I never wanted URR to be a traditional roguelike. Well, ok, that’s a lie as URR started out very different, but the thing we now call URR has a different trajectory. There are many excellent roguelikes out there, and obviously Dwarf Fortress fields a construction-focused side to the genre. I wanted to do something closer to a turn-based strategy/4x game, but at the same time, one:
a) That could have history generation; I think this is a really interesting area (speaking as both a gamer and a social scientist) and I want to explore how history is generated and, hopefully, produce more interesting historical narratives than other games which do the same produce,
b) Where the player was actually a character; you weren’t omnipotent and had total control of your forces. You had to give orders, execute policies, and control your armies from afar. By contrast, if you accompany your army, you’ll have direct control but obviously risk death and disaster.
c) That combined the small-scale of the player, and your skills and abilities, and the larger-scale political/social/military dymanics. I want to include complex mechanics for the player because I know a lot of people like character development/RPG mechanics, and because I think I can produce some interesting skill trees and make gameplay decisions that are challenging and unique for the player, especially when the player character’s skills will be influenced by the societal mechanics. For instance, if there is one political/social choice that boosts (these will be unveiled in the future, but there are currently 40 political/social choices planned out with a complex network of dependencies/exclusions) the use of heavy weapons, then you and any allies in your civilization will gain a bonus to your heavy weapon skill. I’m specifically designing it so that civilization choices complement personal skill choices.
However, this ran into a problem. If I had history generation, that means that by the time the game starts the empires or states will have a major asymmetry in power. Some will be large, some small; some powerful, some weak; some will be cultured, some will be cultural black-holes; some will have a long history of great statesmen, some will be poorly ruled; and so on and so forth. The question was then: can I make a strategy game whereby you don’t start off equal to the other competitors? That’s such a fundamental part of strategy games; all players start equal. Here, you’d be jumping into an empire part-way through its life.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past fortnight, and what direction I want URR to take, and how I can balance out these competing interests in the kind of game I want to make. But then I realized something fundamental.
Most strategy games have a difficulty slider – that’s taken for granted. You either choose dreadful AI, AI with incredible bonuses, or something in the middle. By contrast, I can let you pick your difficulty, but via recourse to the civilizations currently in existence. Thus, let me explain this in a bit more detail. When you’ve created a character, you will then have five choices.
1) – You are placed outside all civilizations and have no starting allegiance.
2) – You get to choose between all the *political and social* choices of civilizations that exist, but you are told no more information about them. So, you get a list of what each civilization believes, what its policies are and so on, but no other information about their size, army, etc. Thus, for a greater challenge you either pick a civilization will poorly aligned policies or policies you’ve rarely tried playing with, and for an easier game, pick a civ with policies you know or that fit well.
3) – You get to choose between visual representations of empire and lots of practical data like wealth, army size, territory, etc. However, in this model, you learn nothing about the policies of that civilization. Thus, if you want a greater challenge you can pick a small, weak civ; for a lesser challenge, a larger stronger one.
4) – You get to choose between civilizations with all information given, policies and army/economic data. This is obviously an easier option than the above two are you get complete information about the world, while – in earlier eras – the other options will leave you with some unknowns about the world.
5) – You are placed in a random civilization.
These methods thus allow you to control both the difficulty, and the knowledge you have of your civilization, in a variety of ways. The player does not forge the civilizations from the start, but you have a wide choice of civilizations to choose from a variety of metrics to aid you in making that choice. Subsequently, it is important to note I now envisage you being able to choose a number of starting levels in that civ, ranging from random civilian to king/president/etc, which will also obviously affect your game and its difficulty. Having chosen a civilization, the 4x/strategy options then swing into play, allowing you to shape the civilization within the era you’re in as you see fit.
IN SUMMARY, I realize this is a weird and unique synthesis. Maybe it won’t work. But I think it will – marrying history generation and 4x/strategy games has never been done precisely because of the ‘lack of control’ the former gives, but I’m hoping to be able to synthesize the two nicely. Let me know what you think, and any ideas you might have for fully integrating the two.
Also, hope you liked the little graphical spoiler at the top. We won’t be seeing the “Society” menu for at least six months, but I’m doing a little of the design work at the moment…