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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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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

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Imperia Concept I: Admin/Edicts

So in Imperia you as an emperor have an ADM (admin) rating that determines what you can do on any given turn. When you are just starting out as an 18-year old new emperor you might have 6-8 ADM points to use per turn (and they do not ‘carry over’).

There are essentially 3 ways you can use ADM: by contacting a character directly, by proposing an Edict, or by taking a personal action. It costs 1-2 ADM to contact a character directly, and is useful for asking for small ‘tweaks’ to how they manage their planet/system/sector. The downside is that they can say ‘no’ – after all, this isn’t you proposing law, it’s just you and a character having a conversation and you asking for something in a friendly manner. Edicts, by contrast, ARE law, and they MUST be followed. The downside to Edicts is that they cost a lot more ADM to propose (4-8), they cost planetary ADM to prepare and enact, and if a character who is along the possible ‘chain’ of implementing the Edict doesn’t like you very much, they can make sure your Edict stays ‘in committee’ for quite a while. Here is a list of the types of domestic Edicts that can be enacted:

Change Planet Name
Add Secondary Designation
Change/Assign Primary Designation
Prohibit Economic Sector Expansion
Eliminate Economic Sector
Build Starship Production Center
Encourage Tourism
Build Starbase
Change System Capital
Change Sector Capital
Add /Change System to Sector
Survey Planet
Colonize Planet
Survey System
Set Up Manufacturing Outpost
Set Up Agriculture Outpost
Set Up Scientific Outpost
Cede Garrison Control to Viceroy
Reclaim Garrison Control
Cede System Garrison to Sys Gov
Reclaim System Garrison Control
Designate Planet As Trade Hub
Designate Planet As Culture Hub
Build Starport
Abandon Planet
Abandon System
Abandon Sector
Declare Imperial Law
Survey Planet For Materials
Survey Planet For Minerals

As you can see, much more comprehensive than simply dealing with a character directly. Proclaiming an Edict and structuring it so that it will be successful is a large part of your success in Imperia.

Let’s take a small example and say that you want to change a planet’s name. In any other 4X, you simply type in the name and that’s that. In Imperia, simply changing a name can have far-reaching effects (after all, how would we feel in America if the government suddenly wanted to change the country’s name to, say, Goldberg?). The base ADM cost for this Edict is 5 ADM points and $5,000,000 to enact. A system capital might have 5-10 ADM and a sector capital might have 15+ ADM, so they could simply utilize their own planetary government to enact the change and that would be that. But what about a small, outlying planet that barely has a functional government? Say they have 2 ADM. They don’t have enough ADM to enact the change themselves. What can you do?

You can wait and let them build up their government sector until they have enough ADM to enact on their own, or…
You can get their system capital or sector capital involved., or if the need is great enough, you can always use the Imperial Capital planet’s ADM (which is always MUCH higher – 200-400 ADM)

Not all systems have a system capital – some sectors are one-system sectors and having a sector capital overrides a system capital. But if the system does have a system capital and they have some unallocated ADM, you can use some of theirs. It will be less efficient (it takes roughly 1.5 ADM points from a system capital per 1 ADM point you would spend on the planet) and it will take more time, but you can make it work. But… what if the system governor HATES YOUR GUTS!!! He or she can ensure that it takes YEARS to change that name!! So NOW what do you do?

You can go ‘above their head’ and use ADM from the sector capital (at even less efficiency and more time) and there is no guarantee the sector governor will be any more obliging, OR…
You can manipulate the system governor into doing what you want!! You can do this a lot of ways! You can…

..bribe them (maybe, if they’re honest they will refuse and like you even less),
..or you can give them an Imperial title (this costs personal money and takes most of your ADM, but they will always love it),
..or you can create an informer network on the planet in order to discover secrets about the system governor and blackmail them,
..or you can respond to their needs and requests in line with their personality traits and behaviors to improve their loyalty,
..or you can attempt to remove them from their office and promote someone more loyal to you and more friendly to your policies (but this does not always work and is seen as Tyrannical)
..or you can have them assassinated, at great cost to your reputation and Tyrannical rating.

You have another ally at this point for particularly important Edicts: your Influence pools. You don’t have to, but you can, spend 3 different types of Influence from your pools to speed up the Edict’s process with different effects. The types are:

Nationalist – this is your ‘rally the Empire to the cause’ influence. Basically, you are taking your Edict to the people, and if they love you, it is very effective.
Pragmatic – this is your ‘everyday’ influence, working the backchannels of your government, and generally being a good politician. This pool’s effects are abstracted mainly in your Power rating – your efforts have more weight if your have the Power to follow through. This will be your most common Influence, and the fastest to recharge.
Tyrannical – this is your ‘do it or I’ll do something bad to you/your family/your planet’ influence. Much more ‘effective’ short term, but can have far-reaching effects if used too often without the Power to back it up. Very small pool initially, but the way your emperor acts (badly and without morals) can add to this pool over time.

Alternatively, you can structure the Edict to use only planet and sector ADM, thus cutting out the system governor – but taking more time and ADM (total of 8 ADM and 5 months base vs. 6 ADM and 4 months base if the system gov was used) but if the sector governor LOVES you they might just speed the Edict through the planning and committee stages… actually saving more time in the end, even though it cost more ADM! But what if the sector capital’s ADM is already being used for other Edicts and there isn’t any more to spare?

Expand the sector government of course!! Just ask the planetary viceroy of the sector capital to expand the government, add more workers (at a cost, of course) expand the ADM rating for the sector capital, thus allowing your planet’s change name request to be able to be added! If the viceroy is willing, of course…

However you do it, once you have the needed ADM in place, the Edict goes to 3 stages: planning, committee, and implementation. Depending on the loyalty and 2 other factors of each character in the chain, that time might be more or less in each stage. Each Edict has a primary and a secondary character attribute that contribute to the success and time required to implement. The primary attribute for changing a planet’s name is Intelligence and the secondary one is Charisma. If your planetary viceroy and anyone else in the chain have good stats in these attributes (and they like you at least a little!) the time might be less. If you have an exceptionally stupid or boorish viceroy or governor, however, the time in planning and committee will be adversely affected proportional to the amount of ADM that character has in the Edict. For example, to get to the Edict’s 5 ADM requirement, if you allocate 2 ADM from the planet and 3 ADM (but costing the system capital 5 ADM due to inefficiency) from the system capital, your planetary viceroy’s stats will affect the time by 40% and your system governor’s stats will affect the time by 60%.

So you’ve finally manipulated the Edict to be completed, and now the name change takes effect! You’re done thinking about it, right?

Well…

First of all, your citizens might love the new name. In which case your retail sector will explode (people are buying T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other clever merchandise with the new planet’s name). You may see a Posup boost. People may have a renewed sense of pride in their planet and their unrest may even drop! Sometimes, people may even migrate to your newly named planet because it’s got such a cool name, affecting an entire system or sector economy! You’re a hero, and your planetary viceroy is pretty pleased too!!

Or not.

Maybe they hate the name. Maybe they really liked the original name all along. Names have an intrinsic ‘cultural value’ attached to them and it is possible to get information on how the populace might react to a name change, you can do it anyway. But their Posup might go down. People might even leave the planet (rare, but possible) over it. Your viceroy won’t be too pleased about having to change all the software and letterheads to the new planet name, so to speak. In any case, you have your new name, but you have some downside as well.

And all this from just changing a planet’s name, which you would take 3 seconds to do in any other 4X game.

But that’s Imperia, folks. Welcome to the big chair.