That's right, it's Thursday, so that means a new Dev Diary for Victoria II: Heart of Darkness. Today I'll talk about the Crisis system, and some of the AI improvements.
With the Crisis system we wanted to create a mechanic that would capture something of the way the Great Powers of the Victorian period tried to police the actions of lesser nations and used diplomacy to achieve their goals at each other's expense without simply going to war. At the same time, as nations became more industrialised and powerful throughout the period, the stakes on these manoeuvres gradually increased until, in 1914, Europe was plunged into WWI over what was a relatively small incident between a small state and a fading Empire because of the interlocking system of alliances and guarantees which had evolved from earlier incidents. So how does this work in the game?
Crises mostly come from Flashpoints, which are areas on the map where one nation holds the Core provinces of another nation, existing or not (The other cause is Colonial Competition, but that's for another DD). Each Flashpoint has a Tension level, 0-100 which can be raised or lowered by various situations and actions in the game. Existing non-Great Power nations can use their National Focuses on bordering states containing their cores which are owned by someone else in order to increase Tension there. Nationalist Movements have a similar effect, but only when they are of a non-accepted culture.
The Flashpoint Mapmode. Blue areas have potential Flashpoints, areas shade towards red as Tensions increase.
When Tension levels get high enough the Flashpoint becomes a potential Crisis. At this point the Crisis Attacker (the nation that will gain something), and the Crisis Defender (the nation that will lose something) will seek the support of a Great Power if they are not one themselves. If both sides do not gain the interest of a Great Power then the Crisis fizzles and Tensions in the area are reduced, if both sides DO gain GP support the Crisis begins. When this happens all GPs on the same continent will be invited to take part, with a prestige penalty if they refuse. GPs in other areas can declare themselves interested if they want to, but they are free to ignore it with no penalty. Early in the game the penalty for not getting involved is fairly minor, so nations without a pressing need may well ignore may Crises that occur, but as time passes the penalty for sitting out (and the reward for winning) becomes steadily higher, until you may find that holding onto Great Power status requires that you take a position and that your side wins. Once involved in a Crisis nations cannot declare war or be attacked until the Crisis is resolved, and Great Powers cannot lose their GP status until the Crisis and any resulting war are resolved.
At this point the Great Power which first supported each side become the Attacker/Defender Leaders and the other GPs that choose to get involved are "On the Fence", that is, they have not yet declared their support for one side or another. Fence-sitting powers may chose to declare themselves for one side or the other on their own, or the Leader of either side may attempt to bribe them into supporting their side by offering them war goals Vs the opposing leader, representing a promise to give them these in the event the Crisis become a war, the downside for the Leader being that they must pay the Infamy cost of these goals themselves. Fence-sitters are not forced to pick a side, but if they have not done so by the time the Crisis becomes a war they will suffer a prestige penalty.
Crises have a Temperature rating that ticks steadily upwards, or can be increased in lump sums by events and actions, if it reaches 100 then the Crisis becomes a war. As more of the Great Powers involved take sides the speed of this upwards tick increases as the situation escalates. Each Leader can propose solutions, basically peace offers without being at war, to their opposite number to revolve the Crisis before it becomes a war. Giving up without attaining your goals carries a heavy prestige penalty, but it may be preferable to losing a war if your side fails to get much support. On the other hand, rejecting such an offer raises the Crisis Temperature, bringing war ever closer.
If the Crisis Temperature reaches 100 the Crisis becomes a war, with the Goal of the Crisis as the main war goal, plus any bribes the sides may have added. Crisis wars differ from normal wars somewhat, in that you cannot call in your Allies until the Great War era has begun, before that it is limited to only the nations directly involved in the Crisis.
As for the AI, we have spent some time teaching it to make more sensible choices when it comes to Alliances, Diplomatic offers, who to Declare War on, and what War Goals make sense to use in their declaration and to add if they are winning. We have also made some of its thinking visible to the player, so you can now see exactly why it does or does not want to agree to your proposal:
Come back next week to learn what we've done to Naval combat!