiting of heroes, titans, etc doesn't seem to attract those adventurers. More techs that attract certain types of adventures to your cities would be cool.

This tree out of all of them seems lite. It would be nice it adventurers had more perks. Special mounts you could aquire, Allow them to specialize with a weapon maybe?

 

 

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July 21, 2010 8:44:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As far as the magic goes, I believe it was said another post but being as the magic is based on elements it seems there should be some way to mix them. Within reason though, the outcomes are only limited by imagination. For example you if you had an earth shard and water shard you could make spells like Mudslide, Mud Golem, with fire and air you could come up with some really intense fire blast spells. Earth and fire could yield lava based spells and so on, like i said the outcome could be endless so it might be difficult to implement but it would be cool! For all I know it might already be in the works but thanks for listening!

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July 21, 2010 8:52:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

maybe make champions recruit able in inns, when the the adventure techs are unlocked. this way they are still important and you don't have to magically make them disappear once a quest is completed. (also they should give you new quests after a while).

 

combining this with fewer inns should make them more important

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July 21, 2010 8:53:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting arstal,
Ok.  With Diplomacy- why would the player want Diplomatic Capital in return for giving up resources?  If you can bribe the AI with Diplomatic Capital, there needs to be a reason for the player to offer something for Diplomatic Capital from the AI, and the AI needs to offer such trades.

 

Maybe Diplomatic Capital should be spendable to get minor civs to join your empire peacefully, and the AI should do this also.

 

Another thing I'd want to see down the road with the tech trees.  Cross-branching.  Maybe Magic+Diplomacy tech combined could unlock certain spells.  Maybe Adventuring+War techs would unlock specialized units, such as unusual cavalries.  Maybe Imperium+Magic  could unlock magical farms/houses/mines.  Maybe Adventure+Diplomacy could allow for spy actions.  I can see possibilities, though I'd want the AI to be able to do anything I can.

 

 

 

Merely possessing diplomatic capital gives you a relations bonus.  

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July 21, 2010 8:56:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

How will diplomatic Capital work in multiplayer?  Will there even be a diplomacy win condition anyways?

 

 

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July 21, 2010 8:59:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like how the Master Quest is going. I am curious if the AI can and will pursue the Master Quest as well, and if it can, are the pieces of the Forge the AI is chasing after the same 5 pieces I am looking for? 

It would make for an interesting game with the AI, and perhaps later for Multiplayer as well...

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July 21, 2010 9:50:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

!! warning - random thoughts ahead - tread with strong defenses !!

How about specialization tech ?  Example - Town X can now make specific weapon Y at a reduced material cost.  Each town could only specialize in one type of weapon/armor.  Although - this would want us to be able to 'transport' weapons/armor from one city to another to train a better class of units.

What is the current tech goal - Should the best path be the best use of 2 techs together, only 1 tech, or a broad mix of them all ?

If the goal is to have 2 maxed techs lead to victory - I don't see how magic or diplomacy can stand up to the mix of Imperium and Conquest.  Here is my reasoning - to win with Magic - you need 1 of each kind of Shard.  To get this, eventually you need enough might to take the needed shards from other nations (unless they will trade them).  The thing is, if you research enough Imperium and Conquest to have the strength to take over a few key nations, chances are, you are close to strong enough to take out the rest of them.

I suppose Diplomacy may work - as long as you are able to explore most of the map in time to make alliances with all of the other nations, before they do the same (or kill you).  Winning through just alliances still seems odd to me as a victory condition[ how would it work in multiplayer ?].

 

Maybe a different way to look at this is - which tech can turn the tide of the game once another nation has the momentum going?

Either way, you have to be able to survive long enough to defend against the leading nation.  I guess Diplomacy could keep you alive - as long as you have something worth trading.  Not sure if Magic or Adventuring will be enough to keep you out of trouble though.

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July 21, 2010 9:52:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If we are doing just conquest mode, last team or person wins. Will diplomacy still be just as helpful.

Good luck finding a balancing act between all these. I mean they all play out very very different. Player 1 is building an army, player 2 is building up his town, Player 3 is focusing on powerful spells, Player 4 is doing adventures and building up his heroes, can diplomacy server a purpose in multiplayer?. Who will win?

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July 21, 2010 10:00:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ok, will the game penalize the human sufficiently for poor relations?  As in, will the AI gang up on the human if relations are poor enough, and the two "allies" have enough force to hurt the human player?  (I don't mind AI gangbangs if there is a logic behind them)

 

I still think the capital should be spendable on getting minor cities to join you, especially if a diplo hit is given for conquering those cities (minor cities should also gangbang/dogpile a minor city gobbling player also, if they know of it, be it human or AI)   I do think Minor  City dogpiles should be sneak attacks as well.

 

Another combined spell idea- water and earth.  Acid blast.  Can destroy armor or weapons and does solid damage.

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July 21, 2010 10:03:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here's some ideas for you:

 

Warfare/Conquest - This tree is fairly mundane. Research weapons, research armor, blah blah. I liked the idea of researching Fortify - more things like that might be nice. Researching Forts, perhaps, built by armies, or Sieges, and other army related abilities might be nice. I think there should be other ways to improve your military units than straight equipment. We should be able to research different forms of training to apply to them (perhaps done with an improvement?). Perhaps these improvements give them a tactical battle special ability. Example; building a Spartan Barracks allows your units consisting of more than 1 guy (The Parties and up) to form a Phalanx formation. This is just an idea to make it more than just "Research swords, research shields.." Or perhaps these training regimens can be unlocked when the unit levels, like cities get their traits.

Also; spoils of war. Why not a few techs that give us benefits for beating someone up? Techs that increase our chance to take something when we win.

 

Adventure - This should unlock rare resources and, by rare resources, I mean stuff like alternative metals or mounts. If we finish a dungeon (perhaps 2 or 3 tiered tactical battles in an ancient ruin following a questline?) the Ancient Ruin, or Hidden Temple, or whatever the spot was should transform into that rare resource so we can harvest it. This will make Adventure different while still using basic game concepts; I found a rare resource, now I need to get a city on it to harvest it.

Diplomacy - Whenever I think of Diplomacy, I think of Trade. Whenever I think of Trade, I think of Anno (Age of Discovery). I think the most important way to make Diplomacy effective is to ensure that Altar needs Food and Pariden needs Iron and that you trade for Pariden's Food to trade for Altar's Iron and profit, while making the two indirectly relying on each other. A diplomat or emissary type unit would be neat, as well, perhaps to help expand influence and bribe minor civs?

The civics stuff, for the record, is generally spot on in my opinion. It should all be based on improvements.

Lastly, the Magic.

There is something odd about the Magic research I haven't been able to put my finger on. I like how researching individual spells works. I don't always see the benefit in researching down the magic tech tree, though. I feel like magic should explore some other gray areas or something. Researching that tech tree should make magic related things available that don't involve casting a spell. Perhaps crafting custom magic items could go here? I'm not sure. It almost feels like Magic tech is already covered in Spell research. I can't imagine the tree being very large - it doesn't look like it is. But it needs to be as potent as the other trees, aside from just unlocking new spells.

 

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July 21, 2010 10:04:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting arstal,

Quoting arstal, With Diplomacy- why would the player want Diplomatic Capital in return for giving up resources?  If you can bribe the AI with Diplomatic Capital, there needs to be a reason for the player to offer something for Diplomatic Capital from the AI, and the AI needs to offer such trades.

Maybe Diplomatic Capital should be spendable to get minor civs to join your empire peacefully, and the AI should do this also.

...

Quoting Frogboy,

Merely possessing diplomatic capital gives you a relations bonus.  

 

Make diplomatic capital a resource like food.  You build up a capacity, you use that capacity on the cooperative treaties, open borders etc.  Have buildings which let you do dastardly things and consume capital (assassins/saboteurs, making your units appear to be someone else's for a turn or two, etc.)

When something which uses that capacity is removed, have it regenerate slowly (to prevent treaty hopping).

Combine this with Rogue Captain's suggestion of "gray areas" and see how it plays.

I'm okay with AI's being manipulable against other humans (as in Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy), but diplomatic capital needs to be worth something in all human games IMO.

The system can also work with Diplomatic capital being something you can store up and use as a normal resource as well, but I like the food system to represent capacity rather than accumulation - since it takes up diplomatic power IRL to maintain good relations.

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July 21, 2010 10:24:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think the Civilization/Imperium techs that originally allowed building on certain resources, now offer a significant enough bonus to be worth researching.  Some techs in 0.92 are worthless because all resources can be built on right from the start now.  But if you got a worthwhile bonus from researching that certain tech...

That would be a great balancing tweak. 

Best regards,
Steven.

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July 21, 2010 10:34:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I know I most look forwarding to seeing Diplomacy raised to the same level as the other 4.  I anticipate a lot of good diplomacy units and abilities in the final release.

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July 21, 2010 10:43:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Icepick,
I like how the Master Quest is going. I am curious if the AI can and will pursue the Master Quest as well, and if it can, are the pieces of the Forge the AI is chasing after the same 5 pieces I am looking for? 

It would make for an interesting game with the AI, and perhaps later for Multiplayer as well...

 

It gets its own version of the quest. 

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