Elemental: War of Magic Updated Q&A - Progress Report and Improvements Over GalCiv

Stardock frontman Brad Wardell gives us an update on this ambitious fantasy strategy game.

In the beginning, there was nothing. And for a long time, nothing happened until some guys made Master of Magic, a cult-classic strategy game that let you conquer a fantasy world with sword-swinging armies and magic spells. Master of Magic was succeeded by a great many other fantasy games that all put their own spin on the formula, but these successors eventually faded away. Now, developer Stardock is looking to recapture the magic of large-scale fantasy-themed strategy with Elemental: War of Magic, a game that builds on the success that the studio attained with its acclaimed Galactic Civilizations series. Stardock's Brad Wardell explains.

In Elemental: War of Magic, there be dragons.

GameSpot: Give us a brief update on the game's status. What parts of the game are currently being worked on?

Brad Wardell: We're nearing the end of the first beta of the game. Our focus has been to work through the game mechanics to make sure what seems fun on paper will translate to fun in-game. Specifically, we have been working on the battle system, quests, and the player's dynasty. The dynasty system has proven to be far more interesting than we had realized. In Elemental, the player exists in the game as a specific unit (the sovereign). The sovereign can have children who appear in the game as champions with various powers. These units can be married off to other kingdoms to secure alliances and gain other political advantage. In turn, they can have children. We have a genetic algorithm for producing the children, which has had some interesting visual results. In one game, I married my beautiful daughter to a trog monster. I will require many months of therapy to recover after seeing their child.

GS: Even though Elemental is a brand-new intellectual property, it's coming from the same team that created Galactic Civilizations and that has worked on strategy games for years. What are some of the most important lessons the team is taking from its previous gameplay, design, and balancing experiences and applying to Elemental?

BW: There's a lot of lessons we've learned from Galactic Civilizations that we're bringing into Elemental. Probably the single biggest lesson has been the importance of giving the game a "soul." Each of the 12 factions needs to feel different. The gameworld should feel rich and full of epic history. We are focusing on making sure that while it is a strategy game with great depth, it also makes players feel like they're part of an epic tale that is different each time they play.

GS: We've also seen that Elemental has an extremely far zoom mode that incorporates the early beta "cloth map" view--definitely not a feature we've seen in the studio's previous games. What are some of the most important technological lessons and tech tricks the team has learned and perfected to bring into Elemental?

BW: In Galactic Civilizations II, players could zoom out to see the whole galaxy. In Elemental, we've taken strategic zoom to the next level where the game can truly be played completely in the cloth-map view. This is important to us because it lets us have our cake and eat it too--the game can be played on a netbook but also will have stunning, state-of-the-art graphics on the latest hardware.

So…Rain of Fire sound good to everyone else?

GS: One of the most impressive and enjoyable aspects of Stardock's established GalCiv series is its smart and challenging artificial intelligence for computer-controlled opponents. How will Elemental's AI opponents compare? In what specific ways will they be even better than those of GalCiv II?

BW: Probably the biggest difference in our strategy on computer AI is that we're going to expose our AI algorithms to players via Python. In Galactic Civilizations, I wrote the AI myself, and as good as it was, there was always the limitation of "it could only be as good as I was." In Elemental, I'm writing the computer AI again, but this time, when it's done, players will be able to modify it as well.

GS: More recently, Stardock has encountered challenges in netcode for more multiplayer-heavy games. What lessons has the team taken from its recent experiences to apply to Elemental's multiplayer?

BW: The big difference is that for Elemental, Stardock is writing the netcode. In Demigod, we were the publisher and licensed a third-party network library to help developer Gas Powered Games handle its peer-to-peer system. While we were able to throw our own developers at the problem to resolve the issues for Demigod, it's not something we want to ever go through again. So on Elemental, [the netcode is] 100 percent our own. Moreover, Elemental is client/server based rather than peer-to-peer. So all the computing takes place on a server rather than on individual machines. This means one player can't really affect the game experience of everyone else.

Obviously, Elemental is focusing on its single-player experience. But much of our network investment is focusing on enhancing that single-player experience by letting users share and incorporate [user-created content] within the game. For multiplayer, the client/server setup lets us optionally manage players' saved multiplayer games so that they can go back and continue later on without worrying where their saved game is.

GS: Can you give us an update on the powerful editing tools we've previously discussed? What are some of the new developments that have been added? How big will players be able to make their maps? How many interconnected quests and triggers can be tied together? Just how long of an epic campaign do you think ambitious hobbyists will end up making?

BW: During our last visit, we had the integrated map editor, item editor, and city designer for players to enhance the game experience. Since then, we've been developing a conversation editor that can be used in-game for players to enrich the interaction between characters in the game and help users expand the in-game story as they see fit. We are also hoping to fit in a quest editor so that players can create new quests.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Elemental: War of Magic?

In addition to conquering the world, you can pursue quests. With any luck, the in-game editor will let you make your own quests, too.

BW: Probably one of the most fun parts of developing the game has been the open beta program. Even though the game isn't scheduled for release until the end of summer, we've had an ongoing beta for several months in which we've had enough time to play the game and find things we did, and didn't, like about our initial designs. For instance, we redesigned the technology tree to be a lot more fun, and our economic system has been refined heavily based on player feedback. It's just one of those things where the game will have had lots of real-world strategy game players playing the game long before it's generally available. It's been a lot of fun so far.

GS: Thanks, Brad.

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Discussion

72 comments
xtoda7
xtoda7

something to keep an eye on..

blix2006
blix2006

anything from these guys is bound to be a classic.its one of those rare devs that makes a great game everytime(pushes demigods under rug)....everytime

BillyBlood
BillyBlood

I hope this is good.. I'm tired of getting jazzed up for a game and then it's a piece of crap. It's better not to hear anything till it drops, then take it from there.

pimpjump
pimpjump

Hmmm interesting, looks good, could do with a trailer or two and the in game editor is something to look forward too :)

Evil_Noodles
Evil_Noodles

Hmm, not heard of this one beforehand, looking forward to seeing more about it now!

Jaga_Telesin
Jaga_Telesin

@bloodnumber They haven't updated the release date - the current Q1 is very incorrect. Actual release for Q3/Q4 this year, and I expect we'll see more trailers as it nears that time. Unfortunately Gamespot is a bit lacking in their updates to listed games, even when they are given the information in interviews.

bloodnumber
bloodnumber

damn. Im exited for this game. but whats up with the lack of trailers?

rapiergv
rapiergv

love the graphic style. love the dynasty feature. will keep an eye on this one.

RyuRanVII
RyuRanVII

I can hardly wair for this game! Stardock FTW!

LT-Voltaire
LT-Voltaire

Stardock nailed it with Sins of the Solar Empire its one of the only PC games i find myself going back to from time to time and wasting hours of my day playing so this might be just as great of a game. So i might give this a try as long as i hear good things form hands on.

MehowPwned
MehowPwned

Worth a try might just buy this since it will probobly be cheap

zeifel
zeifel

This looks pretty -- just like all other previews. I am not being a cynic here, but hopefully this game does not fall short of its apparent potential. I am tracking this one.

RavenXavier
RavenXavier

@ Moondrake : Here's something I thought you and some others might like. I took this quote from one of Brad Wardell's post the Elemental :WoM forums. "I bloody want a game that if I hung out with the guys who made Age of Wonders Shadow Magic, Master of Magic or any of the other games of the genre they'd say "That'll do, Frog, that'll do." It's mirrored on Stardock's general forums which you can see here. http://forums.stardock.com/369787 Trust me. Anyone who liked the original MoM is going to Love Elemental: WoM . Even though Age of Wonders was a good game in it's own right, it didn't quite pull off that MoM feeling. Elemental succeeds in every aspect of acquiring that old magic that the original had. If you get in on the Beta now you can still get some of your ideas heard and incorporated into the game. This is truly a Awesome time for fans of the genre.

MadCat46
MadCat46

It's not coming out until late Q3/early Q4 doppelgang. Looking forwards to this game, may preorder it so I can get in on Beta 2 when it comes out.

doppelgang
doppelgang

why has this show up NOW? its practically right next to its release date and there has been NOTHING on GS about it! look great, reminds me of one of the seven kingdoms games....

Jaga_Telesin
Jaga_Telesin

Perhaps Gamespot would like to update the Release Date to Q3 2010, based upon the stated release of "end of summer".

LordSoth2
LordSoth2

That old game was awesome in its game play. Upgrade graphics and expand to a little variety and it would be another winner of a game. This new one looks every bit as good.

PJ_tor
PJ_tor

MoM is one of the best games ever. Brings so many memories... I was 16 when it first came out and couldn't stop playing. Man, I had a crap PC and as I progressed in a game I had to wait for minutes until I was able to play after pressing the next turn button lol. Heroes were so cool, developping them was the real deal. Age of Wonders almost got it right but not quite. I hope Elemental is the game that finally takes over first spot, but the bar is set that high...

Bleah_86
Bleah_86

I think this is going to be kewl :P

999realthings
999realthings

Knowing Stardock, this game could be freaking awesome. Can't wait to see the end product.

999realthings
999realthings

Knowing Stardock, this game could be freaking awesome. Can't wait to see the end product.

Tigii
Tigii

Never played its predecesor... but it sounds phun :P... i wanna i wanna

AceBalls
AceBalls

Master of Magic was one of the best games ever. I must say I am extremely geed up about this project here. This is gonna be interesting..

Moondrake
Moondrake

@RavenXavier Thanks for the info. I'd truely love to see a REAL remake of MoM but if Elemental can manage to come somewhat close, I could set MoM aside... maybe... for a week or two. :)

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

Been lookin forward to this..Played the old game for hours ive got it around some place..It probubly doesnt work any more..It was a great stradegy game back in the day..If this follows some things in that game..This should rock the house..Its kind of like civilization with rpg elements with elves an orces an dwarfs...

honglong17
honglong17

this is look amazing, can't wait to see it ^_^

martok
martok

@mad_gamer23: Impulse is only necessary for patches/updates. You don't need it to actually play the game, however. @RRouland: Yes, Elemental is turn-based. :)

RRouland
RRouland

I LOVED MoM and have been waiting years for a successor to that classic game. I just hope this is turn-based. I can't stand the "scroll here, scroll there, click, click, click" style of RTS games.

WTF2000
WTF2000

Bought the game a couple of weeks ago can't wait to get into the second beta (missed the first). If its anything like MoM then i will be happy plus stardock always develops great games. LET ME IN BRAD :)

RavenXavier
RavenXavier

@Moondrake I'm on the Beta team for Elemental:War of Magic and I have to say it does have Tons in common with MoM. From the way you gather magic shards to increase Mana, to the diplomacy and interactions between the Wizards/Sovereigns. Elemental is like MoM only pumped up with a lot of other killer features. Trust me, when Elemental: WoM launches it is going to take the place as the Number One fantasy War Game of our generation.

Epicurus-Reborn
Epicurus-Reborn

"Rain Of Fire: Effects: Must hate Kittens" I loled. Everything looks promising too.

mad_gamer23
mad_gamer23

since it's from stardock, are you going to have to use impulse to authenticate this, or even just play it?

Terumune
Terumune

Rain of Fire: "Known though out history as one of the grate plagues..." Looks like they could use some good editors. I've played GalCiv 1 and 2, and this game looks like it has great potential. I just hope the finished product is thoroughly streamlined and run through a comprehensive spellchecker.

Zedrake
Zedrake

cant wait for this game ^_^ looks awesome!

Jack_Kal
Jack_Kal

Normally I am NOT a fan of cell-shaded graphics: they tend to look too cartoony and kind of ridiculous. But for some reason, this look seems to fit the game's art profile dead on. It's used to help capture a specific feel to the game, and not just as a gimmick (as most cell-shaded games are). All in all, I'm intrigued, Stardock. I'll keep an eye on this game. It looks like it has a lot of potential. (But first, give us a decent trailer. The teaser trailer is absolute crap. Sorry, but it's true.)

wexorian
wexorian

why i'm see those kind strategy games are wery looks like warcraft and lord of the rings can anyone tell me ?:P

Moondrake
Moondrake

After all these years, I'm still playing Master of Magic. Yes, the heroes are totally overpowered, but heck, that's part of the fun... finding killer items and building up your heroes until they are unstoppable. When I heard about Stardock's intention to do a MoM remake, I was totally jazzed, but then they started down a completely different path. After watching the development of this game from early on, I don't understand why people continue to mention MoM when talking about it. It sounds like it has been influenced more by Galactic Civilizations than from Master of Magic. That doesn't mean it won't be fun, but from what I can see, it isn't going to be ANYTHING like Master of Magic. In my experience, the game that has come the closest to being the spiritual successor to MoM is Age of Wonders II: Shadow Magic. I don't see Elemental: War of Magic changing that, which is very disappointing.

ThatBlack1
ThatBlack1

Oh Stardock....you already have me...you've never let me down...just say "new game" and you have my wallet. *swoon*

Abberon
Abberon

I'm interested in this. I usually find Stardock games high in quality but low on content. I loved GalCiv and Sins, but I couldn't usually play them for too long because the gameplay became very repetitive and it became more a matter of micro managing every little unit and planet etc and I ended up bored. Hopefully this game adds more of a strategic element and helps out with the micro!

tsb247
tsb247

I have never played a bad game from Stardock. I am REALLY looking forward to this one!

big-boss-91
big-boss-91

stardock makes great games :D look at Sins of the solar empire! and Gal Civ!

qweasd54
qweasd54

sounds like a very fun game :)

zetius12
zetius12

Looks like another Stardock game I'm going to like, me likey.