Nick - non-global mana was the achille's heel of this.
In the original design, global mana was a core game mechanic. Which isn't surprising since I ripped it er, I mean was inspired by Master of Magic on that.
However, our engine was not able to allow unit actions to make use of global resources until v1.09.
The mistake was thinking that we could turn mana into a local unit stat without it undermining the overall game mechanic.
People nitpick this or that about Elemental but IMO, that one issue ruined for me the whole game design. If there is a mistake of mistakes, it is that particular compromise.
So how did it happen?
Why did that happen?
Stardock policy: NO manager shall work fewer hours per week than anyone under their management including the CEO. If my guys were working 90 hours a week, I was working 100 hours a week. It was a bedrock principle. You do that for a few months and you'd be surprised at how "good" easier solutions start to look.
I find the Elemental launch endlessly fascinating (which I know I shouldn't bring up from a PR point of view) because experiencing first-hand some of the project development catastrophes I had previously only read about has been a real eye opener.
When I yelled at Ben over on Qt3 when he suggested the game wasn't ready, I was 10X angrier than even my post implied. The game was ready. Only a horrible evil terrible no good very bad person could even imagine it wasn't the case. At least, until we got to take a few days off and sleep and look at things from a fresh perspective. It's a lesson to be learned by any developer.
And the most concrete example of that lesson was the compromise on global mana.