Those that have pre-ordered Elemental: War of Magic (PC) direct from Stardock should gain access to an updated beta build today, according to the company.
This particular version of the 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) fantasy strategy game is labeled Beta 1G, and represents the last of the Beta 1 builds. Beta 2 builds--"Realistically, Beta 2 should have the game mechanics sufficiently far enough that it should be 'fun,'" in the words of Stardock CEO Bard Wardell--are expected in mid-March, though there may be a day of access "this next Thursday."
For more on the changes that Beta 1G makes to the game currently expected in late summer, let's turn things over to Mr. "Frogboy" Wardell himself:
To reiterate, our betas are not your typical beta. They're effectively alphas in that there is very little "game" there. It's mostly about getting early adopters and us talking together about game mechanics and giving each other ideas. I've written this before but in a modern TBS game, it's 80% engine/assets and 20% "game" (in other genres it's more like 90% engine/assets and 10% game). So the purpose of the beta 1 series has been to just let people (and us) try out different game mechanics. You are getting to see the sausage factory up close which - for us and our beta group is a big part of the "fun" (in a perverse way). We will have a detailed change log but it'll be so insanely long that it'll be hard to tell what the big new things are. In no particular order:
IMPORTANT NOTES: This beta is going to be buggy and incomplete. There's lots of obvious stuff that just doesn't work yet or is just plain broken. Bear with us as a lot of "stuff" has come together in the past few weeks from the various groups. What we are looking for are crashes in particular and memory leaks. When the game crashes, if you can send us as much information as possible (particularly the crash location) that would be great. See this post: forums.elementalgame.com/364285 to get started. WHEN should the game be fun? Realistically, Beta 2 should have the game mechanics sufficiently far enough that it should be "fun". We will not go to beta 3 until the beta group consensus is that it is ready to progress to beta 3 in terms of "fun" and reasonable stability. WHEN can I get into the beta? Officially the answer is Beta 2 which won't be until mid next month. However, if you have pre-ordered (or plan to pre-order) we may open the beta for one day this next Thursday and let everyone who has pre-ordered the game up till then in so that if we have to delay beta 2, users aren't having to keep waiting and waiting because we want to get their feedback in before we go to beta 2. WHEN is the game supposed to come out? We are looking at late Summer. If we're done sooner, it'll come out sooner (probably not) if it takes longer for it to be what we want, it'll get delayed. I want to make sure we're all on the same page here: This game matters a lot to us. We've been thinking about Elemental for a long time so we want to make sure it's just right. We self-fund our own titles so there is no "publisher" to pressure us. That said, based on our internal builds (which includes the full engine that users will get in beta 3) we're looking at end of August as being fairly safe. If people compare Beta 1D (December) to this beta (2 months later) I think they'll see how dramatically things have changed. 6 months is a long time but we'll see.
- Random Maps (though still hard coded to small) are significantly better quality.
- New Screen: Choose your sovereign.
- New Screen: Create a new sovereign
- You get 50 points to spend on:
- improving your base stats (strength, intelligence, etc.)
- Choosing starting spell books
- Choosing your talents (brilliant, persuasive, hardy, diplomatic, seductive, etc.).
- You can get points back for giving your sovereign weaknesses (unlucky, insane, cowardly, etc.)
- Choose what your profession was prior to the cataclysm (mason, merchant, thief, adventurer, warlord, etc.)
- You can choose whether they're male or female (see Lorina over there who is a sovereign I created).
- Decide what your sovereign looks like (skin, hair, clothes, equipment, colors, etc.).
- Give them a backstory (not functional yet).
- Official Kingdom Factions are in (Empire factions are NOT enabled)
- You can create your own faction.
- New Screen: Create your own faction.
- Name your faction
- Choose what race the faction comes from (race really is superficial, think race as in humans)
- Spend points on strengths like Expert Traders, Heroic, Siege Masters, Industrious, etc.
- Get points back by giving your faction weaknesses (arrogant, supersticious, etc.)
- Give your faction its own look (i.e. create your own race)
- Much Better Performance (On a scale from 1 to 10 where 10 is outstanding and 1 is ridiculous, the last beta would have been a 2 and this beta is 4. To ship, we have to get to a 10).
- Much better memory handling.
- Updated UI
- Research Screen heavily updated.
- New Economic System
- Cities have 5 levels
- The base amount of money, research, spell learning and prestige is based on the city level.
- Outpost: 0
- Hamlet: 2
- Village: 4
- Town: 8
- City: 16
- Money is spent on upkeep based on the number of cities you have. The first city costs 0. The second city costs 1. The third city costs 2. and so forth.
- Improvements provide a specific benefit.
- A library provides 1 point of research per turn for instance.
- The number of improvements is tied to the City level:
- Outpost: 1
- Hamlet: 2
- City: 5
- Updated City Improvement Building system
- IN the beta, outposts get 25 sub-tiles, Hamlets 30...Cities 48. However, we plant to change this to a flat N number and instead have the limiting factor be the radius from the Keep.
- We also plan (but not in this beta) to have certain types of improvements not require that they be connected to the keep. So a farm or a mine or a sawmill or whatever could be outside of town proper -unprotected but able to be used without having to "snake out" to it from your city.
- We also plan (but not in this beta) to let users queue up buildings outwards and not care if they have already been build. Need the radius modifier in first.
- Choosing improvements UI completely redone. Much much better.
- Certain improvements will automatically upgrade to better buildings at no cost when you have the necessary tech and city level.
- Unit Design Screen Heavily modified.
- One of the major design goals of Elemental is that the people for your armies are coming from somewhere. To that end, when you design a unit, you start with your template which is some guy you grab from town. That means each time you design a unit, the base template guy will look slightly different. Skin tone, hair, clothing, etc. Eventually even height and weight will be slightly different.
- The UI has been cleaned up dramatically.
- New Screen: Magical Studies.
- Based on what spell books you have, you can "purchase" certian spells. You purchase these with spell points.
- Spell points are earned in your towns.
- For the beta, we have a cap of 50 total spell points. Eventually, this cap will be based on beta tester feedback.
- Spells all currently cost 50.
- Magical System In
- Spells require a combination of Mana + control of shards (Earth, Fire, Water, Air). Many spells only require mana. But the most powerful ones or ones specific to a doing a certain thing (like raising a mountain) will require control of a particular shard.
- Beta 2 (the multiplayer beta) will determine a LOT of the spells that go in because we expect (and consider it part of beta testing) for users to engage in the cheesiest tactics they can possibly think of.
- New Combat System
- A "Unit" may contain multiple individuals (A "party" of soldiers has 4 individuals in that unit)
- An Army contains multiple units
- Elemental doesn't "stack" in the traditional sense. It integrates. You can put your soldiers, peasants, clubbers, heroes, etc. all in one army and they fight together as a single "unit".
- Each individual fights in battle.
- A combat turn is made up of 10 rounds. The combat SPEED of the unit determines how many attacks it gets during that turn (maximum combat speed is 10 - 10 attacks in a single turn).
- When a unit within an army attacks, the individuals in that unit all do their attack round.
- First strike goes to the side with the highest initiative (highest combat speed) with the attacking side getting a bonus to its initiative roll.
- We have decided on "Hit Points" because we didn't like "strength". Thus, it's Attack, Defense, Hitpoints.
- We are looking at adding magical attack and magical defense.
- The may not be necessary to itemize out like that as spells and weapons can and will do "electrical damage" and "arcane damage" and "fire damage" and such but ultimately it comes from the same finite hit points and unless they are protected from a specific type of damage by a sorcerer or an item they'll simply take it.
- This is something that beta testers will be involved in deciding.
- Heroes level up with each level providing 5 points to spend on improving attributes.
- We are NOT happy with the road building system. Help us make it better.
- Quests (these are still pretty rough as we just go the plumbing in)
- Quests triggered by an event
- Quests triggered by researching a tech
- Quests triggered by going over a quest tile on the map
- Quests can be multi-step (i.e. go here, do this, then return here, then go there, etc.)
- We DO have a kill the rats in the basement quest in.
- Dynasties are now in.
- We've temporarily cheesed it so that you just marry a gal (or guy) randomly after N turns.
- Eventually you'll have children.
- Those children will eventually grow up.
- When children grow up, you can marry them off to other factions
- Female children go to the other faction but their children have a 67% chance on growing up of joining her family's faction.
- All children, when grown up, become Champions (heroes, we haven't decided on the official nomenclature, heroes, champions, etc.).
- Because The Empire isn't enabled, you cannot currently breed your children to Trogs and Urxen and end up with hideous looking children. We plan to allow this however in the final version the game despite the horror.
- The Dynasties are pretty cool.
- There is a new sound track for background music. It is still very early but should help show where we're going with this.
- When a sovereign loses a battle, he is sent home to his nearest city. Our plan is that sovereigns do not die until their final city is taken UNLESS they are attacked (or attack) on land of the opposite arcane alignment (life/death magic influenced land). If you're sending your sovereign into battle into the Fallen territory (or vice versa) and lose, it's over but that's a case of the player making a very deliberate decision/risk assessment. You cannot be assassinated.
- Edge scroll should be in
- Negotiations basically is not done yet. The AI will pretty much always reject deals. So don't worry too much about diplomacy yet.
They do all their beta's like this; they let people in WAY earlier in the process than usual, but it lets the community steer the development from an early stage so upon release, the hardcores get more of what they want.
They also go out of their way to let people know "this isn't your normal beta test, things are broken, incomplete, and not at all fun to play".
I'm in the beta because of my pre-order, and I can tell you, there's no fun there (yet), just a bug hunt.
Not free, I had to pay THEM (pre-order) for the honor :)
What crshop said, plus: do you actually think this game is a competitor to starcraft? It's a turn based 4X game... not an uber-popular competitive-geared RTS. Might as well compare it to God of War 3.
A large part of this process is letting the community have a hand in developing the game.
Community input is a big part of the process. This thread about road building is a great examples.