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 revealing both the Engineer, and the Millarium, which the Engineer constructs.
EngineerThis unit gave us absolute fits and almost died several times. On the one hand, Roman engineering is legendary and every Roman design we found contained an Engineer. So our civ would feel incomplete if we did not include one.
But on the other hand, we had no idea what the Engineer was supposed to actually do in the game. The original Developers never decided, and everything we tried just didn’t fit. For a year, we went in circles to give him some kind of historically fitting, cool mechanic that was effective in the game but not overpowering. We are really excited with how the Engineer ended up. But it was a slog.
As always, we started with the original Developers.
They told us, "The engineer was the big thing we were playing around with for the Romans. Roman engineering and architecture is one of the things that the civilization is remembered for even in modern times. We wanted to try to capture that in a way that would really make the Romans unique. This led to us brainstorming a bunch of ideas for the Engineer.
So we didn’t know what he was going to do, but we knew it needed to be important. Early on, we decided that we really wanted the Engineer to be available immediately in Age 1 so he impacts the feel of the civ in a big way, so the Romans will start with one and be able to train more in Age 2.
Every civ's Age 1 has small, civ-specific features. The Egyptians start with a Priestess of Ra and you age up by building a Temple. Persia has the only unique Age 1 military unit (the Sparabara) and also includes the Aid Tent tech. The Celts have fast Spearmen and use Houses to age up, which sets the tone for their early aggression. Babylon has the Ox Cart and Ziggurat. Norse has two Scouts, one of which can forward build and the other constructs Outposts. If you boiled a civ down to its absolute essence you end up with its Age 1. So must it be for the Romans.
With Roman engineering being so significant and our Romans being a slow-moving late game powerhouse, it feels right for them to start the game with an Engineer to help build the empire. But this also complicates his design. Not only must the Engineer bring something new to the Romans in a historical way that is fun to use, worth dedicating the pop space and resources to do, but not gamebreaking, but now he must do all of these things in every stage of the game. The answer is complicated, so let’s discuss.
According to notes on some concept art, the Engineer “constructs Buildings faster than a Villager but cannot collect resources.
So that’s ‘s a start, but not nearly enough. Since Villagers obviously construct Buildings, their versatility would overshadow a unit that only specializes in one thing. And we don’t want to, say, remove the Roman Villagers’ ability to construct Buildings just to make their Engineers worth training. That’s bad design. Our Engineer will construct Buildings faster than Villagers, but he also needs to do something unique.
It was identifying this "something unique" that took us a year. Remember, his unique abilities need to thread the needle of being important (and fun and historically appropriate) to gameplay without being overpowered. And since you will have your own ideas, we want to drag you through our analysis. Again, we started with the original design.
One Developer provided this wisdom: "Keep in mind that the Roman Engineer hadn't been implemented yet, so the balance team didn't have a chance to take a pass at it and see if the concept was interesting or at all balanced. The Roman Engineer was essentially an enhanced villager focused exclusively on building. The engineer would have preset combination of buildings (i.e. storehouse/guard tower, barracks/house, etc) that it could build in one build time, costing slightly less than the buildings would cost individually. If more power needed to be added to the unit, it would likely have been more effective than a normal villager when assisting in construction of normal buildings as well."
Preset Building combinations would definitely be a new mechanic, but we were skeptical that it would improve gameplay, let alone feel particularly Roman.
So to the drawing board we went. Over the winter, spring, summer, and fall of 2019, we had so many conversations, debates, agreements, reconsiderations, and frustrations about the Engineer (both with each other and with former Devs) that we can’t boil them down to a cohesive, orderly narrative. But here are some of the highlights:
We considered letting the Engineer gather resources, but decided against it. In one version of concept art, he had a bunch of tools, including what may have been a mining pick. So perhaps he mined stone or gold. Perhaps slower than a Vil, but at least that would give him something to do when he’s not constructing Buildings.
But that would make him feel even more like a Villager with different tuning, which would arguably make his role in the civ even less compelling. And gathering resources would not connect the unit in any way to Roman engineering.
Similarly, we considered — and then ruled out — having the Engineer construct a unique Stone Mine. That felt too derivative of the Celtic Gold Mine and seems a little beneath a well-educated urban Roman Engineer. Mining is dirty work.
We thought about him improving Siege Units somehow. After all, the word Engineer originated from operating siege engines. And with the Roman specializing in Siege, it just fits perfectly.
We envisioned the Engineer as a nonmilitary unit running into battle supporting their Siege Units. For a while, we were going to give the Romans souped-up Palintonons with a little chair and levers and dials for the Engineer to operate. You’d kinda garrison him in the Palintonon. We loved this image and it would be badass to have an Engineer riding around in a Palintonon.
But assigning an Engineer to a Palintonon would essentially make the Palintonon take up additional population slots. So in order to justify using up that extra population, the Palintonon would have to be quite powerful. But that would be impossible to balance – either Roman Siege units without the Engineer would have to be worse than the Siege units of the other civs (which is the opposite of what we want for our siege-focused Romans) or Roman Siege units combined with the Engineer would be game-breakingly overpowered. Our balance team was super concerned that buffed Palintonons would out-range or out-punch everybody else’s and break the game. We took their advice to heart and regrettably, but correctly, moved on.
We turned our attention to Buildings. Perhaps the Engineer could not just construct Buildings faster, but also stronger – Buildings with more HP, Guard Towers and Fortresses with more DPS, etc. But that raises issues of how to visually identify the special enhanced Buildings. And it would be confusing when both Engineers and Villagers construct the same Building, let alone a bit of a mess.
So then we thought instead maybe the Engineer could construct some kind of improvement onto existing Buildings. Maybe a special crane on a Storehouse to improve gathering. Or perhaps some kind of siege weapon on top of a TC, Guard Tower, or Fortress. Maybe he had to garrison inside to operate it (maybe he sits in a little seat on the roof pulling levers and manning the weapon). Or perhaps instead he could build his own unique kind of Tower or stationary Siege weapon. But we hadn’t planned to give the Romans powerful Towers, and the Romans already have more Siege units than anyone else. On top of everything else, they really shouldn’t have a Super Tower or a second Tower or a fifth Siege unit. Even if we could somehow balance the Romans, players would never find uses for everything on the roster. That’s bad design. Another dead end.
We also considered tasking an Engineer to a Building to either speed up its construction or buff its stats. But that’s too much like the Priestess of Ra.
We briefly considered Roman Roads, which many players have asked us to include. But it is technologically impossible for us to alter the face of a map like that, so it was never on the table. (Even still, roads crisscrossing the map would be ugly and difficult to intuitively design, such as how to handle opposing roads intersecting, etc.)
Nothing worked, and running out of patience, we almost killed the Engineer and moved on. But whenever we went dark, someone always came up with a new idea or doubled back to an old one. We all were fighting for him. The Romans need an Engineer.
This October, it finally fell into place. First, we returned to Siege. But rather than expertly buff Siege, the Engineer uses his expertise to dismantle enemy siege: he gets a bonus multiplier against them. So Engineers will both build your empire and defend it. And depending on playtesting, we may give him a limited buff to friendly Siege, too. So like the real Romans, you’ll want to take a few with you into battle.
But that won’t keep him busy all game, and we also want the Engineer to make something unique that relates to Rome’s famous infrastructure. Rather than construct Roads, though, the Roman Engineer will construct something close, the Millarium (plural: Millaria).
Millaria were stone pillars precisely placed along roads that contained helpful information for logistics, such as distances and directions between destinations across the Empire. Quite a few are still standing today. Our Millarium will buff the movement speed of friendly military units within its radius. Not only does this help the Romans when fighting near one, but building them all over the map allows the Romans quickly reinforce their armies from anywhere, which is very consistent with history. An army marches on its stomach, and Rome’s supply lines and logistics were often the difference in battle.
A note on the name: While we have already given the Romans more than enough Latin names, the English word for the Millarium is Milestone. Since AoEO already has Milestones, which are totally unrelated, we decided to stick to the Roman word. As for the 3D model of the Engineer, we have some concept art, but Chaos and Happy Smurf improved it quite a bit. His assortment of bizarre tools were their idea, and we think that really gives him character (and stand out in the field). The Engineer has always reminded us of the inverse of the Sapper – the Engineer constructs what the Sapper destroys. So we appreciate that they resemble each other. The Millarium is the work of Chaos and PF2K – we obviously had no concept art. But it’s perfect for the game.
To add a little extra visual flavor to the Millarium, it will also progress visually as players advance through the Ages, much similar to Town Centers and Babylonian Ziggurats and Gardens.
To see all of the Roman buildings that visually change (either via Aging Up or researching Technologies), check out the picture below:
So we finally designed the Roman Engineer. To summarize: In Age 1, the Romans will start with one Engineer in addition to their three Villagers and one Scout. Not only can they construct Buildings faster than Villagers, but starting in Age 2, players can train more Engineers in the TC (though the maximum number of Engineers is still under review and subject to balancing considerations) and construct Millaria, which buffs the movement speed of friendly military units within its radius. Engineers will also have a multiplier vs. enemy Siege (and possibly a buff to theirs). So prepare yourself to focus your Villagers exclusively on gathering and keeping your Engineers alive on the front lines. (This will bring some new twists to the PvE crowd.) In these ways, the Engineer should provide several effective gameplay mechanics that bring some new flavor to the Romans. We are excited to see what you all think.
Now that we have revealed everything inside the Roman Town Center, let's have a quick summary of what is available in this Building:
Thank you so much for reading, and we will see you all next week!
Project Celeste Development Team
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By PF2K on Jan 4, 2020 at 10:07 AM
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