Is diplomacy working? And if so, how to do? Last game, I had two Independent states at 100/100 ally, but saw no real difference (except maybe their Volunteer armies not attacking me, which I guess is something). Note that playing as Evil Alignment. Although, it also seemed that my unit recruits increased, so maybe something occurred there too?
It is working at a very basic level. The system currently operates with Relations, Fear, Respect and Hate - the latter only being applicable to major powers. It mostly affects the AI behavior (who to attack or not attack, whether to recruit more troops, etc.) and doesn't offer a great many opportunities yet. The ability to interact diplomatically, with the usual strategy game options of making demands, suggesting deals, annexing, etc. is something that is yet to be fully implemented. But it is planned for Q1 of 2017.
Speaking of which, is it possible to customize troops? I didn't see any options, and I researched a lot of spells. If its locked behind a trait, building, or player type (aka warlord-only), that should be clear.
Yes, there are two ways to create custom units. One is constructs
(golems, undead monstrosities, etc.) - where you customize material, power source, armament, and a couple of other options. The available options depend on your research. The button to do this is on the Military window (where you also recruit new units). The tool tip should tell you what research you are missing (at the moment: Minor Golems. The second option is customized units of "regular" soldiers. There was UI for this early in the alpha, and the underlying code is fully functional. I have some pending design work in deciding what research/traits/player type unlocks this. It was rather overpowered when any number of custom units could be made, so there needs to be some limitations and/or cost. Wizards have the ability to use Marks
(e.g. Lesser Mark of Thunder
) which are unlocked through research and gives some abilities and/or bonuses to unit stats, for increased recruitment/maintenance cost.
What do outposts do? Currently, I didn't see anything, although I also didn't have any villages/towns under my control (I thought maybe my allies would do something).
In the live version they expand your controlled territory, allowing you to build other structures. For example, you find a hex with Gold Ore. You can then build an outpost next to it, and then a mine on the Gold Ore afterwards. In the next patch* I have added the ability to upgrade Outposts to Fortresses. There will be more functionality coming for Outposts and Fortresses - and visual indicators of control making it easier to see where building stuff is a good idea.
Ultimately, it would be nice to know what the traits on heroes do. Some seem mandatory, some seem flavor.
Yes, tool tips for traits is on the road map. Additionally, when I get to improving character progression, I will also rework/expand the trait system, adding an explicit distinction between skills/abilities, personality traits and background/story traits. It will also be easier to distinguish when there are proper icons for the traits.
IDEA: Revamp the Alignment system to be based upon the player's actions, with perhaps the zero-cost alignment being a push (and thus worth a point) rather than an absolute. For example, a player that engages in conquest and researches necromancy should see their alignment going evil. A player that kills marauders and researches light magic should see their alignment going good. And the good player should be able to take over/build villages without having to conquering them (although a little conquest can be redeemed via more beast slaying).
This is a tough one - on one hand it feels wrong that a wizard with the 'Good' trait can enact a genocidal reign of terror without losing the trait, on the other hand it's difficult to track alignment through actions without making it easy to abuse. I do agree that having alignment be tied to the actual game play is a good thing, but I also want to give players the opportunity to establish a good/evil persona from beginning of the game, and have that choice provide additional options, as well as constraints. Currently there are event choices not available to various alignments, and it also affects how the AI acts toward a faction.
A possible way to have both would be to have the trait place the player firmly towards an alignment at the beginning of the game and restricting access to certain options - even if the alignment has slipped to neutral or beyond. In this way the trait choice indicates an intrinsic alignment - a fundamental connection to good/evil, but as separate concept from good/evil as a reputation.
I'd also like to add the classical Law/Chaos axis to the system, but it's one of those things I've had to put off while I improve the fundamentals of the game. Alignment and reputation is definitely an area I will expand upon, and I look forward to doing so.
* Expected release of the next patch is in 1-2 days time