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

Some Democracy 2 hints and tips…

Now that my politics sim Democracy 2 is on sale on steam and has a big chunk of new players, I thought it might be worth noting a few strategy tips for people who are finding the game hard to get their head around, so here are my top democracy 2 strategy tips.

1) Plan ahead and be patient.
Be aware that many of the effects of your actions in democracy 2 take time to filter through to actually changing the simulation. Boosting healthcare spending may deal with that contagious disease, but it won’t wipe it out tomorrow, and it might be a year or even more before you can truly see the effects of your policies. There is a tendency to ‘oversteer’ policy changes as a result. You can probably see policy changes taking effect on charts long before they impact situations.

2) It’s the economy stupid.
It really is. The best laid plans of Right and Left all fall apart when GDP in on the floor and everyone is unemployed. If GDP is low, that is your number one concern. It’s the problem that makes all the other problems worse.

3) Know Thine Enemy
Pick whom you choose to really upset. Upset commuters will not vote for you. Upset patriots may try and kill you. That’s a big difference.

4) Ministerial fun
The ministers aren’t just for decoration. Some are more competent at a specific job than others. Putting the right minister in the right job will keep government costs down and make policy implementation faster. Plus, minister are popular with different electoral groups, so it might be worth token appointments to minor departments to keep specific groups happy.

5) Rally the faithful.
You need a core of really supportive voters. people on the fence don’t join your party, and certainly don’t become activists. Activists are hidden from the player, but they help with turnout on election day. Party members ALWAYS vote. This can make all the difference in close elections.

6) Voters are complex.
No voter is just a farmer. They are probably 75% farmer, 44% socialist, 12% Elderly, 25% drinkers. (They don’t add up to 100%, they represent percentage loyalty to each group). You can see in more detail how the different influences affect random focus group voters on the voter details window. Keep this in mind when analyzing whats going wrong.

7) Voter group sizes change.
Boost business, and you will get more capitalists over time. Teach evolution and you will get less religious people. This takes ages, but you *can* almost eradicate groups you don’t like over the long run.

Any tips that people out there playing the game would like to add?

Democracy 2 released on steam!

Ok, I have a new game released on steam right now. But hold on a moment? what’s this? why haven’t I talked about it yet? Because it’s actually an older positech game, Democracy 2.

What is Democracy 2? essentially it’s a political strategy game, although I prefer to think about it as a government strategy game, because it focuses much more on the ‘how do we run the country?’ question than the ‘how can we get elected?’ question. It does *have* elections, but the focus of the game is achieving your objectives in terms of economics and social policy, rather than just collecting votes. Here is a brand new trailer for the game:

Democracy 2 is different to almost any other game you have played. It’s a strategy game, but there is no map or board or pieces. It’s a simulation game, but not of anything physical. It’s essentially a great big stonking huge neural network designed around the politics and economics of fictional nations (the US is also in there). The visual representation of the system is quite unusual, and although it can look very complex and confusing at first glance in a screenshot, it’s actually a simple system once you have got your head around it.  basically, everything in the game influences other stuff, and is in turn, influenced by many other items. Every link between items is a fairly complex equation, rather than a simple linear scale. This makes for some very subtle effects, and strategies.  Hovering the mouse over an object shows what it affects, and what affects it.

Here is another brand new (isn’t this exciting?) video of me talking about the game:

So how come Democracy 2 has been released on steam now? Well basically they asked about it very recently, so I was happy to say yes. The game has been around a long time and sold very very well. It continues to sell well to this day from its website which is here. It has had a pretty active modding community over the years, and the game is very easy to mod, thanks to all the data basically being in spreadsheets.

This is NOT the kind of game you would expect from the developer of Gratuitous Space Battles and Gratuitous Tank Battles. (Until GSB, people used to tease me about not being able to make graphical games :D). It’s a very cerebral, very strategic, and fairly serious game. You can, of course, just play the roll of evil fascist maniac and create a nightmare country just for giggles, if you prefer, but try to play it to win (to stay in power) and I think you will find it interesting.

There is a free demo, and the game is on Mac and PC.

I’m hoping it’s new visibility on steam will introduce Democracy 2 to a new bunch of players. This is the game that enabled me to quit/storm-out-of my job and go full time indie for keeps. it’s the game that PC gamer described as ‘an important game that should be taught in schools’. it’s the game used in at least a dozen colleges and schools all over the world to teach politics (educational site licenses are available, email me for details). It’s a game you might want to take your frustrations out on when you hear Mitt Romney or Barack Obama talking over the next few weeks.