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Audience mechanic

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For a turn based strategy simulating "emperor" (more focus on the person, the emperor, not only management of the empire).

 

For such a game an imperial audience (people going in and asking/requesting/reporting various thing to the emperor) thing would fit very well. I was thinking of maybe making it the focus or at least major part of the game, so I want to design that one first (so, right now there are no restriction if it would fit with the rest of the game).

 

Note that I aim for a card mechanic feel (things like your personel, events and generally the interface could be presented as cards where possible) also I want it to be not that long or overly complex game (definitely not a full blown 4X). Replayability (smart randomness) would be important too.

 

 

How an audience machanic could work? What it should be about? How important that mechanic should be in a game like that?

 

 

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Sim City 3000* had petitioners come and make petitions to you, and give you a choice of action (usually just a yes/no choice, but I think multiple choices and even sliding bars would give a greater feel of individuality and control as a emperor). They then respond to your decision (in a block of text). You also have one of your advisors (whoever is the advisor of that department, with their own personality) offer their opinion alongside the petition before you make a decision, and the counselor/advisor also responds as well.
 

*The other Sim Cities might've had this too, I don't know.

 

I think it'd be great if you had more than one counselor/advisor chime in from time to time, and offer different advice on the same petition. Say you have 5 counselors (each with their own personalities, histories, and knowledge of different areas of the workings of your kingdom), if for every petition or report presented to you one to three counselors offer a paragraph alongside the petition, and give feedback on your decision.

 

Sometimes the counselors should agree with each other, other times they offer conflicting advice, or their advice partly conflicts and partly complements each other.

However, it shouldn't be black and white morality. It shouldn't be advisor A always offers the pacifist choices, and advisor B always recommends torture and executions. Every counselor should offer different opinions in different areas with no counselor being more or less "evil" than the others, so the player has to weigh the actual advice given, and not just figure out which decision the game writer (you) are advocating as moral or immoral.

For the same reason, this is why there should be occasionally three counselors offering advice at once, so there aren't just Counselor A votes 'yes', Counselor B votes 'no'.

 

Counselors might give poorly-thought-out advice, but they shouldn't give stupid advice - they are people of political intrigue who came into positions of great power: speaking into the ear of the king. They had to be intelligent and patient to get here, so their advice should always seem intelligent on the surface, even if it's flawed when thought out. They should, when speaking their opinions to the player, be passionate and convincing. Then, the player actually has to make a choice.

 

Also give the player the ability for you to execute, exile, imprison, or fire counselors and replace them with another counselor (from a pool of twenty-thirty or so).

 

The Bible records a couple great scenes of political decisions in the courts of emperors or kings. These are events that actually historically occurred, almost word-for-word, though also sometimes paraphrased and alot of the back-and-forth dialog missing.

 

One of these scenes is Rehoboam (the son of King Solomon), and how his stupid decision to ignore all his father's counselors' advice actually caused the nation of Israel to be split in two: into Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). You can find the scene in: "1st Kings", chapter 12, verses 1 through 24

 

The entire books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Chronicles (after skipping the first dozen chapters, which are lists of lineages), and 1st and 2nd Kings have some court dialog and scenes intermixed in between wars and other things. How David reacts (against the advice of his counselors) when his son Absalom tries to seize the throne, and later when his son Adonijah assumes kingship, and David has to rush to put Solomon on the throne (1st Kings chapter 1). David's interactions with King Saul before David became king, are interesting.

 

Ezra, Nehemiah (cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes), have some interactions with the king of Persia.

Daniel have some court scenes between Daniel and the emperor of Babylon and (later) the Media-persians Darius and Cyrus the Great. The book of Esther also has some court scenes between Esther (the Queen), Mordecai (her adopted father), the king (likely Xerxes 1), and Haman (the king's advisor who hates Mordecai).

 

Other scenes with emperors or kings in the old testament include Joseph's interactions with Pharoah. (Genesis 41 and later, though Joseph's story begins in Genesis 37)

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My primary concern is the frequency. In SimCity the petitions were, very, very rare. But for this game I plan (if possible) to make an audience the core or at least major activity (a thing the player does a lot), like 5 audiences per turn. It means I can't make it too complex or with too much text to read (preferably icons maybe?), it needs to be strightforward or the player's brain will explode. Also, I don't think each audience should involve a decision, or at least not a decision hard to make.

 

I was thinking more like, there are many people that want to have an audience and you can't grant it to them all because you, as an emperor, have only 24h a day (and you need these for other things than audience too). So the first decision would be to whom grant the audience (mechanic like: there are 10 people who want an audience per turn but you can grant only 5).

 

These audience does not even need any decision to make, like an agent wants to give you a report on suspicious activities of some officials (granting this audience makes you immune for X turn to a "coup" event) or some influencial persona wanted just to talk about meaningless stuff (and will become unhappy if you don't find him important enough to meet) or that they ask you to participate in opening of a new starport (increases the planet's loyalty).

 

Another kind of audience could ask you about resources allocation. Like, they suspect an alien activity in sector X and want to send a survey squadron, you are to decide how many ships to send (these ships will be locked for Y turns). Or you could have a pool of funds to give out and there would be coming various people asking for these funds for various things/projects, of course there would be always more people who want the funds than the funds :) Every 12 turns there is a new "fiscal year" or something and you get a new pool of funds.

 

Traditonal "make an important decision that will shape the empire for the years to come" would be there too of course, but much more rare. Like a decision if we want to focus on training pilots or merchants (which is basicly a customisation of your "race"). These would be basicly mutually exclusive choices of permanent effects.

 

 

Note that all/most of these audiences would need to pop up over and over again, because I simply can't write so many unique scripted events (200 turns * 10 audiences = too much to be unique). Plus, it's probably desirable if these follow some pattern or the player would go insane quickly :)

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Hmm, what you wrote sounds a bit similar to my thoughts.

 

Time limit

Originally, I was thinking of making 5 turns limit for trivial audiences, but yours 1 turn is better since it would not hog the queue... Most of them need to be 1 turn OR there needs to be some mechanic to reject unwanted audiences early (which sounds complicated and troublesome).

 

Number of audiences per turn

Instead of a fixed number I was thinking about "focus points" that you can accumulate and manage a bit (resource). You can have max 15 focus points, you get +5 per turn and can use them anytime (this would not force the player to deal with audiences every single turn which might be more convenient/fun). In addition you would be spending these focus points on other things, like imperial editcs (yet the mayor use would be audiences), so you would need to skip some audiences if you plan something bigger (a reform of the empire).

 

When you get an assasination attempt on you, you always survive, but your health deteriorate temporarily and you get half focus points for the next X turns, so an empire might get into trouble because of the emperor "not feeling well" even through the economy and army is in a perfect shape.

Also, if you obtain "court efficiency" upgrade/project/trait you get +1 focus point per turn.

 

Representation of the throne room (audiences interface)

I have a trouble with that one and need advice.

Generally, I want a picture of an imperial throne and siome guards on the audience screen, that's very climatic. Then there needs to be an overview of people/audience requests. I think I can fit 2 rows of 6 each if I make it small (check the first picture, it's for another part of the game, but overall direction of the UI should be the same http://www.gamedev.net/topic/643014-personnel-strategy/ ) but I'm not sure if that's enough size to fit any info. There could be also some icon with "queue" symbol and a number of people that are still waiting (not visible on the screen at the moment because there is no space). These would be sorted more or less by importance (except for reports from previous turns actions, these need to go to the front so the player does not miss them.

The audience petitions would need some quick button to "deny" it, for quick disposal. Or maybe there should be a marker (2 buttons?) "grant/deny" and you click these and then you click "process queue" button and the granted ones pop up one by one (except for pure informational ones which would be ommited).

I'm not sure...

 

Misc

"Important audiences block". When there is an important unressolved audience (like a war declaration) the next turn button would be blocked (althrough I'm not sure what to do if the player has no focus points at that point...) OR make the button blocked until a player visits a throne room (this turn, therefore assuring the player sees the audience/event)?

 

"Free audiences". I think there need to be some free audiences (no focus points used) for pure information audiences (like a report that a fleet arrived somewhere). These could be drawn in grey (others could have different colours depending on severity or category).
 

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it would be nice if some events/audiences gave you the option to send one of your advisors to solve the problem, removing his/her advice(/options) from audiences for X turns.
(aka you can send your general to solve a rebellion, but then you wouldn't be getting his/her (good) advice on combat-related activities for say 3-5 turns

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i recommend against taking focus-points to the next turn, btw, since focus-points feel like available time, and bringing time to your next turn would break immersion.
if you want a resource you can "gather" i 'd use favours, important people, usually independent, owing you a favour for granting them this or that,

apart from having some "buffer" in times of crisis, this could also make the player think about how getting the most out of these favours, aka when to collect them.

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Instead of a fixed number I was thinking about "focus points" that you can accumulate and manage a bit (resource). You can have max 15 focus points, you get +5 per turn and can use them anytime (this would not force the player to deal with audiences every single turn which might be more convenient/fun).

That does seem like it'd make better gameplay, as long as there is an upper cap of focus points (the suggested 15 max sounds good).
You could then even have certain audiences take 2 focus points on rare occasions.
 

Representation of the throne room (audiences interface)
I have a trouble with that one and need advice.
Generally, I want a picture of an imperial throne and siome guards on the audience screen, that's very climatic. Then there needs to be an overview of people/audience requests. I think I can fit 2 rows of 6 each if I make it small (check the first picture, it's for another part of the game, but overall direction of the UI should be the same http://www.gamedev.net/topic/643014-personnel-strategy/ ) but I'm not sure if that's enough size to fit any info.
...
The audience petitions would need some quick button to "deny" it, for quick disposal.

Here's a possible layout:
audiences.png

(Note: the thrones I just stole from Google Images as placeholders - they are almost certainly copyrighted)

 

You could even color-code each audience box based off of department category (blue = civil service, green = military, white = science, etc...).

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Hmmm, indeed horizontal audience cards can fit reasonable amount of text.

 

About grant audience button, maybe fit there a list of possible choices as well? It's kind of repetitive to first click grant audience and then a new screen/window pop up and asks which option you choose...

 

I wonder about the throne picture, somehow I find it annoying... Maybe it's because of the black background and it should be inside a border+background (as a big picture at the top?) Or maybe drazw this throne as a screen background and it will become fully visible after you get rid (deny or grant) of the audiences for the turn? Or maybe make the throne picture part of the interface (some buttons representing guards that you can click and change your preferences to security or icons of your advisors?) I'm not sure, maybe that's just my personal feeling only...

 

i recommend against taking focus-points to the next turn, btw, since focus-points feel like available time, and bringing time to your next turn would break immersion.

I don't know... I like the mechanic that does not force the player to grant audiences every single turn (with +5/15 max it's one big audience per 3 turns if you want). Favours sound complicated and, well, I want it to feel like the personal time of the emperor.

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Hmmm, indeed horizontal audience cards can fit reasonable amount of text.
 
About grant audience button, maybe fit there a list of possible choices as well? It's kind of repetitive to first click grant audience and then a new screen/window pop up and asks which option you choose...

You might still need to "grant" the audience (you only know a synopsis of what an audience contains until you grant it), which then shows the paragraph of text containing the actual petition/report and the advisors' advice.
 

I wonder about the throne picture, somehow I find it annoying... Maybe it's because of the black background and it should be inside a border+background (as a big picture at the top?) Or maybe drazw this throne as a screen background and it will become fully visible after you get rid (deny or grant) of the audiences for the turn?

It was just a mockup for showing the concept. Your sci-fi game certainly shouldn't use a 1700 AD throne, and you previously mentioned you'd like guards visible around the throne. The scene background is a great idea, uncovering the picture more, and might look good with a gathered crowd of courtiers in semi-silhouette looking towards the throne from the bottom, with the audience panels partially covering them.

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