Design

By on January 11, 2011 5:09:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Derek Paxton

Join Date 03/2003
+118

Abeix

Design is my favorite part of the development cycle.  I enjoy the iteration (polish) phase, implementation is less fun for me (because I’m maintaining the schedule and making sure everything is moving in the right direction, not actually making cool stuff).  Lockdown is no fun at all.  But design is the best.

I spent most of December working on design docs for the first expansion.  I talked in an earlier Dev Journal about the phases of game development and how the high level design was created by the end of November.  We had our stakeholders meeting and high level concepts were approved.  December was spent turning those concepts into specific items and tasks.

I start by fleshing out the ideas in docs.  Large lists get trimmed, ideas are improved, I try to make the most of every idea.  After the list is down to the assets we want for the game they go into a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet serves 3 functions.  First it is able to export the XML directly so we never need to touch XML files.  Secondly it provides list boxes of all the common data types so we can’t mistype them (so if something requires a tech the listbox allows the designer to pick from all the current techs).  And lastly it allows us to do some data modeling.

The spreadsheet pulls weapon values from the weapon sheet and armor values from the armor sheet and shows the average and max damage for any given strength from any weapon against any armor type.  It lays out the damage all the monsters in the game do at different levels so we can make sure that damage progression looks even (we don’t want Garrote’s hitting for more damage than a Red Dragon).  That should save us from having to require as much playtest feedback since it becomes visually obvious if leather armor is too good or not good enough, if a certain weapon (or new weapon mechanic) is too effective, or if a given spawn 3 monster isn’t correctly balanced.

That’s not to say that the spreadsheet shows everything or that play testing isn’t valuable.  But it does provide a good start.

Different docs were created for different modules.  We had an implementation meeting Monday.  The designers were all involved as well as anyone who is interested in this particular aspect of the game (one of our philosophy’s is that everyone is on the design team, just because your main job is something else doesn’t mean that we don’t want to hear your ideas for improving the game).  The developer that is assigned this module also attends so she has a chance to ask questions and provide input.

The meeting went well.  When it was done there was a very clear idea on exactly what the requirements were for this module from a design perspective.  The programmer now has to turn those design requirements into technical requirements, tasks and estimated times with some architectural documentation for how the system is going to work.  Then the programming team reviews the technical plan, and if it’s approved implementation begins.

But the best part of design is opening it up to the team as they start to go through the docs and provide suggestions and feedback.  We are able to iterate on the design without wasting a programmers time, though of course some things just have to be played to test.

We currently have several things going on.  Some of the team is working on the expansion (which isn’t unusual, some of the team has been working on the expansion for the past few months), and some are working on the next patch for the base game (1.2).  We definitely have a long list of stuff we want to do.  We have the schedule, we have prioritized the work, now we just have to do it.

As we pass into the implementation phase most of my job becomes producer type stuff.  I still get some design work.  There may be a new idea for a spell, Toby has been coming up with lots of incredible spell ideas (Toby and I were the 2 who read all the spell contest submissions so we have lots of ideas from the contest that we want to use pieces from).  I have been living in the quest system and wrote a bunch of my own over the weekend.  I’m excited to see what you folks submit for the quest contest.

So even though my day are typically busy with producer work (making sure everyone else knows exactly what they should be working on) I still enjoy getting a little time to create.

For some more details of what we have been working on: http://forums.elementalgame.com/403846

 

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January 11, 2011 5:33:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Excellent.   That spreadsheet sounds incredibly useful, any chance that it could make it into modders' hands at some point in the future?

I am looking forward to the quests coming up, are you going to add any new mechanics (random events based on population, sov. level, etc.)?

 

Thanks for the information.   This is the best part of being in a Stardock community IMO.

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January 11, 2011 5:47:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, I am planning to release the spreadsheet with Fallen Enchantress.

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January 11, 2011 5:55:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great to hear your thoughts Derek, sounds like things are very exciting in your offices atm. I just finished reading island dogs post about the expansion and it sounds great in the sense that it is obvious you guys have taken alot of the forum feedback about bringing the world of elemental alive with lairs and unique locations that can be taken over on top of a good old fashioned heaps of content added to everything from spells to quests (which will add some much need choices and variety). Also did my eyes decieve or did I read that we will get to "make" items in the expansion

Now I just can't wait till you guys decide to give us a more detailed run down of what we can expect in enchantress as well as whats coming up in ver 1.2. Is ver 1.2 just going to be small stuff and tweaks/bug fixes or are there some big ideas you still wish to implement before the expansion?

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January 11, 2011 6:52:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't know what to think really - I'm not finding the game fun so far, but you guys have clearly not given up and posts like these renew my confidence that you can and will turn Elemental into one of the games of the decade - I can't wait for that to happen.

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January 11, 2011 6:56:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Those spreadsheets sound very useful.

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January 11, 2011 8:05:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great stuff.

Even more excited about the future of Elemental.

Thanks for sharing a little bit about the design process.

 

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January 11, 2011 9:44:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If I get my hands on that spreadsheet I'm going to macro a pivot table and vlookup the concantenated formulas.

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January 11, 2011 11:46:13 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting AlLanMandragoran,
If I get my hands on that spreadsheet I'm going to macro a pivot table and vlookup the concantenated formulas.

PROTECT THE SHEET!!!!!

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January 11, 2011 11:59:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have been waiting to unveil my work on Circle of the Black Thorn until a quest editor is made. is that something we can expect to see in the next couple of months? I seem to remember some talk of January or February being modder-centric.

Regardless of that, I look forward to seeing how the expansion will facilitate new kinds of modding. I think there was one forum user here that would be greatly impressed in the new concept of an inhabited world. 

 

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January 12, 2011 12:50:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I definately like the idea that you have to conquer the map rather than simply settle it. That has been a huge problem in my opinion. Conquering = dramatic tension, settling = why do I care about this lonely patch of dirt.

If you aren't too far along in the design phase, I'd like you to think about the problems that can occur when you create map objects after they are 'discovered'. I made a semi-off topic rant about it in the Elementerra thread here. I believe this is a fundamental issue that really needs attention. I think that only the most minor, transient quests (i.e "Eek, rats in my basement") should be placed dynamically on demand. Resources and major end-game type quests should never 'spawn'. They should be part of the map and 'showcased' as part of the map design. A giant mage tower or spectacular ruin is too important a thing to just go beyond notice or appear willy nilly in a random location.

On a related note, I'm very dubious about the concept of 'Questing technology'. If you discover a quest that you aren't ready for, you should simply get your butt kicked when you try it, ala Master of Magic... "You see DEATH KNIGHTS guarding the ruin". The idea that you don't have the questing 'know-how' makes no fictional sense. It's just way too gamey. That whole questing tree should just be scrapped. It breaks the cohesion of the narrative and undermines the fun of exploration. Instead of a tech tree, why not just have chain quests with progressive difficulty?

Also, we modders definately like getting some early info so we can plan ahead. *wink wink*.

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January 12, 2011 2:27:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

On a related note, I'm very dubious about the concept of 'Questing technology'. If you discover a quest that you aren't ready for, you should simply get your butt kicked when you try it, ala Master of Magic... "You see DEATH KNIGHTS guarding the ruin". The idea that you don't have the questing 'know-how' makes no fictional sense. It's just way too gamey. That whole questing tree should just be scrapped. It breaks the cohesion of the narrative and undermines the fun of exploration. Instead of a tech tree, why not just have chain quests with progressive difficulty?

+1.

The Quest tree is totally unbelievable and an immersion-breaker. So much so that I totally disregard it because it makes no sense.

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January 12, 2011 3:48:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you.

To be honest, with one exception, almost all of the elements mentioned in the brief news blurb to which you linked would be something I would have expected in the core game: host of spells, quests, armor, monsters, better combat, optimized economy. While I understand that an expansion should have something "new", the only thing I find "new" here is the concept of lands unsettleable before conquering, or  "neutral" factions (demons) that need to be put down. I'd appreciate more transparancy from Stardock, indicating exactly what is supposed to be in the scope of Elemental Vanilla and what the scopes of expansions should be. As it is, unlike most of the members of these forums, I belong to the apparently small minority of people who feel that their constructive criticism is being taken as an affront; while I am still not enjoying Elemental as I would have expected I would from its descriptions I read last year and the inklings I felt during Beta, I had imagined that -- although transparency is still forthcoming -- that the goal was to make Elemental Vanilla into the kind of game I can now read about being envisioned for the expansion. While I do not mind waiting until summer for the game I expect (I imagined in Q1 2010 during Beta that Q2 2011 would a good release date for Elemental Vanilla 1.00), I am still disappointed on two counts: 1. transparency: Would you please indicate what the scopes are? 2. I still feel Elemental Vanilla is significantly suboptimal and would hate to see it remain so while work on an expansion progresses. Thanks for listening.

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January 12, 2011 5:14:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Reduced 55%Original 1024 x 640

I have been living in the quest system and wrote a bunch of my own over the weekend.  I’m excited to see what you folks submit for the quest contest.

I have to say, I looked at the quest system with a mind to producing some quests, but could not get my head around it. Even with Novaburst's helpful tutorial (http://forums.elementalgame.com/393755), I didn't see how I could make really interesting quests without a huge amount of trial and error to see what was actually possible or not.

How easy did you find learning to make quests, and did you have much help from whoever coded the questing system? I think it's an area with real potential, but it could perhaps use some good developer documentation at some point before the mod community are really going to grab onto it.

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January 12, 2011 5:41:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting LDiCesare,

On a related note, I'm very dubious about the concept of 'Questing technology'. If you discover a quest that you aren't ready for, you should simply get your butt kicked when you try it, ala Master of Magic... "You see DEATH KNIGHTS guarding the ruin". The idea that you don't have the questing 'know-how' makes no fictional sense. It's just way too gamey. That whole questing tree should just be scrapped. It breaks the cohesion of the narrative and undermines the fun of exploration. Instead of a tech tree, why not just have chain quests with progressive difficulty?
+1.

The Quest tree is totally unbelievable and an immersion-breaker. So much so that I totally disregard it because it makes no sense.

I whole heartedly agree with all this. Please move quests outside of the tech tree... monster spawns and heroes also to a certain extent. There have been a fair few interesting threads about this very thing.

 

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January 12, 2011 7:58:02 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree!

Best regards,
Steven.

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January 12, 2011 8:50:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Pessimistikon,

I think you should probably wait for more information before accusing this glass house company of non-transparency. I think the reason there is less specific information here is that there is very little to actually give at this point in the development process. Would it not be worse to announce specifics that end up being changed later in the month? 

Also, you would know that vanilla Elemental is still going to be updated for a year, if you had bothered to ask anyone that follows the journals before making negative assumptions. I understand where you are coming from though, and I share your anxiety towards getting more information about specifics as the developement process continues. I just think you came at the question from a very negative and condescending angle. 

If you just want more item content, I suggest checking out the expert mod work in that section of the forum. 

Good day.

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January 12, 2011 1:21:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sounds great but can we please fix the OOM issue in the original game so I can atleast play it. I can understand it has other bugs and AI/balance issues but the OOM is a CTD that happens every 15 minutes in mid to end game. How about a nice hot fix for that and then work on the expansion.

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January 12, 2011 1:38:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That picture is full of win... I love that creature... I want one!

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January 12, 2011 7:44:42 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting cephalo,
On a related note, I'm very dubious about the concept of 'Questing technology'. If you discover a quest that you aren't ready for, you should simply get your butt kicked when you try it, ala Master of Magic... "You see DEATH KNIGHTS guarding the ruin". The idea that you don't have the questing 'know-how' makes no fictional sense. It's just way too gamey. That whole questing tree should just be scrapped. It breaks the cohesion of the narrative and undermines the fun of exploration. Instead of a tech tree, why not just have chain quests with progressive difficulty?

 

Completely agreed. Not only that but... they give you a message that you've arrived at the quest location, don't give you any idea of the types or strength of creatures protecting it, or in some cases whether there is even a battle if you click on "yes". but if you decide the creatures are too strong and want to get a better army before going in, you click on "No" and it kills the whole quest. kinda lame. :/

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January 13, 2011 7:08:42 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,
Pessimistikon,

I think you should probably wait for more information before accusing this glass house company of non-transparency. I think the reason there is less specific information here is that there is very little to actually give at this point in the development process. Would it not be worse to announce specifics that end up being changed later in the month? 

Also, you would know that vanilla Elemental is still going to be updated for a year, if you had bothered to ask anyone that follows the journals before making negative assumptions. I understand where you are coming from though, and I share your anxiety towards getting more information about specifics as the developement process continues. I just think you came at the question from a very negative and condescending angle. 

If you just want more item content, I suggest checking out the expert mod work in that section of the forum. 

Good day.

Sadly, these and posts like it are exactly what I mean -- I feel that any form of criticism is met by acidic fanboyism. As many people (who have, however, subsequently been frightened away by posts such as these) have indicated, the level of transparency here is far from optimal. Why did Brad suddenly announce that the game was going gold a few weeks beforehand? Why did he lock threads containing constructive criticism that this was a debatable choice? Why did he get very angry at his friends on other forums about the state of the release, and then say that he understood the criticism? Yes, I am happy that he and others post here continuously, and that he has revealed much about the makeup of the team and his desire to invest great sums of resources in making Elemental great -- all good news. But beyond that, there have been no indications of how he or others understand Betas to be undertaken in the future so that the grave errors of this summer are not repeated, nor any clear indication of what the visions of Elemental and its now apparently sequels are to be.

If I were truly a pessimist, I would not have struggled through nearly a year of beta and still be here after August 24th and the following weeks.

But I am not a masochist. I feel that posts of your kind to contain few constructive elements, and I feel that it and those like it contribute to an atmosphere of blind fanboyism that does Brad, Stardock, and Elemental no good. Obviously, I hear your subtext: be happy or get lost. If criticism = condescending, then I will follow your advice. Goodbye.

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January 14, 2011 12:12:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting onomastikon,

Quoting seanw3, reply 16Pessimistikon,

I think you should probably wait for more information before accusing this glass house company of non-transparency. I think the reason there is less specific information here is that there is very little to actually give at this point in the development process. Would it not be worse to announce specifics that end up being changed later in the month? 

Also, you would know that vanilla Elemental is still going to be updated for a year, if you had bothered to ask anyone that follows the journals before making negative assumptions. I understand where you are coming from though, and I share your anxiety towards getting more information about specifics as the developement process continues. I just think you came at the question from a very negative and condescending angle. 

If you just want more item content, I suggest checking out the expert mod work in that section of the forum. 

Good day.

Sadly, these and posts like it are exactly what I mean -- I feel that any form of criticism is met by acidic fanboyism. As many people (who have, however, subsequently been frightened away by posts such as these) have indicated, the level of transparency here is far from optimal. Why did Brad suddenly announce that the game was going gold a few weeks beforehand? Why did he lock threads containing constructive criticism that this was a debatable choice? Why did he get very angry at his friends on other forums about the state of the release, and then say that he understood the criticism? Yes, I am happy that he and others post here continuously, and that he has revealed much about the makeup of the team and his desire to invest great sums of resources in making Elemental great -- all good news. But beyond that, there have been no indications of how he or others understand Betas to be undertaken in the future so that the grave errors of this summer are not repeated, nor any clear indication of what the visions of Elemental and its now apparently sequels are to be.

If I were truly a pessimist, I would not have struggled through nearly a year of beta and still be here after August 24th and the following weeks.

But I am not a masochist. I feel that posts of your kind to contain few constructive elements, and I feel that it and those like it contribute to an atmosphere of blind fanboyism that does Brad, Stardock, and Elemental no good. Obviously, I hear your subtext: be happy or get lost. If criticism = condescending, then I will follow your advice. Goodbye.

 

I agree that forums with excessive fanboi-iem are not good. Legitimate concerns can get drowned out by people who are over eager to defend the game. A good example would be the 2K Games forums. I honestly feel that this is not one of these forums however.

Any worries about the quality of EFE are justified, considering the disastrous release of Elemental. However, you will notice that Stardock has done some significant restructuring since that time. They have brought in some excellent talent and now Kael is in charge of things. Besides being extremely creative, his job is to organize things and keep things on schedule and apparently does this very well. In light of this, I think the proper attitude in my opinion would be to be cautiously optimistic. Take that for what it's worth.

Mistakes were made and apologies were given. Then measures were taken to ensure that these mistakes were not made again. Also, they have put their money where their mouth is and announced they are prepared to take a loss in order to satisfy their customers. I am honestly not sure what more they can do at the moment.

I am giving them a second chance and hope you do the same though I'll understand if you don't.

 

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January 14, 2011 8:07:04 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Why did he get very angry at his friends on other forums about the state of the release

This is understandable, they had been doing 12-14 hour days 7days per week for months on end. They were worn down. Brad also clearly said that in retrospect he lost the birdseye view of the game state due to him being on the team himself. He also had put his company name at stake by stating that he wanted to make the best strategy rpg game of the decade. Then there is the passion element.

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January 14, 2011 11:09:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting onomastikon,

Quoting seanw3, reply 16Pessimistikon,

I think you should probably wait for more information before accusing this glass house company of non-transparency. I think the reason there is less specific information here is that there is very little to actually give at this point in the development process. Would it not be worse to announce specifics that end up being changed later in the month? 

Also, you would know that vanilla Elemental is still going to be updated for a year, if you had bothered to ask anyone that follows the journals before making negative assumptions. I understand where you are coming from though, and I share your anxiety towards getting more information about specifics as the developement process continues. I just think you came at the question from a very negative and condescending angle. 

If you just want more item content, I suggest checking out the expert mod work in that section of the forum. 

Good day.

Sadly, these and posts like it are exactly what I mean -- I feel that any form of criticism is met by acidic fanboyism. As many people (who have, however, subsequently been frightened away by posts such as these) have indicated, the level of transparency here is far from optimal. Why did Brad suddenly announce that the game was going gold a few weeks beforehand? Why did he lock threads containing constructive criticism that this was a debatable choice? Why did he get very angry at his friends on other forums about the state of the release, and then say that he understood the criticism? Yes, I am happy that he and others post here continuously, and that he has revealed much about the makeup of the team and his desire to invest great sums of resources in making Elemental great -- all good news. But beyond that, there have been no indications of how he or others understand Betas to be undertaken in the future so that the grave errors of this summer are not repeated, nor any clear indication of what the visions of Elemental and its now apparently sequels are to be.

If I were truly a pessimist, I would not have struggled through nearly a year of beta and still be here after August 24th and the following weeks.

But I am not a masochist. I feel that posts of your kind to contain few constructive elements, and I feel that it and those like it contribute to an atmosphere of blind fanboyism that does Brad, Stardock, and Elemental no good. Obviously, I hear your subtext: be happy or get lost. If criticism = condescending, then I will follow your advice. Goodbye.

 

Well, if this could be prove useful, go check the Fallen enchantress new game thread: Brad clearly mention that, before the Lauch of Elemental he didn't take his gaming wing as a business. He didn't put together a team specifically for that. His main business was the app for windows. After the lauch, he has to make a choice: do I continu on the "gaming business" or should I completly drop it. He said that he made the decision to take his gaming wing to the "business" level and take mesure to ensure proper staff to make game. If this could "reassure" you, I think this kind of mistake won't reapeat itself because now he takes his gaming wing a lot more seriously .

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January 15, 2011 12:14:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't think anything I said was that harsh. I was just trying to point out that sometimes they don't give us information because they don't have it yet.

 

And there is a lot of what you were asking for in the mod section of the forum. How about those fire staffs? How is what I said acidic or fanboyism?

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January 20, 2011 6:53:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Thormodr,
Mistakes were made and apologies were given. Then measures were taken to ensure that these mistakes were not made again.

 

I have great difficult believing that Frogboy couldn't see the severe shortcomings in the game, especially when the forums were overflowing with posts saying that people doubt the game is ready. The game was due to ship and there were various contractual obligations, so it was rushed out the door. Half blind Freddy could see that the game wasn't ready.

 

I don't mind it so much, it's what most of the other publishers do, and Stardock are no doubt going to turn this into a really top game in time (especially with the help of Kael). I've paid my money and I don't want it back. I bought galciv as well, and I think Stardock are a good company to support, but please, trying to push the line that people couldn't see it was ready for release is fantasy land.

 

If they want to avoid it happening again, don't set a release date until you know it's ready, or going to bee.

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