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

8 thoughts on Democracy 4 Developer Blog #17: Pre-Alpha Balancing

  1. How do you weigh up when the game’s ready for Alpha?

    On the one hand, early players are a valuable source of bugs and insights that save your own time and let you test on more machines. On the other, some people jump to conclusions on a game in Alpha, and others will get impatient if a game stays in Alpha for a while.

    Do you have a group of ‘trusted testers’ who you start with before Alpha comes along? What’s the planned ratio of initial development : pre-Alpha : Alpha : Beta for Democracy 4?

    1. TBH we dont do the ‘friends as testers’ thing at all, because most of my friends are gamdevs, who have zero time, and friends wont be honest about their feedback anyway, so the #1 best feedback is from paying customers, because they feel no problem in telling you where the game sucks :D

  2. With the stuff at 15:30 around the indirect impacts of policies:

    – I think that’s wonderful. It’s part of what makes Democracy such a thought-provoking series… and a great learning tool. The idea that the game has thought about this more deeply than you have also makes it seem excitingly rich and cool. Definitely worth the time investment!

    – Perhaps for some of these, there could be a tooltip that appears when you hover over the financial impact, briefly explaining why. Or just a little help icon ( i ) next to a couple you know you’ll get questions about, explaining “the cost of Joe’s mortgage has increased due to the rise in house prices.”

    – For house prices specifically – mortgages would only increase for NEW house purchases. If you’ve already bought your house, it doesn’t matter that the price has since risen. The more immediate impact is increased rental costs, because landlords know it’s harder to buy a house. Hopefully already built in!

    – I don’t understand why our person was impacted by spending on military AND police AND healthcare AND schools. If they work in one of those areas… shouldn’t just that one policy benefit them?

    Based on those two examples, it may be that there are still areas where the model needs tweaking rather than the communication! More likely, plenty of both

    So hyped by the care and attention going into this game. Excited to buy and play the finished product when it’s ready!

  3. The military.police/schools thing is one of those classic cases where I know how it works, so its fine to me, but it looks weird when I spell it out. FWIW this is how democ 3 handled it too…
    Basically all those policies will make state employees better off, because they employ state employees and thus the wages are affected…
    We dont model if an individual works in each of those jobs. They are just ‘53% state employee’ (presumably a sub contractor of some sort). So, what we have to do is work with probabilities, and apply each of those groups to some extent.

    Sadly we dont currently have a system to make them exclusive… so if you put the pay of all 3 jobs up, the income of everyone who is a state employee will rise the same.

    There are some (pretty horribly fiddly) ways to adjust for that, but I’ve avoided complicating the model with them for now.

    Of course it could be argued that our sub-contractor is a consultant who does work for the public schools, police and military and health departments, and the policy sliders are affecting the outsourcing budgets for all those contracts :D …alternatively it could be that the high budgets for all 4 departments has the effect of bidding up the rates for anybody who works in the public sector, as the eventual labour pool is the same.

  4. Looking forward to the alpha release. Watching the video, I got the feeling that the game understates the effect of Income tax significantly and overstates the effects of smaller subsidies. I don’t know how it is in the U.K., but in the U.S. someone making $100,000 would pay $22,000 in income and payroll taxes in a state like Texas, which has no state income tax. In a high income tax state like New Jersey (which still isn’t as high as California), that same person would pay around $27,000 per year in income taxes. Some cities charge an additional local income tax on top of the state and federal taxes. So in New York City you’d pay a little less than $32,000 in income and payroll taxes. Of course there are tax breaks and such so it works out to be less actual tax paid, but still quite a bit. While I think income taxes are a great tool for raising revenue and increasing equality, they do have a significant impact on people’s income.

    Car subsidies shouldn’t give someone $6000 per year, and car emission limits shouldn’t do the opposite either. Almost no one pays $6000 per year on a car. People on average only switch cars every 6 years, and the average car payment for a new car is around $530 a month. Even if you include car insurance, it’s maybe $650 a month. So when people are paying no more than $7800 per year on their car (and many buy cheaper cars) it doesn’t make sense for the car subsidies and penalties to have such a large effect.

    I know you probably don’t like the hassle of making the numbers make sense, but I think it’ll make the game better in the end. No one likes getting their suspension of disbelief disrupted. This is a simulator game, so it makes sense to try to be realistic.

    1. Yup, absolutely some of these numbers need tweaking, looks like the car ones are still using percentages, which is distorting stuff… although it does get tricky here because obviously wealthier people buy mroe expensive cars, so making it totally fixed also has problems. arghhh…

  5. Extremely excited about this game, it looks great so far.

    If we purchase the Alpha version of the game before it releases on Steam, will we receive a free copy on Steam when it releases there, or will we need to re-purchase the game?

    1. My plan is to get keys for the game from steam, if/when its approved for sale on steam and they make keys available for existing buyers. Thats my PLAN (meaning no, you wouldnt need to re-buy it). However, I’m not sure I can officially guarantee that, because theoretically steam could stop making keys available to developers. (I seriously doubt they would ever do that though).

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