A Tale Of Two Cities

Welcome back!

Yesterday we talked about the new version of research. Today, our menu consists of cities.

The idea of cities first entered the game last RX2, alongside the a new features known as "consolidation." In a nut shell, consolidation is a planned reduction in both the number of villages and the size of a realm, for the purpose of speeding up the end-game. Reducing the number of villages in proportion means that player power stays roughly the same, but what a player can achieve in an evening of attacks is greatly increased.

If your opponent has 400 villages, capturing four means almost nothing. If they have 40, by contrast, taking four villages is meaningful and damaging.

So, how do cities enter into this? Well, no one likes to lose something they've fought to build. For most players, the number of villages in their empire is the single most important indicator of their power within the game. It's a high score, and it matters. During RX2, two things changed for cities - point values and map icons. Player feedback was pretty clear, that just wasn't enough. Cities needed to feel more powerful than villages. They needed to represent the progress of an empire... not a step backward to facilitate overall gameplay.

As of right now, we haven't locked down exactly what the final version of cities will look like. Actually, let me say that again in bold so no one misses it. :P  As of right now, we haven't locked down exactly what the final version of cities will look like.

We're testing a bunch of things, though. Some will make the cut, and some won't. Here are the highlights.

  • Increased farm capacity. Right now we're looking at a 20% bump. That may not seem like a lot, but it stacks multiplicatively with both research and bonus villages. 
  • New building levels. One way to spend your new farm space will be further upgrading key structures. New levels will be few, but provide a noticeable increase in each building's capabilities, at a somewhat hefty food cost. I'm told that this potentially includes Palace levels, for those of you tired of waiting hours to recruit the fat, well-dressed buggers. (This section could change a LOT in testing, so don't quote me six months from now. Please. =P )
  • Bonus village shuffle. We're working on making sure that if a bonus village is removed to promote a city, that city gains the bonus village's ability. No, this won't let you stack multiple bonuses into one place - though I admit that would be cool. But it will keep people from losing bonus villages when cities come along, and it will provide a greater strategic incentive to go after them early.
(We're still working out whether to do any realm size reductions, increase troop speeds, or other geography altering variations. Same with the exact village to city ratio. A lot of that will actually depend on how big R24 gets to be.... something we can't directly control.)

My personal take is that these changes are going to make the later stages of Realm 24 a wild, wild ride. If you've been clamoring for a genuinely different experience, this is the realm you've been waiting for. All of the excitement of early game expansion, but with a dramatically revamped mid and end-game. It may not be perfectly balanced. Someone might end up with a 4,000 knight city. The earth may tremble and locusts may devour all the green fields.

OK, maybe not that last part. Probably. The point is, the end game is going to have 150% more awesome than ever before. For me, at least, that makes it worth checking out.

On research past and present

R24 will introduce a number of changes, but one of the biggest will be to the research system.

Up until now, research has been pretty much a chore. I'm not sure there's a better way to say it. It didn't really matter what path you followed, and you just ended up in the same place as everyone else anyways. Even the timing wasn't terribly important... researching casually with just one or two researchers, most players finished within a month.

And that was that.

For this realm, we're trying something quite a bit different. 

  • Higher base silver and recruitment speeds.  This means a quicker start, and it also means that the effects of research are proportionately greater later on.
  • Rebalanced research options.  Less essential structures get a bigger bang for your research buck.
  • It's over 9000. OK, not quite. But the research bonuses keep going... and going... up to 150% or more.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that your technology choices now matter. While for the first month or two you'll be mostly picking what everyone else does, the order you choose will impact your gameplay. More significantly, after the initial wave of technologies you'll find that you just don't have time to get everything you want. You can't get all the advanced techs. You can't even get half.

You'll have to choose, and those choices will help define the capabilities of your empire. Specialize into silver and you'll have an economic edge and more governors to expand with, but players who focused on farmlands and stables techs may overrun your armies, etc...

This.... is a pretty big experiment. We don't really know what combinations players are going to use most, or which combinations are going to prove most effective. (We do know that bonus villages are going to be pretty flipping awesome now, since all of their benefits stack with your research bonuses. Mwahahaaa.)

Fire away with any questions! Tomorrow, I'll be posting about how all this craziness will interact with the Age of Cities... and talking about the kinds of ideas we're working on for the Cities themselves. Check back then. :-)