1) Everything was moving away from the simple elegance of isometric/overhead styles to the first person or other cumbersome (for gameplay) 3D viewpoints.
2) Point and Click does not give enough direct control of the character.
3) User created content was starting to come around, but is largely useless in-game.
A WIP of the Greater Targean Hulk
These are the three points that I wanted to address with Warmage: Exodus, along with making it a blast to play. I am sure many people couldn't live without any one of the three things above, but for me these things started to ruin the experience of the CRPG.
Addressing the first point is easy -- go 100% isometric. This puts the game at a graphical disadvantage from the start compared to many modern games. Because of this, extra attention has to be put into the details of all the art. The first step was deciding to use high-poly pre-rendered models. The second part was to use as much graphical integration as possible for the HUD, GUI and other elements. Instead of simply just having a HUD, I felt it needed to be 'organic' -- almost feel alive. Going isometric was easy, but the seamless integration of art styles has not been so forgiving yet.
Skirk -- Desert Reptile
The second point: I want to move my own character. No, I don't want to point somewhere and tell my character to move there -- I actually want complete control of him. I want my character to be able to dodge enemy attacks (not simply rolling dice behind the scene)and to flank enemies from behind for stealthy attacks.
Bluntly, I want more real-time interaction than point and click can offer. The control scheme is probably the most experimental part of the game (compared to what has come and gone) and it is still not completely finished. The basic concept is that you can freely move your character around the world but you can also go into a 'target' mode, where you character follows the cursor. The first scheme is great for melee combat, as it allows you complete freedom of how you attack and from where. The second is useful in spell casting -- it allows you to maintain precision while still being able to strafe around an enemy.
ScorpionFly -- Desert Insectoid
User created content is a great thing. It adds an extra layer of interaction and depth to a game that can keep people interested. Instead of just using user created items, which although sometimes useful is lame, the user has much more freedom. There are no pre-set spells in the game. 0. The player has complete control over their respective repertoire of spells. This system is based on a hierarchy of pre-existing attribute types (sacred, elemental, etc.), user chosen spell type (offensive-projectile, offensive-area of effect, defensive-enhancement) and then user balanced characteristics for the spell (range, speed, etc.) which increase the cost of spells essence-wise and casting time. The character learns new 'Knowledge sets' that allow them to apply more types of characteristics to spells. The balancing for the system has proven difficult thus far, but the desire to make a new spell is an excellent driving force for progression (at least in the demo).
The same type of customization is true for melee combat as well, although not to the same extent. This feature, however, isn't fully implemented yet, so I'll discuss this later when it is more hammered into code.
That about wraps up the history of the project to this point. Hopefully this has been an interesting read for someone out there. I'd love to hear opinions about any of the things mentioned -- I am always open to suggestions.