Quoting messed up, sorry, redone. I meant to post this yesterday btw. Sorry about the spacing change at the bottom too.
ITEM #1: Making the sovereigns distinct from one another
Making it so that each sovereign is very distinct in how they play is very important. The way we are going to do this is to make the Professions available and the Talents have far reaching (i.e. not simply "stat boosts") effects. Thus far, we’ve struggled over which professions to have in the first place.
For instance, the Warlord starts the player off with 2 sentinels. But right now, the Bard only starts you with a stat boost to hero cost. Boring. The Adventurer gives you an extra move. A okay start but still boooring. This will be an area that we will be spending time on after the public beta ends.
The Important Thing to me here is that Our Created Sovereigns can be made to be Just As Distinctive as the ones that are being included with the game. That's Very Important. To solve this it means that skills and abilities should be meaningful and have meaningful uses in game, which you seem to have a pretty good handle on so I'll let you go to it. Just keep in mind us Modders want Our Own Created Sovereigns to be Just As Distinctive if we put the same effort into our work that you put into making your Sovereigns Distinctive.
ITEM #2: Making the factions distinct
In a nutshell, The Kingdoms and The Empires are fighting over how the world should be organized. The Kingdoms are (by default) all races of MEN. The Empires are mostly Races of FALLEN. The Fallen are made up of many distinct races.
However, we must make sure each of these races plays differently enough and looks different enough that it is meaningful. This is an area we’re going to spend a lot of time on.
See my Reply to ITEM #1 above. We Modders also need the ability to make Our Created Races "distinct". Of course this all comes down to how much work we modders put into our creations.
ITEM #3: Usability
There are all kinds of annoying UI issues that get in the way or make the game less intuitive than it should be.
Clicking outside the book should close it. There’s a ton of stuff like that. Beta 2-B users will get to see a LOT more stuff that is extremely annoying such as the way spells are managed in beta 2-B. The spell management will get overhauled during the public beta. It’s incredibly obnoxious.
This is a relatively "easy fix". Fire up your copy of Gal Civ 2 and play it for a few hours. Then fire up your internal build of Elemental and play it for a few hours. Then while you're playing Elemental ask yourself "What kinds of functionality are missing here that were in Gal Civ 2?" ....then add that functionality/playability and improve upon it where you can. Problem solved...more or less
Note: No, I do Not Mean by adding space-ships into Elemental...duh
ITEM #4: The Environment is Boring
Based on the plot, the world is decimated. Thus, the lands are barren. However, we are finding this to be oppressive.
Instead, what we are going to be moving towards is a system where the land is spotted with bits of grassland and Fallen land that players can build on without having to sacrifice essence.
In addition, building cities is going to require a Pioneer pack. The player will start with one and it is consumed on building a city. Additional cities will require building pioneers (who can only build on non-forsaken ground) or champions can buy pioneer packs in the shops (giving another early benefit to recruited NPCs).
This makes city building require a little more thought than presently and allows us to address the issue of why can only sovereigns found cities?
Moreover, the art and development teams are both working on a significant increase in the number of environments for the world (we haven’t enabled rivers in the public builds yet because they are cosmetically ugly still). The goal is to make sure the world is an interesting and exciting place.
Seems like you got this under control to me.
ITEM #5 DETAILS AND EQUIPPING
In the public beta, the details and equipment screens are combined into a single horrible, usability nightmare.
During the polish phase, the equipping screen and the details screen will be different (you’ll be able to easily switch between them). This way, equipping units will be straight forward and efficient and the history of the unit and their details can be more easily handled. Plus, it’ll be a lot more intuitive to play.
Be careful here or people will start whining "oh, it's too much micromanagement....whaaaaa". DON'T dumb this down please....thank you.
ITEM #6: Battle Animations and effects
In the beta, all the battle stuff is really basic and dull. During the polish phase, we’ll be adding many many different combat animations, effects, etc. to make battles a lot more interesting.
Can we get a animation of units Mounted on Dragons please? We'd love that, really.
ITEM #7: NOTIFICATIONS AND UI
This is going to be a big issue in Beta 2-B now that magic is enabled. Players can lose a lot of time because they filled up their spell points inventory and weren’t prompted to do anything about it.
Don't let it get turned into Spam/Clutter and it should be good to go. I'd rather not have lines of crap going down both sides of the screen and blocking my view of the game world. Make sure we can turn some of these Off Entirely if we want. Giving the player the options necessary to customize their "UI experience" is Key.
ITEM #8: WHAT IS GOING ON?
This covers a whole lot of areas of the game. But basically there’s a huge lack of UI-driven explanation of what is happening or why something is the way it is. This is an area we will be concentrating a great deal on during the polish phase.
It's all in the Details and Lore and the players ability to move screens and filter the info given to them. Ties closely into ITEM #7 .
ITEMS #9: COSTS AND BENEFITS ARE CRAZY
How much an item should cost or how tough a monster should be or how hard a certain tech should be to get and so on, these are things that we are aware of and will be focusing a great deal on. Right now, a lot of the values in the "software" were put in by programmers. During the polish stage, the designers (myself included) get to take a crack at it.
Beta 2-A, for instance, changed the game from Beta 2 quite a bit by simply allowing a designer (me in this case) an afternoon to tweak the values.
I'd REALLY LIKE to have a SERIOUS AMOUNT of INPUT Here. This IS the "Meat and Potatoes" of the Game. This is where your (Stardock's) "Vision" of What Elemental should be Will SHINE. If this part of the game isn't fun and well balanced, Elemental will flop because of Bad Reviews and Word of Mouth. I'd hate to see all the hard work that's been done on the editing tools go down the drain because the vanilla game sucks. These Are NOT just little "Fluff" details. This IS game-play, which as a designer your-self I'm sure you are well aware of. If it's At All Possible, you should make this part of the beta as Long As Possible so that we here on the forums can have as much time to talk about it and debate it as we can get. Please don't blow this off as something you can patch/fix later thanks to Impulse. If this isn't done right the First Time then review sites like GameSpot will tank Elemental before it has a chance to take off. (then again you probably bribed them pretty good already J/K )
ITEM #10: TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH UI
The research mechanism is so crummy that it deserves its own item. It’s something we’re very aware of and it’s on our list. I did ask it to be improved some during the public beta phase so that beta testers could at least have a decent idea of what’s going on.
Look at all these screens that tell you nothing about what you picked. HORRIBLE.
Looks like you got this one handled already too, good work.
ITEM #11: QUESTS
The quests in the game will get better and better during the polish portion.
Excellent. So far the quests have been pretty basic. I'd like to see one where I have to retrieve an item from somewhere, but whenever I get to that "somewhere" my party actually enters a dungeon I.E. the map changes to the map inside the dungeon, and I can control them and move them around just like I can on the world map.
ITEM #12: Other Player interaction
The AI players still don’t do much. Without the challenge of other players, the game loses much of its potency in the beta. With the Imperial factions disabled, you only have 5 default players and we haven’t enabled creation your own factions yet the worlds tend to be relatively devoid of action.
Whip it, Whip it Good
ITEM #13: Diplomacy
Diplomacy is going to be a major element in the game. It shows up in Beta 3 but it’ll be pretty basic since the AI isn’t particularly intelligent yet.
When it comes to Diplomacy, in Sand-Box mode at least, I'd like to see the Diplomacy AI make smart decisions based on what's Actually Going On In The World rather then a Pre-Defined, Story Driven, Scripted Hatred of each other just because one of them is "Good" and one of them is "Evil". If the "Evil" guy has enough power to wipe out the "Good" player, then that "Good" player would either being doing everything they could to stop the "Evil" player, OR, the "Good" player would be kissing the "Evil" player's arse so he didn't destroy them. That should work both ways and not be pre-determined because of a storyline (in Sand-Box Mode).
ITEM #14: NPC and MONSTER AI
The monsters and NPCs just kind of randomly move around right now. This is an area we are going to be heavily polishing to make them be a lot more "alive" than they currently are.
The team has hooked in the ability for me to have these creatures (at least the sentient ones) pop up conversations with the players. This is something that we can have a lot of fun with.
Very cool. Also for some creatures it might be easier to pre-define some "behavioral parameters" such as some things like to live in swamps, while others like to live in deserts, etc etc. Think about the monsters in the game "Monster Hunter" and you'll understand what I mean.
BETA TESTER IMPACT
We very much welcome constructive feedback from players. We can’t promise that every idea will make it into the retail gold or even the day 0 release but if we like it, we can put it on our post-release update schedule. So definitely keep posting your ideas or suggestions.
So basically, for right now at least, we Beta Testers should bend over and prepare to be Impacted at regular intervals? LOL..I'm Kidding, that was a joke.
I think we all understand there is only so much you can do in so short a time. On top of that we all know and trust that you'll be expanding on Elemental for many more years to come. Once the books take off (which they will) Elemental's popularity will be known far and wide and if the books are insanely popular (think LotR or Dragonlance) you'll see a player-base explosion for Elemental the likes of which have only been seen in MMO's like WoW. I like what I've read from the book so far and think you've got a great talent for writing. You should at least be prepared for the possibility of this being Insanely Huge and what it would mean for the Game of Elemental.
Would it help if I re-organized the "Elemental Ideas" Comprehensive List post to make it easier for you guys to see more specific ideas at a glance? It's a lot of work but I don't mind so long as it helps stream-line things for you guys internally.
Quoting"GW Swicord" : The date doesn't terrify me so much as vex me sorely. It seems oddly hasty given the very generous beta time allowed for earlier phases of the process. I understand that the engine has been the bulk of the dev work, but I don't understand why we must suddenly shift to fire-drill mode just when we're finally starting to see the full game and have a chance to really shake down the draft UI.
Leaving fine-tuning and 'balance' stuff to patches seems perfectly reasonable. But I'm bewildered by the fact that we've been testing for almost a year but we'll apparently have just a couple of weeks to try out the magic mechanics. Seems like you're limiting this final phase a beta input to folks who are able to pour in many hours on short notice, which will likely leave many folks with families, jobs, etc., unable to really participate.
Also, the lack of time with larger maps is especially vexing because those are where some of the UI weaknesses of GC2 show clearly.
I'm of "two minds" on this. On one hand, I completely Agree with GW Swicord. I would like to have the amount of time with the upcoming stages of the beta as we've had with the later stages of the beta. I was actually very glad the early steps were being taken so slow and we had as much time as we did. Even knowing all the last minute changes that goes into these things and knowing what to expect when it came down to "crunch time" as it is now, I was assuming we'd be launching 6 months from now in the later "Window" rather then the new one. I would love nothing more then to have 3 weeks of input on everything from "minor balance issues" to "tactical battles" to etc etc. For me (and many of us I assume) this is the "Meat and Potatoes" of the game. These things are where Stardock's Vision and the players Heart and Soul are located. In the Game-Play...In the Details. I'd like to have a Lot more input there...
But, my other "frame of mind" tells me....
What Frogboy says is right and has been from the start. %90-%95 of the work is all building the Engine and Assets. On an internal level things can be done just as fast, if not faster, than the time-tables Brad has given us for these last stages of the Beta. I've seen it first hand working for Microsoft Games on "Mech Commander 1&2". On MC1 especially, we followed as many of the already pre-defined "Mech Warrior" rule sets as we could. We didn't need to know how much damage each weapon did and how much heat it produced because it was already laid out for us from the other "Mech Warrior" games. From the time we finished the engine to the time we went "Gold" (I.E. First Printing) was less then a week...that's right...LESS then ONE WEEK. In many corporate environments things like actual "game-design" are already decided upon or are known and done by a very small group of people internally in a very short period of time. Sometimes All of the actual "game" part of a program is decided upon before the Engine to run it on is even finished.
Quoting "Rath3130" : Brad stated earlier that the areas of the game now that are left unfinished are not nearly as time consuming as the earlier (and completed) stages of the game. Which leaves the fluff work and adjusting of known variables. Considering the size of his team and probable work hours per week, I have full confidence that if Brad says its close to gold, then it is just that. This isn't EA , these guys wouldn't say it was ready if it really wasn't.
That's true, But, ANY Company (though we know Stardock Would Not do this) that has a Digital Distribution System is Fully Capable of putting out a "Sh!t Sandwich" game to make their "Gold" date and then Release a "Day-1" or "0-Day" Patch to make game-play Fun and/or fix problems.
In my eyes, ANY company that needs to put out a Patch on the First Day of Release to make a game "Fun" seriously F'Ked up somewhere along the lines of designing the game and they shouldn't have released the product to being with. If that were to happen in a company I owned someone would be getting FIRED...