Last week we had a fun dev diary where we talked about our current thoughts on the Mercenary system. To re-iterate, that dev diary was, much like this one, not a promise of things to come, but more an airing of current design thoughts and a way to involve the community (if you're reading this, that's you!). As we could see, there was a lot of followup discussion from forumgoers and has given us much to ponder on during our current development period of bug crushing and tech debting.
Today we'll have a similar expunging of EU4 thoughts, and for our subject matter, we'll pick a mechanic which has been through a small journey of its own, and may well have some distance to go yet: Estates
Again, what is mentioned here are not changes that are currently in the game, nor are they promises of things to come, but more to share our thought process and ideas we have, potentially for the upcoming expansion and update.
The Estate system joined the roster of EU4 mechanics back when The Cossacks Expansion was released. It added internal factors to balance within your realm such that patronizing your various estates heavily could grant wonderful bonuses, while letting them run away with power could put your nation in jeopardy with said Estates seizing direct control. EU4 is very much a game about direct action: so your primary interactions with said estates come from Estate Actions such as granting monopoly charters to the Burgers, or calling a Diet for your Nobility.
EUIV is a game very much about building empires, and while the external elements of this: outward diplomacy, warfare and expansion are generally strong, the internal aspects had been somewhat lacking in comparison. Estates were designed to bring meaningful choices within your realm, to match those outwith.
The reception of Estates at the time was a mixed bag, and has continued to be ever since. While the system did indeed bring internal mechanics to the game, they came with their own baggage, which we see ourselves, and have heard from various comments and feedback, much of which on these forums.
Common issues have included:
- The system is only available for The Cossacks Expansion owners, creating a large rift between playing with and without the expansion, as well as a belief that the mechanic won't be expanded upon since
- Managing province allocation is a lot of scutter and brings on click fatigue
- The above issue only compounds itself as your nation expands, creating more busywork as the game goes on
- The steps involved in expansion are needlessly bloated at every conquest, by needing to be at the Estates' beck and call
- The actions are not as involved as they could be: you call a Diet for your Nobility, but where is the Diet? What came from it?
- Estate types and their flavour is limited.
Some of these have been tackled in the three+ years since Estates were added to the game. Dharma saw the system becoming part of the base game, opening it up for further changes, while Estates no longer made minimum demands for land, reducing the bothering necessity of adding new land to the estates lest you suffer their wrath. We also added to the variety of Estates, bringing in special types for the subcontinent of India.
Ultimately though, the system retains some issues which leave us wanting to take a big swing at improving it. Like Mercenaries last week, I'm talking in broad-sweeping statements about what we want to do with the feature, so again, take this as airing out our thoughts rather than our rock-solid mandate of what we plan to do with Estates.
Firstly, the busywork element of Estates should be removed, or at the very least reduced. our Grand Strategy games are about creating , without sounding too pretentious, intellectually stimulating experiences, and the current methods of interacting with your Estates are not up to par with this.
Additionally, the actions done through the estates should be more impactful. I've said it quite a few times before, but I'll say it again, when a Diet is called, perhaps there should be...a Diet? Impactful is an easy word to throw around with various different meanings being drawn from it, but in Estates' cases, the existing interactions often make little change worth noting outside of their influence and loyalty, which has limited meaningful effect on your nation until hitting crisis point where they can seize control of your nation through disaster.
On another note, making the Estate UI more accessible would be a boon. Currently, much of the hands-on actions are somewhat buried as menus within menu
With Estates being made a basegame feature in EU4, we believe this came with an unspoken promise to continue to work on and improve the feature. It is certainly on our radar for something we would like to do this year, but as I continue to believe people are getting sick of hearing, we continue to spend our time on ironing out tech debt and gearing up for development of this year's Update and European Expansion. The question I leave to you as we conclude today's dev diary: What are your experiences with the Estates system, what do you most enjoy and what are you left most wanting from it?