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 5)
on Aug 01, 2010

That's a good disscount compared to what you guys get gouged at.  I noticed at least the Aussie prices when I used an Aussie proxy were in line with the US prices (I did check due to a thread on another forum)


The reason it's so "expensive" is because your currency is weaker right now, it's the same $50 we Americans are paying.  It's a global price- you aren't getting gouged.  If the pound was $1.80 like it was before Europe started worrying about the other white meat, it would be less then what it is now.

Stardock's policy is to charge one price globally whenever it can.  Other publishers don't do this.


To the person who asked if England would be able to buy DD.  Yes, you can.  The only places SD won't sell to are those that they're not allowed to by US law.  So Kim Jong-Il, no Elemental for you  .  You can have Desperate Housewives instead (heard he loves that show)

 

 

on Aug 01, 2010

" 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 remember, as a child, sitting down to read the 100+ page manual to the NES version of Ultima IV, and loving every minute of it.  They even had a section in there talking about secret passageways and showing you where several were in the towns in the game!  Talk about a complete manual.  I never beat that game, as I was 8 and didn't quite understand it, but I fondly remember it and that manual.

on Aug 01, 2010




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.

Imo these are the most problematic parts of the game right now [top3]:

1. Tactical Combat. The TC is way too simple right now, but lot of things will be improved, like special abilities will be added etc., so it should be ok for release. Also we need a more informative UI for tactical combat. [Damage types, armor resistances etc. should be listed as well!] The battle maps are extremely small. Even the smallest should be bigger, and the size of the maps should grow dynamically based on the total number of units/groups involved in a battle.

2. Spells/Magic System. I agree with you Froggie. Most of the spells are boring. We need much more unique spells. -> Diversity = Fun!

3. The AI. It's still bad. Period.

That being said, some features are working like a charm already. Example: Unit Design. I just love it!

PS: Casters should not get to cast spells more than 1 per turn. -> I don't like this idea.

on Aug 01, 2010

arstal

The reason it's so "expensive" is because your currency is weaker right now, it's the same $50 we Americans are paying.  It's a global price- you aren't getting gouged.  If the pound was $1.80 like it was before Europe started worrying about the other white meat, it would be less then what it is now.
 

 

I understand that it's a global price, but when that policy makes your game more expensive at launch in certain countries than 99% of the other games (approaching twice as expensive, in the case of games that can be had for £18 at launch), maybe you should rethink it.  If people can only afford one game purchase in a particular time period and can't decide, they'd usually go for the cheaper option.

on Aug 01, 2010

Frogboy
Spells a Casting Time?

Definitely something we can look at but it'll be a post release update. Not enough time to implement and balance.

Yeah Casting Time is a must...why? Example -> Low tier caster: Able to cast 1 fireball / turn, High tier caster: Able to cast 2-3 fireballs / turn, because they are more experienced magic users afterall. So while casting a fireball takes the same amount of time for these units, the high tier caster has a bigger "time pool".

on Aug 01, 2010

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.

I must say that with the exception of Demigod, for which you had to fight for same release day, Gal Civ II and SoaSE were very delayed in their distribution in my country. In fact, Gal Civ II was released almost when you released Dark Avatar...
Certainly, people that doesn't believe in digital distribution (and shipping from the Uncle Sam country) is not going to be happy of the lack of retail presence.

Anyway, I still vote for an FX Interactive release in Spain and Italy of Elemental at a nice cost of 19.95€.  I'd certainly buy some extra copies.

on Aug 01, 2010

> 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.

 

I am an American living in a semi-autonomous province of a European country.  When games do physically hit the shelves here, the price is awfully high.  With Elemental, I am biting the bullet, and I have pre-ordered the CE game.  I will pay the extra for shipping, but I am confident it will be worth it.

To keep things easy for Europeans, two things... (1) It is frustrating for me to see a downloadable game advertised, but when I check on it, I find it is only available for download in the USA.  Please avoid this when possible.  (2) Allow PayPal whenever possible.  It is very difficult to get my credit cards accepted by automated systems, given my mailing address.  With PayPal, I just go through the hassle once, and then all is good.

I remember the glory days of Ultima 3 and 4 well, especially the cloth map.  I am looking forward to something as amazing with Elemental!

on Aug 01, 2010

WAIT WAIT WAIT! NOT in Europe?WTF!?!? im in Western Europe and I NEVER buy digital copys :/ i just HATE them if it wont be in Cyprus by the 26th im just downloading it illegally off piratesbay or somethin I aint waiting till this is in my shity country russia yes europe no i should have stayed in russia i am SO fucking pissed coz this was the only game i am planning to buy in the past 2 years

on Aug 01, 2010

Heart Shaped Man

I understand that it's a global price, but when that policy makes your game more expensive at launch in certain countries than 99% of the other games (approaching twice as expensive, in the case of games that can be had for £18 at launch), maybe you should rethink it.  If people can only afford one game purchase in a particular time period and can't decide, they'd usually go for the cheaper option.

 

Which is their choice. It's the same thing here. If someone can only buy one game, and they like all the games they have their eye on the same, then they probably will buy the cheaper one. There are games here that are $29.99 at launch. Does that mean Stardock should also charge just $29.99? Heck, SC 2 is more expensive than Elemental here. It's $60 and $100 vs Elemental's $50 and $70 - so no sympathy here

Of course, if I don't like the cheaper games - I will buy Elemental, which I have - the LE, which is over 2x as much as other games in some cases.

As far as where £31.85 came from:

US$50 / 1.56 US$ to Pound rate = £31.85

Stardock isn't trying to rip the UK off. If they were, they'd charge £50 like the time OOTP came out with one version and charged the same amount of US$ and Euros. THAT was ripping off Europe.

 

on Aug 01, 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

What about being able to pick an ability that allows multiple attacks per turn no matter your "class" when making a custom sovereign

I have a hard time imagining a fantasy setting where the savior/destroyer of the land being taken down by a small group of weak enemies the sovereign is suppose to be a walking legend even if rather weak at the start.

on Aug 01, 2010

Blazerules
WAIT WAIT WAIT! NOT in Europe?WTF!?!? im in Western Europe and I NEVER buy digital copys :/ i just HATE them if it wont be in Cyprus by the 26th im just downloading it illegally off piratesbay or somethin I aint waiting till this is in my shity country russia yes europe no i should have stayed in russia i am SO fucking pissed coz this was the only game i am planning to buy in the past 2 years
SO you have no problems pirating (and saying so in public) but do have problems with digital copies? Really?

Anyway, weren't you the one with too much money? Order a physical copy from Stardock, you cheap... "user".

on Aug 01, 2010

i just cut the middle man out and got the CE from the get-go   i can't wait for my nostalgia to be finally quiet!!! (i'll probobaly not touch another computer game for awhile) and another thing im looking forward to is these ongoing updates. i never really expected something like that. thats just like icing on the icing of the cake there. i might die from elemental icing overdose

on Aug 01, 2010

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

so thats where DNF has been hiding...

on Aug 01, 2010

CDProjeckt does distribution in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Might be worth giving them a ring to see what they can do for the Eastern European crowd.

on Aug 01, 2010

Heart Shaped Man

I understand that it's a global price, but when that policy makes your game more expensive at launch in certain countries than 99% of the other games (approaching twice as expensive, in the case of games that can be had for £18 at launch), maybe you should rethink it.  If people can only afford one game purchase in a particular time period and can't decide, they'd usually go for the cheaper option.

Depends on where you are. That same policy has made games cheaper in Canada, thanks to the stronger Canadian dollar. We had a long period of time where the best way to buy games was digitally, because the retail markup was far beyond what the exchange rate should be.