It will take more than polish and content to fix elemental....

By on September 4, 2010 11:25:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Troggie87

Join Date 05/2008
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Having now invested many hours into playing this game, and almost an equal number of hours modding it, I have a few thoughts about where this game goes wrong and how it could be made right. Let me start by saying that Elemental, as it exists now, isn't even a gem in the rough. The whole thing, to its core, is flawed badly. Not just because “magic doesn't work” or “the game isn't balanced,” but because the entire game lacks focus. It gives no indication of any understanding of how a game like this should be designed. That is a harsh statement, allow me to try and justify it.

 

First off, this entire game reeks of one big “nerdgasm.” If you've ever gone to something like a Magic The Gathering tournament or played a video game in a group setting, you'll know what I'm talking about. Inevitably in environments where lots of fantasy and video game loving people get together, people start talking about all the stuff they would throw into their “dream game.” If you were to write the ideas down, you would get a whole bunch of mostly-cool concepts that, were they actually made into a game, would suck badly. Playing Elemental, I feel like I'm walking through the physical manifestation of one of those sessions. I can practically hear the voices: “Ooooh, and you can get married and have kids! And you'll have lots and lots of quests, with powerful items! There will be hundreds of spells, and technologies, and trading, and tactical battles, and personal unit design... and... It'll be fully multiplayer!!... and........” I think you get the point.

 

Here are some of the more major design flaws I see in this game. I don't mean “magic is bland and unbalanced,” I don't see that as a design flaw. That is a flaw in implementation. Design flaws run to the core of a game, an error in concept and not practice. They don't require more work or content, they require an entirely new approach to the game's design.

 

For starters, as it is the most glaringly obvious to me, is the entire concept of essence. The idea that your main hero, your avatar in the world of elemental, has to weaken himself substantially to gain access to an entire game mechanic (magic) is awful. The whole concept, at its very heart, can't be made balanced or fun. Currently, if you decide to focus heavily on magic in game, you have to massively weaken your sovereign's magic to create even a hand-full of casters. That feels wrong from the outset. Plus, you introduce the “paradox of uberness,” as I like to call it.

 

To create a small force of casters in this game you have to weaken your sovereign, spend massive amount of time researching techs, and orient your economy toward spell production. And even then, it takes a lot of time. At the end of the process, considering the investment, you should have units that are obscenely powerful. But this is game breaking. Anything less than near invincibility (as it stands now, a human opponent is just going to archer your caster instantly, rendering your investment wasted) makes the whole process a waste, but 4x games cant support super-units. They ruin the entire atmosphere of “wow, this is a war and I have cities and armies!.” The proper power level of a caster in this type of game is medium to high, but because of the essence system any caster that is less than a god isn't worth anything. Its an inherently flawed concept.

 

Quests, too, are just bad form. The entire implementation of quests in this game does nothing to encourage interaction with other players (be them AI or human). A quest level that isn't tied to actual level, and “questing” that amounts to nothing more than walking around clicking aimlessly on shiny objects? How is that enjoyable or interesting?

 

Dungeons should exist, with a stated level based on army strength, and should be open to anyone, at any time, from turn 1. If on turn 5 you want to march your sovereign into a dragon's nest so be it, but I hope you have a pinewood box handy. This makes dungeons universally relevant, interesting, and important. The quest system, as it exists, would be retooled to have a more practical impact on gameplay, along with a complete reworking of how monsters and heros spawn and behave. I mean for God's sake you're the leader of a civilization, what the hell are you doing killing rats in a barn?

 

Monsters in this game are just boring. Mobs spawn, at random, all over, and wander. Bleh. Why not implement monster lairs as absolute gateways for entry for mobs? And place them in strategic locations near prime expansion areas? As an example, say you have a warg den. From this den, spawn wargs of various strengths (presumably scaling up in strength as the game progresses).  This den has a “zone of influence” out of which the spawned mobs wont wander, but within they will fiercely protect. To advance to the next prime city construction area you need to find a way to deal with this warg den, as cities or units within the zone will be ravaged and destroyed. This is where quests come in. As a ruler and powerful channeler, why aren't you giving some quests out? Allow “quests” to be created by the player, dictating that X location be attacked or Y unit defended, and attach a reward of either gold or items. A sort of bounty system, in the likeness of the game Majesty. Random hero spawns naturally band together, recruit units, and attempt to fulfill appropriately-funded quests completely on their own. The player can also fulfill quests from other players, or set other players as the target of quests. All of a sudden a system that had been a boring point and click with no player interaction becomes an engaging, tactically important, and rewarding tool of warfare. Thats not to say quests in the style we have now couldn't exist alongside such a system as well, but they don't seem to fit.

 

And, as a last little rant, rework the tech system. Techs should NOT be the only way to unlock items, abilities, and buildings in-game. Nor should there be half a million completely linear techs. The majority of buildings and items in-game should be available naturally, with techs focusing on improving aspects of said items and building. Right now, to have an economy of any kind, I have to start the game researching several economics techs immediately. It makes the game static and linear, as it is necessary to do this in any serious match. If this were reworked so that I could start with an economy naturally, but researching economic techs would make it better, I would have some real decisions to make about how to progress.

 

Techs should interrelate. If I want magical weapons, I need to research enchanting AND weapons, in two different trees, before continuing. Condensing the number of techs while at the same time increasing the interrelation between techs makes the game less cluttered while expanding depth and complexity. I have a million ideas about how this could be done, but I'm only trying to illustrate points in this post, not advocate specific balances and technologies.

 

I have more, but this is very long as it is. So for the moment I'm hanging my hat up. If you guys at Stardock truly want to make Elemental something to be proud of instead of a mess to be swept under a rug, you will take these next couple months to completely change how you understand and approach the game. Pouring a thousand hours into improving the game as it exists now is still going to result in a mediocre to bad game. Thats just the sad truth. I hope someone reads this and takes something away from it, as I really do like Stardock as a studio. Best of luck.

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September 4, 2010 6:33:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You bring up a lot of good points.

 

Properly implemented spell combat systems with defenses, immunities, etc. could go a long way to balancing out the issues with a caster focuses army.

 

For instance, spells such as armor, shield, immunity to normal missiles, magical screens, etc. would all allow a caster to fight weaker casters, normal armies, etc.

 

An armor or shield spell acting like a 'shield' in a scifi setting, absorbing X hitpoints of damage of certain types until failing would work well.

Armor say absorbs physical damage, shield may add to the armor rating and adds a percent deflect for missile weapons.

Magical screens might absorb X hitpoints of elemental damage types.

Immunity to normal missiles makes a caster immune to non-magical bonus arrows.

Immunity to normal weapons would make a caster immune to all non-enchanted weapons.

 

Dispel Magic would then have tactical uses- to tear through the magical shielding that a sovereign has.

The defense spells I'd also make castable on the strategic screen and last until enough damage has been absorbed or until the effect is canceled by the player. That way you're not wasting combat rounds on 'buffing up.'

 

A properly informed and prepped caster should be able to take out a whole conventional army. But likewise if you know you're against a caster you might specialize in magic weapons and produce some elite units with magical arrows that would penetrate the defenses. (arrows of dispelling, etc.)

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September 4, 2010 7:04:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree that the game lacks overall focus. This is largely due to the development cycle used to produce the game. Normally a design document is produced before anyone starts writing code. This document outlines all aspects of the game (at various degrees of detail depending upon the size and complexity of the systems involved) including mechanics, systems, graphics, sounds, etc. The design doc should function as a road map of sorts: preventing feature creep and keeping the development focused.

The issue with Elemental is that the design document (if there was such a thing) looks to have been only 5 pages long. Features / mechanics were constantly being changed during the beta due to the community's input and internal discussion.

While I'm not saying that a design document cannot be changed during development if unforeseen issues should arise - what happened with Elemental was extremely volatile and was destined to result in an unfocused end product.

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September 4, 2010 7:24:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good post. Particularly like the idea of mob spawn points. This is how the game Kohan worked as well I think.

The unused random starting locations could be used for this.

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September 4, 2010 8:11:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You have a lot of good points and of specific interest to me is the fact that you brought up majesty's system - that is probably the most brilliant idea yet. I'm pretty sure your initial assessment of the game was a little harsh - sounds as though you are deeply disappointed by what the game could have been, but then again, who on this board isn't in some way?

I have faith that the devs will make it right because they actually seem to listen for one thing. Going slightly off topic i have to mention the fact that as customers everyone has to realize that games cost money to create. I'm not sure how elemental has done in terms of marketing and sales but the latest journal entry stated this "What we’re going to do is that for users who own the game by a certain date will get (at least) the first expansion pack for free as a token of our appreciation for hanging in there with us."

If you look at that statement a little more indepth it isn't hard to imagine that perhaps this game needs a little more support at this point in time. If they were rewarding people for hanging in there with them it would have been worded differently, instead, it seems at the same time they are offering incentive for more people to purchase the game so they can continue to develop and fix it. Perhaps with the right amount of the support this game could be better than originally suggested.

 

As far as your other thoughts go I have to say I don't completely agree with your statements about the sovereign weakening himself. I think that the sovereign should be greatly weakened when creating an army of casters. In practice though, if you pay attention to the game, your sovereign isn't weakened at all when he creates an army of casters...he's utterly crippled for life instead. Since none of your heroes can imbue champions of their own as far as I can tell it seems as if your sovereign dies so does magic - that doesn't seem completely right. He isn't the head vampire or something.  I don't even think you get your magic back when a champion dies. Even if you got your magic back when they were killed it would make more sense.

I think the whole thing should be fixed - but the idea of weakening yourself to create your army should be maintained. I just don't like how your crippled.

the rest of the suggestions you mention would be completely awesome though and could probably establish this game as a gem. I hope the devs come by and read this... it's ashame we can't throw stuff at them to get their attention or something.

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September 4, 2010 8:39:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You have a lot of excellent points. I hope Stardock reads this and takes it to heart.

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September 4, 2010 9:43:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Eh, I kinda agree and disagree. I agree in the sense that what you're saying is basically true. But I disagree in that literally every single one of those things you've listed is an implementation detail, and not a fundamental design flaw. I mean, take the complaint about essence. It's a very true complaint. But we've already been told how the implementation is going to be changed (in the next patch, I believe?) and it exactly addresses the problems that you mention. And the thing about monster spawns. That's exactly how spawns worked for basically the entire beta. I have no idea why they changed it at the last minute, cos I agree that the old way is better. Nevertheless, that is the very definition of a mere implementation detail, not an irredeemably broken system.

Basically, polish and content is exactly what is needed to fix Elemental. It's just going to take a hell of a lot of both.

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September 5, 2010 1:17:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here's just some of the troubling pieces I've found within the game:

A} The quests are so predictable and after 20+ games the predictable quests are boring.  As soon as a quest screen appears I know exactly what can be expected.  Please fix this Stardock by having each quest with multiple possible outcomes where the gamer has different end results.

B} The AI opponents have tunnel vision!  As soon as AI units target a destination they ignore anything else nearby which cost them the lives of many units.  The enemy sovereign will allow an enemy peasant to walk right past him and destroy resources.  This same problem exists within tactical combat.

C} There's virtually no creativity with tactical spells... so many spells are simply "does damage based on intelligence" and using the dreaded 1DN.  Each element should have unique side effects in combination with varying damage ranges. 

D} Sand Golem and Stone Giant are off the charts unbalanced! Anyone who finds the sand golem token in the early stages of the game has an easy win.  The stone giant has this powerful area of effect damage attack anywhere on the battlefield... this should be late game stuff not early summons.

E} All equipment is for melee characters except for two bows !  Originally I was worried we would only see the warrior, mage and archer types... but even these three basics are not finished.  Mages are walking around wearing plate... everyone should not be wearing plate armor types during the late stages of a fantasy game. Ideally the fantasy game should have druids, priests, paladins, monks, assassins... each with unique skills and equipped differently.

F} There's  WAY WAY  too many special skills which are only related with damage.  Where's the skills of stealth, dodge, leadership, immortality, swimming, life stealing, melee deflection, missile deflection, magic redirection, fire resistance, fire immunity, etc., ??  I'm so sick of clicking on a monster only to read some new special skill which once again is something related with damage. 

G} AI opponents should be building huts as the 3rd or 4th building inside every new city.  It's so sad watching them suffocate because they're not building the huts.

H} AI Sovereigns are crippled and weak... even during late game the AI sovereigns are still crawling at 2 in speed while the gamer has his sovereign moving at speeds of 4 or more.  The AI Sovereigns have low amounts of life making them easy to kill with a few "unbalanced" summons like the stone giants.

I} The game needs some *real* magic items which do more than just bump a champions statistic for speed or attack.  We need magic items like a cloak of invisibility, the sword of silence, the pegasus mount, a beholders eye of domination, etc., . 

 

** Stardock please take a look at Heroes_3, MoM, and AgeofWonders:ShadowMagic for inspiration/ideas.  **

 

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September 5, 2010 2:07:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting NTJedi,
E} All equipment is for melee characters except for two bows !  Originally I was worried we would only see the warrior, mage and archer types... but even these three basics are not finished.  Mages are walking around wearing plate... everyone should not be wearing plate armor types during the late stages of a fantasy game. Ideally the fantasy game should have druids, priests, paladins, monks, assassins... each with unique skills and equipped differently.

Excellent post.

Your point E is just one of the reasons why designing your own units is such a poor concept in execution. The idea of 'Lets allow the player to design their own units by allocating equipment' sounds really really cool. But in reality we end up with a bland, one model, zero role differentiation, result.

It would be much better to have the various classes built from buildings or resources where you simply choose to build a mage or a cleric or a swordsman etc.

Even better would be to allow the player to design their own buildings to assign certain skills. For example:

On an ancient temple location you can build your own temple. This supplies you with Clerics at that location.Clerics can heal small amounts during battle.

After some research you can either add a hospital addition to the temple, or a secret order addition, or an armoury. You can only choose one. The hospital allows you to build Apothecaries who heal a lot more than Clerics. The secret order allows you to build Assassins where opposing players need to roll against morale to strike them. And the armoury allows you to build Paladins at the location which heal as well as are better armed than Clerics.

Further research may allow you to upgrade the site even more.

So from just a single random resource you have a lot of strategic decisions to make. And you have a point to what you are going to research.

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September 5, 2010 8:22:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Let me just add a couple of things to your list.

 

1. In addition to it being egregious having to sacrifice essence to give to random champions you meet, it's egregious that you can't start out training mages from the start, not everyone wants an army of stick wielding warriors as their army, it'd be nice if we could train our own units from our own cities that can cast spells in combat.

2. Spending all your points on magic, intelligence, wisdom, etc. but then suddenly finding that you have no tactical spells whatsoever, and you have to dink around for 10+ turns until you can learn a pithy fire dart spell just feels plain wrong. 

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September 5, 2010 11:51:55 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think you are way too harsh, almost like that all-or-nothing thinking... The game is not entirely broken and fundamentally flawed. Also you accuse the authors of just adding a bunch of stuff that doesn't fit together - but then you do the same thing.

 

The premise of the game world is that magic is rare - but you would prefer to have lots of magic and lots of powerful magic. Thi sis just you having different expectations and wanting the game to be your design. I like the way magic is done. I don't choose to cripple my sov by diluting the essence. It is not necessary. I also do everything to buff up their defense. It works very well, and it feels right for this game universe.

 

I like the idea of monster lairs. I do not like the idea of making the game like majesty. I want my hero to go forth and make the world better, not just spend some cash to make the problems go away. That sounds cool, but is boring.

 

The game needs better balancing and more differences in the spell trees. It is not fundamentally flawed - It is quite fun. Play it for the game it is, not for the game you would have made if you could make a game.

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September 5, 2010 12:03:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

For a game entitled: Elemental: War of Magic    ..... Yeah I expect a game with high powered magic and lots of it.  For a game which presents stats to spend points on increasing my spell damage and action points for spells in lieu of spenidng points on strength to increase my attack ....  Yeah, I expect a game to provide me with offensive spells from the beginning without having to wait 10+ turns to actually kill some dinky bandits!

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September 5, 2010 12:23:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

I agree that Magic and channelers should be looked at but that hardly constitutes a fundamentally flawed premise for the game.

Gameplay or even "the game" isn't built on any of the premises you offer.

 

The "idea" is the creation of a game in which the player as an immortal channeler gets to experience building an empire or kingdom during which he'll also have to deal with rivalling factions and use magic as well as mundane forces to "survive".


This concept isn't fundamentally flawed, it's execution is. The details don't fit snugly into each other. There should also be a "spell of return" etc.. or the possibility of succession by a blood-related channeler.   

Magic as you point out isn't polished etc. etc.


I think the core is very good.

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September 5, 2010 3:27:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nice.  Agree 100% with the main points.  I think boolean essence with a shared mana pool with go a long way toward addressing the essence concerns of the OP, hopefully.

For a fantasy game, you shouldn't have to research the ability to go adventuring.  Also, cut it with the sparkling tiles on the map you can barely see--I want a quest-giver with a question mark over his head.  Okay that's just me, but I totally agree that tech trees shoudn't be unlocking core features, bur rather making core features (like exploring dungeons, recruiting archers, harvesting elemental crystals, etc.) substantially more powerful, accessible, cheaper, and useful.

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September 5, 2010 5:11:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 Wow, post explosion. Sorry, I think a couple of you misunderstand the core of what I am driving at, so I'll try and distill it down without examples.

1.)Forcing the main character to give significantly of himself to integrate magic into an army violates the cardinal rule of RPG design: always make the player feel like their character is growing. Currently Elemental treats the sovereign's essence like any other resource, except this one is more rare and is replenished only through leveling. This is NOT appropriate for anything that even dabbles in being an RPG. You could get the same effect by simply creating a world resource replenished by shards that is used to make casters.

2.) Monsters, heroes, and even quests in the game aren't just lackluster, they lack a purpose. They don't make the world come alive, they lack strategic purpose, and they don't challenge the player. They are the poster children for why this game lacks focus. I think part of the reason is the designers never fully decided if this was a strategy game with RPG elements or an RPG with strategy elements. Bringing up Majesty was a way of pointing out how heroes, monsters, and quests could be made dynamic, interesting, and useful, even when they aren't the players focus. If instead of just wandering waiting for the player to recruit them a hero instead spawned, quested, leveled themselves, and bought gear, by the time the player was ready to interact with them it would seem like the hero was alive. And more than that, it would allow monsters and heroes to play a part even if the player really only focused on the strategy elements of the game.

3.) Everything, everything, should engage the player and work towards the goal of Player-Player (for multiplayer) or Player-AI (for single) interaction. Elemental doesn't do this. Techs unlock base function, which only serves as a barrier toward fun and engaging interaction. Quests serve no purpose other than being goodie-sacks. They don't force player interaction, they aren't strategic, and they aren't fun frankly. The same with heroes and monsters: 99% of the time they are pointless wandering boneheads. Not to mention the whole world feels lifeless. These aren't just crappy implementations of techs and heroes and monsters, there seems to be a lack of understanding from a design perspective as to what the various elements of the game should be accomplishing.

As it stands, we really have two games (neither of which are finished) mashed together: Elemental the RPG, and Elemental the strategy game. They weren't integrated thoughtfully or coherently. They just exist side by side, meaning at any given time the majority of content in the game isn't engaging the player. Part of the dissension on these ideas forums seems to stem from the fact that half of the people want Elemental to grow into a unique style of RPG, and half want a unique style of strategy game. Stardock needs to pick a target and focus on making elemental into that, taking into account fundamental design principles along the way. Building on what elemental is now will still lead to a poor game, because there isn't a true foundation to build upon.

 

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September 5, 2010 5:34:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

By the way, my intent here isn't to berate or lash out at anyone.  This is a harsh professional critique.  I know stardock is capable of very good work, and I have a suspicion that their unfamiliarity with RPGs, over familiarity with 4X games, and the general difficulty of mixing genres, all are contributing to the unfocused and unstructured feel of the game.  Those might be excuses, but excuses don't count for much in business.  If they want to continue to be looked at favorably as a game studio then they need to take critiques like this one to heart, and try very hard to fix elemental in a timely manner.  My suggestion for homework is to play the few other games in the last 20 years that have dabbled in mixing strategy and RPG.  MoM I'm sure you've played, but check out Lords of Magic (if you can find a copy, I think I still have mine someplace...) if you haven't yet done so.  It does exactly what this game tries to do, and does it with little more than balancing issues.  Definitely worth a look.



 

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September 6, 2010 8:47:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Aye, Lords of Magic would be a good game for you to install and play.  It can be downloaded online currently, just do a google search.  Fall From Heaven 2 would also be a good game to play and try out extensively.

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September 6, 2010 10:14:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I disagree with the idea that unit creation must result in bland units. I think it has more to do with the game in its curent unfleshed out state. Imagine the current unit builder with 10 times as many items and equipment to choose from. Then if stardock allowed you to choose where your units stats go and choose a special ability for them every time they leveled. I think what would result would be some really personalised units. My personal opinion of elemental atm is it needs it core mechanics to be settled on to create a solid platform and then it really really needs some fleshing out. The range of spells, quests, heroes, buildings etc is just too small.    

Edit:I have seen many people suggest the devs should look at MoM, dominions 3 etc for inspiration. Might I also suggest they look at games like final fantasy 1-9. Considering the games concept, I see so many similaritys between wondering the world map of elemental and that of final fantasy 9.

PS not sure what the reaction to mentioning ff on these forums will be

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September 6, 2010 11:40:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 By the way, my intent here isn't to berate or lash out at anyone.  This is a harsh professional critique.  I know stardock is capable of very good work, and I have a suspicion that their unfamiliarity with RPGs, over familiarity with 4X games, and the general difficulty of mixing genres, all are contributing to the unfocused and unstructured feel of the game.

 

So  true.

I really  have  sympathy  for  the  Elemental  dev. team.  The  staff  tried to  hit  a  home  run with  a melange of  ideas, which  as  a whole, hasn't  added up  to  much,  but,  enormous potential; and unfortunately  a  critical  failure (which hopefully  will not  be permanent).

Sorry ladies  and  gents,  but  many  people  DO read  reviews. And the  reviews  have  ranged from embarrassing to  average (whoever gives Elemental a  10  needs to  re-look  at  being  an impartial  reviewer).

And how  can  such  a longer  beta  testing  not   reveal or  help fix  many  of  these problems  before launch?  As  an ex-game  designer, I  am  floored  by  the mismanagement and lack of  focus  that Elemental has  showcased prior to its release.  LUCKILY,  the  idea  and  concepts  are  solid  and still have loads of  potential.  Yet, regardless on how  many patches and  alterations will be done  to  the   core game  (hopefully on the  way  to  a  classic), the negative  reviews  WILL still be in   the  magazines  and on   sites. They  are  out  there for  potential  buyers of the  game  to  see.

I earnestly  recommend that if Elemental  ever  gets  to  the  state  that  all  within  the  company  is  proud  of, to  resubmit  the game  for  review. To refuse to  do  this, (yes, it  will showcase that  a mistake  was made in  submitting  it prematurely), would be  foolish.   I would  be  honest  with  the  reviewers and  explain  why  the  game  had  to  come  out  in a   crippled  state. Then  dazzle  them. Make them  write  another  review?   Hell yeah, if the  game  rocks!

Yet presently,  adding  a mishmash of elements to a  game  is  like  making  rarely great  cole  slaw,  each  `ingredient' of  that  mix  must  be  of  high  quality  to  make  it  taste  good  as  a whole. Unfortunately  with a  botched  spell  system, less than sophisticated combat  and etc.  (already posted),  each ingredient in Elemental  should  be  reevaluated (probably already has).

Since I'm  not a n RPG  math  wiz, I  will skip  all the  battle  damage  and  assorted calculators , that  have  already been posted prior.

I want to focus  on what's  lacking  a lot  in  today's  games, movies, tv, society-  heart  and a  true  sense of  wonder. And though,  I  still see Elemental  as  a true  labor  of  love, its  visual makeup (not its   style or quality), truly  lacks  a  sense of  wonder  and  heart.

 

Though  I now  respect  the  attempt  at  stylization,  I  truly  feel  that  management  dropped the  ball on how  the  graphics  were  conceived  and  more importantly  implemented. The art quality  and  style IS   quite  professional, yet  I  question  the  cel  shading look  in  this  type of  game.  Unique- YES!  But this  type  of  look  needs to  be `nurtured' much more to make  the  environments  have  that  sense of  wonder (having the  excuse that  the landscape  should  be  barren  because of  a devastation is  a  cop out, The landscapes  are  simply  boring  without  much  `flavor.'   Trees  look  the  same.  Boulders  look  the  same. When a client  asks  me to  design  a  tree,  I  created 10 for  them. Why? To give them  more than  they  ask,  but  more importantly- diversity! Landscapes  NEED  variation  to  make  it  look not only  real,  but  alive!  A lot of the environments in Elemental  simply   look  the  same  and  cookie-cuttered onto  the  map. This  wasn't a staff  artist's fault  but  direction  and  management. Creatures dying have  the  same  sound  effects?  Again, lack of  diversity, ie-   flavor.

Heart  and a  sense of  wonder can elevate  a  so-so  game   into that  `special', must play category. After Elemental  stopped  crashing, and I  began  to  enjoy  it to a greater extent, I  still began  to  quickly  tire at   the lack of  flavor in  the  text  writing. Reading a bandit say  the  samething about  why I'm  in the  wilds, every time,  is tedious, as well  as... ridiculous.  Adding  a few dozen different phrases would again help give this game a sense of  wonder, instead of  hearing  the  same  thing, this is   an  easy fix, and  could  even  be  more  sophisticated by  where the  Sovereign is, or  the  enemy, etc.  Having  battles reward you  with gold.  Nice,  but  kinda  monotoned?  What  about  dropping  an  item once ina   while? Again-  flavor.

As a person that  is  probably  older  than  90% of   this  forum, I have  played  (and  early on designed),  computer  games  for  decades,  from the old  Amiga days  to  the Mafia 2s of  today.  Yet this   is  the  first  forum  I  have ever  had the  willingness to post  on. This hopefully  shows  that  I  care (not that it's important  to  anyone here).  A lot of these critical reviews and  comments  from  this  forum is  simply  because  they  believe  in  the  potential of Elemental  and desire this  game  to become  the  classic  it  should have  been ON RELEASE DAY.  

 

And even though  I  am  a newbie  without  karma (lol), I  am  simply  amazed  by  the  care,  passion  and support  by the  community  of  this   forum. I  seriously feel  that Stardock  will get  this  labor  of  love  on the  right  track. Lessening  bugs  and  crashes is  a good  start, however it's  a  baby  step. I am  heartened by this  community's support of  this  company, yet,  criticsm for Elemental  must  ALWAYS  be  encouraged to stimulate improvement.  You  don't  grow  from constant  pats on the  back.

In ending  this overly length and  boring rant, I still  want to  thank Stardock  for cnceiving  this  bad  baby,  and  continued  thanks  for  improving it  step  by  step.  this  is  an  amazingly  unique  game  community,  and I  am  very  proud  to  be  a microscopic  part of it.

 

Continued best  wishes,  and always strive to unlock the potential in everything...

 

 

 

 

 

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September 6, 2010 12:05:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Troggie87,
 Wow, post explosion. Sorry, I think a couple of you misunderstand the core of what I am driving at, so I'll try and distill it down without examples.

1.)Forcing the main character to give significantly of himself to integrate magic into an army violates the cardinal rule of RPG design: always make the player feel like their character is growing. Currently Elemental treats the sovereign's essence like any other resource, except this one is more rare and is replenished only through leveling. This is NOT appropriate for anything that even dabbles in being an RPG. You could get the same effect by simply creating a world resource replenished by shards that is used to make casters.

2.) Monsters, heroes, and even quests in the game aren't just lackluster, they lack a purpose. They don't make the world come alive, they lack strategic purpose, and they don't challenge the player. They are the poster children for why this game lacks focus. I think part of the reason is the designers never fully decided if this was a strategy game with RPG elements or an RPG with strategy elements. Bringing up Majesty was a way of pointing out how heroes, monsters, and quests could be made dynamic, interesting, and useful, even when they aren't the players focus. If instead of just wandering waiting for the player to recruit them a hero instead spawned, quested, leveled themselves, and bought gear, by the time the player was ready to interact with them it would seem like the hero was alive. And more than that, it would allow monsters and heroes to play a part even if the player really only focused on the strategy elements of the game.

3.) Everything, everything, should engage the player and work towards the goal of Player-Player (for multiplayer) or Player-AI (for single) interaction. Elemental doesn't do this. Techs unlock base function, which only serves as a barrier toward fun and engaging interaction. Quests serve no purpose other than being goodie-sacks. They don't force player interaction, they aren't strategic, and they aren't fun frankly. The same with heroes and monsters: 99% of the time they are pointless wandering boneheads. Not to mention the whole world feels lifeless. These aren't just crappy implementations of techs and heroes and monsters, there seems to be a lack of understanding from a design perspective as to what the various elements of the game should be accomplishing.

As it stands, we really have two games (neither of which are finished) mashed together: Elemental the RPG, and Elemental the strategy game. They weren't integrated thoughtfully or coherently. They just exist side by side, meaning at any given time the majority of content in the game isn't engaging the player. Part of the dissension on these ideas forums seems to stem from the fact that half of the people want Elemental to grow into a unique style of RPG, and half want a unique style of strategy game. Stardock needs to pick a target and focus on making elemental into that, taking into account fundamental design principles along the way. Building on what elemental is now will still lead to a poor game, because there isn't a true foundation to build upon.

 

 

 

Am agreeing with Troggie on this one.

   Regarding 1. - Sstern was partially right about magic being rare in the game, but this only applies to the very beginning (the world almost died, Everything should be rare). As the game goes on, those costs in essence should disappear with the advancement in magic. After all, this is the entire point of researching ways of doing things - to make them easier. But since this is something that will obviously be dealt with in future updates, I will move on to the next point.

                   2. - I've brought up this very same point in several posts over the last three days. As Stardock had once said, this is a game where we control the kingdom that we use to be adventurers through in our other games. Anyone who has played an Rpg knows that these npcs dont stand idly about - adventurers are going after bandit camps, spider nests, and dragon lairs. Heck, though this part isnt high on the priority list, spiders and bandits arent perpetual allies, either.

Give the creatures spawn points relating to their origins, and it opens up a whole broadway of possibility and purpose to the game. But by letting them sitting idly as they currently do, one is pressured into an army-esque slash fest to deal with them (Not good for those who'll want to follow a Non combat game path.)

                   3. - Yes, much of the tech trees need a total makeover, but fortunately any ideas that are implemented will be introduced directly through this aspect of the game. Ex: were hiring adventurers to clean out the nearest dungeon to come to be, would naturally be researched ala adventure/ diplomacy.

 

Yes, there is a serious separation of rpg and strategy elements going on in this game. But fortunately this is where a lot of people see the potential, and truly the potential is there. I believe stardock has already decided this is a strategy game, but they are trying make it some        40% rpg. At one point when they were discussing the mods, they had mentioned about how the rpg element (such as questing) hadn't even been really explored yet. Truly I expect in the nearer future to see alot of rpg ideas introduced to the game which ill blend with its stategy proponents, which will effectively help fill in the hallowed areas of the game (such as 3/5ths of the tree techs).

While the start of this game has been incredibly bumpy, it allowed for a huge amount of feedback like what is going on here. It is in this occurrence that elemental will one day be what we've all been waiting for.

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September 6, 2010 7:45:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I can only agree, just applying a bit of polish won't turn Elemental into the game it could (and should) be. Let me be honest - Elemental should not be a Master of Magic 2 - It should rather inject the genre with new fun ideas while evolving the existing ideas to the next level. Right now everything in the game seems to clash with everything else, some promising pieces but no overall working fun concept. What use is unit design if the choice always boils down to "Max Damage Weapon + Max Defense Armor". What use are tactical battles when they boil down to "first one to attack wins". What use are the tech trees if the techs and their progression is more or less "vanilla". What use is magic if you run dry after casting three spells. What use are quests if almost all boil down to "move to that tile, possibly kill something".

Elemental has the potential to be a great game and to be a worthy successor to the turnbased 4X fantasy strategy throne, but as it is right now I rather go back to playing Master of Magic rather then Elemental, as sad as I am to say that.

Ceterum autem censeo, 1DN esse delendam

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September 6, 2010 8:32:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Troggie,


Good Post. I disagree about sacrificing ESSENCE however. I think an over-all game re-balance can fix this issue.

I personally like having to make a choice on whether or not to imbue any given champion knowing it will cost my sovereign some power down the road. Re-engineering the magic system in any number of ways would probably also solve your issues with this, I feel.

On your other points, I largely agree, thanks for posting.

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