I have been digesting some of the results of our previous goverment discussion and have formed some new ideas. This thread is form discussing the form and style of the social enginering part of the game without going into detail on the goverment choices themselves (as we did on the last discussion)
First off let me mention what is already desided.
Its been stated by the lead designers that we will use a goverment system that is modeled after SMAC (Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri). Adsactly how closly we follow SMAC is not desided. I will give a introduction to how SMAC works for thouse who have never played it. In SMAC their are a number of areas such as Goverment, Economics, Values, Future Society (the ones used in SMAC but our will most likly be differnt). Within each field will be a number of choices (3) that become avalable after you research them, you start the game in a 4th Nutral choice thats best moved out of asap. Each choice gives you benifits and Penaties to a range of Stats such as Growth, Police rating, Spy ability ect ect. The cumulative value off your choices plus your races inherrant bonus give you your final rating in each area. Lastly individual Planets could produce facilites that have a local effect on a value.
For example Your race gets +1 Growth, you have Choice #3 in Field A which dose nothing to growth, Choice #2 in field B which gives +1, choice #5 in Field C that gives you +2 so your default imperial growth rating is level 4 but the planet Froculon has a facility called the Rejuvinator that gives it a +1 growth so Froculon's population grows at level 5.
Each level is independent, we can program adsactly how much bonus each level gives and in this way can create a diminishing or exponential returns. Level 0 is the default for all of the games calculations. We can also cause unique non linear effects to be triggered at any level we like. For example if you got a City in Smac to level 6 growth insted of just getting another -10% food required for growth like you get on the first 5 levels insted you get a population Boom which gives you instant growth!
Now let me detail how I think we should do it differently.
First off I would start each race off in a particular choice at the start of the game rather then the Nutral place holders that SMAC uses. Their would no longer be any option to take a social choices that has no effects.
I would Expand the number of Choices in each field considerably. A wide variety of Alien social structures can be imagined and they provide flavor to the races and a great range of strategic Options. I think 8-12 is a good number (Previosly I had been thinking 4 but our previous discussion generated a lot of nice ideas)
Each choice would also have in addition to its mathematical +1 this and -2 that a special unique effect that is off the scale of social stats. This effect could be positive or negative but in all cases its significant. For example if I chosse the "Fundamentlist" goverment then I have the option of Declaring Holy War, only if I am using Fundamentalist would this be avalible. Or if I choose the "Giant Central computer that controls my whole empire" goverment choice I have the downside of lossing the game if it is destroyed.
Their could be room for change from the begining of the game for most races. In addition to your starting settings you would have a few similar choices open too you at the begining of the game as part of your races design. The player dose not get the tecnology that would normaly have granted the option though. This gives you a little wiggle room. For example Humans might always start with Democracy but have the options of Confederacy or Despotism unlocked at the start of the game. The other choices you would have to open with research.
Each race would have more Anathamas then the 1 used in SMAC. An Anathama is a social choice forbidden too you (usaly cause they are realy at odds with your races abilites and strengths). Even after you discover the tec that unlocks the choice you can never adopt that choice and an alien race that is using that choice will be hated by your people (Once of the cool elements of SMAC's diplomacy system). Races could have a variable number of Anathams and they could be in a variety of fields.
More of a penalty for changing your social choices. This is an area that SMAC fails in. Costs were too low to balance the change in Diplomatic Relations so people exploited it by doing a quick change-diplomacy-change back. Some kind of "state of Anachy" penalty needs to happen and it needs to be nasty, adsactly how nasty is hard to deside but in general I would stear clear of the "pay some money" system used in SMAC.
More levels of relationship then SMAC. In Smac you either have match with another empire which makes them like you, a nutral choice or an Anathama (your using a social choice forbiden to them) which causes them to hate you. If we have more choices then we should add another layer between matching choice and nutral, a "Similar" choice. Out of the 8-12 choices you get in a field 2-3 would be considered similar to each of the others. We could use groupings like Moo3 used for races and say that everything in this grouping is similar to each other. The groupings might also be used for Anathamas too.
Fear is the Mind Killer - Frank Herbert -Dune