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 putting the capstone on the core Roman civilization by presenting their Age 4 Officer Unit, who is arguably the most Roman of all Romans, the Primus Pilus, who has a Build Limit of just one unit at a time. We are also showing you the Roman Inland Terrain Set, which is what you will see on the Roman Capital City and most Roman Themed Quests.
Primus PilusHistorically, the Primus Pilus was the highest ranking senior centurion in a legion. Though they did not strictly command an entire Roman legion, they were about as powerful as it got. The name Primus Pilus roughly translates to “first pillar” or “first column” and calls to mind the Primus marching at the front of the first column of soldiers. (Another debated translation is “first spear,” but historians disagree whether the word “Pilus” is synonymous with the javelin-like pilum that Centurions carried rather than the Latin word for pillar.)
At any rate, our Primus Pilus is the head of our army and will be the Roman Officer available in Age 4.
Officer Units are a class of Units unique to the Romans and train in the Praetorium. Officers still adhere to the traditional classes of units (Infantry, Cavalry, etc.), but they each share several important characteristics compared to regular units: Officers are more powerful, more expensive, and more pop efficient. They are also subject to build limits and have bonuses against Priests, though this is subject to balancing.
The Norse almost certainly stole the original design of the Primus Pilus and turned him into the Chief. Our scavenged Roman code shows the Primus was to have the exact same Build Limit of one unit and and HP buff to nearby friendly units that the Chief ended up having. So in designing our Primus Pilus, we needed to change things up or else the Romans would be ironically accused of stepping on the Chief’s toes. One way is that the Primus is classified as Cavalry (though this is still subject to playtesting and balancing).
Another part of our solution to give the Aquilifer the ability to buff nearby friendly units (he increases their DPS). This freed us up to flip the Primus Pilus on his head and instead give him the power to nerf nearby enemy units.
Historically, the simple organization and discipline of the Roman legions often itself became a factor in battle, particularly when the Romans were invading more rural areas in Europe. Similarly, the mighty leaders of the imposing presence of the Roman commanders themselves often intimidated their enemies. According to Caesar, when the Romans were having trouble against the Celts in the Battle of Alesia, Caesar personally charged into the fray wearing his scarlet commander’s war cloak. As soon as the Celts saw that the legendary Caesar himself was coming upon them, they immediately gave up hope and fled.
Therefore, we decided to give the Primus Pilus a new power we call Intimidate, which decreases the DPS of nearby enemies. Right now, we’ve assigned it a really cool lightning bolt effect we found in the game files that crackles around the affected enemies. We aren’t sure if he will keep it (we may give it to the Aquilifer to show the units he’s buffing instead). No matter what, the Primus will look great. He is also the second Roman unit to carry a Banner (in addition to a Sword, Light Armor, and Soldier’s Gear.) The Primus will have a massive amount of HP and be fairly powerful in his own right. So to balance everything out, he will take up four population spots and be quite expensive to train.
From a 3D modelling perspective, the original Developers had already designed the look of the Primus with his chariot and lions, and we gladly adopted it wholesale. Not only did we find concept art and images of the original 3D model, but a number of the Devs we spoke with gushed about the Primus and about all sorts of funny animations they had for him.
As you all know, the units in AoEO have little personalities, but we’ve not spoken much about that level of design for the Romans yet. We envision the Primus Pilus as playing the role of the grouchy, entitled boss. Kind of like a coach too old and out of shape to run up a flight of stairs and everyone doubts he ever actually played the sport. He comes onto the field late in Age 4, just stands in the back and yells, and everyone is afraid of him.
He’s already a complicated unit to develop with his chariot and lions, but we have a lot of complicated animations in store for him, including a few based on the gags the original Devs left on the table. In fact, we are also using the Primus to expand unit animations in a way never before done in the game, so let’s discuss.
Every unit in the game has a number of different animations for each of its actions (moving, fighting, gathering, being idle, dying, etc.). @Phillus is professionally trained with a degree in Game Art and 3D Animation, and so he handles all of our complex animations. The Primus Pilus will be Phillus’s greatest achievement to date. As players can have only one Primus at any time, everyone will be keenly aware of whether he is alive or not. Players will want to keep him alive and opponents will want him dead. We want to the unit itself to recognize this.
Here’s the plan: Once the Primus Pilus reaches zero hit points, he falls off his chariot and his lions die, just like any other mounted unit. However, he then emerges from a dust cloud stripped of all of his armor and weapons, wearing just a toga. He still Intimidates his enemies, but he is seething with rage and blindly swinging at any enemy around him. This last stand goes on for about 20 seconds before he finally succumbs to his wounds and dies. As the Primus is the capstone Roman unit, his last stand should feel like a fitting end to a powerful imperial tyrant. Killing the head Roman Officer should be a memorable moment in any battle.
Now that we have revealed every Roman Officer, let's have a quick review of all of them in one picture, shall we?
Though the Primus was always going to be in the Romans, we had originally thought to make him available in Age 1 as some kind of over-arching Emperor during the entire game (not unlike the Egyptian Pharaoh in Age of Mythology). However, it didn’t mesh well with the rest of the civ design. We think our design is stronger with the Engineer impacting the early game and the Primus focusing on the final battle.
Though the Primus Pilus appears to have been in all Roman designs, there was at least one other Officer who did not make our cut, the Decanus. Historically, the Decanus was a Roman infantry unit who led a small group of Legionaries but was not as powerful as a Centurion. At one point we toyed with fitting him into the civ, but he was so similar to other units that we could not find a good spot for him. But since we are finishing up the Roman Units today, we thought we should mention him. Again, we are confident we’ve chosen the best candidates for our Roman roster.
Putting it all together, an army containing every possible Roman Officer creates an explosive late-game cocktail – the Centurions (with their Pila and melee attacks) and Decurions (with their sheer size) serve as your tanky front line with a few Aquilifers buffing your troops, all while the Primus Pilus stands back and intimidates your enemies and reduces their damage so long as he's nearby.
Meanwhile, you have a number of options to compliment this core. Most notably, you can spam Legionaries to charge into battle, push with mighty Gallic Horsemen, stand back with a line of Scorpios, or roll in the Siege and Engineers. We are super interested to watch the player-base explore the Romans and discover which unit combinations become most popular.
Now that we have finally revealed to you every Roman Building, Unit, and Technology, you have plenty of information to at least begin strategizing. Along those lines, we are pleased to reveal to you the official Roman Tech Trees.
PF2K began shaping these together almost as soon as he, RecoN, and Andy began work on the Romans last January. PF2K created every unique icon you see, which was a tremendous amount of work. We had very small versions of some of the icons left over in game files, but they were low definition, so PF2K had to recreate them all. When we were first shaping the civ, we constantly relied on rough drafts of the tech tree.
As you know, every civilization has its own unique Terrain Set which is used in that civilization's Capital City, as well as Quests that are themed after those civilizations. This is the Roman Inland Terrain Set, which will also make use of the new Gaia animals that have been added lately, namely Brown Wolves and Brown Sheep alongside older, existing animals. (And maybe more animals at some point in the future?!)
Roman Inland Terrain
A sharp eye would notice that one of the important aspects of this Terrain Set is that the wood color on the trees matches that of the Roman Wooden buildings and constructs, as discussed in greater detail in Weekly Blog #7. Again, these are small little details that may not seem significant, but all add up to giving a civilization feeling like a true addition to the game and giving it its own visual identity.
Now that we have revealed everything in the Romans and can reveal them to all of you, we hope they will help you see the big picture of how the Romans fit together. And you still have plenty of time to think it over – we have lots of work to be done and are not really any closer to announcing a release date. A rough punchlist:
- There’s a ton of troubleshooting for the existing 3D models
- We still have many 3D Capital City buildings and about six or seven Quest Givers to model
- Every single building still needs a destruction animation, which is a huge chore (right now when you destroy a building, it flickers into a building from a different civ before instantly crumbling)
- We plan to launch with a couple full sets of Roman vanity gear (Heroic Roman and Gladiator Vanity Sets)
- We have dozens of different Banners to make
- We need to recode the AI scripts to allow them to use Roman units – essentially tell the AI which Roman units to make at which times or to counter which units, etc.
- We have to record about 800 different vocal tracks
- We still have no new Roman music – over the last year or so, a number of people offered to help us and then ghosted on us. We are running low on time and high on anxiety
- There are two global regions to finalize – the City of Rome and at least one other, a Roman military camp
- We have no definite plans to launch with a Roman PvE quest line, but we would be lying if we told you we aren’t trying like mad to make that happen, too.
- We have some new game modes, stuff with Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, and other ideas that are sitting on the shelf waiting for us to decide if we are going to cram them in at the last second or wait to make them after release
- Before release, we also need to translate every single word in the game translated into five other languages - German, French, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese;
- We are now going to start balance testing. Who knows what additional matters will arise once our PvP experts start stress-testing our tech tree. Wish us luck!
And these are just the most obvious Roman tasks. We have tried to clear our desks of any non-Roman AoEO projects, but we have a few of those in the works, too. So hang tight, and we will keep blogging as we go!
Thank you so much for reading, and we will see you all next time!
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.
Project Celeste is completely free and always will be. However, we gladly accept donations for our overhead costs, which are larger than we have budgeted. If you want to support us, you can do so HERE.
Read every Romans related blog HERE.
Tell your friends! Join our Discord HERE.
By PF2K on Feb 8, 2020 at 9:49 AM
- Similar Threads - Weekly Blog #29