I posted this in another thread (one on City Spam) and then showed it to a couple friends who were online, and they goaded me into putting it into it's own thread in the "Idea" section, here.
So ... keep in mind, I am not a game developer, I am merely a professional-idea-person & professional BSer. Still, I welcome comments and discussion beyond "stfu" and/or "____ or GTFO".
I also will mention a couple other games in the post - this is not to say "Elemental should be like ____ " but more to just give those that have played other games an easier time envisioning what I have rattling around in my head.
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I've thought about this a little, and if I was a modder I'd probably try and design this system (if it was possible) just to see how it plays out, but ... here was my rough idea:
- You can only build on land that is "reclaimed" (In my mind, reclaimed land looks more lively than it does now. Either by making the unclaimed land look even MORE dead/barren, or the reclaimed land more bright and obviously alive -- think of how Disciples3 had obvious differences in terrain elements depending on which kingdom was in control of the lands that were stark differences to the default "dead" landscape)
- Your Sovereign can start the process by building the first settlement (and the ZOC grows around it and reclaims land). You can then only build new things within that ZOC. (The Sov are, after all, the only ones with the power to make the world nice again.)
- ZOC would have to grow rather quickly, and probably reach further, instead of the current system - resources would have to have a set distance they added bonuses to the city, or like now, have diminishing returns (balanced of course) so one city nations aren't really all that feasible, but possible for those wanting to do small map 1-city games. --- Think, like the Civ4 Culture system, resources are useful close to the city .. but the cultural borders will expand beyond that.
- Perhaps if your Sovereign is stationed in a city and channeled power in some way, the ZOC of that city grows faster. That would force a trade off between using your Sov to fight, or staying in town/defending town to push ZOC faster. If the Sov-push effect was per-city, it'd also have you running around, deciding which city's ZOC you want to boost, making a spamming mechanic harder and adding at least some level of strategy to how ZOC work beyond "spam it". If channeler children pushed ZOC or not would depend on balance issues. --Again, think Civ4 ... the Sov can boost the cultural border to expand faster, like certain Wonders in Civ4. Your Sov is a walking wonder, after all.
- Pioneers do not create new pockets of ZOC (no more running around spamming cities). New cities must be build within the reclaimed ZOC.
- Shards can be made important in this system. Maybe they spread their own ZOC when tapped, or boost the speed your Sov's ZOC expands. Maybe they can only be tapped by your Sov (it has to stand there and channel at them for a while, or fight strong guardian monsters utilizing the quest mechanics) and it'll start reclaiming area around it for your kingdom.
- I'd like to see the shards influence the world even just cosmetically. When tapped they should expand their influence to the area around them. Fire shards turn a few tiles around them into desert ... water would spawn swamp ... earth would grow hilly or something, or forest ... having them even just remotely alter the landscape and make it instantly more "vibrant" and colorful around them gives them a "wow" factor.
That, to me, makes the lore fit (Sov is very important to fixing the world again) and instead of city spam, you'd have a more gradual domino effect ... as first city ZOC grows, you place further cities to grab resources and push their ZOC, expanding your bubble outward. No more random pioneer "plops" all over the map to eat up space as fast as possible to deny the AI resources and remove monster spawns.
It also makes the mini-factions more important, since they come with a built city and ZOC. Capturing them gives you a new map area to expand from (if there was a way added to increase the ZOC from their outposts ... or maybe just by utilizing the Sov-push method above). They'd probably have to be beefed up to avoid people rushing them to expand faster, but that is another gameplay balance issue that is up in the air.
Taking over the big AI factions is also more important, as absorbing their ZOC gives you more to work with. <-- This also helps explain why enemy ZOC, cities, etc .. just "vanish" if their Sov dies. Without a Sovereign to keep the ZOC bubble going, the world collapses back in on itself and everything/everyone winks out of existence. By taking over their cities and ZOC you are basically protecting the resources/cities/people from inevitable nonexistence when you banish their Sovereign from the world.
All the sudden .. lore fits better .. game is less "crank out pioneers" and more "I'm pushing back the darkness and remaking the world in my image".
It'd have to balance well for game speed to be fun at all levels ... you wouldn't want to force players to sit in town for 10 turns doing nothing while the ZOC expands, for example, but it could be less exploitful' than the current system.