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

Voting Systems DLC for Democracy 4

I don’t think I’ve even officially announced that I am doing this, so any games journalists reading this can consider this an announcement I guess :D. I am working on an expansion pack for my political strategy game Democracy 4, and that expansion pack will be called…

Democracy 4: Voting Systems

As you can clearly guess, its an expansion that is focused on the way people vote, and on how you campaign in the election. Its mostly a features, rather than just content expansion, so it includes new policies, but also a bunch of changes to expand on that part of the game associated with the election campaign and the voting. Here is a rundown of all of the new stuff I’m working on:

New Policies

There are a whole bunch of these, including the minimum voting age, a scary ‘maximum voting age’, rules on corporate donations to parties, and state funding of parties, bans or limits on donations, robo-calls and TV ads during the campaign. There are 11 new policies in total. Some of these will already be in place at the appropriate setting, like the minimum voting age, for all countries, and the compulsory vote policy for Australia

Campaign Focus

A year before the election, you will need to pick a single metric, from a pre-defined list, to be the main metric that will feature in your campaign literature and campaign advertising in general. This is the game equivalent of Clintons ‘Its the economy, stupid’ or Tony Blairs ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime!’. The idea here is that you pick a metric that you think makes you look good, and hope that nothing turns bad with regards to that metric before election day. Once chosen, a new effect will run from that metric, to all the voters. If you improve the metric…great but if for whatever reason it turns bad, there will be a big negative impact.

Once the campaign focus is chosen, its highlighted with a small red icon in the corner of that metric on the main UI, and also highlighted when viewing that metrics details. Once the election is over, assuming you won…the focus goes away.

Voting Systems

The majority of countries in the game use some sort of ‘proportional representation‘, but some use a constituency based or electoral-college system, that is called ‘first past the post‘. The two systems can give very different results, and you can now pass a law to change from one to the other. Proportional representation results in higher turnout, and can favor smaller parties in 3 party countries. You can expect to see more coalitions in countries with proportional representation.

Campaign Style

Immediately before the election, you have the option of tweaking how your campaign is run. You have a slider that lets you select anything from an optimistic, safe and respectable campaign, right through to a scandalously cheeky dirty-tricks style negative campaign that tries to smear your opponent. The extent to which such a campaign works (rather than backfires) is partly dependent on how trustworthy you are in the eyes of the electorate. Depending on the outcome, the effectiveness of your campaign spending can be increased or reduced.

Better Polling Data

A new option will appear on the polls screen. Currently, in the base game, this simply shows the voting intention of all voters, along with the current approval rating for all voters. This will get an extra option, via checkbox, that lets you change this to see the likely voters, rather than the whole electorate. Some people are more likely to vote than others, so viewing likely voters gives a better impression of the actual result. Toggling between the two will also allow you to see if you should take action to increase (or cynically maybe decrease) turnout in the election.

…All of this is coded, and implemented, and in the DLC that I am currently testing. Testing an expansion pack can be a pretty long process, because I need to ensure it all works, that its balanced and that it adds something cool to the game. I then also need to get all of the text for the new content translated into every language we currently support (which is a lot…and Arabic is coming too!).

This will likely take me a few weeks, and then I’ll be getting it into the hands of the Democracy 4 players! Hopefully all of these additions sound quite cool. Its certainly been interesting working on it. I know that a lot of people think I should add states/constituencies to the game, and support a whole bunch of different types of PR voting systems. I understand the appeal, but its likely overcomplex for a game like this. Most people are not *that* interested in the pros and cons of different types of PR, and certainly very few people know the political characteristics of all 50 US states AND all 650 UK constituencies and so on…for every country :D