FE coding from the trenches

By on February 1, 2012 10:13:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Based on a lot of the posts I read, I think some people have an overestimation of my involvement in FE. 

On the one hand, I am definitely spending a lot more time on Fallen Enchantress than I ever got to with WOM. But on the other, I'm not that involved on the design part. I give lots of suggestions and ideas but it's Derek's call.

The biggest design problem with WOM is that it started out, in my mind, as MOM2 and then morphed into trying to be all things to all people and ended up not being very good at anything. As you read the suggestions in this forum, you can see how quickly the game would be destroyed if we tried to implement even a fraction of the suggestions.  And yet, if I were the lead designer, I would probably have tried to have a bunch of the ideas implemented because I'm not a game designer, I'm a game player and I love most of the suggestions I read.  But being a game designer means making choices and explicitly deciding not being all things to all people.

My focus on FE is on the code. I don't override Derek on design and he doesn't override me on development requirements.

So here's a quick update on the coding parts:

1. We've made great strides on improving the memory foot print.  This won't mean anything for 80% of you but for people running Windows XP, it's a big deal.

2. The strategic AI is significantly better in our internal build now.  It will surrender now if its situation is hopeless.  

3. The tactical AI is starting to get some love. I'm awaiting an API that will let the AI look at upcoming spells (like fireballs) that are in the queue so it can counter spell it.

4. There's been a lot of gameplay changes that I won't go into but I think people will be pleased with.

5. The stability should be substantially better. Keep crash reports coming in.  It's amazing how different systems will expose different flaws in the code.

6. Performance, especially late game, is massssiiiiivvveeelly better. Night and day.  One badly written function that gets called a lot can do real harm.

7. The next beta, Beta 1B (so still beta 1 series) is expected to be out a week from tomorrow. But we may delay it if necessary depending on how the team is feeling about stability, visuals, and balance.

8. The FE specific art is now being integrated (the terrain was still from WOM in Beta 1, beta 1B will have a somewhat different look).

9. I am hoping that beta 1B will reach release level quality in terms of stability, performance, and memory usage. It'll be a big deal (and something that absolutely should be reported) if it crashes on anyone.

10. Game within a game is still a pain in the rear. 

11. Sound system got a lot of coding love this week.

12. While multiplayer won't be in FE 1.0, we've been making the internals much more effective for handling it in a possible future update (i.e. more event driven stuff).  MP support is high on our list of things we want after release.

13. Garbage collection has been moved into its own thread so that it doesn't interfere with the smoothness of the game.

14. Modding will likely be officially sanctions starting with beta 2.

15. Lots of music and sound stuff going in.

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February 2, 2012 7:05:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

For instance oneidea I keep pushing for is to allow improvements to boost the caravan gold multiplier in both cities connected by the caravan. A small easy to implement change but I feel it would greatly boost the depth of trading. Work with the system not againist it.

Yep, that is a good suggestion. I.e. that would be a good text book example of the kind of feedback that is practical.

And Derek also has to put up with internal suggestions/requests.

For example, I suggested recently making it so that trained units, when defeated, returned to their origin city to be reconstituted rather than being to be retrained from scratch so that they could keep being  upgraded and enhanced and gain experience -- sort of turn them into trained champion groups. And that the number of units you could maintain would be based on your Civilization's Logistic system (ala Fleet supply in Sins).  But Derek pointed out that this would have drastic effects across the board that could take a long time to iron out.

We all have our own ideas on what would make everything "better" in any given game.  A good game designer has to keep a level head and consider the ramifications of every design decision.

 

I'd like to see that idea tried.  It sounds interesting.  That said, if it flops, that's a lot of wasted effort, so I can understand why it's not being tried.

 

Question on scope, is adding a feature reasonable at this stage?  I've been suggesting FFHII-style events, as I think that would help differentiate cities/civs more.  I'm getting the impression from how well this game runs in Beta 1 that you guys are ahead of schedule some.

 

 

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February 2, 2012 7:09:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Mmrnmhrm,
This should be repeated often: People loved MOM except when they didn't.  

 

NOT LOVING MOM?!?! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BLASPHEMOUS CONCEPT!!!

Just Joking

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February 2, 2012 7:15:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 62
For instance oneidea I keep pushing for is to allow improvements to boost the caravan gold multiplier in both cities connected by the caravan. A small easy to implement change but I feel it would greatly boost the depth of trading. Work with the system not againist it.

Yep, that is a good suggestion. I.e. that would be a good text book example of the kind of feedback that is practical.

And Derek also has to put up with internal suggestions/requests.

For example, I suggested recently making it so that trained units, when defeated, returned to their origin city to be reconstituted rather than being to be retrained from scratch so that they could keep being  upgraded and enhanced and gain experience -- sort of turn them into trained champion groups. And that the number of units you could maintain would be based on your Civilization's Logistic system (ala Fleet supply in Sins).  But Derek pointed out that this would have drastic effects across the board that could take a long time to iron out.

We all have our own ideas on what would make everything "better" in any given game.  A good game designer has to keep a level head and consider the ramifications of every design decision.

 

I'd like to see that idea tried.  It sounds interesting.  That said, if it flops, that's a lot of wasted effort, so I can understand why it's not being tried.

 

Question on scope, is adding a feature reasonable at this stage?  I've been suggesting FFHII-style events, as I think that would help differentiate cities/civs more.  I'm getting the impression from how well this game runs in Beta 1 that you guys are ahead of schedule some.

 

 

 

the closer you are to thinking as a developer or designer the more realistic your ideas are likely to be.

 

For instance, random events are already in the game. There just aren't many of them and they're rare.   Now, a random event that turns eveyrone into robots is beyond our scope of course.

 

But if you read the forums, I am optimistic that most people can differentiate a realistic idea (X+Y = exploit, please fix) versus (They should eliminate mana).

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February 2, 2012 7:44:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey Frogboy, good of you to respond to so many posts.

Since your in question awnsering mode il ask a question.

Is a system where each unit in a troops stack is counted as an individual and damage doesn't transfer beyond 1 troop unless a weapon/talent/spell/ability specifically allows mass kill totaly off the table? Stacks are about the right size and the overpower ability already damages each unit in a troop stack so I don't think it would be too much work to implement (could be wrong).

Also will we see more varied and tactical tactical maps?

Thanks if your reading this.

 

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February 2, 2012 8:00:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Stupidity10,
Now, a random event that turns eveyrone into robots is beyond our scope of course.

Can this be in Gal Civ 3?

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February 2, 2012 8:05:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It would be nice to get feedback in threads from the devs that they have at least read them and if we knew that an idea was impractical then we could stop at that point. Feedback could be as simple as:

'Concern noted. Suggestion impractical.'

And as long as we Beta Testers know that the devs aren't going to get drawn into discussion on their plans then all is cool (or should be). It would save us a lot of angst getting a little feedback on the practicality of ideas.

I do want to briefly touch on the example of the removed tech tree as being impractical. I haven't looked at the XML for FE but in my mind making radical changes here should be achievable through the XML without touching underlying code or the game design. Having much of the tech for warfare available right from the start would be time consuming to code but I thought this would be fully achievable by re-writing some of the XML. I would have thought that as a suggestion it was not a big deal as far as the code structure was concerned but would be a time-consuming project for someone to do. Perfect for modding in my mind. So I'm not really seeing why this has been used as an example of an impractical suggestion.

My main concerns for FE (Hero Stack of Doom and the City Spam) are essentially balance issues when everything is said and done. One request I would ask of the devs though is to perhaps consider suggestions in the scope of modding if the suggestion is impractical within the design scope of vanilla Fallen Enchantress and perhaps to allow place-holder XML for the community to get involved later.

Loving where this game is heading BTW.

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February 2, 2012 8:21:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, I'm looking forwards to the next big patch, AI art and stability are always nice.  Any chance that there will be some sneak peek posts over the next week to show off some of what we can expect?

I was particularly happy to see sound and music mentioned, since not too many people have said much about it.  I've been enjoying some of the new music in FE, and look forwards to more things in that realm, since it really does fill things out.

I suppose from a player/ tester standpoint its sometimes easier to think of a mechanic, rather than a method of balancing to achieve a similar endpoint.  Especially since balancing can be very complex.  But so long as its taken with a grain of sand that the areas being mentioned are the ones that need the most love, it still works out, even if some of the threads wish for things that are out there.

Speaking of which, I was already surprised how much the feeling of champs changed from 0.75 to 0.77 just with a couple of changes.  At least in my gameplay.  It'll be interesting to see how the game looks once 1.0 rolls around.

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February 2, 2012 8:43:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting FallingStar0280,
I was particularly happy to see sound and music mentioned, since not too many people have said much about it. 

I've seen the fist beta being streamed. And I can say two things about music. (1) It's very good. (2) It's too repetitive (too few tracks).

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February 2, 2012 10:40:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

Quoting Emperor_Nero, reply 49
 

Does this mean that any suggestions we make that aren't about balancing just the current mechanisms we are just wasting our time?

If the suggestion involves getting rid of some basic game feature like technology trees or mana then yes, you're wasting your time.

 

Well, since I´m with a pretty bad insomnia, I´ve decided to read a little of the forums, even though I won´t be playing the game for a while….

 

Brad, I guess that many people simply don’t understand that the game design is pretty much closed, from now on is all about bug hunting, stability, balance and expanding game concepts (new spell, traits, paths and the like).

That´s probably the reason some people are still insisting in ditching the tech tree or radically changing mana or even making the sov “grounded” like the MoM wizard. Seem clear to me that those won´t even be considered to the game, but might not seem so to others.

Even you feel victim to that. I have considered some time ago suggesting the “immortal armies” you talked with Derek, seemed like a good way to balance them with champs. But I dumped the idea myself…. Seemed somehow incompatible with the game design, not to mention it might solve a problem early on the game, but have serious the consequences hundreds of turns latter.

Since everyone has a different mind on what is compatible or not with the design, it might be a good idea to pin up a thread with “discarded ideas”. It would prevent people from focusing in things that will never make to the game.

After I discarded the “immortal armies” ideas, I came up with the one hit one kill idea (that a lot of people seem to have liked) to balance magic, champs and armies. To me, and to everybody that is supporting it, seems totally compatible with the design (we are not talking about overnerfing or eliminating champs, or overpowering the armies) and I don´t believe it would require some radical code change (I might be totally wrong here…) The original (updated) post: http://forums.elementalgame.com/416243

On the thread lots of other ideas were thrown, some I know won´t make it (like the path that turns the sov in a MoM like wizard), but other seems pretty reasonable (like the summoner traits/path) or the rebalance to make the power of magic more caster dependent and less shard bound.

As you pointed out, lots of people are making suggestions, and other people are embracing, discussing, improving, rejecting, well, spending time of their lives to try to make a contribution to the success of FE.

So it would be nice to have the rejected ideas thread, to prevent that lost time, and it would be even better to hear from time to time that some suggestion “is going the right way, keep discussing people”.

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February 2, 2012 11:48:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

8. The FE specific art is now being integrated (the terrain was still from WOM in Beta 1, beta 1B will have a somewhat different look).

I would love to see some spoiler pictures of the new terrain....

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February 3, 2012 12:13:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have never seen a random event in any game, they are way too rare.

 

You need some smaller ones though that impact certain cities, do stuff like give them extra/less unrest, a free building, +1 food/mineral, the militia becoming bandits, etc.

 

 

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February 3, 2012 7:55:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I know Stardock appreciates the feedback from everyone, but I think what people are frustrated by is the lack of the same from Stardock (with the exception of some of your posts). As others have said, with ideas all over the place it's hard to know what to stand behind or contribute toward if it's not feasible or wouldn't be considered. It's also difficult to know if filing bugs is a waste of time or duly noted and will be addressed. And then if it's not addressed in the next patch, should we pursue getting the bug addressed (did get dropped? missed? rejected?) or not.

If staff are reading the posts (which I'm sure they are), some feedback would go a long way. The Beta relationship as it stands is more of a "don't call us, we'll call you" approach, which makes pouring time/energy into helping rather discouraging, especially when there's so much to be improved.

Thanks so much for this update. This is one example of the type of communication that's encouraging. Looking forward to the next patch late next week!

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February 3, 2012 8:13:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, I for one would appreciate more feedback from Stardock about what the community to focus on.  Not only would it result in a better game at the end of the beta, but it would also likely make beta testers more favourable about spreading far and wide how great the game, and Stardock itself, is.

Can you help us in that respect, Frogboy?   We want to help make the game great too, but it is hard to be really enthusiastic about our involvement and help in the beta test when there is not clear two-way communication on what we should be focussing on!

Looking forward to your reply,
Steven.

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February 3, 2012 8:55:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

Quoting Ashbery76, reply 50I do not wish to see talk of internal builds doing this and that.WOM had lots of that talk about internal builds doing the same.Beta testers should have the latest build.

No they shouldn't.  

There are entire weeks where you can't play the game 20 turns without crashing because some major element is being worked on.  The game can't be kept in a consumer friendly state all the time.  

Right now, we're in the process of integrating the FE-specific artwork. That's a multi-week process that can't be interrupted to make a public build. I've got lots of AI code that is definitely not ready to be used by users because crashes the game or ends up making turns take 10X longer because it's doing too much analysis. 

A good beta program is designed for the developers to gather very specific data to improve the game. 

 

 

 

Thanks for clarifying this - didn't know that this was the case. Would have guessed that stuff like this rather happens on branches but probably that would make integration a real nightmare so go ahead and do it - excited for the next patch. Some little videos of the new artwork would be nice though

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February 3, 2012 9:03:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


will this game have different tactical maps?

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February 3, 2012 9:38:55 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

According to what Frogboy said, my suggestions on city guilds won't probably be listened to  I was hoping that idea to be not a deep change in game mechanics, but I understand that the game is already in the tuning phase, with room only for balance and almost no change at all to any game mechanic. I trust Derek view of the game so I hope this is a good decision. At the same time, I hope some modders will consider my idea to be implemented.

Just one question for Frogboy, if I may: does the current code allow for city Buildings that can endow units trained in that city with new traits (e.g. a paladins' guild that allows units trained in that city to gain the smite ability)? The building could have some tech as a prerequisite. I'd be good to hear that this is at least possible without an overhaul of the code.

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February 3, 2012 10:35:02 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting marionesi,
According to what Frogboy said, my suggestions on city guilds won't probably be listened to  I was hoping that idea to be not a deep change in game mechanics, but I understand that the game is already in the tuning phase, with room only for balance and almost no change at all to any game mechanic. I trust Derek view of the game so I hope this is a good decision. At the same time, I hope some modders will consider my idea to be implemented.

Just one question for Frogboy, if I may: does the current code allow for city Buildings that can endow units trained in that city with new traits (e.g. a paladins' guild that allows units trained in that city to gain the smite ability)? The building could have some tech as a prerequisite. I'd be good to hear that this is at least possible without an overhaul of the code.

In WoM one c ould add a building that produced a unit of your own choosing. So you could design a "Paladin"  unit, and then add a building that produces those, lock it behind the tech tree and/or prerequis... assuming ( and, judging from the special buildings you can make to produce say Wildlings) they did not change these aspects in FE ( cant imagine why, it would take away a lot of flexibility for modding).

 

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February 3, 2012 12:05:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If buildings can do game modifiers they can probably do traits. 

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February 3, 2012 3:33:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, you can cast a spell that adds +3 constitution, so why not enable something else? Should be possible.

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February 3, 2012 5:13:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I still don't like the building tile placement system though. It never has been fun, and it has never served any proper purpose. I never understood why it was there in the first place.

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February 3, 2012 5:27:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The way I understood it, because Frogboy didn't like (or thought players wouldn't like) having to go to a city management screen to build stuff, because it would 'take you out of the main game'. Same thing with tactical combat, they had to be as short as possible, otherwise it would distract you too much from the grand strategy part.

I don't like it either though, the only remotely positive thing about it is that it could make your cities more distinguished, visually. It was a bit of a downer that this part of the game didn't get a complete makeover in FE...

 

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February 4, 2012 12:49:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Sir_Linque,
I still don't like the building tile placement system though. It never has been fun, and it has never served any proper purpose. I never understood why it was there in the first place.

 

I have to agree with Brad and you guys- it's something that adds nothing to the game for me.  I can choose not to use it though, so it's not a horrid, horrid thing.  I can see small benefits to removing it, but probably not worth the crap you'd get from supporters.

 

If MP is implemented down the road, this is a feature that should be disabled in MP.

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February 5, 2012 1:12:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Barrynor,
Quoting marionesi, reply 91According to what Frogboy said, my suggestions on city guilds won't probably be listened to  I was hoping that idea to be not a deep change in game mechanics, but I understand that the game is already in the tuning phase, with room only for balance and almost no change at all to any game mechanic. I trust Derek view of the game so I hope this is a good decision. At the same time, I hope some modders will consider my idea to be implemented.

Just one question for Frogboy, if I may: does the current code allow for city Buildings that can endow units trained in that city with new traits (e.g. a paladins' guild that allows units trained in that city to gain the smite ability)? The building could have some tech as a prerequisite. I'd be good to hear that this is at least possible without an overhaul of the code.

In WoM one c ould add a building that produced a unit of your own choosing. So you could design a "Paladin"  unit, and then add a building that produces those, lock it behind the tech tree and/or prerequis... assuming ( and, judging from the special buildings you can make to produce say Wildlings) they did not change these aspects in FE ( cant imagine why, it would take away a lot of flexibility for modding).

 

There is some hope then. Good  I somehow feel that the Civilization-style approach to training units (once you discover the tech, you can train that unit in every city) does not really fit well in a fantasy game, but I can't explain why. Possibly I'm just too conditioned by MoM and HoMM. But to me I'd be just so much cooler to have cities more unique, and I feel I'd be a relatively small change in the game to have tech-->building-->unit rather than tech-->unit. Make certain buildings mutually exclusive for any given city (e.g. each city can build only one guild) and you have unique cities with interesting tradeoffs on a silver plate.

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