Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham - Post Mortem Dev Diary

Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham - Post Mortem Dev Diary

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Doomdark

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Well folks, Yuletide is almost upon us and the expansion Sons of Abraham has now been out for a few weeks. It is, in other words, a good time for some general - and possibly disorganized - "post mortem" thoughts.

Sons of Abraham is a special expansion because it's the first of the "phase 2" cycle of expansions for Crusader Kings II, and it was also mostly made by a new team who approached the game with new eyes and fresh ideas (the old team having moved on to another project.) The irrepressible Groogy (Henrik Hansson) championed the College of Cardinals and made it great, and Tobias "The Witch-King" Bodlund wrote most of the new events and the pilgrimages. Martin "Wiz" Anward took a crack at the AI and Alexander Ivannikov fixed bugs and started improving the network code. I couldn't quite keep my hands off though, so I snuck some crazy stuff in myself (something about evil babies...)

Interestingly, while this expansion really focuses on Christian gameplay, it appeared to receive the most attention for the playable Jews (in hindsight, the name Sons of Abraham was probably a tad misleading) and the fact that you can borrow money from the Jewish community only to then expel them from the realm. As you know, if you expel the Jews, you lose the benefits of having skilled Jewish councillors, and your dynasty loses the ability to borrow money, which will hurt you in the long run. Even so, this mechanic was something we knew would be controversial. However, I maintain that it was the right thing to do because the feature brings attention to a sordid chapter in European history while at the same time highlighting the learning, productivity and enterprising spirit of the Jewish communities.

To be perfectly honest, when designing Sons of Abraham, it was quite hard to determine which features should (and could!) go into the expansion and which features should be put into the free patch. This is always tough, and it reminded me a lot of Legacy of Rome, which, like SoA (not counting Jews) did not unlock a new type of playable entity. There were some things we really wanted to address and improve upon, but core gameplay changes are not suitable for an expansion; we want such things to be available for all players! The College of Cardinals, though, was perfect expansion material; it's not something you have to bother with at all, but it can definitely give you an edge and provide you with some interesting new options. In contrast, for example, terrain bottlenecks affect the game at a fundamental level and had to go into the patch.

In the end, we added a lot of rather unobtrusive features to the expansion, like pilgrimages and religious events. This is a bit of a catch-22, since non-essential features - regardless of how many there are or how much work they require - are not as sexy and eye-catching, but if we made them more central we could not put them in the expansion. What we've taken away from this conundrum is that future expansions will either have to unlock new areas of the game or feature more noticeable (graphically or through sheer weight of content) stuff.

Another lesson learned was the rocky launch of patch 2.0. As Paradox Development Studio grows, with several games and expansions in development at the same time, our quality assurance process is getting overloaded, and it is sometimes unbelievable what you folks discover in 10 minutes that our beta testers and QA team have not found in weeks. (That's why I love open beta patches and would like to rely on them more.) Anyway, we have hired more people for the QA team and will also increase the size of the beta test group; we don't release buggy games and have no intention of releasing buggy expansions either.

This brings me to the upcoming patch 2.0.2, which is currently available as an open beta patch to Steam users (which has already helped us identify a few more issues.) The main focus of this patch is to fix old bugs and annoyances, address some fundamental issues with antipopes and to flesh out the Jews a bit more. Here are the highlights (the full change log is in the beta patch post):
  • Added a "Depose Antipope" Casus Belli
  • Added an "Antiking" faction. The leader usurps the liege's primary title, deposes the antipope and passes papal investiture. The Pope can be called into the resulting war.
  • Jewish councillors now have special tech spread events
  • Now possible to play in Ironman mode with the ruler designer and mods (but you won't get achievements)
  • Significantly reduced the amount of event-spawned troops across the board to better reflect the rebalanced levies
  • Added trait "Battlefield Terrain Master"
  • Added special Jewish buildings
  • Added special Jewish retinue
To round this little dev diary off, as you probably know, we are dropping all support for the GamersGate version of the game after this patch. The GG version is too much trouble to maintain and is holding us back from having decent multiplayer, achievements for everyone, etc. GamersGate users need not despair however; we are hard at work getting Steam keys ready for you (including, of course, all DLC), and hope to have that done before year's end!

That's it for now, you can read all the devdiaries for CK2:SoA here! The next expansion will be announced in late January and the accompanying patch 2.1 will feature Steam Workshop and MP matchmaking, among many other things. Until next time, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (And a special thanks to our beta testers and everyone who keeps Crusader Kings II development alive by buying the expansions!)
 
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Doomdark

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Could you define what you call the "phase 2"?

It's really nice to get these post mortems. Cheers! :)
It simply means the second group of four expansions that we were not originally sure we would get the chance to do. I had a more sketchy design for these, and the final expansion in phase 2 is still not finalized.
 

Doomdark

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Neat. Clarify please, you won't get achievments only when playing mods or also when using RD?
You only get achievements if you run the game with the official checksum in Ironman mode, without using the ruler designer.
 

Doomdark

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I really appreciate the work that the new team members have done within this release. Groovy enabling the ruler designer and mods within the Ironman mode and Wiz's work on the ai and its approach to warfare are all excellent! I also am glad that members of the original team still insert their influence - this is another great thing.
Well, I remain the project lead and designer, I just don't program much on CKII anymore. :)

I do worry that the focus on multiplayer and Ironman mode will be taken to the point that the single player experience will suffer or even be eventually abandoned. ...
Over my dead body. (Seriously, you need not worry about that. :) )
 

Doomdark

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An option you might take - and which you seem to have partially taking occasionally - is to add essential stuff for free in a patch implemented along with a new DLC, and hope that people buy the DLC even though the most important additions are in fact free. I wonder if this works / would work.
Well, that's exactly what we are doing. Every expansion for CKII has come with an almost equal amount of free features.
 

Doomdark

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anything on exporting the new levy modifiers(non de jure vassels giving less elvies, levies reduced by each tier it goes through) to the defines so we can mod it? while im an fan of making blobbing harder and making vassels more powerfull(as that certainly makes them more fun to play) halfing levies is imo an bit too harsh and by exporting it i could make an mod to make feel more natural.
They are in the defines.
 

Doomdark

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I just have to ask this Doomdark, because since the launch of Crusader Kings 2 these have been the biggest and most serious griefs I ever had with this game. This horrible, terrible game, that has systematically made me uninstall all other games on my PC, because it so joyfully provides all the relaxing entertainment I need when I wanna forget about the world.
Thanks, we try. :)

1. What are the chances of us seeing a Map DLC in the future, a DLC that reshapes the map to a more... realistic version? And I do have to refer to the Victoria 2 map here for reference.
Very slim. The map projection is indeed weird, but we will not be changing it. If we ever do CKIII however, I would definitely push for a better projection.

2. What are the chances of us seeing a Faction DLC in the future, a DLC that makes factions really fun and engaging, deep and immersive, and not just a fancier form of Rebels R Us?
The factions are not expansion material. It is possible we will improve on the system in a patch though.
 

Doomdark

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Great Post Mortem post. Very honest and to my liking.

Doomdark does the word MP matchmaking refer to a multiplayer system similar to that of EU IV and through steam?
Yes.
 

Groogy

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Linux and Mac use OpenGL video drivers, whereas Windows uses DirectX which as a standard is far more polished and efficient (unfortunately! - I say as a Mac and Linux user myself).
Linux though is starting to get decent Drivers which is making me very happy since I play CK2 on Linux :)