Bullying for a good cause?

Published on Thursday, October 30, 2014 By Frogboy In Gaming

They say timing is everything.

I keep being told that #gamergate started as a harassment and threat campaign.  Maybe they’re right if you treat #gamergate as having started years ago when people under the guise of “Social Justice” started harassing and threatening people they didn’t like.  I don’t just speak of myself.  What is happening now in the gaming community has been building up for years. 

So let me be succinct: People have the growing, creeping feeling that “pull” and “politics” rather than merit are becoming the driving force of our society. They believe it’s infected the coverage of their hobby. And they’re now pushing back.

Bullying

But let’s talk about bulling. Let’s make sure we understand each other:

Let me address those friends and colleagues who are vocally anti-GamerGate who have told me I need to be careful not to be associated with “GG”:

Don’t tell me that I must disassociate myself from #gamergate because it’s become a “harassment” movement when many of you personally witnessed the harassment, threats and hate I have been receiving for years on forums and social media that you knew was undeserved but did nothing about.  You didn’t say a word. You didn’t speak up. You just didn’t want to get involved.  Some of you participated in the very threads where I was being attacked and just looked the other way.

And mind you, I didn’t hold it against you that you didn’t want to step up and come to my defense.  I didn’t expect you to. I have a thick skin. And I am the bigger person.  That’s what I keep being told. In essence, I’m told I have to put up with the abuse and harassment and threats by the virtue of having the ability to crush them if I wanted.  Therefore, as an “overdog”, you felt no need to say a single word in, say, a thread that was full of personal attacks you knew were false because, hey, I can take it.  And you’re right. I can.

But it also means that your outrage against harassment, threats and abuse is selective. When you saw me being defamed for years and just ignored it (no tweets, no comments, etc.) you clearly made a distinction that some people need to be supported and others do not. 

In fact, in all those years, only one person who knew the details spoke up for me. (and you can look at the thread to see the hate thrown at me and then see that these haters now, 100% are the ones bullying and smearing #gamergate supporter today. Go ahead, check. These aren’t anonymous people. These are the people claiming to be “the good guys”).  And you know what they did to him? My friend? They suggested disgusting things about us. Ridiculed him. Of course, some of you know that because you saw what they said on other forums but you said nothing. Didn’t want to get involved.

I’ve seen the tactic used over and over: Delegitimize your critics and disperse their support base.  That’s what you’re trying to do to these #gamergate people through insults, bullying, ridiculing. 

And if that doesn’t work, economic punishment:

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He’s using a word I don’t think he understands. Basically: I should be fired because…reasons (unspecified) Tolerance.

If I say something or do something or write something that you think is inappropriate, inflammatory or unfair then call me on it.  I can take it. 

But don’t tell me that I have some “guilt by association” thing going when you were perfectly okay associating with people and groups that have spent years harassing others.

Sorcerer King: Beta 2 Preview

Published on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

For those of you not aware, Stardock is working on a new fantasy strategy game called Sorcerer King.

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The Sorcerer King isn’t you…

It is currently in beta and we are getting ready to release Beta 2.

In our previous fantasy game, Fallen Enchantress, the player was competing with 8 other civilizations in trying to claim dominance of the world of Elemental.

Sorcerer King takes place centuries later and the bad news is, a new enemy (the Sorcerer King) has annihilated the Kingdoms and Empires of Elemental and taken total control.  The map is controlled by him and he is now in the process of trying to become a god.

Your job, as the player, is to build a last alliance of Men and Fallen to defeat the Sorcerer King before it’s too late. 

The good news, Sorcerer King assumes YOU WON Fallen Enchantress and thus have the Forge of the Overlord in hand (the game winning condition of Fallen Enchantress) which allows you to craft incredibly powerful items. It also assumes that you have reached the height of your power.

Starting where you left off

Sorcerer King assumes you won whatever your previous fantasy 4X game you played and start incredibly powerful.  You start at Sauron level power. Turn 1.  The problem is, to use LOTR terminology, your opponent is Morgoth power. 

The armies he sends against you, however, are still mere mortals.  You will be dealing with a massive disparity in numbers but you are encouraged to build a stack of doom – if you can.

Who are you?

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Who are you?

Beta 1 had the player forced to play as the Wizard.  In Beta 2, we’re unlocking the Tyrant and the Guardian.  The Tyrant sees the Sorcerer King as a competitor. The Guardian acts as the protector of the world and can do a lot of terraforming.

You may have to destroy the world to save it

One of the major distinctions between Sorcerer King and other fantasy 4X games (including Fallen Enchantress) is that the land itself is your resource.  That is, you have the power to physically alter the land.

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That land looks nice but it may need to be ruined in order to provide you with necessary resources.

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You may have to make some…changes

Since you’re…you know, the hero, you may have to make certain sacrifices for the good of the world. 

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This land needed to be ruined for the good of the world…Note the life stone in the middle. A powerful crafting ingredient.

The ultimate stack of doom

While strategy games tries to discourage stacks of doom, Sorcerer King embraces it. In fact, you will need that stack of doom to have a chance.  The question is, can you create it? Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to create it?

Crafting is a critical element of the game.  When there are armies of Trogs, Dreads, Trolls, Juggernauts, all heading your way, you will need powerful spells to destroy them before they get to you.  A volcano,  Heaven Fall, Hellfire, earth quakes, Fire storms, you name it will probably be needed.  You’ll also need incredibly powerful armor, weapons, potions, etc.

The ingredients for those kinds of things are going to require potent crafting items and sometimes, you’ll need to crush a mountain range or absorb the life from fertile lands or mutilate a lush valley to gain it.  The important thing is, because you’re the hero, the good guy, the savior of the world you can tell yourself that these things need to be done.  You are, after all, trying to save the world…

Release Dates

Sorcerer King Beta 2 comes out in November.  The final release is coming this Winter.  You can visit www.sorcererking.com to keep up with what we’re doing as well as join us to provide your own suggestions, ideas, and feedback on how we’re doing.

I reserve the right to be persuaded

Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

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:

  1. All eight minor factions.
  2. The Guardian sovereign
  3. The Tyrant sovereign
  4. Lots and lots of gameplay enhancements across the board

The Minor Factions

imageMinor 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

imageWe got a lot of good feedback from Beta 1 and began implementing it here.

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:

Crafting

imageFrankfurter 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. 

Example:

  1. A recipe for a sword might require some iron ore and oils to create. 
  2. If player has those items then they can select the sword to craft
  3. Then, based on their CRAFTING SKILL level (which ranges from 1 to 3 based on the sovereign they chose) they enchant it.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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

imageWhen 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.

Sovereign Differentiation

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:

  1. 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.
  2. All things aren’t equal.  You are up against vast numbers of opponents.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

What’s next

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.

Sneak peek at next FE:LH DLC!

Published on Saturday, October 25, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

The tentative name for the next DLC for Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is Battlegrounds.

A little background on the world

When a map is generated, we use tiny pieces of land called “stamps”.  The stamps were one of the first things we made when developing Fallen Enchantress and haven’t bee touched since. 

Needless to say, if you’ve played the game enough you start to recognize pieces of the world.  Moreover, in the years since they were made, we’ve found that certain types of maps are more fun than others. 

Hence, we’re looking at the new DLC, which will likely be only $4.99 to include over 20 new stamps and roughly the same number of new tactical battle maps.

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The result is both subtle and profound, especially in terms of replayability.  More to come.

The long lasting effects of dishonest reporting

Published on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 By Frogboy In Blogging

Recently game designer Damion Schubert wrote a blog criticizing some recent reporting by Breibart regarding how sloppy reporting had hurt my career. In his criticism, Damion had used a hit piece Kotaku had published on me as evidence that the reporting done on me had been reasonable.  In response, I went through his blog to point out the various factual errors the Kotaku article had made by relying on only a single, biased source along with carefully selected court documents to create a narrative that had nothing to do with reality.

Damion and I got talking after my post and in which I was able to show him more material that demonstrated how ridiculous the original Kotaku article had been.  In the 2 years since the Kotaku article, no one who has gotten to see some of the actual details of the frivolous lawsuit that had been filed against us has not been convinced that the original case and the reporting of it was a travesty.

Damion has followed up with this post retracting his original blog http://www.zenofdesign.com/in-which-i-acknowledge-and-apologize/

Out of respect for Damion, I’m going to update this article to be a more generic response to those who continue to harass me or my employer regarding the unsavory lawsuit that was inaccurately reported on back in 2012.

 

A brief recap

Stardock is a consumer software company that was founded over 20 years ago.  For 20 years we’ve made award winning games and software used by millions of people.  I incorporated the company in 1993 as a college student to help pay for school. Eventually, it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and became my full time career.  Today, it is possibly the oldest independent game company with more than 50 employees. 

In 2012, I was best known for things like:

  1. Gamer’s Bill of Rights
  2. Designer of Galactic Civilizations
  3. The publisher of Sins of a Solar Empire
  4. The CEO who had promised (and delivered)  the sequel and its expansion to Elemental because we were disappointed that a Stardock game was released in a poor state. 
  5. The designer of programs like Start8, ObjectDock, WindowBlinds, DesktopX, ModernMix, etc.

In short I had a good reputation.

Our work environment should have been used as a model by so-called feminists. High percentage of women in development and leadership positions, a fun, “safe”, working environment complete with an on-sight personal trainer, nutritionist, maternity leave, long vacations,  etc. 

But in 2012, it was more important to have a villain to hate I guess because one evening I received an email from a Kotaku reporter who was about to run a story about an ugly, ongoing lawsuit that involved a former marketing manager who was suing us for hostile work environment, sexual harassment and battery.  It was, as anyone familiar with the case could have told the reporter, a frivolous case. 

With no real opportunity to respond they went up with an incredibly one-sided article that made me out to be a cartoon villain.

Death Threats

Within days of the article hitting, forum posts, follow-up articles and abuse started flooding the net. I received numerous death threats including one so specific (it was clear they had driven up close to our house) that we called the police.  The death threats included rape threats against my wife and disgusting vile threats against my children.

For the past two years since, not a week goes by where someone doesn’t send me a hate message or ensure that one of our products or services being covered somewhere doesn’t get tarnished with the disgusting allegations that were made. Any time I speak on a given topic, this comes up.

In 2013, the case was dismissed with prejudice and the plaintiff had to issue a public apology.  By any reasonable standard, this should have been the end of it.  And yet, years later, I still am expected to somehow prove a negative. 

So let’s go through the usual crap that harassment apologists try to throw at me or those who support me:

What is newsworthy?

Re: It was a lawsuit, of course the media should cover it

Not a single technology publication  (i.e. non-gaming) thought this newsworthy. Zero.

Only the gaming media thought it was worth covering even though in 2012 we were primarily a software company. The gaming media chose to cover something in the most biased way possible. The tech media didn’t consider it worth covering. You be the judge.

 

Re: I’ve read people using your name as an example of biased journalism but you’re scum, I read the Kotaku article! 

Seriously, this is an endless loop:

10: Why are you sympathetic towards #gamergate?

20: Because I’ve seen how biased, politically driven game “news” can hurt people. Like Kotaku Article.

30: Well you are scum. I can prove  you’re scum. I read the Kotaku article.

40: Goto 10.

 

Guilty until proven innocent

Re: Well you’re still scum because you only got an apology by filing an 11th hour retaliatory lawsuit against her for supposedly deleting files and blaming her for your crappy game?

 

  1. The original article (on the countersuit) appeared because someone leaked it to the press. We have a pretty good idea who leaked it (not us) as it was leaked to try to create sympathy for the defendant.
  2. We have stated, endlessly, why Elemental wasn’t good.  I did a GDC workshop on it. Note that this workshop was in 2011!
  3. The countersuit had been filed in early 2011. NOT in 2012 despite the false reporting otherwise. 

 

Re: Well you can’t say you won, sure you got an apology letter but that’s not vindication. That was just part of the settlement in exchange for you dropping your case against her. If you were so sure, why didn’t you just take it all the way through court?

First, the case being dismissed with prejudice with an apology letter should be the end of the story.  I was falsely accused of something. The onus isn’t on me to prove my innocence.

…But for the sake of argument let me walk you through how the legal system works:

If we had won in court we would have received a “not liable” result. That’s it.  Do you honestly believe that anyone who considers a public apology insufficient would somehow have considered “not liable” sufficient?

Then, they would probably have appealed that verdict because it costs basically nothing to do so.  So even now, in 2014, it would still be going on. And for what? To get the aforementioned “not liable” verdict.

The False claims

Re: Well I read the Kotaku article and the things it says you did are pretty damning.

Except, that’s the problem. Those things didn’t happen.

Now, let me walk you through the false claims that keep being repeated as fact:

Brad emailed his employee a purity test and asked for the score (and helpfully flagged the email for followup!).

False. No, I did not. Fabricated. I never sent such an email. Testified to this during deposition and pointed out various problems with the email at the time.  That screenshot with the misspelled subject line is the only “evidence” presented.  Yet people expect me to prove it wasn’t me? That image is all we’ve got. No IP address, no anything.

He touched her hair in an inappropriate and creepy manner (this is the one that always creeps my female friends out).

False. No, I did not.  My friend and colleague of years were together with 2 other women (both of which were witnesses that backed my version). She made a sexist comment about male colleagues of ours because of the attention they made to their hair. Sitting next to me, I lightly touched her hair and said “Really? Didn’t you just dye your hair?”  This was a person who had on many occasions given me unsolicited hugs. But I get described as “creepy” because I lightly touched someone’s hair. Nice.

He asked female employees about their breast and bra sizes.

False. No, I did not. Never happened. Her named witnesses denied this.

He told her she should go on the media tour because her nipples looked best on TV.

False. What happened is that she did not want to appear on G4 because of the way they portrayed Olivia Munn. She laughed saying “I could see her nipples on TV. Do I have to go?” and I responded “But your nipples look better on TV than mine.” It was a shared joke.  We had THREE witnesses to this.

He visited the hotel room of her and another female employee and made her feel uncomfortable.

False. Never happened. The witness, who was not an employee of the company anymore, and considered by her to be her “best friend” testified that this did not happen.  What actually happened is that I was asked to come to their room to fix their Internet connection.  Her story confused both myself and her named witness.

The rest of it relates to a cherry picked email that ignores the context leading up to it and presents things said with sarcasm (again, he doesn’t know either of us or how our correspondence typically was).

 

Logic of the legally ignorant

Let’s talk about the real world and how it works, warts and all.

If I had actually done something remotely wrong, you would never hear of it. Why? Because in the real world, when CEOs do bad things, they get settled long before a lawsuit is even filed. We have insurance that explicitly covers this kind of thing.  The cheapest, easiest way to have handled the original correspondence from her attorney would have just been to send it to them and be done.  That was what they were counting on. 

If her allegations had had the slightest validity, we would have settled. That’s how the real world works.

Yes, we won and we were vindicated

There are no trophies in litigation. But if you ask a civil litigator the meaning of a case the ends with the plaintiff receiving nothing but having to write a public apology letter and having her case thrown out, that is unprecedented. I challenge anyone to find a single civil case that ended that one sided.

Second, we won because the named witnesses supported us.  The five female employees named in the lawsuit of 2010 still work at Stardock in 2014.  That should tell you something about our working environment

The email

I get this one a lot:

“But your email to your employee stated that you’re a “sexist, vulgar, embarrassing person and if you have a problem with that, find another job!”

This is, again, about context. Kotaku’s hit piece took a bunch of tiny snippets from thousands of pages of court documents and tortured the context out to create a brand new narrative that only existed in the author’s mind.

First off, re-read the quote attributed to me. No one talks like that seriously in the real world. It was said sarcastically.It was understood as being sarcastic. This was not some “admission” of being a sexist, vulgar or embarrassing person.

Let me translate the statement into words that even social justice warriors will understand: You are not a special snowflake. You’re an adult now. The world is a tough, unforgiving place. If you have a problem with that, go somewhere else.

If you’re going to around looking to be offended by everything, you will succeed.

If someone, anyone has some specific issue with something, they can, should bring that up. But it’s not other people’s job to “watch what they say” around the office. It has nothing to do with sexism, misogyny, feminism, etc.  It has to do with being a grown up. 

The TL;DR version:

  1. Not only did no “sexual harassment” occur but no behavior that any reasonable (or even fairly unreasonable) would consider inappropriate occurred.
  2. I am *trying* to not get into the weeds on this as I honestly hold no animus towards the original plaintiff. She made a mistake. She apologized.  None of this is about her. This is about how how messed up media coverage gets when they are pushing an agenda. What happened to me is the logical consequence of what happens when you politicize your news.
  3. It should be enough that every.single.witness supported us. Even today. Our PR manager who was a witness, has explicitly stated she’s willing to talk to the media about it. No takers yet.
  4. Any lawyer should be able to tell you the significance of a. we got an apology letter and b. there is obviously no “gag” order on us discussing the case. Talk to a civil litigation attorney and have them explain to you what that means.
  5. Those familiar with the case in detail, even those politically on the opposite end from me, will tell you that nothing inappropriate occurred, even the infamous “I’m a sexist, vulgar embarrassing person” email changes its meaning when put into the larger context. The problem is when people try to take snippets of things and act like they know what happened. They don’t know me. They don’t know the people involved. They don’t know the context.

I don’t expect those who were wrong before the case ended to own up to that. But I do expect anyone who expects to be treated as a reasonable, rational adult to cut this shit out.  Quit demanding I prove a negative.

More on destroying the world to save it

Published on Sunday, October 19, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

A pet peeve of mine of fantasy strategy games is how weak magic often is.  It makes sense if every side is supposed to be equal. Can’t have 8 players wrecking the land, it would be a pure luck of the draw on who won.

But in Sorcerer King, it just you, the Sorcerer King and the peanut gallery.  The other players are effectively as powerful as they are in other 4X games. But you are incredibly powerful (and so is the Sorcerer King).

The player in Sorcerer King starts out, on turn 1, with the victory condition from Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes.  They’ve already built the Forge of the Overlord. They already have incredible, magical power.  It’s just that the Sorcerer King is even more powerful.

By contrast, the “minor” races are actually quite a bit better than the major races you normally see in 4X.  Their units are impressive. But they can’t, unlike you, destroy cities and mountains with a simple spell.

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In this screenshot,  I’m destroying monster lairs through magic.  Now, I don’t recommend this for a variety of reasons (I want their loot).  but the only limitation on this spell is that it requires converting life energy into fire (which means it only works on tiles with grass, trees, etc. and not on already desolate tiles).

And yes, it kills anything in those tiles. So be careful (I destroyed my shard):

image

 

This is all expected to be in BETA 2 btw.  If you’ve ever played Populous, you know what to expect.

image

And lastly, going to keep my cities safe by putting mountains around them.   When I’m ready, I’ll lower the land…

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Like such.. The path is clear!

Sorcerer King player spell suggestion list

Published on Thursday, October 16, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

The below spells are ones that I think can be implemented that have come from players.

  1. Spell that creates a Swamp tile (slows movement)
  2. Spell that turns a group of tiles into ones that do damage if you walk through them.
  3. Meteor Strike – spell that destroys everything in it, leaves crater.
  4. Wall of Fire – tiles do damage to anyone who walks through them.
  5. Tsunami, huge wave of water is conjured up that wipes out units
  6. Your spell idea here…

(will be reading comments, I have read several threads already on the subject and picked spells that were feasible and/or ones I thought would be fun).

Galactic Civilizations III: BETA 2 is here

Published on Thursday, October 16, 2014 By Frogboy In Journals - GalCiv III

Greetings!

The team has been hard at work on Beta 2 of Galactic Civilizations III.  Galactic Civilizations III is a space based strategy game that puts the player into the position of leader of a 23rd century interstellar civilization that is expanding out into the cosmos. As they expand, they will encounter other galactic civilizations that are doing the same. 

How players react to dealing with “aliens” is up to them. Trade? Cultural Exchange? Alliances? Warfare? It’s all up to you.   It’s currently in early beta with the release date not expected until next Spring.

Here are some updates.

We really hope you like how it’s coming along.

Some highlights:

 

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Colonizing a planet. Because those planets won’t colonize themselves.

 

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We think players are really going to enjoy the adjacency bonuses. I know the AI will. Smile

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Designing a better scout

 

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Diplomacy arrives

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Ah, the Drengin…

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New techs!

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Found your home planet!

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Why, me of course!

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Or not. Everyone voted for themselves. Typical. Well, I mean, yea, I voted for me but they should have voted for me.

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That’s right buddy, don’t colonize right next to me next time.

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Even in the future, Mars sucks.

Beta 2 is the Diplomacy beta series. The initial launch is just the warm up.

To learn more, visit www.galciv3.com.

Sorcerer King: Gameplay Example–The Ruined World

Published on Thursday, October 16, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

It’s almost over

The world is on the brink of ruin.

King Galor sits on the last piece of farmable land.  The shadow has crept right to his door step.

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On this map, the shadow lands have crept right to your doorstep.

The rest of the world is ruined.

Hope through magic

But not all is lost.  For Galor has the ability to revive land.  He must save up his mana, revive the land and build on it.

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You have a spell that will revive the land and allow you to build on it.

Expansion

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The Sorcerer King does not consider Galor a threat…yet

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Reviving the land to build a new city.

 

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My new city makes the Sorcerer King a touch nervous

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Day 84

Galor continues to expand and fortify while trying to protect the shards as best as he can.  This, however, gathers more attention from the Sorcerer King.

 

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Expansion is a missed blessing.  As the doomsday counter goes up, so too does unrest. Unrest is by city and is not related to population. Unrest takes away from precious logistics.

 

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The Sorcerer King has noticed Galor’s expansion

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His forces have begun to target Galor’s settlements

Logistics is the most limited resource. Having to spend precious logistics to guard cities is very problematic. Galor realizes he will need help.

Other Survivors…

Far to the East is the Imperial remnant.  They are what is left of the last Imperium, the alliance between Kraxis and Magnar that arose when the Sorcerer King first arrived on the scene.

Tandis the Warrior meets with them and they offer a deal…

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Tandis isn’t comfortable meddling in their politics

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So what’s it going to be? Murder on behalf of the Kraxis ruler or fight the Sorcerer King alone?

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Ultimately, Tandis agrees.

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He soon arrives at Grilok’s tower.

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In my debug version, I get to see the choices not available due to my stats.

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Unfortunately, he’s already in league with the Sorcerer King and Galor is not wise enough to get him to deviate from that course.  And, worse, he was too powerful for Tandis to defeat. Galor will have to find another way to get Kraxis on his side..

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These efforts have not gone unnoticed

Without allies, it’s going to be almost impossible to build up the force to stop the Sorcerer King (particularly since I haven’t hooked up anything that lowers unrest!).

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Having failed with the Imperial Remant, Galor finds the Frozen Realm, hanging on in the very far west.  Tandis agrees to a rescue mission.

The Sorcerer King sends his lieutenant, Aegethon, to intercept and kill Tandis

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Aegethon is one of the last remaining servants of the Dread Lord, Curgen.

 

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But Tandis is more than he appears as well.

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Hurt, out of spells, it’s just sheer might vs. sheer might…and one despair scroll.

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With Aegethon destroyed, Tandis finds the Sorcerer King’s secret key.  Now, he only needs to build up an army capable of taking on the Sorcerer King..

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Tandis also successfully rescues Drodin the dwarf, winning the favor of the Frozen Realm.

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The Sorcerer King is now most definitely out to destroy Galor.

(Morever, really looking forward to a better SK portrait Winking smile )

 

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The known world on turn 164 (tiniest map)

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A united force of Dwarves and Men now seek the Sorcerer King.  But will it be enough? Will have outposts hold off the Sorcerer King’s powerful force?

Galor’s goal isn’t to meet might with might.  The Sorcerer King is incredibly powerful.  Rather, to send his strike force into the heart of the Shadow lands and use his powerful magic to pave the way in.

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The forcing going in will need a lot of stuff

(note: In the beta we still have a very finite number of things to craft, this will become ever more exotic as we go forward)

 

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The Sorcerer King recognizes the threat and begins to send more and more armies at the Kingdom’s few cities.

Tylan is destroyed.

At that moment, Pariden has succumed to the Sorcerer King and declared war on Galor as well.

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Galor’s Hypnotism has gotten increasingly powerful has he has leveled up.

With the outter guard defeated, the Sorcerer King himself is confronted.

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Tandis is powerful but the Sorcerer King is much stronger.  Galor’s mana is depleted from supporting Tandis through his campaign to reach the Sorcerer King.

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With the Sorcerer King’s minions down, Tandis moves in. He uses blinding strike to take out the Sorcerer King’s vision for the rest of the battle.

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Surrounding the Sorcerer King isn’t necessarily a good idea, he has many spells that punish it.

Tandis casts Lethal focus to greatly increase his attack.

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With mana gone, swarming is all we have left…

And the Sorcerer King continues to punish it.

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Most of the army is dead but The Sorcerer King is badly injured as well.

He goes down.

 

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Victory and Final Thoughts

I was happy with the general feel but it’s definitely still an early beta.

In no particular order:

  • The minor faction quests are pretty buggy. The dwarves didn’t supply me with the units they were supposed to.
  • The Revive land spell in my game was too cheap so it was too easy to build cities.
  • Need to make sure we provide skills to lower unrest.  I do NOT think it should be accomplished with city improvements.
  • Need a lot more interesting spells. I know they’re coming (I have a lot on my test box) but not having them hurt.
  • I think the free floating camera I played with should be an option for all players “Storyteller camera”.
  • Need more crafting recipes. A LOT MORE. I never felt really satisfied with the quality of them
  • I think the high level SK units should do more arcane damage to force me to have to craft arcane defense items.
  • The Sorcerer King needs more spells in general.  He will soon be intervening in the tactical battles too just as Galor (you) can do already.
  • Lot more content still needed. It’s in the pipeline but definitely needed.
  • Happy with the overall direction things are taking.  I’ll do another play through when the Dungeon Master stuff gets implemented.

 

 

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Story teller camera was fun.

Sorcerer King Beta: Week 2

Published on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 By Frogboy In Sorcerer King Dev Journals

Greetings!

HOLY COW! Things are coming along great! And much of the reason for that is you.

We’ve gotten a huge amount of really constructive feedback from the community. Anyone who doubts the usefulness of “Early Access” needs to be sent to the Sorcerer King and/or Stardock forums.

Your wish is my command: UNREST!

We got a lot of requests to bring Unrest back in some form.  But we wanted to do it in a way that connected it tightly to the overall game.

So here’s how it works:

Every 100 points of Doomsday generates 1 unrest for a given city.  Every point of unrest reduces logistics by 1.

Simple right?

And yet, the consequences are far reaching.  If you city spam, you can really cripple yourself because the unrest is not connected to population. It’s per city.  Unrest represents your people falling under the thrall of the Sorcerer King.

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As the Sorcerer King becomes more powerful, your citizens start to worship him instead of, well, you. This is per city so be careful about spamming cities.

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Unrest sucks away at your precious logistics

 

Your sovereign’s tech..er skill tree will have the ability to lower unrest per city. That means, of course, less magic for mana and learning spells.

The player gets to take off the kiddie gloves: Trade magical power for more fertile tiles if you dare!

As you know, in Sorcerer King you can only found cities where there is food.  By default, those places can be few and far between.  We did this so that new players wouldn’t wreck themselves by overloading on cities without realizing the potential consequences (the unrest mechanic just reinforces that).

But what about experienced players? If only there was some, I dunno, magical way to let people build more cities.

Hmm. Magic.

Hence, we are bringing back the restoration spell.  If you have the mana, you can revive the land.  The Sorcerer King likes that sort of thing of course but it means you gain a lot more control over what types of strategies you want to employ.

Sorcerer King’s terrain engine – how much are you willing to destroy the world to save it?

The terrain in the Elemental games have a distinctive look.  We didn’t realize that it was so distinctive until the Sorcerer King beta came out and people made a point of saying that they could tell it was related to Fallen Enchantress.  This was a highly useful bit of feedback because, to be honest, we didn’t see it.

The players are right. Elemental games do have a distinctive look to their terrain.  There’s a reason for that.

When the engine was being designed, we required the terrain to be as morphable as Populous.  Morphable terrain has a distinctive look because the land has to be, well morphable.

Remember Populous 3? Well, here’s some screenshots. They might seem…familiar.

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Populous 3

But, you say, Fallen Enchantress didn’t morph its terrain.  You’re right.  We took out the spells that morphed terrain because we couldn’t balance it.  The bulk of our 3D engine was ignored because it was impossible for the AI to deal with a world that was morphable like this.  So we took it out.

But…Sorcerer King doesn’t have that problem.  You want to lock yourself behind a mountain range? Knock yourself out. The Sorcerer King would be pleased if you holed up back there and let him take control of all the minors.

Want to Volcano an enemy? Go for it.  Want to flood the continent? Have at it.  Basically, because this is an ASYMETRICAL MAGIC game there’s no reason not to let the player loose on the world. 

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Oh no, I’m stuck by a huge mountain pass. I guess I should just go around. Or wait, no, I’m a powerful wizard.

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There we go

Now, players of Fallen Enchantress knew we had spells like this but they were made so limited and so expensive and there were so few of them that they were more a gimmick than an interesting part of the game.  But now that the player is encourage to annihilate enemies en-masse (pillar of fire? Pish posh) the question will be how much are you willing to wreck the world to save it?

Map Sizes:  Big is really big

Click on the screenshot and you can see how big the large maps are going to be.

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The bigger the world the longer it takes for the Sorcerer King to become a god.  While obviously necessary it is makes it a very different game.  I must confess, I haven’t finished a game on large. It takes hundreds of turns to win on tiny.  Large is going to be for the truly dedicated as it’ll probably take thousands of turns.

Beta 2: November 6

We will have an opt-in beta coming up that will have really rough versions of this with the official beta 2 date being November 6.

Stay tuned!

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