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Developer Diary – UI and Command Modes

Hello everyone! Steve here with a small blog about one of the subtle, but important UI design choices: the concept of Command modes.

When we revamped the game design, we put a lot of thought into the UI. Imperia is a game with a lot of information, and we wanted a system where a player could get that information easily – but within the context of what they were working on.

If you play strategy games, you tend to think in terms of ‘what do I want to do?’ These tasks can be anything from ‘raise taxes’ to ‘build a fleet’ to ‘put a building in the queue on my capital planet’. But you are almost always doing these things within a larger context; in other words, you’re trying to accomplish a larger strategic goal by doing tactical things. So we thought, What will players do most? We settled on 4 broad areas that we felt most players would assign strategic value in Imperia: economic, military, diplomatic, and  demographic (pops), and created dedicated Command modes that focus player interaction on a particular area of strategy.

What this means in game terms is that if you select, say, Economic mode, then all map submodes, Actions, Projects, and data will be relevant to the economy of that view level, be it province, system, or planet.

So for example, if you are looking at a planet screen in Economic mode, you will see the taxes, production, trade to and from the planet, planet-level economic Projects in the Project bar, etc. If you move out of the planet screen, the system screen will have system trade, system-level economic Projects in the Project bar, and so on. Any submodes will be economic-related as well.

In essence, Command modes act as a smart filter so that you can act within the strategy you are pursuing without having to move ‘sideways’ in the UI. You can switch between command modes at any time, and for traditionalists there will be ‘override’ options that allows for Action- and Project-level filtering independent of the command mode (in other words, you can see all Projects for a planet even if you are in Military command mode) but we think most players will appreciate this setup once they start to play.

More to come soon, including some new screenshots!

-Steve

 

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Introducing the Cultures of the Empire

Hi everyone! Oliver here. Today we’re going to be looking at the Culture system: what it is, what it means in gameplay terms, and a little introduction to some of the diverse cultures you’ll find among the heartworlds of your Empire.

One of the things we want to capture in Imperia is the sense that you’re bringing different ways of life together, in a cultural ferment, to renew the hidebound and crumbling Celestial Empire. To that end, rather than have different civilisations have different units, unique technologies, and so on, in Imperia the unique units and ‘technologies’ attach to different cultures, which you can integrate into your Empire. (I put ‘technologies’ in scare quotes because our Reforms system has some important differences from a normal technology tree – most significantly, it’s much broader than it is tall, enabling (indeed, forcing) you to customise your Empire rather than simply progress it along a linear track.) Once you have integrated a culture into your Empire, you can enact a number of special Reforms that build upon the interaction between the six core cultures of the Empire and the influence of the freshly-assimilated culture, as well as making Pops of that culture considerably happier under your rule.

Cultural integration isn’t simply a matter of joining hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah, however. In the 31st Century, the differences between cultures that have developed over many lifetimes in almost total isolation from one another can be stark indeed. To represent this, alongside the Religion system (on which more in a later blog post) we have the Ideas system. Every single character and Pop in the game will have a position on each of ten different Idea scales, including technophilia versus technophobia, unity versus divisibility and illusoriness of the self, authoritarianism versus anti-authoritarianism, and more, each representing a fundamental question about human nature and society in the future. The Idea positions of characters and pops will be derived from their culture’s default positions on the scales, and will affect their opinions of many of the moves you make in-game, from colonising new worlds, to passing Reforms, to crushing rebellions – and when you are considering who to ally with and which worlds to take into your growing Empire, you will have to consider whether the cultures you are looking to rule will look kindly or angrily upon the moves you wish to make after you’ve won. Not to mention that wars and migration may cause tensions between Pops of different cultures, creating difficult political situations to manage (or, if you are Machiavellian enough, take advantage of).

But Cultures are not immutable. Both you and other characters can ‘lean towards’ one foreign culture or another, to improve your relations with characters and Pops of that Culture, but also to affect the opinions of your supporters. Your cultural leaning will, of course, set the tone at Court (as Peter the Great’s Europhilia did in Russia) but your viceroys and governors will have political needs, preferences, and agendas of their own. It will take cunning and sagacity to manage the varying affiliations of your vassals – for shared tastes can create shared trust – shared trust, shared interests – and shared interests, shared plans…

The Core Imperial Cultures

The cultures in Imperia are divided into three groups, separated by space – one group at the centre of human space, another found arrayed around it, and a third, strangest and most unfamiliar of all, at its very fringes. Not all of the cultures will appear in every game – slightly more than half ought to show up on a normal-sized map – so each game you play should provide a unique cultural landscape to navigate. We’ll give you some glimpses of the weirder cultures in time, but today I’m going to restrict myself to summarising the history and character of the six core Imperial cultures – the cultures of your people at the beginning of the game.

Neomerican: The worlds described as ‘Neomerican’ are those most heavily influenced by the popular movement of the same name that took hold in the late 28th century. Against a largely small-t traditionalist background, this renaissance of ancient American culture (as filtered through a 28th-century Solarian worldview) infiltrated all areas of art, politics, and life. Notably, the publications of Neomerican public associations influenced writers and journalists far beyond the Neomerican Renaissance’s heartlands, leading to the foundation in the 29th century of The Solarian, by far the most widely-read news distributor in the Empire at the time of your accession to the throne.

Traditionalist: Of all the Empire’s many social orders, ‘Traditionalist’ society is the most conservative and the most oriented towards implementing Solarian social doctrines. Traditionalism as it is today grew up around the families who formed the first oligarchic aristocracy of the Terran Alliance. The obvious problem they faced in the early years was how to justify their accumulation of wealth in what – in those first, hopeful days of the Exodus – seemed like a new start for Humanity, a chance to start again. The calamitous arrival of the Solarian revolution gave them an answer: the majority of the aristocratic families were early converts, forming the funding base of the Solarian Stewardship Party and propagating the ‘Wahhabaptist’ movement. They used public displays of piety and maintenance of the new Solarian church and customs to validate their preëminent position in society. The heartlands of the new faith became the heartlands of what would be thought of as Traditionalist culture, and among the foremost duties of Traditionalist scions has always been the maintenance of the perception that their society represents the divinely-ordained order of things. Their outspoken confidence in the righteousness of the Imperial way of doing things often belies a creeping doubt and fear of slipping ‘into shadow’ off the true path – like those Techniks, Mercantilists, and ‘Gilded World’ sybarites…

Technik: The Technologists or ‘Techniks’ burst onto the scene in the 2850s as an intellectual movement calling for the revival of technological projects long held taboo by the Empire, beginning with the publication of Lucida Nevsky’s multimedia manifesto, Technology for Humanity, in 2851. It soon evolved into a more all-encompassing philosophy and way of life, as the technologies revived – including varieties of mind-machine interface and unusual prosthetics – lent themselves to transformative, sometimes quasi-spiritual experiences. Though many of their discoveries eventually became widespread, their transformative social effect was never so strong as in the Techniks’ heartworlds. To survive at the top of Technik society, their Houses take the rôle, more or less, of media and entertainment empires: by providing – or monopolising – the ‘peak’ experiences central to the Technik way of life, they sell their subjects on their rule.

Spartic: The Spartic movement is actually very old – it can trace its antecedents right back to veterans of the First Xyl War who, on arriving on the new world, resolved that society ought to be ordered in such a way that it could move to defend itself against an unknown threat at any moment. In this way, they are a reaction to the Exodus. They are a militaristic culture with strong focus on discipline and personal hardiness, and this idea of a disciplined social order is what maintains their leaders’ positions. All citizens participate in extensive national service and related training, from quite a young age. Cybernetic implants for battlefield purposes are common amongst all classes. They tend to have poor economic performance, but produces great troops and generals.

Gilded Worlds: The Gilded Worlds exemplify an alternative solution to the problem of how an élite can maintain its position over the very long term. Rather than pacifying their subjects with ideology, the great Houses of the Gilded Worlds go straight for the limbic system, maintaining chemical acquiescence through the judicious deployment of recreational narcotics, Soma-style. The leeway this lends the privileged in Gilded society leads them to notorious excess.

Mercantile: Somewhere between Venice at the height of its glory and England in its nascent days of empire: built on a revival of interstellar trade, this culture loves wealth and will work and even innovate to get it. Renewed interaction with previously-long-separated worlds makes this culture a little bit of a melting-pot. Its great Houses are trading powers – a mixture of old families who took advantage of the return of interstellar trade in the 2820s and 30s and new trading families who arose from that flowering. Prominent among them are the Ilioaias (a mining clan with a tragic past) and the Milaks (whose unexpected geological windfall propelled them to sudden glory in a few short months in 2915).

Join us again next week, when Steve will be taking the blogging reins once more!

Oliver

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It’s Screenshot Time… The First Look at the new UI (and Trade)

Hey everyone! Steve here – just a quick blog to show what we’re working on this week. We’re revamping the UI to be more streamlined, so these are early shots showing the direction we’re going with the UI, as well as a sneak peek of our trade view!

New Empire View - 3.22This is a look at the main UI display, with the new Political main mode. UI consistency will be a main theme in Imperia – what you see here, along with the alert bar to the left and the Projects bar to the right, will be accessible in any screen – in other words, all stellar screens will have an economic, military, and political main mode, with specialized submodes as needed. We thought about ‘what tasks do players do’ and it seemed that if you need to check on your economic situation, say, you would want to do something about it, so when you drill down into the planet/system/province views, you will have economic-layered views and options ready to go.

On the upper-left is the Vital Statistics Display, showing from left to right game year (we may move this down to the next turn button), your love rating from your Pops, your fear rating, your Power rating, your Benevolent Influence pool and your Tyrannical Influence pool.

On the upper-right is the Dymanic Resources Display. This will change depending on what you are doing. For example, your Action Points are on the left, followed by your yearly budget and your expected gain/loss from that budget for the current year. However, if you have the Project Bar open, this will instead of showing your finances show your materials and ADM available for the selected entity.

New Alert Bar 3.22

Here’s a look at the Alert Bar on the left. These are small icons that let you know that something has happened. Very few alerts are hooked up right now (these tell you that you gained/lost population on various worlds) and will have filters on the top to only show alerts that you want to see. When you hover your mouse over an alert, a sliding box will show from the right to expand on the alert, and if you want to act on it left clicking on it will take you to the relevant place to act. Right-clicking will remove the alert from the bar.

Now let’s look at the Trade View.

New Trade View - 3.22

We have already written about how the Trade system will work. When you go into the Economic mode, you will default to the Trade view. This shows your empire’s Influence ghosted, but shows the Province/Secondary/Empire trade hub radii of effect. These create Trade Zones that allow trade to happen in that zone. Merchant Pops can increase the standard area of effect of a trade hub, reflected with the Merchant Skill number on each hub ring, allowing even a smaller Secondary hub to cover several systems, and saving the expense of either building a new connecting hub or creating a new Province (you can only have one Province hub) or demolishing the old hub to move it.

Zoomed in Trade View 3.22

This is a zoomed-in view showing one province. You can see the lines extending from the province capital system showing the structure of the province. While Matka Gabia system is within a province trade hub, they do not have a trade hub of their own and can thus only import goods, not export them. The Polunocnica Secondary hub does allow Melchior to receive trades, but only between the two systems. If, say, Fertility were annexed to the province and a Secondary hub was built there and staffed with Merchant pops, it would be possible for the Polunocnica System to be linked to their Provincial hub, which would then link them to all Provinces and allow a greater range of trade options.

Please remember that this is not a finished look – many of our final assets are not completed yet. It will give you a good idea of the general look and feel of the game, and we are very confident moving forward about the UI – a game like this needs an exceptional UI, and we have spent a long time working on it and reviewing each part. Soon, we’ll show the revamped System View, but our next screenshot blog will feature Trade Fleets in action!

Excelsior!

-Steve

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Developer Diary: Houses, Holdings, And You, Part II: Some Great (and one Minor) Houses in Imperia

Hey all! Steve here, and as promised, I wanted to give you a little look into a few of the Great Houses, since they are going to be major factors in how your ruling House fares – and of course, youself!

The first Great House is your own! You will get to name this House whatever you want, along with assigning its primary and secondary colors (these will be by default the Empire’s colors as well) and its crest (also the Empire’s crest). Your House has been gutted by the history of Imperia, and you are the last heir (one reason that humanity’s position is so precarious). As a result, there are very few characters that are actively part of your House. It will be imperative to build a power structure where you have at least one or two Houses on your side – it might be expensive, but even the combined resources of the Empire can not stop a civil war from bringing down your House.


 

House Hawken (est. 2940)

One of the newest Great Houses in the Empire, House Hawken rose to power in 2940, when the brilliant young Octavius Hawken discovered a way to convert aluminum to keramium, an incredibly light and strong substance that could be used to coat traditional metals, but provide incredible protection using only 1/10 of the metal required. Naturally, this cut down tremendously on costs, particularly with aircraft and military craft, as well as lessen the stresses on starships.

The House, as a result of this discovery and a savvy negotiation with the War Prime of the time, resulted in the House being given a tremendous grant for further research on their House seat of Illitch. As a result, over the last 110 years the House has been given over to war research for the Empire, to the disgust and some fear of the other Houses. They are also the only House that is allowed a personal military, for purposes of experimentation. The current leader, Grand Duke Altus Hawken, is seen as somewhat more expansionist then his predecessors, and with the idea that his House is ‘new money’, is watched with equal parts scorn and trepidation. The affiliation of the House means that the War Prime is heavily influenced by this House, which could lead to trouble should the House move too far away from the Emperor.

From ‘The Complete Imperial Who’s Whom, entry on Grand Duchess Francia Hawken, 30.2.3014:

Francia, Grand Duchess of the Hawkens 2998-present day

Born: 12/9/2951

Throneworld: Illitch, home of the famed Illitch shipyards.

Parents: Grand Duke Altus Hawken, Duchess Consort Lydia Hawken

Ancestry: Great-niece of Grand Duchess (formerly Junior Technical Officer) Octavia Hawken, who claimed her throne from Gaius III Calabar in 2912 with the assistance of the Emperor Magnus VI Skye, who (unrelatedly) owed the Calabars a lot of money.

Noteworthy Achievements: Francia’s impeccably even-handed approach to the sale of her shipyards’ products have induced several quite-profitable planetary conflicts to develop into extremely-profitable interstellar wars, thereby vastly improving her House’s capacity to produce yet more lucrative, definitely-legal military innovations. Alongside this philanthropic work, she has also made sure to do due honor to her superiors, in particular the Marshal Prime – the dignity of whose office would be sorely wounded were it not for Francia’s selfless and unfailingly generous aid.

Biography: Francia was born at the Hawken palace outside Lorem City, Illitch, whilst her young parents were in stellar orbit, inspecting progress on their latest cruiser. This rather set the tone for her childhood as a whole…’


 

House Waldegrave (est. 2744)

“One of the numerous Houses tracing their station to their role in Pierce’s Revolution, the Waldegrave clan’s carefully-maintained martial traditions evoke ancient Earth’s Spartans as much as any modern dynasty’s drill program. Nurtured in the harsh worlds of the Outer Rim, their austerely vigorous way of life was always ill-suited to governance, and as a result – to their great shame – Maarten Waldegrave lost the family’s throne world to a popular revolt in what they refer to as the Catastrophe of 2744. Since that day, the family have repeatedly sought Imperial permission to retake the world, without success – and no child of theirs has been named Maarten.”

’ – RevenantWiki, entry on House Waldegrave, retrieved 4/4/3049


House Horlock (est. 2415)

This House was originally formed as a reaction to keep power from the Emperor’s hands. The first Grand Captain, Howard Horlock, was violently opposed to allowing so much power in the hands of an Emperor who did not represent the many. He was killed attempting to assassinate the first Sun Emperor, Magnus I, but he left with his son Zed a history and the knowledge to continue the crusade. While House Horlock has never been aggressively expansionist, what they do hold they manage well; their scions and staff are considered experts in wringing every last bit of efficiency from a planet or system. Though they publicly deny it in categorical terms, many Horlocks still yearn for the day they will rise up again against the Emperor, and take the Empire for their own, to protect it in the manner they deem best – with uncompromising force.

From various texts:

‘At 22:16, 15/8/2499, an attempt was made on the life of His Grace by Grand Captain Howard Horlock, head of the informal Court faction of the same name, using a handheld pistol-type weapon. Due to the prompt and fearless response of Security Officer Pablo Yamaguchi, the assassin was inhibited with lethal force before he could complete his mission. We believe Horlock to have acted alone, due to his making the attempt personally on his own behalf, and the weapon’s being originated from his family armory and bearing his symbology. Our inquiries into his associates in aforesaid Horlock Court faction proceed apace and we will endeavor to provide His Grace with further information as soon as it becomes available to the Security Corps. Inquiries are also being made urgently into how Horlock was able to bring aforesaid pistol-type weapon into the presence of His Grace undetected.’ – Imperial Security Corps post-incident report concerning failed assassination attempt on the Emperor Magnus I Pierce, 16/8/2499, Red Archives

‘The Horlocks of the present day, however, have risen far from their ignominious origins. Loyal allies of the Emperor, they have a centuries-long record of ruling their domains with authority and unquestionable justice. The competence and stability of their administration make them vital players in Imperial politics, almost always for the common good.’ – Continuing History, edition of 3024

“Sorry Oss, bad news – we have to cancel all our plans. The guest of honor has a friend on our side somewhere. Looks like we won’t be able to hold that party after all. But I suppose that’s our family motto by now – ‘We’ll do what’s right – later'” – Intercepted letter from Priebus Horlock to Austina Horlock, 31/4/3024, Red Archives. ‘The guest of honor’ almost certainly refers to the Emperor Ensino.


House Ilioaia (est. 2644)

‘In the aftermath of the Second Xyl War, a young miner named Bengamin Ilioaia set out, as many other space wildcatters did, to look for new sources of materials to rebuild the shattered Terran Alliance. While most of his peers were not very successful, Bengamin discovered a comet that was incredibly rich in rare minerals. He made 3 trips to the comet, telling nobody but his wife and two brothers about his find. On the third trip, he found his older brother, Ivan, waiting for him with a smile and a kinetic cannon, obliterating his small mining craft.

Upon telling their younger brother, Mihai, about what he did, Mihai became furious and killed Ivan on the spot. With most of the bloodline now dead in a single tragic day, Mihai took Bengamin’s wife in marriage and set out to build the Ilioaia line once more. Years of surveying led the House to discover multiple sources of materials, eventually cementing their legacy as the most powerful mining house in the Celestial Empire.’ – RevenantWiki, entry on House Ilioaia, page retrieved 16/4/3029

“When they say blood is thicker than water, they never saw the blood running down the side of our family’s crest. It is our burden, some would say our tragedy, but I say it is our triumph that so much good has sown from the soil of such anger. Let our position in the Empire remain strong, and let us remember that while we stand firmly today among our fellow Houses, what shockwaves can occur from one heinous and narcissistic act.” – Speech from House Leader Wyllmson Iiloaia to his Council, 29/2/2994, Red Archives.


House Barwon (est. 2723)

House Barwon is unusual only in that it was not formed by a significant event or crisis; rather, it was formed through a steady progression of shrewd and intelligent moves that slowly allowed House Barwon to consolidate power. Masters at trading, they are best known for helping the then-reeling Terran Federation through the aftermath of the second Xyl War, providing food and basic materials to planets that had been devastated or even partially assimilated in the war. The First Lord of the House is traditionally elected by their House vassals, another difference from most Houses, and this traditionally gives House Barwon the most stability of any Great House in the Empire.

‘The Game is not to be taken too seriously.

The Game is to be taken very seriously indeed.

The Game begins when all players have entered the pitch. Players of name may enter by any tier. Players without name may enter by the second or third tiers. Players without property may enter only by the third tier.

The Game ends when the last board is destroyed, or when to continue would be fatal to one or more of the first- or third-tier players.

The boards are to be arranged by the Host. A single Host player may enter by the first tier, but no other players may be fielded by the Host.

The boards are to be as specified in Appendix A, sections 1, 4 and 5.’ – Lucrezia Barwon, Rules of The Game, 4th edition

‘In the brightest and most fragrant corner of the Summit Lounge is to be found the Princex Aletheiu Barwon, heir to the throne of Olympia, quing of the festivities that surround the Game, and – it is whispered – privy to every supposedly clandestine conversation and secret tryst that happens anywhere in Jeux over the course of those exciting summer weeks. Accompanied at all times by a retinue of stunning servants, each individually dressed by them alone, Aletheiu is happy to act as patron to the most dazzling fashion houses on Olympia – which is why the very best of them congregate in Jeux! Good luck getting near them, though – Aletheiu values their privacy, and the security at the Summit Lounge is the very best.

Turning toward the shaded end of the bar, we encounter Duchess Mikhail of New Kent…’ – Camara Xu, ‘Olympia’s Capital Prepares for the Game’, in The Solarian, 15/1/2983


House Kiraly-Finn (est. 2390)

Heavily invested in the Technik movement, this dynasty’s family ties sit uncomfortably with the Technik ethos. More than five hundred years ago, General Zoltan Kiraly-Finn was one of Zed Pierce’s original co-conspirators in the foundation of the Empire. His loyal service earned him and his descendants a sector, and for centuries they were the Emperors’ most loyal stalwarts. But over the generations, especially with the rise of the trade houses in the 29th century, their star waned. In what seemed their fading years, the newly-inheriting Tera Kiraly-Finn refused to continue acquiescing. Instead, she turned to the nascent ‘Technik’ movement – which had begun as a niche subculture among the New Terran academic elite – and ran with it, pushing their innovations as far as she dared. More importantly, she made their ethos cool. Yet despite her achievements, the movement never quite trusted her, or her children and grandchildren. Their conversion to it was in the name of family loyalty, not true belief, and that suspicion still lingers…

‘Closest among the disciples of Father Sun’s chosen servant was General Zoltan Kiraly-Finn. Magnus conferred with him on almost every matter of note over the course of the Celestial Revolution, and for his wise counsel and fearless leadership, he would be anointed a Saint soon after his death in 2526.’ – ‘Personae of the Celestial Revolution’, Ecclesiastical History

‘But the opposite has happened: in the four years since her death, Nevsky’s sinister ideas have, if anything, found a wider audience. And they have friends in high places.

Loudest of the Techniks in high society is Tera Kiraly-Finn, direct descendant of St Zoltan. She has very publicly indicated her sympathies for certain of the ‘movement’s’ ideas, even going so far as to sport stick-on cranial stimulators at the Exclaim! Ball earlier this year. But investigation by this newspaper’s reporters suggests that she is not only disgracing her family’s name – she is doing so cynically and for profit. Inside sources have revealed that the Kiraly-Finn family own majority shares in over 45% of the Technik cyber-dens licensed across the entire Empire. By tacitly promoting this heresy, Kiraly-Finn is deliberately undermining the very fabric of our Empire for the crassest of reasons – a deeply irresponsible, even seditious, move.’ – Melchio Ignacci, ‘Lucida Nevsky’s Dangerous Legacy’ in The Solarian, 8/4/287


House Milak (est. 2915)

House Milak was a very minor House for most of their existence, only recently coming to power in 2915, when they uncovered a vast hoard of rare minerals during a routine mining expedition near their seat’s arctic pole. This allowed them to more or less corner the market on rare materials fabrication, and when the Empire is short on these critical minerals, as they often are, While technically a Minor House, House Milak is usually the final resort for Great Houses that do not wish to resort to the Empire’s draconian terms to secure the resources that their holdings need.

‘House Milak is a minor House whose throne world is Juthrbog. The present Head of House is Sir Krasivi Milak, b. 2868.’ – Entirety of the Continuing History entry on House Milak, edition of 2914

‘That can’t be right. Ask them to check it again.’ – Prospector-General Finant Anatol, on receipt of the first reports from the Northern Territory Mineralogical Survey, Juthrbog, 32/4/2915

‘EMP: Krasivi! My friend! So good to see you. How is your lovely husband?

KMK: [inaudible] the operation. We expect him to be much more, uh, docile. [laughs] And how is His Grace?

EMP: Fantastic, Krasivi, just fantastic. I’ve been renovating the old lodge at Lake Geneva, I must show you it sometime. Gorgeous place. Gorgeous. You must come by. Are you a hunting man?

KMK: I [inaudible]

EMP: You must be. Come, have you tried this? [clicks, sound of pouring drink]

KMK: I’m sure, uh, what-

EMP: It’s Calviador, grown on my personal estate outside New Berlin. Fantastic stuff. Very rare, you know, very rare. Speaking of rare things, actually, the Empire, as you may know, is presently terribly short of certain rare minerals…’ – Transcript of conversation between Emperor Eliezer III Housseini and Sir Krasivi Milak on 33/1/2916, in the Autumn Room, Vindoland Palace, New Terra. From the Red Archives.

 

These are just tastes of your opposition, to give you an idea of the Imperiaverse – much more to come!

-Steve

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Developer Diary: Houses, Holdings, And You, Part I: How do they affect you?

Hey everyone! Steve here, with yet another new blog. We’re back to active development, so we look to have some screenshots soon but for now I wanted to talk about Houses: what they are, why we have them in the game, and how you can interact with them (and what can happen when things go bad).

So the entire structure of civilizations (including your Empire) are simply the sum of which Houses swear fealty to that particular civilization. What’s really happening is that there is always a ruling House (in the Empire, this is your House, with you as the head of House) and other Houses choose to swear fealty to that House, similar to the feudal system of yesteryear. All Houses have a head of House, their own treasury, their own crest and colors, and many Great and Minor Houses have a bespoke history as part of the Imperiaverse. Houses also have bonuses and specialties, and belong to a specific Culture group (which we will cover soon).

Holdings are simply what a House owns as part of the stellar landscape. Usually this means a planet, but if they have Holdings on a majority of the planets in a system, they are considered to Hold the system as well. This has implications for security in the system, as well as trade.

There are 3 broad sizes of Houses in Imperia. The largest and most impressive are Great Houses – they may have hand-crafted histories and special rules, they sometimes have Holdings of system size or larger, they may have their own military capability, and their leaders are often the most influential people in the game. There are 10 bespoke Great Houses that may appear in your Empire, though only around 5 are active at game start (selected randomly) while Great Houses in other civilizations are procedurally generated.

The second tier are Minor Houses. Within the Empire, these Houses are still bespoke, with a history and a base of operations, but do not have Holdings of any great size, usually no more than a single planet. Their leaders yearn for their House to rise to Great House status. There are 10 custom-made Minor Houses in the game, of which around 5 will be active in your Empire at game start, along with other, procedurally-generated Minor Houses.

The lowest and most common tier are Common Houses. These Houses are basically the ‘normal’ Houses of no great note, representing average families and House groups. There may be dozens of these Houses in the game. They do not have Holdings or military.

Houses are the entities that you are in conflict with throughout the game. As Emperor, you must work with the Great Houses to ensure that they support your Projects and Actions, and keep a close watch that they do not ally with each other in order to overthrow your House (and thus you). Your Inquisitors will be vital to stand watch over less-loyal Houses. It is important that you cultivate solid alliances with the Houses that you feel will benefit you the most. Due to ideology, it is impossible for you to ‘ally’ with all Houses – the other Houses are natural rivals, and acting in the best interests of one House will make other Houses jealous. Balancing your relations with the Houses is a critical part of your rule: do you more or less try to keep them neutral (‘a quiet dog is a safe dog’) or do you try to boost one or two Houses above the rest to gain their loyalty, but anger the rest of the Houses, especially those Houses’ sworn enemies? It’s up to you. You can also stop supporting Houses, but you might up angering everyone along the way.

To quickly pacify Houses, you have four powerful tools in your arsenal. The first is Projects. Proposing Projects that benefit a certain House will usually bump their Loyalty towards you and your House, depending on the benefit they will get.

The second is your administrative positions. You can assign a Character from a specific House to a viceroy position of a planet, a system or provincial governor, or even a Prime on your Council. The more power you give a character from a House, the happier and more loyal they will be, but obviously this will anger other Houses.

The third is more drastic, but has a huge impact – you can give a House a Holding of a planet, a system, or even a province (if it is yours to give). While this will delight Houses to no end, there are a few drawbacks. First of all, you no longer ‘own’ the Holding, so you can’t tax it or get supply from it as you did before. Second, you can’t get the Holding back by any means except force. In other words, if you decide you made a mistake in giving that system to a House that was threatening war, too bad – unless you decide to go to war yourself.

Which brings us to the fourth and final option: troops and guns. You can always use your military to destroy a House if you feel the need to do so. Keep in mind that this will raise your Fear rating to dizzying heights, and other Houses that are not cowed will actively plot to curb your power (unless the House that you took down was hated by all else, but even then self-preservation takes over). Repression – from military occupation to targeted kinetic strikes against their home planet – can keep your nobles in line, but such extreme measures will have repercussions…

Part II tomorrow!!

-Steve

 

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Territory in the 31st Century: Houses, Holdings, and How Empires Work

Hi all, Oliver here! This week I’ll be talking about how territorial ownership and soverignty work in Imperia.

One of the problems we came across designing Imperia was the seemingly simple question: who owns what? We knew we were going to have chains of command involving characters from different Houses, but how, precisely, would that work? How were Houses to relate to the game’s civilisations? How would a House declaring independence work?

What we came up with is (we think) quite an elegant solution. Each House in Imperia has Holdings – planets over which they’re sovereign – and may or may not swear fealty to another House. But a House’s holdings need not be administered by House members. The House Head can bring in characters from other Houses within their jurisdiction to administer their territories, meaning that each character is simultaneously a member of two different power structures. So there’s always a potential conflict of interest going on. The elegant part is that this structure means there’s nothing more to civilisations than independent Houses – even your Empire. Your Imperial worlds are simply the Holdings of your House.

This opens up multiple ways to expand your empire. Do you try to build a loose federation of powerful vassals, or claw fresh Holdings for yourself out of the carcasses of enemy Houses? Do you tempt sovereign Houses to join your growing domain with their territories intact, or help their treacherous inferiors overthrow them to become a puppet government, in hock to you? Do you trade away your existing Holdings in return for the loyalty of your vassals, or does that risk making them to powerful? You can promise a share of the spoils to House Heads who send Forces to aid you – but are you planting the seeds of your own overthrow? What if, instead, you empowered smaller Houses, presently without territory, by giving them Holdings of their own – along with the obligation to raise a Force and fight for you when the time comes? The conflicting imperatives of feudalism will (we hope!) create all sorts of fascinating gameplay opportunities in the universe of Imperia.

Next week, Steve’ll be blogging again, and over the coming weeks we’ll also be starting to show off some sections of our Game Design Document on the forum. Now that the design is mostly in place, we’re going to be getting back into the cycle of producing regular alphas, which I’m really excited for. Watch this space!

Oliver

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Developer Diary: Trade and Trade Fleets

Hey everyone! Steve here with yet another new diary – now that we’ve wrapped up the large-scale system design, we can talk more about what we’re putting in! Let’s talk about trade today, because even though it’s not the most exciting part of a 4X type strategy game it can have long-term effects on how you play.

The first thing to understand is that there are 2 types of trade hubs that generate trade in a given area: province trade hubs and system trade hubs. (The Empire’s province hub is also considered the Empire trade hub, with a slightly larger radius of effect) Every province in the Empire at the start of the game will have at a province trade hub. Any system that is covered by the province trade hub range may trade with any other system or planet that is also within range. Province trade hubs have a large radius of effect. Province trade hubs can also trade with other province trade hubs, which will allow goods to move between provinces, and from there to the systems in the province.

System trade hubs are smaller, and not built at the start of the game, but can be used to expand your reach if you expand a province to the far corners of a given constellation. To build a trade hub, you must have a trade station built first. Any planet may import goods, but you must have a trade station to export goods to other planets for money.

There are 2 types of trade agreements – Supply and Economic. Supply trade agreements are created by the Empire to move goods from outposts to the Empire trade hub, and to the province and system trade hubs as well. Outposts are created to generate a certain type of good – food, energy, materials, etc. – and are not considered settled colonies. They can only export resources and do not generate income by doing so. Economic trade agreements are generated when a planet has a need for a certain resource and another planet has a supply of that resource that they have earmarked for trade. When that happens, a trade request is made to a certain planet, and that planet may choose to accept it or allow the planet to bid more to accept it.

Often, many planets will have a need for a resource, determined by the Viceroy through a stat called Importance, and if there is not enough resources set aside for all the trade bids, the price of a resource will go up. Trade bids also take into account distance and security between the systems, so if there are a lot of pirates or there is a war going on in the destination system, the price will be much higher to take the bid. Merchants are used to administer trade fleets, so a planet can only have as many active trade fleets as they have merchants allocated for them – merchants can either be allocated for exports or retail on a planet.

Once a trade agreement has been set, a trade fleet is created. This is a real object in the game world that can be examined and even attacked by pirates, other Houses, or other civs, or it can simply have a mechanical failure out in the depths of space. Once a fleet has made its journey and dropped off its goods, it becomes available again to fulfil a new trade agreement.

Here’s a game example of a viceroy from the planet Heaven trying to create a trade agreement for food, since they are a desert planet and cannot generate enough to feed all their Pops.

Example:  Since the viceroy of Heaven has determined that the Importance of Food is high enough to make a trade request, Heaven has made a trade request for 10 food units. Melanon is the only planet in the radius of the Province Trade Hub that is currently trading food and has trade fleets available. 
Since there are 5 Merchant Pops on Melanon dedicated to exports, they may only have 5 trades active at any one time. Right now, there are only 2 Trade Fleets available, as 3 Trade Fleets are out in space (Supply Trade Fleets do not count against the merchant total). Melanon has 4 trade offers outstanding from within the province for food, and Heaven’s bid is 3rd lowest (the higher 2 planets have a higher Importance on Food, and so have bid more). When considering trades, the distance and security risk is also taken into account, so planets that are farther from the trade hub may have to pay more because the trip is less profitable (energy to power the fleets is paid by the exporting planet as part of the costs of maintaining trade fleets)
For this province, even though the base price of food is ¢0.5m (that’s 500 000 Crowns, the basic unit of currency for 31st-century humanity) per unit, heavy demand has increased it to a new base of ¢1.8m per unit. In addition, the cost per unit for a trade between Heaven and Melanon is ¢4.1m due to distance and low security in the system where Heaven is located. The two planets higher on the list have offered ¢2.2m and ¢2.4m per unit of food, and their cost per unit is only ¢3.3m and ¢2.9m, respectively since they are closer, so their total bids are ¢5.5m and ¢5.3m per unit of food.
So essentially, because of the shipping costs, the viceroy of Heaven has to increase his bid to at least ¢5.4m per unit (¢2.9m cost per unit + ¢2.4m bid per unit + ¢100k to increase the total bid from the lowest-eligible planet on the list)
As the ‘bumped’ offer, the Heaven Viceroy may choose to increase their bid to make this trade happen. As his people are starting to show high unrest as their food stocks plummet, he decides to increase his bid to ¢5.45m. The planet who is offering ¢5.3m declines to adjust their price, and the lowest bidding planet does not do so either, so the Melanon trade request moves to the 2nd slot. No further bids take place, so as there are 2 fleets available, the Heaven request is filled and the trade price is calculated at the ¢5.45m base. These crowns come from Heaven’s Gross Planetary Product (GPP) budget that has been devoted to imports, and are removed from that budget immediately.
Once the trade is completed, if Heaven wants to trade again with Melanon, they must put in a new trade request, and the cycle begins again.

So as the Emperor, there will be plenty of ways to manipulate this system. One easy way is to flood a province with additional resources when prices are high, or perhaps to create a temporary bubble of need with a Project request. Let’s say that you have a Character who is a new Viceroy of the planet Tableau, and belongs to House Hawken. You want Hawken to be on your good side, and you feel that this Viceroy has the skills and loyalty to be a tremendous asset to your rule in the future (perhaps being given a Governorship down the line if all goes well). But for now, his planet is struggling, which is hurting his overall Power. What can you do?

Here’s a long-game option: You know that you are going to be building more military fleets in the next 2-3 years. Now, you could give those shipyards (which are built through a Project) to your putative friend, which would be a heavy industry and would bring wealth to the planet, but you have a longer-range plan. No, you know that Tableau has a very high concentration of rare minerals on the planet, and you also know that there is another viceroy of the planet Remola from House Ilioaia, who specialize in trade and mining, that you would like to improve your relations with since they are opposed to House Van Rigel, who most hate you and your ruling House. So what can you do?

Why, give the shipyards to Remola, which will initially make that viceroy (and House) happy, who will then need a tremendous amount of rare materials to build and power those fancy shipyards once they’re built, which will only come from the rare mineral mines that have been thoughtfully built by your order on… Tableau. And Remola’s viceroy will pay out the nose for the privilege, while your viceroy on Tableau’s GPP skyrockets from exports, and his Power increases, all while your ships of war get built by your loyal and greedy subjects.

Now that’s Imperia.

-Steve

 

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Exciting News! The Game Design for Imperia Is Nearly Complete… And You’ll Get to See (some of) it!

Hey everyone! Well, Oliver and I have been working hard on the refined game design for Imperia, and after an original version that was banged on for a while, several months of work and balancing, and a lot of cussing and sore fingers, we are excited to announce that the game design document for Imperia is just about through its first draft!

While this may or may not sound exciting, you may have noticed that we haven’t put up any new screens for a while, and we haven’t released any new builds to our testers. It’s been almost 4 months, in fact. We made a decision among the 3 of us (Oliver, Pavlos, and myself) that as this was becoming a large and commercial project, it made more sense for us to pause, rework and get the design on paper, lock down the critical game systems and design elements, and flesh out the lore of the universe of Imperia. It’s been a lot of work, and I have to say Oliver in particular has put a lot of work into the AI systems, the lore, and the military systems, among other things.

We challenged each other, took a critical eye at everyone’s thoughts, and looked at every single aspect of Imperia from a new perspective. Some of what we have changed we have discussed in these forums and blogs as developer’s diaries, but there’s more. Much more to this design. Over 60,000 words and over 160 pages so far, in fact. And still growing as we add lore and things like formulas, art, etc.

Is this the right way to design a game? We don’t know. But when you have 3 people working from across the globe, with different time zones and responsibilities with the game, you have to have a concrete Bible that everyone can work from. We have project management and such as well, of course, but as we quickly found out, a game of this complexity and scope simply could not be ‘made up as we go’ as we got deeper into the design from what I started in 2014. So much like starting over with Unity, we took a deep breath and plunged into the task.

And you know what? It was absolutely the right thing to do. These last few weeks, as we have tied down the major systems and bridged the lore with the systems and the UI plan, we realize we’re creating something incredible here; something that has never really been tried before. With a working GDD, we’re going to be able to start developing code and art again in earnest, and frankly, with all we’ve done with Imperia, I can confidently say this:

Imperia is about to lift off, and for those of you who have been following us for a while (y’all are awesome and seriously devoted, BTW!) your patience is about to be rewarded in a big way. We’re going to start sharing portions of the game design in about a week, but for a little something right now, here’s a new ‘back of the box’ description of what Imperia is:

“Happy birthday, Your Excellence. I am your AI regent. As you have now reached your eighteenth birthday, you are now the Last Emperor of the Celestial Empire, and as such are now authorized to receive this briefing, classified Omega-One Level.

“The year is 3050 AD. You are the last Emperor of the last Human Empire on the first planet founded after Mother Earth fell over an eon ago to the wrath of the Xyl.

“Our race, scattered amongst the quadrant, thousands of light-years across, has shattered like cosmic glass after the Second Xyl War. Scattered survivors have formed small civilizations, new cultures have sprung up, and even strange religions have formed to the very edges of the quadrant in a feeble attempt to fight the flickering of humanity’s flame. Recently, our outer colonies have seen disturbing signs of our ancient Xyl enemies once more, and New Terra’s historians are increasingly wary of what they see.

“The Celestial Empire, or as it is known colloquially, the Last Empire, stands as humanity’s final bastion against the winds of the Xyl that would seek to extinguish this flame. These creatures that are less than Gods but more than mortal have planned centuries for this time, and they do not intend to fail in their goal a third time.

“Your House rules dozens of worlds, but the other Great Houses of the Empire seek to usurp the Crystal Throne upon which you sit. Powerful Primes sit on the Celestial Council, gathering power for the time when they might strike for the Empire themselves. Only your House’s vast holdings, your control of your unimpeachable Inquisitors and their attached squads of fanatical Judgements, and your divine right to rule which is still revered by the Empire’s people, has prevented a cataclysmic civil war between your ruling House and the other Houses.

“Your people still support you, but as the last in your line, the Last Empire, along with your House, will fall with you. The great religion of the Empire, Solarianism, threatens to schism your Empire as they pray not to you, but to Father Sun to turn back his demon Xyl, to no avail.

“We can not hope to fight this final war alone, Your Excellence. Our military technology has grown stagnant, and our warships have become relics with our slide away from technology. You must unite these broken shreds of humanity, lost though many of them have become, and bring them – however you must – under the banner of humanity one last time.

“The Xyl are coming, Your Excellence. The quadrant is watching. Your people are praying. Your enemies are plotting.

“Your empire awaits your first command.”