Sorcerer King continues to get polished up. I suspect it’s the most polished game we’ve ever made as we’ve had so much extra time to work on it.
So what’s been happening?
Originally, we were going to release Sorcerer King in April. But we talked to our friends at other studios and realized that the Age of Wonders expansion and Pillars of Eternity were coming out during the same month. That’s a lot of fantasy in a short amount of time. With Galactic Civilizations coming out in May and E3 in June, we decided that July would be a good date.
As a result, the team has just kept working on Sorcerer King throughout all that time with the game getting increasingly fun and polished as a result.
What have you done with that extra time?
Asked someone. I dunno who. Someone. You there. The one reading this. You asked right?
When GalCiv III got released we learned a lot. For one thing, we learned that the initial impression is made in the first 6 minutes of play through. If you’re a game developer, make note of that time. that’s 360 seconds from the time they get to the main menu to the time they’ve largely decided whether they think the game is “good” or not.
A big part of that time is making sure the game has a coherent narrative. You have to explain to the player, immediately, what the game is about. And I can tell you, Asynchronous 4X doesn’t cut it.
Now, you guys and us know we have a fun game. But we have certain aspects of the game that have been a challenge. So let’s talk about that.
Fantasy Star Control
Sorcerer King is, in essence, fantasy Star Control at its root. You have a main bad guy who has already conquered everyone who is about to do some very bad stuff. You are the heroic leader trying to assemble a ragtag force to go deal with the main bad guy while along the way picking up allies.
There’s a big problem with this idea: Replayability. Sorcerer King has been trapped half-way between Star Control and a sandbox 4X.
While Sorcerer King has a pretty good campaign, it’s no where near as involved as what’s in Star Control. On the other hand, while Star Control doesn’t have a lot of replayability, it could live on its amazing story-driven campaign while Sorcerer King has been trying to have a much shorter (maybe 30 hour) campaign with the main meat of the game being the sandbox.
The problem with the sandbox, however, is that you can only beat the Sorcerer King so many times before you’ve “played the game” to its conclusion.
How do you solve a problem like Mirdoth?
So to succinctly recap:
Sorcerer King was envisioned as a sort of fantasy Star Control except where the maps are randomly generated each time. The player builds up a force, makes alliances and goes and confronts the main bad guy.
The strength of this is that the game is extremely fun the first several times you play. But eventually, you’ve played it.
How we’re addressing this
In an open sandbox game like Galactic Civilizations III or Civilization V, the solution is that every game is totally different. You have no idea, at the start, who are going to be your friends and enemies. You have no idea what resources you will be bargaining or how the placement of other civilizations will affect your game.
Sorcerer King, by contrast, isn’t an open sandbox. That’s because the Sorcerer King, by design, is a lot more powerful than the player up until the end (assuming you survive).
So how do you make such a game as replayable as say Galactic Civilizations?
- You create additional victory conditions
- You turn those minor civilizations into actual rivals
- You make sure that each sovereign you choose is really different
Additional Victory Conditions
Originally the only way to win was to confront and defeat the Sorcerer King in his fortress. However, we are going to add additional victory conditions including:
- Victory: The Tower of Sorcery (you build a tower and begin racing the Sorcerer King to gather enough magical might to throw throw him down (this is actually what happened in the book)
- Victory: Alliance. Gain the trust of all your rivals and you win. Easier said than done of course (easier on small maps with 1 opponent).
So the once minor factions are now full-blown Rivals who you can pick and choose in the game setup and give a difficulty level. If you conquer their city, they will start producing their specific unit for your use (you don’t have to manage conquered cities).
They now will try to found new cities as well and will go to war with each other.
You can trade and negotiate with them (though it’s not like the Trade screen but rather an RPG-like trade system instead – conversational).
From here on out, only Galor is the son of Relias. The others each have their own backstory and the way you interact with the world and with the Sorcerer King depends on which sovereign you have.
So there’s your update!