Concerns about Fallen Enchantress

By on July 29, 2011 5:26:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Das123

Join Date 05/2003
+79

I want Stardock to do well and I want Elemental to be a great game but where things currently are I am really concerned about the various decisions and releases over the last 12 months.

If past history is a good indicator of what to expect in the future, what are the most likely outcomes:

1. FE will be a little different than WoM but still suffer from the same game-breaking choices regarding the underlying game mechanics.

2. Decisions will be made affecting FE without really having a grasp of the big picture and the impact it has on long-term replayability,

3. We'll be playing catch-up for yet another 12 months going through the same flawed rinse cycle.

A year ago, before WoM was released, many people on the forums expressed concern about the game and they were unceremoniously shot down in flames. It's true that I have no real idea of where FE is in its development but the big difference between now and 12 months ago is that we have a very flawed game that is the older sister of a new game that both share much of the same development decisions and advances (at least - that is what we were told when given the promise of what to expect regarding the pending release of WoM1.3).

If FE shares any of the development process we've seen with WoM1.2 and WoM1.3 then I'm sorry to say I'm not really going to be expecting a lot from Fallen Enchantress. Basically it makes no sense what-so-ever to release something like WoM1.3 if all the issues have been ironed out in FE. Surely if the products are being developed concurrently then any lessons learned would be applied where possible to the other - and I'm talking about the underlying game mechanics - not the surface veneer.

I was really disappointed when FE was announced given the state of WoM and thought it was a strange decision to split the development tree at that point before the main issues had been sorted. If it was part of a bigger decision to abandon War of Magic and allow Fallen Enchantress the opportunity to distance itself and hopefully enjoy a more favourable launch then that would make sense. But instead we are told that FE is awesome and that WoM will borrow many of the advances so players have a choice between the two. Before WoM was launched we were similarly told it was awesome and we just had to trust that it was all going to come together - and that the development team were playing a very different game than the beta testers were. And so on and so on. Based on past dealings with Stardock I believed the spin at the time but I don't believe it this time around. I trusted that the right decisions would be made to make the game great last time but that trust has eroded away with the last 12 months.

I've rabbited on longer than I wanted to but please, if anyone from Stardock is reading this, please don't even release the beta of FE until it works. WoM has done a lot of damage to your reputation over the last year and this one really needs to be as close as possible to hitting the nail on the head. For all I know I may be completely off the mark and WoM and FE may have completely different teams that work in isolation of each other - but I wouldn't be prepared to money on that horse.

Sorry for this being a negative post but I really think there is an awful lot riding on FE now as far as Stardock and community trust is concerned. Just really trying to say - don't rush the beta out the door!

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July 29, 2011 6:05:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

While I certainly sympathize with the sentiment... we really don't know anything yet. All we can say for sure about FE is that it's being led by Derek Paxton and not Brad.

Beyond that? I hope it's fun. If not, I'm pretty much done with the franchise.

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July 29, 2011 6:14:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There's not much that can be said on this top that hasn't been already. Hopefully the major issues will be addressed this time. I'll definitely be more skeptical of Stardock's hype with FE as well. 

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July 29, 2011 6:31:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am optimistic. I think Derek is a great project manager and really knows how get the details right, and have a comprehensive vision. We will have to wait for the beta for confirmation.

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July 29, 2011 6:52:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I will give it an honest try. If it doesnt turn out well, its back to Kings Bounty, Football Manager or whatnot. I am rather difficult to please, so there is a limited number of games that I like to play.

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July 29, 2011 8:41:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

i haz teh major concernz

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July 29, 2011 9:42:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
For all I know I may be completely off the mark and WoM and FE may have completely different teams that work in isolation of each other - but I wouldn't be prepared to money on that horse.

 

From what I understand, almost everybody is working on FE; WoM at this point is just a couple of guys plus Brad when he can find the time.  So I wouldn't base your concerns for FE on what you feel about the most recent WoM patch.

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July 30, 2011 1:45:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting tanafres,

quoting postFor all I know I may be completely off the mark and WoM and FE may have completely different teams that work in isolation of each other - but I wouldn't be prepared to money on that horse.

 

From what I understand, almost everybody is working on FE; WoM at this point is just a couple of guys plus Brad when he can find the time.  So I wouldn't base your concerns for FE on what you feel about the most recent WoM patch.

 

But is it not the same team that released the piece of crap WoM? I mean if FE is as horrible as WoM Stardock will probably go out of business. They have proven they can put out good games now they need to step up to the plate and provide. There will be a huge backlash is FE turns out bad, and I am sure a lot of people asking for their money back.

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July 30, 2011 1:53:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Emperor_Nero,

 But is it not the same team that released the piece of crap WoM? I mean if FE is as horrible as WoM Stardock will probably go out of business. They have proven they can put out good games now they need to step up to the plate and provide. There will be a huge backlash is FE turns out bad, and I am sure a lot of people asking for their money back.

Nero, you seem to be pretty badly misinformed here.

First, it's not the same team that released the piece of crap WoM. The team working on FE is fundamentally different, as the project manager / "main guy" is Derek Paxton instead of Brad Wardell (who runs everything else in Stardock as well).

Second, Stardock will not go out of business, regardless of how their games perform. Stardock makes most of its money not from its games but from elsewhere. The biggest motivator for them to make good games is their reputation, not the money.

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July 30, 2011 2:05:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

But if you look at it, their reputation is already tarnished as you can see clearly by all of the civil unrest here in the forums. If they put out another terrible game they are going to lose many, many fans. I mean I agree with the OP on this, they shouldn't release a game until it is good or playable at least.

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July 30, 2011 3:22:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have faith that the game is going to be great.

Derek Paxton will keep things ship shape and in order.

I like everything I've seen so far.

 

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July 30, 2011 3:37:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Thormodr,
I have faith that the game is going to be great.

Derek Paxton will keep things ship shape and in order.

I like everything I've seen so far.

 
I like everything they've showed us too, besides some balance concerns (in particular, the teleport spell seems way to powerful compared to other spells at the same level). What I most dislike is what should be going in, but isn't. Dynasties were cut, to be worked on later, despite being made relevant already in WoM (although I can see that they could still use a little polish and maybe a splash of color), and tactical combat situations have been basically cut (no impassible terrain, city sieges not different from other battles) despite tactical battles allegedly being one of Derek's focuses.

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July 30, 2011 5:12:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nero, I never said that their reputation hasn't taken a hit. We're on the same page. And I think it's pretty clear to everyone, incuding them that they  can't release another game like they did with WoM. I don't think that's going to happen. Let's wait and see.

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July 31, 2011 12:18:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I've had the same feelings, Das; I'm sympathetic.

At this point, I think the radio silence we're seeing from Stardock is in preparation for PAX in a few weeks, I hope we'll see more after that.  I think that's also why they rushed out 1.3; to get Brad off WOM and designing AI for FE.   At this point, FE will be the thing that either marks Stardock as an actual game company, or if they're just a software company who managed to be a one hit wonder (or two, if you count SOASE as Stardock's).  When GCI and II came out, the bar was lower, and the field was smaller.   If there's not significantly more information coming out at PAX or shortly after, I think that in itself will be a bad sign.  Personally, I think the reveal on magic a few weeks back was very telling in that it was pretty wide of the mark; it's indicative of a gameplay that hasn't been thought through very carefully as to how magic will actually be used in the game.  Hopefully Derek took the lackluster reception of the deign journal to heart and is thinking about how to improve on the system.

At this point, the community has been largely cut out of the loop; we'll just have to wait and see what they deliver.

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July 31, 2011 1:03:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Winnihym (man, your name always makes me think of Winnie the poh )

 

I had completely forgot about PAX (I mean, who knows about it..?   It's E3 and that German gameconference and that's it. PAX makes me think of some "indies exhibition") but we'll see what we'll get there....

You're right about the developer journal on magic. I too was very underwhelmed & disappointed.

 

....Looks like we're NEVER gonna get a replacement for Master of Magic

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July 31, 2011 1:13:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Magic - to me the only disappointment was the number of spells, not the system itself.

Quantity is more easily fixable then quantity.

 

I'd love Derek to rip off some spells from AOW:SM.

 

 

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July 31, 2011 6:33:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Winnihym,
I've had the same feelings, Das; I'm sympathetic.

At this point, I think the radio silence we're seeing from Stardock is in preparation for PAX in a few weeks, I hope we'll see more after that..

I'm hoping the radio silence is because they learned something from WoM and Brad's thing for talking up stuff that never made it into the game. High expectations and what ended up being confused customers are really bad things.

One of the things I learned from that whole process is that there's good reasons why most other game companies don't have that kind of open process.

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July 31, 2011 11:09:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,
Magic - to me the only disappointment was the number of spells, not the system itself.

Quantity is more easily fixable then quantity.

I'd love Derek to rip off some spells from AOW:SM.

The problem is that the can't just be like "boom, new spell", the spells have to do interesting things too. There's only so much "inflict X damage" that can happen before they all start being basically the new spell. And new spell functionality needs to be coded into the engine.

The game I'd really like to see them adapting spells from is Dominions 3. That has a lot of truly powerful spells that make a difference to what happens in the world, which I think high-level spells really should.

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July 31, 2011 1:07:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tridus,
Quoting Winnihym, reply 13I've had the same feelings, Das; I'm sympathetic.

At this point, I think the radio silence we're seeing from Stardock is in preparation for PAX in a few weeks, I hope we'll see more after that..

I'm hoping the radio silence is because they learned something from WoM and Brad's thing for talking up stuff that never made it into the game. High expectations and what ended up being confused customers are really bad things.

One of the things I learned from that whole process is that there's good reasons why most other game companies don't have that kind of open process.

Yeah, I'm in management and people will complain they don't get enough information. If we push out early (and inaccurate) information and then say there is a change later; Mutiny on the Bounty. I've landed on 1. share macro-level information that is 100% accurate 2. when the micro-level is determined, share it.

Also, the ladies don't like premature informatulation.

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July 31, 2011 1:27:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting AlLanMandragoran,

Also, the ladies don't like premature informatulation.

Words to live by!  

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July 31, 2011 6:10:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This may not be widely understood but the factors that led to WOM's initial release being so disappointing were pretty unique.

Let's bear in mind, the entire team from Galactic Civilizations II (and all expansions) worked on WOM. We have very low turn over so it was the same team. Same designer, same developers plus new ones. Same artists plus new artists.  That should, I hope, tell you something about the nature of game development.

It's very easy to forget that game development is really an exercise in software engineering. What I mean by that is that the "Game" you play is a very very thin layer on top of software whose development is much like any other type of software.

WOM is not anything like what I had designed originally. Its problem lie almost completely with the difference between what our new engine could do and what the design called for. Thus, a lot of things had to be changed in WOM, late in development, to match what the engine could do (not to mention that the engine turned out to be very buggy).

This is why most companies today license their engines from third parties so that they can focus purely on the game layer.  But strategy games are a different animal. Games like Civilization V and Elemental and the like have to create their own engines and it's no small feat to do on the PC in 2011.

With Fallen Enchantress, the game was designed from the ground up knowing what the engine could and couldn't do.

With War of Magic, today, the limitations have to do with what I can personally implement with the engine in a reasonable amount of time.

Will people like Fallen Enchantress? I think so. For one thing, there's no release date or budgetary pressure on it that was on WOM.  Our company's revenue or health is not dependent, even in the least, on the success or failure of our games (otherwise, we'd likely not be making brand-new hard core PC-only strategy games in 2011 <G>).  

With Fallen Enchantress, there is one god father -- Derek Paxton.  But he has consulting help from myself and Jon Shafer (in WOM, while I was on paper the designer, because I was running the rest of Stardock, the design process effectively became whoever was working on the feature doing what they though was good). So there's a pretty good set up there.

Now, when will FE come out? My guess is that it won't come out in 2011. That's not an official date but given that it's July and we like our long public betas, you can pretty much make the guess.

I would also like to get WOM in a place I'm satisfied with before the betas of FE hit the streets and while v1.3 is better, it's not where I'd like it to be. That just means FE will be more polished when its beta begins (i.e. I'm not stealing resources from FE).

Hope this helps.

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July 31, 2011 6:31:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for your perspective on EWOM and FE.

The main issue for me with WOM is that the AI does not persue a range of strategies that takes advantage of the options used by a human player - i.e. teleport, building archer units, using magic in battle, forging magical weapons and armor and targeting the enemy sovereign. If this issue could be addressed I would be 80% satisfied with the game.

Improving ruins & quests, champions, extending the spell list and differentiating the frations would address the remaining 20% of my issues with WOM.

Based on the journal articles thus far I am really looking forward to FE and venturing into the valley of the Fire Elementals.

See post on Improving WOM: http://forums.elementalgame.com/410850

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July 31, 2011 6:32:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Do you still think you'll have a chance to dig into the tactical AI in WoM?

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July 31, 2011 8:31:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

@Campaigner:

If you haven't found it, I recommend Master of Magic 2.0, a code rework by Aureus in 2008.  He took away most of the worst abuses and imbalances (including my beloved, precious flying invisible warships, the bastard).  Overall, it's a much better game, and the AI now handles things much better (which he handled mostly by letting all settlers be water walkers).  You can still abuse the AI, but it's much, much harder now at the hard and impossible settings where the computer player is getting so much extra gold and mana.  You can find the LBX files here:

http://kaarsen.home.xs4all.nl/MoM/

I've loved it.  You'll need to get the original game from GOG for like 5 bucks, patch it to 1.31, and then put this over it.  Also, find Aureus' notes on his mod and read it; it's insightful!

@AlLan:

I get playing it close to the chest.  I also get that that probably means they're months away from releasing a beta.  I'm opting not to be a part of that, so I'm just waiting until there's a release, and reviews, that says its worthwhile.  Game time is precious; if FE isn't here, there's countless others that I can use the time for.  Have you SEEN "From Dust"?  Ohh...my little Populous glands are all atwitter...

@Frogboy:

I know you don't mean what you said in your post, or at least I hope you don't.  Games existed before computers, and the essence of fun comes from good design of the interplay of resources and strategies.  I know there's a lot of work to do under the hood.  But unless the core game elements all play together well, all the stable, graphically amazing engine in the world won't make FE good.  Here's an example. 

I'll give you a recent concern.  Assume FE as a blank slate; and I have 3 options to victory; traditional grow my empire and build an army, or use magic to bend the world to my will, or use my heroes as an RPG to bend the world to my will.  Diplomacy should figure in there, too, of course.  What I see of Derek's magic reveal is that, if you look through the spells, there's no glamour spells to massively improve relations (or let me temporarily improve my charisma to godlike levels), there's no spell to let me sleep the guardians of the temple I need to get resources out of, and there are very few summons.  What there are are buffs, debuffs, city enhancements, and basic army management spells.  Good in and of themselves, but they are overwhelmingly in support of the traditional wargame route to victory.  That's fine if FE is a traditional wargame where you are expected to develop an economy to build and resupply armies.

@Tridus:

Yeah, I know, I know.  No information is preferable to wrong information, and you're right, of course.  But no information starts to become concerning if it goes on too long. 

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July 31, 2011 9:04:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you for addressing the concerns, Brad.

I understand all too well the issues of developing new software and invariably it takes a heap more effort than anyone ever anticipates. As such, for me at least, the bugs and crashes are to be expected and I'm not really worried about these. My issues were really regarding the balance and mechanics.

It sounds funny, but I'm heartened that WoM is not being given much priority and that changes are only being implemented that can be done within limited time-frames. I'm also really heartened that FE is not likely to be rushed even though we keep yelling to be fed more and more information. This basically means FE should be a different animal.

I guess my big remaining concern is the Tactical Battles because it still looks like the mechanics of WoM and FE are very similar and will share the same issues. There are many other posts in here with different perspectives on combat but pretty much everyone is concerned about the Tactical Combat mechanics. It would be good to see this at least sorted in WoM before the beta for FE is released but this may be one of the 'too much time' distractions that would get in the way of the FE timeline.

 

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July 31, 2011 9:11:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Winnihym,




@Frogboy:

I know you don't mean what you said in your post, or at least I hope you don't.  Games existed before computers, and the essence of fun comes from good design of the interplay of resources and strategies.  I know there's a lot of work to do under the hood.  But unless the core game elements all play together well, all the stable, graphically amazing engine in the world won't make FE good...

 

Exactly what I was thinking.  The only thing I would add is that you guys were putting the cart before the horse. A better idea would have been to design the game within the limitations of the engine rather than modify it to fit in the engine. 

You guys carved a square peg, realized you had a round hole and tried to push it in, shaving a little off until it fits (It still doesn't). A better strategy would have been to see the round hole, and then carve a round peg.

 

 

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