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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