So basically what you're saying Derek is that there is a limited amount of features that can go into a game? How do you feel about games like Dwarf Fortress that just have so many features and make such a living world out of their design. I mean with anything I've ever played, it seems that complexity makes the game more real and immersive. Now granted, I understand how too much complexity and not good implementation can have a bad effect on video games since then it just becomes a chore to play.
However, one thing I've never understood is why features are based around simple math instead of components that make our lives realistic? We wouldn't have to see it, see the math behind the screens, but how does Dwarf Fortress- a game made by two brothers in their free time- have such an advanced combat system and realistic story telling, while a game like Elemental with a whole team of people does not?
While people hark on the main game of Dwarf Fortress for its lack of UI and graphics, the system and features behind all that are really really advanced and I think it is a direct correlation with how alive the world feels in that game. Also with how immersive it is, and how it draws you in and makes you feel its more than just a game. If you haven't played it Derek, I'd recommend it, and please help me to understand the differences in implementation between these two games. Thanks
Such a good question.
I have played dwarf fortress a bit, I'm ashamed to say that I can't get beyond the ascii graphics to what looks like an incredible game beyond. But I know what you are talking about.
The rules of design ambition vs execution are true for both games. Are true for all games (and all projects for that matter). Dwarf fortresses most obvious place where it sacrificed features is in the graphics engine. If you wanted beautifully rendered environments, if you wanted to see see those custom halls, if you wanted realistic animation and movement from all the creatures in the world, if you wanted to see the lighting changes from the sun setting behind the mountains. Well, those would all be design decisions with significant implementation costs.
So its not that Dwarf Fortress isn't faced with the same project realities as everyone else. It is a project with an ambitious design that has opted to focus in a particular area. That design is well executed (they have done an amazing job) and they have focused on creating a complex environment. But I promise you as they considered their design they thought through the same impact on implementation as I did above.
The other thing that is interesting about Dwarf Fortress is that it has been in development for 9 years. That's a lot of time.
Also people underestimate how much polish costs. It seems like the heart of the game should take 80% of your time and polish is the last 10-20%. It's much much higher. Some people need polish, and some people don't. So for some all the time spent on polish may seem like a waste.
I think of that when I consider the 1.1 patch (heavy on features) and the 1.2 patch (heavy on polish). Now 1.1 was in development for a lot longer, so its definitely the more impacting patch. But in general some people will love 1.1, because it added features and not care much for 1.2 (if you already know where everything is improving the UI may not mean much). Others may have been frustrated with the things 1.1 added when their were still issues like those addressed by 1.2 in the game.
3d graphics are also a huge consideration. I often wonder if the move to 3d was good or bad for gaming. I don't know the real numbers but I expect that an artist could make 25-50 2d monsters in the time it takes to create 1 3d monster. Talk about implementation considerations from design decisions, the decision to go to 3d is a huge one.
Add up all your preferences as a gamer, how much do graphics matter, how much complexity can you tolerate, what systems are to simple to interest you, do you like flavor or is it worthless (we are working hard to get more flavor into Elemental, but that isn't important to some gamers), and a hundred different criteria and you will have the game that is perfect for you. For some Dwarf Fortress falls at their personal sweet spot. For others other criteria are more important (I need to make a "choose your dream game" survey where you fill these things out and it tells you where you fall).
I've only been working on Elemental for 3 months, so I'm the wrong person to ask about comparing its development cycle to anything. So I can't comment on that part. Only that in creating FE I had to consider all the features I wanted to add vs their implementation costs. As well as if they were fun, if they were something the player would want to be focusing on, do they resonate with the rest of the game or do they distract from it, etc. These are the same things the folks making Dwarf Fortress have to consider.