As we develop the Romans, each week are revealing them to you building by building, unit by unit, and technology by technology. We are not just showing you what the Romans will be, but showing you how we are building them, who is building them, and also why we are building them the way that we are. This week, we are absolutely thrilled to finally pull back the curtain on one of our most beloved units, the Clinicus. We also will show you the final two Roman Guard Towers.
Every civ in Age of Empires Online provide some way to heal troops (starting in Age 1 with the Persian Aid Tent and the Egyptian Priestess of Ra) and some way to convert them (starting in Age 3). These roles are almost always filled by Priest Units. We touched upon this when we revealed the Pontifex (cite to Week 12), but the original Roman designs did not provide clear signals regarding exactly what Priests the Romans would have or exactly why they’d do.
Our Romans will have two units classified as Priests, the Pontifex (who converts and visually looks like a Priest) and the Clinicus (who heals and looks like a medic). The original designs provided us with almost no information about the Clinicus other than his name, what he generally was to look like, and that he was to train from the Town Center. However, he was listed in every version of the designs.
We concluded that if the Clinicus was to heal, then the Pontifex was to convert. And we expect these two units to stay in those lanes. So unlike most other civs, the Romans will need two Priest units on the field. This feels right to us.
In giving the Romans a medic-type Clinicus, it seems that the Devs were trying to use the Clinicus to signal that the Romans thematically were not just religious but also focused more on practical sciences than perhaps its neighbors such as the Celts, Greeks, and Egyptians. While most civs have a single Priest unit to perform both these roles, the Developers' intent appeared to be to split those roles for the Romans, and perhaps enhance them so as to give each unit additional gravitas to balance the additional clunkiness of requiring two specialized units
Therefore, we intend for the Clinicus to be a fairly powerful healer. This will be realized in three ways. First, he will be able to heal units in combat. Second, the Clinicus should be able to heal from a fairly long range (perhaps only after this Age 4 upgrade, subject to balancing considerations). Third, he will also be able to heal multiple units in an area of effect. To make up for his power and to further keep the Romans in check as a late-game powerhouse, the Clincius will arrive in Age 3. So the Romans will have no Age 2 healing whatsoever. Again, if you want to beat the Romans, you want to get to them early.
We also needed to work out the actual mechanic of his healing. Since he did not appear to be religious, it did not square to have him raising his hands or shaking his staff to bless units. PF2K noticed all the bottles clanking around his cart and deduced that he was going to set up his cart and then start throwing potions at people. This seemed plausible, so we went with it. Months later, one of the Devs confirmed that P's intuition was exactly what they had in mind. So throwing potions it is.
As for his little cart, originally, we imagined him unpacking it like a Palintonon or Stone Thrower before dispensing his medicine. And though we later confirmed with some Devs that this was, indeed, the original plan, we have decided against it. So our Clinicus will be able to heal without the unpacking and move without repacking his cart. Unpacking is cumbersome and not particularly popular. So instead, his cart will pack and unpack automatically, just like the Babylonian Ox Cart.
Just as the original designs indicated, we originally had the Clinicus training with the Villager at the Town Center. But our balance team honed in on this issue and strongly urged us to reconsider.
They cautioned that adding additional units to the Town Center severely gums up Villager production and can have dramatic quality of life issues on gameplay. Babylonian Ox Carts are the only exception of having a second unit in the TC, and to compensate for it, Babylon ages up outside of the TC, so they can still train plenty of Villagers without major disruption. And to many players, the Ox Cart is just too awkward. Meanwhile, the TC already contains a number of upgrades, and there physically was little room on the Roman tech tree to fit everything. So the brainstorming commenced.
We discussed training the Clinicus from Houses, but there is nothing particularly historically thematic about Roman Houses, and we see no reason to make yet another civ that has special Houses (such as the Norse and Celts). Wout and Carnage suggested simply training the Clinicus in the Templum with the Pontifex: All other civs' healers are trained at the Temple, and religion and healing were linked very closely in ancient times. But others of us strongly opposed it and saw it as working against the science/religion separation we believed the Devs had envisioned. Meanwhile, there was an obvious Building that was very Roman and the center of intellectual thought. And so we agreed to place the Clinicus in the Forum.
You may recall that when we introduced the Forum, we told you that the Roman Forum would follow the standard Academy model and contain only Technologies. So that is no longer true. It could change, but we think the Clinicus has found his final home.
As for his gear, we struggled a bit with the decision to give him a Holy Staff and Religious Item. Even though we do not view the unit as religious or magical like normal Priests, he still heals and needs gear that buff in those areas. And it would have been way too messy to create separate gear classes just for him. So Priest gear it is. The best analog may be the Celt and Norse human Siege Units that use some gear that is more appropriate for siege engines.
Now that we’ve fully dissected how we designed the Clinicus, let's talk about our favorite part: his animations.
We've been saying these final five units are the our favorite units in the Romans, and that's absolutely true. The joy of the Clinicus is less about his role (powerful healer) and much more about his personality. There is something immediately charismatic about an old guy who wheels a handcart around throwing potions. There is no doubt that Happy Smurf and Chaos captured his magic perfectly in the model, but what really sets this unit apart are his animations.
When we first began the Romans last January, we were only able to recycle existing unit animations. And since no other unit pulls a hand cart full of potions, we were either going to somehow reskin the Stone Thrower or ditch the cart completely and have him walk around. Either way, it just would not have been the same. In many ways, the difference between not having Phillus on our team and him coming on board is the difference between cobbling together an interpretation of the Romans and actually creating them with the personality and details as they were intended to give the civ its own feel. We cannot say enough about Phillus.
Though his job is ultimately to put the polish on only certain units (other units rightfully use existing animations), we cannot overstate his importance to the final product. If we are going to add a civ to AoEO, it needs to be more than a a popular choice with he correct Units, Buildings, and Techs. We need beautiful 3d models that capture the artstyle of the game and of the civ perfectly. And if our Romans are going to truly feel like they belong in this goofy game, then they need dazzle at the highest levels of detail. They need to walk like Romans and fight like Romans and die like Romans.
And Phillus just slays it. He gives the Clinicus this hilarious, old geezer personality. The Clinicus makes a perfect foil to the disciplined Legionaries and the intimidating Siege Units. He is a joy to move around with his funny gait. He is fun to use. He is even fun to ignore and watch be bored. And he is fun to kill. He is so fun to kill. Seriously, he has the best death animation in the game. Have a look at all of this.
Though we are revealing the Clinicus today, he is not completely finished. One of the challenges with these final five units is that they are each technically complicated. There is no unit in the game quite like the Clinicus pulling his cart and tossing his potions. And we just cannot for the life of us get his potion tossing to work.
The issue is that his body and his cart move together, like a horse pulling a cart. And ranged units need to turn and face their targets in order for the firing animation to feel realistic. So for the Clinicus to throw his potions in all directions, he needs to rotate to face his target. But whenever he does, his cart magically wheels around so it is always behind his back, which is visually absurd, and an absolute headache for us to solve. Other than these kinds of troubleshooting issues, the Clincus has been complete for about three months. We are still working on it, but it takes more hours than you’d hope. If we have to rework his mechanics, then maybe he won't end up throwing his potions. Maybe he will uncork them and wave them in the air so their gasses waft into the air. Or maybe we will have to remove his ranged healing and force him to stand next to his target. Most parts of civ design are endlessly fun. Other parts are endlessly frustrating. Stay tuned. We will one day march triumphantly into Rome. One way or the other.
Stronghold (Age IV) and Keep (Special) Towers
As promised, here are the Age 4 Roman Guard Towers.
Some of you may remember that the developers had additional upgrades for Guard Towers and Walls available for all civilizations, ones that are no longer in the tech tree. Before the 2012 Summer Update, Guard Towers had different tiers of upgrades:
In the Summer Update, all civilizations lost their Keep Tower upgrades, but some of you may remember the old Tower models for the first 4 civilizations, so here they are:
- Guard Tower (Age 2)
- Fortified Tower (Age 3)
- Stronghold Tower (Age 4)
- Keep Tower (Age 4 - 2nd upgrade)
As you can see, the Norse and Babylonian civilizations do not even have a model for this Guard Tower tier, but that didn't stop us from making one for the Romans! (and potentially, for Norse and Babylonians as well, at some point). So this version of the Guard Tower will not be available to players in normal circumstances, for the sake of keeping consistency with the original game and to avoid having 2 upgrades for the same building in the same age. However, we intend to make it available in PvE through the use of a Roman-specific Advisor card. You can also expect the AI to have some in quests. And, of course, you will be able to play around with it in the editor and in offline mode.
We gush about Chaos and Happy Smurf's models, but I am sure you guys can see why.
Here's every civilization's Stronghold Tower:
We have four units to go (plus a few more Buildings and tons of final details). Happy Smurf and Phillus should be finishing up their semesters shortly, so we hope to keep cranking. Fortunately, the Winter Event is moving on schedule and should be brilliant. But as you may have expected, we need to take a couple of weeks off from the blog to focus on it. So please continue to bear with us. But it won't be long before we show you what we are cooking there. And you will love it.
To wrap things up for the Roman Guard Tower, here's a full lineup of the Tower's progression:
PF2K's personal note: See that icon for the Keep Tower? Yeah, it's THAT old.
It has been a long slog this fall. Not only did we save the five most complicated units for last, but most of our 3d modelling team have been busy with school. Meanwhile, we have had to pause development for several weeks to prepare the Summer Event and Halloween Event. Everything seems to be working against us, and in the last 9 weeks, we have only shown you three new units. Now the Winter Event looms. So we need to take a couple of weeks off from the blog to focus on it. But it won't be long before we show you what we are cooking there. And you will love it.
Once we get back, with a little bit of luck and some hard work, we expect the next three months to feel a lot more Roman than the last three.
As far as a Roman release date, we are not certain, but roughly expect them to arrive 1-3 months after we show you the final unit.
Project Celeste Development Team
What do you think about this week's blog? What would you like to see next? Let us know in the comments below!
Missed the Roman Civilization's announcement? Find out about it HERE.
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By PF2K on Dec 7, 2019 at 7:06 AM
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