Author Topic: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End  (Read 11868 times)

Jon Shafer

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Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« on: March 06, 2013, 12:52:27 PM »
We've just about reached the end everyone! We have two more great articles to send you off with.

Today I'll be sharing the story behind social classes, among AtG's most important features - and also one that no longer exists. Tomorrow we'll be concluding this amazing journey with a detailed roadmap of what's in store for AtG over the next year and a half.

No time for sad farewell hugs yet though, we're not quite done here!




Part of game design is walking down several dead ends. Although we’re still very early in the development of AtG, I already found myself staring at one such dark corner several months ago. In this article I’ll be describing the biggest mistake I made with AtG, and the killer feature it ended up transforming into.



Seeds of Destruction

Having chosen AtG's basic themes, I decided I wanted the game to break some new ground for the 4X genre - the experience would grow more difficult as time went by, rather than the typical trajectory of becoming easier. This was early in development though, and I was still a ways off from understanding how migration, supply and even basic economics would shape the game.

On the economics side I started with resources. I knew I wanted to avoid Civ's more "tactical" approach of population points that worked tiles, but something needed to fill its place. The concept of population still interested me, and expanding on it through the representation of social classes seemed appealing. Instead of managing individual people, you had to try and weigh the interests of competing factions. I might be onto something here!

It was at this point the seeds of destruction were sown. Instead of worrying about how this system fit into the theme or helped accomplish my high-level goals for the game, I was fixating on what this single idea could do in isolation. But we’ll get back to that later.

The rough idea behind social classes was that each kingdom has warriors, farmers and clergy. Each had an “approval rate” which represented how happy the group was with the job you were doing. They had unique likes and dislikes, and placating all three was necessary if you hoped to maintain a stable kingdom.

If a class' approval rate was too low it would revolt, resulting in penalties relating to their field of "work." At the other end, a high approval rate provided bonuses. For example, if the farmers were upset, your ability to supply troops from home would be cut off, but if they were really happy you’d receive extra supply from your camps and settlements.

Sounds pretty interesting, huh? Well, I certainly thought so. But there’s a big difference between something sounding cool and something actually being a strategic, interesting mechanical system in a game...




Trouble At the Gates

One of my earliest objectives was to provide a tension where players felt the need to go out on a limb and take action when they wouldn’t normally. I decided that the social classes system would be a great vehicle to make this happen. And how would this work? A countdown timer. Each turn, your approval rate with each class would drop by one point. To prevent revolt you would have to regularly perform actions to make them happy.

This was basically the same approach I took with city states in Civ 5. However, there are issues with this model. For one, it's fairly arbitrary. Shouldn't there be something you can do to earn permanent favor? The ever-decreasing meter just feels like a strange way of representing human relationships.

Another problem is that there really aren’t many obviously interesting things to do to bump the meter back up. Gifts of wealth - alright, that’s an easy one. Not terribly exciting though. Building special structures like farms and churches? Ehhh, okay, that could work. Aaaand... what else now?

To make matters worse, each class needed to be unique not only in its effects but also its inputs. Farmers and warriors both like money, but enlarging the army is probably not going to excite the peasants you’re about to draft. It was quite a challenge coming up with interesting "quests" that didn't require me to completely redesign the game.

At one point I even added “Relics” that could be found scattered across the maps. Whether you found it on the map or captured it from another player, acquiring one made the clergy really happy. I was pretty proud of this solution, as there was some potentially interesting gameplay possibilities here. The only problem was that relics weren’t really a big deal until centuries after this era. In doing some research I winced as I read this, but was determined to push on because, come on, I needed something interesting! This, my friends, is never a good sign.

I was a bit stumped, but I felt that these were challenges that could still be overcome. I just needed to do a little more brainstorming...

Unfortunately, the biggest issue of all had been hiding in plain sight the whole time: the social classes system was taking over the game, and every time I tried to add a new bandage to correct a problem it became even more all-encompassing. So what?

Well, AtG is a game about being a migratory barbarian tribe taking down Rome. It’s not about building churches and finding relics in order to keep the clergy happy. The game I’d wanted to make and the game I was making were two completely different games.




Back on Track

I came to realize the error of my ways after receiving some particularly helpful comments from one of the individuals whose design feedback I trust most. The gist of what he said was, "you're trying to do X, but you've done Y instead. You've been doing it all wrong." This was tough criticism to swallow, but swallow it I did. After all, he was right.

After their two glorious months as AtG's centerpiece feature, I put the social classes system up on the shelf. It’s remained there ever since. The question was now what to do instead?

I went back to the drawing board and reverted to an economic system as simple as it could be. There was nothing but resources and the improvements which collected them. I noodled on some ideas, and one that stood out to me was maintenance. Units already consumed a small amount of Wealth each turn... maybe I could increase that. And maybe I could add a new “food” resource that they (and the population) would have to eat. Food coming from farms makes more sense than them making farmers happy, after all.

Maintenance is all well and good, but as long as you always have enough to pay the piper there’s not a whole lot of pressure. Sure, it would be nice to have even more iron so you could build extra units, but... I’m busy, you know? One option would be to have everything require more in maintenance than it produced, but trying to balance this would be a nightmare and a single mistake (by either myself as designer or the player) could cause everything to fall apart. But I knew I was onto something...

Finally, the eureka moment hit me. The missing piece. Resources that deplete over time. My logging camp requires metal each turn, and stops working if I run out. In turn, my iron mine produces metal each turn, but eventually runs out - time to find more iron! I knew this kind of system would also be tough to balance, but it was intuitive, straightforward, realistic and had the exact effect I wanted.

And not just that, it also opened up a wide array of exciting new possibilities. Players would have the option of pillaging and destroying improvements to gain a pile of resources when times were desperate, or capturing them and exploiting their long-term benefits. New resource deposits could appear anywhere on the map, even in patterns that I as the designer could shape, allowing me to nudge players into migrating. Unlike social class approval, resources could be traded between players, so this also improved the diplomatic aspect of the game.

Across the board, the switch from a social class system to a depleting resource system just... worked. And not only that, it fit perfectly into the theme. Some people have commented that a depleting resource system isn’t realistic. I would argue that the opposite is in fact true, and that it’s far more realistic than what you find in most 4X games.

One of the reasons why the Dark Ages were so "dark" is because the infrastructure which existed during the Roman Empire fell into complete ruin. It took centuries to rebuild, and in the meantime many parts of Europe were almost entirely depopulated.

People lost easy access to the goods necessary to maintain a civilized society. Without advanced tools and materials they weren't able to produce as much food, lumber or metal each year, and all it took was one bad harvest, disease or enemy raid to wipe out entire communities.

The lack of a continued stream of accessible resources in AtG models this general trend. If your army is slain and you run out of metal it's not game over. But it does basically mean you're dead in the water though - the exact state in which most dark age kingdoms existed for hundreds of years.

Many of the ideas behind the social classes system were sound and still excite me. There's a chance it might see the light of day in the future, either in an expansion to AtG or perhaps in a completely different game.

When you design a game you're performing a tricky dance. You want interesting mechanics, but that's not all that matter. Unless you're making an completely abstract game, your project also needs to evoke a mood or theme which resonates with players.

The complexity of the job makes it nearly impossible to keep track of everything, and sometimes you need friends to slap you back into perspective. I'm very thankful to be surrounded by talented individuals who are willing to provide constructive criticism.

Standing here at the closing edge of our Kickstarter campaign I can't wait until we're able to expand that community even larger. Thanks again everyone for being a part of this project!

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 02:46:20 PM »
in my post: Random comment by Joe Blow nobody who's happy he can interact with people who make game (isn't money awesome!) :P.

I like the idea that devs are cabaple of shelving entire aspect of the game because they realize it's not making the game any more fun, but at the same time I kinda wish social class would have sticked around.

I think the main problem with the feature is that it was baseline feature, from what was said it seems like you started the game with all social class already created and would have to constantly please them. I think instead you should have started with only one class, farmer, and then you could create new one (or they could have created themselves when supply were high enough to maintain them). From an historical context, when people could barelly feed themselves they wouldn't have that big a problem if there wasn't a large organized army.

Instead you'd choose to create the new class (it could cost a certain initial supply cost) and you'd get bonus from it, say stronger army, the bigger the new social class would be, the bigger the bonus. The new social class created would also have impact on the farmer both positive and negative, say a larger army might make farmer feel safer, but then drafting people would make them unhappy. And farmer would be the only class that could revolt, if any other gets too low they just disapear and you lose the initial investment in them. This way social class also become the "national wonder" of the game, large program you can start and ivest any additional resource you have lying around.

This also give you more customization option for your civilization. Don't like the idea of your people being religious? Just never create a religious class. Don't want to have greedy merchant taking the hard labor out of your farmer hands? Don't create a merchant class.

But the ressource system is nice for forcing people to constantly move around, does that means well be able to abandon older settlment and relocate the peole? Once all the resource dry up, not much reeason and it would allow you to instanly creat large town on the broder. Would be nice if one of the romanization perk would be a way to recycle older unit improvment to get the resources back.

Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 04:32:16 PM »
I'm going to share some thoughts on this topic in the spirit of constructive criticism. I say this because I really don't want to come across as a hater or a nag; I have high hopes for this and future games!

In your "Revisiting the Design of Civ V" article, you acknowledge that the happiness system was a weakness because discouraging expansion/empire-building "butts heads with the natural cadence of the entire genre" and disrupted the expansion part of 4X games. I think the expansion aspect of 4X is more than literally building new cities, but fundamentally refers to the player's ability to continually grow their empire as the game progresses (do you agree with this assertion?). In AtG, you envision a late-game where players run out of basic resources and "downsize" their empire to secure a win before time runs out and their empire starves to death. Doesn't this mechanic disrupt the player's ability to grow their empire in a much more dramatic way than the happiness mechanic ever did? 

Bringing in this article, you describe how finite resources adds two strengths to AtG: increased realism, and encouraging players to be proactive in seeking new resources via battle, expansion and trade, rather than being passive. This is a great goal, and I think you've already achieved it without finite resources and the problems that (I think) come along with it. The fact that resources are pooled globally can generate scarcity in and of itself: if a mine generates X metal per turn and your empire needs more than that to grow (or even maintain), that's your incentive to trade or secure more mines right there. You (and maybe players via settings) can set these conditions so that there's not enough resources for everybody (unlike most 4X games). This also addresses things getting "easier" as the game goes on: the more resource locations you claim, the more diplomatic tension and strife you're going to get from the AI.

This system gives you realism, flavor, and design strengths of scarcity without applying a shrinking ray to the player's empire in the endgame, which isn't fun for players and removes the "reward" of a capable, successful empire that's vital to 4X games.

I worry that realism is taking precedence over fun. 
Quote
People lost easy access to the goods necessary to maintain a civilized society. Without advanced tools and materials they weren't able to produce as much food, lumber or metal each year, and all it took was one bad harvest, disease or enemy raid to wipe out entire communities.

The lack of a continued stream of accessible resources in AtG models this general trend. If your army is slain and you run out of metal it's not game over. But it does basically mean you're dead in the water though - the exact state in which most dark age kingdoms existed for hundreds of years.
This may be perfectly realistic, but is this a result you actually want for your players? You say running out of metal isn't game over, but right after that admit that "you're dead in the water". Which one is it? I think in this area you have to favor "approximate" realism (that captures flavor without removing fun) over absolute realism.

You're trying to build a game based on the interesting mechanics of scarcity, but you're over-designing and building a 3X game instead. The game should capture the feel of building an empire from scratch under scarce conditions, while under the shadow of a much more powerful empire -- instead it runs the risk of feeling like surviving/gaining as much glory as possible before your empire's inevitable decline and starvation due to lack of resources: definitely not in the spirit of a 4X game.

Diogenes

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A Couple Modest Ideas
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 05:25:19 PM »
Thanks for an eye-opening account of a designing “dead end.” And thanks for stating the fact that when we’re open to constructive criticism from trusted advisors… the end result is nearly always better than if we relied on ourselves.

A suggestion for a possible way you might reintroduce the class element in a modest fashion. You might factor in some negative or positive impact on morale based on disharmony among the tribe, e.g. the following examples:

1. All tribes possess some sort of religion (pantheism or Germanic paganism being the predominant early examples in this context). Whenever there is a change, there could be an initial “dissatisfaction” among the masses as the currently-favored “clergy” (i.e. clergy-class) introduce the faith.

For example, if pagans convert to Arian Christianity, there might be an initial –x (negative x) factor toward morale… which would dissipate as the faith is instilled in the tribe’s members. If they later convert to Orthodox Christianity, the process would repeat itself. This would mirror the historical ability of many rulers to impose religious change on their subordinates, even as they continued to grumble and even secretly follow their previous religious practices. The diminishing of the handicap relates to the gradually adoption of the religious (particularly by successive, catechized generations).

2. At the outset of the game, the different desires of the various classes could be represented by a check on the morale that is only alleviated when they develop a unifying national consciousness. The process would be one that should be attended to quite early on, to maximize tribal cohesion and morale. Some rulers, however, might desire to focus on alternative path initially… which would be their prerogative. (This would be the equivalent of the National and/or Heroic Epic which melds a culture together.)

For example, tribes would begin with a ceiling of some sort (80-90%) on their maximum/full morale. Only after establishing the deeper cultural bonds would that be lifted. And, so that this is not simply an arbitrary, timed process, players would be able to choose on focusing on this in lieu of other things (e.g. building more arms).

Admittedly, this would only be a factor in the early years of the game, but it does reflect the historic process of focusing only on the local (e.g. farmers just want to be left in peace, and have no expansionist agenda) to the tribal/national (e.g. even farmers are willing to take up arms to “defend” their tribal land). If you said to a farmer in a recently conquered Roman city that you needed his son for the army, you would meet with resistance. However, when the family was eventually “Germanicized” or had become identified with the new regime, you might actually find some of their sons volunteering to serve in the military—especially if there was loot to be had.

Just a couple of thoughts in response to your great article.

Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 05:54:16 PM »
I have toyed with designs involving societal classes as well. In my model, there were Nobles/Elites, Middle Class/Tradesmen/Specialists and Peasants (in other words, rich, middle, poor). These classes need different resources. They all need food. Middle also need tools and so on. Elites need luxuries. Maybe also have a slave class for some societies. A game like Imperialism I and II had this kind of concept. If you produce enough of a resource type, the structure of society can change, with people moving from one class to another. This can be good, and enable better productivity, but it also can have bad effects if the class from which you draw your best soldiers gets smaller over time.

I think you can simulate some of the interesting things that happened to, for example, Rome and Sparta, as their key demographics changed over time, requiring significant reconfiguration of their military structures.

Maybe I can mod this into ATG :-)
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Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2013, 06:06:38 AM »
You're trying to build a game based on the interesting mechanics of scarcity, but you're over-designing and building a 3X game instead. The game should capture the feel of building an empire from scratch under scarce conditions, while under the shadow of a much more powerful empire -- instead it runs the risk of feeling like surviving/gaining as much glory as possible before your empire's inevitable decline and starvation due to lack of resources: definitely not in the spirit of a 4X game.
As I understood Jon's comments on the resource system, existing resources would deplete, and new ones would appear on the map. Depending on how this is tweaked, you could very well end up with your empire controlling more resources with time.

Apart from that, I personally am a fan of depleting resources, provided the map is big enough so that you cannot control all of it (which is what the Civ installments always failed to do). It gives incentive to always scout for new resource spots, and can lead to interesting choice on what to sacrifice to control them. Should I dispatch some of my military power to secure this new iron mine until I have depleted my current reserves? Should I migrate my settlements immediately to this more fertile region?

Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2013, 08:15:17 AM »
Something else I'm interested in is how resources work when they are far away from your settlements. Do you get less iron from a mine if its far away, but more if it's closer? I think that will be something to keep in mind because if there isn't a difference, then spamming scouts to grab far away resources would be a good strategy that can help you and hurt your enemies.
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Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 11:51:09 PM »
in my post: Random comment by Joe Blow nobody who's happy he can interact with people who make game (isn't money awesome!) :P.

I like the idea that devs are cabaple of shelving entire aspect of the game because they realize it's not making the game any more fun, but at the same time I kinda wish social class would have sticked around.

I think the main problem with the feature is that it was baseline feature, from what was said it seems like you started the game with all social class already created and would have to constantly please them. I think instead you should have started with only one class, farmer, and then you could create new one (or they could have created themselves when supply were high enough to maintain them). From an historical context, when people could barelly feed themselves they wouldn't have that big a problem if there wasn't a large organized army.

Instead you'd choose to create the new class (it could cost a certain initial supply cost) and you'd get bonus from it, say stronger army, the bigger the new social class would be, the bigger the bonus. The new social class created would also have impact on the farmer both positive and negative, say a larger army might make farmer feel safer, but then drafting people would make them unhappy. And farmer would be the only class that could revolt, if any other gets too low they just disapear and you lose the initial investment in them. This way social class also become the "national wonder" of the game, large program you can start and ivest any additional resource you have lying around.

This also give you more customization option for your civilization. Don't like the idea of your people being religious? Just never create a religious class. Don't want to have greedy merchant taking the hard labor out of your farmer hands? Don't create a merchant class.

While this isn't necessarily a problem with what you're suggesting, but the issue I typically see with any sort of social classes system for any strategy game is that in order to do it right it basically has to take over the game to some extent. Could it have worked? Almost certainly Could it have been fun? Absolutely. But I made the decision that I didn't feel they fit into the game I wanted to make.

That doesn't mean there isn't an interesting design for social classes still out there waiting to be implemented. In fact, there's a good chance it reappears in one of my future games. :)

Quote
But the ressource system is nice for forcing people to constantly move around, does that means well be able to abandon older settlment and relocate the peole? Once all the resource dry up, not much reeason and it would allow you to instanly creat large town on the broder. Would be nice if one of the romanization perk would be a way to recycle older unit improvment to get the resources back.

Settlements are mobile and can be moved at any time. The improvements can't be refunded, but you do have the option of pillaging them before leaving, which is kind of the same thing.

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 11:23:29 AM »
I'm going to share some thoughts on this topic in the spirit of constructive criticism. I say this because I really don't want to come across as a hater or a nag; I have high hopes for this and future games!

Excellent! Constructive criticism is not only welcomed here but encouraged. :)


Quote
In your "Revisiting the Design of Civ V" article, you acknowledge that the happiness system was a weakness because discouraging expansion/empire-building "butts heads with the natural cadence of the entire genre" and disrupted the expansion part of 4X games. I think the expansion aspect of 4X is more than literally building new cities, but fundamentally refers to the player's ability to continually grow their empire as the game progresses (do you agree with this assertion?). In AtG, you envision a late-game where players run out of basic resources and "downsize" their empire to secure a win before time runs out and their empire starves to death. Doesn't this mechanic disrupt the player's ability to grow their empire in a much more dramatic way than the happiness mechanic ever did?

Possibly, yes. This is why playtesting is so important! You don't know what the full impact will be until you've actually tried it out. I haven't come anywhere close to finishing a full game of AtG, and I have no doubt that several major features will see major changes before release.

That having been said, my goal for the "downsize stage" is that it only comprises the very end of the game. By this point the expansion phase in traditional 4X games has wound down and the map has become completely static. So we're not taking anything away from what makes expansion fun in other games, simply adding a new (but absolutely significant) wrinkle to the existing formula.


Quote
Bringing in this article, you describe how finite resources adds two strengths to AtG: increased realism, and encouraging players to be proactive in seeking new resources via battle, expansion and trade, rather than being passive. This is a great goal, and I think you've already achieved it without finite resources and the problems that (I think) come along with it. The fact that resources are pooled globally can generate scarcity in and of itself: if a mine generates X metal per turn and your empire needs more than that to grow (or even maintain), that's your incentive to trade or secure more mines right there. You (and maybe players via settings) can set these conditions so that there's not enough resources for everybody (unlike most 4X games). This also addresses things getting "easier" as the game goes on: the more resource locations you claim, the more diplomatic tension and strife you're going to get from the AI.

This system gives you realism, flavor, and design strengths of scarcity without applying a shrinking ray to the player's empire in the endgame, which isn't fun for players and removes the "reward" of a capable, successful empire that's vital to 4X games.

I worry that realism is taking precedence over fun. 
Quote
People lost easy access to the goods necessary to maintain a civilized society. Without advanced tools and materials they weren't able to produce as much food, lumber or metal each year, and all it took was one bad harvest, disease or enemy raid to wipe out entire communities.

The lack of a continued stream of accessible resources in AtG models this general trend. If your army is slain and you run out of metal it's not game over. But it does basically mean you're dead in the water though - the exact state in which most dark age kingdoms existed for hundreds of years.
This may be perfectly realistic, but is this a result you actually want for your players? You say running out of metal isn't game over, but right after that admit that "you're dead in the water". Which one is it? I think in this area you have to favor "approximate" realism (that captures flavor without removing fun) over absolute realism.

You're trying to build a game based on the interesting mechanics of scarcity, but you're over-designing and building a 3X game instead. The game should capture the feel of building an empire from scratch under scarce conditions, while under the shadow of a much more powerful empire -- instead it runs the risk of feeling like surviving/gaining as much glory as possible before your empire's inevitable decline and starvation due to lack of resources: definitely not in the spirit of a 4X game.

I can assure you that realism is very much not my #1 priority. The fact that the system matches history is actually more of a coincidence, as I didn't even realize this until I'd already added the feature. :) My focus on realism in the article was mainly designed to ward of criticism similar to what I'd received in the past.

However, you're correct to point out that between migration and the depleting resources this is definitely not a typical 4X game. It has the potential to be something fresh, unique and amazing, but it could also fall flat. That's the chance you take when you innovate. I'm comfortable with that risk given how much time is left for development, as it means we'll have plenty of opportunity to change course if necessary.

Great comments/questions. I like it when people keep me on my toes, as there are often times I'm missing something and need a nice prodding!

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
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Re: A Couple Modest Ideas
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2013, 11:31:02 AM »
Thanks for an eye-opening account of a designing “dead end.” And thanks for stating the fact that when we’re open to constructive criticism from trusted advisors… the end result is nearly always better than if we relied on ourselves.

A suggestion for a possible way you might reintroduce the class element in a modest fashion. You might factor in some negative or positive impact on morale based on disharmony among the tribe, e.g. the following examples:

1. All tribes possess some sort of religion (pantheism or Germanic paganism being the predominant early examples in this context). Whenever there is a change, there could be an initial “dissatisfaction” among the masses as the currently-favored “clergy” (i.e. clergy-class) introduce the faith.

For example, if pagans convert to Arian Christianity, there might be an initial –x (negative x) factor toward morale… which would dissipate as the faith is instilled in the tribe’s members. If they later convert to Orthodox Christianity, the process would repeat itself. This would mirror the historical ability of many rulers to impose religious change on their subordinates, even as they continued to grumble and even secretly follow their previous religious practices. The diminishing of the handicap relates to the gradually adoption of the religious (particularly by successive, catechized generations).

2. At the outset of the game, the different desires of the various classes could be represented by a check on the morale that is only alleviated when they develop a unifying national consciousness. The process would be one that should be attended to quite early on, to maximize tribal cohesion and morale. Some rulers, however, might desire to focus on alternative path initially… which would be their prerogative. (This would be the equivalent of the National and/or Heroic Epic which melds a culture together.)

For example, tribes would begin with a ceiling of some sort (80-90%) on their maximum/full morale. Only after establishing the deeper cultural bonds would that be lifted. And, so that this is not simply an arbitrary, timed process, players would be able to choose on focusing on this in lieu of other things (e.g. building more arms).

Admittedly, this would only be a factor in the early years of the game, but it does reflect the historic process of focusing only on the local (e.g. farmers just want to be left in peace, and have no expansionist agenda) to the tribal/national (e.g. even farmers are willing to take up arms to “defend” their tribal land). If you said to a farmer in a recently conquered Roman city that you needed his son for the army, you would meet with resistance. However, when the family was eventually “Germanicized” or had become identified with the new regime, you might actually find some of their sons volunteering to serve in the military—especially if there was loot to be had.

Just a couple of thoughts in response to your great article.

I like where you're coming from, but the challenge is actually translating that seed of an idea into systems and mechanics that force players to make difficult choices.

The problem with something as all-encompassing as "social classes" is that it's hard to incorporate them without going all in and building the game around it. When you step back and think about what farmers would want, or clergy, or warriors and try to balance those interests with one another you'll probably end up with a pretty long list of requirements.

As I've said elsewhere here on the forums, I do think there's a great game to be had there, but it's not really AtG.

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2013, 11:31:47 AM »
Maybe I can mod this into ATG :-)

If you do I'd love to play it and see how it works! :D

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2013, 11:35:57 AM »
As I understood Jon's comments on the resource system, existing resources would deplete, and new ones would appear on the map. Depending on how this is tweaked, you could very well end up with your empire controlling more resources with time.

That is correct, although my intention is that the rate of renewal slows as the game goes on, so there is eventually a point at which everyone has to figure out how to downsize efficiently.


Quote
Apart from that, I personally am a fan of depleting resources, provided the map is big enough so that you cannot control all of it (which is what the Civ installments always failed to do). It gives incentive to always scout for new resource spots, and can lead to interesting choice on what to sacrifice to control them. Should I dispatch some of my military power to secure this new iron mine until I have depleted my current reserves? Should I migrate my settlements immediately to this more fertile region?

Because of how fluid the situation is with new resources appearing, tribes migrating and being wiped out, etc. it's going to be basically impossible to build a map-spanning empire. Well, that's the idea, anyways. :) The mechanics might require some massaging to get to that point!

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2013, 11:39:25 AM »
Something else I'm interested in is how resources work when they are far away from your settlements. Do you get less iron from a mine if its far away, but more if it's closer? I think that will be something to keep in mind because if there isn't a difference, then spamming scouts to grab far away resources would be a good strategy that can help you and hurt your enemies.

Nope, economically there is no difference. I didn't want players to have to be doing mental math about distance, radii, etc.

You're right that we'll have to prevent that from being the ideal strategy. Scouts require population to build, and Food and Wealth in maintenance, so building a bunch of them is probably not going to be a good idea though.

Additionally, those improvements you grab will simply become easy pickings for other tribes. AtG is not a nice world, and opposing leaders will not hesitate to grab what they can if you haven't guaranteed their friendship in some way. :)

So with all of those factors in play I'm not too concerned about that being an issue, but it's always possible.

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!

Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2013, 11:56:06 AM »
Yeah, it'll be interesting to see what unforeseen strategies and tactics this game will spawn during playtest. Will scout spawn be viable at the beginning of the game for an initial gathering of resources phase or will it end up being too much of a drain on your Wealth and Food resources and set you back... or will it be a wash?

That's why I'm looking forward to the alpha-testing. I can't wait to break your game... no offense. ;)

Best Wishes,
Joseph
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Jon Shafer

  • Lord of the Forest
  • *
Re: Social Classes - AtG’s Design Dead End
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2013, 11:59:36 AM »
That's why I'm looking forward to the alpha-testing. I can't wait to break your game... no offense. ;)

Haha! None taken - I'm looking forward to the same!

- Jon
If you have any questions, please send me a private message here on the forums or an email at [Contact@ConiferGames.com]. Thanks for your support!