- The lack of hard choices with the civilization aspect of the game. Reduce the amount of room I have or force me to make other difficult and unique choices. See Warlock 2 for *some* inspiration. Maybe even Endless Legend, it looks like.
I'd like more info on this please.
So I have some thoughts on this subject, but from a more general sense, as some not specifically map related.
When you build a city, you currently are allowed to build one of each improvement, with no real choice here. It's a 'build or no build', not a 'should I build thisbuilding or this other building - I only have room for one of them right now'. The only real 'choice' we have is when a city hits Level 2 (Fortress/Conclave/Town). After that, it's almost autopilot. The trait choices as a city levels up are nice, but really there isn't a hard choice here, as their effects/differences between them aren't that dramatic if you pick one over the other. Sure the troops or building choice is still there (y'all know I like the Build and Train at the Same time we once had), but that is about the only 'hard' decision one has to make once they've chosen to build a city. Sure, you may change the build order, but once the build list is exhausted most cities of a given type look pretty much the same.
Champion choices are rarely 'make or break'. When the two choices come up, sure I look at the traits to see which one looks better, and maybe the equipment they are packing, but at the end of the day picking one over the other (with a couple of exceptions) isn't going to drastically change my game. If their Profession Paths were pre-chosen already, THEN it might be a more critical decision... but I know that players like having the ability to make that choice after the fact, so there are tradeoffs here.
Also, land management is almost completely absent in Elemental. Sure, you want to find a place that you can build both a pier and a lumber yard, that has a lot of resources nearby, but once you've plopped that city down, there isn't a lot of consideration of the land undereath that building you just added. At least in Civilization/Alpha Centauri, you are constantly working on improvements, and sometimes tearing down some to 'shift' the production to some other thing (this is the old 'OK, I can now use Forests more effectively, time to take out some farms and plant some trees' or the 'My pollution is out of control, need to change things up' thing). While I'm not suggesting that Elemental should carbon copy Civ here, my point here is that land management choices that evolve over time is more interesting (when done right) than simple 'plop the building down, OK I'm done here'.
Quest Choices rarely have any long-lasting impact, other than perhaps the Master Quests. Essentially you complete them, get the reward, and move on. The Master Quests add some flavor, but again it comes down to 'complete or not complete', not 'Well I chose option 1, so this changed my empire's situation inthis way. If I had chosen option 2, my empire/situation might look MUCH different right now. Essentially, almost all quests really just come down to 'do I win or lose' and 'how many units survived the quest, and did I pick up any new ones'.
I'll beat the Encumberance drum one more time. Back when we had encumberance, I specifically remember acquiring a REALLY BIG AXE, that required my champion to de-equip some other equipment just so he could wield it. Shedding almost all of his armor just to be able to use this thing was an interesting dilemma. Ultimately I decided that the lowered defense (less armor) was worth the extra attack at that time, and that hero began to 'Specialize' in the use of that axe, beefing up his strength to be able to wear a little more armor and such. In short, this was a somewhat 'hard' choice to consider, and definitely affected the future path of that specific champion. The 'Chain Mail' or 'Plate' trait pick pales in comparison to the amount of career planning I had to decide on for that particular Champion back whe we had Encumberance.
The Five Paths, while they can affect Champion creation, really aren't all that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Doing damage by method A (Warrior) or method b (Assassin) isn't all that different game wise. Now if the paths had very significant, non-combat oriented effects as well, this could play out quite differently. Say, for example, that Assassin can be sent to Assassinate someone covertly, but sending him off made your Sovereign more vulnerable to assassination attempts while he was gone?
Also, since we usually end up with a handful of champions, it isn't that hard to pick one or more of each type (depending on your preference). So towards the endgame you aren't really 'missing' any of the Professions that you might usually like to have, as you have multiple champions available. So which profession I choose for a Champion at a given moment isn't really a 'make or break' decision, just a 'temporary inconvenience' r.e. the other Profession that I'll pick the next time I earn a Champion, which will be rather soon...
Diplomacy HAS no no really involved options, so the only 'hard' choice to make is to invade or not invade. I remember spending a fair amount of time in Alpha Centauri trying to appease a certain faction, to get them to ally with me as we sort of had 'common goals' at that time. By comparison, well while allying with another faction on the map in Elemental can have some basic benefits, other than 'buying time so I can achieve some victory goal', well Alliances really boil down to 'don't attack me right now', and that's it. It'd be cool if you could, say, gain access to special weapons the other faction has while you are allied, that only they can make (e.g. that faction makes crystal magic swords that exude a cold aura (bonus to cold attack, but you aren't able to make it. So you give them some cool other thing so your units can be 'equipped' with those really nice crystal swords'.
As for Monster lairs, well currently those are for killing. It MIGHT be interesting if you could enter into negotiations at that point to have them 'ally' with your faction (there are a couple of quests that do something along these lines), but outside of the 'quest' environment (that feels a little artificial). Essentially, minor powers to trade with or perhaps ally with, with a downside (don't get the special widget thingie) if you simply just conquer them. Not to mention the bad rep for wiping them out (Empire may want this, Kingdom not so much).
It'd be nice to have a FEW diplomatic balls in the air to consider as you are building your kingdom/empire. I.E. 'those Darklings in that town on my border are interested in allying with me, but there are these Trolls over here that might be more useful. If I ally with the Trolls, well the Darklings will be pissed, and if I ally with either of them, well that may affect my trade negotiations with that Kingdom over yonder, as they may feel threatened if I gain another ally'.
Finally, populace management is essentially not a big deal right now. Boost your food production as best you can, build unrest-reducing structures as needed, and call it a day. It'd be nice if you had actual rebellions and such to consider, and had agonizing choices to make during city growth, taking potential unrest into account. I.E. "I'd really like to build that Air Temple right now, but if I fail to find room for that new temple, well I may have some rebels causing me grief' or 'Hmmm, I didn't realize that my population would react this badly to the Air Elementals being produced by that Air Temple (random event). Guess I'll need to decide which I can live without less... happy citizens in this city, or more Air Elementals for my armies.
So I'm going to digress for a moment, and step onto my soapbox...
There are a LOT of ways that the Elemental setting could be made more immersive. Unfortunately, it would require a LOT of effort on the part of the design team, and the right creative minds to put it all together. I don't think it could be done with the current Stardock team in less than say 2 years time, in order to do it right. And, of course, the staff would have to have the appropriate 'vision' to evolve the game, which means having the RIGHT designers at the RIGHT time. As truly visionary game designers are few and far between, well based on what I've seen released from the Stardock Elemental/Gal Civ team at this point, I'm not seeing that true visionary in your ranks in recent months, but I AM seeing a lot of bean counting going on, i.e. 'we have this much time to get this done, so get it done' and 'we like this protocol from this other game, can we find an easy way to do something similar' and 'how can we simplify things'.
Mind you, I think Elemental is a good game (I wouldn't spend as much time on this game modding if I hated it). I just really truly believe that the design team, due to various factors, continues to come up short on a number of fronts. The Elemental 2015 thread doesn't wow me (some others like what they see of course). I haven't been Wowed by you guys in a while, although I've seen incremental improvements, certainly. But essentially Elemental is the 'Gal Civ engine' evolved, not a new approach. New engines take time to build, and sometimes new talent. Please note that I'm not suggesting firing anyone here (y'all are good guys), but I do think that, if you are looking to do a new release here in this Genre, it may be time to walk away from the Gal Civ/Elemental engine completely and build something new, rather than continue to 'tote the baggage that you have' because it's easier. That's an expensive gamble, of course, but you have been 'playing it safe' for too long IMHO.
Sorry for the sober straight talk here, but there's a difference between playing it safe and doing something revolutionary. Stardock's game division has a limited budget, sure (Stardock's bread and butter is from it's other apps), but smaller companies have been able to do truly astounding things. It's time to step back, take a breather, and see if you have that the innovative spark for that 'next great thing' in the Stardock ranks.
(Still give us DLC and Expansion stuff though, a lot of us like that stuff).
Of course, it's hard to argue with sales numbers, so if y'all at Stardock are content with how things are going, ignore everything I just said. But if you want to make the next truly great game...
As for me, I"m still hung up on someone upgrading the released EWOM game, to do it true justice (so much potential was there, that was subsequently tossed to the wayside, (note that I consider E:LH a stripped down,albiet greatly improved in some aspects version of EWOM), but that isn't doing something revolutionary, even I have to admit that's just improving the horse drawn buggy, not tossing the buggy in favor of the automobile.