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 4)
on Aug 01, 2010

I'm European too. It's a pity that currently there is no real option to get the CE edition (I assume shipping would eat a lot of money) as it would be a real burner to get it. Nevertheless, I will stay with the DD edition - at least this option is available for us Europeans

on Aug 01, 2010

2. The other part of me that's more logical says "if the spell is something like *hurl boulder* then the armor will protect against the boulder. A boulder isn't magical even if it is being thrown by magical means so the armor should logically block part of the damage.".

That only make sense if a ligthning blast will do more damage to metal armors.

Or a fire blast do more damage to leather armor.

Or a lightning blast can chain if enemies have a pointy metal stick.

Or a frozen blast could make your enemies prone (hard to keep balance on a frozen soil)

Or an earthquake would prevent enemies caught by it to move.

Or a vapor strike could make your enemies bunrt and blind.

Or ...

 

I should stop dreaming.

 

on Aug 01, 2010

Raven X

2. The other part of me that's more logical says "if the spell is something like *hurl boulder* then the armor will protect against the boulder. A boulder isn't magical even if it is being thrown by magical means so the armor should logically block part of the damage.".

Option two makes more sense from a realistic point of view, of course that's being "realistic" in a world full of "magic", so realism is a stretch anyway. In the end it should boil down to which ever system is the most Fun to play.

 

Option 2 works IF there are actual damage types in the game. For example, if a boulder does physical damage, it does make sense that physical armor can deflect it.

However, if physical armor can deflect a lightning bolt - that doesn't make sense. Armor that can deflect electrical damage should be needed.

If there's damage types, it makes sense to have armor give varying levels of defense.

Personally, I'd like it to be actual values like for weapon damage:

Armor A

Physical Defense: 3

Fire Defense: 0

Electrical Defense: -3

Ice Defense: 0

Air Defense: 4

Earth Defense: 4

 

But modifiers work just as well:

Physical Defense: 130

Fire Defense: 100

Electrical Defense: 70

Ice Defense: 100

Air Defense: 140

Earth Defense: 140

 

And the damage formula would be Spell Damage / (Defense Modifier / 100).  So a physical attack of 10 damage would do 7 damage against Armor A, but an Electrical Attack would do 14 damage.

 

Having the values (first set) would make it easier to calculate all the pieces. Then derive the damage factors by multiplying by 10 and adding to 100, then dividing that sum by 100. So if a character's armor added up to +2 defense in some category, that would be 120 Defense Modifier in that category (then that would be turned into 1.2 in the damage formula).

on Aug 01, 2010

I live in England, will I be able to download this via impulse still?

The reason I ask is that some games in Impulse will not let me download, its says something like sorry, this item is not available in your region.

on Aug 01, 2010

Fuck Europe. And I live there. If you can't make a reasonable profit, stick with DD. If you can't make it work, stick with DD.

 

on Aug 01, 2010

 

Heavenfall
Fuck Europe. And I live there. If you can't make a reasonable profit, stick with DD. If you can't make it work, stick with DD.

 

Agreed. It's usually cheaper to get it from e-bay anyway if you need the box... Can't even remember the last time I bought a game in a store.

on Aug 01, 2010

How about Gamestop in Europe?? I have a gamestop 10 kilometers from where I live (in Norway). But ofcourse I have Impulse preorder

on Aug 01, 2010

Regarding the availability of the game:

Per your explanation, I understand I won't be able to buy a retail copy of the game a store. In that case, I have a question, or rather a request, regarding the download-able product: Suppose I download the game. Can I then burn it on a DVD, and then install and play it from that DVD without any internet connection? I plan to make full use of the offline features of the game, but I want to make sure that I can get those features out of the download-able version as well.

on Aug 01, 2010

I'm excited and also can't wait till the 24th, but it does "suck" that Europe gets the short end of the stick. I don't blame Stardock though. Europe is a maze of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic nonesense. It does explain why my favourite retailer didn't know about the game. I pestered them a lot about it.

I'll be getting the game via DD then. The problem however is that I can't pre-order or something. Paypal doesn't do pre-orders and sadly, Paypal is my only option. Do you intend to release the CE content as a pdf in a few years? I hate to miss out on background info because I couldn't pre-order the CE.

on Aug 01, 2010

Gazing
Regarding the availability of the game:

Per your explanation, I understand I won't be able to buy a retail copy of the game a store. In that case, I have a question, or rather a request, regarding the download-able product: Suppose I download the game. Can I then burn it on a DVD, and then install and play it from that DVD without any internet connection? I plan to make full use of the offline features of the game, but I want to make sure that I can get those features out of the download-able version as well.

 

Yes I believe.  No internet connection is required for the download version (once you've downloaded it of course )

on Aug 01, 2010

. I don't blame Stardock though. Europe is a maze of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic nonesense.

I love european bureaucracy ! I enjoy every time i have to make a new passport or identity card because i know that i am starting a 10 hours long adventure as absurd as the old Lucas Arts point and clik adventure games (with less monkey). Great memories and stories for all your family and friends to enjoy.

 

About Stardock, i am still sceptical about elemental but i sure acknowledge that you are very respectful of your customers. I like that.

on Aug 01, 2010

Hi !

Sorry I couldn't get involved as I wanted to for the Beta, like reporting bugs etc (life bytes). But it was rather pleasant to follow the processs . And in many ways, the ideas that were expressed in these forums were a lot better than mine, so it's all for the better !. Reading the lot of criticism (not trolling ) from Frogboy on the actual Beta (which I find quite enjoyable), I'm even more eager to see the release of the game.

I live in Europe (Belgium), I pre-ordered Elemental via Impulse, so in general it's not a big deal. I guess the issue with retail is localization, since there are so many languages in Europe and tons of people won't know English. So maybe it wouldn't sell well if not translated and therefore retailers are reluctant ? (I'm just curious here )

And I know some people that would simply not play Elemental because they would not understand the texts.

In my opinion, what would hinder purchase of the game via Impulse by let's say French speaking people like me :

- They would have to know it from somewhere !! I already convinced some of my friends to have a look at it via word of mouth. You have to make some advertising somewhere ! Canard PC should help you there for French speaking people since they made already great articles about the game.

- Second thing, again, many people can't handle English. And Impulse is (unless I've missed the option : I just looked for it so it is not obvious if it exists) in English only... Translating its interface in other languages (Spanish, French, German,...) would help maybe.

- Payment Method. Credit cards are not so common in Europe as I think they seem to be in the US. Well, they are but no for younger people, precisely the ones that are interested in video games. It's about to change with all the month-subscription games.

- In general, when I speak to people that buy games, digital distribution is not popular (yet), because they see it as a complicated process (understanding, account creation, payment).

Conclusion : localizing as much as possible. Both game and Impulse's interface.

on Aug 01, 2010

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.

I read that as European distributors wanting to sell at higher prices? Considering the games often cost as much in euros as they cost in US$... I'm happy to have it through Impulse. And I hate that many games are not available thru Impulse in Europe (told firaxis that about the civ IV complete version for instance).

  • The UI makes me cry. Clickity click click click. What’s going on?
  • 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)

UI for unit selection please? And for spells and magic.

Tactical combat is indeed boring but it just needs testing tweaking to turn it into something enjoyable. Too easy to abuse right now (please add a charge option to attack after moving).

Oh, very important too: Don't forget to work the AI!

on Aug 01, 2010

Gazing
Regarding the availability of the game:

Per your explanation, I understand I won't be able to buy a retail copy of the game a store. In that case, I have a question, or rather a request, regarding the download-able product: Suppose I download the game. Can I then burn it on a DVD, and then install and play it from that DVD without any internet connection? I plan to make full use of the offline features of the game, but I want to make sure that I can get those features out of the download-able version as well.

 

Impulse has an "archive" option once you have the game installed. That makes an offline copy you can restore from. Throw that on a DVD and you can reinstall from it.

You *might* need to be online to reactivate the game on a new computer (I'm not sure, haven't tried it while offline), but it lets you skip the download part. Anybody know if you can restore an Elemental archive while offline?

on Aug 01, 2010

European player here.  I have not played the beta but have been very much looking forward to Elemental.  I consider Stardock as one of the few companies that "understand" the games they make so always look out for their releases.

I'm very disappointed that EU will see no retail release.  For two main reasons:

1) I like having a box
2) Price

As backwards as it sounds, DD is always more expensive for the user (in the UK anyway) than retail.  You can get new PC releases from online retailers for as low as £18, but usually £25.

Steam (is that a banned word here? Heh) usually has new releases for £25 or £30, but you don't get a box.

Impulse?  For some reason, it is always the most expensive choice, which is why I rarely use it.  You want £31.85 to pre-order Elemental.  Where did you get this number from?  The only time I've ever had to pay more than £30 for a new PC game is Modern Warfare 2, which was £35.  Starcraft 2, if I was so inclined, would be the same price.

I know, I know, it's only £1.85.  But that is £1.85 over the absolute maximum I usually pay for games. So the question is quite blunt; why isn't it cheaper?  I fully appreciate that Stardock should be well rewarded financially for their hard work, but why isn't your own game cheaper than RRP over your own content delivery platform?  At this price, Elemental has gone from a definite purchase without me even thinking - simply because it is Stardock's new baby - to me waiting for reviews and what my peers think of it.

I see that Impulse even offers the Limited Edition box for sale at £45-ish.  Quite expensive, but I'd get a box and it has extra stuff.  My excitement was quickly killed when I saw that you wanted £12 for delivery though.

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