Is work on War of Magic complete or are you spending some development resources on it?
As I write this we are getting the War of Magic 1.2 patch ready and we have plans for a 1.3 patch. Stardock is still committed to supporting and improving War of Magic.
Could you give us a high level overview of the plot of Fallen Enchantress? Safe to assume there’s an enchantress to save somewhere in the game?
As with most turn based strategy games the meat of the game is in random world games, so the plot is up to the player and the unique situations of that game. But the game does include a campaign as well. Stardock hired professional author Dave Stern to help write the plot and events, and Jon Shafer is in charge of the campaign's game play to make sure it is fun.
I don't want to spoil the plot except to say that it does allow the player to explore the world of Elemental in a new way and see a side of the highlighted factions and characters that wouldn't be told in the random game.
Why the decision to make this a stand-alone game rather than an add-on? Was this a marketing decision or a technical decision or both?
Add-on expansions are a business model for boxed software. They allow the player who has purchased the prior game to buy the expansion at a discount (since it's just the expansion price) while the player who doesn't own the prior game has to buy both. There is some technical hoops you have to jump through to make that work.
In a digital distribution world that process is easier. Since we have the records of everyone who has purchased the prior game we can simply give a discount to them on the price of the expansion. We don't have to install one over the other, mix codebases or require the player to install two products in order to play.
From a product perspective it works well since Fallen Enchantress changes so many systems that it is a fundamentally different game than War of Magic. The old model adding some assets and a few mechanics to make an expansion doesn't work here.
Could you talk about the changes to the combat system of the game? Why did you decide to make the changes and what other alternatives did you consider?
We considered removing tactical combat entirely. There were no sacred cows in our design, if it didn't make the game fundamentally better then it was removed.
But in the end we decided that tactical combat was an important part of what Elemental was. There were 3 main focuses for Fallen Enchantress, and tactical combat was one of them (improving the world and magic are the other two).
At a system level we switched to a unit based initiative system (instead of an entire team moving at once). This allows the player to make smaller, more focused decisions. We also separated movement from combat speed. In the old system if a unit had 6 combat speed he could move 6 spaces, attack 6 times or a combination of the two. That made combat speed a god stat, since allowing more attacks multiplys a units damage. Now we can have high movement units without making them killing machines (or make really slow killing machines).
But those are just the supporting systems. Where the game comes alive is with the implementation of the units you fight with, and the monsters you fight against. There are more special abilities. For example the Maul ability allows a unit to continue attacking a victim until he misses, with a cumulative -3 to accuracy with each attack. This is an ability that's given to Bears, Cave Bears and Garrote's. It can also be granted by some magical items such as the Berserker's Axe. This a powerful ability against units with a low dodge, especially when used by units with a high accuracy and a bit of luck.
Stalkers have the charge ability that gives them +3 to movement and attack for the first round of combat. Spellcasters can cast Mantle of Flames that does fire damage to anyone attacking them. Units can be summoned into tactical combat. The Touch of Entropy spell does damage and raises any victim killed by it as a demon under the casters control. Given enough time enemy Ritualists can summon powerful Death Demons into battle. Dragons have Overpower, which multiplies their damage by the amount of units in the defending tile (so entire armies can be wiped out). Unique multi-tile enemies like Morian, the Ruin of Summer, will need armies of high level units and champions to defeat.
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