Note: I know you don't like super-long posts, Chief, but this one is worth reading (IMO), I promise.
That was one of the problems with WOM. When you try to be all things to all people you end up disappointing everyone.
Very true, very true indeed. I do remember now it being a screen-shot from the way the old system was set up during internal testing. Still, looking back on the last conversation we had discussing the way you envisioned the changes to tactical battles for the later versions, I thought it sounded pretty epic. Sovereign's bouncing spells back and forth, countering spells with other spells or interruptions, plus the massive armies fighting all around them. The image in my head of your description was of truly epic conflicts being fought out.
If you go to the GameSpot video here: http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/elementalwarofmagicfallenenchantress/video/6300944?hd=1
Scroll down to the bottom and see a rather rude comment by someone named "Rush Gremlin". While obviously I don't agree with the majority of his comment where he's bad mouthing the game, he does seem like a rude little douche-bag after all, his last sentence says "It would be better if you could build massive armies.", which IMO is the only part of his comment worth mentioning. It's gotten 3 "thumbs up" and 2 "thumbs down". Granted that's not many, but also I don't think the video has very many comments at all which should say something about the overall excitement (or lack there of) by players as a whole about the upcoming expansion. There are a lot of videos on GameSpot, articles too, that have page after page after page of replies. It's definitely not a lack of interest in the genre that's keeping the comment count low. Unfortunately I'd say it's the lack of the game to deliver "epic feeling game-play" where the battles are concerned.
In contrast, go to this link of the older GameSpot article here entitled: Elemental: War of Magic Updated Q&A - Progress Report and Improvements Over GalCiv
Look at How Many Comments that posting on GameSpot generated. Also notice the first picture shown is that original picture of the massive armies. It has 8 Pages of Comments. Take the time out to read through some of those comments, Chief. See what the majority of them say? Allow me to quote some of them:
Posted Feb 10, 2010 8:47 pm PT
Hummm... I must have to say, this looks awesome!
Of course, we all realize Elemental's defining inspiration is MoM, as it should be, but, I also remember your dev journal posts from way back, over two years ago now, where you talked about Elemental being a mix between MoM and Total War (except in turn based obviously). It's my opinion that the majority of war/strategy game players these days want and expect massive, epic battles. Your previous hit titles like Gal Civ 1&2 and it's expansions all have massive battles, which I think is part of the reason why (from a game-play standpoint) that they were such a commercial hit.
In my advice, which is also just my opinion (and we all know about people and their opinions...heh) would be to go back and re-evaluate your initial vision from back in the early days of conceptualizing your vision. Also go through your chat history in Skype and re-read the last conversation we had (I think I have it saved some-where if you'd like me to send it to you) and what you were telling me you'd like to do, which greatly resembles in part your initial vision of a MoM/TW turn based hybrid. Of course we understand resources like man-hours and money are limited, but, I really think it would be well worth the investment to bring that vision to life in Fallen Enchantress.
For a look at what kind of buzz it would generate, just look at the bigger war/strategy games out there like the up-coming Shogun2 and some of their past commercial hits. Take a look at SoaSE as well. I think it's proven that players Love massively epic battles and that's really one of the only things IMO that's missing in Elemental. We do have some pretty big battles in Elemental, and some of them do a good job of capturing that feeling, but I think we can do better . For a good example of how many players want the epic battles, go back and look at the "Petition Thread" as well and count the possitive comments. There are Tons of players in that, far more than were against it, that wanted to see huge battles like those shown in the now infamous picture so many people raved about. That picture alone built up a TON of Positive Buzz for Elemental. In this thread someone also mentioned the animations where only one guy was doing the attacking and defending while the other members of his unit just stood back. I would recommend fixing that issue. Take the time it takes to animate all the members of an attacking and defending unit. Even if you only slightly increase unit sizes, having them all be animated during attacks would help greatly to bring the more "epic feeling" to fruition.
Granted I don't know the costs associated with paying animators, but, you already have the animations for one guy doing the attacks. Those same animations can be applied to all the members of a unit, and just set the timing slightly different for when each individual in a unit starts his attack animation and do the same for the defending units. I think the cost would be minimal while the affect on the feeling of the game would be Maximum. I truly believe the players would buzz about it and praise would be heaped upon you and the dev team as is truly deserved for making such an awesome game.
Thanks for the reply and the info Chief This is why we players love you guys, because we know you listen to your player base and use our input (within reason of course).