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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.”

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Developer Diary – Production System!

Hey everyone! Not dead, just busy, but the clouds have cleared in my work schedule and we’ve been hard at work on the Game Design Document! I wanted to take a moment and explain how production will work, since it’s somewhat novel and fits in line with the ‘you don’t micro each building on your planets’ theme.

At its core, the production system contains 2 major elements: Build Points (BPs) and Build Plans. Build Points are generated though factories for each raw mineral in the game (Basic, Heavy, Rare) which are then allocated to Build Plans. Build Plans are essentially the plan for how BPs will be divided up among building areas on the planet. There are 10 different allocations that can be built:

  • Farms
  • High-Tech
  • Factories
  • Mines
  • Admin
  • Academies
  • Military Research Labs
  • Ground Military Factories
  • Starship Shipyards
  • Living Infrastructure

Not all areas will always be built at any one time. Generally, Build Plans will be generated depending on a planet’s Focus (formerly Designation in the first game) that you set as Emperor. For example, if you set a planet’s Focus as an Agriculture World, the viceroy will build at least 50% farms from the BPs that are generated, and the rest will be dependent on the viceroy’s House leanings (some Houses prefer more economy, some more military, some more research, some more trade, some are a combination, etc) as well as their personal preferences.

Build Plans can change every 6 months, but can be adjusted if a planet can not provide enough food or power organically. In other words, viceroys will try to make a planet self-sufficient within the bounds of the planet’s Focus limitations, and prioritize food and power production over all else unless the Focus does not allow for it.

As Emperor, you may change the Focus of a planet as a Project, but keep in mind that while a planet is changing Focuses, production drops to almost nothing as factories are retooled, zoning is changed, Pops are retrained, etc. Making this a Project reflects the enormous amount of work to change the development of a world so much.

Viceroys can also Overdrive their Build Plans if they deem it necessary. It is what it sounds like; it tasks your Engineers to make more BPs in order to allow things to be built more quickly. This will use up a lot more resources, as well as piss off and exhaust your Engineers (and Miners, as a secondary effect). Viceroys who are less empathetic will tend to do this more, but they run the risk of revolt from their engineer Pops and possibly even losing them to immigration. You do NOT want to lose your Engineers; they are almost as hard to come by as Science and Academic Pops. If you do not want Overdriven production as Emperor, you can set limits for this as a Policy.

That’s a sneak peek into Production – more to come soon!

-Steve

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The Inquisition (and how to make sure nobody expects them)

Hi everyone, Oliver here. Today’s blog is about the design – and the design challenges – of one crucial part of your Imperial intelligence network: the Imperial Inquisition.

The Inquisition are an elite group of highly-trained characters, able and licensed to arrest and prosecute the highest-ranking aristocrats in the Empire. They are your most precise and deadly weapon against treacherous underlings. But with great power comes great responsibility – responsibility even the Sun Emperor cannot override. The Inquisition, when they interrogate a suspect, will find the truth – even if that truth is not what you thought or hoped it would be. And, if the suspect is innocent, they will be free – and extremely angry.

The first design problem, building the Inquisition, is to make sure they don’t step on the corruption- and secret-hunting gameplay I described in my last post on the Intrigue system. They provide the payoff – they’re how you find out whether or not your reasoning (or guesswork) was correct – but you mustn’t simply be able to sic them on every character who looks at you funny. Thus, they always find the truth, but setting them on an innocent character will turn that character implacably against you. If that isn’t enough to stop Inquisitor-spam displacing interesting detective work, we might make you pay compensation to innocent victims of Inquisitorial investigation.

The second problem is how ‘human’ to make them. Can any character become an Inquisitor? If they’re simply ciphers who do your bidding, there’s not much point having them at all. The solution we’ve settled on for the first iteration is that any character can, with your permission and years of training, become an Inquisitor – and that their relationships with characters will affect how likely they are to catch them if assigned to interrogate them. An Inquisitor would never come up with false results in an interrogation, but the target might suddenly take a long holiday on a fast ship just before their friend the Inquisitor arrives. So your assignment of Inquisitors will depend on how much you trust them to get the job done.

One of the problems the Inquisitor system solves is the question of how to give you control over your information and intelligence flow. By assigning Inquisitors to monitor particular territories, you can receive more information than you otherwise would about that planet, system, or province – the smaller the territory, the better the information you’ll get on it. This also helps make the Inquisitor-assignment gameplay interesting: where will it be useful for this particular Inquisitor to be? Where do you need good information? Who do you want them to be near to, just in case? One thing we might do is increase Inquisitors’ flow of Secrets from characters they’ve got good relations with, making placing Inquisitors in their friends’ territories a double-edged sword – more likely to produce information, but less likely to catch wrongdoers if you ask them to.

Two options for Inquisitorial work is not quite enough to make the choice of assignment interesting, however. The final piece of the puzzle (at least in the design for the first full alpha) is military commissar duty. By assigning an Inquisitor as a military commissar, you can reduce that Force’s chance of rebelling – but at the price of slowly degrading it, as officers get Inquisited and troops desert to escape the suddenly hostile work environment. Can you afford that cost, for loyalty? Can you afford not to pay it? The commissar system adds another interesting aspect to your military decision-making.

The key thing to understand about all this, though, is that it’s provisional. This is what we’re going to implement for the first alpha – after we (and our testers) have tried it, and seen how well it works, we might well find it’s either too much, or not enough. Perhaps we’ll need to give Inquisitors another function; perhaps they ought to be able to investigate corruption on their own; or perhaps they’ll turn out to be a layer of mechanics we don’t need at all. I hope we’ve got it right first time round, but the proof of the pudding’s in the eating.

I hope this post has let you see a little bit of the sort of thought processes we go through as we’re designing Imperia. In the next post, Steve will be talking about UI design, and how we’re reworking it from the bottom up.

Ave Imperator!

Oliver

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Edicts to Projects: What it means, and why it’s better: PART II

Good morning everyone! I hope the weather’s as nice where you are as it is here – in Texas, clear skies and 50 degree weather is about as good as it gets in January, so we’ll take it!

Anyway, in this second part of the Project post I’ll talk about corruption and what you can do to overcome it. When a character (contributor) commits to give money and ADM (short for ‘administrative points’, which is an abstraction for the men, supplies, construction machines, ships, transports, and logistical support needed to complete a Project) they only commit to a value that they could give, not that they will give. Depending on their attitude towards you, the Project, and the House that most benefits, they may choose to use their ADM to undermine rather than advance the project – and corrupt characters may even steal money from the pot rather than contribute to it.

You will get an alert from your Intel Prime if a Project is delayed due to less-than-expected ADM support, or if money is being stolen from it. At that point, you know you have a thief on your hands, but you don’t know which ‘contributor’ it is. The first thing to do is to take a closer look at who is part of the Project. When you select a character, you will see their public Honor rating, which is an indication of how likely they are to honor their obligations and not steal. Another factor that indicates how likely characters are to steal from a project is a hidden stat called Cover. Cover on a Project basically makes it easier for someone to steal, since it is theoretically harder to determine who was stealing if there are several characters who might be capable. Characters with high Honor generate a low Cover for the Project (since they are publically considered upright people, they generally are above suspicion) while lower-Honor characters generate more Cover (since they might be also considered people who would steal). Projects with a high aggregate Cover rating are much more likely to be stolen from.

(The reason we keep the Cover number hidden is that it’s a model for something that ought to make sense on a purely human level – if all but one of the participants are upstanding citizens, the one corrupt member probably won’t dare to make a move. One of the things we want to avoid here is overexposing the workings of the characters during play. This is a mistake Black & White II made when it showed you the mathematical innards of your Creature – it broke the illusion that it was actually, well, a creature. We want to avoid the same problem with our characters if we can.)

So what you can do? If you think you know who’s doing the deed, you can set your Inquisitors on them, but beware – they will find the truth. If the accused is guilty, you’ll be able to sentence them, and replace them on the Project. But if they aren’t, they’ll be free – and extremely angry. So you have to be subtle. On the Intrigue screen, you can look through each character’s history of Project, War Plan, and Plot participation. It might be that one character stands out as having a history of corruption – but perhaps multiple characters might. In that case, you may have to resort to entrapment: put together your Projects carefully, in the hope of tempting your suspects into stealing from a Project full of people you’re either sure are clean or have bribed, blackmailed or intimidated into staying clean on that Project. Alternatively, you could simply be careful only to employ your suspects in Projects where they won’t dare steal. Choose wisely!

Next: Pops – what’s changed, and Ideas – what they are!

-Steve

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Edicts to Projects: What it means, and why it’s better: PART I

Hey everyone! For those of you who have been with us for a while, you know all about Edicts – basically the way that you get stuff done on a planetary level in Imperia. When we sat down to redesign the game, we thought about what Edicts really represent. In the first Imperia, there wasn’t a lot of interactivity to them – you basically pointed your finger and said ‘do this’. While your vassals could slow down the project, there wasn’t a lot of rhyme or reason to it – plus, the way to build your Edicts was somewhat confusing, and assigning ADM from planets wasn’t very intuitive. So we knew we would be redesigning the screen from the start.

With that, what are Edicts? Well, you already have a lot of overlap with character Actions – you are asking characters to do things, and with Edicts you were asking more or less the same thing. It felt like a fiat, and there was very little interaction with characters beyond ‘piss them off, Edict slows down. Make them happy, Edict speeds up’. Since the core of the game is the relationship with your people and your leaders, this felt incomplete.

So we decided first to make Edicts only truly planetary-level and above decisions. Next, we thought about how to get characters involved, and to differentiate certain characters, giving the player tough decisions about how to create an Edict, while also keeping the actual physical creation extremely easy and intuitive. After much discussion, we have finalized the new Project system.

Why Project? Well, Projects are much more collaborative and expansive, while the very word Edict doesn’t leave much room for debate. Given the way they are now organized, and the fact that you will also be able to enact Progress Laws (we haven’t finalized the name yet) we didn’t want to confuse the player about what they were doing. Once you click on the Project in the list (similar to the Edict list), a Project Creation screen will popup. Here is a mockup of what the screen will look like:

Project Screen Mock

Each Project now has an ADM cost, shown on the upper-right. They also have a base resource cost, and a money cost. They also have a ethic leaning, which can make it impossible to add certain characters if their morality is strongly against the ethics rating of the Project.

Creating a Project is now very simple: You assign an Administrator, and then assign Contributors by dragging and dropping the character card onto the slots on the staffing ring. To remove a character, simply right-click. When you have full funding, click Execute and that’s it!

The first step is to assign an Administrator of the Project, shown in the center of the staffing ring on the left. Every character in the game has an Admin rating of 0-9, and that affects both the maximum number of characters they can add to a Project as Admin and how much of their holdings’ ADM they can use for a Project if they are a Contributor. Once you have an Administrator, a number of slots equal to their Admin rating will show around the outer circle (position has no bearing on anything).

Your goal as the Emperor is to assign characters to help with the Project by contributing money and ADM. What’s in it for them is now reflected by a Prestige rating for the Project. This represents the amount of power and influence that they gain throughout the empire by being a contributor to a stellar-level Project. Generally, the more prestigious the Project, the more characters will be willing to contribute UNLESS it is a Project that will help a rival House (characters tend to be more loyal to their Houses’ interests than yours) The actual amount of power they receive is proportional to the amount of funding that they end up contributing (Admins get 50% of the value of the Project Prestige rating by dint of them being the Administrator).

Each character card on the right has the character’s name, their max ADM that they can contribute per month, their public Honor rating, and their funding minimum/maximum that they are willing to give to the Project. Their loyalty to you, their personal wealth, their desire for Power, and how much their House will be affected (positively or negatively) will all weigh into what they are willing to contribute. Characters who are not willing to contribute anything or who will not be Contributors due to morality concerns will be greyed out. To easily find characters to add, you will have range filters from the planet, system, province, and the entire Empire, and you will also be able to filter by House, rank, whether they are allies or enemies, and more.

Now with this system, you have a lot of considerations. Sure, you can assign a high-level administrator, but competent ones will be few and far between. What happens if you have a need for a Project down the road that you have to have done quickly? If you pull an Admin, the project freezes until a new Administrator with equal or better Admin rating is put into place. Also, sure it’s great to have a character that will pony up the whole funding for a Project, but they will also get all the prestige that goes with that – is that a character that you want to give a massive power boost to? And if you put characters from the same House all in the Project, they will get a slight ADM efficiency bonus – but other Houses will take note that they have been shut out of Empire Projects, and your standing will suffer accordingly. Also, being an Admin of a successful and provincial-level, say, Project will also accord massive Power to that character. What are the ramifications of that?

With this information, you simply drag and drop characters onto the staffing ring until your funding potential (seen on the upper-left of the staffing ring) reaches 100% or more. You will also be able to gauge how long this Project might take as the Estimated Turns value changes. This is calculated by taking the max ADM allocation from characters that are assigned and dividing by the total ADM required to complete the Project. Once you are happy with everything, you click Execute. The Project is now in Funding status. After a turn passes, if nothing has happened with the characters that are involved in the Project financially or otherwise, they put their money in, the resources are removed from the planet where the Project is based, and the Project begins!

FOR PART II: Cover, corruption, troubleshooting Projects that are behind schedule, and what happens when characters die while involved in a Project…

Talk to y’all soon!

-Steve

 

 

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The Military System

Hello everyone, Oliver here. Today I’m going to be talking about a part of Imperia I know many of you have been wondering about – the military system.

The way combat and logistics work in Imperia are quite unlike what you might find in a conventional 4X. My main consideration, putting the design together, was to make a system that had a realistic, hard-sci-fi feel to it, while meshing with the intrigue-and-subterfuge gameplay at the heart of the game. I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with.

The basic control unit of your military is a Force. This comprises, troops, starships, transports, aircraft, landers – everything: it’s a combined arms force under the command of a character, imaginatively called its Commander. Each Force draws all its troops from a single Homeworld, on which Military Pops support it. This is important for two reasons: firstly, the loyalty of the Military Pops on the Homeworld determines the loyalty of the Force’s troops; and secondly, to operate, a Force must maintain supply lines between its Homeworld and wherever it’s deployed. To maintain these supply lines, the Force’s controller – ie. you – must make deals with the sovereigns or administrators of the planets its supply posts will be located on. These characters, along with the force’s Commander and its sponsors (because you can make deals with characters to pay for your wars) are admitted to the Force’s War Plan.

The War Plan is basically a series of orders the Force is set to carry out in sequence. It’s in your interest to issue orders in advance for two reasons: first, there’s a flat cost for giving a Force orders in any given turn, no matter how many orders you issue that turn; and second, it takes a Force a few turns to get ready to carry out those orders, meaning that if you wait for them to reach one star before ordering them to move to the next, they’ll spend several turns fannying around in solar orbit before doing it, whereas if you give them the order several turns in advance, they can do it straight away when they get there.

The point of this system is to provide space for spying and subterfuge. Characters admitted to your War Plan can pass details of it on to your enemies, allowing them to find and break your supply lines, intercept your fleets in interstellar space (which is only possible with this advance knowledge of where they’re going to be – space is big!) and discover and target your Force’s units more effectively. And, of course, you can (and should) pull the same tricks on them. War therefore becomes as much about probing your enemies’ political weaknesses as hitting them really hard in the goolies. You’ll be working out which of your enemy’s allies can be bribed or blackmailed into selling them out, feeding your own dubious characters misinformation, and trying to cut off your enemy’s supply lines, whilst they do the same to you.

The combat system itself is pretty simple. There are no tactical battles: they would break up the flow of the game, but, more importantly, a good general wins before the battle by tilting the odds heavily in their favour, which is why tactical battles in 4X games are so often so dull. Here, units in each Force simply target units in the other Force, and deal damage against their hitpoints, mitigated by armour. The exact rules differ slightly between interstellar space, interplanetary space and planetary orbit, with MILINT becoming progressively less important and sensor power mattering more as we pass from the former to the latter. Orbital combat is particularly gruelling, as spacecraft (assisted by ASAT units planetside) repeatedly batter one another into high-speed dust, afflicting the planet with Kessler syndrome, whereas combat in interplanetary and deep space is much more like jousting – high-speed fleets taking preprogrammed potshots at one another as they hurtle past. Planetside, troops devastate and pillage the worlds they fight over, damaging facilities and causing the locals to resent the invaders and their culture. Ships in orbit can bombard enemy ground units, further adding to the carnage.

This is really only scratching the surface of what makes Imperia’s way of war unique. I could have mentioned military exercises, tours of duty, sending troops underground to hide among the local populace… But it’s twenty past 1 on a schoolnight, so I’ll leave it here. I hope you’re looking forward to making war amongst the stars as much as I am!

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New Facebook page is up! Check it out!

Hey all!

Still working on the design document – we’ll post some development diaries very soon (one is already up on www.imperia5x.com about combat) but wanted to let everyone know that our Facebook page is now up! Check it out if you dare here!

Pretty soon (TM) we’re going to move everything that’s spread out (forums, indieDB info, wiki, etc) onto one dedicated website under the KatHawk Studios banner, with Imperia being the first (and only) product! Since we’ll most likely be using WordPress for the web design, we won’t lose any of the blog info, so we’ll use it as part of an integrated social media whole. It’s still amazing to see that we get hundreds of visits daily despite the lack of updates on this blog, so we’re going to start updating this blog concurrently with our updates on the forum/official site so that however you get your info, you’ll be in the loop on what’s going down with Imperia!

-Steve

 

 

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Secrets and Lies – The Intrigue System

No game about Machiavellian scheming, least of all one modelled on the Byzantine empire, would be complete without a fully-fleshed-out intrigue and espionage system! In Imperia, we aim to go beyond the usual ‘stick a spy in a place and wait to know things/do stuff’ routine that usually makes up espionage systems in 4X games. Those systems have very simple, rather boring feedback loops: you pays your money and you takes your chances, maybe with a simple upgrade-your-spooks mechanism tacked on. Our system, on the other hand, is built right into the fabric of the game.

The Imperia intrigue system has two main ‘legs’: the way Edicts work (Edicts being the way you build fleets, develop your worlds, and generally do things that fall under ‘exploit’ in the 5X quinity) and the Secrets system. Now your Empire is crumbling, corrupt, and under the sway of numberless light-fingered lordlings, and the Edict system reflects that. Rather than simply paying for, say, a new planetary mining network yourself, you assign a number of characters to carry out the construction. These characters contribute resources, administrative clout, and money to a central ‘pool’; once the requisite amounts have been amassed, the mining network is established! So far, so good – BUT. The characters aren’t restricted to adding to the pool – they can steal from it, too, and contribute ADM (administrative power) to hold the project back, rather than advance it. And contributions to the pool are anonymous. You can see what has been stolen, but a canny corrupt character will be careful only to steal from Edicts with many characters assigned to them.

What this means is that, in order to catch out your corrupt officials, you must set up Edicts to trap them and flush them out. Put your suspects in an Edict with a set of squeaky-clean characters, and see what they do – but perhaps they’ll catch on. Check out their Edict history – is it full of corruption? Is there anyone else it could be? You are building up partial information to try and infer who’s really guilty, in the spirit of a whodunnit, in order to avoid arresting the wrong man – your vassals will really not appreciate an undeserved evening with the Inquisition.

The other ‘leg’ of the intrigue system is the Secret system. Characters can engage in all manner of plots and sinister dealings, and have a number of secret attitudes to one another and to you. And, as you might expect, this creates the problem: who knows what? Our solution is to have every plot and secret attitude generate Secret tokens, which can be copied from character to character. (When you play the game itself, there will be no mention of ‘tokens’ – it’s just a board game metaphor to make it easier to visualise from our perspective as designers.) Each Secret has a list of characters it Incriminates and characters that Must Not Know that secret, such as the authorities, the targets of a plot, the cuckolded spouse of a lover, and so on. If one of the latter gains the Secret Token, there will be consequences for the former – the secret may be made public, revealing it to all other Must Not Know characters, firing all of their consequence triggers (eg. changing their public stance, making the Incriminated valid targets of Inquisitorial Purging, etc) and then deleting the Secret Tokens as there is no more use for them; or the MNK character may do something private, such as gain a Grudge secret attitude against the Incriminated. Secrets, when gained, can be used to blackmail their Incriminated; they can reveal their secret attitudes towards the MNKs, revealing whether they had a motive for their assassination, for example; or they can simply reveal that a character is not as trustworthy as you thought.

A single Plot may generate a whole pile of different Secrets. One might say that Character X and Character Y are conspiring together, without revealing their aim, whilst another might simply state that there is a plot to assassinate Character Z involving at least three conspirators. A third might name Character W as a conspirator, and link the other two Secrets together. Each of these Secrets is kept in your Intrigue window, and can be searched, filtered, and juxtaposed in order to work out what piece of information you need next – who to spy upon and who to squeeze for their Secrets. This in turn links back in to the rest of the game – can you afford to antagonise that character? Is there something they want? What will it cost you to find the answer – or is it worth the risk to leave the conspirators at large?

Finally, one of the most important considerations with a system like this is to make sure there aren’t too few or too many plots and secrets going on, so there are enough to keep things interesting without swamping you with conspiracies. That’s why one of the functions of the Aitvaras AI is to regulate the amount of plotting going on – behind the scenes, it will permit or forbid characters to engage in plots. The limits it places on them will be loose, however – you ought never to be in a situation where you can say something like ‘aha, there will be no more plots for a while, because I know about these five’.

Ave Imperator!

Oliver