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 3)
on Jul 31, 2010

LOL on the FPS. But seriously, they took XCOM and are releasing that as a FPS, sacrilege!

That is NOT X-com... it is just something cappering around in a X-com's skinsuit.


An even more interesting model would be a 'Countdown' Mechanic, Where your sovereign 'spent' speed like points until the special attack was 'filled up'

I.E. Assume the Sovereign has 4 'speed', here would be 2 example spells.

  • Fireball - takes 2 'speed', so you could toss 2 a turn
  • I WILL END YOU! - Takes 10 speed, so it would go off 2.5 turns later... killing everything on the map :}


Edit: Yes you can replace 'speed' with Action Point, and replace 'spell' with Injector Plasma Rifle Eyeshot(cost 5 ap with snap :}).  Yes I play way way much Fallout 2.

on Jul 31, 2010

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 I can understand that.

Any hope we will get a look at the Improved UI prior to release.

Good flow and UI are important to any well received mod.

on Aug 01, 2010

first person shooter. Enjoy.

It'll be a "first person" shooter alright. Someone here will end up being the "first person" to shoot a game developer for drastically changing a game before the launch. I think people would stand in line just to shoot the corpse at that point...turning a strategy game into a FPS...for shame. j/k

In all seriousness, it's not all too often that ANY game comes along in today's market that Really changes gaming or it's genre of gaming. A lot of games try and try to say they do, but they don't. I have real faith that Elemental WILL. Elemental will easily set the bar for what a Good Strategy Game SHOULD BE. After playing Elemental and experiencing the customization level anyone who plays it will be spoiled and ruined to other strategy games. Add all the people out there who are looking for a game to take the reigns from MoM and be a real successor to it's game-play and Elemental will be a legend in it's own time just as MoM was. I think Elemental has what it takes to make people take a real look at strategy gaming and possibly put it back into the main stream as it was when PC gaming began. There's more potential here than there has been for anything in the industry in a long time. Everyone at Stardock should be very excited as should anyone who calls themselves a strategy gamer.

Well done, well done indeed.



on Aug 01, 2010

Casting time is an excellent idea. Do that! 

on Aug 01, 2010


Quoting Stmorpheus, reply 27i agree with some others about the magic.  you should give spells COMBAT SPEED.  if it takes 1 and you have 2 AP then you can cast 2.  if it takes 3 then well you need more combat speed.  you should let us build our characters how we want to play them.  we already can give them combat speed when we level our champs.

I like this idea.

It would also open the door to spells that take multiple rounds to cast. Say, like my sovereign has 3.something speed now. If she cast a spell that required 6 speed, she'd have to do it over 2 rounds. If my embued champion did that same spell, it would take her 3 rounds (she has 2 speed).

Yes! Includes weapons and other actions, as well. A dagger should be able to attack faster/more often than a big old bastard sword!

Nice one, guys!

Froggy, that's the key!

on Aug 01, 2010

Weapons already have a built in mechanic for that. They increase your Combat Speed. I have yet to see any weapons have a NEGATIVE Combat Speed modifier, I'm not sure if it is supported or not. 

on Aug 01, 2010

Awesome post, Brad.  I've never been as excited about a game as I am about this one.

on Aug 01, 2010

Wait... Im European! Help, help! Im being oppressed!

on Aug 01, 2010

For Europe why not let Paradox handle it like they did GC2, or did that not go well?




on Aug 01, 2010

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

Playing magic as my main way, I hope there is a major balance on the damage done by the spells, wasting 2-5 casting points and doing 0 damage a turn 3 turns in a row will realy scuk.


Also is their any plans to buff up the damages of the spells.creatuers as the game gose on?

on Aug 01, 2010

I suggest that damage spells have a minimum amount of damage they do (a number or percentage of normal int damage) regardless of armor, so that they actually feel like they are worth casting.  What do others think?

Best regards,

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.




on Aug 01, 2010

Its not a dating sim? Damn I was going to batch run hundreds of thousands of simulations and find the perfect match...



...for that emo pinchusionshae girl... probably a hammer to the face TBH.

on Aug 01, 2010

I suggest that damage spells have a minimum amount of damage they do (a number or percentage of normal int damage) regardless of armor, so that they actually feel like they are worth casting.  What do others think?

Best regards,

I think I'm of two minds on the subject. Here is how it breaks down in my mind.

1. Part of me thinks armor shouldn't affect damage received from magic at all. Instead there should be a modifier called "Magic Resistance" ( I know that's a shockingly New and Innovative idea) and that modifier should negate partial damage from spells. Non-Magical armor wouldn't give any magic resistance.

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.

Saying that, I do also think Mages/Sovereigns should be able to cast More Than One Spell if they are powerful enough. In the early game being limited to one spell a turn makes sense, but by the end of the game or late mid game would you really feel powerful being limited to one spell per turn? Only being able to cast one spell a turn seems limiting if the Sovereigns are truly supposed to be Powerful Magical beings. I'd rather see spells have a varying cost of action points to be used based on the level of the spell being cast. Level One Spells cost 1 point (plus mana costs), casting a Level Two Spell costs 2 points (plus mana costs) and so on and so forth, you get the idea. It's easy to implement, doesn't require lots of thought to balance, and makes more sense as the Sovereigns gain in power and ability as they level up.

Just my two cents

on Aug 01, 2010

Looking forward to this Even though im not getting a box in europe digital download is fine by me.