Elemental: Tough love for beta 1B

Published on Thursday, October 15, 2009 By Brad Wardell In Elemental Dev Journals

Let me cut to the bad news right off.  Beta 1B isn’t ready to go yet. It needs to be pushed.  But for your convenience, I’m going to walk through the problems with the current internal build.  Now, before someone who isn’t paying attention closely sends me a flame PM, please read this: I work at Stardock.  It’s my job to be critical of the game. The only thing unusual is that I’m airing our internal dirty laundry to the public – but there’s a point to that too and that is so that beta testers can participate in those discussions.

So let’s walk through the things that are in our current build that need to be addressed before we release a public beta 1B which is known as the “economic” beta.

The Good

Bees and wheat are in.


Or more specifically, we are starting to add a lot more resources into the game.  The reason this is important is that we want to begin populating the world with resources that can share city improvements OR have their own improvements.



Info Card system is in


A UI convention pioneered in Sins of a Solar Empire by Ironclad is in Elemental now. If you hover over something of interest, an info card comes up – except here we have decided to go with an actual playing card motify ala Magic the Gathering.

The City UI is cleaned up


Managing cities has gotten a bit easier. the buttons have gotten moved over.

A lot of under the covers stuff has gotten fixed/improved

Performance is vastly better. The economy is technically in there.

The Bad

While the economy is in there now, it’s no use to the beta testers if the user interface doesn’t convey the information to them.  As Tom Chick would say “show me!” and right now we’re not and without that, beta testers can’t give feedback on whether they think the economic system is worthwhile.

Economics are hard to see in action.


Besides the fact that the info cards are way too big, they don’t convey useful information presently.  Why does it take 5 turns to complete an Inn? I dunno. What could I do to make Inns build faster? I dunno.  Why does the Inn cost $100? I dunno.

Under the covers:

The time and money to build an improvement = Labor + Materials.

The cost of the labor and materials determines the cost and the time to gather the materials and for the labor to execute determines the time.

Now, the card doesn’t need to display all of that.  But it should display how much wood is required.


The info card (not shown here) should display what the Inn does and what it requires to be built.  The player should be able to see the city data on the right (not a duplicate of the Inn here) so that they can decide what improvement to build and what resources they have on hand to build them with.  How much wood do they have? How good is their labor? Do they need the benefit the chosen improvement provides? Without this information, the player is left guessing.



There’s been a lot of overall progress. But Beta 1B is a specific milestone for the economics so we have to be able to display this kind of “stuff” very clearly to players.  So it’s looking like it’ll be another week.

Of course, that also buys me a little more time on the AI (which has been improving with these builds as well though it’s all C++ right now and not Python yet).

Stay tuned.