Imperator - Sunday Morning Design Corner - May 5th 2019

Imperator - Sunday Morning Design Corner - May 5th 2019

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Peder P

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The planned improvements sound great. I am having great fun with the game, especially after your fix of the stutter issues. Thank you for swift action on that.

I am also happy to see you stick to your guns and your design, while also incorporating feedback in a constructive manner. That is not easy to do in the face of angry reviewers (and probably some upset studio executives).

Now before my nose turns all brown, there is one thing I sorely miss, and which has not been mentioned anywhere, much to my surprise: Better culture mechanics. The current system is very simplistic, many players dislike the busywork of converting pops constantly, the negative impact of a multi-cultural empire feels wrong for the period, and it is missing core aspect of the period: Cultural hybridization and/or fusion.

The appearance of Gallo-Roman and Greco-Roman culture in conquered regions is of huge importance and has so much gameplay potential. I hope you will reconsider the current culture system at some point (preferably sooner rather than later) and change it into something more fitting to the period.

Replacing insta-conversion with over-time conversion will not fix the core problem: you are penalized for not converting your way out of a multi-cultural empire - instead you should be rewarded for creating Romanized (or Jupiter forbid, Carthaginized) local variants.
 

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Honestly, I think the AI is performing admirably, it just has some very specific blind spots. It uses up its manpower a bit too greedily and likes to not pay their troops, which is especially problematic for smaller countries that don't go to war often. I've seen comments about how it runs into attrition traps a lot, but I have not seen that behaviour myself; quite the contrary.
 

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Personally, I am concerned about what you say about mana, because it still seems like you just don't get "it". Mana is not any currency. Minerals in Stellaris are not mana, although they are a currency. Prestige in CK2 is not mana, although it is a currency. The reason monarch points were originally called mana when the term first emerged is because the resources were overly abstracted. What is an Oratory Power? Nobody knows. If you were to try and describe it in roleplay terms, it is really difficult to do. How evocative your character is? Well, it can't be that, because it stacks up over time and your character isn't going to get more evocative by spending a bit of time not being evocative. Compare this to prestige. What is prestige? It's how prestigious your character is. You can become more prestigious over time, and you can get help by "spending" prestige - that is, bannermen flock to you because you are grand and mighty, but the fact you had to rely on your reputation and not gold in itself reduces prestige a bit.

There's a really big difference between them. Prestige is not mana. Tyranny is not mana. Stability is not mana.

Moreover, you seemed really close to getting the point, and then just failed to do so. You are talking about how moving pops could create tyranny, and how that would create some really interesting dynamics because you couldn't do it too often without revolt. That sounds amazing. That's a dynamic, emergent system where two mechanics are interacting directly. But for some reason, you think that this is something only a minority of people would like, and a majority would prefer a system where you move pops with no consequences except having a timer for when you can move pops again? With the greatest possible respect, I think part of the reason you seem a little taken aback by Imperator's reception is because maybe this is not a minority after all, and you misjudged your audience.

Your changes just won't do much. Do I care if Kemetic has +5% discipline +5% manpower instead of +10% income? No, not really. I don't "notice" that change. It doesn't make Kemetic play distinctly differently from anything else. Just throwing more spreadsheet modifiers at the problem won't fix it. Instead, different religions and cultures need to have different mechanical differences. But you don't have room for that because all of Imperator's mechanisms are abstracted into mana. There's no meat and bones, only timers.
 
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vanin

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Thanks for the update, but don't wear yourselves out on a Sunday.

I have to add, it is perplexing to read that you are surprised with regards to porting everything from eu rome, a game from a decade ago, not being enough. I remember that the game did ok for Paradox, but wasn't a slam hit. So taking a foundation nearly wholesale from a game which didn't do great and isn't necessarily fondly remembered sounded odd from the get go. I am personally not surprised, I played rome a lot but the game has not aged well at all.

Otherwise sounds good, especially that modding capability remains a priority.
 

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Hi @Johan - thank you for your continuous updates. This is my first Paradox game that I've played and I'm absolutely loving it. The hate Paradox is receiving on this game is ridiculous to me - especially, since as you pointed out, your team did not hide the game at all. Everyone can see what type of game this was from the many dev clashes, the streamers, etc. I want to tell you that I think you all have done a great job.

I do have one question. Can you please tell me if your team is aware that currently, mods cannot be used in multiplayer at all? I have posted about this issue a couple times, including on the bug report forum, but as far as I can tell no one from Paradox has commented on this issue or acknowledged that it exists. Maybe @Trin Tragula could comment on this if Johan cannot.
 

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It seems like Johan just doesn't get it. Completely and utterly clueless.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion, generally, in Johan's post. He expresses confusion as to why people are disappointed when Imperator improves on the aspects of Europa Universalis: Rome. This is the first I've ever heard it implied by Paradox that Imperator was even supposed to be a sequel to EU: Rome. This game was billed as being a new IP separate from EU with its own DNA, which it certainly isn't at this point. Maybe if it had been billed as a literal sequel to EU: Rome, then people would have been less disappointed. They certainly wouldn't have expected anything more than a glorified version of Risk, which no previous release of the EU franchise has ever transcended being.

So it's been taken note that the game is incredibly shallow and lacks things to actually do. I was hoping he wouldn't have recourse to the infamous old EUIV solution which appeared in almost each and every DLC for that game(with some exceptions!): instead of actually adding more mechanics, you know, that thing that actually provides you new things to do and interact with the game world, they just added modifiers. Click this thing here to get an X% bonus to Y!

Yet that's all of what Johan's proposed solutions to the game's fundamental issue, a lack of mechanics, are. Everything he listed are just pointless additions as far as concerns actually solving the game's problems. Religions providing X% bonuses to Y? Who cares? That doesn't give you more to do. These are just distractions to provide the illusion of depth while still not providing anything more to actually do.

You want to know why so many people hate mana? It's because mana just acts as a substitute for actual game mechanics. The game is so shallow because things like religion, culture, practical administration are just abstracted into mana costs instead of things that you can actually meaningfully interact with in a dynamic way.

Take a look at the recent expansions for Hearts of Iron 4 and Stellaris. Each games still have substantial issues(the former being hamstrung by an abysmal AI), but their expansions actually added new mechanics that provided new things to do entirely and new systems that required more interaction and more layers of strategic and tactical depth. Beyond the fort rework, estates, and institutions, EU 4 never got much like that.

There are probably a million potential mechanics that could be added to this game to make it wonderful. Spitballing here just purely as a hypothetical example. Imagine a new religious system in which you really did have to take significant care about the concerns of religious minorities. What if religions were in a state of change and evolution, in which they could adapt millenarian, messianic, and other aspects and spread like wildfire through dissident pops potentially causing breakaway states, rebellions, civil wars, and had the potential to spread beyond the border of your own state? What if these religions continued to evolve as they spread, adopting syncretic aspects of local beliefs, as Christianity co-opted hero cults of the Germanic tribes? Something like this was really observed only close to the end of this game's time period, but even if it's anachronistic, it would add a lot more things of interest and engagement.

Perhaps this specific example isn't the best, it's really only intended to highlight potential changes that could be made aside from yet more boring, pointless modifiers. It seems Johan's single-minded fixation on mana and modifiers reflect an inability to move beyond a vision of game that is little more than a glorified version of Risk. You need to be willing to shake things up with significant revision of existing mechanics and the substantial addition of new mechanics. Even though they've had their share of failings, again I think the work of the Stellaris and Hearts of Iron teams offer some positive examples of this. If this game continues the same route as EU 4, then it's going to be dead in the water.
 
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Cethanis

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Wow that's some Backpaddling from the "We are happy with the Release" from some Days ago. Maybe, just maybe it really starts to sink in....
 
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Daddl

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I enjoy the game and knew what I bought into. It's certainly not perfect but I don't quite get the rage.

Apart from suboptimal UI and pop management, what currently bugs me most is the lack of rather simple features like moving capital or shifting religion and culture (which is also very inconsistent across the country formation decisions), or the lack of proper subject overview / interactions, or the rather barebones macro builder (at least for buildings).

Basically I really feel the lack of many QOL features I'm used to from EU4, but that really is the biggest complaint I can make at the moment. I already played Imperator far longer than I even realized. Which is good (and scary).
 

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I think the AI has behaved pretty well in the 50 hours or so I have played, certainly much better than in some games I have played in this genre and related genre's.
 

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Barebones Games
This is the feedback that I just do not understand. I took everything we had in Rome I, and made every mechanic deeper and more complex, while adding lots more new mechanics to make it into a game. This game was developed the same way we did EU4 and HOI2, the previous games I’ve been most satisfied with, where we used all the original gameplay code of the previous game, and just built upon that.

I’ve not cut away anything when making Imperator to add into future expansions, and every game-mechanic, and lots more, we had planned was in the original 1.0.

I have said before launch that this is the best game I’ve made, and I stand by it still. 1.0 of Imperator is the best 1.0 we have ever made of a game.

-No naval combat
-Only 4 buildings
-A soundtrack that feels very limited, with a day 1 DLC to get the whole thing (come on, really? My ears are already tired of the same things)
-Using mana to do everything, and instantly, instead of more realistic and in depth modelling of aspects how a state works
-Countries feel the same in regards to tech, ideas, omens etc (you've addressed that which I acknowledge)

When barebones is mentioned these are the main things that come to my mind.

The weird design decisions like 1 warscore battles are also the main things that stick out as problematic to me as well, and the whole characters-not-marrying design decision has been proven to be game breaking (or almost so) for several people including myself. I don't see any reason why these passed the testing stages.

I don't hate the game as it is, I kind of enjoy it actually, and believe it could be better but the thing is, it seems like what CK2 tried to do on release, it did better (character focus) and what EUIV tried to do, it did better (empire building focus.) What we have got is only aspects of both of those systems. What I would like to see is those being fully developed in a way that makes Imperator feel like its own unique game, just like CK2 and EUIV do.
 
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Rabid

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This will be an unpopular suggestion, but it makes tons of sense. It feels a bit off that the great oratory power of your ruler 4 generations ago can be stockpiled up in order to accomplish a bunch of tasks decades later. Power caps don't solve this issue completely, but they can alleviate it a lot.

A cap would be good but only if the uses of various types of power are spread out a bit.

@Johan thanks for posting this, I do think it's unfortunate that you approached the game this way with the game being a direct sequel to EU: Rome (as I think you stated in the first or 2nd dev diary, so no change there) as it was obvious to me from the start that the community would be wanting to see a game closer to EU4 and CK2; in other words, repeating what EU:R did with EU3 and CK. In terms of wider 'gameplay' flaws rather than interface and flavour improvements, I do hope you look at the AI's blobbing ability and the extremely high value of Oratory Power compared to other types.

I do agree with you that technically speaking this is your best 1.0 game ever, it's just not the game that some people wanted (and yes I watched the streams which is why I am happy with the game! I bought the game that was for sale and not the one which I imagined).
 
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liveandletdie14

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I think the AI has behaved pretty well in the 50 hours or so I have played, certainly much better than in some games I have played in this genre and related genre's.

I'm 50/50 generally depends what you are doing one example alliances tend to be an issue especially with the Diadochi. Macedonia and Phrygia tend to be heavily aggressive towards their neighbours while Egypt and Seleucids don't and both generally go into Arabia rather than taking on Phrygia as happened historically.
 

David McMurdo

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Can we have any assurances that the higher scaling options will be restored in the hotfix for "Demetrius"? Them being removed is why I'm currently forced to roll-back to 1.0, as it makes playing on the lower resolutions available untenable.
 

mavregade

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Hello!

It is been a rocky launch in some aspects, with part of the community unhappy. While it is not Hoi3, there are still issues, and I want to make sure you understand that we are looking at them.

Technical Issues
It looks like we have addressed most of the incompatibility issues, and that the game had heavy stuttering on some machines. It is something we will continue to fix immediately as they prop up.

Barebones Games
This is the feedback that I just do not understand. I took everything we had in Rome I, and made every mechanic deeper and more complex, while adding lots more new mechanics to make it into a game. This game was developed the same way we did EU4 and HOI2, the previous games I’ve been most satisfied with, where we used all the original gameplay code of the previous game, and just built upon that.

I’ve not cut away anything when making Imperator to add into future expansions, and every game-mechanic, and lots more, we had planned was in the original 1.0.

I have said before launch that this is the best game I’ve made, and I stand by it still. 1.0 of Imperator is the best 1.0 we have ever made of a game.

Missing UI / Bad UX
I agree that there are things in the UI that is suboptimal. Some screens are bigger than they could be, like the province interface, and some do not have all the information you may need. We are all working on improving that. Some UI I deemed as optional as we ran lower on time, and I wanted to prioritise the gameplay experience, so those will come in patches.
  • Multiplayer Chat will eventually come, but not in 1.1
  • Ledger, I regret cutting it, but there will be a first version in 1.1
  • Macrobuilding functionality: While we hadn’t planned diplomatic or army template macrobuilder for 1.0, we should have focused on having better interface for impact of what you are building.
  • Colonisation & Pop Management. It is functional, but not optimal. We definitely need to improve here.

Here is a small peek at a work in progress UI...

View attachment 477928


Bad AI
Ironically, this is the game we spent the most resources in writing AI for, both in time and people. Instead of a basically reactive AI, that had no goal, and reusing old mechanics, we decided to write this AI as a new proactive system working with plans.

I understand that effort and intent is not the same as result, but AI was something we did focus a lot on.

Power / Abstracted Currencies
I understand that there is a part of the community that dislike abstracted currencies like prestige, monarch power, influence or political power, they do make it into games that are possible to balance and

In 1.1, with us adding stability, war exhaustion, aggressive expansion and tyranny to the price structure, you could make a really good mod, replacing all power costs with impacts on those attributes. Such a mod could also completely make the instant culture conversion of a pop cost tyranny instead, making it something you do not want to do in bulk, or you could make changing an idea cost 5 stability, which is not much in direct cost, but limits you in other ways.

The base game will continue to use these currencies, as they make for a better game, but I acknowledge that there is a group of people who dislike them, and prefer another experience, so we will improve the game, to be able to support it.

Lack of Flavor
There has been a lot of feedback of the game about how most countries just feel the same to play, and there are no variations. While most people appreciate that there is enough difference between settled tribes, migratory tribes, monarchies and republics, there is not much difference between the different tribes other than their starting location.

While we did not view this is a flaw, we hear you, and will add some distinct flavor to 1.1, some new to our games, and some familiar.

First of all, we are adding bonuses to each religion, so that different religions have different impacts. That in itself does not make the game suddenly great, but it gives a bit more flavor.

Secondly, we are diversifying Omens, so that different religions, or even different countries can have unique omens for them. We will go into more details on this soon.

Finally, we are adding something we call Heritages to countries. This is something they start with, which gives 2 bonuses and 1 drawback. There will be lots of “generic” heritages for countries, which depends on their geography, but we aim to add as many unique ones as possible in 1.1, and then keep adding them.

View attachment 477932


Percieved Shallowness
A lot of the things that happens has not been visible enough to the player, like you don’t see the things characters do with each other. This will be changed for 1.1, where you will be able to always see what a character is up to, besides just an ambition.

Another thing is that the game has been tuned so a lot of the mechanics is not required to think about, especially when you are a big power. I’ve seen a lot of comments about how great the game is when you play smaller, compared to Rome where you just rofl-stomp everything, and don’t have to care about any challenges. One thing we are reworking in 1.1, is how a characters “power base” is calculated, which is the amount of troops, holdings, wealth or territory he or she may hold, and that power base will have much more impact.


Content
It is hard to compare content between various games, but Imperator shipped with the same amount of events as Victoria 2 with expansions, and more than any game had at release besides CK2.

We also had more character interactions than CK2 at release, and a similar amount of diplomatic actions and relations as EU4 had at release.

Of course, when you have been playing games that have 5-10k of events,dozens upon dozens of unique systems, any new game, no matter how much content they have, will feel light.

We will continue to add more content at each update, with a nice chunk on focus on Italy in 1.1, but it will take years of expansions and patches until Imperator reaches

Cheers everyone, and tomorrow Trin Tragula will show off what we have been doing for 1.1.

/Johan

I love the game. I’d like to see better missions for nations, but I know that’ll come with time.

For instance, with Carthage I’d like to see EUIV style missions like:

1: Secure the shipping routes: control Sicily and Corsica

2: Establish supremacy over the colonies: integrate all the Feudatories

3: The Massalian Trade: secure Massalia

4: Into Iberia: expand upon the New Carthage treeline. Personally I’d like to see silver as a trade good, maybe one that reduces cost of cultural conversion or something. Much of the Iberian expansion was silver-mine induced.

5: reclaim the motherland: liberate Phoenicia from the Greeks.

6: Himilco Returns: Invade Britain.


I’d also like to see a bit more uniqueness to units, maybe Nation-Specific Units. Maybe give each nation a unique unit that gets modifications to it from the focus trees? I know it is functionally not much different than just buffing the generic units differently, but immersion-wise if we had Numidian cavalry and the Sacred Band instead of light cavalry and heavy infantry it would feel different.

I think this does mean tying units to culture but that would be a huge plus for multi-ethnic empires. Currently I really don’t feel like I gain anything specific from my conquests. If I go to the trouble of integrating the Numidian, I should get the reward of their special unit. This would also incentive me to not just carpet-assimilate them.
 

Telenil

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Of course, when you have been playing games that have 5-10k of events,dozens upon dozens of unique systems, any new game, no matter how much content they have, will feel light.
This, I think. It's been the same with other releases, and even other DLCs. You shouldn't take it personally.
 

Bismarck1899

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Johan writes that he doesn't understand the barebones critique "This game was developed the same way we did EU4 and HOI2, the previous games I’ve been most satisfied with, where we used all the original gameplay code of the previous game, and just built upon that."
To that I can only say that over time I played less and less vanilla and more and more mods because the vanilla games became more and more bland. Without mods I wouldn't have bought a Paradox game for more than 5 years. Maybe that's just it. The games are bland and become interesting through mods.
 
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Orioniys

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@Johan
I think when people say Barebones they partially mean lack of asymmetrical balance, the core mechanics of managing power resources and population are exactly the same across every nation. Tribes just feel like delayed start, you siting and w8 for 50-70 years to civilize. Military tradition and laws are bit different but that's not enough. Every culture and and religion feel exactly the same, not only from flavor perspective but from game mechanics as well.
 

Searry

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I think the barebones feel in part lies in every country feeling exactly the same. There's nothing special about any of them where as in EUIV many of the starts are very different from each other.
 
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Twimak

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I don't know the ins and outs of development, but the part where you say you started with an 11 year old game and vastly improved it read a bit like you _only_ used the base code from the 11 year old game without taking advantage of the benefits of the 11 years of development of your other games on the same engine.

I don't know if that's what happened, but if it is then I can understand why there is such a divide between you who compares it to the previous game, and the unhappy people who compare it to more modern pdx games.
 
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Akbar The Great

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I love the game. I’d like to see better missions for nations, but I know that’ll come with time.

For instance, with Carthage I’d like to see EUIV style missions like:

1: Secure the shipping routes: control Sicily and Corsica

2: Establish supremacy over the colonies: integrate all the Feudatories

3: The Massalian Trade: secure Massalia

4: Into Iberia: expand upon the New Carthage treeline. Personally I’d like to see silver as a trade good, maybe one that reduces cost of cultural conversion or something. Much of the Iberian expansion was silver-mine induced.

5: reclaim the motherland: liberate Phoenicia from the Greeks.

6: Himilco Returns: Invade Britain.


I’d also like to see a bit more uniqueness to units, maybe Nation-Specific Units. Maybe give each nation a unique unit that gets modifications to it from the focus trees? I know it is functionally not much different than just buffing the generic units differently, but immersion-wise if we had Numidian cavalry and the Sacred Band instead of light cavalry and heavy infantry it would feel different.

I think this does mean tying units to culture but that would be a huge plus for multi-ethnic empires. Currently I really don’t feel like I gain anything specific from my conquests. If I go to the trouble of integrating the Numidian, I should get the reward of their special unit. This would also incentive me to not just carpet-assimilate them.


Yeah, I have been saying this since launch the game is crying out for mission trees, another big flaw is the lack of buildings, the nation building aspect where you can specialise cities, and provinces for certain priorities.