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Catnub

MMO space 4x with feudalism concept

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I'd like feedback on the following concepts, especially the points about XP and the feudalistic power structure. Note that this is all theoretical, not planning on starting on any of this anytime soon.

Turn structure:
- The game lasts 4 months (= a round), after which the game is reset completely
- One turn every 2 hours (every hour for the first 4 days of a round, to speed things up)


Map:
- Galaxy map with x and y coordinates (possibly z as well, but not relevant to this post) which contains planets (stars are omitted for sake of simplicity)
- Each planet has a 12-field map resembling a 12-sided die
- Each planetary field may host a city which is managed in a manner similar to Master of Orion

Management:
- You start out with a city
- You may control any number of cities

XP (need a better term, but this one gets the point across):
- XP are earned each turn based on how many citizens you control and how productive they are
- You will get diminishing XP returns for exceeding x cities (maybe 6-8 or so, undecided), like 100% XP for 6 cities and 90% XP for 10 cities
- XP gives you a number of bonuses, such as the ability to command larger fleets/armies and various economic bonuses (undecided)
- XP cannot be gifted or conquered

Feudalism:
- You may conquer other players and force them to submit to you, making you their overlord and them your minions
- Minions have to hand over part of the XP they earn each turn to their overlord, based on negotiations
- A power tree may have multiple levels, where a minion has minions himself
- XP yield is calculated from the bottom up, so if you get 20% from your minion and have to surrender 30% to your overlord, you get those 20% before the amount you yield is calculated
- All cities on your homeworld are given a defense bonus, and your capitol city is given an extra bonus. This is to discourage players from exterminating other players entirely and encourage submission through negotiation. You may choose to submit without any bloodshed, and will likely be able to obtain better XP terms by doing so.
- A contract is signed whenever you submit to another player, detailing the degree of troop access allowed and the share of XP yielded each turn. A contract may be renegotiated anytime. For the duration of the contract, any hostile action by the overlord towards his minion will result in a morale penalty throughout his empire for breaking his word.
- You may opt to share (full or partial) control of your fleets and armies with your minions or overlords in order to be able to react faster during wartime

[Edited by - Catnub on October 17, 2010 4:02:33 AM]

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Original post by Catnub
- You may conquer other players and force them to submit to you, making them your bitch and you their (master) overlord and them your minions
Rewrite this sentence and change "you" to "others" :)
Majority will be slaves, minority will be masters. Your design goal is to make the game fun for slaves, not for masters. Masters will like it no matter how crappy the game is, because they are masters. The key are slaves, how you assure it will be fun for them?

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LOL my wife put that into the text file after I explained the concept to her, forgot to remove it.

I agree it's of vital importance that minions (not slaves, mind) are having fun too, and I think this concept may be able to achieve that for a few reasons:
1) Even if you're someone's minion, you may still have minions of your own.
2) As a minion you will likely receive guidance and support, as it's in your overlord's interest that you thrive and are satisfied under his reign.
3) Dominion won't be commonplace for most of the game, and will typically require a significant strength advantage to happen.
4) It may well be in your interest to be someone's minion, and players may decide to submit willingly on favourable terms in order to avoid abuse by more ruthless players.
5) Dominion is a very attractive alternative to extermination, and having this option allows me to make the game more aggressive in general without putting the loser off completely.
6) If an evil overlord has 3-4 minions, it will be very tempting for them to band up and overthrow their suppressor. Possibly with the assistance of mercenaries or another overlord who's willing to offer more favourable terms.

I do intend for this to be a very aggressive game with a lot of politics, and I'm not hoping to appeal to players who do not enjoy those aspects. I figure the game dynamics will work out well enough with 500-1000 active players. Again, this is merely a figment of my imagination for now and probably for a long time to come :)

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1) Even if you're someone's minion, you may still have minions of your own.

No, think of the lowest level minions that have not and never will have minions. Once you made it fun for them you made it fun for everyone.


3) Dominion won't be commonplace for most of the game, and will typically require a significant strength advantage to happen.

So you say it will be lengthy and unimportant part of the game? If you want to make it "feudal" you should start it working form early game and make it extremely common.


5) Dominion is a very attractive alternative to extermination, and having this option allows me to make the game more aggressive in general without putting the loser off completely.

That's one thing that always puzzles me. Why computer games designers still stick to early elimination? I mean, it has been "proven" that early elimination is a bad trait in multiplayer. In boardgames industry it is almost non existant, almost no publisher would publish a boardgame with early elimination, with very few exceptions. But computer games multiplayer industry still seem like dinosaurs from XX century... Can't you really make a very agressive game without player elimination?


BTW, how are you gonna prevent snowball effect? Also kingmaker might be an issue here.

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Original post by Acharis
1) Even if you're someone's minion, you may still have minions of your own.

No, think of the lowest level minions that have not and never will have minions. Once you made it fun for them you made it fun for everyone.

Well, it is always difficult to make this kind of game interesting at the lowest level. The main experiences I'm drawing on are from the online game Utopia, which is divided into 25-player teams. The weakest 20% kingdoms had very little knowledge to draw upon, and were attacked massively on a daily basis because they were very obviously completely disorganized. This concept will encourage interaction across strength levels and give strong players an incentive to help out weaker players. Even if it may seem like tough love :) There will also be a cap on how much XP you can receive from your minions, maybe something like 30%.
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3) Dominion won't be commonplace for most of the game, and will typically require a significant strength advantage to happen.

So you say it will be lengthy and unimportant part of the game? If you want to make it "feudal" you should start it working form early game and make it extremely common.

If you go that route, you give the weakest players even less freedom to explore the game on their own before being thrown into the thick of things. And it will not be an unimportant part of the game at all, I imagine that it will be of vital importance in the second half of the round. Again drawing upon my experiences with Utopia, this is where boredom and stagnation sets in.
Quote:
5) Dominion is a very attractive alternative to extermination, and having this option allows me to make the game more aggressive in general without putting the loser off completely.

That's one thing that always puzzles me. Why computer games designers still stick to early elimination? I mean, it has been "proven" that early elimination is a bad trait in multiplayer. In boardgames industry it is almost non existant, almost no publisher would publish a boardgame with early elimination, with very few exceptions. But computer games multiplayer industry still seem like dinosaurs from XX century... Can't you really make a very agressive game without player elimination?

I take it that we agree here. Avoiding player elimination was one of my main motivations for using this system. Without an incentive to not kill other players, all you can do is make it a weak cost-benefit option. And if you go that route, you've also gone and discouraged aggression in general. This way players are still discouraged from eliminating players (through defense bonuses at homeworlds/capitol cities and loyalty problems when trying to rule an empire of dissidents), but are also given an incentive to go on the hunt.
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BTW, how are you gonna prevent snowball effect? Also kingmaker might be an issue here.

By snowball effect I assume you mean someone running away from the server when he's big enough. I think (and hope) that this concept will work contrary to that. Having a large empire of conquered players is not likely to be stable in the long run, the more minions you have the more power you'll need to keep them in line. A minion who sees that his overlord is weak will (or should) either try to renegotiate the terms of his servitude or rebel and seek to overthrow his overlord along with other minions.

I think the concept also counteracts the king maker effect quite well. You cannot give away or conquer XP, all you can do is give up a portion of all future XP you make. And if you wanted to do that, you might as well simply give up your possessions.

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The main experiences I'm drawing on are from the online game Utopia, which is divided into 25-player teams. The weakest 20% kingdoms had very little knowledge to draw upon, and were attacked massively on a daily basis because they were very obviously completely disorganized.
I'm the 20% :) I tried Utopia several times but I always ended up with a screen saying "your kingdom ceased to exist" without any explanation what happened. It suspect someone attacked me and destroyed, but that's just a speculation since I never lived long enough to see the combat part of the game. Now I know whose fault it is... :)

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A minion who sees that his overlord is weak will (or should) either try to renegotiate the terms of his servitude or rebel and seek to overthrow his overlord along with other minions.
I'm not sure... There are plenty of social things going on. There will be players helping overlords just so they get the first spot. Actually the will be hundreds players helping one player (clans that want one of their member to reach the 1st spot to show everyone they rock).

Do not count on players always wanting to win the game themselves. Actually, I think less than 50% players will want it for real...

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Original post by Acharis
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The main experiences I'm drawing on are from the online game Utopia, which is divided into 25-player teams. The weakest 20% kingdoms had very little knowledge to draw upon, and were attacked massively on a daily basis because they were very obviously completely disorganized.
I'm the 20% :) I tried Utopia several times but I always ended up with a screen saying "your kingdom ceased to exist" without any explanation what happened. It suspect someone attacked me and destroyed, but that's just a speculation since I never lived long enough to see the combat part of the game. Now I know whose fault it is... :)

My sincere condolences ;) However, top kingdoms don't really prey on the bottom kingdoms as the gains would be miniscule. Instead, the bottom kingdoms are preyed on by the large group of middle kingdoms who are organized enough to cooperate a bit and teach newbies. Now, imagine that a strong player were to approach you with an offer of assistance and guidance in exchange for servitude. Would you be more or less likely to be put off by that? You get a pipeline to higher level gameplay and protection, hopefully drawing you further into the game.
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A minion who sees that his overlord is weak will (or should) either try to renegotiate the terms of his servitude or rebel and seek to overthrow his overlord along with other minions.
I'm not sure... There are plenty of social things going on. There will be players helping overlords just so they get the first spot. Actually the will be hundreds players helping one player (clans that want one of their member to reach the 1st spot to show everyone they rock).

I agree that clans would be a potential problem. However, that would be the case whether the dominion system is put into place or not. Without it, they can still band together and simply donate resources. I would argue that this actually helps players manage on their own without outside connections. They'll still be at a disadvantage, but I don't really see a way to help that.
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Do not count on players always wanting to win the game themselves. Actually, I think less than 50% players will want it for real...

I think the XP concept will appeal greatly to players at all levels. Even if they aren't going to win anything, they will still want those bonuses. What's more, XP can't be taken away from you.

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My sincere condolences ;) However, top kingdoms don't really prey on the bottom kingdoms as the gains would be miniscule. Instead, the bottom kingdoms are preyed on by the large group of middle kingdoms
I don't know and don't care who prey on me. I demand it to stop! :D


Quote:
Now, imagine that a strong player were to approach you with an offer of assistance and guidance in exchange for servitude. Would you be more or less likely to be put off by that? You get a pipeline to higher level gameplay and protection, hopefully drawing you further into the game.

1) I won't be online during that time, besides knowing my previous experience I will be exterminated before anyone contact me :D
2) Pride (obvious).
3) If I can't surive from the start why bothering playing?

Non of these are definite problems but still...

I would make it so the player is annected without being asked when the power difference is sufficient. Saves a lot of stress and problems.

Giving ones independency by choice is cowardly act, being turned into protectorate by a stronger one against my will is not.


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I think the XP concept will appeal greatly to players at all levels. Even if they aren't going to win anything, they will still want those bonuses. What's more, XP can't be taken away from you.
It's not about this. Maybe an example. Once I saw a ranking in one game. The first position was claimed by "Jesus" from "12th apostoles" clan. You see the social powers that were into work here? You can't counter this by XP or any personal gains. Players who made this happened did not care about their personal gain at all. For them the game was not about getting rank for themselves, it was about the one player to get the first spot for all the cost and no sacriface was too high to achieve this.

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I like the core concept. The server reset will mean that the supreme overlord will have to take good care of his peeps in order to ensure that he gets a chance to rebuild his empire next time, and random spawn points can easily mean that former allies will be unable to help one another until after power's been redistributed, at which point it'll be tricky to reform old teams.

I'd worry about pacing, though. Four months is a long time, and if it's going to be fun and non-ridiculous at the end, it might have to start out embarrassingly slow. Scaling the game Spore-style will help, but as others have said, if you're the bottom minion and you're looking at four months of mining asteroids and sending your yield upstairs, you're gonna feel pretty bad.

How about presenting the pyramid as a corporation, where everyone's contributions are appreciated and rewarded? If my refineries gather a million cubic meters of hydrogen every turn, and have to send 40% of it up to my boss, and then I sell the rest to buy a few freighters and some corvettes to defend them, what do I get for my 40%? Can I call on the boss's destroyers to defend my freight? Do I get to fly in awesome battlefleets and kick butts and take names and bump fists with fellow pilots who are four echelons above me in the hierarchy?

And how much clout does my value as a minion get me? If my colony gets conquered by an enemy empire, can I petition to be put one tier below their supreme overlord, in order to enjoy higher rank and lower taxes? Can I refuse to pay taxes, staging a strike and compelling them to either meet my demands, release me from bondage or raze my base?

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Original post by Acharis
1) I won't be online during that time, besides knowing my previous experience I will be exterminated before anyone contact me :D
2) Pride (obvious).
3) If I can't surive from the start why bothering playing?

Non of these are definite problems but still...

I would make it so the player is annected without being asked when the power difference is sufficient. Saves a lot of stress and problems.

Giving ones independency by choice is cowardly act, being turned into protectorate by a stronger one against my will is not.

Those are very good points, and it's a good idea to have a mechanism for automatic annexation (although not mandatory, an aggressor shouldn't be forced to accept dominion). I think voluntary submission should still be an option, as higher level players will typically want to negotiate a surrender at an earlier point in order to reduce the damage done to both sides.
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I think the XP concept will appeal greatly to players at all levels. Even if they aren't going to win anything, they will still want those bonuses. What's more, XP can't be taken away from you.

It's not about this. Maybe an example. Once I saw a ranking in one game. The first position was claimed by "Jesus" from "12th apostoles" clan. You see the social powers that were into work here? You can't counter this by XP or any personal gains. Players who made this happened did not care about their personal gain at all. For them the game was not about getting rank for themselves, it was about the one player to get the first spot for all the cost and no sacriface was too high to achieve this.

Again, this can be done just fine without the feudalism concept. And it will happen, even with the feudalism and XP concepts. But I do think that they work a little bit in the other direction.
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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I like the core concept. The server reset will mean that the supreme overlord will have to take good care of his peeps in order to ensure that he gets a chance to rebuild his empire next time, and random spawn points can easily mean that former allies will be unable to help one another until after power's been redistributed, at which point it'll be tricky to reform old teams.

There will definitely be grudges carrying over from round to round :) And yeah, random spawn points are intended to make out-of-game cooperation a little more difficult. I'm glad you like the concept, thanks for the feedback.
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I'd worry about pacing, though. Four months is a long time, and if it's going to be fun and non-ridiculous at the end, it might have to start out embarrassingly slow. Scaling the game Spore-style will help, but as others have said, if you're the bottom minion and you're looking at four months of mining asteroids and sending your yield upstairs, you're gonna feel pretty bad.

I think it depends on how much social mobility there is. I'm actually hoping that there will be a lot of social mobility because of the feudalism concept, as power will be fragile. XP will be more of a victory points tally than actual power, so getting a large XP lead doesn't mean you can't be taken down. But it does mean that it'll be difficult to catch up with you in XP, even if you're taken down some.
Quote:
How about presenting the pyramid as a corporation, where everyone's contributions are appreciated and rewarded? If my refineries gather a million cubic meters of hydrogen every turn, and have to send 40% of it up to my boss, and then I sell the rest to buy a few freighters and some corvettes to defend them, what do I get for my 40%? Can I call on the boss's destroyers to defend my freight? Do I get to fly in awesome battlefleets and kick butts and take names and bump fists with fellow pilots who are four echelons above me in the hierarchy?

A clarification first: The only thing minions hand over to their overlords are XP. Actual resources stay under minion control (although I guess that kind of tribute should also be possible). But otherwise, yeah. Maybe protectorate is a better term, minions shouldn't feel humiliated and demoralized. I intend for most of that to be a matter of negotiation, meaning that it is up to the overlord how to treat his minions. The game should give him incentives to support them, but I think being an evil oppressor should also be possible. I do plan on having mechanisms in place that let minions and overlords (and allies, voluntary cooperation will also be possible) help each other automatically without having to be online.
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And how much clout does my value as a minion get me? If my colony gets conquered by an enemy empire, can I petition to be put one tier below their supreme overlord, in order to enjoy higher rank and lower taxes? Can I refuse to pay taxes, staging a strike and compelling them to either meet my demands, release me from bondage or raze my base?

Lots and lots of politicking, yes. Anything can be negotiated, pretty much. I imagine there'll be a contract system, to keep overlords from abusing minions once they have let down their defenses. Breaking contracts may incur morale and loyalty penalties.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I like the core concept. The server reset will mean that the supreme overlord will have to take good care of his peeps in order to ensure that he gets a chance to rebuild his empire next time, and random spawn points can easily mean that former allies will be unable to help one another until after power's been redistributed, at which point it'll be tricky to reform old teams.

There will definitely be grudges carrying over from round to round :) And yeah, random spawn points are intended to make out-of-game cooperation a little more difficult. I'm glad you like the concept, thanks for the feedback.
Are you aware of Bartle Test? Because just now you killed the whole population of socializers. And without socializers achievers will have much less fun and killers will lose easy targets.

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What you need to do is to look at why feudalism became a social system, why it continued and why it ended.

Part of the reason that feudalism started and continued was because of communication. It was imposible for a ruler to get and manage timely communication from over large distances in aincient times. This made it advantagious for a ruler to appoint (or maintain) local rulers to manage the operations over a feifdom.

When things got too out of control for a local ruler to handle, they coudl go to their leige and request help. The leige could then draw on the resources of many vassals to deal with the problem.

There was a mutual benifit to both the leige and the vassal.

When a ruler conquered vassal of another ruler, it showed that they were more powerful then their previous ruler, so it would be of benifit if they joined the more powerful ruler for protection. However a vassal that just defected at the slightest threat and without a fight would be a vassal that a ruler could not count on for support when they needed it, and as the power of a ruler was in their vassals, any such weakness in their vassals would be a serious threat to a ruler's ability to protect their other vassals. The solution was to encourage loyalty in vassals so encourage them to resist defecting.

So, how would this operate in a game?

Well first you have to emulate the restrictions of communication. By this, you don't have to delay communication between players, but just give the same ultimate effect.

The restriction on communication mean that a single ruler could not rule a large area, so in a game you can achieve this effect by restricting the amount of territory a player can rule.

I would restrict them to a single planet, or even just a single city (but as this is Sci-Fi, a single planet is probably what you want).

Each player in the game rules a single planet. If you want Planets that player can conquer that are not run by players, then you can have them as NPC controlled planets (maybe as pre-starfareing cultures), but still don't allow a player to directly control any planet other than their own.

They can still conquer another planet (even one owned by another player), but they can't control it. This way a player needs to have local "managers" to control the conquered planets, also as the player in control over the conquered planet can change aligences, the conquers becomes beholden to the conquered planet to keep them allied with them (either protection, trade, population, technology, etc). But, a player that allies them selves with a weak ruler will be subject to more invasions and attacks than if they were allied with a strong ruler, so players are encouraged to stick with a conquerer if they can.

Also, a ruler will need to keep their vassal states in check, so as an "empire" grows too large, the various vassal players could form alliances and attempt to rebel against a ruler, so a ruler will have to divert resources into preventing this (which gives an interesting negative feedback mechanism in the game to stop a player from easily dominating a game). It also give vassal players something to do.

Also as each player can become a ruler and have vassal players underneith them any player can attempt to conquer any other player, and if they do they might get all the vassal states that player ahs as well (some might decide to split off or something, but usually they will follow their ruler). It means at all stages of the game there is something fun for players to do.

You don't force a player to submit to you, but you can "encourage" them to do so by repeatedly conquering them (but that takes effort), or by offering them a better deal (but that will reduce your resources, and then other vassals might learn of it and want the same deal).

The idea is to make the aquisition of vassals more of a social interaction between players than a game mechanic. You need to provide the tools that allow the player to construct a feudal social system (and that means creating the reasons feudalism existed in the game world).

Sure, they might not create a feudal system, but they will have fun playing that game, and that is what is important.

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Original post by Catnub
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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I like the core concept. The server reset will mean that the supreme overlord will have to take good care of his peeps in order to ensure that he gets a chance to rebuild his empire next time, and random spawn points can easily mean that former allies will be unable to help one another until after power's been redistributed, at which point it'll be tricky to reform old teams.

There will definitely be grudges carrying over from round to round :) And yeah, random spawn points are intended to make out-of-game cooperation a little more difficult. I'm glad you like the concept, thanks for the feedback.
Are you aware of Bartle Test? Because just now you killed the whole population of socializers. And without socializers achievers will have much less fun and killers will lose easy targets.

I think socializers would still be able to enjoy the game. If you are protected by a strong overlord and don't have ambitions to reach the top, there's plenty potential for social interaction without having your fun ruined. From wiki:
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The online environment is very appealing to the Socializer, as it provides near limitless potential for new relationships. Socializers start filling up their friend lists as soon as they start meeting people, and get to know them better through private messages and sometimes even voice chat. They take full advantage of the ability to join guilds or kinships in many online games, and form fast friendships and try to help other people out. They are compatible with just about everyone; even Killers will often get along with the more respectable Socializers (or simply know better than to pick a fight that the Socializer's friends will get involved in), and the more dramatic Socializers thrive symbiotically on the chaos created by some Killers. Eventually, they will most likely be a well-known name on their particular server, either for the services they provide, or for the drama they are involved in.

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What I think might be helpful is some kind of reward (points, or the like) that will carry over between server resets. Accumulated points can be cashed in on each reset for some special bonus or attribute. Maybe a race bonus can be enhanced, or some special production attribute accelerated or improved.

Then, add in a coefficient that reflects a player's level in the heriarchy of the game for the collection/use of points. A supreme overlord shouldn't always dominate on point collection just because he builds an unbreakable empire and lower level players can never catch up. Minions could perhaps participate in espionage or foster crime to usurp or drag down their overlord, gaining points in the process, with the risk of discovery and punishment from the overlord. Or they can specialize in some area or another to benefit an overlord, with specific goals (either for the empire or the minion civilization) which can have points earned based on how difficult they are to accomplish. And as you mentioned, different minions can band together to break free of an empire for more than just freedom in that particular game: this could represent a substantial point loss to the former overlord, and a large gain for the rebels.

These mechanisms produce an incentive to keep minions happy, although the benefits of cruel overlordship may outweigh the risk for some players. It also keeps lower-level players engaged, as they can work to give themselves some special trait in the next playthrough. While they won't leap to being the next supreme overlord, there's at least an incentive not to just stop playing until the next reset.

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