This Thursday (October 30th) we plant o have an opt-in beta which is basically a preview of Beta 2 (not quite done but getting there).
This is what will be in there:
- All eight minor factions.
- The Guardian sovereign
- The Tyrant sovereign
- Lots and lots of gameplay enhancements across the board
The Minor Factions
Minor factions in Sorcerer King interact with you purely from conversations. It’s not a trade screen ala GalCiv, FE, Civilization, etc. Instead, each one has specific things they can do for you (and to you) and gaining their favor requires doing specific things based on which minor faction they are.
Between now and release, the minors will get much more fleshed out. We’re just putting in the skeleton of this system for Beta 2. You will need their help to win (or at least, you’ll need them to not side with the Sorcerer King).
The Guardian Sovereign
The guardian sovereign is the master of terraforming the world. She can raise and lower the land as needed. If you need to wall yourself off (or protect shards by surrounding them with mountains) you can do that. If you’ve ever played Populous, you will get an idea of what we’re going for here with the Guardian.
We are really hoping that the Kumquat 3 engine we’re using that supports morphable terrain will differentiate Sorcerer King from other 4X games (such as Fallen Enchantress). We will be very interested in hearing the ideas of other players on other interesting things we can do here (and we’ll want it to come from people playing the game and not theory craft <g>).
The Tyrant Sovereign
The Tyrant is modeled after Saruman. He’s envious of the Sorcerer King and fancies himself taking his place. The Tyrant can destroy shards and absorb their magic. He too can cast the spell of making. In a way, he’s in a race with the Sorcerer King to accumulate the power to destroy the world for his own ends.
Lots and Lots of updates
For example, if the Sorcerer King won, why is the land relatively clear of his presence? Well, in Beta 2, he has garrisons around the map and strongholds start peppered around the map from turn 1. These strongholds train units, build improvements (different ones from you) and look to get even more land.
They also spread the Shadow lands – land that has been corrupted.
Shadowlands are utterly ruined but, for players who have enchantment books, they can be converted into fertile lands and be built on by the player.
We also have Thralls in. As the Sorcerer King becomes more powerful, more and more of your citizens fall under his sway. Thralls are basically the same as units you build except, they don’t’ do anything. The cure for that is hope which can only be found through the sovereign’s skill tree (i.e. there isn’t a “hope building” here).
Worries, Anxieties and Honesty
What we want to do with Sorcerer King is provide a clean slate to build on. That is, we imagine releasing Sorcerer King early next year and then having yearly expansions based on player feedback until people don’t want them anymore. This means Sorcerer King itself needs to be a fun, tight, innovative experience.
Right now, I can think of two excellent fantasy 4X games on the market that player can choose from – Endless Legends and Age of Wonders 3. We don’t want Sorcerer King to take away sales from these excellent titles so we want it to provide enough distinction that it’s not competing. This means we have our work cut out for us.
So let’s talk about the things that you might be worried about and the things we’re worried about:
Frankfurter and others have made a lot of outstanding suggestions on how the crafting system in Sorcerer King might be extended. What’s ironic, is that we already have a crazy powerful crafting system…in XML. If you open up coreitems.xml you ‘ll see that items have Game Modifiers on them. This is a techie way of calling them enchantments. We just never created a UI for them.
We have been frustrated with the current crafting system in that it’s basically just a store with ingredients as currency. I don’t like it.
So this is what we are looking to add to it:
Recipes provide the means to both create items and enhance them.
- A recipe for a sword might require some iron ore and oils to create.
- If player has those items then they can select the sword to craft
- Then, based on their CRAFTING SKILL level (which ranges from 1 to 3 based on the sovereign they chose) they enchant it.
- The first level of enchantment is based on what magic books you selected: Chaos, Wrath, Enchantment, Summoning. Thus, these enchantments would be related to these books. The more, say Chaos books you have, the more powerful the chaos enchantments you can place on this sword.
- The second level is based on Mana. If you’re willing to spend the mana, you can do some fairly straight forward enhancements (+2 attack, +2 speed, fire damage, etc.) Nothing fancy here.
- The third and most advanced level is based on additional items ingredients you might have. This third level will tend to add new abilities to your units when the item is equipped. So maybe the weapon gives the unit the Smite ability or can absorb mana.
You are vastly outnumbered
When the balance is right, players who aren’t playing on beginner will feel like they’re up against crazy odds. That’s because they are. You won’t win through traditional 4X means. You’re going to have to nuke parts of the world. I don’t think there’s any way around it. You’re going to have to use powerful, world breaking spells to keep them back.
You’re going to have to craft items and weapons and defenses that make the ultimate stack of doom. This game isn’t going to punish you for having a stack of doom. It’s going to punish you for NOT having a stack of doom. Make that stack of doom. You know you want to.
Your stack of doom, however, will be going up against a very smart opponent. That is, I’m going to be personally coding the Sorcerer King’s units actions in tactical. It’s not going to be dice rolling here. I’m going to be looking at what you got and trying to counter you actively. You will need to look at what spells the Sorcerer King has gotten (this will be in Beta 2) and be careful not to run afoul of them.
Obviously the different sovereigns have different units and their own unique skill tree (our tech tree equivalent). The goal here will be to make each type of player very distinct.
The End game
Over the course of the game you’re going to run into a lot of quests that are where you get a lot of your special items, crafting ingredients, special units, etc. But you will also be making choices that will determine what kind of character you are (ala Ultima IV). So at the end of the game, when you meet the Sorcerer King, he will, in effect, be a mirror image of what you are.
Right now, the end battle is the same no matter what. But as we go forward, the Sorcerer King will be the anti-you. You won’t be selecting a specific Sorcerer King at the start of the battle but when you do reach him, you will be presented with a general summary of the way you’ve played that particular game and the particular consequences that will ensue as a result.
Sorcerer King vs…
For Sorcerer King to succeed at the level we want, we need to make sure it is truly unique. That is really stands out.
Below are the 5 areas we are trying to focus on to do that:
- This is the game that happens AFTER you lost the previous. It’s the consequence of the enemy having defeated you and the other 4X fantasy races. If you’ve ever played a 4X game where you’ve won and kept the other players in a zoo (i.e. down to 1 city and you own the map) that’s what the Sorcerer King has done to you.
- All things aren’t equal. You are up against vast numbers of opponents.
- Victory isn’t largely or even mainly about building a bunch of cities. The main point of cities is to provide logistical support for your units. The economy of the world is so shattered that money isn’t even a resource to use in the game (there’s no gold).
- You may have to do great harm to the world in order to win. We have maps in the beta that are very pretty (you may have noticed). But they won’t end up pretty. Are you really planning to risk wiping out your well crafted units to win? You can’t win by attrition. Your Civilization / LH / traditional 4X strategy won’t work here.
- This isn’t about the size of your army, it’s the quality of it. The Sorcerer King already won via force of arms. Your final army going into his realm needs to be as powerful as Sauron from that scene in Lord of the Rings. Because the Sorcerer King isn’t Sauron. He’s Morgoth who’s trying to become Eru.
So Beta 2 is still due in early November. But the Opt-In beta is this Thursday. Obviously there’s still a lot to do between now and then but hopefully this starts to show you where we’re going.
Please feel free to comment.