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Wavinator

Depicting the Masses without Simulating Them

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I've got an interface problem. Along with some sort of stats, I want a lively way of showing different groups of people that make up the population of a space empire. Games like City Life, SimCity Societies and Tropico handle people by showing them moving about a game board. But that scale's too small. I need to cover multiple "space cities" (and possibly planets if I can do it). The player needs to know this about groups:
  • How well they're doing and which group dominates
  • Who they're loyal to (factions, characters, the player)
  • Conflicts with other groups (impending riots, strikes, civil war)
  • Positive or negative effects on the city (such as patriotism, boosting production during war)
A "society management screen" is one way to go, but feels like it might be dull. I also thought of semi-transparent popup that could overlaying each city (sort of a pie menu with portraits and symbols arranged by power and relationships) but then the player has to check city by city. Thoughts?

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Have you played the political strategy game Democracy? It simulates being the head of state in a world democracy, where you have to please various demographics of voters. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for?

I can't remember how the voters were simulated, whether they were modelled as a group of individual agents belonging to a bunch of different groups, or whether each group is modelled independently. However I know the maker of Democracy posts around on a bunch of different forums and he seems pretty approachable, so maybe you could email him for tips?

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I would do both, but slightly different. I take it that cities would be on a map or some sort. So why not have the overlay on all the cities and have the statistic that you want most show up on the screen (ex: population, pollution, damage, OR citizen ratings). Also since this is a space sim of sorts why not have one of those consoles where all information is accessible by the push of an icon on the console (think Star Trek: TNG, DS9, etc)? I would have a HUD with screen displays on either side but angled (so it looks like you're looking at it diagonally). The player can control the screens but keyboard presses or keyboard and mouse presses. It'll give a very high-tech sci-fi feel to it.

If it's hard to visualize by my description, sorry [sad]

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# How well they're doing and which group dominates

If each faction has a flag, then you could have this flag displayed around the city (or wherever you could display them). If several factions have influence, the you can have a ratio of the flags represent the ratio of the influence. So if you had two factions with the first faction having a 75% influence and the second faction having a 35% influence then you would have a 4 to 1 flag ration (every 4th flag would be of faction 2's).

Quote:
# Who they're loyal to (factions, characters, the player)

Again flags would be useful here.

Quote:
# Conflicts with other groups (impending riots, strikes, civil war)

Maybe you could have various characters carry around anti-faction placards or have mobs of people wandering around.

Quote:
# Positive or negative effects on the city (such as patriotism, boosting production during war)

You could represent this with negative effects making the city look run-down and positive effects making the city look more shiny and new. Patriotism might have parades, etc.

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I think that banner/symbol/logo idea could work really well for this.

You could also abstract the factions into graphical embassy/headquarter buildings, to which grow or shrink depending on influence, and where each embassy/headquarter is artistically reflected after its faction (ex: army - bunker, scholars - academy, color coding also helps). So if you zoom out to the planet view, you could see the cities have exaggeratedly tall embassy/headquarter buildings sprouting from their specific cities/locations, and you can then immediately tell which faction has greater influence in that city. Each of those embassy/headquarter buildings will shrink or grow dynamically (like in Sim City) according to their population, while its wellbeing could be represented by how clean or ruined that structure is.

If you don't like such an exaggerated style (or if you don't have the resources to make it so graphical), you could replace the buildings with the flags/symbols of the factions, and have the sizes of those flags/symbols be dynamic to represent influence/population. If you zoom out, you can then see on a particular planet its various faction symbols/banners on it, and the largest ones you will immediately recognize as important. Zoom in to see the other smaller faction symbols/banners that don't have as much influence.

Or maybe you could use both the headquarter buildings and faction banners together, one for the zoomed-out view (the faction banners), one for the zoomed-in view (the headquarter buildings).

Conflicting factions to a particular faction could be depicted in a list format underneath that faction's symbol, and be framed in a red border. There could be a filter option to which could list faction-allies to a faction, to which those will similarly be listed underneath, but have green-border frames. To depict how much of an enemy or ally they are to you, you could have their border be color-dynamic as well as thickness-dynamic - the more of an ally or enemy they are to you, the thicker their color-border will be.

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Another option is diplomatic contacts. You could contact a diplomat for the city/world and request information from them. Based on the relationship between the player and the diplomat or faction the diplomat represents the information could be more or less accurate.

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How about random events, influenced by your overall stats, and represented as clickable headlines to represent the state of individual cities? A periodically elected senate is another way to show faction allegiance.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
Have you played the political strategy game Democracy?


Curse you TZ!!!!

First the TV Tropes, now THIS! Are you just throwing out these time sinks to sabotage us all? [smile]

I'm amazed at how much depth this game achieves and most of it through icons. Definitely going to have to buy it.

Quote:

I can't remember how the voters were simulated, whether they were modelled as a group of individual agents belonging to a bunch of different groups, or whether each group is modelled independently.


That's one aspect I really like and am curious about. I can see maybe doing it as a bunch of different groups with weightings that ultimately get filtered back to the whole, but that's just a wild guess.

Quote:

However I know the maker of Democracy posts around on a bunch of different forums and he seems pretty approachable, so maybe you could email him for tips?


I will do this, thanks!

[Edited by - Wavinator on July 3, 2008 5:18:02 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
So why not have the overlay on all the cities and have the statistic that you want most show up on the screen (ex: population, pollution, damage, OR citizen ratings). Also since this is a space sim of sorts why not have one of those consoles where all information is accessible by the push of an icon on the console (think Star Trek: TNG, DS9, etc)?


I wonder if it would be smarter to think of this in terms of levels. I can imagine three: The individual space city, then the star system, then your empire.

Maybe information shows up in the most basic way at the top most level-- maybe the most important aspects, like population, production and loyalty. So if you're looking at the empire map and spot a star that has trouble, you'll have to drill down to figure out what's going on.

At the system level, you see only problems affecting the whole system (like piracy). The space cities, like the stars at empire level, only give the most relevant information.

If the problem still isn't apparent on the system level map, then it must be that a space city is having a problem. You'd then click it and get the overlay using portraits or flags or whatever.

I think the main problem is trying to figure out how to abstract the information, and that's harder to do when you're not finished figuring out what information the player will need!

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