Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

imageAugust 24th…HURRY UP!

First off, we’re so ready to not be dealing with the beta content. If I have to deal with “You got Gildar!” one more time I’m going to scream. If I go into a tactical battle able to cast a half dozen spells per turn with a single unit I think I’ll curl up. Dealing with the UI as it is in beta 4 makes me cringe.

But it’s more than that. A lot more than that.

What is Elemental? What can you expect? How can you explain it to other people?

I’ve been bedeviled with this issue for months when marketing wants me to explain what Elemental is.

Consider this, my friends: How often do you see new AAA franchises begun? It’s pretty rare. And for good reason. Those of you in the beta understand.  When you are building on a sequel, if there’s something not done, you can just point to the previous  version’s code. In Elemental, we had nothing.

Moreover, when was the last time a new strategy game was made from scratch using the computing resources of 2010 versus  being tied to decade old design decisions? I remember in GalCiv, every time I wanted to eliminate its awful painful economic system (5 sliders!) I’d get screamed at by the community.

So again: What is Elemental?

The released version of Elemental is 3 things:

1. It’s a strategic RPG game (The Campaign = Book 1: Relias).

2. It’s a stand-alone strategy game (The sand box, which is where the beta has been about).

3. It’s a platform (The modding tools). The campaign is made with the mod tools.

The Campaigns for Elemental: War of Magic are broken into at least 3 books. The first book comes with the game. Relias. It’s had its own development team dedicated to just it and you guys haven’t seen it.  Here’s some hints: There is NO technology tree in it. It’s where all the cut scenes and Random House work has been going into and it rocks. Future books will be released in the future.

The stand alone game changes dramatically from week to week based on your feedback. And that’s the way we like it. I’ll be sad when the beta ends only because I really like hearing your ideas and criticisms. We get so inspired by some of the great ideas that the community has come up with.

We will really need to sit back and take an inventory on just how much of a massive impact for good that the beta has had.  Consider just the economic and research systems and how much better they are from our original concept.

Now, I do regret that those of you playing beta 4 will not easily recognize the final game. I mean that literally. The final game will look quite a bit different in terms of UI and gameplay. There are good reasons to hold back on this stuff until as late as possible.

Then there’s the platform.  Originally, we were going to make it all Python driven. But then we realized just how much we could do with XML. Eventually, we’ll expose in-game APIs as Python so people can do even more. But I have to say, the XML data driving has been a real game changer (did I mention that the campaign was done purely in XML?) As an old C programmer, I find this stuff amazing. Seriously, look at some of the spell books. How did they do randomization in XML? I don’t know. But they did it. I take back all the mean things I’ve said about Web developers and XML developers.

Stardock: We’re an indie

It’s not readily known but Stardock is one of the oldest game companies in the industry. Our first released game came out in 1994.  We were an OS/2 developer until 2000 so it’s only been in the past 10 years that most people have heard of our games.  But because we’re an indie with our own platform (Impulse) we can do as many updates as we want as often as we want. 

Let’s talk about the post-release updates:

1. The reviews and sales do not affect this. Even if people hate it, we love it. And we’ll keep working on it long after release because we love Elemental. We’re dedicated to it. And Stardock’s existence isn’t predicated on Elemental’s success.

2. Our updates are OPTIONAL. If you buy the retail DVD, you don’t have to update (at least not initially, we may get to a point with the modding tools this Fall where we’ll need people to update so that they can partake but we’ll see).

3. The point about optional updates matters. Because we will continue to make substantial updates to the game as time goes on. If you like the game as-is, you don’t have to update (unless you play MP).  But the beta community and us are constantly coming up with new ideas and I’m sure release players will have their own ideas.  I’d still like to see dungeon crawls in.  If you’ve played with the map editor, you’ll see we already support making Dungeons. I.e. we’ve already spent a lot of $$$ making art assets so you can make your own dungeons. But the game itself doesn’t have them. Yet.

4. We’re here.  When you’re on the forums, you’re not talking to just some support people (they’re here too! Hi guys!). You get to talk to us directly. We’ll agree, disagree, or give feedback.

Where will the game be available?

Okay, so here’s the deal on that:

In North America, you’re set.  Walmart, Best Buy, Gamestop have all been in the beta (yes, their buyers do play the games before they pick them up). And they all plan to carry it.  Pretty much everyone who carries PC games in North America will be carrying it.

Australia. They’re all set too. It’ll be at retail in Australia.

Russia. Yep. They’re set up too believe it or not.

Europe…Well, not so much. There are currently no plans to have a retail presence in Europe. I don’t want to talk too much about this lest I get into trouble but let’s just say, our previous games have been available in retail in western Europe and as much as we like making a nickel per copy sold, we think we’ll pass this time. The retail situation in Europe is just insane and in the age of digital distribution, we’re just not willing to put up with it anymore. One world. One price.  If there’s anything that would make the lives of Europeans easier in terms of getting the game via Impulse, let us know. I know people.

The Collector’s Edition

The response from retailers on the Collector’s Edition has been unexpectedly strong.  Having lots of in-box stuff (the Elemental CE box is going to be fat) seems to have hit a note with retailers and so many of them are picking it up.  We plan to only do one manufacturing run because well, frankly, the profit margins on the collector’s edition isn’t as good as the standard edition but even still, if you can afford it, get it. Holy cow is it awesome. If you miss the golden age of PC games (included 150+ of reading material, figurines, cloth maps, posters, etc.) get the collector’s edition.  As someone who has gone to bed reading various Civilization manuals over the years (and who can forget Ultima IV!?) the CE version really does make the case IMO as to why it’s good to give customers more than merely a piece of digital media.

What’s going to be better than Beta 4? What isn’t changing?

I think it’s pretty well known I don’t like Beta 4. I’m not a troll. I’m the designer. I’ll bullet point my gripes:

  • Casters should not get to cast spells more than 1 per turn.
  • The UI makes me cry. Clickity click click click. What’s going on?
  • Goodie huts are boooring.
  • The spells are booooring.
  • Tactical combat is boooring.
  • The spell books are confusing and make me feel violated and I’ve already consulted my attorneys about the issue. (Sorry Stardock, it’s too late already)
  • The spells are all the same and boring.

These are the kinds of things people can expect to change by release.  Technical people can tell you that this stuff is pretty trivial. Making a game is a lot like writing a term player expect that we have to program the word processor prior to actually writing the term paper. After programming the word processor, writing the term paper doesn’t seem so bad.

So we’re all here. Ready to make gaming history! Only 24 days remaining! Of course, bear in mind that Beta 4 and Beta 3C were only 7 days apart. So what I’m saying is that Elemental 1.0 on August 24th is going to be a first person shooter. Enjoy.


Comments (Page 1)
on Jul 31, 2010

This is why I love Stardock!!

on Jul 31, 2010

I agree with the points you've made with Beta4. I also can't wait for dungeon crawls!

on Jul 31, 2010


 Making a game is a lot like writing a term player

Whats a term player???


On a more related note, I cant wait for the game!

on Jul 31, 2010

NOOOOOO not a FPS!!! Lies, it's all lies!

 

Seriously, nice. This is my first Stardock game (I don't count Demigod) so I'm seeing all this for the first time and loving it.

on Jul 31, 2010

Oh boy, I love first person shooters!

on Jul 31, 2010

Elemental: War of Magic: the Turn-Based Strategy Role-Playing Game with a Massively Multiplayer Modding Platform behind it.  That's TBS/RPG/MMMP for you acronym-lovers.

on Jul 31, 2010

 

...snip...
What’s going to be better than Beta 4? What isn’t changing?
I think it’s pretty well known I don’t like Beta 4. I’m not a troll. I’m the designer. I’ll bullet point my gripes:

  • Casters should not get to cast spells more than 1 per turn.

...snip...

Before you get married to just once per turn.

  • Consider a few factors, the damage and actual utility of the spells cast.
  • That being able to cast more than 1 spell per turn could be a rare or special trait.
  • Spell damage should be quite high with a higher minimum threshold vs DR, i.e. Spells should have a higher minimum damage to get past certain damage resistances (like almost all of them).

 

Well, beyond that. Everything else was quite interesting to read. I'm looking forward to the real the game in 24 days. (I also have vacation timed for it's release, so that's exciting.)

And I have to say, it's exciting how much this game has changed. And how powerful of a game it really will be come the future.

If I had to explain this game.

It's a fantasy world engine. It's got several examples of different types of stories that can be told with it. From the RPG adventures of the "Campaign". To the Stand Alone Fantasy Sand Boxes, so they can explore their own dreams. To a great Fantasy Toolbox that comes with a gigantic swath of fun, that lets the creators inside, explore and build their fantasy world of their Own.

 

Congratulations again to the folks at Stardock. You've come a long way and have achieved a great event. It may not be fully realized by those testing it. But I stand by my words.. this game will be revolutionary. Because it holds so much inside, that it can morph into other aspects, to fulfill our greatest desires, to see our own works living and toiling under our own fingers.

on Jul 31, 2010

Pretty much, if it has Stardock's name/logo on it, I get it.

Seriously. This company puts out a ton of great stuff. EA? Meh. Hit and miss. Paradox, hit and miss.

Never (knock on wood) had a bad Stardock game. And if the day comes that Stardock puts out a bad game, well, it means that a hell of a lot has changed.

-raises cup of tea- Long live Stardock!

on Jul 31, 2010


The Collector’s Edition
The response from retailers on the Collector’s Edition has been unexpectedly strong.  Having lots of in-box stuff (the Elemental CE box is going to be fat) seems to have hit a note with retailers and so many of them are picking it up.  We plan to only do one manufacturing run because well, frankly, the profit margins on the collector’s edition isn’t as good as the standard edition but even still, if you can afford it, get it. Holy cow is it awesome. If you miss the golden age of PC games (included 150+ of reading material, figurines, cloth maps, posters, etc.) get the collector’s edition.  As someone who has gone to bed reading various Civilization manuals over the years (and who can forget Ultima IV!?) the CE version really does make the case IMO as to why it’s good to give customers more than merely a piece of digital media.

I know you've detailed the CE previously, and I was more than enticed enough by the details to splurge on the upgrade, but this makes me sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy!  I remember the glory days of PC gaming when games like Master of Magic, Darklands, Ultima, Lords of the Realm, etc. came with an enormous amount of supplemental material.  Elemental is, for me, the culmination of what I've wanted from a PC game since Master of Magic.  As someone who has been in on the beta builds from the first one, I've been hesitant to call it the successor to MoM, but in many ways, for me at least, it is, despite the points of departure.  One thing I loved about Master of Magic was the wealth of additional materials that came with it.  As I recall, Master of Magic came with no less than three separate printed documents: the manual, a spell book detailing the magic system, and a story book (not to mention the enormous, full-on strategy guide, which still stands in my opinion as the greatest strategy guide ever written).  I remember I got Master of Magic as a Christmas present.  My parents wouldn't let me play it ahead of time, but they -did- let me take the documents out of the box and read them over the holidays.  I ate, lived, and DREAMED Master of Magic before I even played it, obsessing on every last word until I was able to boot up the game on my good ol' 486.  I say all of that to say this ... the supplementals for MoM made the game for me.    The promise of a similar approach with Elemental, and the simultaneous launch of the novel which I have pre-ordered (Kindle edition!) through Amazon, brings back much of the enthusiasm and anticipation for gaming that has dimmed with age and the shifting priorities of the PC game market. 

on Jul 31, 2010

Thanks for the update. I'm really looking forward to the game.

on Jul 31, 2010


 
I think it’s pretty well known I don’t like Beta 4. I’m not a troll. I’m the designer. I’ll bullet point my gripes:
Casters should not get to cast spells more than 1 per turn.

I'd like to campaign for a modification of that view to: "Casters should not be able to cast some spells more than 1 per turn." I've posted before in the tactical combat thread that I think casting time would be a great way to differentiate spell schools. Advanced tactical spells should take longer than simple ones. At the very least, casters should be able to get buffs, or skills or something to let dedicated casters cast multiple times per turn.

on Jul 31, 2010

So where is the Collector's Edition going to be sold in Australia?

Best regards,
Steven. 

on Jul 31, 2010

...So what I’m saying is that Elemental 1.0 on August 24th is going to be a first person shooter. Enjoy.

Excellent.  I look forward to a laggy multiplayer, US$15.00 maps, a moronic community, broken game balancing, a complete lack of custom content, broken ladders, inflated digitial cost and Steamworks restrictions all provided by an evil corporation run by an imbicile who doesn't understand the term 'good will'.  Oh wait, that's Modern Warfare 2.

on Jul 31, 2010

Bubble toast.

on Jul 31, 2010

GreekSeasoning
This is why I love Stardock!!

Quoted for truth. Stardock is by far my favorite gaming company.