As promised, here we are with another dev diary for Masters of the Broken World. This time we talk to Producer Alexander Souslov, and Game Designer Alexey Bokulev about the events system. A lot of comparisons and contrasts in this one to many other franchises, so you’ll get real feel for the inspiration behind this game. Take it away, Alex…
A Matter of Scale
I’ll start from afar, of sorts. What is it that gets us hooked on strategy games? The fact we’re in charge there, changing the world as we go. What kind of decisions can we make in real life? Would we want our tea with some sugar or not, that’s about it. Now take a game - you click a few times, and the whole universe has suddenly changed. The scale depends on the genre, of course. Take an RTS, whether a military one like the Starcraft or an economic one such as The Settlers, the orders you give are fairly basic - tanks to advance here, a granary to build there. That’s the life a battalion commander or a municipal prefect might love: an objective taken with no losses, the milk yield has tripled, time to call it a day... Not for a true megalomaniac though, that’s too restrictive for them.
They take a step further, to the games labeled as 4X strategy and global strategy, where the decisions to make are way more important - move the capital to New York, and make Jediism the state religion, oh, and tell the Antaran ambassador to pull their terraformers off the Martian orbit, or else. These decisions change the very fabric of the gaming world. From where I stand, the Hearts of Iron 3 from Paradox is more of a “role-playing” game than the Mass Effect. Only in the HoI series can I take up a role like “The Prime Minister of Canada” and play it the way I wish: going nuts and invading the USA, or allying myself to Hitler, or making the “lawful good” Normandy landing, or doing nothing whatsoever and ignoring the war completely. Whereas in Mass Effect, as we know, it all ends the same no matter what you do - Shepard has to *spoiler*, because the designer said so.
Back to Eador, of course our event scale lies closer to the likes of Total War and Europa Universalis. Our goal is to make the player immerse into the role of a deity constantly pestered by the pleas and the troubles of mortals. The way the player responds to these events shape the personality of his deity, whether merciful and wise, or bloodthirsty and vengeful, or just an ugly old miser. Or, give up on role-playing and turn into an indifferent, stone cold bastard, time after time responding with “leave me alone, damn it!” - Which is kind of a role, too.
As for the way the event system is implemented - that’s best for Alexey to tell:
The player’s domain consists of separate provinces, each settled by one of the intelligent races of Eador. And in every province there is a chance something may happen each turn, be it a fair, an earthquake, or an undead uprising in a local cemetery.
Being a ruler, the player has to make a decision whenever such an event happens, and his choice largely affects both the outcome of a particular event and the way the local population will treat him. Many events make the player face a moral dilemma, such as a choice between making some profit and doing a right thing for the wrong price. Not every consequence is predictable, some can be quite surprising, and not necessarily in a good way. Even if an event repeats itself, there is no betting the same response will lead to the same outcome.
Besides, the events vary in length. Some are fairly simple, reaching an outcome after a response or two. Others play out for a long time, paving the way to some new event several turns later and so on.
Something of this kind was implemented in Civilization: Beyond the Sword and in the series' by Paradox. These random events add diversity to the game, a certain level of unpredictability, sometimes opening up some new possibilities, sometimes challenging the player with a disaster to avoid. Eador ties these events into role-playing, as well. As the player chooses some option or another, he subtly shapes the personality of his ruler and the way the mortals and the immortals of Eador will perceive him.
There was another reason to add events into the game - to turn the gaming world into a living, breathing entity, and to shape gameplay into a form of narration. When not a day passes without something happening in his country, the player no longer treats the population as a mere bunch of numbers with a mood-o-meter. He starts to perceive the will of his people and their reaction to his decisions. Meanwhile, the gameplay itself ceases to be a bland sequence of conquest and construction, emerging into a fantasy story filled with all kinds of intriguing and unusual occurrences besides and beyond combat.
Thank you to Alex, and thanks again to Alexey for taking the time to send this to us. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks. You can read the last dev diary we ran .