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Sorcerer King continues to get polished up.  I suspect it’s the most polished game we’ve ever made as we’ve had so much extra time to work on it.

So what’s been happening?

Originally, we were going to release Sorcerer King in April.  But we talked to our friends at other studios and realized that the Age of Wonders expansion and Pillars of Eternity were coming out during the same month.  That’s a lot of fantasy in a short amount of time.  With Galactic Civilizations coming out in May and E3 in June, we decided that July would be a good date.

As a result, the team has just kept working on Sorcerer King throughout all that time with the game getting increasingly fun and polished as a result.

What have you done with that extra time?

Asked someone. I dunno who. Someone. You there. The one reading this. You asked right?

Anyway…

When GalCiv III got released we learned a lot. For one thing, we learned that the initial impression is made in the first 6 minutes of play through.  If you’re a game developer, make note of that time. that’s 360 seconds from the time they get to the main menu to the time they’ve largely decided whether they think the game is “good” or not.

A big part of that time is making sure the game has a coherent narrative.  You have to explain to the player, immediately, what the game is about. And I can tell you, Asynchronous 4X doesn’t cut it.

Now, you guys and us know we have a fun game. But we have certain aspects of the game that have been a challenge.  So let’s talk about that.

Fantasy Star Control

Sorcerer King is, in essence, fantasy Star Control at its root.  You have a main bad guy who has already conquered everyone who is about to do some very bad stuff.  You are the heroic leader trying to assemble a ragtag force to go deal with the main bad guy while along the way picking up allies.

There’s a big problem with this idea: Replayability.  Sorcerer King has been trapped half-way between Star Control and a sandbox 4X.  

While Sorcerer King has a pretty good campaign, it’s no where near as involved as what’s in Star Control.  On the other hand, while Star Control doesn’t have a lot of replayability, it could live on its amazing story-driven campaign while Sorcerer King has been trying to have a much shorter (maybe 30 hour) campaign with the main meat of the game being the sandbox.

The problem with the sandbox, however, is that you can only beat the Sorcerer King so many times before you’ve “played the game” to its conclusion.

How do you solve a problem like Mirdoth?

So to succinctly recap:

Sorcerer King was envisioned as a sort of fantasy Star Control except where the maps are randomly generated each time. The player builds up a force, makes alliances and goes and confronts the main bad guy. 

The strength of this is that the game is extremely fun the first several times you play. But eventually, you’ve played it.

How we’re addressing this

In an open sandbox game like Galactic Civilizations III or Civilization V, the solution is that every game is totally different. You have no idea, at the start, who are going to be your friends and enemies. You have no idea what resources you will be bargaining or how the placement of other civilizations will affect your game.

Sorcerer King, by contrast, isn’t an open sandbox.  That’s because the Sorcerer King, by design, is a lot more powerful than the player up until the end (assuming you survive).

So how do you make such a game as replayable as say Galactic Civilizations?

Here’s how:

  1. You create additional victory conditions
  2. You turn those minor civilizations into actual rivals
  3. You make sure that each sovereign you choose is really different

Additional Victory Conditions

Originally the only way to win was to confront and defeat the Sorcerer King in his fortress.  However, we are going to add additional victory conditions including:

  • Victory: The Tower of Sorcery (you build a tower and begin racing the Sorcerer King to gather enough magical might to throw throw him down (this is actually what happened in the book)
  • Victory: Alliance.  Gain the trust of all your rivals and you win.  Easier said than done of course (easier on small maps with 1 opponent).

Rivals

So the once minor factions are now full-blown Rivals who you can pick and choose in the game setup and give a difficulty level.  If you conquer their city, they will start producing their specific unit for your use (you don’t have to manage conquered cities).

They now will try to found new cities as well and will go to war with each other.

You can trade and negotiate with them (though it’s not like the Trade screen but rather an RPG-like trade system instead – conversational).

Unique Sovereigns

From here on out, only Galor is the son of Relias. The others each have their own backstory and the way you interact with the world and with the Sorcerer King depends on which sovereign you have. 

So there’s your update!

Cheers!


Comments (Page 1)
on Jun 04, 2015

This is great news. I've liked the premise of SK, but you hit the target on the dilemma. And for a $40 game to have such a (relatively) short win condition, adding in more replayability will be key.

Honestly, if you could create a game variant/mod that converted SK into Legendary Heroes (in some form), that would blow the replayability up by a thousand. I love the polish and art of SK and wish it was in FE/LH. I know it's much more complicated to disable/enable stuff for it to act like LH because of the Doomsday Counter, role of triggers, etc., but if you had the ability to enter a more sandbox mode than just a semi-randomized/customized campaign there would be a lot of love. And I could see it unlocking a bunch of DLC, too.

Love it that what probably started as a mod has turned into fully supported, polished, and well-crafted software. (see what I did at the end there? crafting?)

on Jun 04, 2015

I wonder what the piece of dialog in the image refers to

on Jun 04, 2015

When do you all think you'll have a "release candidate" for Sorcerer King? The changes here, while not insignificant, don't seem like they're too hard to implement at this point, considering how polished everything is. When do you think we'll see them?

Honestly, I think Sorcerer King has the potential to be your best game. Ever. Not kidding. It's very polished, very fun, and with some replayability issues addressed, deeper than you'd expect with a pretty easy entry barrier.

Will we see the rivals war with the SK on their own? When they battle each other, if one wins, what happens to the losers units?

 

Are you all shooting for mid-July?

 

Keep up the good work, guys! The finish line is in sight! You have the potential for a real winner here...

on Jun 04, 2015

We're thinking probably a late July release.  The things I mentioned are mostly in our internal build already.

on Jun 04, 2015

Frogboy

We're thinking probably a late July release.  The things I mentioned are mostly in our internal build already.

Oh, I can't wait. I want to see that so, so bad. Good stuff, Brad!

on Jun 05, 2015

Personally, I think you have something here with SK, but it may take another iteration to bring out exactly what it should be (and by iteration I mean game, and not patch/expansion)


When you're trying to create a new genre, the first game is going to be rough.

 

In terms of your next game after Star Control (referring to internal Stardock), I think a full-blown 64-bit fantasy strategy game would be what I want (doesn't have to be set in elemental universe).

on Jun 05, 2015

Great analysis of your own game. Difficult to keep perspective, sounds like you got it.

on Jun 05, 2015

Great ideas,and i love the changes that are coming.Some things that i would love to see

-Minor factions that are now full-rivals maybe can be playable by us as a different starting option-race???

 

-Some heroes and sovereigns need buffing,especially mages

 

-Better city sieges(they seem lackluster right now)

 

This is your best game in the fantasy setting.There is huge potential right here.I know that i can't wait for the release date to come,but i would prefer to take your time and deliver when you are ready

on Jun 05, 2015

^ This guys has some good suggestions and mirror my own thoughts ^

 

The first one, about other playable factions, seems almost like a certainty with future expansions. 

on Jun 05, 2015

So you're basically abandoning the asymmetrical aspect? How does this affect your approach to balancing the game / allowing you to do horrible / OP things? 

on Jun 05, 2015

The asymmetrical is being kept- since Mirdoth is still in.

 

It might even be kept for the other factions unless they're made playable down the line.

 

on Jun 05, 2015


When GalCiv III got released we learned a lot. For one thing, we learned that the initial impression is made in the first 6 minutes of play through.

I hope you also learnt GCIII fails in providing good impression in those minutes.

 

You have to explain to the player, immediately, what the game is about. And I can tell you, Asynchronous 4X doesn’t cut it.

I see no reason why it does not. Starting cinematic + first turn give player full understaing of what is going on.

 

While Sorcerer King has a pretty good campaign

How do we know it does?


Sorcerer King, by contrast, isn’t an open sandbox.  That’s because the Sorcerer King, by design, is a lot more powerful than the player up until the end 

I don't get it. What exactly "closes" the sandbox in SK?

 

  1. You create additional victory conditions
  2. You turn those minor civilizations into actual rivals
  3. You make sure that each sovereign you choose is really different

 

 

I have better idea: make existing systems work, instead of wasting time on developing new ones, with no guarantees it helps.

What means make work?

Make resources work. Right now there is only one resource: horsemetal. Yes, horsemetal. There is no reason to use one without other, and crystal resource is just useless. Game system have 3 resources. Make them valuable and make player adapt to their apperiance on the map.

Make crafting work. First of, make it not be a chore. Don't give player lots of high level items from battles. make player make hard choices on what enchant material to use. The same applies to receipts of items. This way player will have to craft and enchant differently each game.

Make SK fortersses work. Right now it just occupies space. SK's units comes up from garrisons (round "altars"). And those just spawn in front of your capital! Make fortresses more valueable to SK and more threatening to player. And random maps will provide different positional play each game.

 

Make dozens little things work! Like Peregan has falcon. Falcon is useless in battle, but may be it is good scout? Nope, its view range is non existing! Make him a good scout and player will have an interesting choices of not producing a scout, but use hero skillpoint to aquire superior in mobility scout!

 

I provide all these criticisms not becouse I'm a jerk (tough possibly being one), but becouse this game have a huge potential, but it seems development is being derailed from polishing things which are already there. Which is exactly what is expected for game two months from release.

 

on Jun 05, 2015

I can understands why other people might like the idea of the other minor factions acting like players, so I can understand the appeal of it to some extent. But I like the minor factions the way they are now thanks very much. I Likew the idea of me facing off against a much more poerful foe with some assistance from the minor factions. Otherwise it would really feel like Age of Wonders etc with one very big guy on the block as the rest of us squabble. Dont sacrifice uniqueness for what others may like.

However if others want the choice, give it to them. Set it as a option.

The problem with the sandbox, however, is that you can only beat the Sorcerer King so many times before you’ve “played the game” to its conclusion.

I dont see this as a problem. "AI-War" has been a very successful game with lots of expansions and it, at its core, is just a "build up to take out the big bad computer while not pissing it off too much till you do." People LIKE that sort of game. It's. again, unique. Don;t bland out the game when you have a good idea and selling point.

on Jun 06, 2015

@geniusis,e you kind of lost me with your GalCiv snark. Skipped the rest. 

on Jun 06, 2015

How can you make a game like SK replayable many times?There has to be choices that define the experience.Let's have a look at them.

 

-Sovereigns.Are they all the same or do they offer different playstyle(some of them need balance tweaks).

 

-Sovereign skills.When you reach big time level with tinkerer let's say for example you have to choose between 2 skills that are his specialization.3 recipes for legendary weapons,or recipes for 2 legendary armors and 1 ring with big resistances.Mage sovereign must choose between unlocking 3 attack type spells,or some support ones that are very powerful.

 

-City building.Each sovereign has to choose 3 times between 2 buildings.One in start,one in middle,one in the end-game.For example if i pick the mage i have to choose between a college of magic that gives me more mana per turn and +1 attack on all mage units and a halls of wisdom that unlocks 3 more spells that are powerful.Only one building can be constructed.Another example.Do i build the grand cathedral that let's me produce high paladins or do i build altar of light that produces angels?The last example provides also some unit diversity.

 

-Units.Our stack of doom is pretty standard right now.I should be able to go full ranged,or full melee and be viable,or something ranged with a bit of support with auras and spells.We need more unit diversity.If i choose to go with a ranged team do i pick archers type 1 or do i go with archer type 2.Each has his benefits.Archer type 1 is full attack,archer type 2 has some support-defend skills and lower damage output.Same thing for melee.Viable options so i can try different things.

 

-Outposts should also provide a tactical option.Upgrade them to give us a bit of defense and movement or big attack bonus,or give a teleportation skill with certain sovereigns(cooldown and some restrictions needed in this so it;s not completely broken).

 

Master of magic is considered till today the best in it's kind for one reason.It gives you options,and very different strategies that can carry you through the end.Viable strategies,different strategies,different playstyle.I know it is a different game from SK but still it is a very good example of why it was so good.I know my suggestions are very vague,but i would like you to see them as examples of different options and how you can implement them in the game.A game doesn't need just options.It needs them to be viable.If they are not it becomes just bloated like many today games and loses it's simplicity and tightness.Do i need 30 options in a game that doesn't matter or do i need a game that has only 10 options but each one is viable and differentiates my playstyle?You have a real gem right here.

 

Ps.Sorry for my big post again.It isn't well written or maybe well explained.My suggestions are just a small example of how you can diversity in the game.I am sure other guys may have much better ones.

 

 

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