March is here! If you’re not in the Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion beta, which starts this week, then you might be interested in what is happening in the world of Elemental. So here is where things stand.
The Beast Lord has the power to recruit certain monsters in battle
We plan to release the next build in the beta 2 series within the next week or two. I can’t tell you what will be in it yet. There’s a lot of things that are being worked on at once. Derek and his team have all kinds of diabolical stuff in the works. A lot of Fall From Heaven players have noticed his influence on the Elemental universe and he’s just getting warmed up.
What I can talk about are the things we’re concentrating on here.
For most people, stability hasn’t been a major issue. But the game will crash occasionally at some point regardless of how stable it is for you. I can assure you, it will crash some % of the time in Beta 2. That is because of the migration to a much more heavily threaded architecture.
Most of you have played War of Magic. So you know how much faster and smoother Fallen Enchantress is even on the same hardware. Why? Threading. Lots of them. The more cores you have, the better it gets. And even if you have only 2 cores, it’s still a lot better.
Even as the AI has gotten smarter, the world more complex, the time between turns and performance has improved. This is because of all the threads happening in the background. But the challenge is making sure those threads are messing with each other’s data at the same time.
We’ve made great strides here as we’ve nearly finished our migration to the threaded engine update. We hope this will become apparent in Beta 2-B. However, that said, Beta 2-B will not be rock solid. I’m just warning you now. It’ll be better than Beta 2 but as we fix problems, we add new ones. It’s for a good cause. Memory optimization is necessary but painful.
If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows, you’re already set because Fallen Enchantress will use 4 gigs of memory if it can. So that lets us have more monsters, more players, more everything. But Windows XP users can only see 2 gigs which is why we have to focus on optimization. It’s good to be lean and mean (though my Amiga could do crazy things with 512K of memory).
Other than making sure the game is reliable for people, balance is our top priority. Balance can include everything from tweaking numbers to adding new assets. Making sure that higher level weapons and armor matter a lot more has a huge game play effect. For example, spears do less damage than they did before and as a result, they’re still good weapons early on or in mass but they’ll get slaughtered by knights. Right now: You can beat the AI by creating cheese spearmen (throw in a few negative traits, get squads and go to town – that’s how I do it anyway).
Similarly, lots of new magic spells are being added to the game which help us make sure that the different paths to victory are distinct, fun, and meaningful.
This probably won’t make it into the beta 2 series. But diplomacy is going to get a lot more attention for Beta 3. For example, we are considering an option to let players surrender to you where their sovereign becomes your vassal (they get a negative trait called “broken spirit” that keeps them from being too powerful – last thing we need is players being able to spring Verga on their enemies). The idea of snooty Procipinee doing my bidding has some appeal.
The Diplomacy screen is likely to change quite a bit from what you see now to provide more information and more opportunities for interesting exchanges between you and your opponents.
Unique Factions & Champions
The champions have been getting a lot of attention. The idea is that each of them should have a fairly unique ability. This way, as you come to know the world, you know that if you get, say Adant Verris, that you’ll be getting Chain Lightning.
The same goes with factions as we start to incorporate different equipment, traits and such into each of them. If one faction is largely impervious to archery and you’ve decided to focus having massive archer armies, that may affect your strategy for dealing with them.
We are still playing around with different ideas here. Unlike with Galactic Civilizations where players (ironically) intuitively understood that shields were effective against beam weapons and armor was a good defense against mass drivers, most people aren’t that familiar with medieval level armor. We’ve grown up thinking that plate male is always the best and you should just toss that on to everything.
The modders…well, the modders are going to go to town on this game. There was some joking earlier internally about how long it would take someone to make an Alpha Centauri total conversion with this stuff. Even the “look” of the game is, ultimately, just PNG’s and DDS files.
Art, Music, Animation
Making the world of Elemental a living world is the goal here.
At some level, knowing you will never see this world again is part of the appeal. Randomly generated worlds mean you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Don’t judge me. So yea, I name my monsters.
Maybe I’m just old but I want to be able to navigate more with the keyboard. This is an area we’re starting to put more attention to. Not just in terms of hot keys but just general navigation through the game. Fallen Enchantress is a game that you “might” play 10 hours straight. So less forced mouse moving = better as far as we’re concerned.
This is something we will constantly be improving on. Every day I play the game, I find something.
For example, today I was able to find out why the AI wasn’t taking over monster lairs. They’re “goodie huts” but they’re a special kind which the AI couldn’t “see”. Another little thing I found was that once the AI merged armies into army groups, it wasn’t treating nearby units as anything worth considering. So you could walk by a bunch of enemy armies safely because it didn’t think it was worth bothering with something so little – as you then went and conquered its city.
Then in tactical battles we fixed a problem where some of the more powerful spells weren’t used because they’re classified differently so again, the AI couldn’t “see” those spells.
Plus, there’s no substitute for play testing and refining.
The next beta will probably lower the default AI difficulty to easy instead of normal because if you’re just learning the game, normal now will destroy the average player.
We really hope you guys are enjoying the beta as much as we are having making it.