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Thread: WOM Postmortem

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Central Alberta

    WOM Postmortem

    Since the gameappears to be dead, this seems like a good time for a postmortem. Hopefully there are at least a few people who still check this forumoccasionally.

    I—and I’m sureothers—would still like a spiritual successor to MOM. Someone elseis sure to try to make one, and it would be good if that person couldbenefit from learning what notto do. For the people who tried WOM: please explain how it failed tomeet your desires. Was it gameplay? Race balance? AI? Did it justlack that certain magic that you experienced the first time youplayed MOM?

    Ialso encourage the developers to explain where theythink their desires wentastray. Did fancy graphics take up too many resources? Wasbalancing races or spells much more difficult than you expected? WasAI programming too demanding? Wasthere a specific decision thatdoomed the project and thatyou wish you could have made differently? Idon’t think that aneventual new attempt atMOM2 will hurt WOM sales, so you might as well grant futuredevelopers the benefit of your experience.

    Ihaven’t played WOM. I lost interest in the project after thedevelopers said that they didn’t want to consider making anyimprovements to gameplay. IfI wanted MOM’s gameplay,it already exists. I’m looking for a tbs game with deepergameplay. MOM is: ‘Spam cities, build the same buildings in eachcity, attack rivals as soon as you encounter them, then getbored and stop playing...’. I feel that it’s a mark of failure when a strategy guide doesn’tvary with random maps or random rivals. If it says something like‘on turn 47, build a library in your 5thcity, and set the global tax rate to 3.614879’ regardless of what’son the map or the game settings, then you’re not playing astratyegy game, you’re just micromanaging someone else’s fixedoptimum strategy. I consider most tbs games to be ‘activitycenters’ rather than games. Activity center being one of thosethings you find in doctor’s offices, to keep toddlers occupied. Move brightly coloured beads along a wire, spina spinner; thatsort of thing. (Move units around a map, click repetitively onbuilding queues.) I’d like a game where I actually have toconsider my situation and make some meaningful strategic decisions. I’d like my empire to turn out significantly differently if find aclay mine rather than an iron mine in the early game, or havemy long-term strategy change drastically ifmy first neighbour turns out to be a cutthroat mercantilist ratherthan a xenophobic religious cultist. Let me think about my empireeven when I’m notplaying, and worry aboutwhether I should go to war over a coal deposit. Ithink the game should make me want to go back a hundred turns andreplay it just to see how it would have turned out if I’d made adifferent critical decision.

    As for graphics, I’d rather have MOM’s existing tile graphicswith better gameplay than awesome graphics with the same simplisticgameplay. I’d recommend that game developers start with simplegraphics as a placeholder while they put all their resources intogameplay development. Then when playtesting says ‘This game isfun! It just needs better graphics.’ you can devote the resourcesto that. It has the benefit of giving some extra time for tweakingand bug hunting rather than facing the decision of pushing out theproduct in a state that players will complain about.

    Ibelieve that part of what made MOM great was that it was impressivefor its time. It was good gameplay for a 16-bit computer running ata few Mhz and around a single megabyte of RAM and fitting on a coupleof floppy disks. The gameplay—and graphics of course—wereconstrained by the hardware of the time. Today’s hardware isseveral orders of magnitude more capable; where’s the improvementin gameplay? FPS games have improved, with AI units acting moreintelligently. Why do tbs game AI’s act no smarter than ones runon 1990’s hardware? There’s certainly the resources availablefor ‘looking at the map’and for processing deeperdecision trees.

    Oneproblem that seems endemic to tbs games is poor colonizationdecisions from the AI: they set up in (to us) stupid locations,ignoring better locations, or colonizing at the wrong time (buildingcolonies they can’t support, or colonizing far slower than thehuman player) or failing to send/build adequate defenses for the newcolony. Surely someone could have come up with a fix for that overthe past couple of decades. I think it’s the most critical flaw inmost tbs games, so even a heavy-handed rules-cheating patch wouldhelp. If you can’t program the AI to build the way humans do, givethem a bonus: the colony starts with adequate defenses sothat the human can’t send in one or two cheap units to take thecolony. Cheating, yes, but if it improves gameplay, it’s betterthan the blatant globalbonuses granted on ‘higherdifficulty’ settings.

    I’m sorry that WOM didn’t achieve its goal of being the spiritualsuccessor to MOM. Even if it wouldn’t have met my desire forbetter gameplay, being a success would have encouraged other tbs gamedevelopment. Let the effort not have been in vain, by being avaluable lesson for future developers. Maybe a good discussion onwhat went wrong might even point out a way to improve WOM into whatit should have been.

  2. #2
    Speaking as someone who certainly knew about it, but chose not to take the plunge and buy until Planar Conquest for the PC was in the offering:

    I honestly think it mostly boils down to having too much competition to survive the rocky start it had. When the project started, the turn-based 4X field was fairly bare - you had Stardock's Elemental in 2010, which was generally considered a disappointment (I hear that the later games made big improvements, but I haven't played any of them) and Paradox's Warlock in 2012. By the time Worlds of Magic was released, though, it was in competition with Endless Legend and Age of Wonders 3, each of which earned a very positive reception. I think WoM could have survived the competition if it had had a smooth launch, and it could have survived a rough launch if it wasn't up against those two, but the combination basically left it squeezed out of the market. The fundamentals seem to be good, but it was going up against direct competition whose fundamentals were at least equally good, and were considerably more polished.

    With that said, I think that apart from the rough launch, there are a couple of places where I feel WoM fell down (and Planar Conquest still does), and which were contributing factors:

    The first is that it feels like it has a cramped tactical battle map. WoM has the potential for larger armies than MoM, and higher movement speeds, and yet has significantly less tiles to move around in than Master of Magic had. It also seems to have a set number of maps rather than any form of random seed, which means you can end up feeling like you're fighting on the same map over and over again...

    The second is that it doesn't feel as if the races are as different as they were in Master of Magic. Yes, WoM has unique units for all of the races and a few race-specific buildings in contrast to Master of Magic's spearmen, swordsmen, and halberdiers everywhere... but Master of Magic managed to achieve some pretty significant differences in feel through the racial modifiers that it added to those spearmen, swordsmen, and halberdiers. More significantly, though, Master of Magic had significant distinctions not just in the units, but in the way the races behaved. You had some races, such as Barbarians and Gnolls, which were essentially zerg rush races (even if the term 'zerg rush' didn't exist at the time) - starting with them was a very different game to starting with High Men or Dark Elves, and even conquering a city of one of these races felt like it gave you a different set of options (a barbarian city would generally end up either on trade goods or pumping out mid-tier troops fairly quickly, while a Dark Elf city could end up being steadily built up through the game).

    You could generally divide the races between 'builder' and 'rusher' races, with some in between. The builders were generally the most popular, and for understandable reasons - they were the ones that had the coolest units to go for, after all. However, the rusher races added variety, depth and additional strategic options to the game, while probably requiring less resources to make (since they had less units). WoM, by contrast, made every race a 'builder' race - they all have extensive building trees and roughly the same number of units.

    Third, and possibly most critically: Documentation! Master of Magic, as many games did at the time, had extensive game manuals and a spellbook - while not every mechanic was fully described (it was a complex game) and there were some misprints and out-of-date information, you could have a pretty good idea of what to expect from each race and spell school through reading the manuals. Age of Wonders 3 has the Tome of Wonders, which performs a similar function. In the case of Planar Conquest and WoM, however... this information doesn't seem to be either in the documentation, or an easily available source within the game. On starting my first game, the only way I could get more than the most basic idea of what was in each school was go hunting for it online. Which is a problem when those choices you make at the start are going to stay with you for a game that could go for dozens of hours.
    Last edited by Draxynnic; 07-06-2017 at 12:15 PM.

  3. #3
    Caster of the Inner Tower
    Join Date
    May 2013
    I never played the game, and I'm really sad about that. I can get development taking longer (and more resources) than expected, I can get that making a challenging AI is far from easy, I can understand that even with seemingly-looking nice mechanisms and ingredients, overall the game lacks a "feeling" that makes it enjoyable.

    But... lack of communication from the developpers about what we actually backed the game for, and not keeping up with simple promises... We were promised a DRM-free version, and a Linux version. None of those happened. Making a DRM-free version when you already the build, and putting it on some server somewhere, is a couple of hours (maybe a day or two) of work. Not doing that, when you actually promised to backers, not acceptable. And the same goes for Linux version, it requires a bit more of work, but the engine they use (Unity) supports it, they need an OpenGL renderer anyway since they are make mobile versions, and the early built I could access to during development supported it.

    Even if the game has bugs, stupid AI, ... I would have liked to be able to play it, after investing $100 or so in the game... but they didn't fulfill their promise of a DRM-free Linux version, often not even answering to inquiries, or saying "in september" and then nothing in september, and so on.

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