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Unknown Pleasures 2009: Elemental: War of Magic

Ever since RPS' inception, Stardock done nothing but to do things to further endear themselves to PC Gamers. A fountain of Gal Civ splenditude. A move into publishing with the brilliant Sins of a Solar Empire and the looking-brilliant DemiGod. Even pushing a gamers bill of rights. This is simply their next step, a Master-of-Magic inspired fantasy game which they've been working on for years but only finally gave it a name towards the close of the last. It's time we all learned it. It's Elemental: War of Magic and looks set to becoming the next PC-strategy game du jour. We talk to Brad Wardell about it...

RPS: You've talked about wanting to renovate PC-game types which have fallen by the way before - like a RPG and similar. What made you decide that a Fantasy game was the way to go?

Brad Wardell: I think PC gamers would like to see more turn-based strategy games. Look at how successful Civilization IV has been as well as Galactic Civilizations. People want to see these types of games. A civilization-style game set in a fantasy world is something that is right up our alley and we think gamers would like to see it. There’s been a lot of interest in a Master of Magic style sequel over the years and Elemental I think will tap into that demand.

RPS: And, at the highest level, what's your aim of Elemental? What are you trying to make gamers feel when playing?

Brad Wardell: In Elemental, we want players to be able to rise up in level and eventually be powerful enough to wreak havoc on the world. By the end of the game, they’re a Sauron or Morgoth level of power and we want them to be able to see in detail what that means in a game.

RPS: Can you talk about the user-generated content aspect of the game. What do these tools actually let you do? And, in tems of game mechanics, how do they work? The creation tools in spore were more about pure visual aspects, and when forigen creatures entered their game, it didn't really matter? With Stardock's approach, I presume you're talking a different route. Could you elaborate?

Brad Wardell: The in-game tools of Elemental are designed to let players create their own items, their own worlds, their own graphical elements to the world, their own creatures, their own races and pretty much anything else they might want to expand the game. They’re the same tools we use to add content to the game. The idea is we want players to be able to create their own sub-games and sub-genres to extend replayability and keep the game always fresh and new. They’ll be able to control this content with the bestiary screen to essentially build their own game scenarios.

Turn-based graphic artists only ever have a very rough idea of the concept of scale. Bless 'em.

RPS: Even putting aside the USG elements, the amount of variety promised is enormously impressive. 12 factions with their own tech trees? Is this the next step on from Arnor? How has your experience with making Gal Civ worked helped you?

Brad Wardell: Each faction in Elemental will have its own tech tree but the tech trees in Elemental aren’t comparable to Civ or GalCiv but more like Master of Orion 1 where there are only a small number of techs. Where the variance will really take place are in the spell books which are different per team. One of the nice things about a fantasy game is that we effectively get more options to make each faction play differently but in ways that are really cool.

RPS: What are you most excited about in 2009? What are the trends and developers to watch?

Brad Wardell: 2009 is going to be a very exciting year for gamers. For us, the big push is integrating more and more added value into the games through the Internet. For instance, Demigod, our upcoming strategy/RPG combo will introduce some MMO elements by letting players fight and build up characters in a persistent world. I think you’ll see more and more games taking advantage of the richness that Internet connectivity can bring to games.

RPS: Thanks for your time, Brad

Elemental will be entering its beta in Summer, which anyone who pre-orders is able to play.

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