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Once upon a time there was Master of Magic

Back in 2008, Stardock was just finishing up its work on Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor.  We had been in negotiations with Atari to acquire the Master of Magic rights (to the point that we actually own the domain www.masterofmagic.com).  We had a game design all planned out for it complete with Halfings, Gnolls, High Elves, the works.  To be safe, we were not going to stray very far from the original design other than to add multiplayer and updates the units to modern 3D. 

When negotiations with Atari didn’t work out, it was decided we would create our own fantasy world that we called Elemental.  Early on we had a fairly straight forward conversion table:

  • Klackons = Quendar
  • Ironeers = Dwarves
  • Resoln = Nomads
  • Urxen = Orcs
  • Altar = High Men
  • Pariden = High Elves

Cities had 8 classes of buildings (Infrastructure, Industry, Commerce, Military,  Religious, Academic, Husbandry, and Naval).  And each race would have its own unique buildings in each category along with different bonuses to Workers, Farmers and Rebels.

Naming Convention

The game was to be called WAR of MAGIC.  But for trademark concerns, it was decided we would put the name “Elemental” in front.  This would prove to be ironic because in the long-term, people remember War of Magic as “Elemental” and not War of Magic.  As had been said in forums over the years, there would never have been a Elemental II. It would have been War of Magic II.

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The original mockup for War of Magic

Design Divergence

War of Magic started getting the scope creep to end all scope creep.  We decided we would have huge, real-time battles.  We decided to have player designed units. The city improvements would be player designed as well, expanding out onto the map and having an editor where players could design their own very unique improvements.  Spells too would be designed by players in game.

This probably seems insane now but a game called Spore was coming out and we were enthralled about the idea of handing over the content creation to players.

Unfortunately, our engineering/art ambitions were beyond our ability to deliver, especially on the hardware of the time.

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War of Magic

We tried all kinds of things to reduce the hardware scope which resulted in an art-style that was, unique but not necessarily appealing.  Player unit design required us to give up on the dramatically different race differentiation and the city design concept ended up completely changing the way the cities were made.

In the end, War of Magic ended up nothing like Master of Magic.

War of Magic is released

When War of Magic came out, people were very disappointed that it was buggy, bland, and nothing like Master of Magic.  It is a disappointment that haunts us to this day.

It ended up getting “meh” (3/5) reviews and we were so disappointed with it that we decided to give the two planned expansion packs to it for free to early adopters.

 

The expansions that never happened

Originally, we had two expansion packs planned.

  • War of Magic: Fallen Enchantress
  • War of Magic: Legendary Heroes

We would later then make a game called War of Magic II: Empire of Sorcery (and we have the domain to this too www.empireofsorcery.com).

One of the outcomes of War of Magic was that we brought on Derek Paxton (Kael) who had made the popular Civilization mod, Fall from Heaven to re-design War of Magic.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t want this new game associated too strongly with War of Magic so it would become a stand-alone game with a much bigger scope.

Branding confusion

Unfortunately, everyone knew the game as Elemental.  We learned a valuable lesson on branding – people will refer to your game based on the most unique word in it.  We ourselves referred to War of Magic as Elemental all the time just like we call Sins of a Solar Empire “Sins”.    So most people just think of the game as Elemental and not War of Magic.

So what would we call future games?

We looked at the branding debacle Star Wars had come into: Star Wars: Episode 3 – Attack of the Clones.  We didn’t want that.

Otherwise we’d have Elemental: War of Magic – Fallen Enchantress.

This is a problem we still have.

It was decided, ultimately, that it would be referred to as Fallen Enchantress.

Fallen Enchantress

With Fallen Enchantress, we looked at what the underlying engine we had built could do well and what parts it couldn’t do well. Derek Paxton designed a fantasy game that would satisfy most players.  We were still learning the ropes of what makes a good fantasy 4X title with this one. Fallen Enchantress was given away to all the early adopters of War of Magic.

 

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Fallen Enchantress greatly tightened up the design and made it a generally well received game.

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes

We took what we learned from Fallen Enchantress and made an expansion pack called Legendary Heroes.  Like Fallen Enchantress, it was free for early adopters of War of Magic. It was also sold as a steep discount to those who had bought Fallen Enchantress.

One thing that I wish we had done differently was not release it as a “expand-a-lone”.  Stand-alone expansions are an ugly hold-over of the retail days and not something we plan on revisiting any time soon. 

 

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Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes took a pretty decent game and made it into a really good game

After Fallen Enchantress

In June of 2013, we had a hit.  FE:LH was well received. People really liked it. It was, by any standard, a really good game.  So what do we do? This is where branding gets in.

The name, for instance, is a problem for us.  We had already decided to name it Fallen Enchantress long before Derek “Fall from Heaven” Paxton joined us.  What if he someday wanted to make a Fall from  Heaven game? Having two series with “Fall” in the name was problematic.  This is an issue we haven’t resolved.

As a practical matter, Stardock wants to keep the good will and success of Legendary Heroes going.  I.e. a strong 4X builder with player designed units, vast worlds, wild lands, etc.  For all of 2013 and 2014 Stardock has continued to update Legendary Heroes with new DLC and new free updates.

Sorcerer King

In 2013, Stardock acquired the publishing rights to the Star Control (www.starcontrol.com) series.  What we really liked about Star Control (2) was the story and interaction with the different aliens while working against a powerful enemy.  It had been a long time since anyone tried to do something like that.

At the same time, a lot of really interesting 4X fantasy games had come out from other publishers. This would mean that a lot of gamers would already be familiar with the basics of a 4X fantasy. 

Thus, the idea for Sorcerer King was born: Let’s make a 4X game where the bad guy had already won and was now trying to become a god. Only you could stop him and to do so you would need to gather up the defeated remnants that you had previously competed with to stop him. 

For replayability, we would make sure that there was a lot of complex, unscripted interaction between the various players, random maps, random quests, and all manner of other content that would make sure each game was a new 4X adventure.  We had played a lot of game called FTL and saw how each game does feel very different based on the way it does its quests.

Ironically, the design is adhering a lot more closely to some of our original designs. Each faction is very different. Each unit has lots and lots of special abilities.  And ironically, the UI design is much more similar to the original concept we had all those years ago.

 

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Star Control: Isn’t he cute?

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Have you played FTL? If not, get it! Great game!

Quests

Sorcerer King: How do you make quests entertaining? Why, hire writers from Cracked.com to write them.

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Sorcerer King in action

 

The Elemental Relationship

So how are all these games related?  War of Magic, Fallen Enchantress and Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes all follow a pretty straight forward path.  You could call Fallen Enchantress a sequel to War of Magic even though it is dramatically different (but then again, Star Control 2 is very different from Star Control 1).

I can’t answer the branding questions.  What I can say is that the War of Magic series (however they’re branded) will continue its own path (War of Magic – > Fallen Enchantress –> Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes –> X?) and Sorcerer King will have its own path. 

Knowing that the word “Fall” or “Fallen” is out of the question for future titles in the War of Magic path, feel free to make your own suggestions. Smile


Comments (Page 1)
on Oct 05, 2014

How about Second Elemental: Ceresa's Dream?   I have an idea for how this would work- would be a combo of LH and what I'm imaginging CK would end up as.

 

At some point I wonder if asymmetry can be combined with standard 4X where it's like 7 minor human factions (5 from LH+ Krax+ new one) vs super-powerful Ceresa with the other fallen races as treacherous minors.

 

 

on Oct 05, 2014

If no "fall" than maybe "rise"? Elemental: Rise of the Wizard. Or War of Magic 2: Rise of Elementals (just kidding!).

BTW, remake of Fall from Heaven sounds intriguing!

on Oct 05, 2014

War from heaven 

on Oct 05, 2014

Legendary Heroes. That's the name of the most successful of the Elemental series by every measurement. It's simple and easily recognizable. 

on Oct 05, 2014

marlowe221

Legendary Heroes. That's the name of the most successful of the Elemental series by every measurement. It's simple and easily recognizable. 

I believe that Legendary Heroes is already trademarked by itself.

 

I think you should go back to War of Magic. It's descriptive and most people know this series by the Elemental name, not the War of Magic name. I liked the War of Magic: Fallen Enchantress and Legendary Heroes names. Should have stuck with those (WHO'S THE CEO THERE?!)

on Oct 05, 2014

I like the 'War of Magic' name.

It very clearly sums up what the game is about. War and Magic.

on Oct 05, 2014

N/A

on Oct 05, 2014

How about - Elemental: Anthys Reborn.

The story could be that a second apocalypse has occurred due to several warring factions getting their hands on artifacts of vast power and in their their ambition for dominion and power the idiots actually used them. I am thinking of artifacts like the forge of the overlord, that dragon controlling wand, a terrifyingly power weapon, etc. Five of these overly ambitious sovs use these artifacts and the ensuing war caused a second apocalypse which also causes the destruction of said artifacts. Now everyone finds themselves starting over yet again and this time the normal peoples of the world are very wary of the sovs. After all this second apocalypse would be laid at the feet of overly ambitious sovs and who is to say those idiots won't do the same if given half a chance. Thus the next game would begin with people not viewing you as a savior/leader but as a dangerous fool and your first order of business will be to regain the trust of you people. Of course if you are an empire sov the first order of business will be to reestablish your authority through terror, death, and enslavement. Just my two cents.

on Oct 05, 2014

Your description of the problems with wom remind me of what people said about master of orion 3 and how unweildy it was. It was the failure of MOO3 that I think really opened the door for your reboot of galciv. I don't really have any ideas on branding. There are currently games out with civilization, endless, age of, heroes, and empires in the title

on Oct 05, 2014

For the Sorcerer King franchise, I like including the word Sovereign and a hint at what's going on within game for branding. No more than two words. For example, here are some possible combinations:

  • Sovereign Discord
  • Sovereign Defiance
  • Sovereign Rebel
  • Discordant Sovereign
  • Defiant Sovereign
  • Rebellious Sovereign
  • Sovereign Disobedience
  • Disobedient Sovereign

Or single word:

  • Disobedient (or derivative)
  • Sovereign (or derivative)
  • Discord (or derivative)
  • Defiance (or derivative)
  • Rebellious (or derivative)

Although I personally do not like three or more word brand names, you could do:

  • Sorcerer King: Defiance
  • Sorcerer King: Discord
  • Et al.

Something that says within the title, "stuff it authority! I do not recognize your claim."

on Oct 06, 2014

Titan's Requiem

Ruin of the Magus

Prophecy of the Sorcerer

Oracle of the Lost Age

 

 

on Oct 06, 2014

Thanks for the read.

A real feel good story.

Some pretty good suggestions for names given there, as well.

 

 

on Oct 06, 2014

More serious now:

Stick with elemental, you've redeemed it and it's what caught on. 

 

For the FE line - Elemental Empires

For the SK line - Elemental Tribulations

 

E.g. 

Elemental Empires IV: Spastic Civilizations

Elemental Tribulations II: Raunchy Illusionist

 

Ok, that last part wasn't serious after all

on Oct 06, 2014

Hi Elemental Team!

I first would like to thank you all for the years of hard developing the Elemental 4X into a true work of entertainment art. I watched the development of your product with great interest over the years and finally made my decision to buy a copy of FE:LH. I then broke down and bought all the DLC - every single last one of them. Best money I have ever spent on a computer game by far. I am having enormous fun mastering the game. I am currently playing through with a custom made faction that combines Death Worship, Undead and Gravetouched faction traits. From the bottom of my 4X heart, thank you!

RE BRANDING. I would urge to retain and use the ELEMENTAL handle.

When I think of this particular product line for Stardock that is the one title that leaps out the strongest for me when it comes to brand recognition for this 4X series. It is a strong, elegant word that captures the single most important resource featured in every single game of the series, control of the Elemental shards that are the iifeblood of magical power in your IP.

Please give us:

ELEMENTAL: SORCERER KINGS I, II, III, etcetera.  


And please affix ELEMENTAL to many more innovating 4X games through the ELEMENTAL brand and IP. Huzzah Team Elemental! Thank you again for a masterstroke strategy game! 

on Oct 06, 2014

Elemental 4 5/8: Fallen Enchantress' Pillbox  2 1/2: Return of the Sorcerer King's Purple Pony 3 1/3: Smeg All the Bleedin' Buggers

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