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

Democracy 3 and its situation mechanics. Broken in implementation?

In playing a lot of Democracy 3  lately (also playing a lot of democracy 3:Africa), I have started to wonder if the way a lot of the situations are set up is a little too ‘steep’ and could be balanced better, especially regarding some of the negative situations.

Take for example, technological backwater…
This kicks in at level 0.6, and ends at level 0.4 for its inputs. So if your hidden backwater value reaches 60% it starts, but you have to go below 40% to get rid of it. I think that mechanic is fine but…

The impact on GDP (for example) is
Which means that when this kicks in, you will get
-0.02-(0.12*0.6) which equates to -0.092, or a 9.2% drop in GDP. (actually not that simple, because its a 9.2% cut in 0-1 terms, which if GDP is, for example 0.5, that would be a 18.4% overnight drop in GDP).

Looking at it backwards, when you beat the tech backwater, assuming a GDP value of 0.5, that
impact on GDP just before it drops is
-0.02-(0.12*0.4) which would be -0.068, or 13.6% of current GDP.
Thats a sudden jump up and down of GDP in double digits, which seems huge, given that its a fairly arbitrary measure.

I’ve tried to illustrate the current setup with this crude graph. Bright red is the bit where the backwater kicks in and is in force. Dark red is the bit where its still in force once its triggered. The green lines show the sudden ‘jumps’ in impact on GDP when its triggered (rightmost) and when its fixed (leftmost).


What I’m trying to avoid is the situation where you GDP just flat-lines or is 100% all the time, rather than being more interestingly poised between the two and shifting more realistically. Which countries GDP ever jumped 13.6% in one quarter? I’d say few:

So…if you are still reading..well done :D. What I’m suggesting is that maybe the situations such as these need to be tweaked a bit so that the ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ top the situation is less drastic, and that, for example ‘reducing’ a situation like tech backwater becomes more relevant than the current situation where its a bit binary and a bit of a ‘its active or not’ mechanic. For one thing that -0.02 starting point could go and be replaced with an adjustment to the top end (so 0-(0.14*x)) or maybe it needs more of a curve and a different starting trigger. Or is it fine as it is?
Thoughts welcome!

10 thoughts on Democracy 3 and its situation mechanics. Broken in implementation?

  1. For me, it’s the lack of a warning. I don’t mind the effects. I do mind the (and I’m phrasing this carefully), the inability to pay attention to current events in time to make positive changes.

    I understand that sometimes we’re reactionary. But I also understand that it’s our job as El Presidente to be informed and I sometimes feel I’m not. Couldn’t someone have told me that fresh water levels have been falling for 4 years in a row? Do I need a crisis before I’m aware of a situation?

    I think a trend indicator might be nice. A yellow circle that means “we project this will be an issue in the next year based on the past 4 quarters”.

    1. oooh I rather like that. I’m always wary of ‘breaking’ the game, because people like it as is, but I think you make a good point. If not a change for now, definitely a hypothetical Democracy 4 thing.

      1. Cliffski, if you put the changes under a dlc, free or paid, then its toggleable, people can have the old or the new mechanics.
        This gets around building democracy 4 for awhile, which I think you have plenty of stuff you can fiddle with in 3 before the engine needs to be updated to keep fiddling.

        I would also love to see warnings and trends for major issues, implementing it might be a pain, but im still finding new bad effects that I never knew were in the game, just because im trying new things, so these sorts of events do need to be announced ahead of time.

        1. yes thats true, although I’d also like to make the base, vanilla game more playable, and even if we don’t implement a change to warn of incoming situations, I do wonder if mitigating the current big shocks of situations starting and ending might make sense. After all, all countries have some degree of Brain Drain (for example), its not something that goes bananas overnight, or is fixed 100% anywhere,

  2. I can see why you’d want to get rid of this! I have noticed (or wrongly perceive) a particularly potent manifestation of this phenomenon in Democracy 3: Africa, where multiple Situations keep GDP flat for literal years of policy implementation and then suddenly take off when they resolve – that is, if I’m not assassinated during the wait.

    A sudden double digit drop in GDP obviously makes no sense as a reflection of a long-term, developing trend. Yellow circles as cleverly suggested by Ken Boucher would be a clever way of doing this. But I wonder if it would be wise in the long run.

    Part of the fun/point/interest of Democracy 3 is that you very frequently face problems you did not predict. One of its most distinctive dynamics (and I think one you emphasised to me when we spoke in March) is overcorrection. The player has a problem, so she does x. But then x creates a problem, so she does y. But then y starts feeding back into the original problem…This is, on an abstract level, true to life. Every general is fighting the last war, etc. Steve Richards has said that “Tony Blair was not an expert on Iraq…but he was a world specialist on why Labour lost in the 1980s.” And arguably the story of New Labour is the story of a party solving the problems of the past, only for the solutions they embraced (liberal hawkism, financial deregulation) to blow up in their faces. We might nick Tolstoy’s aphorism about families and say that every government fails in its own unique way.

    But the reduced timescale and workload a D3 player faces compared to a real politician, and the consequently increased ability to notice and solve problems in a directed way, would surely mean that any halfway competent gamer would spot yellow circles and solve the problems before they appear. Their experience of the game would then be much smoother, safer, and more predictable. I’m not sure that’s actually what you want it to be like!

    One way to get around this would be to make the Situations much more persistent and their solutions much more slow-acting. So that even if you notice a situation while it’s developing, you may only mitigate it, or there may be a period before your solution fully kicks in. But then, that threatens to turn the whole game into one of those Civilization matches where you realise, far too late, that you already lost 300 turns ago due to your economic failures, and you’ve wasted the last four hours. The danger is all actions become partially useless; it’s getting close to “feel the total futility of all directed action!”

    So maybe a modified version of the current state of affairs, with more shades of grey in the way in and the way out, is the least worst option. And if you want to be really vicious, there’s a hybrid solution: subtle effects (partially hyperbolic rather than linear?) start before, and end after, the appearance and disappearance of the big red circle. That way, a sufficiently perceptive player might actually see it coming, but realistically few will manage to.

    The drawback of this would be basically to permanently stuff the game with deliberately obfuscated problems which the player cannot actually ever really solve – like having a mildly debilitating disease for years without it getting bad enough to diagnose, and thereafter being too unclear in its causes to treat. (Oh wait, that was just a description of Britain’s productivity puzzle.)

    The advantage would be to enhance a dynamic in the game which is comically true to life: the sense that government is primarily about veering wildly between a series of “crises” (the financial crisis > the housing crisis > the steel crisis). Indeed, hidden Situations would shift this dynamic in a subtle but quite funny way: government becomes a game of dealing with crises /only once you find out about them/, and considering them solved /once they become less visible/.

    Cynical? Moi?

    1. Yes its very true that one of the intentions originally of the situation mechanic was for things that clearly had been building up (as you can see on the graphs once they trigger) suddenly pop onto a politicians radar. I also liked the phenomena of situations being easier to avoid than to fix once they become embedded, hence the differing start and stop triggers.

      I’ve done some fiddling and think the best compromise is just to adjust the equations so that they start less fiercely and have more of a curve, retaining some initial ‘shock’ but not the disproportionate ones that are currently in the game.

      1. I don’t know. I imagine that in real life our leaders get informed about growing situations everyday but they also have their own agendas. Sometimes, things happen with very little warning or there could be a situation that has been going on for decades with no one doing anything about it. Got your good leaders and your bad ones. For them as long as they keep their promises that’s all you can ask of them.

        As for the game, it’s certainly possible you can put in bubble icons that express when a situation might get out of control but I think that might actually take the fun out of it. It’s like, I want something to pop on me unexpectedly and those dramatic changes like in GDP where something suddenly shoots upward are like “Fuck yeah!” moments.

        Imagine a real life country going through that Fuck Yeah! moment and the people are just in absolute glee. But then there’s a sudden drop and it’s like, “Oh Crap.” Oh well, if I’m the leader and someone wants me dead I’m running the fuck out of here. See ya later! I ain’t dyin!

        But then, I have to think on the other hand what if providing those icons where you see all of these growing situations maybe adds tension to the game? Then though it’d be kind of like the security reports in the game where you see that people are joining up with extremist groups and their about ready to kill you then it’s game over. Those groups already pretty much explain that there is something that you’re doing or not doing that is pissing off parts of the electorate and you have to do something to make them happy or protect yourself with various policies in the game. Those very same policies can also make some of your electorate happy but still anger others. What a balancing act. In D3:A, I die a lot! You try to make the women happy but then someone else kills you! Make someone else happy then the women kill you!

        I don’t think it’s possible to accurately model crazy, but the game gets it right in saying that there are groups and individuals out there who for whatever reason will try to assassinate their leaders sometimes successfully. There’s no telling just how frequently people are plotting against their leaders.

        The games make me think about the real world. I watch the news a lot and now from playing the Democracy series of games, I’m all like, “Why don’t do they just pass this policy and fix this shit already!?” I watch the local, national, and international news, BBC World News (on PBS in America), NHK World, DW News occassionally. I also watch things that are actually fun. I’m telling you sometimes I turn the damn news off so I can watch something funny.

        Kind of went off on a tangent there but I just wanted to say that anyway.

  3. What about a situation arising state, like when a traffic light is changing there is that moment of yellow warning you to do something. In this time it could be easier to fix and not as much of a hinder to the player. It would also help represent the problems rooting themselves into society.

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