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Hello and welcome back to another EU4 dev diary! Today, as promised, we’re going to be talking about our design process.


Originally, Johan was the sole designer on EU4, taking design input from team members but ultimately making the design decisions himself. Those of you who have been paying attention during the last year may have noticed both that EU4 has gotten more popular, and that the design process has changed somewhat since the start of Res Publica, being more of a divided responsibility between Johan and Martin (Wiz).

Johan has had a funny role in the project as he is technically not part of the team, but has been working as lead designer, writing a majority of the design for the expansions, and have also programmed a fair bit on the project. So far, 17,5 years of EU development, and he won’t let it go just yet.

While Johan still makes the big decisions, Martin handles the day-to-day design decisions such as feature implementation, numbers tweaking and handling the input from the team. The rest of the team currently includes 3 experienced programmers and 1 scripter, and a QA team of 4 QA that give great input on the design. We also get a great deal of design input from our beta testers, several of which have experience going back all the way to EU3 and earlier. We also have an internal email group where we get feedback from the various people at the office that play the game religiously.

Though we accept a great deal of input from the team, from beta testers and from the community, EU4 design is not by committee. There is a clear hierarchy, with Johan at the top having final say. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of trust and flexibility in the team, with Johan trusting that Martin will follow the spirit of his design vision, and Martin in turn trusting developers to do the same. More often than not, if a developer raises concerns with a design while they are working on it, that design will then change, as it is impossible to consider all problems and angles when you’re writing a design document. A number of features have radically changed during development because a developer said ‘This won’t work’ or QA said ‘This isn’t fun’, and entire features have simply been cut when they didn’t work out quite as planned.

Design is mostly written in two-man meetings between Martin & Johan, where we tend to throw all sorts of ideas around to see what sticks. Of the two, Johan tends to be the visionary who comes up with the sweeping ideas, while Martin does the majority of the work refining said ideas into the final design that ends up in the game. These meetings tend to spawn a lot of ideas for future expansions, and we also use them as a means of solving balance problems in the game (‘let’s sit down for 10 minutes and figure out how to fix the economy’). Even when we don’t achieve everything we want during the meeting, it usually sets the gears in motion, and if we notice we’re not getting anywhere we’ll just stop the meeting… and usually, 15 minutes later, one of us runs over to the other with the solution to the problem.

We try to set a concept or setting for each expansion a long time in advance, and then design features from that concept. Common Sense, for example, was nicknamed the “religion & government” expansion, while Art of War obviously was a “war expansion”. At present, we have such outlines for a further 5 expansions, and no shortage of ideas even beyond that.

We keep a document of how the features for an update (expansion+free patch) should work, and we keep this up to date during the development, as we focus on having short and clear design documents. These documents are sometimes made years in advance, as we add ideas and features we come up with in our creative meetings.

Finally, and this is where we think a lot of game designers go wrong, we actually play our own game. Both Johan and Martin play EU4 in their free time, with thousands of hours of playtime between them, and QA plays even more, with Jake (DDRJake) and Carsten (ForzaA) currently having a bit of a race to 100% achievement completion (which ForzaA is currently winning).

As to where we get our ideas, there is no single answer, so to top this dev diary off, here’s a few examples of features in the game and how they evolved. Hopefully it will give you an idea of how we get from idea to implementation.

Fortresses and Zone of Control - This started as a post in the beta forum, with the usual complaints about carpet sieging, and how forts should be more important. At the same time there was a thread in the public forum about how good the March of the Eagles combat with forts were, which basically had forts. From there, Johan wrote the design. Though a lot of details had to be tweaked (garrison sizes, ZoC functionality, etc) the design originally envisioned was pretty much the same as what eventually got released in 1.12.

Government Ranks - This idea originally came out of an EU3 mod, and is something Martin has been wanting in the game for a long time. When Common Sense was being designed, we needed a few more features (we have a ‘value’ breakdown for each expansion to ensure that the number of features in the expansion match the price point), and Martin threw together a quick pitch that was added to the design.

Development - This was something we debated on quite a lot, as Johan came up with it as a way to let players build tall, but Martin had problems with combining the development system with the old buildings system (as you’d then have two competing ways to develop with monarch points) , and suggested a completely different development design whereby you’d develop building slots instead of bt/production/manpower. After a lot of discussions, Johan combined the two into a final design that tied building slots to development, ending up with a design that (in our view) was better than either of the original proposals alone.

Nation Designer - This is an idea that a number of people have proposed since the release of the CK2 character designer, but the actual outline for the design was spawned late one tuesday night at a Gyros place, when Martin and Henrik (Groogy) from CK2 were getting some post Tuesday beers food before going home. Martin suddenly had the idea of a nation designer where you created your borders by clicking on the map. From there, he bounced a number of ideas off Henrik, and sat down the next morning to write a design that was later accepted by Johan. The actual implementation then fell to Rickard (r_lazer), the senior programmer on the team, who spent more than a month on it in continuous discussion with both Martin and Johan.

1.8 Map Expansion - The massive map expansion for the 1.8 patch accompanying Art of War came about when Johan came out from his office and said ‘I want 1000 new provinces in the rest of the world’. This was partly due to the experience of playing competitive multiplayer as Ming, and finding the experience there more dull when it came to actually fighting wars compared to the maneuvers in Europe. From there, it was a massive project involving Johan, Martin, Henrik (Trin Tragula) and at least a dozen betas. Martin was originally a bit skeptic to the idea of adding so many provinces, but Johan did the optimization work needed to make it work, and Henrik (who was hired mid development) played a crucial role directing the work of the betas, who did most of the heavy lifting on the actual map.

So! That was a lot of words about making EU4 design. I hope it’s been enlightening as to how we work, and if you have further questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the dev diary forums thread.

(If anyone is wondering about the third person perspective, it's because me and Johan co-wrote the post)
 
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pheonicia

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But the graphics and interface haven't really changed since 1.0? Those screenshots look fine to me.

You're right that the graphics haven't changed, and most of the interfaces haven't changed, but the provinces, political divisions, forts, movement, religion, and just about everything else has and this is just playing with the base game without dlc.
 

Rainbow Mirage

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No ... i mean Civ IV ... i happily forgot that Civ5 exists as it IMO never managed to evolve beyond 'trainwreck'

Civ V is much like what Civ III was when it came out. It got good with the expansions.

I personally think Civ II is the best in that series, but that's just my opinion. ;) It is my most played game of all time.
 
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Uber_Pawn

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I have to say I like Paradox's business model of building out a project by releasing new DLC on a regular basis and issuing regular patches. (The model seemed to be heavily pioneered by MMO RPGs, was that how Paradox came to the conclusion to attempt this business model?) In the end it has made EU4 and CK2 much better games than they otherwise would have been. Instead of dreaming of changes for a product that may never be released, or created five years later, meaningful improvements to the gameplay happen nearly half a year. The only drawback being sometimes you'll set down the game for months and when you pick it up again you'll find yourself playing something very different. I also wonder what the end point is. I'm not in a hurry to get to EUV but at this point I wonder how radical a change would have to be to justify a new game.
 
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TheDungen

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I have to say I like Paradox's business model of building out a project by releasing new DLC on a regular basis and issuing regular patches. (The model seemed to be heavily pioneered by MMO RPGs, was that how Paradox came to the conclusion to attempt this business model?) In the end it has made EU4 and CK2 much better games than they otherwise would have been. Instead of dreaming of changes for a product that may never be released, or created five years later, meaningful improvements to the gameplay happen nearly half a year. The only drawback being sometimes you'll set down the game for months and when you pick it up again you'll find yourself playing something very different. I also wonder what the end point is. I'm not in a hurry to get to EUV but at this point I wonder how radical a change would have to be to justify a new game.
I'll get back to you on that when eu5 comes out. If it has most feautures they added in eu4 dlcs then I approve, if tey do what the civ folks do and try to sell us the same dlcs with every new game I will be a bit upset.
 

Rabid

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I'll get back to you on that when eu5 comes out. If it has most feautures they added in eu4 dlcs then I approve, if tey do what the civ folks do and try to sell us the same dlcs with every new game I will be a bit upset.

Well, EU4 didn't have any 'missing content' from EU3, that I remember.
 
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TheDungen

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Well, EU4 didn't have any 'missing content' from EU3, that I remember.
True but Paradox has grown a lot since then. Some companies pick up bad habits when they grow.
 
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prismaticmarcus

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It's perfectly okay to like CK2 more than EU4, just strange to view EU4 as a 'poor sequel' since it's not, in fact, a sequel.

i see it that way since i've only played CKII-converted games since discovering CKII. so to me it feels a little like the same game that's missing the best bits. but i do appreciate that EUIV is getting deeper and richer with every expansion. keep up the great work :)

Hi, I've finished my first (converted) playthrough with Common Sense and I just thought I'd let you know that I'm right :) Since I'm not a warfare/blobby type of player, EU4 is a much more enjoyable game for me now. Great expansion!
 

Rocknocker

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Great to see that you are actively continuing your great work guys!

For your brainstorming: What I'd loved to see is more scheming behind the scenes before a war actually starts.

It would be great if one could or would have to discuss with its allies what they can gain from an offensive war so that they know what they get from the deal. If this promise is not kept, the alliance would get a negative multiplier and if it happens too often the alliance would break up. This could prevent using big countries as buddy in order to easily expand. If the big country does not get anything from the deal except truce timers and loss of manpower, it should not be interested in maintaining the alliance.

I have got thousand ideas around this princple so please feel free to discuss or contact me!
 
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