Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire

February 12, 2015 | Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire

Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire is in the final stages of introducing Governments to its Colonisation Mechanics.

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The ambition was to create something that was not only the counterpoint to the recently added Infrastructure Tech and Colonisation Stage Upgrades but also something that defined the differences in culture of the various species and player controlled affiliations in the game. Together these define both the world and civilisation data.

Culture however by its very nature is a list of social constraints and a government is nominally the body that legislate them. Straight away then we have a problem. Simply put we are introducing ‘hard’ constraints in a game where none previously existed. This was effectively summarised at the convention when I asked the question of individuals as to what sort of things governments would proscribe?

While there were quite a few non-committal shrugs the most telling answer went along the lines of:

‘Why would I want a government that stops me selling stuff to the population?’

This has been further expanded on in the recent question about the values given to drug coefficient for differing species.

‘Unless it has a huge negative effect that I’m not aware of, I’m not too fussed.’

In other words roleplaying is fine providing it doesn’t impact in-game income! This is a truism throughout the gaming universe.

There was however quite a bit of feedback on how ‘other’ species and governments should behave usually quite enthusiastically restrictive. I suppose it is always easy to judge others when you are not suffering the penalties. On top of all this there were previous special actions and in-game events to account for, at least giving them something of a hat-tip even if including them directly into the mechanics was not feasible.

All in all we had our work cut out for us and no mistake.

After banging heads we realised that rather than proscribing items, instead simply split trade demand into the drugs category based on the type of government. Restrictive governments would have a much lower drug:trade split accounting for ‘legal’ use by pharma, bio-tech, agricultural and military type companies while governments for cultures that regularly used drugs to regulate the masses would have a much higher drug:trade ratios. The benefit of this approach is that there are no complaints that a faction that uses drugs gets drugs sales as a perk. It also eliminates the need to include negative effects from the sale of drugs (players simply avoid do things that result in negative results or seek ways to nullify them so the end result is pointless coding).

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Another benefit for the game is that some affiliations will naturally be producers of drugs while others consumers based on what can be exploited and what can be sold under various governments. As much as players hate being the proponents rather than recipients of benefits of in-game trade, this naturally sets up supply and demand.

The next breakthrough though obvious in hindsight was defining a government as simply a list of ‘special’ civilians. By doing so it was possible to restrict where they could be spawned but also only require a few to create a government unlike infrastructure which was all about the transport of mass. Then it was simply a case that Flagrtiz governments would need special flagritz civilians from their homeworld. Generic governments would however need generic ‘special’ civilians. The whole thing would be a matter of data both lots of items and expanding the civilian item to include sub-items such as nobles, administrators and judicials.

As infrastructure upgrades already exist governments could also piggy-back of this by requiring certain infrastructure upgrades to be active and/or a stage to have been reached. This then allows for the development of a government from an ad hoc collection of people dealing with issues as and when they occur on a backwater frontier world to achieving full-home-territory status as the population has swollen beyond into the many millions.

Neither infrastructure upgrades nor civilian mechanics however covered one final historical in-game event; that being the seeding of troops onto a world in order to persuade the population as to how they should behave. Infrastructure was purely about non-sentient mass while seeding of civilians is only concerned with the species being seeded. By the same token it did not seem right to bung troops into the same category as civilians as they are a means by which governments control, they are not the government.

The answer came by amalgamating previous in-game actions and a long-standing grumble of the martial affiliations. By introducing secondment whereby affiliations can transfer troops to the planet for an indeterminate amount of time. While on the world they can be used to support the establishment of a civilian government.

The flexibility of defining governments also allows ones for specific species but also deal with transition from form of government to another for example establishing martial law or political coups. They allow for a much deeper level of diplomacy, augmenting the star system claims and diplomatic relations between player controlled affiliations.

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