In my opinion, the biggest issue in War of Magic is game pace. Some things we can improve. We can speed up the early game, we can even out the progression of spells, armor and weapons so it doesn’t feel like they obsolete older versions too quickly, but are still worthwhile upgrades. But the tech system is a giant pace imposing beast that cannot be avoided.
Which is unfortunate, because conceptually I like the tech system in War of Magic. It fits with the rule of 5, and I’ve been using the “breakthrough provides random options” in other parts of the game to provide some design consistency and make the systems feel like they all belong to the same game.
The big problem with the system is that there are 5 tech categories and the research cost of a tech is determined by how many techs you know in that category. The more Military techs you know, the more the next Military tech you are about to learn will cost. The reason for this is that since the player picks the tech after research is done, the game doesn’t know what they are going to research until it’s over. So it can’t have tech specific research costs.
We thought about a lot of ways to improve this and keep the current system. What if we have the tech’s research cost go toward the next tech? What if we have the tech cost be the highest amount and then allow the player to recover research they don’t spend? What if we give an option when the player has enough research to discovered one tech but he can choose to continue researching to get to others?
But in the end they were all flawed and too confusing. So we got out the torch, some kindling and marshmellows and said goodbye.
Then we made the Fallen Enchantress tech tree which includes the following.
1. Tech screen- A tech tree screen where players can plan out their research goals. Distant techs can be selected and the game will automatically queue up the research path to get there.
2. Tech based research costs- Now we can have the best armor tech in the game cost much more than the first weapon tech (previously if they were both the 6th military tech you picked they would cost the same amount).
3. Allegiance prereqs- Techs that are only available for certain allegiances, so even though there is only one tech tree in Fallen Enchantress the Empire and Fallen have different branches to follow. In general kingdoms have extra defensive military techs and empires have extra sorcery techs. There are civilization techs that are unique to each, the kingdoms get cooperation which leads to resources that improve their population growth and the empire get Domination which allows them to work their people to death. (we may update this to allow race specific techs for modders)
4. Random techs- Some techs have a percentage chance of showing up for a player in a game. Every time you start a game your tech tree will be slightly different. You may start a game and have masterwork armor as a tech in your tech tree (25% per game) that you can research at some point to be able to craft better armor for your armies. You may have a tech that allows you to recruit some unusual creatures. Some that grant access to spells that aren’t normally available, etc. This is one of my favorite features because I enjoy looking at my tech tree at the beginning of my game to find out what options are out there. It may change my research plans, it’s like dynamic faction strengths. You may play the Ironeers over again, but in one game they have 3 extra military techs, in another they have an extra adventuring and sorcery tech, etc.
5. Autolayout- The tech tree draws itself and its lines automatically. This was needed because the tech tree will be different every time, so it must be able to lay itself out programmatically. The good news for modders is that they can add techs to their hearts content and they will be automatically added to the tree right where they belong.
6. Cross category prereqs- Techs that require techs in other categories. You can’t rush to big weapons in Fallen Enchantress like you can in War of Magic. You need some civilization techs (blacksmithing) before you will be able to produce metal weapons and armor. You need Literacy in the civilization category before you can learn the adventure tech Ereog’s Journals.
Won’t don’t techs do now? They don’t spawn resources, monsters (monster get tougher over time, but it doesn’t matter what techs you research) or champions (though it takes techs to recruit them). In general everything is on the map at the beginning of the game.
We will talk about the world later, but this is a part of the new design. Explore the world, because you have to find out what’s out there, it isn’t going to be given to you as you research techs. If you don’t have metal near your starting location you may need to find someone to kill to take it (or look into the other 4 ways to control the world). You can’t always come into the game with a plan, you have to adapt a plan based on your starting condition. Techs are a big part of that.