Why Elemental is a Space genre game - and how to change that

By on October 8, 2010 3:51:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

onomastikon

Join Date 02/2006
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Elemental plays like its space-based cousin GC2. Each piece of fertile land or important resource is like a planet. You must build a city there. Everything else is empty space, mere filling. Even if some bits of that space read "hills" or "forests", it matters little to your empire. If you control 50 or 50000 of those tiles, it matters little. This makes "Zone of Control" even less important.

That's what I miss most about terrain in Elemental. Not that it doesn't look pretty at times; it does. But it doesn't DO anything. It should matter if I have 500 forest tiles, hill tiles, or grassland tiles under my control or not.

Borrow a bit from cousin Civilization: let tiles under your zone of control mean something to your empire. Examples: Let grasslands give a slight prestige or food advantage per 5 tiles; let forests give a slight materials advantage per 5 tiles; let hills give a slight metal advantage per 5 tiles. Let terrain matter in other ways, for example: Casting "Call Treant" only works in forests, while the potent spell "Summon Bog Monster" only works in swamps. There are many posts about various different ideas regarding terrain here and there, but I would like to see most of them implemented on the strategic level to make Elemental feel more like a fantasy-map based game and less of a space-based game (even if the "space" in elemental is colored differently).

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October 8, 2010 4:59:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I disagree about the city bonuses from terrain types, I actually thing the lack of that feature is Elemental's strength.

 

In Civ and many other similar games, the tiles mattered, but statistically, it didn't really matter where you placed your cities.

Sure, some spots were better than others, and some spots provided strategic value, but except rare cases, the location of your cities didn't change much.

Of course, it isn't a bad thing, since it provided the necessary balance between wanting peace and wanting to take over an enemy terretory.

 

In games like AoW, like Elemental, the terrain didn't change much. It was more important to pick spots by strategic values and rare buildings around it. And yet, you could also protect the same buildings with a wondering guard around them, it wasn't really REQUIRED to have a city next to them.

The terrain type itself changed very little, and when it did it was either a farm will be built there or not.

Farms around the cities in AoW was, in a way, not much different from Elemental's manual construction of buildings.

 

Elemental took it one step further toward a post apocalyptic game: Resources are rare and usually worth starting a war over them.

You want your cities to produce something? Location, location, location.

 

I do agree that terrains should have differences between them.

But the differences should be in other directions and not economic benefits.

Some suggestions include:

- Swamps and forests spawn different types of creatures.

- Defensive bonuses to the units in certain tiles.

- Different combat zones with different view and tactical value.

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October 9, 2010 2:53:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with this, and there is actually a mod that makes forests into a resource.

 

Right now, terrain really only impacts movement speed and combat. Random, you may not have noticed, but terrain does provide a defensive bonus. Take a look at your unit stats next time they are standing in a forest. It will tell you that they are getting X% bonus from terrain. I don't really like that system, since it is something on the strategic level impacting the tactical level. The unit should get a bonus based on where it is on the tactical level, not because of something on the strategic level.

 

The lack of real importance to most terrain helps make the gameworld feel empty and meaningless.  In CIV, if I put a city in a hilly area, it will be a good production center. If I put it on the flood plains by the river, it will produce lots of food. In Elemental, these things don't matter. I would rather have the chance to make more meaningful decisions about city placement, terrain, expansion, etc. Right now, it is all resource dependent with very few other factors. I think this will change a little based on what they are doing with 1.1, but I would still rather have more terrain impact. It would give each city more character.

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October 9, 2010 6:48:18 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

In games like AoW, like Elemental, the terrain didn't change much. It was more important to pick spots by strategic values and rare buildings around it. And yet, you could also protect the same buildings with a wondering guard around them, it wasn't really REQUIRED to have a city next to them.

The terrain type itself changed very little, and when it did it was either a farm will be built there or not.

Farms around the cities in AoW was, in a way, not much different from Elemental's manual construction of buildings.

Not very true, having farms is essential for city growth, and in AoW growth actually matters since bigger city produce more gold by itself. And even those +30 from crops were quite nice to have.

In AoW you can build your city in the middle of nowhere, and 50 turns later it will produce you some gold, mana and provide domain coverage (not to mention tower teleport gates which turned such cities in very useful units factories). In EWoM with such city you will end with +1/+1/+1 income and huge food deficit at lvl5. It feels, well, weird to see all those 2000 people do nothing other than eating. You'd expect them at least manufacture some goods and do trading if they cannot grow anything on these surrounding grasslands (which yet again is ridiculus seeing such huge forests. If trees can grow there, crops definitely can too).

Oh, and, there was spell which cleared all vegetation and turned tiles into grasslands in life spellbook. We need such one in EWoM too, sand isn't something I enjoy turning everything into.

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October 11, 2010 1:32:42 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DKL,

In games like AoW, like Elemental, the terrain didn't change much. It was more important to pick spots by strategic values and rare buildings around it. And yet, you could also protect the same buildings with a wondering guard around them, it wasn't really REQUIRED to have a city next to them.

The terrain type itself changed very little, and when it did it was either a farm will be built there or not.

Farms around the cities in AoW was, in a way, not much different from Elemental's manual construction of buildings.
Not very true, having farms is essential for city growth, and in AoW growth actually matters since bigger city produce more gold by itself. And even those +30 from crops were quite nice to have.

In AoW you can build your city in the middle of nowhere, and 50 turns later it will produce you some gold, mana and provide domain coverage (not to mention tower teleport gates which turned such cities in very useful units factories). In EWoM with such city you will end with +1/+1/+1 income and huge food deficit at lvl5. It feels, well, weird to see all those 2000 people do nothing other than eating. You'd expect them at least manufacture some goods and do trading if they cannot grow anything on these surrounding grasslands (which yet again is ridiculus seeing such huge forests. If trees can grow there, crops definitely can too).

Oh, and, there was spell which cleared all vegetation and turned tiles into grasslands in life spellbook. We need such one in EWoM too, sand isn't something I enjoy turning everything into.

 

Great points. I am all for the Cataclysm themed-world...but lets face it, it isn't all that devastated. There is plenty of life out there beyond what the Channelers allow. Just think of all the bandits, wolves, monsters, etc. They are eating something. There are trees and other plants, so growth is possible outside of fertile lands.

 

I think 1.1 is going to help with this quite a bit, based on what SD is saying, since it will make population matter more.

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October 11, 2010 8:23:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When I saw the thread's title I was like "No way!"  but after reading the op's post I agree 100%.  Even  in a post-apocalyptic world, a forest would still produce some wood, else it wouldn't be a forest.  Actual resources wouldn't have disappeared from the world, just man's abilitiy & knowledge to harvest them.  Granted, such resources would be minimal, but it would be something.  It doesn't make sense to have umpteen forest tiles around a city, but only the "old growth forest" can be harvested.  Basic terrain types should be able to produce something, unless the terrain itself is barren & dead.  Of course, to balance it out, the better resources could be made rarer.

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October 13, 2010 11:58:32 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Random_target>>> You want your cities to produce something? Location, location, location.

 I do agree that terrains should have differences between them.

But the differences should be in other directions and not economic benefits.

Some suggestions include:

- Swamps and forests spawn different types of creatures.

- Defensive bonuses to the units in certain tiles.

- Different combat zones with different view and tactical value.

I agree with Randon_target.  post holocaust world, scarce resources, but terrain still has affects.  One thing that I would add is height advantage.  forces on the high ground do have advantages, easier command and control (interior lines - see enemy better), melee advantage (fighting up vs down slope), archers, etc., (have longer range, less attack factor attenuation).  And just plain line of sight: being on a hill should let you see further through the 'fog of war.'  A watch tower on an elevated tile should have sight advantages of both tower and hill elevation.

 

 

BTW, what is AoW?   Maybe I should think about buying it?

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October 13, 2010 9:45:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

what is AoW?

http://www.impulsedriven.com/aowsm

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October 18, 2010 3:59:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oddly, this game feels a lot like GalCiv2 to me. Unlike most space-genre games I have liked (such as Sins of Solar E or Star Chamber, amongst others), in which the vast reaches of empty space are imagined by the player but not part of the playing field, GC2 does not have space lanes or jump nodes, choke points, or other strategic trimmings of the map. In other games of space genre, action takes place around objects of interest, and you are not burdened with transversing huge sections of empty map. Not so in GC2. While I think that this is a disadvantage for GC2, because the map does lack important choke points and other methods of strategic choice-generation through "board control" common to map-based games (unlike, for example, games such as poker), I felt that GC2 had other strengths that made up for it.

But this is Elemental, and it feels much too much like GC2. There is no need to pay attention to key strategic map features, because there are almost none. In Elemental, one need mostly look at the "glowing bits", and treat the rest as a relatively uniform, if cosmetically varied, surface.  

In games like Civilization or Dominions (or, in fact, many types of map-based games), it matters a lot which terrain tiles (e.g. jungle or swamp, grasslands or hills, etc.) are in your zone of control; in Elemental, it doesn't seem to matter at all. In fact, the only real use for zone of control that I can see is that it lets you own shards. Thus Elemental's map is very much like GC2's: a wide open, uniform field, whose sole characteristics were "resources" (shards). As I tried to describe in my post from August 2006 (http://forums.galciv2.com/127960) this detracts from the game's strategic elements and makes it less fun.

 That's why I want terrain to matter more.  Make terrain (and not merely terrain enhancements, such as fertile land) matter to economy, city building, questing, neutral spawning, and the chance of yielding special events, e.g. hills will have a greater chance of harboring metals but will rarely yield food. This might require reworking the resources system (e.g. making resource requirements and units of measurement larger and more dispersed). By that I mean it might make it easier to count if "food" increments were increased by 10, so that for example a hut required 10 food, and so on; I would suggest making farms provide 20 food (or 2 food in the current system) and letting grassland tiles provide 0.25 food (or less in the old system), forest tiles provide 0.25 materials, hills provide 0.25 metal, and swamps provide a slight chance of something interesting to spawn. One could also imagine that with the correct technological advancements (e.g. in civilization or adventuring), one could glean additional boni, e.g. with hills, there might be a chance of finding "caves" if Adventure Level X is unlocked, etc., while plain grassland should yield an additional slight food bonus... Terrain should also matter more to movement; give movement bonuses (for certain units) on certain terrain types and penalties on others. This should apply predominately to the strategic map, but also to the tactical map. On the tactical map, terrain should also affect LOS for ranged attacks and fog of war. Age of Wonders did ok with this many years ago.

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October 18, 2010 10:34:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

onomastikon, really good points. I like GC2 and Elemental, but I agree that they share some design elements (ugh) that make them feel a bit bland to me. I think that GC3 should use something like Distant World's zoom camera so that you can have a vast galaxy with the action concentrated around points of interest.

 

Civ V, for all its faults, does terrain much better than Elemental, I believe. Same for the earlier Civ games. It really drives gameplay, both from the way cities work and now with the changes to Civ's combat, it really drives the combat as well. Although I'm not a huge fan of Civ V's tactical combat on the strategic map, it is kinda fun when you have a large map and quite a few units. I enjoy setting up big defensive lines on good terrain.

 

Some Elemental mods have done a good job of making the terrain matter more. Hopefully we will see that continue.

 

Here are a few things that might help:

 

1) I would really like to see things like interception moves for armies, similar to what we have in Empire: Total War. Basically, an army has a zone of control and can move to intercept an enemy army during their turn. This is a great feature that gives some flexibility to defensive forces. This would allow you to set units up to basically patrol caravan routes, for example, or to defend chokepoints and borders. This would help make terrain more important since you could more easily defend chokepoints and other areas of interest.

 

2) I would like to see key resources more closely tied to terrain. So for example, you will find good food resources in open plains and good mineral resources near mountains, old growth forests deep in normal forests, etc.

 

3) Out of city improvements. I would like to be able to build things like forts and watchtowers outside of cities so that you can defend key terrain.

 

4) Remove strategic level bonuses for combat and focus on better tactical maps. I don't like that a defending army in a forest gets a defensive bonus on the tactical map. I would rather have the strategic tile determine the type of tactical map (ie: forest tile means forest tactical map) and add in better rules for LOS and terrain useage.

 

5) Unit abilities based on terrain. Not sure how this would work for the Elemental fluff, but think of Elves being good in forests, Dwarves in the mountains, etc. It would be nice to have gameplay that tied into terrain more in this way.

 

6) Using undeveloped terrain near cities. This is the key part of Civ, but since Elemental uses more than one tile for cities it is a bit harder. Still, I would like to be able to implement this since it would make cities deeper and make city placement matter more, which plays into the city spam issue. So a city in a big open plain will have room to grow and lots of room for farming and things like that. A city in the mountains might be more confined, but have better defense and mining.My real dream would be to turn city development into a mini Simcity sort of thing where you would actually need to lay out roads, building placement would matter, and you could designated areas within the influence range of the city for farming. Way outside the current scope of the game, but one can dream...

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August 8, 2011 7:15:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Totally agree with the OP, should I also mention "hyperspace"...? You guys know what I mean

No, really, Stardock cannot create a fantasy game and think that units move like in a space simulation! Descovering and moving through a fantastic fantasy land should be a priority! Units should have bonuses when moved across specific terrains, they should be able to hide in forests or modify the terrain in order to gain specific bonuses. There should be spells that speed units up and change the world. Magic should be a huge help in conquering the world, but when spells are so powerful that you can use them to instantly destroy entire armies or move anywhere in a second, you have spoiled movement and fight, the two main elements of any strategy simulation.

A good concept for a spell, imo, is something that adds a strategic advantage to your army, without being a game breaker: example: "camuflage" a stack becomes invisible when moving through woods, or "freeze" a lake or part of a sea gets magically frozen for units to cross it...

Everything should be done to prevent the DEATH STAR syndrome: a huge invincible  stack jumping around the map! that is SCI-FI, I agree!

 

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August 8, 2011 3:33:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I feel like the current situation is acceptable for the beginning of the game, but as technology is regained, you should gain the ability to make use to the land more and more, as in Alpha Centauri or Fall from Heaven II. Techs that let you harvest resources from normal tiles (one food per five plains sounds entirely acceptable to me) would be great, and a tech that grants your units the ability to dig in and take the high ground of hills would be fine.

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August 8, 2011 4:25:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Holy thread resurrection batman....OCT 2010, to August 2011!

 

Quoting Black-Knight,

Everything should be done to prevent the DEATH STAR syndrome: a huge invincible  stack jumping around the map! that is SCI-FI, I agree!

 

 

Dude...seriously...did you really resurrect this thead just to mention your issue with teleporting AGAIN?

 

Please, please stop. Any valid points you make are just becoming noise to me.

 

I don't mean to be harsh, but it really gets old. Just keep the discussion on that issue in the thread on that issue, please. I for one am interested in your ideas, but that is made difficult by your beating of the issue into the ground. No offense, seriously...just my opinion.

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August 9, 2011 6:58:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Agree with goontrooper. FFS Black-Knight, you got a good point and some of us (me amongst others) agree with you but it's ENOUGH!

 

In the following picture, guess who we consider you to be now. Yes, it has gone that far 

 

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