Throughout human history it has been expected that those accepted as leaders or emperors would be responsible for bringing the country wealth, prestige and prosperity.
I have always felt that country management has been quite underrated in many other strategy games. The reason is simple, micro- and macro-management can be quite tedious, repetitive and in a way ruining the “fun”.
But sidelining country management has, in my opinion, also provided less realistic experiences. We accepted the challenge and came up with a few new game concepts that on one hand keep the economic, military, social and cultural decisions in the hands of the player whilst, on the other hand, complementing the robust and logical game mechanics. All whilst bringing in surprising elements that deepen immersion. Country management should be mostly automated and decisions should be either made actively by the player or he should be alerted in special circumstances to reduce the boring and monotonous tasks.
So, what is under the hood of Aggressors‘ country management?
Firstly, it is the choice of government system. Different government systems are established in different societies reflecting the local conditions and have a profound effect on the economic, military and social life in the country. It also greatly affects the resource management or, more precisely, the resource production which applies both for mined resources as well as for those generated in cities, such as happiness, knowledge, citizens and influence of the country. And on top of that the morale of your armies also partially depends on the system of government – the soldier needs to know which master he serves!
The player is free to change the government system in the country to suit his plans and current situation but he should be always aware that such a change will ripple through the country leading to both positive and negative reactions.
But the state is not just the emperor! It is the masses of nameless people whose daily work lays the foundations for a stable and powerful state.
When playing other games, I felt that many underestimate the role the general population plays in the development of the state. This is the reason why I introduced citizens as a special resource from which both the workforce and soldiers are recruited.
Perhaps it is best to explain its unique role with an example. The populace is distributed in the cities which are the main recruitment centers. Building new units means that the city size is reduced as part of the population is taken into army service and at the same time the citizen resource decreases. But the production of other resources that are generated in cities such as knowledge or influence is determined by the city size, i.e. number of citizens. Therefore, once you recruit a new unit, the production of other resources in this city decreases. But supporting a wild population growth is also dangerous as it puts an increasing strain on the state resources as you will need to provide housing, livelihoods and safety for your people. You can regulate the population growth by building new cities, supporting immigration (people tend to move to cities with higher level of happiness) and giving incentives to increase birth rate. This support takes a form of nation-wide and local grants which allows you to “accumulate” citizens in cities where you need them most.
People are therefore one of the most important resources and balancing the population growth with the economic capacity of the state and the need for soldiers and workforce is a task for a real strategist.
Closely related to Birth rate is also the concept of Migration. The history is full of stories of mass movements of people from regions suffering from war, crop failure or natural disasters.
In the beginning we used migration of people as a random event but as the complexity of the game grew, we decided to make this minor side feature into a full-scale game mechanism in order to reflect the real historical events and natural behavior of people of that time.
When the lives of people are threatened or their livelihoods destroyed, they simply try to find another, better place for their families. They prefer locations nearby within the same region and state but when the situation does not allow it, they can also migrate abroad and so the state can suffer from a sudden outflow of citizens. Different events force people to move to different places. When your people are afraid of the enemy behind the borders, they move to the safer parts of your country. When they struggle with a lack of food and are threatened by starvation in your country, they tend to migrate over the border to more prospering places.
This actually brings us to yet another factor that affects the life of every single person. Life in the ancient era was not a piece of cake especially for the lower classes. Although the masses were virtually “voiceless”, we know from the historical annals that when a certain tipping point was reached, the angry crowds found their voice and used their great numbers to demand changes in their favor.
Underestimating this great force would be, if not foolhardy, then naïve to say the least. We call this fragile balance between people´s needs and their satisfaction “Happiness”. It is an indicator of the overall mood of the population and is also another special resource.
On the state level we speak about general happiness which is determined by many interlinked factors such as type of government, lack or abundance of resources, size of the army, number of successful military campaigns or the slave trade. All these and other factors together make the general mood within the country.
But naturally a man living in a border city which is currently under attack and a man living on the other side of the state far away from any potential danger, deal with very different life situations and so their level of happiness will differ greatly. Local happiness is therefore affected by more local factors such as army presence in the region, city infrastructure and the living conditions in the city, distance to a border or proximity of the battlefront.
It is needless to say that the internal political strategy is as important as foreign relations. Higher happiness positively affects army morale and cities and units are more resilient to foreign influences. On the other hand, low happiness is reflected in low army morale, higher emigration rate and could potentially lead to revolts or even civil wars.
Local happiness is also related to another quite original concept – Influence. It was a common practice for states to use subtle force to initiate or steer certain events in neighboring foreign cities in a hope of gaining a foothold in the region.
To allow the player more political action, we created a new resource type called Influence. It represents the prestige the state has abroad and it can be used to incite unrest in foreign cities while persuading the local governs to switch sides. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This way you can expand your sphere of influence without bloodshed even though reciprocal actions might come faster than you would expect. The usage of this resource and the chance of being successful in such actions depends on many factors like distance from the empire, local happiness of that city, attitude of the populace towards the player influencing the city, urban guards protecting it and many others.
But it’s not just the unexpected which makes the game fun. Even though home politics play a major role in the game, the famous figures of ancient history are more celebrated for their political and military deeds. Heroes are born on the battlefields and so we will dedicate the next Dev diary to the long-awaiting battle and war-related game mechanics!