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There is something ... odd about this well [huge feedback on game]

By on August 23, 2010 7:18:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

TheProgress

Join Date 04/2008
+43

Disclaimer: I'm writing this post as neutral as I know how. It's not a disrespect of the developers - merely a list of issues (both large and small) based on my short time with the game so far. I have ONLY played through a portion of the campaign so far - haven't even looked at the "actual" game. These are legitimate concerns / issues with the game (from my POV) - I'm not sitting up at 3:00am for the fun of it. If you don't agree with something I've said: that is your prerogative; don't start attacking me because Stardock is your bestest of buddies.

How about we start at campaign?

 

CAMPAIGN MAP PRESENTATION:

The campaign was designed to get players into the game and familiar with the core mechanics and basic gameplay. So far it has failed in both respects. The opening cutscene was fine, not amazing or anything but it did its job well enough. The problems arise as soon as the player is given control over his character:

  • The game does not explain in anyway movement points, how to move characters on the map or anything at all really about what the player first sees.
  • The game does not explain how turns function. It doesn't even point out where the "end turn" button is.
  • The campaign makes uses of the harmafaf-thingy (encyclopedia): Fantastic! Too bad it doesn't tell the player how to actually find it, or that it even exists.
  • Unless the player has found the encyclopedia, he will have no idea how to create a city - or that he's even supposed to!
  • The player has managed to found a city: amazing. Too bad he's not told how cities work, what their stats mean or how they are improved. Food isn't explained. Houses, populations, recruitment isn't explained. Nothing is explained! The player is not told how to construct buildings even!
  • Great the players finally managed to found his city and build up a population. Too bad an entire selling point of the game isn't explained: No where, not even once is the player told how to design units - He / shes not even told that it is possible. Nothing is explained yet again.
  • Resources and how they are acquired, used, etc are not explained what so ever.
  • This practice of not explaining shit continues: I could be here until next week talking about stuff that isn't explained.

 

TACTICAL MAP PRESENTATION:

The tactical maps, and how to even GET to a battle on a tactical map are not explained in any way:

  • Basics of combat are not explained.
  • Tactics movement is not explained.
  • Combat attributes, weapons, armor, etc <- no explanations.
  • Targeting enemies, with magic, melee or ranged weapons = no explanation.
  • Tile bonuses = no explanation.
  • Nothing is explained.
  • Heroes (and indeed, what separates heroes from the rest of the units) = not explained.
  • Experience, leveling up heroes and the such - not explained.

 

If I was new to the TBS genre I WOULD BE COMPLETELY lost. There is a very good chance I would abandon the game out of pure frustration / confusion. Even I was lost at times - not about the game play but what the actual campaign wanted from me. A tutorial itself should never confuse the player because then they're confused on two fronts: how the game works, and how to progress the tutorial.

I think that is enough talk about the campaign presentation. Again my experience has only been with the campaign, but now I will talk strictly about the game mechanics, features, etc.

 

TACTICAL MAPS:

There are a large number of issues with the tactical maps:

  • First of all, characters should not be able to have a "destination" set that exceeds one turn of movement. It only leads to confusion (like where two units end up stacked on the same tile - which has happened to be more than once already).
  • Show us the attack ranges for magic and arrows / bolts / whatever for our currently selected unit (or enemy unit). How the hell am I supposed to know where to position my archers otherwise?
  • Tile bonuses: they're pretty straight forward EXCEPT there is no graphical indication of what tiles have bonuses. I have literally encountered a group of tiles that all look identical, BUT - two tiles had +50% defense while one tile had -25% defense. Am i supposed to drag my cursor along the entire battle field and memorize the location of every tile that has a bonus or penalty? Add graphical indications and STAY CONSISTENT.
  • Unit move points: once one of my units has been moved - have him sit down or grey him out or SOMETHING. Don't force me to memorize which of my 8 archers have been used (especially since the camera goes crazy when using them). Give me some sort of graphical indication. (There is a chance that this is being covered by the character "list" on the side of the screen - but all I saw was health).
  • Squads, companies, w/e: I don't care that their attacks are stacked - it kind of works out well. But why do the hell does the health / armor stack? I seem to remember screen shots of units flying through the air - and other dramatic visuals. When a squad is attacked, each unit should suffer damage individually. Individual units should die INDIVIDUALLY. On a side note: let us combine like units int squads.
  • Unit positions: I've started tactical maps that have placed one or two of my units right next to the enemies army.... thanks?
  • There are number of strategic spells that should be usable on the tactical map as well (just like in Master of Magic).
  • Some units are removed from the map the second their dead body hits the ground (others a bit later). Why? If the computer had the resources to load them in to begin with, there can't be a need to suddenly start freeing up resources. Keep dead bodies on the tactical map. Remove them after the battle is over - this will also allow for spells with necromancy / etc in mind to exist.
  • I know this is more of a stylistic complaint but it maddens me to no end when I have 4 archers all no more than 2 tiles away from a giant drake AND EACH ARCHER MISSES, and continues to miss round after round after round. The thing is huge and I know this is related to its defense rating but damn.
  • Why are my spells missing? More importantly, why are my spells missing when being cast on my own units, from 1 tile away, 4 times in a row. Does my spearman just really hate being healed?
  • Every single battle, the AI targets the same unit, over and over and over. They just gun for him. Boring and predictable frights.
  • PLEASE let us turn off the auto-select for tactical battles. DRIVING ME CRAZY.

 

STRATEGIC MAP:

The strategic maps are probably the most polished aspect of the entire game:

  • The purposes of tiles with bonuses / penalties on the tactical map is pretty clear: why does the strategic map have the same bonuses? How do those work. Confusing.
  • Notable locations sometimes remain - mouse hover tooltips still show up after beating the area.
  • Dead people seem to still make tooltips popup some times.

 

PRODUCTION VALUES:

I guess a large portion of the budget when into developing the platform / (pretty) textures, models and modding tools (and yes, the core tech):

  • Human unit acknowledgments: repetitive, boring, sometimes absurd.
  • Enemies all share the same death sound effects. What the hell is going on: why do I hear the same thing when I kill a wolf, a spider, a troll and a drake.
  • Archers - apparently they have figured out how to fire (invisible) arrows with out pulling the string back on their bows. And apparently their arrows glow.
  • Tons of spells are missing sound effects. Just brings down the entire feeling of the game in terms of quality.
  • The number of spells: I seem to remember a massive thread (http://forums.elementalgame.com/386025) where people spent their time and energy listing huge volumes of spells. Why are there so few spells in the game - The game is called WAR OF MAGIC. Disappointing honestly. (I'm basing the spell # off of posts I've read from other users since the game's release - if these numbers have been incorrect then I'm sorry).
  • Tons of a little things: cursors graphics not changing when they need to, icons being used to represent the wrong things (a shield icon used to represent head-based objects during sovereign creations??), the mouse in general is inaccurate and is prone to fits of shaking.
  • The game apparently makes use of the havok physics engine - if you're going to spend the money then use the damn thing. All I've yet to see anything in any of the tactical battles use the physics engine to any impressive degree. What happened to Sauron throwing groups of men through the air?
  • Visual effects on spells: again for a game about magic (magic is in the title!) why do the spells have such generic effects? Some of them look cool - others far less so.

 

PERFORMANCE & BUGS:

  • It's not a bad thing, but the game is visually simple. It is definitely no Crysis, or Farcry 2, or Mass Effect, Etc. So why then does my game's performance come crashing down (reduced to 10 - 20 fps) when something as simple as a level 2 city comes into view? Issue documented here: http://forums.elementalgame.com/391334
  • I love the thought of tactical battles. so imagine my pain when every 3rd tactical battle I get into forces me to use the task managed to force-quit the game: http://forums.elementalgame.com/391302
  • Menus and the GUI in general is rather sluggish. Menus should feel snappy when asked for, not slow.

 

EQUIPMENT BALANCE:

  • I've noticed some very odd balance issues pertaining to equipment used for trained troops. An example would be maces vs warhammers: warhammer supplies +24 to attack, while the mace supplies only +12. Yet, the warhammer actually costs 1 less metal unit than the mace - and 3 (or 4) more gold than the mace. In a game where gold quickly builds up, the extra gold of the warhammer is a non-issue.

 

MODDING:

  • I've been reading lots of threads (not just ones here) and people everywhere want a flexible modding system. It seems like something Stardock / Brad is set on which is great. Get as much of the core-game mechanics exposed via Python as possible. Allow for brand new GUI screens, total conversion, radical modifications to the AI, etc. All this and more will turn Elemental into a great game and platform.

 

Well, it's not 4:14 am. You'll notice that large aspects of the game have been left out (research, diplomacy, etc) - like I said, I've only been playing the campaign. The game has great promise and I wish it to succeed in all possible ways (obviously since I paid for it). I wish the developers the best of luck and look forward to what they come up with. Hopefully my post hasn't been too ranty of everyone's taste and will be of some help.

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August 23, 2010 7:43:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

alot of good points here. I wager much if it is addressed in the day 0 post, but still, thanks for the writeup.

 

while i experienced many of the same issues, it did not stop me from enjoying the game. it took me a good long time to muddle through the basics, but i think i have those now. the game is VERY fun, and the "One more Turn" aspect is HUGE. Elemental has great potential, and given continued support from stardock, and modding support from the community, there seems like a pretty good chance of that potential being realized.

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August 23, 2010 7:43:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A lot of these could be solved by a tutorial, which would have been a nice thing to include. Since the manual is from an earlier beta, I don't think it even mentions things like how to build on improvements by clicking the improvement rather then the city (which is confusing a number of people) or the tactical battle threshhold option (which is also confusing people and probably should default to zero).

Can't really argue with much else you said.

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August 23, 2010 7:49:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

yeah  very importat critiques

"the game does not explain how to end turn"

 

"my toaster does not explain i have to connect it to the power"

"my car doesnt explain me i have to put keys to turn it on"

 

plz...

 

 

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August 23, 2010 8:00:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nice one. This is how to raise concerns.


I also know what to expect when i get home to play the game this eve.

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August 23, 2010 8:05:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You're on to something with the spell animations and combat animations. I keep thinking about that pic of the Triceratops looking thing batting away a group of men and they go flying through the air. I'd really, Really, like to see that in game. So far I've spent about an hour playing the game and about 4 hours trying to fix a text issue. When I get this text bug fixed then I'll start seriously playing/modding....and making a list of all things I'll "Suggest" get changed/fixed.

Good post, TP, covers a lot of ground here. Hopefully we'll see some of the miner annoyances get fixed on Tuesday.

 

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August 23, 2010 8:10:44 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Although I agree with ddd that some things do not have to be explicitly explained, this game does leave FAR too much to trial and error.

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August 23, 2010 8:11:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great issued raised. I myself don't have much of a problem with the lack of a tutorial. However, the other issues (especially the performance issues) raised are definitely somewhat game-breaking.

That said, the core of this game is fantastic and you can see very well that it has been Stardock's labour of love.

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August 23, 2010 8:13:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't believe that the campaign was meant to be a tutorial. Also Brad did say that the campaign would not have the Tech portion of the game in it.

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August 23, 2010 8:13:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Im new to the game and im still trying to work out how to move . Is there an option to click to move as my mouse seems to be misbehaving if there is. Found to manual and got the movement keys So at least im now mobile.

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August 23, 2010 8:16:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree about the tactical threshold, having this setting set to anything other than 0 when nothing ingame remind/tell you of this setting is at best confusing for new players.

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August 23, 2010 8:20:13 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Yeah, I've been playing since Beta 1Z and I didn't know about the bonus tile in the tactical battles.

I wonder what else I've missed?

However, I have every confidence these things (and a lot more) will be addressed.

If this is your first Stardock game prepare to be amazed. They stick with their games and are almost constantly adding new things.

They don't abandon their games after the first patch or two. It's more of an ongoing process.

By the time we are at 2.5, you may not even recognize the game from 1.00.

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August 23, 2010 8:26:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I have a terminal illness called Huntingtons Disease. I am slowly losing my ability to rationalize. I need Tutorials in all games I play.

 

I agree with everything the OP said. I am knocking my head against the wall in frustration.

 

A tutorial is all I need to get into this game.

 

Regards,

 

Greg

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August 23, 2010 8:35:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

In complete agreement with the OP. I figured out some stuff on my own, but many, the game does not help you in the slightest. I figured out what I needed to because I've played TBS and have been following Elemental closely. The lack of any instruction too takes a lot of polish of the SP campaign, adding to the abruptness and out of place events.

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August 23, 2010 8:38:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

well as long as 90% of your gripes is there is no manual and poor documentation, and we can ask on the forums everything should be fine

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August 23, 2010 8:40:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I was about to post a similar thread, thank you for doing it. 

I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything you've pointed out. The game is very promising and it can be fun, I am VERY thankful that they let us play the gold version (Thank you, guys!), but there are quite a few issues to be taken care of, at least in this gold version.

The one thing that bothers me the most at the moment is the feedback and control in tactical battles. Both are insufficient, which makes the battles frustrating, which makes me auto resolve them whenever possible. Apart from the rightfully mentioned points in the original post, it really bothers me that I am not able to scroll over the battlefield.

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August 23, 2010 8:42:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am also extremely disappointed with the interface released. It screams of low-budget, sadly. It's not up to par with Age of Wonders or Master of Magic (I'm talking about consistency and grouping here), and nowhere near modern interfaces like King's Bounty or Anno 1701. Now, defenders of Stardock will say that they indeed did not have a high budget, but that is no excuse today, imo. Information is freely available and there are a lot of indie game creators even who get interfaces consistent and correct.

I've made threads about the UI here:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/385058

and more recently here:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/391373

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August 23, 2010 8:45:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Alot of good points there, good post. It presents a good list where most of my little annoyances are also covered. I do have faith though that with all the love Elemental will be getting these things will be taken care of.

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August 23, 2010 8:51:29 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting ddd888,
yeah  very importat critiques

"the game does not explain how to end turn"
 

"my toaster does not explain i have to connect it to the power"

"my car doesnt explain me i have to put keys to turn it on"

 plz...
 

http://www.useandcaremanuals.com/pdf/ST20001030.pdf

Toaster Manual - page 4:

How to Use

This unit is for househod use only.

GETTING STARTED

• Unpack the unit and remove any packing materials or labels.

• Wipe the toaster with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly.

• Plug unit into electrical outlet.

Should I dig out a car manual too? 

 

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August 23, 2010 9:31:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

while i have yet to play the game for myself, i appreciate the OP taking the time to put together such a detailed list... constructive criticism can only help!

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August 23, 2010 9:39:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Sythion,
Although I agree with ddd that some things do not have to be explicitly explained, this game does leave FAR too much to trial and error.

Everything has to be explained to exhaustion. The point of the game isn't to try to guess how X, Y or Z works. The game is about being the best at exploiting X, Y & Z.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the lack of in-game tutorials. It's a RTFM kind of game, just like any other Grand Strategy/4X game. What I mind is the lack of a manual to F'ing read. I probably will, but I don't want to have to read & help write the player-created Wiki for this game. I shouldn't have to. All that info should already exist in a manual in the game dir.

Tom Chick wrote the game itself doesn't understand its systems. He was wrong, at least about the example he used. But he shouldn't have been. The documentation and the game itself failed to explain how the systems work, leading the guy to take an action that should have produced a - to him - predictable outcome, but instead produced an unimaginable one. For a 4X game, that's about as epic fail as it gets.

Whatever... I actually just wanted to voice my total agreement with the OP. I'm taking some comfort in the fact that the game we're playing now isn't actually the release build. But man... The build we're playing is very much a beta - alpha even, considering how many assets seems to be missing. My faith in Stardock's ability to release something release-worthy is shaken.

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August 23, 2010 9:43:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

OP has summed up my thoughts after dabbling in the campaign myself.

 

It really wasn't that straightforward to figure out how to get units stronger than peasants to accompany you... I didn't figure that I would have to design my own unit to do such a thing!

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August 23, 2010 9:46:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Most of what you stated is minor stuff, and for the UI professional, wow.

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August 23, 2010 9:47:05 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Just wanted to post a thanks to the OP (and others who have posted their honest feedback and views), saved me paying for another beta game and end up waiting on patches etc Been burned to many times by paying to beta test - let the rabid fanboys do that, they seem to love it anwyay.

Will check back in a few weeks and see if anything improves.

Cheers

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August 23, 2010 10:08:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
I managed to get by so far in the campaign, but that just comes from prior TBS knowledge and trial and erroring the crap out of the game. I still don't know how to accomplish some basic features though, like learning new spells by a process other than random campaign contributions. Then there's marriage. A concept I know exists, but no clue how it works or how to set it up. The lack of documentation is staggering...but then I have another problem. Within the 3 or so hours I played, the game crashed as many times. Two were from unknown purposes but separate situations (One was me reloading the campaign since I messed up early on, another was from a turn ending, I guess?) Then, the third one, the coup de grace, was an out of memory error in the game. I alt tabbed to check what the memory was at, which was a scant 1.6 gigs (I have 4 gigs on my comp, 2 on my vid card, win7 64 bit with ATI) It took a while for it to hit this state, but it was certainly unexpected. Then comes the battles. Oh boy, the battles... I have found, in the campaign, absolutely no reason to want to do anything other than auto battles. I get a much better outcome, much faster. This makes no sense to me, but somehow, it works out this way in my experience. Either way, the game so far has been pretty interesting, but the campaign thus far has been far from challenging, though I've no clue how much further I have to go in it (At chapter...6?). The big complaints thus far have been the bugs, lack of documentation (Even in that encyclopedia thing, the documentation was just surprisingly not there), and clunky UI combined with random stuttering for no apparent reason, considering I slaughter the game's requirements and it runs smoothly except when zooming in/out. I'd go on, but don't want to steal the post too much from the OP. overall a decent game, but lacks a lot of polish in some highly critical areas. Knowing Stardock, this won't last however.
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August 23, 2010 10:25:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I guess my biggest complaint is that if you're going to roll out a SP campaign, and a big story behind it, and everything else, it should be a good introduction to the game. The SP campaign is pretty rough in some places. My first NPC just sort of vanished from my army, but I still get messages from him now and then about...stuff. Instead of explaining the mechanics or even trying to guide you on your first attempts, the game just kind of throws itself at you. Again, if there was no SP campaign and just a really excellent sand box, I'd expect that. But it's clear the SP campaign needs more than a few good passes for polish and just how it's presented.

For example I'm 2 hours in, just building my second city, have outfitted a whole troop of guys with leather armor and swords, and they're 10x the combat rating of all the monsters set along the campaign route. That's off, especially considering we're actually supposed to care about the campaign.

Also the combat and unit sfx are basic and in many cases, terrible. Can my guys just say "Sir?" instead of four variations of "Mmmm?" "Mmmmm" and that god awful "mmmmmmhhhhhmmmmmm." I love the musical score, and most of the other sound effects are ok. But some of the ones you hear the most still seem like place holders. At least I hope they are. 

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