So we're a week into it now, and a lot of this is likely to change, but I wanted to drop in a few ideas. Note: I am not going to cover technical glitches or bugs. I am under the assumption that most of the bugs are known and efforts to thwart them are underway. These are entirely gameplay and possibly balance-related suggestions.
1. Everything in this thread: https://forums.elementalgame.com/394155 I would add a couple more suggestions to the ones he has, such as:
- Communal Farming: +X% farming output per rank in this ability
- Military Garrison: Reduction of 20% production time of military units
- General's College: 25% Reduction in ALL costs from raising experience level of troops, +5% time to build troops
- Crystal Forge: X% output of Elementium Crystals per rank in this ability
Just to name a few.
2. As I, and others, have suggested in this thread: https://forums.elementalgame.com/394229 redefine the methods of Janusk-addition. Make the advisor a chargen choice (you could even associate a cost to it, so players could opt to not have an advisor if they so choose), and for those who opt to have one, increase his reputation considerably so that female sovereigns can't get married eons before male.
3. Resource distribution seems off. There's far more materials than one will ever need, since the game puts heavy leaning on the necessity of gold. There needs to be more of a favoring for other resources to make it worthwhile for you to plant a city next to that Old Grove and get those extra materials. My suggestions to repair this imbalance is to increase the materials costs for all weapons and armor by 1.5-3x depending on the strength of the equipment, increase the metals cost for weapons and armors similarly for all weapons/armor based on the strength of the equipment, and reduce the gold costs by upwards of half for all equipment. Right now the only resources that matter much are food and gold. After a few hundred turns, you find yourself drowning in everything else, and lacking heavily in those two. I actually like Food where it is. Wars should be fought over food, imo. Food in a post-apocalyptic world is always the primary motivator, and it should remain that way. The other materials are not.
This is further compounded by the fact that the AI ends up in the same situation. The entire Trade window has absolutely no value whatsoever past turn ~100 or so, because the AI and you have so many materials that they have absolutely no value, and neither side has any gold worth mentioning. Dramatically increasing materials, metals, and so on cost while simultaneously reducing gold costs to put all materials in line based on the amount of them you can get should be a heavy goal. Gold per turn should be a deciding factor on how large of a force you can sustain, not how much you can recruit, especially since these people are fighting for survival in a harsh, post-apocalyptic world. You shouldn't have to bribe them to fight, and you shouldn't be buying your equipment. Even without forging being in game, it can be simulated by shifting the costs away from gold and into materials.
I honestly think that of all things I am about to suggest, this one option is of the utmost importance.
4. There need to be a better distribution of Neutral non-strategic resources. Of this I don't mean metals, I mean monsters. Yes, there's the ones in diplomacy, and those are well and good, but what about ones to fight over instead of just to get by tech? This is a good way to introduce Fantasy Monsters. I realize you want it to be men-focused, and it still would be. But having those independent towns hold different fantasy monsters makes them more valuable in numerous respects. Some good ideas to go with in addition to the Ogres:
- Treant Circle. (Treants) Low movement (1-2 action points), high damage (20-25 attack), high defense (25-30 defense), moderate hitpoints (15-20 each, they're trees, man, they chop down and splinter). Damage reduction will offset their low hitpoints moderately, and make them worth their cost even though, HP wise they're fairly weak. Race of tree people, slow to move, but good lord stay out of their way. You could alternatively make their attack lower, say 10-15, and give them Vengeance, making them a form of moveable wall in tactical situations.
- Faerie Grove. (Faeries) High movement (4-6 action points), low damage (5-10 attack), high dodge (I don't know how that is calculated), low defense (5-10 defense), low hitpoints (5-10 each). 10 Mana. Three spell-like abilities: Fascinate (3t stun, 5 mana), Faerie Fire (3t defense debuff, 3 mana), and Rain of Twigs (Instant, 4 range individual target attack, like Fire Dart, but actually flinging sticks at people, 2mana) Regen 1 mana per combat turn.
- Bandit Camp. (I think this is obvious. The bandits are already there, this just makes bandit archers and bandit thugs and whatnot recruitable)
- Wolves Den. (Ebberon Wolves or whatever they are called are recruitable here.
This is just a few ideas to start it off, the possibilities are endless.
5. On the note of Independent Factions, let's make them a little more useful, shall we? Right now they exist just to be conquered. They should have faction-specific items available, and those shouldn't be dependent on just the faction (although they should still have as such), they should also depend on which of the above nodes they have for recruiting. Examples would be the Faerie Grove would offer magical rings (different from the ones you can get from tech) that boost movement and dodge, or the Bandit Camp would have rings/amulets that increase your gold output, so on and so forth. The imperative thing is that these are unique, including the faction-specific ones. Right now there's no unique flavor involved in these things, why buy from these entities when you can tech up the magic line and buy them from your own places?
Next to do for them, make it capable to recruit mercs from them. With #3 in place, this would be where Gold-heavy troops would come from. You could go in, go to a shop-like interface, and recruit squads of troops from them based on what they have in their area. These would be limited to your tech's capabilities of squad size, and would convert their entire costs into gold costs (plus a little extra, gotta think about profit here!) and give you a squad of those troops immediately, no 14t wait. This incentivizes keeping them alive, while still getting troops from their factional holdings.
This will also give a greater value to them diplomatically. It would be nice to get a call from Polapel offering me a squad or two of Faeries if I help protect them from the growing threat of Kraxis on their border after they get wardec'd, pushing me into a war with the Krax in order to support Polapel's autonomy.
This is a good, fairly easy (in comparison to some other ways) way to increase dynamism within games.
6. Random Events. These are needed. World-cracking, terrain deforming, and devastating random events that make the turns more than just waiting for your troops to finish so you can send off a third army to the front, down to as mundane as "The people of Alphabetsoup have been working hard to heal the land and a new fertile land has been created!!" and you get a new fertile tile, completely outside of the tech tree. Let's face it: City Builder strategy games are samey. Replayability is not great in and of itself once you figure out the strategy the AI uses. Random Events are a staple, not because they are "cool," although often they are, but because they give some rather jarring aspects to the game that players need to react to beyond just building troops/researching techs in the proper order. They don't even need to be overly crazy. Something as simple as a random-trigger Quest (in fact, these should happen a lot) that does not require a location would be a good start.
7. Notables and Quests. Right now how these work is lackluster. I've spoken with GreenReaper about the depth of them, and he wasn't able to answer as he didn't have the source-code available. I'm not against them being primarily "Fetch" and "Kill" missions. That's fine, really, since in any given RPG that's what every quest comes down to, in a nutshell. It's presentation that matters. I know you guys are going to be working more on that, but here's a couple suggestions about other related things with this:
- The scaling with the tech is not good. The "level" system that the Notables and Quests have is just irritating to the End User. It's not at all fun in its current system. Here's an idea to make it fun again: Remove the "level" system entirely as it sits. All this does is frustrate the End User. We get a level in Adventure, it opens a bunch of goody huts and quests..... that we can't get to. So then we get another level, now we can access the Quests, but there's more Quests that we can't access, and even more notables that we can't access. So we get another... you see where this is going. The whole time it is making all of the monsters harder and harder. So what the End User sees is they are making the game arbitrarily more difficult without getting any reward, so instead of doing this we play 60% of the game without Quests or Notables until we have Warfare tricked out, then spam the Adventure line until it's done. Instead of having a "level" system as it is (i.e. a limiting factor to access), have the Level system dictate how difficult a Quest will be, with an acceptable reward. You can always enter it, but you may not succeed. The Adventure line should be entirely used to open more Quests and Notables, not to give you the ability to access them. The way you have it working right now is not fun, it's frustrating.
- Text for Quests is pretty lame. Every RPG under the sun is just a series of "Fetch" and "Kill" missions. I realize dungeons aren't in it yet (but when they are it will be awesome), so that will be an addition for later. The thing about it is what differentiates a "good" RPG from a "bad" RPG is how transparent the "Fetch" and "Kill" missions are, and this is entirely conveyed by the mission text. The only quests I find at all interesting at this point are the "Bring my Kid somewhere" quest and the "Compass" quest. The rest are just "Go kill that." If it is possible to issue multi-screens of dialog, that would help a lot. Also having more choices than just "yes" or "no" would be a massive improvement. I'll beg if I have to.
- Don't make Quests only happen if you step on a Quest Location. Location-based Quests are fine and dandy. What about Random Event Quests? I realize this ties into #6, but having Janusk ask you to do something early on would make for a better tutorial system than any sort of "start tutorial" option off the main window. Make sure it's optional, and make sure it's reward isn't something overly necessary, make it something small, so that you don't feel forced to go through it (like a gift of some materials or something). What about a citizen of X city coming up to you and saying "My son has been taken by wolves! I fear for his safety!! YOU HAVE TO HELP!!"? Randomly fires sometime during the game, and there you go, you've got a quest. It will make the Quest system feel less static.
As I come up with more I will update this thread, other suggestions are very welcome from users, and I will edit this post with the updates (in a different color so it can be differentiated) with ideas that I think are really good.
8. Caravans. Right now your caravans are an annoyance for anything that involves trading with the AI, as they must pass the "wild edge" in order to get to them, and regularly get attacked. Having Caravans be in danger is fine, however if this is the case there needs to be some way for us to protect them without having to micromanage a few armies to do so or rebuild the caravans every time they cross the gap. Here's my solution: Let us group units with them. If we could build a couple of squads, move them to the Caravan that was already doing a route, and they would join the Caravan's group and allow us to forget about it (and thusly protect it in combat), it would be a far greater irritation to the end user, and thusly more fun. I think this is the best solution of all the ones I've seen. A few people have suggested that you make caravans unattackable, I think that's a poor idea as it makes them an indestructible income source.
9. Purchasing of items for the Sovereign and Champions are ridiculously overpriced. I would again suggest simulating the Forging aspect by converting their costs out of Gold (when buying from your own country of course) and into their material/metal/crystal components, I think this would go a long way to being more fun and less irritating. (ty Kilsonx)
10. Random loot. Getting gold from killing things is well and good, and the main way I fund my growing empire as well. However it would be nice if we got random drops now again. Things like Health Pots and Scrolls (1-off spells), wands, things that I realize aren't in the game but really should be. Rings. Midnight Stones. Heck, a pair of pants. (ty again, Kilsonx!)
11. Variety in items. There's a fellow working on a mod (I wish I could remember who because I want to give him a shameless plug here, and so I did: https://forums.elementalgame.com/394174 one plug for Kenata for his mod) that I've talked to on IRC that is adding status effects and various things to different weapons to make some variety. Yes, there's the choice of Swords v Hammers for "Fast" versus "Brute", but that's not really good enough. I'm not one that sees the need for the piercing/slashing/blunt differential. I don't really care about that. You can create variation without having damage be non-static for various enemies. In fact I've often found that to be incredibly annoying. Why is a slashing weapon weaker against a skeleton in D&D? It will cut through bone, and when it cuts through bone the skeleton falls apart. That's arbitrary and really an annoyance. The ability to imbue items with spell effects (I have this nice Short Sword here. I would like to make it do fire damage. *Wachow!*) would be a very good start. Scrapping much of the item system and rebuilding it with a forging system would be optimal, however I am not unrealistic and realize that that is not exactly a possibility. In lieu of that, adding a forging system would be a help, and I believe you are working on that for enchanting items and such?
Beyond those fairly extreme examples, that fellow's mod (that I would really like to plug, I will find a link or something and add it I swear) is a good start. Some weapons will trigger a bleed effect, some will stun, some will slow an enemy's movement. Now, I think he is going a bit too far with it by applying this sort of thing to every weapon. I think it should have the core weapons that don't add effects (for instance the sword lines), and some that do (maces - stun, axes - bleed, etc), but it would offer good reasons for variation. Right now the only variation really necessary is what's cheaper so you can afford larger squads and still 1-shot the enemy. (Semi-ty to Kilsonx again )