I have a dilemma regarding a feature in Democracy 3. I LOVE the way part of it is simulated, but like most simulations of true complexity, the results often seem like you just rolled a dice.There are basically 3 stages to a voters support in D3. They can like you enough to vote for you. they can like you enough to join your party, and they can become activists. If they like you enough to vote for you, this isn’t a done deal. They may be happy…but not ecstatic. In short, they are apathetic. They might vote, but then again…it might rain. Turnout for them is variable.
Party members will always vote, and always vote for you (obviously). But that is where their influences begins and ends.
Activists are the engines of turnout. they will persuade other people to vote, by campaigning and canvassing. They don’t change minds, but they do encourage higher turnout. As we all know, in a close election, turnout can make all the difference. This is a good gameplay mechanic, in my opinion because it acts as a drag and fight against another mechanic in the game…
Every voter in D3 is in multiple groups. You cannot therefore win by saying “I’ll be the party of the poor, screw the rest!’, because the poor are also retired, also ethnic minorities, also young, also motorists… and all those opinions come together to form their voting decision. In other words, every voter is a complex decision-machine. As a result, you have to ensure you have broad appeal. Having a niche party with extreme views is not going to win an election, you simply won’t get the votes. So the lesson is… have broad centrist appeal…
The activist mechanic drags you slightly the other way. having broad appeal is great, but nobody knocks on doors and puts up posters for a middle-of-the-road all-things-to-all-men candidate. You need a vision, a tribe, a group of people who are inspired for you, support you fanatically and will campaign for you.
This all works great…but explaining it is hell. My last playthrough had me lose the election. I had a lot more party activists than the other guy. They gave me an election day turnout boost of 18%! whereas the other party had a boost of just 5%. But… My turnout was actually lower than their turnout. Why? Because a lot of my potential voters just were not excitable enough to go vote for me. I’d REALLY upset the oppositions supporters, so they were motivated (despite their weak activist base) to go vote, and my bunch were not. As a result, an election that looked 50/50 in the polls went to the opposition.
Activists take time to be recruited, and the groundswell of anger at me had created a big voting block on their side, but not many activists (yet). The result was a slight surprise, although i found it cool, because I understood the mechanics. However, I need to do a lot of work to make sure the player understands WHY they won or lost. Complex systems need very careful GUI’s and tutorials and help.