When we were debating weather the 5th resource should be called money or influence the idea of “social control” lead to this, I thought I'd write it up and see what you all think. (BTW, when are we going to be defining the uses of the 5th resource, I can't see anything about it in the road map).
Anyway my idea is for the player to be able to do some sneaky macro-economic influence on his and his fellow empires: We create a range of categories that the player can influence in either direction, the further from neutral the player wishes to influence a category the more it costs per turn. Obviously you shouldn't be able to do massive changes in a single turn, if you try to do something huge and drastic like halving production it will start as a small drop in production and get worse*.
Possible things you can influence: Food, Mining, Production, production of the 5th resource Population growth, Morale and Research.
Ingame this will involve clicking the empire, selecting “economic manipulation”, you then get a bunch of sliders saying how you would like to manipulate them.
However this is not as simple as pouring 5th resource into your eccono-manipulation beam then firing it from the roof of your citadel. If your going to manipulate and entire economy you need leverage and a few agents in the field just don't cut it, I propose a new stat in empire to empire relations: economic vulnerability.
Economic vulnerability is calculated based on trade agreements (for this to work you'll have to have variable strength trade agreements), the stronger the trade links between your empires (and that includes links via 3rd parties) the more vulnerable the two empires are to each other. Your empire starts with maximum vulnerability, but the more you trade the less control you have so trade agreements actually decrease an empires vulnerability to itself.
There is no one single ingame explanation for why this is possible, it involves a carefully manipulating an intricate web of factors with such tools as precision taxation, meticulously crafted red tape, buying goods above market value or selling below. Weather the inevitable side effects of such manipulations are part of the game, or ignored for a straight 5th resource --> effect relationship is an open question. (pretend side-effect free economic manipulation is another invention, along side space colonisation)
* To discourage microing by increasing the sliders turn by turn the player is only charged based on how much effect it has that turn not on your eventual goal. Ingame justification – It takes time to plan the perfect place to release your little economic butterflies to get exactly the storm your want in their economy, so for the first turns its mostly planning and little influencing, later there will be more influencing so more 5th must be spent.
Inevitably someone will ask how you can do this to a hive-mind, or uni-mind, the answer is simple they may be harder to effect since you can't manipulate the population behind the government's back but you can still influence them via physical goods. If you want to cut down on food production you could put some export red tape on fertiliser & farming tools. The end result is that they will be resistant but not immune (except for morale if they don't have any emotions).
For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.
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