The Big Picture -- What Was Supposed To Make Elemental Special?

By on September 6, 2010 12:07:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nick-Danger

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What was supposed to make Elemental special?  Why were we supposed to buy it instead of dusting off the old MoM and AoW and Civ games?

Does the release version of Elemental deliver on the promises that were made regarding Elemental being special?

Elemental will be overhauled pretty much from the ground up.  I think it's important to step back and try to remember the original vision for Elemental -- and what was supposed to make it special.

The overhaul shouldn't diminish the specialness.  If specialness has been lost the overhaul needs to restore it.

Fast is slow, slow is fast.  A rush to overhaul can result in a working game but lose sight of the 'vision thing'.

Everyone has their own idea of what was supposed to make Elemental special to them, and how well that was met in release.  No one view is right or wrong, they're just different.

What made Elemental special to me is a few basic concepts:

-Essence.  Essence isn't mana, it's more.  Mana powers spells, Essence powers channeling and the restoration of the land.  In beta there were a lot of great suggestions for Essence -- creating special items, not otherwise creatable (more than normal magically enchanted items).  Items like special creatures or land features.  Things that were otherwise undo-able.

In release I'll argue that essence is merely mana.

-Shards.  Shards were supposed to be arguably the most important feature -- it's where magic was confined, it's what channelers learned to control to become channelers and to then overthrow the Titans and first destroy then restore the lands (or however the lore goes...).  Originally in beta shards were needed to even cast most spells (no fire shard?  No can cast fire spells).  Then shards became useless, and a game could be played without ever claiming one.

In release, shards are merely spell damage multipliers.  Now that's nothing to sneeze at, but it's a far cry from their original importance.

-Dynasties.  Dynasties is a cool idea, but they never intended it to allow succession upon a Sov's death.  Many argued for this option, but it was emphatically rejected.  So, this wasn't promised (and the non-promise was successfully delivered in release), but it could be a feature that offers a promise of how Elemental separates itself from many other games.

-Small but puissant Kingdoms being viable.  This wasn't promised, but the concept of city-spamming not being the no-brainer strategy was given some support by several of the devs (their posts to this effect are searchable and still around).   Some will argue that this isn't a feature that would make Elemental special, but I don't think arguing it is is unreasonable.

So, what was supposed to make Elemental special to you, and how did it turn out at release?  And if something needs 'fixing', how to do it?

 

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September 6, 2010 1:21:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here's what I (a lurker without Elemental) would consider unique:

- Sprawling cities. A city expands on new squares as it grows. Not having the game I can't say how much it affects, but it's interesting.

- Dynasties. Sounds a bit like a solution looking for a problem with no clear goal, but if they can fix it... One idea I can share is ability to marry your children to minor factions. A lordling would be more than thrilled to marry a major ruler's daughter, and strenghten his position. Make sure minor factions have unique abilities (high magic resistance, magic immunity, or lycantropy, or a vampire dynasty), and suddenly they might be desirable as vassals.

- Designing your units. Possible, but it's full of no-brainers. If you can afford full plate for archers and mages and there are no downsides, why not do that ? But then what's the point of being able to choose if all progress is linear and you simply use the best weapon available ? I would love to design units in Master Of Magic, because it was full of meaningful abilities. First strike, negate first strike (pikes, halberds), shields against missiles and so on. :

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Check these threads

Usain Bolt sets new world record by equipping shortsword:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/393547

Combat Speed in Elemental (Faster default combat speed unbalances other elements, homogenizes unit design, and how it could help add unit roles and tactical depth):

http://forums.elementalgame.com/394367

So the game seems to favor "Glass Cannons":

http://forums.elementalgame.com/393499

For more reading I recommend playing Dominions 3. In that game every single unit has weapon and armour assigned. Weapons give advantages and disadvantages (for example swords give a bonus to defense which doesn't affect missiles, polearms impede, armour limits movement speed and can even slow strategic move, flails pierce armour, mounts are expensive but mitigate encumbrance of heavy armour, crossbows are 2x slower than bows but pierce armour). Weapons differ in stats like length, attack and defense boni, damage, fatigue, and sometimes other stuff. Although you can't design your own units in Dominions 3, you can fully dress your leaders and pretender gods, and there there are even more pros and cons, downsides, and it's oozing with special abilities. A magical scythe which automatically chops off legs of an entire squad ? A lightless lantern, boosting research a lot but casting forbidden light which might attract horrors from astral plane ? Amulet of lycantrophy which will eventually change user into a beast ? Totemic shield which makes everyone hitting it lose an eye ? Demon skull which whispers secrets to its owner ? Lead armour with magic resistance bonus ? Coral armour which poisons attackers with short weapons ? At least try the demo. Additionally, Dominions 3 has the most effort put into descriptions out of all games I've seen. A bear claw amulet is described by saying a woman wearing it would speak in a very low voice, and might even grow a beard.

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September 6, 2010 2:12:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

In addition to B0rsuk's suggestions, I think you should consider combat roles.Assuming changes along the lines B0rsuk suggests, I think there's basically two ways to do it, and I'm guessing the most fun is a combination.

The first way is to limit the combinations of equipment units can have so, for example, a bunch of guys with crossbows can't also have mounts, field plate & awesome melee weapons (and again, Dom3 would be the go-to source for good examples).

The second is to incorporate some sort of army composition mechanic. This is how wargames handle it. Instead of just giving players a pile of points and assigning units a point cost, wargames also assign units a type or class, and impose some restrictions on how many units of a certain class a player must buy, and how many the player may buy. Elemental could, and I think should, do something similar. Possibly by giving heroes a new ability.

On a tangentially related note, I think the best way to fix the problem of hugely underpowered heroes, is to separate "adventuring party" and "army" combat. Make them two different things so small bands of heroes don't end up crushing cities or getting eaten by massive armies. It doesn't have to prevent hero-led armies, heroes could simply form a single unit when part of an army stack, or they could join a unit, or have their own retinues.

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September 6, 2010 3:23:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Location, location, location.

 

In all strategy games there are better spots to build a city, but Elemental makes the city location crucial because of resources that are relatively rare, tiles that block your city growth, and special tiles for a harbor.

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September 6, 2010 3:34:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Speaking of location, one thing that could alleviate the extreme resource randomness mess, is to show an outline of the map and the resource tiles through the fog of war/on the cloth map.

 

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September 6, 2010 3:36:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Simsum,

The first way is to limit the combinations of equipment units can have so, for example, a bunch of guys with crossbows can't also have mounts, field plate & awesome melee weapons (and again, Dom3 would be the go-to source for good examples).



Wait a second - is army cost a concern in Elemental ? Because this is what I had in mind. Your proposals seem centered about the notion of limiting what player can choose, which in my opinion defeats the point of having the ability to design units. Instead, I would like the game to provide reasons for variety of choices. Player should want to make choices, as there would be pros and cons for most pieces of equipment.

-------------

To use Dominions 3 as an example - you pay gold for the "lifeform", which includes HP, morale, magic resistance, basic attack, defense, protection, movement. Then you pay resources for the equipment, which usually gives bonuses to attack, defense, protection, weapon length. But almost all items cause fatigue and you can optimise for different stats. There are reasons to optimise. Only magic equipment infused with air magic can be completely weightless.There is also a third, hidden cost - you can recruit masses of cheap units, but provinces have limited food supply and you need magic items like Cauldron of Broth or Endless Bag of Wine to support huge numbers.

Markatas (small monkeys) are 5 gold. A slinger costs 7 gold. Regular warrior goes for 10. Highly trained soldiers with small bonuses (about 20%) cost 12 or 13 gold, this includes barbarians with 2h weapons and longbowmen. Strict secular elite may cost even 25 gold. Horsemen start at 20 gold, so it's about +10. Heavy horsemen about 35, knights - 50, and elephants - 100.

In Dominions 3, there actually are crossbowmen wearing plate hauberks. They are generally not very popular, because they cost about twice resources than those with regular ring mail or leather. So while a heavy crossbowman may cost 20+ resources and 10 gold, a medium one would be 10/10. An unarmored one might cost 10 gold 5 resources (I don't have the game installed right now).

So if you recruit bands of heavily armored crossbowmen, unarmored ones will outnumber them about 4 to 1. Armour is useful, otherwise you can get slaughtered by 2x faster bows or even slingers (Mictlan has curious club/shield/sling infantry great for this purpose). In most cases the job of crossbowmen or bowmen is to deal damage, not to soak it, so you want to have as many of them as possible, optionally with some basic anti-arrow precautions. There are super-heavy infantrymen, from late Man for example, which have plate armour as well as shields, broadswords and crossbows. But not everyone can afford the resource cost. If you added horses to the equation you'd notice that not only is resource cost above 20, but gold cost is also 20 at the very least. So you pay double gold cost for fewer units, and are you sure crossbowmen need that extra mobility ? Flankers would need it much more, to strike at archers, mages and other leaders. A heavy plate without horses may reduce their strategic move 2 -> 1. Full helmet may be nice but it may lower Precision stat, so it's not optimal for archers and mages. And if you pay extra res for melee weapons but you kill everything from distance, you've wasted them.

Barbarians are really good against tin can type enemies, but absolute lack of armour combined with poor morale means even quite small squad of shortbowmen force them to retreat among heavy losses.

Sending heavily armored troops against giants is a waste, because they will mostly kill you in 1 hit anyway. You want big 2-handed weapons and missiles.

If you want an economy option against archers, take infantry with nothing but shield and a decent melee weapon.

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September 6, 2010 3:42:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The main problem I see with the randomness of resources, is that they appear when you take the relevant tech, but only around your cities.

That means it is better to spread out a bit and only then take the resource techs. Delaying a tech for strategic reasons sounds like a bug to me.

 

Instead, like others suggested before, show a resource locations with a question mark on it, and reveal them only after taking the relevant techs.

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September 6, 2010 4:06:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One word, magic. 

 

I (not really sure why) was under the impression that Magic would be something special in this game.  And I'm not just talking about shards or essence.  I thought magic was going to play a much larger critical role to success.  Something along the lines of world affecting spells that do more than raise/lower terrain or give a bonus to a city.  I was thinking Meteors and volcanoes and other world altering stuff.  Magic that borders on why the fall happened in the first place (if you are empire) or spells that would bring the land back together (if you are kingdom) in a more concrete way.

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September 6, 2010 4:36:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Master of Magic was alot of fun, with a ton of varied spells that could potentially alter the game.  Yes, there were sometimes severe balance problems, but if it went through iterations, those could get taken care of.

 

(And balance would mostly concern itself in MP, rather than SP imo.  If you don't want to be so imba in SP, just don't do it.)

 

I want magic to have much more interplay in the game.  I want to be able to raze a city from a distance if need be, or to have to defend my city.  Like if a spell had a long cast time - 20 turns - it would leave myself or my opponent vulnerable, and would produce some really interesting "countdown" scenarios. 

 

Perhaps if Essence played a larger role, they may be very strategic resources that empires would fight over.  That may be interesting

 

I realize that it's going to be ridiculously difficult to do all of this, but balancing various schools of magic vs various armies (mass low tech units or few high tech units) would be terrific.  Really having multiple ways to fight would be a great key.

 

 

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September 6, 2010 4:59:08 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I think the impression that Elemental would be something truly special all round, particularly with regard to the 'worlds' created in each game.. the idea that games could almost be interpreted as fantasy novels or movies.

The worst thing about Elemental as-is IMHO is that it's just so damned ordinary.  The idea of dynasties, supposed to give so much of that feel and reduce the need to 'land grab' by forming alliances, is so woefully undeveloped it might as well not be there (didn't anybody on the dev team play Crusader Kings?)   The game world itself is just so 'ordinary' as well; sure the usual elves and dwarves have been replaced ('renamed' is probably more accurate), but otherwise it's generic fantasy 101, the sort of thing I'd come up with as a teenager when failing miserably to write 'epic' Tolkien rip-offs.  HoMM, Disciples, AoW and particularly Dominions all have much more interesting and original gameworlds.

 

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September 6, 2010 5:21:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree: This game needs more Dominions 3 influence

I like that Elemental has diplomacy though, Dom 3 doesn't have that unless you play MP.

 

I want a 'special' magic system like Dom3 & MoM.

Also: The lore needs to be deeper and perhaps shouldn't be afraid to draw some paralels to real world myths. Dom 3 & MoM style. 

This can be fitted into the current factions to make them more 'unique' in play and attractive in lore.

 

Another note: Maybe I just don't get the lore but why shoudn't a Channeler that has a kid who is also a channeler be able to let the kid succeed him? That would make sense, It just woudn't be the original character.

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September 6, 2010 7:43:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

... okay, have to agree that the game needs a lot of balancing and tweaking ... anyway, I have to say, that after 10 hours of playing Book 1 , I still like it , even it is too easy, even I haven't read any instructions !

COMBAT:
Many Ideas have been already mentioned , so what I am missing most (okay all things for the future)
but please

HAVE A LOOK at the need of different UNIT typs ... the only turn-based game, where it worked somehow, was

PANZER GENERAL from SSI ... 

SO what is needed, is INITIATIVE from the units, which goes first and
active defense ... if you want to hit something you have to takout indirect fireing units , airunits and so on ,,,

what to say, look at PANZER GENERAL (SSI)

So for me the first step would be to include everything PG had !

after that we could start to look further !

THANK YOU and really wish you much luck and the best to accomplish everything, that the game will soon be well known and a success ... I bought it to give you my support ! (Anyway, look at HOI 3 and Vic 2 , Paradox seems to have also a standstill and their games are terrible unbalanced at the beginning .. and still are )

BEST LUCK to Stardocks, please don't give up !

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September 6, 2010 8:03:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If you want a game where the combat is similar to Panzer General, try Civ5 (when it's released).

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September 7, 2010 1:24:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

-Dynasties.  Dynasties is a cool idea, but they never intended it to allow succession upon a Sov's death.  Many argued for this option, but it was emphatically rejected.  So, this wasn't promised (and the non-promise was successfully delivered in release), but it could be a feature that offers a promise of how Elemental separates itself from many other games.

This is the part I am tripping over. when i look at my first born it says 'Junior' age 6 First in line for the throne.

Why the hell is he first in line for the throne if there is no throne for him to take as the chair and all vanishes with the death.

At the very least it seems an opertunity to explore. After all it would allow the soverign to be more risky once there is an heir for the throne. It would open tactical problems where if I kill the Kraxis soverign and his son, rather than his empire and suddenly vanishing, t falls to the daughter of the son by marriage from the Kingdom of Altair, the entire empire becoming Altair kingdom creating a supernation out of the enemy you were just defeating. It also opens options in the book of life spells to have a ressurection spell to revive a dead soverign, or in the death magic to bring him back as a ghost/undead.

 

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September 7, 2010 1:44:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The OP asked what I thought would make this game special to me. I can't stop anyone from posting ideas here, but it goes against the point of this thread. Just a kind suggestion as I like your guy's ideas.

The ability to make my own races and factions and especially story is what made me spend 6 months in betas and stick through the new engine's birthing pains. I was given what I wanted, but the rest of the things not working out at release has admittedly halted what I had hoped would grow into the largest and most successful modding community the TBS genre has ever seen. I wanted to make my own spells. I can. I love it. I wanted to make The Brotherhood of Nod. I have and they kick some serious ass. I wanted to make my own cities and wastes. The best part of this game, so far, is making the world anew. I feel like Juno from Inception. Bending the world to whims, making impossble structures reach to the very gods. This is my favorite part of elemental and I would change a damn thing about! Let the modding begin...

 

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September 7, 2010 2:28:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

-Dynasties.  Dynasties is a cool idea, but they never intended it to allow succession upon a Sov's death.  Many argued for this option, but it was emphatically rejected.  So, this wasn't promised (and the non-promise was successfully delivered in release), but it could be a feature that offers a promise of how Elemental separates itself from many other games.

Doing so would require devs to embrace the Save&Quit/Continue paradigm instead of Save/Load. This is something many people reject outright without thinking twice about it. They claim Save/Load is strictly better and "anyone can reload as often as he likes anyway", which is missing the point by a mile. Allowing dynastic succession would require change in player mentality, it would require players to accept that screwups happen. It's too late. Why would anyone accept a bad event if he can reload ? Why have random events in a game if you can reload ? Why bother with information-giving abilities ? To drive the point home, it makes no sense to spend development time on something most players will never notice.

For more information:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/344909/

 

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September 7, 2010 3:04:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting b0rsuk,




quoting post

-Dynasties.  Dynasties is a cool idea, but they never intended it to allow succession upon a Sov's death.  Many argued for this option, but it was emphatically rejected.  So, this wasn't promised (and the non-promise was successfully delivered in release), but it could be a feature that offers a promise of how Elemental separates itself from many other games.



Doing so would require devs to embrace the Save&Quit/Continue paradigm instead of Save/Load. This is something many people reject outright without thinking twice about it. They claim Save/Load is strictly better and "anyone can reload as often as he likes anyway", which is missing the point by a mile. Allowing dynastic succession would require change in player mentality, it would require players to accept that screwups happen. It's too late. Why would anyone accept a bad event if he can reload ? Why have random events in a game if you can reload ? Why bother with information-giving abilities ? To drive the point home, it makes no sense to spend development time on something most players will never notice.

For more information:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/344909/

 

While it doens't negate your point about those types of people, how can you comment on a game that I am fairly certain you have never played? I don't understand what this aforementioned mentality is or how it relates to an interesting and inventive way to make a game. Maybe I mistunderstood your reply. Can you please explain?

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September 7, 2010 3:57:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,

While it doens't negate your point about those types of people, how can you comment on a game that I am fairly certain you have never played? I don't understand what this aforementioned mentality is or how it relates to an interesting and inventive way to make a game. Maybe I mistunderstood your reply. Can you please explain?

I can comment on a game I've never played just like I can comment on anything else. I have the ability to reason. And I'm qualified to comment on Elemental because I've played numerous other fantasy strategy games. You can take my comments as "what would it take for a forum lurker like me to buy the game."

I am sure you're familiar with games where you can save and load at any time. Perhaps an easier way to explain it would be making you play Dominions 3, there's a demo. In Dominion 3 you can only Save&Quit, and not reload at any time. It makes you play in certain way and accept bad outcomes. The game is full of random events, up to 3 per turn. In the game if something bad happens, you deal with it. There are spells and abilities suited for just that. If your champion or prophet dies, you find or appoint another one. If you know Death magic, you can bring him back mummified. There are numerous spells and abilities which provide you with information. At the very least you send scouts before you attack - there might be knights, dark vines, or elephants. In a Save/load game you don't recruit scouts, you just take your army (killer stack in many games) and attack. If enemy is stronger than expected, you reload.

As people play Dominions 3 they learn to endure losses. A mounted commander who's lost an arm and an eye becomes special not because he's got a ton of experience making him very strong. Experience has relatively small effect on unit strength. You grow attached to such commander because he's still alive against all odds, spells and arrows he's been hit with, times he was forced to retreat, assassination attempts, supernatural events. Perhaps a small core of horsemen or heavy infantry has suvived with him - you can check that.

Every campaign is a story. Do you know what AAR stands for ? After Action Report. It's fairly unique to Dominions serries. People write stories of their empires, and it often reads like fanfiction. Because the game is so epic in scale and so varied, and lack of reload means a story can have a bad ending, they are interesting to the end. They have a whole subforum just for AARs.

Finally, you can read the thread I linked to because it's full of my repplies on the subject.

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September 7, 2010 4:41:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting b0rsuk,



Do you know what AAR stands for ? After Action Report. It's fairly unique to Dominions serries. People write stories of their empires, and it often reads like fanfiction. Because the game is so epic in scale and so varied, and lack of reload means a story can have a bad ending, they are interesting to the end. They have a whole subforum just for AARs.

 

 

Errr... No! You're right on everything really. But AAR are hardly unique to Dominion, you'll find them on every major 4x/Strategic game with High replayability...

Have a look at Dwarven Fortress!

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September 7, 2010 5:56:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My longest playthrough of Elemental I tried to deal with major losses instead of loading a save (I did load a few times when losing a valuable heir). I began to lose respect for the "heroes" after losing about 5 or 6 of them to mediocre creatures that could one-shot them through their 90+ points of armor.

 

Not loading saves from losses can, in general, make a game more intense and rewarding.

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September 7, 2010 6:53:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting b0rsuk,

quoting post
-Dynasties.  Dynasties is a cool idea, but they never intended it to allow succession upon a Sov's death.  Many argued for this option, but it was emphatically rejected.  So, this wasn't promised (and the non-promise was successfully delivered in release), but it could be a feature that offers a promise of how Elemental separates itself from many other games.

Doing so would require devs to embrace the Save&Quit/Continue paradigm instead of Save/Load. This is something many people reject outright without thinking twice about it. They claim Save/Load is strictly better and "anyone can reload as often as he likes anyway", which is missing the point by a mile. Allowing dynastic succession would require change in player mentality, it would require players to accept that screwups happen. It's too late. Why would anyone accept a bad event if he can reload ? Why have random events in a game if you can reload ? Why bother with information-giving abilities ? To drive the point home, it makes no sense to spend development time on something most players will never notice.

For more information:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/344909/

 

 

I understand what you mean by the save/load and save/continue discussion (I've played dominion 3 myself), however in this instance, this argument just doesn't quite apply to Elemental. The main reason is, although the player can reload, the AI cannot. As such, as it is right now, you can hunt AI sovereign (or just let him come to you) and completely kill the AI empire rather easily. An advance implementation of the dynasty would at least fix this problem by passing on the empire to their heir (although admittedly, it's not the only possible fix). It would also allow for more interesting gameplay, not to mention in multiplayer (whenever that comes), where save/load just isn't viable (and why Dom3 can choose to pursue this path without any concern). 

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September 7, 2010 7:49:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The save/load argument drives me crazy.  You should be able to save & load wherever you darn well please.  4x games should have the Ironman as an option that adds some multiplier to your final score for players that want it.

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September 7, 2010 8:08:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting random_target,
The main problem I see with the randomness of resources, is that they appear when you take the relevant tech, but only around your cities.

 

This is so true. It is like the problem in Oblivion where it is better to take stats you don't use much (or at least can control the use of and don't care about) as your main stats so that you don't level up before you have had time to record enough uses of the really stats you want to be increasing the most.

Game mechanics which make you do illogical things (ie avoid researching the tech to find resources so that later you can find more resources) are a real game immersion killer for me.

You could argue that the player shouldn't try to optimise and should ignore the fact that this is the optimal way to play, but then isn't a strategy game all about playing as well as you can to overcome a formidable opponent? It isn't a very good game if you deliberately play badly.

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September 7, 2010 8:23:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I was under the impression that magic would be a scarce resource, especially after the cataclysm. It certainly doesn't feel this way right now. I feel like I can cast anything, anytime if I really wanted to. It would be nice if at the start of the game, for example, the player started with only a couple of spells and only got the chance to add more to their spell book by capturing shards. Right now I just don't feel like magic shards are all that important which is unfortunate because I assumed they would be a core part of the game.

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September 7, 2010 8:28:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
Your wrong AAR can go for any strategy or RPG as long as it got meaningful choices. BOT true it seems to have lost some of the special stuff.
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September 7, 2010 8:51:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting divvu80,

Errr... No! You're right on everything really. But AAR are hardly unique to Dominion, you'll find them on every major 4x/Strategic game with High replayability...
Have a look at Dwarven Fortress!

Correct me if i'm wrong, but Dwarf Fortress has permanent death ? The game deffinitely has roguelike roots, but I didn't want to mention these games as to not scare people away. I really enjoy roguelikes.

In general, it appears permanent death tends to make games much more epic. It causes stronger emotions and changes player behaviour. AARs are very common in games with permanent death. Roguelike players do write stories of their characters, but they call them YAVP (Yet Another Winning Player).

Quoting Kalin,

I understand what you mean by the save/load and save/continue discussion (I've played dominion 3 myself), however in this instance, this argument just doesn't quite apply to Elemental. The main reason is, although the player can reload, the AI cannot.

I see now - a good point. At first glance implementing such a "loser system" might sound like a waste because it's mostly for AI. However, Stardock has shown they are not afraid to put Single Player experience first even at the cost of multiplayer. For example Galactic Civilisations 2 has pretty extensive diplomacy system, which wouldn't translate into multiplayer.  However If someone can implement a system like this (succession) just for AI, it's Stardock. Heirs would be a bit like extra lives. A few minor points:

1. Once AI starts losing sovereigns, it might be already in the process of being mopped up. This is the case in many 4X games: often a player will attack once he has no chance to lose, and it goes downhill from there. So the effects of succession might not last long.

2. AI might not know how to best take advantage of dynastic system. At the moment, I don't know what gameplay impact it would have and how to take advantage of it.

On the plus side, I'm sure many players would be delighted seeing members of opposing dynasty assassinate each other to reach the throne. You can go even further - the empire splinters into two parts each ruled by another heir. Massive dyplomatic opportunities, various powers could help different sides in exchange for favours.

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While I don't think there was any chance that Magic could make Elemental special, it is very unfortunate it's currently one of the weakest aspects of the game. It should at least be decent. The reason I didn't think Magic would be special is because it's been done to death in games. To impress me they would have to succeed in doing something truly off the wall.

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