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Fallen Enchantress: Beta 4

By on June 29, 2012 10:46:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Derek Paxton

Join Date 03/2003
+118

Beta 4 

Beta 4 focuses on cities.  But that really means it focuses on the games pace.  Production, economy and research come from your cities.  When we change them we change the game.  First let's talk about a few of the design issues we have been wrestling with:

1.            Lack of city specialization.  Materials and Food are okay, but in general you want to build the same things in every city, or at least the player's preference outweighs the strategic benefit (so it feels like you just want to do the same thing everywhere).

2.            We need more improvements.  We want to double the amount a given city may have.  We want more choices, we want there to be a bigger difference between a city that focuses on infrastructure and one that produces troops.  I want a player focusing on infrastructure to never be able to run out of things to build.  And I want to do it without:

a.            Making improvements take forever to build.

b.            Making cities even larger than they already are (in fact I want to shrink cities).

3.            Basing the economy, research and production directly on population is painful/impossible when cities can grow from 1 from 600 population.  Whatever bonus we give for those resources on a 10 population city become 60 times as high on a 600 population city.  Lesson 1: To control game pace, control your ranges.

4.            City enchantments are a tightrope walk.  To good and you have to place them on every city, it becomes busywork.  Not good enough and you never use them.

 

I wish fixing it was a simple thing, but we needed a few pieces to make it all work.

 

Step 1: Starbases?

Outposts can be upgraded to give bonuses to anything in their Zone of Control.  They can boost allied units attack, reduce the attack of enemies, modify movement costs, scare away monsters, provide bonuses to the attached city, etc.  They are not destroyed when an enemy moves onto them, instead they are flipped to that enemies control and represent your control over the land itself (monsters still destroy outposts, I highly recommend you upgrade them with Wardens to keep the monsters at bay).

Outposts have a limited distance they can be built (or summoned) from each other, so you can't pepper the field with them.  But their ZoC's can intersect (with the right upgrades) and their bonuses are cumulative, allowing you to build strong defenses if you desire.

 

Step 2: Much like a bad Star Trek episode, it's all about the Queue

The production queue is a precious resource.  Everything in Beta4 builds faster, but there is a lot more to build.  As with Beta3 City Improvements and Units train in the queue, but Wild Improvements and Outpost upgrades go into the queue as well.  You can drag items around in your queue if you want to reorder them (and it remembers how much production you had on items you may move back in line).

The biggest change in Beta4 is that even though production is much faster, there are always things you want to build.  You can play as Pariden and drop outposts early on, but you will be making a hard choice to start claiming those resources vs making units or improvements in your cities.

Multiple cities are always good.  If you can defend them and you have the land to claim it's always a good option just because it gives you more queues.  The minimum distance between cities has been reduced in Beta4 to support more cities, closer together.

 

Step 3: Improvement Upgrades

In Beta4 improvements can upgrade.  Your Cleric upgrades to a Shrine which upgrades to a Sacrificial Altar (for Empire players).  Since the old improvement is replaced by the new one, we get a few benefits:

1.            City size stays relatively contained.  We added 40 new improvements and cities are about half the side they are in Beta 3.

2.            Cities look more advanced as they upgrade to higher tier buildings.  A cleric is a modest building, the Shrine is more pronounced, the artists can go all out on what the Sacrificial Altar looks like.  Upgraded buildings don't get lost in the jumble of the same buildings the rest of your cities have, they look more unique and specific to their purpose.

3.            You can't get to the higher tier buildings of particular types unless you have built the earlier versions.  You can't build the Treasury Vault unless you have gone through the economy boosting improvements on the way.  So you have to decide, do you want to build a Study, then School, then College and University?  If you do you won't be getting access to the best economy improvements without spending the time to go through the base one and their upgrades.  You are rewarded for specializing your cities and your cities build lists become very unique from each other.  Build lists also don’t become huge since you only see the highest tier you have access to (you only see the Pier, not the Dock and Harbor it upgrades to).

4.            Faction achievements and World Achievements are at the end of upgrade chains.  You can't build the Ironworks just because you unlocked the tech for it, and you can't build it in every city.  It will only show in a city that has specialized in what it does.

5.            Resource improvements upgrade too.  The first shard shrine only produces 1 mana per turn.  With the correct techs you can upgrade to ones that produce more mana.  The same goes for Crystal and Iron mines.  If you have enough iron mines to train your units maybe you don’t need to tech up the side of the tree to unlock these improvements.  But if you do want to have your iron come in faster, the research options are there for it.  This fixes a big issue for us by allowing us to control the pace of mana and resources as the game goes on, we can trickle it in in the beginning, then ramp it up as the player gets access to more expensive units and more costly spells.

 

Step 4: City Specialization

All cities start as villages.  When the city gets to city level 2 you pick a specialization for that city.  It can be either be a Fort, a Conclave or a Town.

 

Fort- Units trained in forts start at a level higher.  Forts are the only cities that can build walls as well as having access to improvements that improve defenders and improve trained units.

Conclave- Conclaves generate more research than other city types and have access to special magic and research improvements.  They gain additional bonuses from Essence (more about that later).

Town- Towns are the heart of your empire and are the source of your food, growth and money.  They also have a larger ZoC than other city types.  Towns have access to a series of improvements that improve the food production for all cities in your empire and they are cumulative with each other.  So Forts and Conclaves will never be able to reach the highest city levels on their own, they will need towns to support them.

 

The improvements for each city type are generally in that tech tree (Fort=Military, Town=Civilization, Conclave=Magic).  So players that are doing alot of teching in one area will find that they can get more advanced improvements for that sort of city.  If you have researched 90% of your magic tree and 0% of your Military tree you will have more high tier conclave improvements available than you have Fort improvements (in fact you will only have 1st tier Fort improvements available).

Choosing what sort of city you have opens up lots of new improvements to that city as well as determining what sorts of improvements the city can unlock at city level 3, 4 and 5.  The real magic comes in the intersection of the upgradeable improvement chains (which keep players from building everything everywhere) and the city types (which modify the effect of other improvements).  Maybe you want a food boosting town or a fort that creates super soldiers.  Or maybe you want studies in every city because you like studies (even if they are more productive in Conclave cities).

Note that studies are available everywhere.  Our point isn't to lock these city types down.  You can get research and money from non-town cities.  You can train units in Conclave cities.  The point is to open up new ways each type can specialize.

 

Step 5: The Economy

I love the idea of all the economics inputs coming from the population.  At one point I had a design where there were citizen types, unrest controlled how many were rebels, craftsmen produced special things.  It was a beautiful, intricate, stupid design.  Lesson number 2: If it's fun to design, it probably isn't fun to play.

Instead of getting money, research and production from the population, they now come from the city level.  A village (city level 1) produces 1 research a turn, a level 5 city produces 16 research per turn.  Of course these are modified by improvements, enchantments, etc.  But that is the extent of our range.

Because of that change tech costs drop to more normalized values.  A player with a large population isn't researching at 20x the rate of a player with a normal population.  He may be going twice as quickly.

Improvement costs can normalize since we know the ranges for a large production based city.  And they are close enough that they stay reasonable for a production focused city without being laughable for a moderate city.

Gold (*cough*, I mean Gildar) values were normalized since we control the ranges, meaning item costs in shops can come down.  Sell prices stay the same but now that money means more.  A gildar per turn means something to small and large empires alike because to don’t through a growth curve from starving for money to drowning in it.

 

Step 6: Essence

The final step is the addition of a new tile yield, Essence.  Essence appears much like Grain and Materials and is more prevelant around mana shards.  Only about half of the city locations have any essence nearby, and only about half of those have spots with 2 Essence.  3 Essence tiles are extremely rare.

There are chains of improvements that require essence before they become available.  The Cleric/Shrine/Sacrificial Altar chain I mentioned above is only available in cities with Essence.  Conclaves have access to Alchemy Labs and other improvements that give bonuses based on the amount of Essence in that city.  The Guardian Idol improvement requires Essence and is 1 per faction (it starts as a monument, upgraded to a Guardian Statue and then to a Guardian Idol), it is a powerful city defender that can cast any spell your sovereign can cast.

There are two improvements that can increase the amount of Essence in a city.  One is a level up option in Conclave cities.  The other is only available to Pariden.

The biggest advantage of Essence is that a cities Essence determines how many enchantments it can have.  City enchantments no longer have a maintenance cost and there are more of them and they are more powerful than before.  If you found a city on a place with essence the first thing you should do is get some enchantments on it.  Inspiration and Enchanted Hammers are good early ones that exist in Beta 3 (though in Beta4 the amount of their bonus depends on the amount of essence in the city).  Additional City Enchantments like Set in Stone (+100% production but no research), Blood Sigil (Withers all attackers, Berserks all Defenders) and Sovereign's Call (+1 Growth per Essence) allow you an additional decision on how to specialize your cities.  Trust in Glyph of Life to protect your Conclave from attackers, use Pit of Madness to speed the research in your Town.

Essence effectively becomes the most flexible tile yield, doing nothing on its own, but allowing you to reach in and play with the cities configuration.  Maybe you want it focused on gold and growth but dispel those enchantments and switch it into battle mode when enemies come near (enchantment maintenance is gone, but these spells still cost mana to cast so "respecting" your city isn't something you should do lightly).

 

Step 7: Balance

I find myself carefully considering the build options in my cities.  That doesn't mean it will be perfect.  I'm very curious to hear from all of you on what enchantments you use most and which you don't use at all.  Do you focus just on one sort of city type or play with a mix?  Do you chase down improvement chains to the end, or do you pick a variety of improvements in your cities?

In a few weeks you will have a chance to play and I'm excited to get your thoughts.  Until then we have work to do, mostly in making sure all the information is being displayed in an easy to understand way, and generally polishing the entire game to smooth the edges.

 

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June 30, 2012 4:32:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

All you guys are missing the point:

Quoting ,

 

Step 2: Much like a bad Star Trek episode, it's all about the Queue

 

There are plenty of good Star Trek episodes with Q in them!

But seriously, can't wait to try out Beta 4. Beta 3 was a great step in the right direction, hopefully these changes make FE enough to keep me interested and engaged throughout the entire turn.

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June 30, 2012 5:05:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The changes look awesome.  

I'm sure there will be minor things to be worked out with all these new changes, but overall I love the direction the game is going. 

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June 30, 2012 7:52:43 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

sofar  it looks like a great change to the game, just the only obvious question of

when will we get it?

and my useless guess would be the first thursday or friday in july, hope it is sooner than this though

harpo

 

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June 30, 2012 10:04:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A lot of good things, but I do have to agree with the few posters who worries about production being tied to city levels instead of population. It severely depreciates the value of food improvements. You'd never want to build them unless you know you can hit the next 'tier', making them meaningless for level 5 cities (which will most likely result in high food tile yield cities not bothering to focus in food improvements - which seems... rather counter intuitive). You'd also open up some cheesy strategy where you'd cast "Gentle Rain" to get to the next tier, then dispel it for something else once it grows, etc... it's the same issue with city takeovers and city pop reduction...

I do understand the desire to control production values, but I'm not so sure that this is the best way to proceed.

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June 30, 2012 10:25:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Can't wait to get my grubby little hands on Beta 4. 

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June 30, 2012 10:53:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Eveything in this update sounds very positive. I can't wait to give it a spin!

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June 30, 2012 11:57:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would have to hazard a guess that population will be handled differently in beta 4. Overall the new system puts some order into an otherwise chaotic system. The solution to population could easily be solved with a penalty for every population point you are under the level milestone. You want to cheese the system? +1% Unrest per 10 population under the current level. 

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July 1, 2012 12:27:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As an aside, I would love to see population bound to militia in a way, that you get 1 militia per x population but also loose this amount of population for every militia unit that gets killed in battle.

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July 1, 2012 12:41:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

looks good, can't wait to play it.

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July 1, 2012 12:49:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
Is it such a problem to have different qeues for troops, buildings, and researches per city, as is generally more common? If a building exists, say, that produces archers, that does not stop foot soldiers from being trained in a different building that produces them. But here it does, which is a problem that can be somewhat overcome by city spam. The existing system of one action per city is bad for pacing and makes the start of games dull affairs, waiting turn after turn while cities grow and pioneers and soldiers train.
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July 1, 2012 1:03:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Fearzone,
Is it such a problem to have different qeues for troops, buildings, and researches per city, as is generally more common?

It is not a problem, it is where they decided to work on the pace of the game and make building decisions strategic and meaningful. Not easy to balance though, but might work out extremely well in the end and surpass systems balanced out by upkeep and building costs.

 

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July 1, 2012 1:19:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting puntarenas,
As an aside, I would love to see population bound to militia in a way, that you get 1 militia per x population but also loose this amount of population for every militia unit that gets killed in battle.

I think this would help give meaning to any population that's stuck in between lvls (lvl 2 almost lvl 3), & excess population once lvl 5, would also allow those sl*ving b*st*rds to have the possibility of an enormous capitol defense 

edit: man, the more I read over this stuff the more I like several Ideas mentioned, lots'a good brain stormin here

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July 1, 2012 1:29:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting OneLion,
Unlike most people I'm highly skeptical. At first because this is a huge change late in the game design process, I hope that it pushes the estimated release date back by quite a bit.

Moreover some of this sounds like it is making city spamming more attractive again, didn't we have lots of changes in order to prevent this?

I liked population controlling so much because then it was fluent... now it's like "new city level - huge booooost!".

I might be wrong as I ended up liking quite some changes I was very skeptical of in the first place, but we'll see.

 

 

I'm sure the date is being pushed back already, and we'll probably need a Beta 5 to fix bugs/balance pass/wrap things up.

 

Not a fan of city levels determining all.  That said, in previous Betas it was hard work to get a city to level 5.

 

Cities do need to be able to have their level lowered, and I'd suggest that cities with buildings that they have an insufficient level for shouldn't get the benefits of said buildings until the city reaches that level again.

 

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July 1, 2012 2:41:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Maybe grain should get more intuitive for beta 4. One level per grain by the end of the tech tree. 4 grain should tell the player at a glance that he can get the city to level 4 rather easily. A 3 grain city should be possible to get to level 4 if you specialize in farming all the way. Maybe it could be more complex with 2 Grain needed in per city level at the start and with all farming techs a 5 Grain city can make it to level 5. This would make the tedium of food management less of a hassle. 

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July 1, 2012 6:45:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Will all the factions get there own artwork now? Or are there only empire and kingdom artwork? What I'm trying to ask is, will the different empires and kingoms look different from one another?

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July 1, 2012 8:25:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Those improvements sound amazing. I am excited to see them in action!

As far as enchantments that use regularly I always use Enchanted Hammers and The rain one (can't remember the name, haven't played in a few weeks). And the Frozen Bones city enchantment to slow my opponents down before I attack. Other than that, I rarely use any other city enchantments.

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July 1, 2012 8:31:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

 

 

Step 1: Starbases?

 

 

Step 4: City Specialization

 

 I pretty much love everything but the two above parts made manly tears of joy wet my cheeks.

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July 1, 2012 8:36:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A welcome update!  I can't wait to see these ideas in action, overall I liked what I read (with the exception of a brief red-colored rant below )

 

3. Basing the economy, research and production directly on population is painful/impossible when cities can grow from 1 from 600 population.  Whatever bonus we give for those resources on a 10 population city become 60 times as high on a 600 population city.  Lesson 1: To control game pace, control your ranges.

Glad to see we got away from continuous functions  From what I've seen of mathematical modeling, there is seldom one equation that accurately captures all possible states of a real-world system.  Like with your old system, scaling is often a problem with that approach. 

 

Step 2: Much like a bad Star Trek episode, it's all about the Queue

Such flagrantly uncalled for, unwarranted, unappreciated, un-Trekkie, anti-geek tribble dribble will not make you any fans here, good sir!

 

Step 3: Improvement Upgrades

Oh yeah!

 

Outposts have a limited distance they can be built (or summoned) from each other, so you can't pepper the field with them.  But their ZoC's can intersect (with the right upgrades) and their bonuses are cumulative, allowing you to build strong defenses if you desire.

Thrilled by the prospect of interlocking outposts, capable of mutual support.  That scene from LoTR:RotK comes to mind when the watchfires are lit along a mountain range.

 

Step 4: City Specialization

Oh yeah!

 

Step 6: Essence

I like it!  Can't wait to try it!

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July 1, 2012 8:47:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

Outposts have a limited distance they can be built (or summoned) from each other, so you can't pepper the field with them. 

I just realized this...
OOOOOHHHH NOOOOOOO!!!!! 
How am I going to build my own Hadrian's wall now?!
Will we be given another means of locking an area off from the other players? I mean, I really liked making a border that nobody could pass..  

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July 1, 2012 8:53:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Derek Paxton,
Glazunov1
If outposts will be upgradable, something I'm very glad to see, could you make them also occupyable?  Placing a unit on one, only to see it continue to appear on the left side of the screen as though it were a freestanding unit, is confusing.  And that confusion only multiples if you leave more units in your outposts, currently.
We are working on the fortify command in general.  Meaning if you fortify a unit it doesn't show up in your empire tree anymore.  That way whenever you just want to park a unit somewhere (no matter where it is) you won't clutter up your empire tree.

Yes, this as well.  Much needed and looked for.

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July 1, 2012 9:43:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This all sounds pretty good, can't for beta 4 now! The essence mechanic is very original, I was afraid it would become some kind of 'mana resource'. Like some of the others I'm a bit saddened that population will play a lesser role, but it was a pain to balance indeed.

Quoting Derek Paxton,

The shopkeepers of Elemental are the true bad guys of the game, this is true.  The gap has been decreased in Beta4, shop prices have been halved but sell prices are the same.  Also anywhere you see an items value it is it's sell value (it was confusing to see "Value 200" and only be able to sell it for 20).

But that gap will continue to exist.  Its a nessesary evil if we want the player out grabbing lots of crazy stuff in the wilderness (and we do) without completely upsetting the economy.

What's the point of the 'crazy stuff' you find if all you do is sell it? You could just give heaps of gildar as a reward instead.

Imo the selling of artifacts to the shop needs to go. It's hard to balance the sale price without upsetting the whole economy. And its a complete no-brainer; if I can't use it, I sell it to the shop, where it just disappears. It would be a lot more fun if items became tradable through diplomacy. You could sell items to other players, but have the risk of it being used against you. Or you could go to war over some powerful artifact, and only agree to peace if it is handed over to you.
Another option would be to have everything that is sold in the shop available for purchase by all other players. That would make the shopkeepers truly evil

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July 1, 2012 10:12:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Satrhan,

What's the point of the 'crazy stuff' you find if all you do is sell it? You could just give heaps of gildar as a reward instead.

Agreed, please take plunder out of base economy and make it tradeable on itself.

Let's say merchants write in a book whatever you trade in and that is your credit. Now just classify whatever item is found on the battlefield (e.g. 1 legendary item = 2 magical items = 4 rare items = 8 ordinary items = 16 pieces of crap = ...).

This would also lead to some hard decisions on top of the trade chain whenever you want that one legandary thing for example but hesitate if it is really worth to give away 1 of your magical items, 1 rare items and 2 ordinary items.

If you want you could allow to exchange some gildar into merchant's book entries, but not the other way around. Maybe it would also be a good idea to have one global stock, so whatever you trade in might be chosen by an opponent and vice versa. Of course some interesting stuff would also spawn into the merchants stock from time to time.

 

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July 1, 2012 11:56:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This all sounds very promising Derek, looking forward to beta 4.

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July 1, 2012 12:04:26 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Will the AI see some improvement as well? I'm especially waiting for the AI to play their factions strengths (and weaknesses).

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July 1, 2012 1:17:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The AI gets incremental improvements all the while. I would guess that the final AI work will be done in beta 5 and 6.

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