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

Many minor improvements Plus…reusing old content?

So I am still busy working away on Democracy 4. I am currently at the ‘play lots of games, find stuff that seems broken, or not correct, or improvable… …and just work through that list’ phase of development. The game is perfectly playable, but has the odd crash, and a lot of little tweaks that are needed to make it reflect the reality of politics in 2020 instead of 2013.

The majority of these tweaks are super-minor, but they make the game so much better. Some of them are tiny UI things that people will only subconsciously notice. For example, we have ’emergency powers’ in the game now (a boost to political capital), and during that mode the central political capital icon now turns red :D. Something I coded just an hour ago was a change in the UI color of the policy slider to remind you when you cannot raise (or maybe lower) a policy slider due to lack of political capital. Its right there in the UI on the right, but coloring the actual slider bar is also a nice reminder I think:

I’ve also been going through a lot of the policies and tweaking the starting values for the UK, and making sure the numbers make sense. We added a policy of ‘state broadcaster’ for the UK, and some research showed me that I was vastly overestimating how much the BBC cost in comparison to total government spending. Stuff like that all needs a lot of tweaking.

Another thing you can see in that screenshot is the background color for minister profiles now ALWAYS shows the color that represents how happy (green) or sad (orange, then red) they are, so you subconsciously are always aware of their loyalties.

Plus there are a ton of links between policies that need tweaking, adding or removing. I have concluded that foreign investor tax breaks should improve foreign relations. This makes sense. You tend to be fairly kindly disposed towards governments that are helping you grow your own economy, and giving your companies good deals on investment. I had to vastly alter the equations for the ‘air strike’ event too. I had too many playthroughs where seemingly randomly some foreign country accused the UK of having WMD and bombed us. Oh dear…

Some things come as sudden inspiration in a ‘Why didn’t I do this before way’ like adding illustrative socialist/capitalist characters to the political compass:

Anyway… something I need to consider very soon is what to do about some old data from democracy 3 that I might like to include, but worry about players response to. For example, one of the policies in the game is the governments approach to handling automated trading on the stock market. Basically this makes GDP go up a bit, capitalists love it…but there is a slight risk of a disastrous ‘flash crash’ if its too lax. This is already a policy in ‘clones & drones‘, part of democracy 3, and thus its now in democracy 4 too.


To include that, means it will HAVE to mean including the ‘flash crash‘ event. This would be (believe it or not) the ONLY event that I am copying from D3 to D4. All the others are new. I sort of worry about this, because some people are bound to complain about ‘re-using content’, but TBH I’m reusing a bunch of content in other areas of the game already.

Frankly, the dictionary definition of socialist has not changed since 2013, so why rewrite it? Same for the basic descriptions for stuff like income tax, or police force. We ARE adding a ton of new policies, and all the character and event art and UI art and so on is entirely new, as are all the SFX & music. The game is overwhelmingly new content… so I really shouldn’t feel bad about including just ONE event from D3…

I think the problem is that 1% gamers are louder than the other 99%. Its my belief that society online has become much worse in the last five years. Social media has ramped up peoples urges to be abusive, to criticize, to complain, to accuse, and to general act like a dick. Part of me really dreads being accused of just ‘reskinning the old game’, which is not what the last few years of work has been about… But on the other hand…

…I am clearly NOT re-skinning an old game. The OVERWHELMING majority of players will see that, and in any case, the really angry obsessed 1% who disagree can refund their steam game if they really genuinely are not going to play it… so why should I feel so worried about upsetting them? especially when even if every single byte and pixel of game content was created anew in a clean room, they would still cry #lazydevs! at me for daring to even release a new game ;D

I guess I am just sharing typical developer angst. Its a pity, because I LOVE early access, and player feedback, and sharing design debates and concerns and ideas with players. However, I am not someone for whom really angry criticism just washes over me. It *does* get to me, both depressing me and angering me, in a way I know it shouldn’t.

Not *that* long now until we have a playable alpha that we get into the hands of actual customers who can tell me what a horrible game i’ve made :D

BTW we now have forums for the game where you can tell me how much you hate me and everything I stand for. Here they are.

7 thoughts on Many minor improvements Plus…reusing old content?

  1. For the angst of reusing old content, you might want to look at it from a design perspective. Imagine you’ve never created a democracy game. What should it be? The reuse is a means to an end.
    The angry gamers will notice overlap, the question is is it what YOU wanted? There’s always overlap. Is it content that belongs in the game? If there’s too much overlap then it’s D3: Ultimate Edition. If it’s new it’s D4. What you need to be careful of is how you market the truly new content. So people know why they’re buying the new one.

  2. The act of reusing old content is not bad in any way. You have created it people are enjoying it. It’s all good. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
    If you take any game series Fifa, Quake or Final Fantasy. All of them reuse content or mechanics in some way. Be it weapons, combat systems game mechanics, as long as you put in enough ht new content for the fans to feel its worth their time and money.

    Having dev diaries and a beta, where you can present the new planned content and get feedback is essential for a healthy development loop. To avoid the trolls and the 1% maybe find a streamer that you know enjoys your games and ask them to test it out and take in the feedback. I have seen plenty of devs make great use of this. And me as an audience actively seeing devs be on those streams and interact with the community and take in the feedback is amazing and makes us feel that you care on a whole other level.

  3. Plenty of sequels reuse content. Ultimately there have to be many similarities for it to be a sequel at all. But I can see how some people might complain that this basically just a reskin of Democracy 3 with some new policies added to it. Some people will always complain no matter what you do. But I think what defines a good sequel is that it revisits and improves the core mechanics of the previous game. It looks like you’ve made a few changes to the core mechanics like having a third party who can compromise with to get more political capital. But maybe you just need to think a little bigger, if it is feasible, and if you can do it without fixing something that isn’t broken. Like you start the game by choosing your political party, but that’s just an aesthetic choice at the moment. But maybe if you pick the socialist party and implement only capitalist policies then you lose your base of supporters and lose the next election. Maybe instead of a slider with a fixed cost for changing a policy, smaller changes are easier to implement while extreme changes require slightly more political capital. Just an example.

  4. I’m intrigued by the ’emergency powers’ feature. is it something you can trigger anytime or does there need to be a pandemic/terrorist attack type event?

  5. I’m sure that that 1% of Very Angry People will most likely gravitate to complaints about the perceived political bias inherent in your game, rather than bother looking for things that are re-used. And there’s really no pleasing that crowd.

    Honestly I think that reuse is a good thing. Not fixing what ain’t broken gives you more time to look into things that really do need improvement.

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