- Mar 10, 2007
I understand the wish for diversity, and I dont think any of the criticisms of the national focus/spirit approach should be read as opposition to that. It also seems we might be talking a bit past each other, as improving upon existing mechanisms and not including less logical new ones is not an argument in favor of increasing complexity. If anything, I would argue that it is and argument for keeping the game intuitive and interactive, while only adding where it makes sense and improves the experience.I think this critique gets at the same problem of abstraction as above, but also another one of diversity. National focuses do abstract out various complex problems. The cause of and solutions to the Great Depression remain hotly debated to this day, but in HOI4 you simply take three focuses and it's resolved. These focuses are an abstraction of the complex political economy of 1930s America. It wouldn't necessarily be more fun or interesting for HOI4 players to have to end the Great Depression by grappling with a Keynesian counter-cyclical spending mechanic. Complex mechanics are not necessarily better than abstracted mechanics.
Nor are complex mechanics necessarily better for diversity. It's true that the "obsolete army" modifier could be modeled with mechanics that aren't specific to any one nation. Norway's obsolete army could use the same mechanic as, say, Greece and China. But that runs the risk of every nation playing exactly the same. To overcome Norway's obsolete army, you build some factories, research better tech, exercise your divisions and design new templates. To overcome Greece' obsolete army, you build some factories, research better tech, exercise your divisions and design new templates. To overcome China's obsolete army, you build some factories, research better tech, exercise your divisions and design new templates. There's no reason to play different nations because there is no diversity of experience.
You could combat this sameness by deepening the mechanics such that every nation's unique situation is modeled. There should be a deeper political mechanic to reflect its roles in Norway's obsolete army. There should be a deeper industry mechanic to reflect industry's role in Greece' obsolete army. There should be literacy and corruptions mechanics to reflect their role in China's obsolete army. But once those are in-place as base mechanics, rather than 'easy solutions' done through modifiers, you'll need to fill them out for every existing nation in the game. The UK now needs a new political, industry, literacy and corruption mechanic. The USA also needs a new political, industry, literacy and corruption mechanic. The USSR will need these as well, and so on.
You could do all that. Or, you could just abstract the problem and craft a unique experience for that nation that's done in large part through its decisions and focus tree.
I do however believe that "different for differences sake" is a bad approach, and when there are already better mechanisms in place in the game to model what one intends to model, adding a "the military is bad" spirit with a number of focuses to remove said spirit just seems like the wrong approach. For one I think it degrades the experience as it simply is a less interactive and player involving approach, but it also increases complexity by adding another (less logical) mechanism without really adding much to the experience.
Also, if you want diversity and difference between the countries, there are so many interesting ways of achieving just that, both with and without the spirits and focuses, but adding more or less nonsensical spirits and focuses that duplicates existing game mechanics seems like the least interesting and fun ones. If there is a degree of "sameness" between a number of countries, the better approach would seem to be improving on the mechanics that all these countries benefit from, while adding spirits and focuses that plays upon the uniqueness of each country rather than creating less good solutions to what they have in common. The latter also seems like a symptom of lacking creativity or interest in the subject matter, and an easy way of filling a focus tree, and perhaps also a lack of confidence and/or familiarity with the core game mechanics.
Last, I think a good principle could be that spirits and focuses should have a larger impact early in the "value chain" than late. For instance, simulating a policy of disarmament with spirits that makes weapon production more expensive and manpower less available seems like a much better approach than adding a "the military is bad"-modifier to model lack of equipment and manpower. It makes more sense logically, and I would argue it removes some of the "uninspieringness" of having a modifier tell you that the military is bad regardless of its actual state. It would also reduce the awkwardness of having "winter warfare" nations (such as Norway) being less effective at fighting in their homeland than "dessert/jungle"-nations. Please note that none of this nescesarily is an argument for increased complexity. Not duplicating mechanisms would in my oppinion decrease complexity, or at least make the game more intuitive.