Large Empires-How they break apart

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Geoff the Medio
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#61 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun Jan 09, 2005 9:28 pm

pd wrote:well, let's call it 'meter' and everyone is happy :p
A slider is a user-interface component, whereas meters are just fancy numbers that can't be directly changed by the user. Renaming will be insufficient for universal bliss, alas.

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#62 Post by Ran Taro » Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:02 pm

How about if it was tied into the leadership system?

Imagine that as the empire expands, your leaders become more factionalised. Hence the less leaders you have, the less factions, and therefore the more 'centralised' your government (as each leader is individually more important). The factions could be differentiated simply, perhaps via colours, and could represent anything you want (Liberal, Conservative, noble houses, minor races etc). How many leaders and factions you generate per capita could be a race / empire setting. Importantly, as your empire expands, your leaders have a tendancy to become more loyal to their faction, at the expense of their loyalty to the empire as a whole.

Factional / Civil strife is based on the leaders loyalty to the empire. The less loyal a leader is, the more likley they are to lead a rebellion of their faction. When a leader leads a rebellion they take an amount of the empire with them based on their personal influence/charisma/authority type characteristic. Other leaders in the same faction are likley to go over to their side.

The player initially controls the 'loyalist' forces in a rebellion, but if the rebels win the player switches to control the new revolutionary government. In either case they've lost time and resources to the rebellion, but it doesn't put them out of the game.

This system seems like it could generate expanding empire instability in a fun way that makes the player engage with their leaders more. Plus it could capture the feel of several historical empires (for example the Alexandrian successor states or the Roman republic).

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#63 Post by noelte » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:34 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:
pd wrote:well, let's call it 'meter' and everyone is happy :p
A slider is a user-interface component, whereas meters are just fancy numbers that can't be directly changed by the user. Renaming will be insufficient for universal bliss, alas.
Hmm, i think you didn't got what pd meant. To me "meter" is just a buzz word as (t-1)lider is.
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#64 Post by Geoff the Medio » Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:02 pm

noelte wrote:Hmm, i think you didn't got what pd meant. To me "meter" is just a buzz word as (t-1)lider is.
I got what he meant, but disagree with the implication he made. To me, a slider is a (objectionable to some) user interface component. A meter is a number that we treat a certain way and use for certain things. The concepts are basically unrelated, and renaming one to the other to avoid stigma is not possible / plausible.

If "slider" means something different to you / pd / others, you could see this differently.

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#65 Post by utilae » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:15 pm

<delete me>
Last edited by utilae on Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Centralization Slider

#66 Post by utilae » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:56 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote: To me, a slider is a (objectionable to some) user interface component. A meter is a number that we treat a certain way and use for certain things. The concepts are basically unrelated, and renaming one to the other to avoid stigma is not possible / plausible.
I agree

Now, let's not get off topic here. :wink:


Ran Taro wrote: How about if it was tied into the leadership system?
A good idea, though we'll see.
Ran Taro wrote: Imagine that as the empire expands, your leaders become more factionalised. Hence the less leaders you have, the less factions, and therefore the more 'centralised' your government (as each leader is individually more important).
Good. Though whats to stop people from having fewer leaders. There needs to be a penalty like a certain government type requires at least x leaders or they suffer some penalties while they don't have enough.
Ran Taro wrote: The factions could be differentiated simply, perhaps via colours, and could represent anything you want (Liberal, Conservative, noble houses, minor races etc). How many leaders and factions you generate per capita could be a race / empire setting. Importantly, as your empire expands, your leaders have a tendancy to become more loyal to their faction, at the expense of their loyalty to the empire as a whole.
I would like to keep the faction part hidden myself. So the factions only present themselves when the factions rebel, at which point various systems under the factions control change to the factions color.
Ran Taro wrote: The player initially controls the 'loyalist' forces in a rebellion, but if the rebels win the player switches to control the new revolutionary government. In either case they've lost time and resources to the rebellion, but it doesn't put them out of the game.
When you have to fight he factions, they should be like another empire, you can do diplomacy, capture there worlds and destroy there colonies just like an enemy race. The only difference is that the worlds were once your worlds. If the rebels win, then its game over. If you could control the new revolutionary, like you say, then why not just let the rebels win and you have control of your empire again. I'd rather that if the rebels win, ie they conquer all your planets, then you lose.
Black_Dawn wrote: History seems to suggest that the more decentralized a large empire is, the longer it will last. China, Rome and The US are good examples of this. However, highly decentalized nations/empires find it much harder and more expensive to coordinate public poilicy, taxes, etc.

A perfectly centralized empire (far left of slider) would be great early in the game for cheaper ship production, tax collection and the high morale of nearby planets. however, "centralized" governments would face morale that falls off quickly with distance from the homeworld, and would require a higher proportion of each planet to be put aside for military use (to maintain tax/production/morale levels).
I don't think this happens even in the real world.
Black_Dawn wrote: A perfecly "decentralized" empire (far right of slider) would be very good late game, with no morale dropoff for farther planets and increased research production. However, all government programs would be much more expensive (due to red tape) and would take much longer to implement.
When you say decentralised do you mean that the empires leadership is geographically decentralised.
Black_Dawn wrote: The difference between my proposed slider and other in-game sliders is that the any change in slider position will not happen instantly; depending on government type it could take between 5 and 20 turns for your empire to change from completely centralized to completely decentralized or vice versa. Completely changing government type will give you an "instant" shift to a particular point on the slider, but will have its own costs. The slider will automatically "drift" to the right (towards decentralization) as your empire grows.
I don't like this.
Black_Dawn wrote: Any planet other than the homeworld and sector administrators that has its leader assasinated at 100% centralization has a 25% chance of rebelling (and leaving your emipire) that turn, regardless of planet morale. If the emperor is assinated, all planets other than the homeworld and sector administrators have a 25% chance of rebelling. (reduce chance by 1% for each 2% slider is lower than 100% centralization). Planet morale decreases the farther from the home system it is (and of decrease determined by slider position). A military victory will give a temporary morale boost to all planets if the slider is within 15 points of 100% centralization.
I think leaders would be assinated too easily in your system and then *bam* rebelion. I would rather the risk of rebelion comes as a result of sustained low morale and expanding too quickly along with the whole 'choose which planets you want to keep happy' thing. if we tie this in with leaders then the leader will take the unhappy planets as part of his faction.

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#67 Post by Black_Dawn » Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:43 pm

Let's review "centralized" vs "decentralized". Theoretically, a perfectly centralized government would be one in which the dictator/king/emperor/whatever has all the decision making powers. There is no such thing in real life, but there are many conquerors who have tried to keep all power to themselves, but they do so through the support of the military and personal charisma. A good example is Stalin. Stalin kept his party in line with putches and the threat of "dissapearances", but he would not have had this power without the backing of the army and the KGB.

In game terms, a perfectly centralized government would be one in which one planet or leader controlled the entire empire: no local self-government, limited distance of rule (basically the range of the home-world army) and all decisions left the the central authority. I agree with the observation that assinating leaders is too big a weakness, but we have to convey the idea that if the keystone is knocked out, the entire arch falls. Perhaps we could say instead that if sector government planets are conquered, earch planet within that sector has a 25% chance of rebelling regarless of morale (dependent on level of centralization).

In theory, perfectly decentralized governments are impossible. Every individual would have to make their own rules, and those rules would have to mesh perfectly with everyone else's rules. In game terms, however, perfectly decentralized governments are possible if every individual within the society think in exactly the same way (Borg/Klakon hive mind thing). For non hive-mind species, "perfect decentralization" would mean a system within which every planet had a local government infrastructure, and made decisions independent of home base. An empire would be impossible to maintain in these conditions, so some coordination would have to take place. A good example of a highly decentralized system in the real world is the United States. Each level of government, even down to the county level, has the ability to make some of its own laws, and the national government cannot change these laws as long as they don't conflict with the Constitution. This is why some states have very strong environmental laws (California), and some have very weak environmental laws (Texas). Add to that the "checks and balances" of the Supreme Court, Congress and the Senate and it is amazing that the President has as much power as he does (although this time around a single party controls the White House, the Senate, the Congress and soon the Supreme Court).

To sum up: in a centralized government, authority is from the top down. It's like a pyamid balancing on its point. a blow to the point (the emperor/homeworld) could bring the whole thing down. On the other hand, it is much easier to turn a pyamid that is balancing on its point (the government is more responsive to the leader's wishes). perfectly centralized government can last beyond its dictator if a clear line of succession exists.

In a decentralized government, power comes from the bottom up. There are no problems with distant outposts of your empire, because they prefer to run themselves anyway. A Decentralized government is a pyramid resting on its base: much sturdier, but harder to turn the bigger it is. In game terms, changes in law would be much slower and more expensive to implement, and sudden shifts in policy will be difficult if not impossible to push through. Decentralization is great in peace time, but not very responsive during war.

The reason I suggested the S-word above (rhymes with glider), is that governments are a spectrum from Centralized to Decentralized. In the real world, there is no such thing as a government that is perfectly one or the other. In game terms, however, anything is possible, but but a mixture of the two is still to be preferred.
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#68 Post by Ran Taro » Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:50 am

utilae wrote: ... whats to stop people from having fewer leaders. There needs to be a penalty like a certain government type requires at least x leaders or they suffer some penalties while they don't have enough.
Leader generation isn't controlled directly by the player, and leaders have enough other benefits that you wouldn't want to get rid of them when they do appear, you'd want to reward them to keep them loyal instead. Or you could be a paranoid meglomaniac like Stalin, and bump off all your best leaders because you're scared they're plotting against you!
utilae wrote: If you could control the new revolutionary, like you say, then why not just let the rebels win and you have control of your empire again. I'd rather that if the rebels win, ie they conquer all your planets, then you lose.
Because the rebels likley control a smaller portion of the empire than you do when the rebellion starts, so putting it down is quicker and less destructive. Civil wars should be more destructive than normal wars (as each side 'purges' their territory of enemy faction sympathisers). The rebels, especially, would want to tear down a lot of what the old empire stood for and start again. So letting the rebels win would set you back a lot in time, destroyed infrastructure, and 'collateral damage'. In any case you lose ground to other players while your attention is diverted though.

utilae wrote: I would like to keep the faction part hidden myself. So the factions only present themselves when the factions rebel, at which point various systems under the factions control change to the factions color.
Hidden factions would be fun, especially for espionage races. However I don't think all factions should be hidden - think 'House Atriedes' & 'House Harkonnen' in Dune. Or 'The Jedi Order and 'The Sith' (a secret faction) in Star Wars, which become 'The Empire' and 'The Rebel Allliance' after the Rebellion occurs. Maybe faction names could be moddable via external text file to let players create such universes...

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#69 Post by utilae » Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:53 am

Ran Taro wrote: Hidden factions would be fun, especially for espionage races. However I don't think all factions should be hidden - think 'House Atriedes' & 'House Harkonnen' in Dune. Or 'The Jedi Order and 'The Sith' (a secret faction) in Star Wars, which become 'The Empire' and 'The Rebel Allliance' after the Rebellion occurs. Maybe faction names could be moddable via external text file to let players create such universes...
I mean if your leader is part of a faction, then the faction is hidden from the player, so the player only has to deal with the faction when the faction is a rebelion.

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#70 Post by pd » Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:03 am

geoff: my point is, that black_dawns idea can be realised with a meter, nothing more.

-> if you now go through black_dawns post and replace everytime he says 'slider' with 'meter' everyone will be happy. hope it's clear now.

also, i have to disagree, that there is no relation between sliders and meters. both have a min, max and current value...

since all of this is offtopic, we should come back to the important things again.

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#71 Post by Geoff the Medio » Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:22 am

pd wrote:if you now go through black dawns post and replace everytime he says 'slider' with 'meter' everyone will be happy. hope it's clear now.
Ah... True, you could have a centralization meter that would do everything he says...

Though when someone says "slider", I assume they mean to suggest the interface component specifically... so depending how flexible he is, not quite everyone would be happy...
utilae wrote:I mean if your leader is part of a faction, then the faction is hidden from the player, so the player only has to deal with the faction when the faction is a rebelion.
I'd suggest against hiding such info from the player. IMO it's better to make the game like chess, with complicated interactions that are nevertheless completely visible, than it is to hide things from the player that are going on under the hood. In this case, that could mean having an accessible list of factions with indications of their loyalties or happinesses and faction agendas, and indications of faction popularity on individual systems or planets or in the empire. If a faction is going to form a rebellion, there should be a strong indication to the player that this is possible and how likely it is and some indication of why it's as likely as it is and what the player can do to change things and make it less likely (or make it more likely for other players).

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#72 Post by Ran Taro » Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:35 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote: In this case, that could mean having an accessible list of factions with indications of their loyalties or happinesses and faction agendas, and indications of faction popularity on individual systems or planets or in the empire. If a faction is going to form a rebellion, there should be a strong indication to the player that this is possible and how likely it is and some indication of why it's as likely as it is and what the player can do to change things and make it less likely (or make it more likely for other players).
To KISS I think this would be best tied simply back to the leaders loyalty / influence. The player should get a general idea of each leaders loyalty (which could become more accurate through performing survelliance espionage on them). A leader with high influence and low loyalty is likley to rebel (and to take his faction with him). How much of the empire goes over to the rebels would depend on the leaders influence/ popularity characteristic and position. A sector governor would likley take his sector with him, for example.

Loyalty could be positively affected through granting important offices, increasing leader salaries, and through purging disloyal leaders (making the others scared to step out of line).

You could do it the way you suggest if you wanted to add complexity, but I'd personally rather be free to imagine what the Factions agendas etc are. Especially since from one point of view all Factions ultimate agenda's are the same: to gain power.
utilae wrote: I mean if your leader is part of a faction, then the faction is hidden from the player, so the player only has to deal with the faction when the faction is a rebelion.
Yes I understood you, I just think it would be more fun and more 'Space Opera' to know about and try to manage the Faction's competing interests before open rebellion breaks out. This is essentially what would make large empires 'feel', as well as 'be' less stable - in a fun way.

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#73 Post by Geoff the Medio » Tue Jan 11, 2005 9:32 pm

Ran Taro wrote:To KISS I think this would be best tied simply back to the leaders loyalty / influence.
The trouble with that is that there's no built-in reason why system X would rebel to join a particular leader, when system Y wouldn't (or sectors X and Y if there are sectors, which I don't like). It's not enough to know "how much" of an empire would go to a leader... you need to be able to know what systems specifically would or wouldn't, and why, and be able to change that.

IMO the ideas of factions and leaders should be separate concepts. Leaders would (partly) be a tool the player could use to manipulate factions. I don't object to leaders also having agendas and loyalties and the potential to rebel and take planets or factions with them (factions and planets that are sufficiently loyal to a faction that's taken), but representing the whole faction as a equivalent to the leader is too limited.
Loyalty could be positively affected through granting important offices, increasing leader salaries, and through purging disloyal leaders (making the others scared to step out of line).
All fine ideas. I'd avoid having too many "offices" though... maybe just a second-in command post which can have one leader, while the rest are used to influence social / political / economic type issues in localized places. I'd also like leaders and spies to be equivalent, and "spying ability" to be one characteristic of a particular leader.
You could do it the way you suggest if you wanted to add complexity
I do want to make the economic / social / political / cultural game rather complicated... as important as building and maintaining fleets.
but I'd personally rather be free to imagine what the Factions agendas etc are. Especially since from one point of view all Factions ultimate agenda's are the same: to gain power.
I don't see why the player having to / being free to image faction agendas would be desirable... Would you suggest imagining the fleets you have? Or imagining enemy empires social agendas, but effectively just having them randomly declare war on you? The agendas of factions (equivalent to empires) in SMAC was their social agendas... I want something similar for FO factions.

IMO, having reasons for things that happen, in this case explicit agendas for factions, makes things much more fun and interesting, and makes it possible for the player to control the game through some sense of understanding what's going on... giving them some ability to predict what changing a particular policy or using a particular leader will do to the loyalty of a particular faction or system... leading to tradeoffs and hard choices = strategy.

But maybe I'm imagining more randomness than you intend...?

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#74 Post by Ran Taro » Wed Jan 12, 2005 7:11 am

Geoff the Medio wrote: there's no built-in reason why system X would rebel to join a particular leader, when system Y wouldn't (or sectors X and Y if there are sectors, which I don't like). It's not enough to know "how much" of an empire would go to a leader... you need to be able to know what systems specifically would or wouldn't, and why, and be able to change that.
I imagine this could be solved by having the location the rebelling leader is in rebel with them, and have the rebellion generally spread out in a radius around the leader. The size of the circle being dependant on the on the leaders degree of influence. Leaders in charge of troops or fleets would take their commands with them etc.

This would add a strategic element because you have a choice about whether to place your leaders in important locations (where they can do the most good and harm) or putting them more out of the way, where they would be less effective but also less dangerous.

It would also add a simple to understand element of the predictability you are looking for, although I'm not sure rebellions should be absolutley predictable in nature, just not frustratingly arbitrary.
Geoff the Medio wrote: ... representing the whole faction as a equivalent to the leader is too limited.
Well, it's relatively simple. But the more simple the working parts are, the more working parts you can have before it gets too hard to understand how to play. So Having simple mechanics can mean a more complex game. Much like chess - simple design, complex gameplay. And I don't think its such a stretch to have leaders lead their factions to rebellion.
Geoff the Medio wrote: I do want to make the economic / social / political / cultural game rather complicated... as important as building and maintaining fleets..
I'd like to see that too. I just think you have to economise on complexity so you can fit everything you want in without it collapsing under its own weight.

I don't want to skimp on the 'social' part of the game in favour of space combat. If anything, the opposite is true. But the topic of this thread is only one tiny part of what you are describing, so to remain on topic what I am describing here doesn't encompass all that.
Geoff the Medio wrote: I don't see why the player having to / being free to image faction agendas would be desirable...
Perhaps only because I can't imagine a Faction system that would encompass appropriate ideology's for multiple factions for every type of race and society without being anti-immersive in its cheesyness. SMAC could do this because all its factions were human from the same origin. I'd actually love to be proved wrong.
Geoff the Medio wrote: The agendas of factions (equivalent to empires) in SMAC was their social agendas... I want something similar for FO factions.

IMO, having reasons for things that happen, in this case explicit agendas for factions, makes things much more fun and interesting, and makes it possible for the player to control the game through some sense of understanding what's going on... giving them some ability to predict what changing a particular policy or using a particular leader will do to the loyalty of a particular faction or system... leading to tradeoffs and hard choices = strategy.
That would be great if its achievable in an immersive, engaging way, and you don't have to sacrifice too much else in the culture / economic / social / political model to get it. Complex internal factions would make a great topic for another thread, I think (there probably already is one on page 53).
Geoff the Medio wrote: But maybe I'm imagining more randomness than you intend...?
I think you might be. I don't really like randomness much at all. Elegantly simple, easily understood design that leads to engagingly complex strategic gameplay is what I'd like to see.

I'd like to hear why you don't like Sectors in that thread BTW. I find your critisism helps clarify and develop thoughts I have nicely.


To get this back on topic: In general does increasing leader disloyalty / factional strife (leading to political instability) seem like the best limiting device for large empires in the game, or is there a better idea out there?

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#75 Post by Geoff the Medio » Wed Jan 12, 2005 8:59 am

Ran Taro wrote:...having the location the rebelling leader is in rebel with them...

...you have a choice about whether to place your leaders in important locations (where they can do the most good and harm) or putting them more out of the way, where they would be less effective but also less dangerous.
IMO that's a horribly unfun and bad-for-gameplay type of choice though. In order for the tradeoff to be significant, the risk would have to be significant, and then that's a significant risk of a random thing happening, vs. signficant benefit that is otherwise guaranteed. Hypothetically, in a game, you'd have to use leaders for their benefits, and just hope that no random rebellions happen. If you didn't, you'd be beaten by other empires that did use leaders but who luckily didn't have rebellions.

(see note re: randomness at bottom...)

My preference is to make using leaders nearly risk-free, but having the locations where you could put them have a chance to rebel. One possible benefit of using a leader would be reduction in rebellion chances (and other unhappines consequences, see below).

The choice for the player with leader placement is where to put the bonus / benefit, not whether to put it at all (assuming they're paying for and have the leader, which they wouldn't necessarily have to do...).

That's not to say there can't be penalties to using a leader... one leader might improve loyalty of a system but depress the economy. Others might actually decrease loyalty, but improve health or production.

Using leaders on systems could also increase or decrease popular support for various factions on that planet (which may not be owned by you), either based on the leader's properties, or perhaps as a specific mission for the leader (eg. you use them to increase or decrease the support, incite revolt, ferret out enemy spies you suspect are there due to such observed effects).

Using a leader in a system to increase its loyalty, when that system is heavily in favour of a particular faction might also make other factions dislike you or reduce that leader's influence with other factions (making them dislike the leader)...

A major point to all this is that the bonuses and penalties you get for using leaders generally aren't a random chance of something happening. If they do affect a chance of a major event like a rebellion, then it would be a modification through other parameters, like loyalty or faction popularities and such. These values wouldn't be a chance like X% to rebel, but would have various effects above and below threshold values... so you can't get a rebellion if a faction likes you 80% and is 5% popular is a system, for example... but as you get closer to 50% faction popularity and < 50% liking you, the chances of rebellions increases significantly... (but more importantly, other negative things do happen, rather than just chances of things... the actual chance of a rebellion would be nearly neglidgible until there are very severely unhappy but popular factions involved...).

Yes, this would be a bit complicated, but it would be understandable to the player in that there are specific faction loyalty numbers and such to look at and modify using leaders or agenda stuff... and well indicated faction agendas and explanations of why faction loyalties are what they are (or why they're incrasing / decreasing...)
It would also add a simple to understand element of the predictability you are looking for, although I'm not sure rebellions should be absolutley predictable in nature, just not frustratingly arbitrary.
It adds a reason why a rebellion happens in a particular place, but IMO it's not a very good one. It seems silly that whole regions of space would rebel with a particular leader just because s/he has X influence and is < X distance away. The reasons for rebellions shouldn't be something they can just pick up and move around if they don't want to risk a certain area rebelling... they should be persistant and meaningful aspects of the rebelling area.

IMO, good reasons for rebellions or faction strife (or lack thereof) are ideologies, propeganda, race-issues, social agendas, relevant historical events, money / taxation, general happiness / health / welfare, effects of wars, etc. Some of those (money, ideology) can be applied to leaders, but it's much more limited that the possibilities for reasons why populations would rebel.

I don't think that rebellions should be completely unrandom, but the actual random factor should be much less significant than the reasons that determine the chance. The reasons (and other non-random consequences of loyalty levels) should be the things the player has to worry about.

Also, rebellions shouldn't be an on/off instant thing on their own... there should generally be consequences for significant levels of unloyalty before a full out rebellion takes place... plenty of time for the player to react and deal with consequences of any random number-generated events that occur. Eg. a rebellion is a sequence of events that can be interrupted or stalled or backtracked with appropriate action. The player could deal with the events and unrest by spending lots of money on the planet, which could be a major penalty in of itself... So much so that at times, it might be more desirable to let a planet rebel than to keep paying to keep it happy.

(And that leads to lots of cool tradeoffs where planet X wants one thing, but other planets want the opposite, so you have to pick which to keep loyal)
But the more simple the working parts are, the more working parts you can have before it gets too hard to understand how to play. So Having simple mechanics can mean a more complex game. Much like chess - simple design, complex gameplay.
Yes, too much complexity is bad, but too much simplicity is bad if it means you remove all good reasons for things happening, and just generate random numbers to determine when things happen. The analogy with chess is rather strained, as chess is entirely unrandom... (see note re: randomness below though...)

The reason I'm so keen on the reasons for things happening is that it makes it easier and more intuitive (I'd like to think) for the player to understand why planet Q is unhappy... eg. the faction that likes race M is there, but we're at war. It also makes more complex gameplay emerge... in that if you don't want race N to attack you, send a leader to their planets and promote a faction on those planets that likes you... if they go to war, their planets might rebel or cost lots of resources to maintain.
Geoff the Medio wrote: I don't see why the player having to / being free to image faction agendas would be desirable...
Perhaps only because I can't imagine a Faction system that would encompass appropriate ideology's for multiple factions for every type of race and society without being anti-immersive in its cheesyness. SMAC could do this because all its factions were human from the same origin. I'd actually love to be proved wrong.
Well you'd only have relevant factions your empire... so if you're human, you'd have human factions... and if you're Zombie-Beetles, you'd have Zombie-Beetle factions... But many of the faction ideas are really race-independent... disliking some policy or other race or empire apply universally. The specific policies and races would change, but the effect would be the same.
Complex internal factions would make a great topic for another thread, I think (there probably already is one on page 53).
I realize much of the above is beyond the scope of what you want to discuss, but to indicate why I dislike things you propose, I need to establish the context of the whole system I'm envisioning...
Geoff the Medio wrote: But maybe I'm imagining more randomness than you intend...?
I think you might be. I don't really like randomness much at all. Elegantly simple, easily understood design that leads to engagingly complex strategic gameplay is what I'd like to see.
That's even more hand-wavey than most of my stuff... Though can you explain, if you haven't already due to the above stuff, how the random chance of faction leaders rebelling isn't just random chance, aside from how much you pay them and their loyalty level? Do they progress through stages of loyalty like I suggested for the systems, with increasing / changing penalties as a result? Trouble with that is, for leaders, you can just remove them as they get less loyal... or perhaps removing them would cause them to rebel? But then what determines if they rebel... randomness again? I don't really see how you can avoid essentially having just a straight random number to determine rebellions if it's just based on the leader... whereas with planets rebelling individually, there could be various stages leading up to actual secession, as I've attempted to describe...

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