Strategic Primer, my strategy game, has traditionally avoided dealing with the concept of anything like “culture.” It was designed as a wargame, modeling military and logistical problems in isolation from even upper command echelons; anything extraneous to that was excluded. There were two messy problems that fit with the central and original vision but would be complicated to model even taking cultural considerations into account, and far worse without: morale and commander personality. I’ve basically ignored these too, recording a few ideas in my file of ideas for the game but focusing on more pressing and more interesting facets.
But in the current campaign, and even in the first campaign, some of players’ first ideas are things to do with their people’s culture, and some players have persisted in giving traditionally-irrelevant orders even after being informed that “Strategic Primer doesn’t model anything like that.” This flies in the face of the principle that a player can focus on what is interesting to him or her.
On top of that, the game-world has traditionally been basically empty, with resources produced on demand: all a player would need to know about any given tile is its tile type (out of eight possible types) and whether any fortresses, units, or player-built tile improvements were there. If a player wanted a resource in a place, and it was reasonable that the resource would be there, then it was so. The present campaign has forced me to change this design.
Furthermore, the mechanics for some central issues, such as productivity, vision, and population growth, had only been hacked together, not properly designed, and had drawn questions and objections from players. (Like, “Why won’t X factor improve population growth?” when X would in fact improve population growth if I modeled it at all.)
I’ll write about villages and how exactly all this will work later, but the traditional design is changing, spurred by the changes in how encounters and exploration work. Players will be free as usual to ignore this aspect of the game if they choose, but cultural innovations will become important for those players who care. Villages under the player’s cultural influence can provide intelligence and (sometimes even trained) personnel, and ceteris paribus workers and soldiers with higher morale will work and fight more effectively. Once I’ve hammered out how this will work, culture will also provide a framework for me to represent and describe conflict between the player’s subordinates (though that’s a long way off in the game even if I could represent it now).
I’m sorry that I can’t give a more detailed explanation of how this will work yet, since I haven’t worked it out yet myself. But I hope this assures you that in designing the game I do listen to my players. And if you’re not yet a player in the current campaign, we still need more players, or if playing doesn’t interest you I could use help running the campaign, filling the world, and designing the game. If you’re interested in any of these roles, please get in touch.
And … comments?