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Victoria 3 - Dev Diary #33 - Decentralized Nations


Hello folks, I'm Ofaloaf, one of the content designers on Victoria 3, and I'm here today to talk about decentralized nations. What are they? Why are they there?

To start with, let's talk about what came before - let's take a quick look at what Victoria (well, Victoria: Revolutions) and Victoria II did when it came to regions outside of traditional imperial homelands.

Africa in Victoria: Revolutions

Above is Africa as it was represented in Victoria: Revolutions. Most of the continent is open territory for any Great Power to colonize. There's people living there, but they don't do anything. Outside of a few limited cases, like Sokoto, they're represented by… nothing. They do not do anything on their own, and when added to a colonizing power, they just immediately become pawns in the imperial game and don't really care for independence or their own homeland.

Africa in Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness

The same is broadly true in Victoria II. Regions historically colonized by imperial powers, such as most of Africa and parts of the Americas, are represented as unclaimed swathes of land just waiting for an empire to come by and colonize them. The people who live there do not care who marches in, and will just be members of one empire or another forevermore after they are colonized. It's… a model that could use some improvement. It didn't do justice to the people who historically lived there, and, frankly, it made colonial gameplay kind of boring.

Africa as it currently stands in Victoria 3

In Victoria 3, decentralized nations exist to address both the issues of gameplay and better representation of indigenous peoples. No matter where an empire tries to colonize, someone already lives there. They're organized, although they don't have the same level of international recognition and administrative organization as, say, Congress of Vienna attendees.

No formal declaration of war needs to be made in order to make an incursion into the territories of decentralized nations and start colonizing, although the deeper you colonize into a decentralized nation's lands, the more likely it is a diplomatic play will kick off where the decentralized nation starts a real war of resistance against you. Even if a colony is successfully established, the people living there aren't just pawns - they'll remember that they weren't always colonized subjects, and just like any other part of an empire they'll agitate for independence if conditions are right.

Mapping these nations has been a challenge. We essentially started with the Victoria II map as a base to build off of, which meant we had a lot of work to do just gathering information for peoples across the globe. Records of who lived where, and how many people lived there, have been difficult to obtain for some regions. Gameplay considerations have also driven some design choices - let's look at North America for an example of that process.

Behold the snippet of a beautiful draft image used when presenting the original proposal.

This is part of one drafted proposal for the implementation of decentralized nations in North America. There's already some compromises in this version - peoples have been consolidated into some larger polities, and some state borders have been followed largely because having just one or two provinces on the other side of a state line can create regions too small to provide anything or anybody - 400 pops living in State X aren't able to provide enough men to contribute a single battalion to a native uprising, among other things. This design isn’t just for the decentralized nations - it is something we also do elsewhere in the world when trying to balance historical accuracy with gameplay, although we of course try to avoid steering too far away from actual history.

North America after the revised proposal was implemented.

Even with these considerations, we still ended up pursuing a modified version of that proposal that did more to preserve the borders of larger imperial borders - we didn't want too many avenues for the United States to colonize its way into historical Canadian territories, or for Mexico to colonize its way into Minnesota. I do miss the Council of Three Fires and hope I can get it back in, but that depends on getting a design hammered out that works with the considerations and limitations we just went over above.

Other regions have had design considerations made in their implementation, too.

(from Wikipedia)

I'm gonna be real with you, there was no way we were going to accurately and sufficiently map out all the peoples of New Guinea. That's one region where I think we've probably done the most consolidation, but I think it was necessary in order to provide anything like the combined strength needed in order to give the indigenous peoples of New Guinea a decent punch in case of a native uprising.

West Africa in Victoria 3.

West Africa had many design decisions made since it was first mapped out for V3; as mentioned above, the original map built off of was Victoria 2's, so the first thing done was just getting some entity everywhere on the map. This early draft has been revised and revised and revised again, and probably will still be subject to further revisions. Countries that were first marked as decentralized have been centralized, such as the Ashanti Empire, and tag additions and renamings are a thing that's happened already and will happen again, as we continue to invest time in research and listen to feedback from our fans.

Decentralized nations give life to regions that have been treated as blank slates up 'til now. Mapping them out, getting them right, and balancing the challenges of precision and gameplay are a constant struggle, one which we are constantly tackling and working through. The result of all this, though, is a world that feels much more alive, one that I hope you'll be happily exploring at Victoria 3's release.

I'm terrible at transitions so let me just say that next week is @neondt's dev diary, and we're going to ship some monumental information there! And by that I mean it's on canals and monuments.
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This comment is reserved by the Community Team for gathering Dev Responses in, for ease of reading.

Goodness, there's a lot to reply to!

Pass_West said:
We know that if you click on another centralised nation in V3, you get an information panel showing the leader, government, population etc. Will it be the same for decentralised nations?
Yes! You can click on a decentralized nation and get further information on population statistics, government, and so forth.

wisecat said:
Very nice DD and an extremely promising development.

As always - questions:
1. What about places that genuinly had zero or almost zero population before some developed country claimed them (its mostly small islands in Pacific, but they can be valuable basing points for navies)?

2. Can you "absorb" a non-centralized nation without colonizing, through diplomatic plays? For example if US completely surrounds Sioux Nation territory and includes them into their market - will there be an option for a peaceful annexation or maybe protectorate?

3. Likewise - will decentralized nations be able to start any diplomacy besides anti-colonial uprisings? It would be especially interesting if they could ask for protectorate/colony status from other nations - for example the same Sioux feel threatened by USA, but have better relationship with Canada - could they ask Canada to become their protectorate/colony?

4. Can a developed nation foment uprisings in colonial territories of another nation? Without this the "Great Game" would largely be impossible to simulate.

1. We ended up just associating those islands with the closest nearby inhabited islands, so several Polynesian realms are more widespread than is properly historical.

2. No, the Sioux will not willingly surrender autonomy no matter how many goods the United States send their way.

3. No, part of what makes a decentralized nation functionally different from a centralized one is the lack of an active foreign policy, or much of any organized and directed policies. The Nyamwezi of East Africa do not exchange ambassadors with Oman, and the Pawnee are not centralized enough for any protectorate to stick. If you go through the records of treaties arranged between the US and various native nations, many of them have notes like "Part of the tribe refused to be governed by this act and it had to be repealed later", because there isn't a central authority that can make these things stick.

4. Any pops in a country can be agitated through internal mechanics we've discussed in other DDs, like turmoil, standard of living, and the like. Generally speaking, though, we don't intend to have a system at release for directly influencing the pops of other countries, whether they live in a decentralized nation or a centralized state.

SignedName said:
Will the Seminole be represented as a centralized country who start at war with the US, or will they be a decentralized country in the process of being colonized, with an active native revolt? There could be arguments either way, but I do think they ought to be represented in some way at least.

The Seminole is something I've personally angsted over and flip-flopped on repeatedly. At the moment, the Seminole are not in as a decentralized nation, but if a good design gets hashed out I hope we'll have a chance to implement the Seminole on the map prior to release.

cloudwasher said:
Do decentralized nations ever become centralized if left alone or if they successfully drive off colonial powers? If they win against a colonizer do they just fall back into their decentralized ignorance or do they try to actively prepare for the next potential colonizer in some way, even if not through centralizing?

This might be a bit too much of a lift for it to be included at release but I’d love to eventually see something along these lines.
Decentralized nations will not be centralizing on their own at release.

Txini said:
Do decentralized nations get flags? Historical or generated?
Historical flags can be scripted, but I believe nearly all of them are generated at this point. It's hard to get something that works and fits the period- there's not even a modern-day flag for the Fang people, for example.

benacre said:
How will New Zealand be represented at game start? Will iwi be represented as numerous decentralised nations?
The iwi have been consolidated largely into the Ngai Tahu and Ngati Toa, those two being the two most prominent iwi at the end of the Musket Wars as I understand it. North Island, moreover, also has the United Tribes and some colonization by New South Wales- an image was shared on Twitter earlier this week of the setup, and I noticed a lot of people assumed the NSW bit was directly British-controlled because it's a British puppet and takes on its color because of that.

Bearjuden said:
Lots of questions about decentralized nations becoming centralized I see, but I'm curious about the reverse: can a centralized nation become decentralized? How would you go about doing that, if so?
No, there's no way for a centralized nation to become decentralized.

Daurien said:
This has been my biggest complaint about the EUIV colonial system, so good job fixing this before it became an issue. How exactly do the mechanics of colonizing work though? That wasn't explained well in the previous Dev Diary, and we learn now that there will be no regions of the world that start uncontrolled. If I am playing as the US, do I just select a state region that still has decentralized nations in control of part of it, then push a button to start the colony? Is a colony ever considered "finished" and stop taking up part of the colonial resources, or do all unincorporated states take up a permanent part of your colonial pool, unless they become incorporated?
Colonization is done on a state-by-state basis. It's started with a fairly straightforward process like you describe, but as colonization progresses, so does tension, so the more of a state region is colonized, the more likely it is that it'll blow up and decentralized nations will fight directly against the colonizer. Depending on the circumstances, this is either a speedbump or a serious challenge. If a country's at peace and doing just fine, a war against a single decentralized nation is no major hurdle, but I've seen games where the US continued to intrude into Native American territory even while at war with the British, resulting in a Sioux uprising succeeding, regaining the lands lost to the US in earlier colonization.

There's no real "colonial" pool- unincorporated provinces just eat up more bureaucracy, from the same bureaucratic pool that other things draw from for their own maintenance.

magriboy0750 said:
That's because there is no developer post outside of the op yet.
I was celebrating a friend's birthday after work yesterday. :p

Alirzak said:
What about great powers? Can we use this mechanic on decentralized great power provinces like Ottoman Algeria?
The Ottomans aren't decentralized, even if they fail the Sick Man of Europe content we've written. They're more liable to be subject to very direct forms of imperialism, but not colonization in the same way decentralized nations experience it.

benacre said:
Thanks very much for your response. Understand that NZ's a pretty minor part of the map, but the iwi names Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa really do need a macron over the a; they're different letters, are pronounced differently, and significantly change the meaning of the word in Te Reo.
So noted! Not punching in a fix immediately right now just because of work priorities, but with the next opportunity to punch in some fixes I'll make sure this gets addressed then.
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Very nice dd and i totally agree with your way to represent decentralized nations.However,i have a question,since it has been mentioned that decentralized nations won't be playable at launch,if you tag-switch on them using console(if it's even possible)what will happen,will you have an insta game over screen like if you try to play a theocracy in CK2-3 or will it be another thing?
Thanks for any replies about this.
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If a decentralized nation successfully wins a rebellion, will they become a regular centralized nation (potentially even recognized) or will they stay decentralized? And if they do become centralized, what kind of government structure will they adopt?

Also, thanks for the DD. Excited for the canals update. Maybe Trade after ?
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Is it right to assume all decentralized countries are one color, as seen above? So if a country changes color during the game, it has centralized? Cause I suspect that is possible in rare cases? And what happens if an uprising is successful so that a colony once a decentralized country becomes independent? Does it become an unrecognized (but centralized) country?
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Cool dev diary!

But I'm not sure about some things:
Can they become centralized?
IF yes and let's say they don't get colonized, how widespread will it be?
How can you interact other than by colonizing?
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Thanks a lot for all the work on representing decentralized and "uncivilised" countries properly. I know Victoria 3 isn't an edutainment game, but I think it's important to recognize that colonized peoples did have some agency, and that colonialism was more than a one-way process.

Even if decentralised nations remain unplayable for the rest of Vic 3's life, at least players are no longer to simply tell native peoples that they have now been colonized without consequences.
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After suffering colonization, if a native uprising of what used to be a decentralized nation wins a war of independence against an imperial power, how does that work? Does that territory return to being a decentralized nation, or does it emerge as a centralized version of that nation, or does it take control of the colonial state it rebelled against, but with a native-led govenment?
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Will there be any way for decentralised nations to become centralised? If one of them is completely colonised and then breaks free in a successful rebellion, will it be centralised or revert to decentralisation?
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Fellow Colonizers and Anti-Imperialist Revolutionaries: Ashanti is back on the menu! :D

Would love to know if there is ways of interacting with decentralized nations beyond colonizing them. Do we have access to their "country profile"? Do they have characters and leaders too? etc.
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Good stuff. One question- so natives may resist during colonization with colonial tension, but do they do anything when the area has been completely colonized? Will Nigerian pops in 1910 (for example) agitate for balkanising the colony into all its former decentrialized nations, or will they agitate for an Independent Nigeria?
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We know that if you click on another centralised nation in V3, you get an information panel showing the leader, government, population etc. Will it be the same for decentralised nations?
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How likely it is for a decentralized nation to defeat the colonizers? Also is it possible to actively hinder some nation trying to colonize? For example, If I don't want the USA to gobble up the Commanche as Mexico can I do anything to help them besides the Diplo play?
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