Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

In every Stardock game ever, from 1993 on, the “flavor text” was done by whoever had a moment to throw something in there.

Often times, it meant I did it since I type 120wpm and could crank out a lot of stuff.  The GalCiv technology descriptions are notorious for this.

In War of Magic, we decided that we would keep the tongue in cheek text to a minimum which in reality just made it dry and boring.

Since we didn’t enjoy doing it and our fans really wanted to see our games start having some “soul” to them, we hired Sci-Fi writer, Dave Stern full time. He’s been with us since January and the results will be pretty obvious in Fallen Enchantress.

Screenshots:

I’m not a marketing person so these screenshot are taken by me in the debugger so keep that in mind (i.e. all graphical enhancements are turned to min for max performance in the debugger):

image

So Dave would write up a lengthy story along with something short for the in-game part. We would then be inspired to come up with game mechanics around it.

For example, in WOM, the Urxen were described as “Like Trogs but less warlike but more productive”.

In FE, Dave wrote a story about the history of the Urxen and their lives under Lady Umber. This in turn allowed us to come up with some unique traits that simply didn’t exist in WOM like Wanderlust and Serpent’s pack. Wanderlust lets players have Exploration technology early and Serpent’s pack lets them recruit a special type of unit in game.

image

Goodbye…”Random” name generator

I am sure people will miss our random name generator.  Instead, Dave Stern wrote up hundreds of different names that made sense based on which faction they were for and whether they were male or female.

image

The creatures of Elemental have also gotten their lore updated.

So for example, Rock Spiders are no longer described as “big tough spiders” but rather:

image

And of course NPCs now are individually described:

image

Now, is all this necessary?

We think so because each game plays out very differently and these familiar creatures and characters will provide a general continuity.

image

Turn 1.

A big objective is for the world to seem alive and interesting worth exploring. Each tile should mean something. Every expansion to your empire a victory. Every character important and valuable.

Will it be worth it?  That’s hard to say.  We think it’s worth it. Our primary objective with Elemental has been to create a brand-new PC fantasy strategy franchise.  We learned a lot with War of Magic and have applied those lessons to Fallen Enchantress. And one key lesson was imbuing the world with lore to bring the player to the world and make it theirs.


Comments (Page 3)
on Oct 23, 2011

Stardock,

you guys did a really great job. Im impressed with your commitment to this community and with our game.

But I have to say something, like the other guys I think the rivers still need a little lift. 

Keep it up 

 

on Oct 23, 2011

oh and again Brad.. please fix the dead trees.. they are so ugly in a large area.. dead trunks fine.. branches need to be spindlier!.. 

on Oct 23, 2011

Heavenfall
The bad part about doing custom painted portraits is when you upgrade them with new gear or buff them with sparkly effects, it doesn't show. I'm with you that painted portraits generally look better, but in a game like Elemental where separate pieces of gear is much more common-place, I prefer it to be real 3d models. I want to see my character evolve, just like I would in a real RPG, and not just see some numbers go up like I would in an older fantasy strategy game. Nothing is more immersion-breaking than when I put on my wizarding hat and robe and staff, and when I get into combat I'm suddenly wearing a plate helmet, a shield and a mace.

 

I would like evolving character portraits too, but I'd rather see awesome looking 2D MtG style stills (or even the variety of MoM's pixellated mugshots for the matter) then animated but comically ugly 3D closeups. 

But I'd support having evolving 3D portraits if they could improve the level-of-detail of the models and textures in the character portraits so that at least the facial profiles are better represented, and/or find some other way to make them look more fearsome and epic. 

Currently what breaks immersion more for me is the fact that the drama of the backstory and flavor texts isn't complimented very well by the picture of my pathetic looking sovereign holding a club...

You mean to say you don't find this even slightly annoying also?

 

EDIT: Attached an example pic that speaks for what could be...

Awesome and evil looking sovereign adept in death magic and war:

 Example cool sovereign

 

on Oct 23, 2011

Well, I'd like to see platemail lower spellcasting ability personally, and have some magic armor that doesn't but requires different resources (crystals) to make, but that's probably beyond the scope and too late to include.

 

The magic armor shouldn't all be fluffy robes though.

on Oct 24, 2011

Doesn't plate lower initiative? That would make spellcasting a bad choice for platers. 

on Oct 24, 2011

Ben Yeoh

Quoting Heavenfall, reply 28The bad part about doing custom painted portraits is when you upgrade them with new gear or buff them with sparkly effects, it doesn't show. I'm with you that painted portraits generally look better, but in a game like Elemental where separate pieces of gear is much more common-place, I prefer it to be real 3d models. I want to see my character evolve, just like I would in a real RPG, and not just see some numbers go up like I would in an older fantasy strategy game. Nothing is more immersion-breaking than when I put on my wizarding hat and robe and staff, and when I get into combat I'm suddenly wearing a plate helmet, a shield and a mace.

 

I would like evolving character portraits too, but I'd rather see awesome looking 2D MtG style stills (or even the variety of MoM's pixellated mugshots for the matter) then animated but comically ugly 3D closeups. 

But I'd support having evolving 3D portraits if they could improve the level-of-detail of the models and textures in the character portraits so that at least the facial profiles are better represented, and/or find some other way to make them look more fearsome and epic. 

Currently what breaks immersion more for me is the fact that the drama of the backstory and flavor texts isn't complimented very well by the picture of my pathetic looking sovereign holding a club...

You mean to say you don't find this even slightly annoying also?

 

 

 

 

 

I don't, it's been their goal from the start to have a sort-of cartoon design for units. Besides, is it really worth arguing about? It's not going to change!

on Oct 24, 2011

Ben Yeoh
Can anything also be done to give the sovereign/NPC portraits more "awesomeness"?

The flavor text is interesting and adds much to the immersion, but then when I look at the character portraits they don't measure up to the epic-ness at all. The rock spider one is okay but the sovereign/NPC portraits honestly look silly.

This has been my impression for some time actually but the contrast now between the dorky looking portraits and the high-fantasy drama of the game lore and flavor texts is starting to become too jarring.

I know using different 3D models for the hairstyle/face/eyes/clothing etc saves a bit of production time and it allows some user customization, but then if it can't be made to look decent at the end, perhaps it's better to just have a skilled concept artist paint cool looking 2D portraits instead. Something closer to the quality (not necessarily the style) of the illustrations on Magic The Gathering cards for example.
 

 

Seriously. There is much truth in this. The game-world itself looks fine, the units and environment (from what I've seen in screenshots) are suitable. But the portraits have never once wowed me. I want to be wowed by my sovereign, and my champions. And I want to cower in fear from my enemies' portraits.

To make a reference to Fall From Heaven (2): I've almost exclusively played races/leaders that I liked the portrait of. Crappy portrait = crappy race. Likewise I didn't give the other races/civs in the game much attention if their picture didn't offer anything for the imagination.

 

on Oct 24, 2011

Very cool.

 

I've never understood the Random House partnership. Since Brad wrote (right?) the book himself, and since there was hardly any lore presented in WoM...and now a new writer has been doing FE...what the heck did Random House ever contribute, other than maybe publishing the book?

on Oct 24, 2011

Regarding portraits, I don't think anyone would disagree that 2D painted portraits look a lot better, but I believe it would simply be too resource intensive to execute properly. I wish it would be feasible to make the 3D portraits slightly better looking, but I guess it's not going to happen. It does hurt the immersion a bit, but since it's not going to change I'm fine with it.

About Random House, Goontrooper, you haven't read the journal entries about Brad's book? They helped quite a lot with the book.

on Oct 24, 2011

Sir_Linque
Regarding portraits, I don't think anyone would disagree that 2D painted portraits look a lot better, but I believe it would simply be too resource intensive to execute properly.

Let the devs decide this. I suppose if enough of us feel the current 3D portraits lack quality and the devs themselves think it's justified, I'm sure things can be prioritized accordingly. Besides, if they choose to go the hand-painted 2D route, it should be technically very easy to replace the current 3D viewports with 2D assets, even though throwing away existing work can be a painful decision. The concept artists would probably be in a bit of a bind with this change so late in production, but speaking from experience, in most development circles it's usually the code/programmers that are the main bottleneck in the pipeline anyway so I suppose there's some hope.

 

on Oct 24, 2011

Alstein
Well, I'd like to see platemail lower spellcasting ability personally, and have some magic armor that doesn't but requires different resources (crystals) to make, but that's probably beyond the scope and too late to include.

 

The magic armor shouldn't all be fluffy robes though.

 

I second this..  There need to be more penalties for the best weapons and armour, or everyone will be using them.  I know that Stardock have gone some way to remedying this, and I will wait for the Beta before I make any further judgement.

 

  

 

on Oct 24, 2011

Ben Yeoh

Let the devs decide this.
 

Yes, my point was kind of that it's too resource intensive for Stardock to realistically consider the option of going 2D. I assumed it's taken for granted that we are talking about the devs as I'm not developing the game myself.

Anyway, Brad has time and time again said that Elemental is not a AAA title, so there are limitations. Some of it graphical. I expect the quality of the Sovereigns is one of the victims of these limitations. Frankly, I can live with it.

on Oct 24, 2011

MissTittus? Really, that's a name? New ground you are treading here!

I like the flavor text and the various traits. I found it odd that the "Natural leader of men" has a charisma of 6, while a spider has one of 10. Charisma doesn't come off well in FE yet either, does it?


A big objective is for the world to seem alive and interesting worth exploring. Each tile should mean something. Every expansion to your empire a victory.

I'd really, really love to see more evidence of this! I'd love for EVERY tile to matter and making my Zone of Control mean something. Aside from terrain immediately surrounding a settlement giving bonuses to that settlement, how will every tile in your empire matter?

on Oct 24, 2011

Brad did say that all graphical enhancements where turned off in these screenshots, so we can't tell how close what we see now will be to the finished product.

But all this talk about the portraits reminded me about this thread from about a year ago. The TS there did some quick paintovers of two portraits, and was quite adamant that similar results could be had in game (although I know nothing about this subject, so I'll have to take his word for it).

on Oct 24, 2011

Well yes I would much rather have those kind of portraits in game than the ones we have seen in screenshots.