Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…
I’ve been looking at the political compass part of Democracy 4 while running the first few decent play-tests and it was clear that the compass was not accurately reflecting my policy choices. Some further digging suggested that the problem was that not enough of the choices the player made were affecting the underlying values for global ‘liberalism’ and ‘socialism’.
In the game, every player has a (more or less) random innate level of socialism or liberalism (there are a few voter group and country based adjusters). Initially, this determines the extent to which they identify as socialists/capitalists and liberals/conservatives. The game also models all the effects on the global values of socialism and liberalism and pre-calculates how this will have adjusted voters opinions before the game starts.
I also take those global values to indicate where the country currently lies on the political compass:
It was clear that I had missed out those effects from a whole ton of policies and simulation values, where I might be upsetting liberals, but that didn’t actually make them less liberal. Obviously these are different things.
Some policies in the game (or situations etc…) anger people with a certain view, which is often instantaneous, and some actually change peoples view over time. For example, if you legalize cannabis, then this is likely to upset conservatives and make liberals happy, almost immediately as the change in policy hits the news cycles. The longer term effect though, is likely to be increased liberalism, and people get used to the idea that cannabis is legal. This is a shift in nationwide attitudes.
This has happened a lot in my lifetime. Attitudes in the UK towards homosexuality have definitely changed dramatically since I was a teenager. The idea that a CONSERVATIVE government would be the one to legalize gay marriage would have been ridiculous in the 1980s, for example. Also there have been big changes in the attitudes towards a free press and deference to politicians. (Free press in a driver of liberalism in the game). By the way, gay marriage and also gender transition are policies in the game.
In many ways, what I’m trying to model here is shifts in the overton window, which is a concept that illustrates how political values shift over time:
The way this works in our simulation is that we are effectively moving voters around on the political compass as you change policies (in fact-oh-my-god as I type this I realize I could add a mode that plots them all on there…). The actual policies you implement have to stay within that virtual overton window in which the majority of the voters are contained. In fact, I can plot it as a sort of flexible overton splat :D
I think the last two days of fiddling with this stuff have gone well, and the game is more balanced, more accurate and more fun as a result. I wrote some extra debug mode code that let me dump out a nice list of all of the potential inputs to these values to a spreadsheet so I could check everything looked as it should. Doubtless there will be further tweaks over time, in response to player feedback, but its a step in the right direction.
Anyway, thats enough blogging, I’m going to go add tiny voter dots to the political compass :D