Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The Laffer curve in Democracy 3

From my forums, but thought blog readers may be interested…

For those new to economics the laffer curve can be read-about here:
I’m not going to debate the validity of the theory, merely describe how it is implemented (and adjustable/moddable) within the game.

Basically the laffer curve is saying that higher taxes may bring in less income than lower taxes, at some ‘hard-to-define’ point. In other words, you can set the tax rate *too high* if you goal is to raise money for the state. At first glance it may look like the laffer curve is not modeled in Democracy 3, but it is. If you look at the slider for income tax, you will see that at high levels, it brings in more money than at lower levels, which might seem to imply a non-laffer simulation. However, the values shown below the slider are simple calculations, not forecasts based on full models.

If you set income tax punishingly high, more income will be raised, in the immediate term. However, this high rate also acts as an input to ‘bad’ situations such as brain drain (I can see an argument for suggesting it should affect corporate exodus too). If the brain drain kicks in, there will be noticeable hit to GDP (12%!). This lower GDP will affect income raised by the tax, because almost all taxes in the game are in some way scaled by GDP, in terms of what income they raise. Therefore, it is entirely possible (and indeed likely) that when looked over a medium to long term, a higher tax rate brings in less revenue. Of course, this is only one argument. You may wish for higher income tax rates for non-revenue reasons such as political popularity with socialists or a more equal society.

So in short, the laffer curve is in the game, albeit in a fairly complex and ‘binary’ way. You could easily make a ‘laffer mod’ that more directly introduced a gentle curve to GDP from higher rates of income tax, without using the situation-triggering mechanism.
Hopefully that makes sense :D

The games industry has weird taboos…

I tried to advertise with a BIG game-advertising agency through their self-service system to place this ad on a major US games site:


I got this:

Message from the publisher: I’m sorry, but your ad banner is inappropriate.


so… why exactly?

Or do I just spend my money elsewhere?


I apologize, but we can not promote any politics as this is a sensitive topic.

WTF? I bet ads for games like hitman, or GTA, or games where you get slow-mo closeups of people’s skulls being blasted apart by high-caliber bullets are just fine. But discuss income tax? OH NOES THE WORLD WILL END! I saw a clip of mortal kombat on that charlie brooker doumenatry that made me feel sick, but apparently we as an industry are just FINE with that…┬áIt’s stuff like this that sometimes makes me ashamed to be in this industry. Half of the industry wants to be grown up and accepted as art, the other half have the mentality of seven year olds. I’m pretty cynical, but I never expected my ads for a game about government-simulation to be too controversial to be shown (for money no less…).

My next game will be gratuitous homicide battles. I bet everyone will let me promote that one eh?


Shamelessly single-player

I stupidly bought a racing game in a sale recently which was crap, and I won’t give it the publicity of naming it 9It never worked),. But anyway, before I even discovered that it was a buggy mess, i had to go through a bunch of account-based social-networking bullshit to play the game I just bought. In other words, I had to endure the indignity of a singleplayer game being deliberately forced through a ‘social-games’ sized hole.

There are some games that are social and multiplayer by default. MMO games, clearly, and first-person shooters based on teamwork. Even if the bots were awesome, I’d still prefer to enjoy battlefield 4 with real people. But conversely, there are some game designs and genre that are absolutely firmly SINGLE player and NOT social. City builders are one. Almost all turn-based empire games are another. Single-player games have a lot of plus-sides. You can play when YOU want to, Nobody can ‘ruin’ the game for you. You don’t need to have lots of friends with similar interests. If you get bored, you just quit, without spoiling anyone else’s fun.

For people my age, bought up on the ZX 81 and it’s ilk, gaming was almost always a solitary thing. It’s a thing you spent ages doing alone, a world you lost yourself into, without reminders that the real world was out there. I was a space pilot in Elite, not a kid sat in his bedroom.

These days big AAA studios hate that. What on EARTH does that kid think he is doing sat there alone playing elite. What good is that? He should be tweeting about it, or sharing it on facebook, until all his friends are sick of hearing about elite. What? he doesn’t want to? then FORCE him to by dangling extra in-game rewards in front of him until he tweets about the game. INSIST that the game will not even run unless he signs up for an account with us we can spam. This is the future. isn’t it great?


No. Not always.

I tweet, I love twitter, I use social networking, I don’t think it’s *that* evil, although people who put their real first school, first pet and date of birth into facebook might as well wear a t-shirt saying ‘please steal my identity’. I never understand that. But anyway… I just think we need to be warned if a game is going to treat us not as a player but as an unpaid member of the publishers social-media campaign group. I Don’t hate marketing or advertising. I use paid advertising, it feels more….honest.

I have a facebook link on Democracy 3‘s main menu. It’s there. It might offend you, but you don’t have to click it, and you don’t ‘get’ anything if you do, except updates on new features which I post about on facebook. If you like the game, I’d appreciate facebook shares and twitter mentions, but I’m not going to bribe anyone to do it, and certainly not going to degrade the enjoyment of people without social media accounts to further my own bottom line. that just sucks.

We have the generally understood concept of ‘DRM-free’, which is great. Maybe it’s time for ‘social-bribery free’?