Baking a cake

By on January 20, 2011 10:07:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Derek Paxton

Join Date 03/2003
+122

How do you make a great game?  Take everyone's great ideas, put them together and it will be great!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if it worked like that.  But it doesn't, it's not even close.  I like to think of it like cooking.  You can't cook by putting all the things together that you like.  Putting all the things everyone likes together would be even worse.  One guy wants cake, another wants pizza, another wants a steak.  Throw them in a blender and....

Even for standard cake there are a lot of variations and preferences.  What might be the perfect cake for me might not be enjoyed by someone else.  Games are no different.

At the end of the day Fallen Enchantress cannot be the exact game everyone imagines.  There are too many different things that are hoped for.  And it's not to say that all the things hoped for are bad.

Explorable dungeons are a good example.  They would be cool to have, but they don't belong in Fallen Enchantress.  It's not just a resource issue (though that's part of it, the more we do the less we do well), it's about where do we want the player spending his time.  What is the actual game?  Done well explorable dungeons would break from the main game and have the player play a "minigame" for 10/20/30 minutes after which he would be returned to the main game (assuming he remembered what he was doing there).

There are some players that would enjoy that.  But the break would be a hurdle for most players.  We would lose players who didn't enjoy the 4x game and players that didn't enjoy the dungeons game (unless we made the explorable dungeons optional, in which case the time spent developing them becomes even more questionable).

So we have to decide exactly what Fallen Enchantress will be, and make the best version of that game that we can.  If you have read the press release you already know some information about Fallen Enchantress's direction.  It's about bringing the world alive.  Not green and fertile and happy, but alive as in there is always something new on the other side of that mountain.  Something unknown, wonderful or terrible out in the darkness.

It will be a lot of work.  We could have focused on other things.  But the cake we are making, the game that we want Fallen Enchantress to be, requires an interesting, dangerous world.  The ingredients have been ordered, the chefs are working, artists are preparing the frosting.  It's going to be fun.

ps. For those interested in explorable dungeons, I would argue that the wild lands in Fallen Enchantress deliver on that goal in way that's less jarring, more ingrained with the rest of the gameplay and doesn't use a separate map.

 

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January 20, 2011 10:26:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

ps. For those interested in explorable dungeons, I would argue that the wild lands in Fallen Enchantress deliver on that goal in way that's less jarring, more ingrained with the rest of the gameplay and doesn't use a separate map.
Actually, I think the best way to please the people who want this is to make it possible for modders to link several maps and put triggers on tiles.

 

Throw them in a blender and....

Funny. The French PC gaming newspaper "CanardPC" described Elemental the following way: while they were working on previews, it looked like lots of delicious vegetables, grown in bright sunlight and full of colors, displayed in front of the tester. And something went wrong with the recipe, so what was served was a grayish pudding...

What's with Elemental and culinary metaphors ?

Anyway, I take this feature focus and removal of extra features that wouldn't blend well with the game a good thing. But please consider having those features easy to mod in.

 

And of course, the cake is a lie.

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January 20, 2011 10:28:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Damn I really wanted to find a clip of The Zeppo to post here

I look forward to eating some fallen cake. Could we get some of those awesome hard flower candies on top?

 

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January 20, 2011 10:41:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I wonder, will Fallen Enchantress have "random" events?  Or is that considered along the lines of explorable dungeons?  At least for me, I liked the quest were some demon or something asked you a question and you had to pick one of four answers or something.

But regardless, I look forward to everything Fallen Enchantress has to deliver! 

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January 20, 2011 10:45:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like this. I think that the best games have had a strong vision behind them.

So now that we've seen the icing... any chance we can get a few of the ingredients?

 

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January 20, 2011 11:05:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well... you're certainly putting a lot of effort into making these dangerous areas. I hope they'll be fun to play, and look pretty, and offer something that couldn't be done in the map editor today.

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January 20, 2011 11:35:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm excited for the way Elemental is going. The way is forward and I for one am damn excited. Thank you for the post Derek. You guys do amazing work and I for one appreciate it. Fallen Enchantress is going to be great!

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January 21, 2011 12:25:26 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Great post, derek, and well thought out.  You make several good points. 

What I'd really like to know is what sort of campaign can expect from this expansion?  Vanilla elemental released with a VERY basic campaign that was to be simply viewed as a tutorial.  Can we expect the expansion to give us more lore through a campaign or will we just be reading this and that in sandbox mode? I suppose its all well and good to expand the game in sandbox mode, but there has to be some sort of hook that makes you want to learn more about the game while you are building your civ.  This could be cool, of course, but I can't think of many games that sucked me in sans the campaign. 

For me, personally, all of my starcraft understanding game through the well sculpted campaigns.  From what I've played of elemental, I've only touched the surface of the game world because I'm the sort of player that gets everything from the campaign, then plays on in sandbox. 

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January 21, 2011 12:34:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Will we be able to sign up to help you beta test it, once you get it ready?  I think many of us from the beta and even the reg game would love to help test it!

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January 21, 2011 12:59:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sigh, no one seems to have gotten my zeppo reference...

As long as the tactical battles, AI (strategic and tactical), magic, equipment and faction / race differences get major love I'll be more than happy.

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January 21, 2011 1:53:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
Done well explorable dungeons would break from the main game and have the player play a "minigame" for 10/20/30 minutes after which he would be returned to the main game (assuming he remembered what he was doing there).
But the same could be said for all tactical-level interfaces.

If you want to avoid taking away from the strategic at the expense of ground-level gameplay, does that mean that our tactical battles are never going to get more depth?

Or if they are going to, how does your perception of what proper dungeons would be significantly differ from what a tactical battle should be?

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January 21, 2011 2:00:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cruxador,

But the same could be said for all tactical-level interfaces.

I don't think tactical battles take away from what your doing the way dungeon exploration would. You don't have to forget the war your in and the next improvements your churning out to help you for the next 10 minutes to explore a disjoint section of the game. The tactical battles only last like 2 min at the most and they are directly related to what's going on in the bigger picture.

I'm happy with the design decision to remove dungeon exploration (but I do hope tactical battles get more love since it's been brought up...)

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January 21, 2011 2:08:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Godplex,

The tactical battles only last like 2 min at the most

Which is exactly the problem with tactical battles. They have no depth. There is very little there in terms of actual tactical options.

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January 21, 2011 3:02:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 I was thinking the same thing about those dungeons myself.  I knew it wouldn't work in MP period, and I knew I wouldn't like it personally in SP- so glad it's not in the game.

 

Hoping you guys hit it out of the park with Fallen Enchantress.

 

I really tend to dislike mini-games with my games, so fewer to no mini-games is a good thing.

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January 21, 2011 3:40:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Please make sure to give reason for casting spells to enrich/defile the landscape. Kingdoms gain mana slowly through area of vibrance, while Empire defile an area to get a quick one-time boost of mana, for example. Shaping the land in this way should not automatically happen, but should be something that the player wants to work towards for the strategic benefit; foiling an opponent's plans by disrupting their terraforming would be an equally exciting and tantalizing strategy.

Otherwise, what the heck is the point of those spells? Sure, it looks pretty as the land turns green or cracks and burns away, but what's the point? There has to be a reason to want to expand this area of control where you can turn the landscape.

Thanks for reading, Derek!

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January 21, 2011 3:51:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
Explorable dungeons are a good example.  They would be cool to have, but they don't belong in Fallen Enchantress.  It's not just a resource issue (though that's part of it, the more we do the less we do well), it's about where do we want the player spending his time.  What is the actual game?  Done well explorable dungeons would break from the main game and have the player play a "minigame" for 10/20/30 minutes after which he would be returned to the main game (assuming he remembered what he was doing there).

There are some players that would enjoy that.  But the break would be a hurdle for most players. 

I'm a fan of explorable dungeons, and would enjoy seeing what the mod community does with it.  But I understand, and accept the reasoning for not including it in FE.  I imagine a big part of your job Derek, is balancing that "the more we do, the less we do well" paradigm.  I see the signs of this philosophy in action, and I get the feeling that this is a very good thing.   But I can wonder at just how much cool stuff winds up on the cutting room floor in this pursuit to craft a lean, mean, well running machine. If the end result is an engaging replayable game, then I am all for trimming the fat.  But...

I hope you would consider opening the realm of explorable dungeons to the modders?  Is it resource affordable to code in some entry points for modders?  Who knows what unexpected directions modders would take this.  I'm sure there are lots of other ideas from the team and community which would be fun, but just can't make it into the Elemental cannon.  I would hope that there might be some resources allocated which pave the way for modders to create that which SD must pass on. ?? 

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January 21, 2011 4:10:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

WhiteElk, coding things is a nontrivial pursuit. It is not affordable for Stardock to add things they don't intend to even use.

As an aside, "cannon" is a thing that shoots; I beleive you mean "canon".

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January 21, 2011 4:23:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cruxador,
WhiteElk, coding things is a nontrivial pursuit. It is not affordable for Stardock to add things they don't intend to even use.

He's talking mainly about the modding API which is something Stardock is going to be making use of - in the sense of providing a strong foundation for a modding community.

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January 21, 2011 4:26:55 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree!  Derek, can you provide some hooks for linkable maps?  That means, you can concentrate on what you do best, and modders can do what they do best - expanding the game in innovative, non-standard ways, that are just not feasible for core releases with limited resources.  So you can make a chocolate cake, and the modders can put a delicious and adventurous icing on top.   Modding can increase a huge amount if the modders are given enough interesting hooks, whereas main releases are always limited by scope and budget, no matter just significant the numbers are.

If you provide some hooks, that costs just a little amount of time and money, and many modders do fantastic things with them, who can lose?

+1 for hooks for linkable maps!   What do other people think?

Best regards,
Steven.

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January 21, 2011 5:42:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

game and players that didn't enjoy the dungeons game (unless we made the explorable dungeons optional, in which case the time spent developing

 

I don't know how much budget Jon has to work with, but I thought part of his job for Elemental was to have things developed that modders really wanted.

 

 

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January 21, 2011 5:46:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Let me start by saying that I agree with you (I remember the times when I used food flavours to talk about Elemental back in the betas pre-1.0... now I talk about pants, apparently).

One reason by which it's difficult to dissapoint me with the game is because I actually set my expectations very low (see OP for some of the reasons) and follow the "As long as it's fun" motto. That doesn't mean I end totally happy with all its elements (Dynasties, I'm looking at ye in your latest incarnation!) but it would require an apocalypse to freak me out.

I'm happy that you mention dungeons because that's one of those things with some meat to talk about. Yep, this is no RPG and explorable dungeons by themselves are a bit off of the TBS that Elemental is (if you start with different levels, fog of war to explore, treasures, parties limited to champions, etc). But it also depends on how they are done. And forget about Multiplayer.

I must agree that Tactical battles also break the pace (in the same manner) but as they are more popular (and already in the game), it seems easier to ignore that and keep them. And our current Tactical battles are quite easy without complex ability system, complex city defense, complex battlefields,... huh? Imagine if they had all that stuff. Hell, some people would prefer city development as reduced as possible because for them it breaks the pace they like (war, war, war,...). What was the OP about everybody wanting something different?

It has already been mentioned but if it hadn't, I'd mention it myself: if you don't add them in some way (which as I said, I agree with your reasons), make sure to give some serious modding tools that allow such a thing. We can link to different maps (Tactical maps) but actually having people being able to add extra planes to the game, explorable dungeons and similar stuff are one of the things that the most serious modders of the community (of which I'm not one ) could appreciate (and lets not talk about the players, specially MoM's ultrahardcore fans of doom). I suppose.

Maybe people would develop explorable dungeons as tactical maps (one or some linked) with "dungeon" (or sewer, palace or whatever) scenery (blocking paths and all that), with some triggers for "events", FoW for exploration, maybe battles go in their own tactical map or maybe enemies are placed on the map and move, etc. Maybe some prefer explorable dungeons as a mix of text-adventure and some tactical battles tied to it (lenght and difficulty based on the dungeon). There could be some that having explorable dungeons as pure text-adventures a la Space Rangers 2 * (I made a thread about this long time ago in the modding section) would be more than happy. Oh, and if someone mentions "We suck at writing", then I should say "HerrGamenon, I choose you!!". One of the things I want in the game are text-adventures. By mod or by Stardock. Hell, I would love to make a game (a real game, not just a mod) around that.

As a reminder, I agreeded with the OP about the canon game.

* great example of mixing different things and not "breaking the pace" and keeping some as optionals.

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January 21, 2011 5:48:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cruxador,
WhiteElk, coding things is a nontrivial pursuit. It is not affordable for Stardock to add things they don't intend to even use.

I've messed around with Python only briefly.   I've no experience with C++, and am generally ignorant as to computer science.  So I don't understand the precise nature of the roadblocks that modders encounter.  But I frequently read remarks from knowledgable, talented modders who say they are unable to code feature x because the game won't support it.  I know that Derek understands what I speak of as he and the FfH2 team ran into these roadblocks with Civ4... despite Civ4 being crafted with a remarkably high level of modability.  When the EWoM team encounters a feature that they and some fans like, but still must cut, I would hope that they would consider investing some resources in order to make it possible for modders to make it happen.   

I've read Brad, Derek, Jon and others speak of various asepects as relates to the value of modding.  I get the feeling that they respect the affect that modability has on present and future sales.  They can project better than we, the cost/profit balance of opening up their game.  From my own view as a gamer; modablity is a huge factor in determining the value of a game.  And, an interesting and engaging game that is made even more so through mods; stands a very good chance of receiving my patronage when a new version of the game is released for sale.  Brand loyalty develops, goodwill is fostered, I invite my friends to join the fun...

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January 21, 2011 5:51:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One thing I wouldn't mind seeing, is "dungeon" type goodie huts where you can send adventurers, and have all sorts of various things happen from that, kinda like the lairs from FFH, perhaps though with several of those effects rolled into one: like adventurer gains 2 level, finds a +1 shortsword, but is having to run from a dire skath.  You wouldn't know the effects until a few turns later, during which time the adventurer is unavailable (might be 1-4 turns, depending on how epic things get)

 

Higher level adventurers will gain less experience from dungerouns, but less likely to have bad things happen, and more likely to get loot.  In the real bad cases, the lowbie adventurers would just die, while the high level adventurers may end up angering Shabranigdo, who then makes a meal of Farmer John's cattle, then Farmer John, then comes for you.

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January 21, 2011 7:50:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I can live without explorable dungeons, I just hope though, that battles still will get a serious overhaul. Currently most of them are thankfully short... and I'm thankfull that they're short cause they're such a bore atm.

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January 21, 2011 9:45:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There's plenty of work to do without explorable dungeons. FE can be a great game without them, and if you feel you can do that successfully and simply 'don't know' if you can pull off explorable dungeons, then you have to make this call. I'm looking forward to FE.

However... when you say the word, 'explorable dungeons' it sounds like some tacked on appendage that one might imagine 'optional'. If you find a better name for it though, it could be something more than that, something that you could actually get alot of miles out of. An explorable dungeon is fundamentally an alternative map. If you allow switching between different game maps, you can make not only explorable dungeons, but alternate planes ala MoM, an underground world map ala AoW:SM, different planets, whatever. How about a different tactical map for each world tile, each with its own unique challenges and defensive qualities?

Once you have the framework for a 'world within a world' you can do alot with that. So many things then go from 'not technically feasable' to 'we need a few more artists'.

 

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January 21, 2011 9:54:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I actually really like the idea of an explorable dungeon.  I never thought of it before reading this journal post, but it sounds cool.  Kind of like in Red Alert where you would have some missions take place inside a building, instead of always outside with your base.  The gameplay wasn't really even all that different, just as it wouldn't be here, you just couldn't make new troops and would just be limited to what you brought with you into the dungeon.

I can understand why you don't want to go this route though.  It makes sense to avoid splitting up the game into multiple parts that have large delays between them.  It would break the flow of the game.  You do this already with the tactical battles, but to be honest you need that break up, or boredom would ensue.  Of course with tactical battles, you don't have that long of a break.

I have been playing the game much more, but I can't stand the crashes.  It has gotten to the point where the game crashes multiple times per turn.  For three days now I have played, but I think I have played the same turn over again a dozen times.  I am no longer advancing in the game.  I have VPU recoveries it seems every 5 minutes now.  It all seems to happen in the cloth map, sicne I spend most of my time in that mode.

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