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 7)
on Aug 01, 2010

Paypal is fine for released games or during open beta periods. It just can't do the delayed charges so you can't preorder with it while orders are on queue.

on Aug 01, 2010

Its pretty funny how Im going to pay more for a Stardock game than a AAA (I consider this to be about money spent btw) title with millions spent on the graphics alone from most other developers. Nevermind the shipping if I wanted a box.

So getting a european publisher will make the game cost the standard price in europe which is usually about £25 (dosn't competition suck eh?) thus getting you much less than normal so its all going to be DD from stardock in the future here I guess.

 

What I dont understand is how your going to retail in Pirate Russia....? Former communists still like to share...

on Aug 01, 2010

Heavenfall
Ah, my card was a VISA.

Actually now that I think about it, I paid through paypal I think. Edit: Nope, I used my card

There are some places that have debit cards that go through the VISA system. Because those are seen as VISA cards, they'll work.

on Aug 01, 2010

 

  • Tactical combat is boooring.

This would be a lot, lot better with:

-Better animations. This is way too close to a 3D Dwarf Fortress. It doesn't look like a fight, it looks like filling forms with a sword.

-More variety in the armies. I mean, for now, you have a choice between a few mundane armors, and a few mundane weapons. Where's my paladin? Where's my witch? Where's my elephant rider? My opinion is: Elemental could use getting some inspirations from age of wonders. More creatures, more non-standard soldiers, more special powers. Not just different longswords and armors. And the possibility to have humans with more than 5 HP.

A good thing would be a 4th tab in the unit design interface, which would let you customize the creature itself. Its race and sometimes "class"/special ability packages (a holy knight, an inquisitor, a witch, a tiger...).

-A bigger battleground, with ground actually having an effect, even if minor. And stealth. You can outmaneuver your enemy in a 5x5 battle. Anyone who's played a Total War game knows this pretty well.

 

 Oh, and make it easier to have spellcaster heroes. As it is, making a hero a spellcaster costs too much.

on Aug 01, 2010

Aractain

What I dont understand is how your going to retail in Pirate Russia....? Former communists still like to share...

Tough words from a British Imperialist - shouldn't you be subjugating some backwater African nation?

on Aug 01, 2010

the standard price in europe which is usually about £25

At the low end. Newer PC games in mainland Europe range anywhere from €30 to €50. Starcraft 2 is €60.

The simple fact of the matter is that the UK is enjoying price ranges right now that were set a couple of years ago when the pound was stronger. It's devalued considerably against most western currencies since 2008 so I wouldn't expect those cheap prices to last a lot longer.

on Aug 01, 2010

marlowwe

Quoting Aractain, reply 92
What I dont understand is how your going to retail in Pirate Russia....? Former communists still like to share...

Tough words from a British Imperialist - shouldn't you be subjugating some backwater African nation?

We are focusing on Central Asia right now.

 

Anyway Kryo yeah, the 'lower tier' games will go up to £25 and the top teir goes to £35. Its already like this on steam.

 

Personally I wanted to get the specshul edition but I coulnd't justify the cost.

on Aug 01, 2010

Earlier today I would have 'meh'ed' at DD only for Europe but I just checked my bank statement and some bastard has been pilfering from my account; had to cancel my card and hope the bank will re-emburse me my money. Moral of story: check your account regularly.

on Aug 01, 2010

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.

 

What's the timeline on this? Post-release? Next expansion? Some time after that?

on Aug 01, 2010

Aractain
Its pretty funny how Im going to pay more for a Stardock game than a AAA (I consider this to be about money spent btw) title with millions spent on the graphics alone from most other developers. Nevermind the shipping if I wanted a box.

So getting a european publisher will make the game cost the standard price in europe which is usually about £25 (dosn't competition suck eh?) thus getting you much less than normal so its all going to be DD from stardock in the future here I guess.

 

What I dont understand is how your going to retail in Pirate Russia....? Former communists still like to share...

 

According to www.game.co.uk new PC games in the UK cost £34.99. I mean Sims 3 is selling there for £24.99. Sure you may be able to get stuff cheaper sometimes, but I think they're the average retail price in UK are they not?

on Aug 01, 2010

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.

I'd imagine Amazon UK and such having it.

The main issue we have is with regards to continental European retail channels (storefronts). By the time everyone has touched it, we see virtually nothing (that's when we get paid at all).  

This has been an issue that has plagued us for over a decade. Each time, we've said "Well, next time we'll do it differently" and we still end up with the same result.

In the United States, if you buy the game at say Best Buy or Walmart or GameStop, we see about $30 of it which is pretty decent.  But in Europe, we might see $1.00 or a $1.50 (best case).

It's an issue that publishers and developers talk about quite a bit but no one brings it out into the open.  European gamers get screwed and frankly, I'm not willing to be part of that process.  I don't want another one of our games sold where we get some pittance and the customer still ends up paying more than someone who bought it at a local retailer.

Australians don't have to put up with that crap. Canadians don't. Russians don't. But western Europeans do. It's ridiculous.

We've tried over the years to fish through how exactly something that is being sold to our friends in Europe for 50 eruos is only bringing us 1 to 2 euros and the answers are always incredibly discouraging and opaque.

 

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.

For me it does not matter, but localizing impulse would help it acceptance beyond the techies in europe.

And make sure people can use local banks / payment methods, credits cards and paypal accounts are not used by many people.

on Aug 01, 2010

Frogboy
We've tried over the years to fish through how exactly something that is being sold to our friends in Europe for 50 eruos is only bringing us 1 to 2 euros and the answers are always incredibly discouraging and opaque.
 
It's called Piracy. Not of the digital kind but the one which takes real money from you. I wonder if some are Corsairs too.

That's why I refer to FX Interactive. I simply wonder how they manage to survive and publish games that are not theirs. I suppose it's a "Better a little money than no money at all." And a good way to dodge some rampant piracy (for those who "do it because the games are too expensive").

on Aug 01, 2010

So if my credit card was charged already for the game i'll get that boxed copy for me in Europe or not? I payed for the shipping.

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.

I have an idea for a simple casting-time dynamic that I hope might be useful.

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