We've talked a bit about national focus before in previous developer diaries. Here is the developer diary we devote to this subject. National focus is something that began life in Heir to the Throne .It was something you could place in a province and would give benefit to that province and its neighbours and also allow access to special decisions. It could be moved fairly infrequently and was thus an important choice on where to place it. In Victoria 2, however, it has been developed a bit further.
It started off life as one those design discussions we had. When we thought about the kind of game we wanted Victoria 2 to be, we felt that we should move away from the direct control you saw in Victoria. It was both highly repetitive and ahistoric, a lot of things were determined by people themselves. Now I have read on the forum, but what about authoritarian states like Stalinist Russia? Well the author Orlando Figes was in Stockholm, not too long ago, on a speaking tour to promote his book The Whisperers. He was talking about how people in Stalinist Russia would fake their backgrounds to get round the effects of purges and rise up to positions that they should not have allowed them to enjoy. My own personal conclusion is that even in an authoritarian state like the Soviet Union, state power was not absolute enough to give you the control that Victoria gave you.
So as you have seen in previous developer diaries we have done a lot to try and make state control more indirect and thus more historic, and at the same time remove the micromanagement. However, we hit the horns of a dilemma, what the micromanagement gave you was a way to shape your country. This shaping of the country was half of the fun of Victoria and to remove that would make Victoria 2 some soulless clone of Victoria. So how do we give the player this ability to shape their country in a way that was both historic and did not inject in micromanagement? The answer is National Focus.
We have made changes to national focus, instead of being a single province you can now have several and they cover a whole state. Each state can have only one national focus marker. The total number of national focus points depends on the number of national POPs you have and your technology level, each country always has a minimum of one national focus point. Thus no matter which country you play you will always have options. In addition we also set up a trend in the game of increasing state power, which we feel captures an aspect of that period in history.
As we mentioned in a previous developer diary it is a tool to shape your population. National focus can be used to 'encourage' your POPs to move somewhere and become something. The exact form this encouragement takes depends on your own personal suspension of disbelief. It allows all sorts of historical events to be modelled; a USA player can use national focus to encourage the settlement of the interior of the US. A Dutch player could set national focus in the Netherlands East Indies and encourage bureaucrats to move out there and man the colonial bureaucracy. However, national focus is not just about POPs.
National focus can be set in a state to encourage railways or goods production. Even the most hands off government appreciated the strategic potential that railways offered and did much to encourage the development of railways in areas that they felt were important. The production of goods types covers both artisans and capitalists. Setting a marker in a state for a good will encourage artisans to make it and capitalists to build/expand factories of that type. Thus if you are in a war and need more guns, you can use your powers of persuasion to convince business to do more for the war effort.
The last thing that National focus is used for is colonisation. You can set a national focus marker in an uncolonised state and start to claim it. The control amount slowly ticks up by a random amount, so just because you are first in a state doesn't mean that someone else might get lucky and beat you. If you want to increase your chances of claiming a state you can send in troops, the presence of troops in a state will increase the amount your claim ticks up by. This might just give you the edge to beat some who already has a placed a claim in front of you. What happens if they too send troops? In this situation countries who are both claiming a colony can fight each other inside the state. This allows Fashoda style skirmishes without needing the whole messy colonial war mechanic. Now you can skirmish with allies and friends for colonies without having to burn all your bridges and go fight a war.
National focus gives you the tool kit to shape you country in a way that fits the period and also sets up choices. Do you want to join in the scramble for Africa or do you feel that developing the home land is number one priority?