Ideology, Abilities, and Traits.

Posted on Thursday, June 15, 2017

So a quick thought or two on Ideology points.  I know that with the Crusade changes Ideology is getting a rework, and I've been thinking about how the ideology system could be more deeply integrated into the game.

First off, I would like to point out that the Ideology system in GC3 far surpasses the good/neutral/evil in GC2, and that the general trend of making ideology choices meaningful gameplay-wise, rather than the more mechanical process of choosing an alignment in GC2, is the right direction. 

Here are my baseline assumptions for Ideology, and possible changes to Ideology:

  • GC3 > GC2, when it comes to Ideology, especially in integrating ideology choices into in-game effects (you get stuff for picking ideology advancements).
  • There is a general desire for deeper integration of all GC3 systems into a coherent gameplay experience.
  • Stardock has significant investment in the Bene/Prag/Mal systems, specifically in the cost of translations (so changing existing flavor text isn't really an option).
  • Ideological differences is a core tenant of diplomacy, and alien relations.
  • Ideology choices reflect, on a deep level, how civs are playing any particular game (ie, benevolent research drengin vs malevolent transport rush drengin reflect two very different yet completely viable choices) and this is a core tenant toward making every sandbox game unique.  Random map generation and random races and dispersion leads to different ideological strategies to persevere and hopefully win (from each competing race's perspective).

Here is what I currently view as limitations with the current ideological systems:

  • The good/neutral/evil is very one-dimensional, and very culturally specific.  This has been widened by the changed terminology of bene/prag/mal, however the underlying cultural specificity (and Eurocentrism) is still there, just veiled.  As a totally valid example - why do races of robots have ideology?  Or Vulcans, for that matter?  At a deep level the ideology system is really based on not only culturally specific ideas, but human ideas (just like the simple moral dilemma events that players are choosing from: 'protect the bugs or kill them off', 'exploit people that don't matter, or protect them', etc.  Don't get me wrong - I like choices, but in a game full of aliens, they could be less anthropocentric maybe?).
  • The existing system is not as tightly or deeply integrated into the rest of the game as people may wish it to be.
  • The current ideological choices are fairly constrained with some being 'obvious pics' as opposed to others.  It remains to be seen if this can be fixed via iteration of balancing the various choices (ie the ideology rework).  But at some level, the "obvious choice" problem might always exist to some extent, adding same-ness from game to game (ie why would the Torians and Drengin ever consistently pick the exact same first ideology choice?  If it were truly about ideology, rather than utility, this wouldn't be the case).

There are more bullets in both columns, but these are a good place to point out why the current ideology system would benefit from more than an iterative "replace all the circles" balance pass, but rather a slight upgrade of the system while keeping what's good about it. 

Recently, the tech trees were changed such that they weren't Racially-defined, rather they are now defined by Civ Abilities, and Race Type.  While players were a little apprehensive about these changes (understandably, this is a change to a pretty core-system), I have yet to hear anyone say that they don't like the new way that the tech trees work.  And I will be the first to say that this change with the right one, it makes so much more sense, and is better in every way.

I think a similar change should happen to the Ideology system.  There should be 'core' components, that are modified or completely different depending upon the Civ Abilities and Race Type; and the tiles themselves could be further tweaked by Civ Traits. 

For example: instead of there being 5 bene/prag/mal choices one can make, this could maybe be whittled down to 3 of each (in a simplistic world: one for race type, and one for each Civ Ability), and the bonuses of the choice could be modified by Civ Traits.  So, in the case of 'Xenophobic' 'Cybernetic' 'Synthetics' that have civ traits that favor tourism and research; each of the bene/prag/mal columns could have a Xenophobe, Cybernetic, and Synthetic choice that emphasize effects for tourism and research.  (In a more complicated world a single choice for each racial type or ability is boring, it would be more interesting to have them amalgmated together - but this is an exponential feat of design work, unless it can just be procedurally generated somehow.).

What this accomplishes:

  • Preserves the existing sunk costs and assets of translation costs for all of the Events flavor text for choosing ideology.
  • Steers choices away from the problem of feeling like you have to choose the same thing first every game to snowball, or keep up (because that exact choice won't be available to all races).
  • Steers choices away from feeling culturally tied to the generic choices currently that all races get.
  • More firmly integrates different game elements together and firmly puts the ideological choices into categories that immediately reflect the type of Civ a player chose to play.
  • Makes civs throughout the galaxy in any given game seem more unique and interesting.
  • Provides another layer of diplomacy apart from bene/prag/mal - because races that have complementary traits or types can be coded to respond differently to one another.  For example 2 'Ancient' civs may enjoy some level of comradery despite bene/prag/mal differences.

I realize that this would entail some fairly big changes and a lot of work.  But on the other hand, maybe these types of changes should be on the roadmap.  Further down the road, perhaps the expansion that deals with diplomacy, politics, etc could consider these types of changes..