Endless Legend preview: making real-time, turn-based combat work
Legends' fantasy world ties into Amplitude's other games, Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless, and some of its races are even ancestors of the ones that explored the stars in Endless Space. To de Wabuert, that's one of the key things that separates Endless Legend from other fantasy—or Civ-like— strategy games.
"We definitely are a Civilization type of game," he admits. "There are two main elements we focus on that I think we do a pretty good job at. One, the accessibility. The interface. Everything is very clear, very easy to explain...Also, we make sure everything [on the interface] is needed. We prefer to reduce the choices to the very meaningful ones, rather than many choices that don't mean anything or have any real gameplay behind them."
More importantly, he says, the team focuses heavily on worldbuilding. Endless Space was rich in lore for its factions and hero units and the mysterious backstory of the Endless, though all of that information was presented in simple text boxes and static art. Endless Legend already looks far more lush and detailed, which is what Amplitude is shooting for.
"We pay a lot of attention to the mood, atmosphere, universe, world. We want to be really sucked in by the ambiance and the atmosphere of the game, the visuals and graphics, the lore and the writing. And again, I think that's something that, personally, I don't see enough in 4X games. They're more about game mechanics than the experience the player is going to live. Sometimes [a 4X] game is about what happens in your mind, and you live an epic story, but what you see on the screen is not that epic. So we want to fill that in a bit more."
de Waubert also emphasizes how differently Endless Legend will play based on your faction. The final game will include eight factions, four of which he calls "advanced" factions. The Roving Clans, for example, can't declare war on other factions. "That's a basic part of the game that's kind of broken," he says. "It's not easy to handle. But you have others that are more classic and have a bonus to building or have more armies."
And the Roving Clans simply present a challenge to overcome. Instead of declaring war, Roving Clans players can, for example, manipulate the market to starve opponents of resources. Shrewd players will be able to force their enemies into declaring war on them.
Another advanced faction, the Broken Lords, doesn't use food. Instead, their food resource is Dust, the Endless universe's stand-in for money. Broken Lord players will have to approach resource mining and trade differently.
We barely touched on building or trading or politics or customizing units for combat. And some of those systems are still unbalanced, which de Waubert is happy about. That's what the alpha release on Steam is for, in his opinion—getting players into Endless Legend, getting them to explore the technology progression and combat and market and find out what works and what doesn't.
"For me, I wouldn't work another way," he says. "I hope I will never have to work another way. It's funny, sometimes when I talk with developers they say it's a good way to make money before the building of the game. That's wrong! Early Access is to get feedback to tune your game before its release, because there's nothing worse than finishing your game and getting feedback about what you should have fixed."