EU4 - Development Diary - 2nd of May 2017

EU4 - Development Diary - 2nd of May 2017

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Hello again everyone! Welcome to this developer diary on the historical research we do for Europa Universalis IV.

When we have in the past asked you guys what you would like us to write about in our developer diaries the suggestion to make one about historical research in relation to the game was quite popular.

I’ll start by noting that Europa Universalis is, of course, a game. And as a game it needs to be fun to play and have systems that makes sense to interact with as a game. That said it is a game which takes it’s setting from history and which uses history as an inspiration for both mechanics and many other things.

Now there’s some form of research involved for many, many things that are in the game and I am not going to be able to cover all of them here. Rather what I will give is an introduction and overview to the research I do as a Content Designer on this game.

As a general rule historical research will fall into one of two categories dependent on what it is to be used for: Database/Setup Research and Background/Content Research. We’ll start with the Content and then continue with the setup research. I will be describing the process as it relates to expansions as I was not part of Content Design for the base game :)


Content, Mechanic related events and DHEs:

One of the things I personally like best about this game is that you can play in any location in the entire world. Not all regions have equal amounts of flavor or specific game systems however and generally (though not always) when this is expanded upon it will be concentrated on one region at a time.

When we begin working on a new DLC there will generally be a number of game systems planned by Game Designers, such as the Religious Authority system for the Inti religion in ‘El Dorado’, or more recently the Shinto Isolationism mechanic in ‘Mandate of Heaven’. These systems require fleshing out and to be given life through events and other scripted content.

1: Books

Now while I think it’s fair to say that most developers I’ve met at Paradox have an interest in history, and especially that of their respective games, it is not possible or expected that everyone know everything on their own. It is, however, desirable that we produce an image of a past place and time that tries to resemble that time without reproducing unwanted or outdated stereotypes (you might argue we have at times failed at this but our intention is pretty clear here).

In order to get a proper handle on things I will normally therefore find and order a reasonably new overview from a university publisher (at the end of this diary I’ll list some examples of books for El Dorado and Mandate of Heaven). And then after having read that go a little wider both in real life and online. This way the idea is that a reasonably fair overall vision can be preserved when diving into various details that might be required to fully flesh out a region.

Apart from being a way to “ground” the general ideas and research for a region these books are often themselves the source of many events or other details that make it into the game. They’ll usually be full of underlinings and scribblings that would disturb any librarian.

IMG_0855.JPG

(example of a random page in one of the books used for Mandate of Heaven research)

2: The Internet & the Community


Since a long while back we also try to be in touch with certain members of the community with a special interest or skill related to the regions and times we like to portray. If you have been following these diaries for a long time you’ll remember we’ve mentioned some of them at times. @Guillaume HJ , @chatnoir17 and @Fryz are just a few examples of posters that have offered us both hard work and insights in relation to both content and our databases over the years.

As Europa Universalis 4 is a mature game we are also able to draw from the existing community it has. The Suggestions Forum has been the source of many good additions in terms of content, sometimes specific and sometimes simply because the discussions there allow us to find more things. I really want to take this opportunity to highlight how useful this forum is. Even if we don’t always reply to everything we read the discussions and the suggestions and much of it improves the game one way or another.

Of course the internet is also a great source of information in general and it is not unknown for development to use information from various online databases. Information secured in point 1 should help in avoiding obvious pitfalls here.

3: Gameplay and other Considerations

It has been said by a former project lead that History is not an argument in itself. Of course Europa Universalis is a game, and the idea is to create an enjoyable experience rather than one that is always strictly faithful (and honestly, it is very rare that we have a clear enough picture of a past to even allow for that).

Sometimes we’ll be in situations where we choose what to portray and how, and the thing that decides this is the overall game design. The idea is not to put things in just for its own sake (though sometimes one likes to indulge, like with the birth of the state of Habsan if stars align correctly in western India) but to make an entertaining game. If you find something to be obviously divergent from how you think things should be it is not unlikely that such a decision was made.

eu4_26.jpg


That does not mean you shouldn’t ask us to change it however, the suggestions forum is a great place to do so, there are often things that have not yet been considered.


Databases, Setup and the Map:


Perhaps the most visible research work that goes into Europa Universalis is that to fill out the map. Many have called this game a map-painter and, though I would say there’s a bit more to it than that for me personally, the map is certainly where this game is played and where you can see most of your achievements.
The setup we have now has been worked on continuously since release and yet many parts of it are inherited from previous games. I cannot really speak for how research was done in previous installations but I do know a fair bit about how we do things now.

For the setup we’ve often come to use anything from historical atlases, to books on historical populations, to various other sources. Unlike the region based addition of content there is rarely one big source you can use to get a comprehensive picture of the entire world and era. Instead we have to rely on various historical maps, atlases and/or online databases. Both the suggestions forum and our beta-testers/researchers are great resources here as others have access to sources we do not, either because they speak other languages or because they have special interests. This is something I know well as before I joined the company I was myself involved on a volunteer basis to improve the depiction of India (both before the initial release of the game and for the general upgrade in the patch accompanying Art of War).

As before a grounding in the general era and place becomes crucial to tell good information from bad along with a willingness to keep adding and/or correcting things for the long term when we get better information. And as before the setup is also very much subject to gameplay considerations (this is why there are no wars in the world in 1444 for instance).

This was far from a complete overview of what historical research for Europa Universalis entails but an overview and an introduction that i hope has been an interesting read for all those of you who wished to know more of it :)

If you have any questions I will try to answer them in this thread. If reading this made you realize you have a pressing suggestion for things to improve then I would like to direct you towards the suggestions forum where we will be happy to read them.


As promised here are some examples of overview books used in the development of ‘El Dorado’ and ‘Mandate of Heaven’:


El Dorado:

The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society

Aztec Archeology and Ethnohistory

History of the Inca Realm


Mandate of Heaven:


Civil Examinations and Meritocracy in Late Imperial China

Cambridge History of Japan. Vol 6

That was all for today. Now I will be hitting the books and next week I will be back to talk a bit about what region is getting improved next...
 

Politic Revolutionnaire

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Hello again everyone! Welcome to this developer diary on the historical research we do for Europa Universalis IV.

When we have in the past asked you guys what you would like us to write about in our developer diaries the suggestion to make one about historical research in relation to the game was quite popular.

I’ll start by noting that Europa Universalis is, of course, a game. And as a game it needs to be fun to play and have systems that makes sense to interact with as a game. That said it is a game which takes it’s setting from history and which uses history as an inspiration for both mechanics and many other things.

Now there’s some form of research involved for many, many things that are in the game and I am not going to be able to cover all of them here. Rather what I will give is an introduction and overview to the research I do as a Content Designer on this game.

As a general rule historical research will fall into one of two categories dependent on what it is to be used for: Database/Setup Research and Background/Content Research. We’ll start with the Content and then continue with the setup research. I will be describing the process as it relates to expansions as I was not part of Content Design for the base game :)


Content, Mechanic related events and DHEs:

One of the things I personally like best about this game is that you can play in any location in the entire world. Not all regions have equal amounts of flavor or specific game systems however and generally (though not always) when this is expanded upon it will be concentrated on one region at a time.

When we begin working on a new DLC there will generally be a number of game systems planned by Game Designers, such as the Religious Authority system for the Inti religion in ‘El Dorado’, or more recently the Shinto Isolationism mechanic in ‘Mandate of Heaven’. These systems require fleshing out and to be given life through events and other scripted content.

1: Books

Now while I think it’s fair to say that most developers I’ve met at Paradox have an interest in history, and especially that of their respective games, it is not possible or expected that everyone know everything on their own. It is, however, desirable that we produce an image of a past place and time that tries to resemble that time without reproducing unwanted or outdated stereotypes (you might argue we have at times failed at this but our intention is pretty clear here).

In order to get a proper handle on things I will normally therefore find and order a reasonably new overview from a university publisher (at the end of this diary I’ll list some examples of books for El Dorado and Mandate of Heaven). And then after having read that go a little wider both in real life and online. This way the idea is that a reasonably fair overall vision can be preserved when diving into various details that might be required to fully flesh out a region.

Apart from being a way to “ground” the general ideas and research for a region these books are often themselves the source of many events or other details that make it into the game. They’ll usually be full of underlinings and scribblings that would disturb any librarian.


(example of a random page in one of the books used for Mandate of Heaven research)

2: The Internet & the Community


Since a long while back we also try to be in touch with certain members of the community with a special interest or skill related to the regions and times we like to portray. If you have been following these diaries for a long time you’ll remember we’ve mentioned some of them at times. @Guillaume HJ , @chatnoir17 and @Fryz are just a few examples of posters that have offered us both hard work and insights in relation to both content and our databases over the years.

As Europa Universalis 4 is a mature game we are also able to draw from the existing community it has. The Suggestions Forum has been the source of many good additions in terms of content, sometimes specific and sometimes simply because the discussions there allow us to find more things. I really want to take this opportunity to highlight how useful this forum is. Even if we don’t always reply to everything we read the discussions and the suggestions and much of it improves the game one way or another.

Of course the internet is also a great source of information in general and it is not unknown for development to use information from various online databases. Information secured in point 1 should help in avoiding obvious pitfalls here.

3: Gameplay and other Considerations

It has been said by a former project lead that History is not an argument in itself. Of course Europa Universalis is a game, and the idea is to create an enjoyable experience rather than one that is always strictly faithful (and honestly, it is very rare that we have a clear enough picture of a past to even allow for that).

Sometimes we’ll be in situations where we choose what to portray and how, and the thing that decides this is the overall game design. The idea is not to put things in just for its own sake (though sometimes one likes to indulge, like with the birth of the state of Habsan if stars align correctly in western India) but to make an entertaining game. If you find something to be obviously divergent from how you think things should be it is not unlikely that such a decision was made.

View attachment 262379

That does not mean you shouldn’t ask us to change it however, the suggestions forum is a great place to do so, there are often things that have not yet been considered.


Databases, Setup and the Map:


Perhaps the most visible research work that goes into Europa Universalis is that to fill out the map. Many have called this game a map-painter and, though I would say there’s a bit more to it than that for me personally, the map is certainly where this game is played and where you can see most of your achievements.
The setup we have now has been worked on continuously since release and yet many parts of it are inherited from previous games. I cannot really speak for how research was done in previous installations but I do know a fair bit about how we do things now.

For the setup we’ve often come to use anything from historical atlases, to books on historical populations, to various other sources. Unlike the region based addition of content there is rarely one big source you can use to get a comprehensive picture of the entire world and era. Instead we have to rely on various historical maps, atlases and/or online databases. Both the suggestions forum and our beta-testers/researchers are great resources here as others have access to sources we do not, either because they speak other languages or because they have special interests. This is something I know well as before I joined the company I was myself involved on a volunteer basis to improve the depiction of India (both before the initial release of the game and for the general upgrade in the patch accompanying Art of War).

As before a grounding in the general era and place becomes crucial to tell good information from bad along with a willingness to keep adding and/or correcting things for the long term when we get better information. And as before the setup is also very much subject to gameplay considerations (this is why there are no wars in the world in 1444 for instance).

This was far from a complete overview of what historical research for Europa Universalis entails but an overview and an introduction that i hope has been an interesting read for all those of you who wished to know more of it :)

If you have any questions I will try to answer them in this thread. If reading this made you realize you have a pressing suggestion for things to improve then I would like to direct you towards the suggestions forum where we will be happy to read them.


As promised here are some examples of overview books used in the development of ‘El Dorado’ and ‘Mandate of Heaven’:


El Dorado:

The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society

Aztec Archeology and Ethnohistory

History of the Inca Realm


Mandate of Heaven:


Civil Examinations and Meritocracy in Late Imperial China

Cambridge History of Japan. Vol 6

That was all for today. Now I will be hitting the books and next week I will be back to talk a bit about what region is getting improved next...
Can you provide some specific examples of resources you have used in creating the maps please?
 

AurochsAway

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Thanks Trin! That was great to read, and yet still feels quite incomplete. Hopefully you can indulge in some more detailed examples at later points!
 

Mingmung

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Goodness, I'm excited what the next improved region will be!
 

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After digging through the various history files in the game, I can say that there are a lot of hidden details in form of additional commentaries that are often even irrelevant for the game itself, but someone put the hard work into all this nevertheless, which is quite commendable. Are you (or someone else from the studio) actually studied professional historian, or are you generally self-educated enthusiasts? Either way, great work, the events and details in the game are written in a way that is far from the stereotypical views that we can usually see in other movies or games. The general level of detail is also insane, I would never expect a non-Czech to bother implementing a translation for lmost every European province :D
 

TheGeographyBacca

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#Central Asia probably is what will get improved. Either that or #Middle East?
 

Trin Tragula

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After digging through the various history files in the game, I can say that there are a lot of hidden details in form of additional commentaries that are often even irrelevant for the game itself, but someone put the hard work into all this nevertheless, which is quite commendable. Are you (or someone else from the studio) actually studied professional historian, or are you generally self-educated enthusiasts? Either way, great work, the events and details in the game are written in a way that is far from the stereotypical views that we can usually see in other movies or games. The general level of detail is also insane, I would never expect a non-Czech to bother implementing a translation for lmost every European province :D
Background varies. I've studied history at uni, I've also studied Latin, the history of learning and ideas as well as the History of Books (really a tiny tiny discipline) and some other things that are less relevant to this job :)
 

Kapi96

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Pretty interesting read. And I must say you really do make your job sound like great fun!

Looking forward to seeing which region is getting focused on next too!
 

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More provinces for the Balkans!
 

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Wow! Thanks for sharing, it's very interesting. Just a quick question... as an historian myself I was wondering why not hiring historian staff to help in this specific task? Thanks again and keep the good work!!!
 

Mingmung

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More provinces for the Balkans!
That is my hope too, I hope they'll at least target a large region. Preferably in Europe or the Near East (personally).
 

Mrakvampire

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How about all native americans tribes that embrace Manufactories by 1700? What book should I read to get background info on this?
 

Trin Tragula

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Wow! Thanks for sharing, it's very interesting. Just a quick question... as an historian myself I was wondering why not hiring historian staff to help in this specific task? Thanks again and keep the good work!!!
As posted before some of us do have a background in university but (and this is a personal reflection, I can of course not speak for the company in this) I doubt there'd be a need for someone who dealt exclusively with research. To work here you'd need to actually work directly on the game as well :)
 

Axe99

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Cheers for the DD Trin Tragula :D. The attention to detail in terms of the history is one of the many things that draw me to Paradox's games. It's a huge boon for immersion, and I'm pretty confident that the historical detail informs the gameplay mechanics to the point that the gameplay itself is better (as while history isn't an argument on its own, mechanics appropriately inspired by historical situations are more likely to lead to historically immersive and often (but not always by any means) more engaging gameplay. Really enjoyed reading that, keep up the great work :D. Very glad (but not the least bit surprised) you still use books for research - the internet's good and all, but it often lacks the depth, quality and perspective of a good, considered book :).
 
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Trin Tragula

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Do you ever just wiki things?
Wiki can be useful :) It depends what one uses it for. I would not go to wiki to read up on why something happened. I might well use it, together with other stuff, to quickly check when and where something happened.
 

Zak Preston

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@Trin Tragula dev's team work on EU4 is impressive: EU4 has progressed a lot. The problem is that with updating one area\region\subcontinent\continent you raise your standards higher with every patch (in terms of detailization). This makes some other (non-updated) regions look very bleak and really backwards. I mean some regions of "civilized world" look so much worse than uncolonized regions in Africa or in Americas (which were updated years ago), that it discourages people playing them and forms some strange stereotypes.