Bringing down the gavel
Back in this diary @podcat talked about “a way for players to take dynamic decisions, quickly. Something that fits between events and national focuses”.
Though it fulfils its role as a narrative tool very well, we’ve never been entirely happy with the focus tree system. It does some things very well: it shows complex story lines and long term options, and it allows the player to, well, focus their efforts in certain ways. However, it had significant problems in that it was rigidly tied to the design of the tree and never very dynamic, with most focuses needing a 70 day lead-up time before things actually happen. This not only made it problematic to the player (for instance, realizing you -really- need to move that industry to the Urals just 10 days after you picked a different focus, and so having to hold out for 130 days before it can be moved), it also made it very difficult for the designers, since it required us to essentially try and predict the state of the world years in advance.
Enter the decision system. The idea behind it is that this would enable the player to be able to quickly react to dynamically arising crises, and not be locked in to the 70-day timetable for NFs. Furthermore, it also provides Content Designers and modders with new and exciting ways to create things for the player to do, or things to react to. The former of these are decisions, the latter are missions. All of these are divided into categories, which themselves can have an icon, flavor localisation, and even a small picture if desired.
We don’t intend for this system to replace the National Focus Trees. Instead, we want to supplement National Focus Trees with decisions to specify more generic focuses, and provide more dynamic gameplay - for example, a focus might give you a decision so that you yourself can choose when you’ll get the effect.
Decisions come in two forms. The most basic example of these are simple ‘click and receive’ decisions, much like in other Paradox titles. A simple click on the button will provide a one-off effect, not entirely unlike a national focus that finishes instantly. Decisions can also have permanent or temporary modifiers, acting more like a national spirit in this regard (this was done to keep the national spirit list a bit more manageable).
Other decisions are ‘timed’. They are active for a short while, can confer a modifier during that time (which can be either a bonus or a penalty), and once they time out they provide the one-off effect that regular decisions do.
The base cost of these decisions is political power, but the effects can be scripted to result in other penalties or costs as well. For example, an “Army Reform” decision might have a penalty to Army XP as an effect, in addition to the listed political power cost.
An example of a system we have re-worked to utilize decisions extensively is the current ideology switching mechanics. Previously, you would need to choose an ideology pusher advisor (Fascist Demagogue, Communist Revolutionary, or Democratic Reformer) and would then receive events at random intervals, with little ability for the player to influence things, and little reason to choose a costly civil war over the referendum alternative. And then, of course, you were at the mercy of the random number generator to find out how long it actually took until the event you wanted fired.
Now, the player will have the option of taking a variety of decisions once an ideology pusher advisor has been taken. You get the choice of either a peaceful, but longer path, or a civil war path that is shorter and should be more attractive in general, now.
Various decisions now allow you to increase the future strength of your side in the civil war, to ensure the loyalty of certain generals, as well as gaining a temporary ‘surprise attack’ bonus and a small equipment cache. They are not all needed, but once you fulfill the conditions and feel you are ready you may simply ‘ignite the civil war’ and take your chances with what you have.
You have total control over when things happen when changing ideology, assuming you fulfill the criteria to take the decisions.
Another aspect that has been reworked is the resource system. It is currently quite rigid, and although tying it in with infrastructure level has made it a bit more dynamic, there was still no real way of drastically redrawing the resource map. Decisions now take this rework and propel it further. New decisions make it possible to ‘prospect’ for new resource deposits, depending on your level of excavation tech. For a cost, various historical deposits may now become accessible to nations controlling the relevant provinces. In the cases where there are already existing focuses to develop new resources (the Italian oil fields in Africa come to mind), taking the focuses will lock the decisions and vice-versa.
Missions are in effect decisions that require an action on the player’s part to fulfill. Once they are completed, they provide bonuses just like decisions. However, they can also be made to have a limited duration, and to give penalties to the player if they do not accomplish the mission in time. This allows us, for example, to make Plan Z require the building of a certain amount of ships within a specific timeframe.
It also gives us the ability to give more direction to the player’s objectives when invading the Soviet Union, or, indeed, other countries. These might be tied to other decisions that give a temporary boost to your forces - but only if you commit to certain objectives, with a possible associated penalty if you fail.
Both of these can be made to interact with each other in interesting ways. For instance, the new German decision “Case Anton” will fire a mission for Vichy France, warning them of their impending demise but giving them a decision to scuttle their fleet beforehand, at least ensuring it will stay out of German hands. A fast-acting German player may be able to prevent this, and thereby obtain the whole (or remnants) of the French fleet.
The British player may, in turn, attempt to force the French to transfer the fleet to British hands, or damage it.
MEFO bills fire a mission every 3 months requiring the decision ‘extend MEFO bills’ to be taken. The alternative is to let the bills fall due and suffer through a period of down-payments that may hamper you in the short-term, but may save you a lot of political power in the long-term.
One of the things we wanted to do with the decision system is to make things a little more dynamic. This was often not possible under the old focus tree/event system, especially in hectic multiplayer games where you really need to pay attention to other things and can’t be bothered to read through an event right at that instant.
With the decision system, we can now create a problem and give you the option to solve it when you have the time to do so. You have already seen one of these crisis way back in the dev diary about stability and war support: if either of them is very low, your people might become unruly, try to avoid the draft or go on strike. The decision system will then include a simple decision to handle it, which fires an event in which you can select different approaches to the problem. At the same time, a mission is used to simulate the situation deteriorating over time if your approach fails. We feel that this makes the game feel a little more dynamic and unpredictable, without turning into pop-up hell.
Some decisions may well involve such a large investment that it cannot easily be represented by a mere temporary modifier. This is especially true if it involves embarking on projects with huge industrial ramifications. A new category in the industry tab called “Special Projects” will now keep track of such investments.
Counteracting Pop-up Spam
Another thing we aimed to address with the new decision interface is the issue of event spam. There is an ever-increasing amount of news (and other) events that are thrown in the player’s face. Sometimes this is desired, but other times it can be quite annoying. The new interface has handy checkboxes to select whether regular events or news events should be shown as a pop-up or simply be stored in the decision interface where the player can view them when they have time.
This allows the player to quickly choose what form of notification they prefer. During a micro-heavy multiplayer invasion of the Soviet Union it may well be better to have all events be stored in the menu for later reference, while during the early-game build-up it may well be better to be informed of global news as it happens, to know what direction the game is taking.
The future for Decisions
Decisions are a great complement to focus trees and events and we see ourselves continuously adding to this with future expansions. The base system and core decisions needed for game balance and interacting with new things like stability will be part of the 1.5 “Cornflakes” update while most of the flavor, prospecting and special projects and such are part of the DLC. Decisions tied to the new focus trees are, obviously, also going to be part of the DLC.
Next week we are going to be showing off a focus tree. Feel free to guess which one
PS. The third episode of our beginner-stream with @Da9L and @bus is coming up today. Even though most of you are probably familiar with the basics, this is perfect for any friends that want to join in. Check out the Paradox twitch today at 16:00 CET: https://go.twitch.tv/paradoxinteractive