Version 14: Individuality

So, as discussed in the previous devlog, this version focuses on agents, with an attempt to make the game more emergent-narrative focused.

This means that hostile agents are rarer, but a bit more powerful. They can be specialised in response to crises in their world, becoming either better at war or better at combatting your agents. The aim is that you should be facing off against unique agents whom you get to know the names and faces of, as they are constant threats and must be kept tabs on, rather than simply facing wave after wave of weak and unmemorable investigators.

Your agents are now able to attack other agents who are hostile to them, but the enemy AI knows how to run and hide, and heal if damaged. This means you should be able to drive them off, but not easily kill them, unless they leave their nation's borders and you can surround them with many hostile agents. Your agents can also all heal, and can change their identities to get back into nations they were exiled from, but can't hide from agents who know them personally.

We'll need to add some UI stuff to allow you to set which of your agents you want to be hostile to which human agents, as currently you can only attack agents who would attack you. We don't want your agents to always be hostile to enemy agents, as the enemy may be unaware of your agents' dark nature, so you can have your agents in the same location as an enemy paladin, as long as you take care not to be discovered.

Future direction

The current setup needs some user feedback, probably. The hostile agents are a bit weaker than we planned, the investigator specialist isn't able to actively hunt down your agents, because it was feared that this would make them too powerful and far too annoying to play against. They'll need to be buffed or nerfed as we playtest and receive feedback from users.

Past that, the obvious next directions are further crises and further agent specialisations. One which is missing from the design space is the Inquisitor, who would try to find enthralled nobles or enshadowed nobles. Again, this may raise the difficulty of the game to an unreasonable degree, or force the player to constantly be spamming 'disrupt agent' to lock them down. However, if it takes power away from another dimension of the human's defences (by, say, forcing them to lose the ability to investigate your agents' crimes) it may work.

One other dimension, which we have avoided implementing because we felt it was in rather poor taste, is plagues. They fit extremely well into the crisis framework (where a set of nobles vote on which parts of the nation to defend, and how to allocate their agents), and into agent specialisations. Possibly you could have a plague-spreading agent going around, and the humans respond by turning all their knights into medics, and the game becomes one of trying to disrupt human efforts to cure the disease. If they commit all their agents to stopping the plague, they may leave themselves vulnerable to simply being enshadowed, as they focused excessively on the defence of their bodies as opposed to their souls. Or the plague could be used as a political tool, by having nobles squabble and descend into civil war over who gets the limited medical supplies. Or the plague could weaken the armies sufficiently for a giant flesh-beast to spread across the entire continent.

We'll have to see how stuff goes, especially with the Steam release slowly making progress. We may need to have a feature freeze between now and then, to comply with the Steam review process, then have a day 1 patch to release version 15 on both Itch and Steam. Current state of Steam release is "Goddamn how are there so many tiny icons which need to be made? How many different formats do they need the logo in? Does the game encourage violence in a way which the Brazillian government would consider 'major'?" Whole load of little tasks still need doing.

Anyway, happy new year, hopefully the world can enter a better one than 2020 was.

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Happy New Year! These last updates seem so dope! When the game launches on steam, i'm 100% buying it.

Got an idea for the inquisitor, add to the trait list (ex. militancy) , a 'corruptness' trait which makes enshadowment easier when higher, and have the inquisitor be from the current ruler and hunt down corrupt nobles. Make it so that when an inquisitor arrests a noble, if they are enshadowed, the current ruler gets suspicion of everyone in their land proportionate to how much each character was liked by the corrupt and enshadowed noble.

This makes corrupt nobles a high risk high reward thing, they're easy to enshadow and spread shadow to other corrupt nobles but if an inquisitor arrests them, you need to urgently  kill the ruler or they may start hunting down everyone who was close to that noble, eg. your enthralled.

Basically, dont make all the agents be anti-player, make be against something natural in the world that helps / empowers the player. This corruptness thing could also be used by investigators to influence relations between nobles, a non-corrupt noble would try to act against a corrupt one but a corrupt one would try to get closer to them to profit.

Happy New Year to you too.

I like the idea of the nobles having a "corruption" stat, something which makes some of them politically selfish, while others could be "honest" and vote more in favour of things which help their nation. Dunno if this should be a number like military politics, or if both of these should be packaged up into a "political personality" trait, so all nobles have a trait indicating if they are honest/corrupt/militaristic...

We're currently looking at plagues, so that would work well here, with the nobles needing to choose between what is best for them and what is best for the nation (similar to the "evidence discovered" crisis, where they need to decide which province to lock down). Corrupt nobles could always vote only to defend themselves, while honest nobles would vote purely to maximise the wellbeing of their entire nation.

The inquisitor thing also sounds good, with them being in some way opposed to corrupt nobles (so corrupt nobles would oppose the creation of inquisitors, and so as a result be beneficial to you, because they would reduce the risk to your enshadowed nobles). We'll need to think about that, though, as inquisitors might just make the game even harder for the player, without adding enough fun to be worth it. The game is already very complicated, so adding yet another threat to the player needs to be carefully discussed.

Great work, as always. Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope the steam release is painless and allows the game to reach more players. Looking forward to testing the new features out! I'll feedback on discord once I've had a chance to give them a run!