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 8)
on Aug 01, 2010

Just chiming in to say this post is a relief. I played the beta from the very beginning and beta 4 really got me worried.

I mean, the engine is good, the game is much more stable than before and performs a little better on my aging hardware. But as Frogboy said, it's pretty boring and I was pretty sure it was a pretty close representation of the final SP game. I'm glad to hear it's not.

Can't wait to play the campaign

on Aug 01, 2010

Can't wait for the Elemental FPS! 

on Aug 01, 2010

ghoulas
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.

If you paid SD for shipping they'll ship it to you, yeah. This announcement just means you can't go to a store and pick up a box there.

on Aug 01, 2010

Draginol, you and the team rock!  You're all gamers to the core, and seeing what you and Stardock have done in the past makes me just as excited about what Elemental has the potential of being.  Actually scratch that, not potential, but rather what it WILL become.  I know your dedication, the willingness of the devs to reach out and LISTEN to the community, and your past record of product support.  And to me, what I really see here is the pending release of what will one day be simply known as Elemental 1.

And as I've said in another post, the thing that has me smiling is the modding stance you've taken.  Editors and XML code right there from the get go to bring in all kinds of talented people to begin making their own additions to the game. And that's not even counting what goodies you'll come up with in future updates.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised that one day I'll be playing Elemental 6 or 7.

And I'm going to enjoy the ride, just like I did with GalCiv. 

on Aug 01, 2010

Will there be a Beta 5?

 

 

on Aug 01, 2010

Hi Fro

Frogboy

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.

 

Hi Frogboy,

I am trying to pre-order the game in AU, but i can't seem to find it in the EBGames.com.au website, can you shine some light for the Australians on how to get this Game in Down Under?

 

 

on Aug 01, 2010

I'm very interested in this too.  I haven't been able to find a retail or online store in Australia that currently has the Collector's Edition listed.

Best regards,
Steven.

on Aug 02, 2010

StevenAus
I'm very interested in this too.  I haven't been able to find a retail or online store in Australia that currently has the Collector's Edition listed.

Best regards,
Steven.

Yeah i am looking to get the CE as well

on Aug 02, 2010

*sigh* A few points if I may

1. Damn you froggy, I had made my peace with the standard edition. Now I am going to have to upgrade just for the book. As nice as they are I really don't put much stock in out of game goodies in CE's ... But a 150 page book . That just brings back memories of old games and reading the manuals.

2. I really need to get back to doing some Beta but.... Damn You Starcraft!!!!

3. As we close in on the end of beta I just want you guys to know that even though I haven't opened the beta in about a month (Been hectic as hell, 2 week trip to New York, then SC2. Can't tell if someone has it out for me or loves me) I still keep this site under my favorites and check it at least once every 2 days. The Customer servive and openess here has made me fall in love with your company.

*cheers*

on Aug 02, 2010

...And this is why you'll are going to get my money as soon as possible!

on Aug 02, 2010

Can someone message me what happened with upgrading pre-orders to CE?  I remember the option was supposed to happen but I dont remember it actually happening? 

 

EDIT- Ah, it's on the main order page now, sweet.

on Aug 02, 2010

Gabberkooij


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.

 

if the impulse is going to be the main distribution channel, it should be localized. There are some substantial markets which you can hit by just few additional languages (e.g. German, Russian, French, Spanish...). But if you localize, please, please do it correctly. Recently I bought supreme commander 1 and it comes with external sort of online lobby, mod exchange etc. And it is indeed localized even to my language (czech), but  the translations are disastrous, really. And no easy switch to english language as well... (has to be done via command line)

Regarding payment methods, I guess you have everything which is currently being used, that is PayPal and credit/debit cards. One small question tho, are you sure you accept only credit cards? Although I preordered with my paypal, I believe that my DEBIT visa would work as well, as it always does. It has internet transactions allowed, BUT is not a credit card.

on Aug 02, 2010

Such awesome information fun read-through, bullet point gripes included!

on Aug 02, 2010

Just passing by to protest not releasing retail in Europe. I dislike DD from both price and value perspective. I am saying it straight as it is and i know i am not the only one feeling this way.

I would love to buy Elemental retail i did buy GC2 and i do buy about 7-8 games / year. if Elemental will not be available in retail i will not buy until i can find it as a box. Meanwhile i will probably use a pirated version.

I believe you guys are so excited about this digital era impulse thingie that you forget a couple of things:

1. When i choose to buy or what to buy we buyers do not think about how much a thingie costs but if the afore mentioned thingie is what i want (not need but want) and if it is good value.

2. DD is BAD value it is a way to fullfill a desire, but then again so is pirating. As oposed retail is GOOD value. Got a box got a manual, got a book, got some action figurine.... it makes me feel good to have it. It is a phisical object that i can interact with that i can brag about etc.

3. Now i know people get all gooshy because some things have appeared and they are digital products (take facebook for example), but what are we forgeting now? 99% of those producs have deeply immersing ways to customise your experience.

DD tools like steam or impulse will never have.

4. As any good sales book says i need a reason to buy to make the buying decision. In these cash troubled times a damn good reason. and tbh DD just won't do, it gives me no incentive to buy.

5.Europe >France+UK+Germany+Italy, enter the Balkans and associated 3 world galore where even card payment can be an adventure. DD is like Star Trek here and guys I AM NOT joking, incidentaly i work for a company involved in games distribution in Romania so i know my numbers.

Let me just say in closing that as much as i love Stardock's work and as much as i am excited about elemental i am deeply disapointed about your marketing and distribution policy, and while you might feel it is an adequate move for you, i can say for certain that a serious publishing company would not even consider such.

 

Just consider for a minute what would have happened is Blizz decided no retail for Starcraft 2 for Europe.

Thought i'dd say it straight as it is, couse it's fairer and a friendly slap now and then can help a fella' grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

on Aug 02, 2010

Anyone remember that great "manual" for Darklands by Microprose? Loved that game and always wished they had the money and time to have made it into the entire world rather than just greater germany. If Stardock can bring back a NOT-MoM and later use part of that engine to make a NOT-Darklands I'd be in retro heaven.

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