Iteration

By on November 29, 2011 11:51:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Derek Paxton

Join Date 03/2003
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Iteration is both wonderful and terrifying.  It is the place where you take delight in the designs that are working out, and weep for the designs that sounded good but aren’t.  It would be nice if I could sketch out a perfect plan, implement that plan and have an amazing game.  But it takes work.

One of our initial concerns when we started to playtest was that the game felt like War of Magic.  Despite the changes, many of which wouldn’t be really apparent until 100-200 turns in, it still had a WoM vibe to it.  My solution was to create custom quests for each sovereign to start with.  You would have to earn some of your sovereigns starting bonuses and treasures.  That way the player had a motivating objective for his first 100 turns that would get him in and playing.

It helped answer the questions of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”.  It gave some flavor and personality to the starting sovereigns.  And it made the starting game feel different.  I pitched the idea to the rest of the team.  We hashed out the pros and cons.  We could make it work with custom sovereigns if we tied it to their history (so if you picked Adventurer as your history you would get Relias’s starting quest).  And this solution had some limited replayability (in that you might want to play the different starting quests) but in the long term it could get redundant (off to fix the corrupted mana shards with Procipinee again…).

But the best feedback came from Brad.  I don’t recall the exact quote but it was something to the effect of, “If it feels too much like WoM don’t make superficial changes, change the game.”

That was the impetus for the change to the production system.  We didn’t like the old production system, but it was a lot of work to change.  The code changes are only a small part, the UI and rebalance challenges are considerable.  I requested an extension on the timeline and Brad approved the change.

This is the process of video game iteration, and I suspect it is the same for movies, books, and other creative endeavors.  You leave your ego behind, it will only get in the way.  You walk through fire and in the end you have a game that is so much better because of it.  Be open to change, listen to other people’s opinions and evaluate them within the specific vision of the game.  Focus on the things that matter.

I am very excited for Fallen Enchantress.  I am, of course, biased.  But it is a beautiful game and it does some things that I have never seen done in a TBS game.  But the change to the production system, random worlds, increasing the population of cities and some new features (outposts) requires work.

It's not implementation time, Stardock has an amazing team.  Implementation is only 25% of the way there.  The real focus now is in balance.  Not perfect balance, not if a short sword should do 8 or 9 damage.  But how quickly you gain research, what things modify that, how is that balanced for small empires vs large empires?  How much does a fire shard affect your fire spells?  What is the difference between a city with good production capacity and weak production capacity (and how long should it take to train a medium army in each)?

Random worlds are another big part.  I love crazy randomness, in general I'm probably too far on that extreme.  I'm amused if I start a game right next to an Ogre lair and he wipes me out on turn 4.  It's a little less funny when I'm 200 turns in and I walk into a wildland and every monster in there streams out in a civilization crushing tide of doom.  Randomness must have some control.

Unwilling to give up our random worlds we implemented controls on how close to starting spots certain things are allowed to be.  You will never start right next to a quest you can't accept (which is frustrating) or a monster that can wipe you out.  The farther out you go the more interesting it gets.  A treasure chest won't be within 8 tiles of your starting location, a Hoarder Spider won't be within 12, and if you get far enough out there you may find dragons.

But it all takes balance and we aren't ready for a public beta on it while we still know what the issues are.  We need to get those in and smoothed out, we need the game to play as it should so that when you start to play your feedback can be useful.  It doesn't mean much if you think you are too weak if we know we are going to push some monsters away from the starting area, or if you think tech comes too slowly if we are going to be raising population (which affects everything).

So I asked Brad to postpone the public beta (sorry) and he agreed.  We need time with the features set to play and tweak, to go through our games so that when you have a chance to play we are ready for the feedback you offer.

 

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juryal
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November 30, 2011 12:20:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That's too bad, was really looking forward to getting my hands on the beta. But if it's not ready, so be it. I can't speak for everyone, but I wasn't waiting on a slightly better done WoM, so take all the time you need to make this a fun game.

Raising population sounds good, I found it a bit silly in WoM to be talking about kingdoms and empires when they only had a few hundred people living in them. Just don't go to far the other way, small villages and towns have their charm too, I wouldn't want every settlement I build growing into a sprawling metropolis after a few turns.

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November 30, 2011 12:36:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Satrhan,
take all the time you need to make this a fun game

 

2nd

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November 30, 2011 12:37:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

am i seeing things, or is that fallen and men in the same army?

 

does that mean *gasp* that we are going to be able to build army types of units not JUST of our race? Ie i could play as magic based pariden but yet somehow still train trog soldiers?

 

or am i hallucinating and seeing what I want to see?

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November 30, 2011 1:19:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You know, some of us would be happy with a beta in the current state, even if it's still far from the ideals that it shoots for.

 

Plus opening the beta when systems are being revised means the whole community can contribute ideas for system revision, and while there are a lot of ideas that are impractical for whatever reason, there can be some gems.

 

That said, taking the time you need is a good thing. I hope you can use this extension to reconsider the possibility of fixing the tactical battles, allowing impassible terrain and sieges to enable actual tactics so that your new system you've worked so hard on can actually see battles worth thought.

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November 30, 2011 2:01:18 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cruxador,
You know, some of us would be happy with a beta in the current state, even if it's still far from the ideals that it shoots for.

 

Plus opening the beta when systems are being revised means the whole community can contribute ideas for system revision, and while there are a lot of ideas that are impractical for whatever reason, there can be some gems.

I disagree with this. It reminds me of a too many cooks in the kitchen type scenario. I much prefer the developers to create their vision and take their time doing it. There are plenty of bright people at Stardock and I trust they can come up with gems on their own. When the beta comes out the community can, and I'm certain will, find balance problems and bugs until Derek, Brad, and co. want to stab us in the eyes. I think that's what betas are for, not for playing incomplete builds where multiple features are up in the air.

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November 30, 2011 2:04:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah, take the time you need.  I'd much rather you use the player base to see if the game can be fundamentally broken (degenerate strategies: I can beeline archers and then kill everything in tactical battle) rather than reporting what you already know (tooltips aren't working quite right, monsters sometimes spawn too close, etc.)

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November 30, 2011 2:06:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Take your time and get it right. It's all good.

 

Brad wants a 90+ game so keep reiterating until it's ready for the beta testers.

Nice looking screenshots I must say.

 

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November 30, 2011 2:44:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
The farther out you go the more interesting it gets.  A treasure chest won't be within 8 tiles of your starting location, a Hoarder Spider won't be within 12, and if you get far enough out there you may find dragons.

 

Feature request: on the cloth map, label the edges of explored territory "Here be dragons."

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November 30, 2011 3:29:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Derek,

It helped answer the questions of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”.  It gave some flavor and personality to the starting sovereigns.  And it made the starting game feel different.  I pitched the idea to the rest of the team.  We hashed out the pros and cons.  We could make it work with custom sovereigns if we tied it to their history (so if you picked Adventurer as your history you would get Relias’s starting quest).  And this solution had some limited replayability (in that you might want to play the different starting quests) but in the long term it could get redundant (off to fix the corrupted mana shards with Procipinee again…).

But the best feedback came from Brad.  I don’t recall the exact quote but it was something to the effect of, “If it feels too much like WoM don’t make superficial changes, change the game.”

Derek you are the man!. Those were the questions I was trying to relay to stardock during WOM beta and its lack of immersion.. You need to want to play the game and I'm glad you are on to this.

Quoting Derek,

Random worlds are another big part.  I love crazy randomness, in general I'm probably too far on that extreme.  I'm amused if I start a game right next to an Ogre lair and he wipes me out on turn 4.  It's a little less funny when I'm 200 turns in and I walk into a wildland and every monster in there streams out in a civilization crushing tide of doom.  Randomness must have some control.

I am also a really big fan of crazy randomness.. bring on the randomness I say. Also a big fan of Crusader Kings, whereby you have random events hitting you in the face and can die easily.. I would rather feel like i've played a game that is shaped by events and decisions rather than pure mathematics.. 

 

keep up the good work and take as long as you need.

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November 30, 2011 3:43:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Take your time with FE, no rush. I'm playing Skyrim right now anyway...

But don't forget to give us teaser videos and screenshots!

And randomness ftw.

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November 30, 2011 3:44:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A good game > a work in progress. The only bad part with a delay is that we can't start modding yet. But if the FE experience isn't very nearly completed, you can't afford to release a beta.

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November 30, 2011 4:13:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Take your time, just hope its available around Christmas break.

 

Btw, if you need an extra in-house tester, I only live 30 minutes away from Stardock

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November 30, 2011 6:03:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't think I'm going to die in the next 10 years, so I'm not too worried about a delay. 

 

I really do not like the starting quests idea- it seems like a chore or something that delays the start of "playing the game".  It would have gotten repetitive fast.  Glad it was axed.

 

 

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November 30, 2011 6:22:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nice to know we are at the balance stage from iteration. Remember, sometimes it is not about what you add, but what you take away.

 

Take away a few weeks from beta and hash things out. As long as we get updates on the issues, not really a big deal. 

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November 30, 2011 6:25:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
 
Random worlds are another big part.  I love crazy randomness, in general I'm probably too far on that extreme.  I'm amused if I start a game right next to an Ogre lair and he wipes me out on turn 4.  It's a little less funny when I'm 200 turns in and I walk into a wildland and every monster in there streams out in a civilization crushing tide of doom.  Randomness must have some control.

I love that stuff. Makes me feel the world is against me.

As for Wildlands, are they going to send out monsters or just wait to be plundered by forces strong enough? I hope it's the former, as I'd want to be punished for sending in armies that aren't sufficient. Even better would be failing a 'boss' battle means they spawn creatures in your general direction.

 

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November 30, 2011 7:12:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I second leeboy26's thoughts. It would be neat if monster lairs grew increasingly hostile as time passed. That way, they're not a platform to overcome, but something you have to adjust to continuously.

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November 30, 2011 8:11:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good! I am glad you are postponing beta and taking more time. There is nothing wrong with waiting when it makes sense to wait.

 

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November 30, 2011 8:12:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sounds like a plan!

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November 30, 2011 8:19:18 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So I asked Brad to postpone the public beta (sorry) and he agreed. We need time with the features set to play and tweak, to go through our games so that when you have a chance to play we are ready for the feedback you offer.

I'm mostly a lurker on the forums, I don't post much, but reading this prompts me to say: good on ya Derek!  Take all the time in the world to make sure FE ends up being the wonderful polished game we all hope it will be, cancer notwithstanding.  Don't give in to deadline pressure!  It'll be ready when it's ready.

By the way, am I the only one who noticed that in the first screen shot, the Wither spell is listed twice? 

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November 30, 2011 8:21:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Please take your time.  And also, don't skip the balancing of short swords or other weapons.  WoM was never fixed on basic balancing issues.  I tried to play the other night, but even 1.4 is a balancing nightmare.  I hope you have found a good way to balance weapons, armor, heroes, single units, grouped units, and giant monsters in a way that is fun.  Why is a guy in leather armor with a big hammer soooo much better than a guy in light plate with a sword?  

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November 30, 2011 8:24:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


 Take your sweet time! The game is looking amazing!

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November 30, 2011 8:42:49 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oh, and I know the real reason the beta was delayed: Lord Xia's ponies aren't ready yet.

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November 30, 2011 9:08:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I better see some god damn ponies!

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November 30, 2011 9:32:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Seems like you have the comunity suport, so give us your best. 

 

But it would be great if you guys gives us something back like weekly journals.

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November 30, 2011 10:44:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Better to have a happy Beta than a crappy Beta.

 

Looksee, I rebooted Skyrim on Master Mode. I don't need a new game right now.

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