Part 3 – It’s not Civilization + magic
FiringSquad: A lot of people compare it to Civilization, and their new game is coming out next month. How are you making Elemental stand apart from that?
FiringSquad: You've mentioned before that the game draws inspiration from other strategy and fantasy works. Could you name a few and explain what kind of influence they’ve had on the making of Elemental?
Brad Wardell: Probably the one that has the strongest influence is Master of Magic. [Elemental] plays a lot like that game, which was popular strategy game back in the early ‘90s. We took it one step further in that you’re actually a unit in the game. So in the typical strategy game, you’re building an empire but you, the player, are kind of outside of the game. In Elemental, you’re creating a character and you’re literally inside the game as a unit that moves around and such. You can make a unit that looks just like you, or pretty darn similar to you if you want to.
We kind of are inspired by Master of Magic because in that game, it’s really about you [being a] sorcerer who’s trying to take over and become the master of magic. In terms of other games, we’ve been inspired by everything from Age of Wonders to Heroes of Might and Magic, but our biggest inspiration has been Master of Magic.
Well, outside of being land-based, turn-based strategy games, they are completely different from one another. I’m an old fan of Civilization; I mean I designed Galactic Civilization, so obviously I’m a big fan of Civilization *laughs*, but in terms of game mechanics, they’re so different from one another. For example, Elemental literally has tactical battles, but with Civilization it’s all on their hexes. Elemental has quests that you go on to get special items for units, so every unit in the game looks different.
In Civilization, it’s much more abstract, where if I build an archery unit, there’s just a bunch of guys on a tile, whereas in Elemental I design that archery unit to be just mine, I control how he looks, and I may never see that unit again if I play a thousand times. Each person is different in the game, visually, so when you go into battle and you have 6 guys, it’s literally 6 guys. When I found a city and the population is 73 people, that means I can’t build more than 73 [units] because those people have to come out of my pocket. I’m not simply making a “knight” unit, there’s no such thing as a “knight,” for example, in this game. What you research instead are things like long swords, bastard swords, battle hammers, that kind of thing, as well as platemail, and go into your unit design screen and put together the unit you want to have fighting for you.
FiringSquad: So you’re training and outfitting your population rather than creating a combat unit out of nowhere.
Right, exactly. It’s not like you’re getting a technology that says you can now build knights or horsemen or what have you. Instead, you’re literally starting with a peasant, and then deciding how much training to give that peasant and what equipment to equip them with. The more stuff you give them, the longer it’s going to take to train them and the more expensive it will be to equip them.
FiringSquad: Are there resources you have to collect to produce the equipment?
Indeed, and in fact that’s another big difference in this versus a typical strategy game. In Elemental, you don’t get to conjure up all your resources, it’s not like I can build next to a mountain and build a generic mine on it and get some resources from it. Instead, everything, whether it be money, food, metal, crystal, everything, comes from these natural resources. All the things you do in the game are based on capturing resources that are on the map.
Everything from research to arcane knowledge for learning spells you gain from these special resources. So when I build a school in a city, that doesn’t just conjure up research points, rather, it’s a modifier to my existing research base which I get from controlling a lost library that is on the map. So the game is much more about controlling the map than just going and building improvements to conjure resources.