I've been following the development of Fallen Enchantress from the beginning, ever since buying War of Magic. I have played a lot of strategy games, and I don't want to cause any offense, but I honestly don't care at all about the background lore for the factions here. When I think back to memorable strategy games, I remember them by the factions unique units, and what made them stand out from each other, not the background fluff. For instance, the Paladin Knights, or the Lizardman troops in MoM. The Supertanks, or the free fremen units in Dune2, the Enhanced Elven archers from one of the Heroes of might and magic games, etc, etc.
I guess I've semi-accepted that due to its nature FE can never really have the depth of faction differentiation other games in the genre have. The problems are:
1. FE is based around a paper-doll unit design system and to have visually unique units for factions would be a hell of a lot of work creating art assets. Personally I would have preferred to drop the unit design system and just have a selection of units to choose from for each faction - but that aint about to happen now.
2. The world lore is not instinctively known. We all know how to play elves, orcs, werewolves, vampires, undead etc and we can immediately accept and empathise who and what they are without needing any other information. In FE the factions are really just different shades of the same race with the differences not part of our cultural heritage. This makes differentiation all the more difficult. I agree with Magog's comments above about adding known races but once again that isn't going to happen now unless modders like Heavenfall or Seanw3 mod them in.
3. The tech tree with its unit grouping levels and new armour and weapons makes underlying personalisation much more difficult and changing this would make balance exponentially difficult. By this I mean that the real personalisation in FE comes via the tech tree as specific items. Most other games have stock equipment and tech advances add to the stats for weapons and armour rather than adding new items. Once again, I'd have preferred a game where the tech tree was ditched or much simpler.
This sums it up perfectly. I appreciate its almost certainly too late in the day to change any of the above, but honestly, changing the "all human" existing factions to completely different races would make this game have much more widespread appeal to gamers.
I can see why the paperdoll system evolved as it did, as it was a popular feature in Galciv2 being able to customise your units. Also relying on armour rather than shields/point defence made for an interesting research dynamic. However in a fantasy strategy game like this, I don't really care about maces/swords v chainmail/platemail. Its not very exciting, and doesnt have the same kind of interesting tactical depth that you would get from say: Griffon mounted Knights vs Treants, or Ghouls vs Lizardmen.
I guess the only real possibility for dramatic personalisation, the type that means something and defines the factions, will come via unique buildings for factions that add unique higher-powered fantasy units that circumvent the above three underlying causes. This would allow a selection of unique units, similar to the current mechanic of Ogre Camps etc but they would need to be made for each faction and should be available relatively early on as buildings as cities level up.
Brad, is this what you mean when you want suggestions?
Tarth Hunter Hall: City level 2 building: Allows unlimited troops of 7 Lizardmen skirmishers armed with Javelins (range 5) and swords. Move 2 through swamps.
Tarth Serpent Pit: City level 3 building: Allows 3 troops of 3 serpents to be built at the city. Moves 4 and 4 through swamps. Poison 3.
These are some great suggestions. The idea of being able to have a unique, faction specific building, that enabled unique (non human!) troops is also a great idea. If those troops were non-customisable and had set equipment, it would minimise any potential extra modelling work that was required.
Each city on the map should look radically different from that of a different race. I think going the good/evil route for the two "sides" is a sensible plan, because you can then at least go with the obvious stylistic changes like graceful towers, vs spiky fortresses for example. I haven't played the most recent Heroes of Might and Magic games, but I remember in the 4th game of that series, the various cities looked radically different from each other, with each faction having entirely different sets of units.
I think radical faction differentiation is going to be crucial to the success of this game, and making factions hugely different from each other is going to make this game much more replayable. A +10% here or a +1 to stats there is not going to b enough, the sides need to both look and feel very different from each other.
In any case, good luck with the rest of the development of Fallen Enchantress.