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

Democracy 4 – Multi Party Support

So I had a sudden mad rush of adrenaline this past weekend and decided I should code multi-party support into Democracy 4. This is something people have asked me for over a very long period, but I’ve always resisted it. I thought it would change the game into some horrible three-way negotiation and back-room dealing simulation rather than be focused on actual policies and theories which is what I am more interested in…

Actually I’ve always found it weird people WANT the game to be basically more like the corrupt, undemocratic bullshit that a lot of western multi-party politics has become. Surely in our heads what we want is a trial of ideas and philosophies where the best policies for the people win? nobody fantasizes about having to implement policies you hate because you need to haggle with some other party leader?

The sheer optimistic joy of coalition government

Anyway…eventually me and Jeff got chatting and decided that there WAS a way to include some elements of multi-party politics, without totally breaking the way the game works, and which could work within the existing framework of political capital and policy decisions. But first, I had to sort out the UI.

Democracy 3 has always had 2 parties, and because I never intended to change this, there were actual hard coded ‘pointers’ to the player and opposition parties everywhere in code. Essentially this just meant a lot of donkey-work going through code and changing this to an open ended list everywhere, and checking everything would save and load ok, and that we didn’t have any legacy stuff referring to ‘the opposition party’ in the code.

Then I needed to re-jig a lot of GUI code. There were basically three places where parties get referenced, the party screen (showing members/activists over time), the fundraising screen (this was part of the D3 electioneering DLC but now integrated into the game) and the election results screen.

As I write this, I’m done changing all the GUI apart from the post-election breakdown of each voter group and how they voted (it needs different colors for each opposition group too). So right now, the post-election screen in a 3-party game looks like this: (work in progress BTW)

shiny new user interface (work in progress)

I’m thinking (for now) that a 3 party limit makes most sense. To explain that, I need to delve into the two areas that are needed to make this work within the simulation: Joining parties, and coalitions.

In the current game (Democracy 3) party joining is simple. Players build up over time a sympathy to a party if they are super happy (player) or super unhappy (opposition) eventually joining that party. A weakening of sympathy for a party over time results in the player leaving. I decided to keep this system, but to position the new 2nd opposition party as a ‘centrist’ party between the player and the opposition. In other words, if a value of 100% happiness means joining the players party, and 0% means joining the opposition, 37.5% means joining the new centrist opposition. Why 37.5%? because we still see 50% happiness as being the point where you will vote for the player (if you vote…)

Let me explain the term centrist. I’m not referring to politically centrist at all. In fact the game makes no explicit assumption about the political position of either opposition party. Basically the ‘opposition’ are the party who absolutely oppose your party position on everything, and the ‘centrist’ party (the new 3rd party) are midway between you and the opposition. In theory, your party could be centrist, the opposition right wing, and the new opposition mildly left wing. The key point here is that the new opposition is *closer* to your position than the old opposition is.

random image of yang for no reason

So…I’ve done all the code for this and modeled correctly voters joining and leaving all 3 parties over time. So thats in the game and working (hurrah!). The next thing I need to do is to code in the effects of a coalition.

If your party gets >50% of the votes in an election (ignoring absent voters) then you win just as before. If you do NOT get that, but you ARE the largest party…then you go into a coalition in government with you sharing power with one of the other parties. At first sight, this makes no difference to how the game is played…

…but actually it reduces your political capital each turn dramatically. In other words…you really cant get much done. HOWEVER, you will be regularly offered deals by your coalition partner, where they basically say ‘implement/cancel/change THIS policy, and we will give you X political capital’. Obviously we will engineer code that will always make that an *interesting* decision for you to make. In other words, to reference my own countries recent coalition government, this is ‘give us a referendum on political reform and we will stop blocking your economic policy’. Obviously in real politics this happens all the time (in >2 party systems).

yet another group of happy politicians in a coalition! compromise feel so great!

Hopefully this strikes an interesting and acceptable compromise between having all the machinations of multi-party government, while still keeping the game playable and understandable to people who enjoy Democracy 3. I do intend to make this totally optional as a parameter when you start a new game, so you could (for example) play the USA as a true 3 party system, or Germany as a 2 party system, whatever appeals to you.

This is the first big ‘gameplay’ change that makes Democracy 4 different to democracy 3. So far its been tech changes (multi-language text rendering and vector graphics) and UI changes (OMG it looks so much nicer). We also have a lot of content changes planned (policies,events etc). More on that over time…

9 thoughts on Democracy 4 – Multi Party Support

  1. I’ve just discovered D3 and it’s quite nice of a game. So I got a couple of questions for the next version

    1. Is there going to be more in terms of economics in D4? Stuff like central bank & currency policy, trade deals + negotiation are all quite important

    2. Is there going to be more foreign policy & geopolitical considerations in the next version?

    3. Have you considered stuff like party cohesion and intra-party stuff? May I ask why you limit it to 3 parties?

  2. The trouble with adding detail to foreign policy is that every countries situation is dramatically different, which leads to huge complexity, and also requires people to know quite a lot about the foreign policy situation for each individual country.
    For example the UK has a complex relationship (lol!) with the EU, an ongoing light-hearted rivalry with France, and thinks it has a ‘special’ relationship with the US, but thats not well known by players all over the world.
    By contrast, income tax is basically income tax. People understand who is made happy/sad by a rise or fall in income tax, regardless of which country you live in.

  3. > Actually I’ve always found it weird people WANT the game to be basically more like the corrupt, undemocratic bullshit that a lot of western multi-party politics has become.

    Well that’s a bit harsh… Mind you that out of the top twenty best countries in the world (Good Country Index), only the UK and Canada has a single party system. Canada a minority cabinet at that.

    I’ve always found that it brings more stability. Obama to Trump was an immense difference and that makes the US unpredictable. Merging with parties waters it down. It adds to stability in foreign policies but also policies to the people. We’re not going from Bush’s no insurance to Obama’s insurance to Trump’s no insurance policies.

    Added to that, do you really have a democratic choice in a singular party system? If you’re a republican but don’t like Trump, who will you vote for as alternative? Biden, Clinton or Obama? No way a red-blooded republican would do that.

    I like the multi-party system for that. We have ten established parties. If mine goes rogue I’ll happily switch to the runner-up with similar ideas to mine. Parties know that, so they either give it their best or they’ll risk getting buried face down by the electorate.

    So… Elections in the UK. Anti-Brexit conservatives are up for a hard decision; Corbyn or Boris? Those who say that “they’ll never vote for x!!!” prove my point that a democratic choice is harder in singular parties. Those who are doubting are going to vote against their own interest, one way or another. Do you have an idea already, since you’re a reluctant remainer who gave me conservative vibes?

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I am MASSIVELY in favour of coalitions and multi-party politics myself. I just think that when people talk to me about implementing it in the game, they are very interested in the haggling between parties, which although its totally necessary in a coalition, I don’t think it makes for a fun GAME. People want the fantasy of running the country,m not so much the fantasy of being frustrated by the mechanics of a coalition and unable to achieve anything :D

      I think the way we are trying to implement it will give some interesting strategic choices without if feeling too frustrating.

  4. Hello,

    I’ve got a couple of questions.

    Will there be new mechanics, like birth rate, death rate, etc.?
    How will you handle ethnic minorities? Will we be able to see how many are homeborn and how many are immigrants?
    Will the population growth be shown? If so, will it be fixed so countries will not stagnate in growth even with high immigration rate?
    Will immigration rate be a number and not just showing intensity?
    How moddable will it be?
    How hardly will your choice of party (at the start) count during the game? (for example, will conservatives vote for me if I have a liberal party?)
    Will I be able to see what affected the people on deciding which internal motive led them in the election? (for example: if a conservative is a motorist too, and conservatives like me but motorists hate – how will those people vote?)

    Thanks for the answers :)

  5. Would you be able to implement a capital expenditure system?

    The current surplus/deficit model only seems to include day-to-day spending. A government can loan a lot of money without it drastically affecting the deficit (besides increased interest payments).

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