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Arheo

Game Director - Hearts of Iron
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Feb 13, 2018
798
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At the time of writing, it has been two whole years since the launch of Imperator. It would be remiss of me to let such a momentous occasion pass without any acknowledgement, so in time honored tradition, I shall begin the trawl through our early development archives to find some anecdotal and/or interesting snippets :)

I will not be covering anything to do with upcoming content, so fair warning - if you were expecting that, you can safely skip this post ;).

For me, the journey on Imperator began in Content Design - putting together the map region by region while working remotely from the UK. Of course, there is a vast amount of work done on games before and during this stage, although such work is often less visible.

1619358717263.png


For many months, everyone in the world was Egyptian. You can also see that a great deal of work went into figuring out the likely state of the coastal lowlands later on in development. The question on why Dogger Bank is not submerged in this early screenshot remains... unanswered.

1619358870622.png


At one point we tried more organic looking sea-zones; but didn't feel this added much aside from making sea boundaries more confusing. You can also contrast this Sicily with some of the changes that have occurred to the region in Magna Graecia (and beyond).

1619359147517.png


The 'important' nations are added. Icons are shamelessly borrowed from other games! Wars were quite interesting to observe when the map was as empty as this, and as the AI began to undergo development.

1619359301280.png


This is one of the earliest concept spreads we have for the 4 (now deprecated) 'power' types. Interestingly, you'll see that whereas we shipped the game with the 3rd concept style, the UI rework that came with 2.0 was strongly influenced by the first and earliest concept here.

1619359509815.png


At some point, something fairly vital disappeared from the game.

1619359621106.png
1619359664982.png


A before and after - this should be a testament as to the incredible talent of our art team.

1619359837372.png


One of our most troubling and long-standing bugs was trying to discover why certain large greek nations would end up looking like swiss-cheese in our overnight runs. This persisted for several months. The culprit, is transpired, was the Olympics event. It would target and send governors to the olympics, who, rather than travel alone, would transfer ownership of the capital state of their governorship to the country holding the Olympics.

The olympic event has proven to be responsible for causing or identifying numerous issues and bugs over the course of development. Without it, we would also not have realized that babies born to mothers in country A would instantly arrive at the location of their father in country B, presumably by means of some mediterranean child cannon.

1619360240886.png


The OG megacity.

Severe Bordergore Warning

1619360576149.png


If you thought the Imperial Challenge CB could lead to bordergore, you ain't seen nothin' until you've experienced pre-release builds.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course, this is all material from before the release of the game. After the release, a huge amount of work was put into changing and developing core features and mechanics.

The 1.1 Pompey patch snuck in under the radar a little, but had some pretty cool features - my favorite of which were the sadly rare volcanic eruptions:

1619361557687.png


The 1.2 Cicero update is still one of the most comprehensive overhauls of core system mechanics I can imagine in a live game; perhaps comparable to the Stellaris or Imperator 2.0 updates.

Regardless of the continuous debate around reception and fanbase, the 1.2 update, to me, signaled the point at which many things fell into place about what Imperator was going to be. The defining and unique identity as a Civilization Builder. The pop simulation and expansions to the granularity of the administrative process (cities, settlements, trade etc) organically led to a design to tie more and more of these systems together into a very neat and interconnected simulation - culminating most recently in the 2.0 update.

The Religion (1.4), Culture (1.5), and finally Warfare (2.0) updates were each built successively upon the foundation of their predecessor - the warfare update could not have existed without first having a robust and diverse population cultural management system, for example.

Ultimately, I feel the game has made great strides towards where I wanted it to be. I see great fondness in the words of our dedicated fans, for the experience that Imperator offers them, which is an experience that is unique to it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All of the successes and hard work you see in our live game and in the anecdotes/screenshots above has been created by a passionate and talented team, the membership of which has changed over the years in development, but whose collective ability to adapt and overcome still inspires me.

There are so many things to say about the development of Imperator - many tangents I wish to follow, from the UI rework down to details about AI, feature implementation, and funny bugs - but I'd be here all day. Instead, you'll have to make do with the meandering ramble above!

I'll do my best to answer any questions below, with the obvious caveat that I won't answer anything about future features/content/development.

You can also track my own metamorphosis from keen, naive, eager content designer with hair, through to autocratic Imperator (with no hair), here:

1619363901506.png
 
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the 1.2 update, to me, signaled the point at which many things fell into place about what Imperator was going to be.
I've sometimes wondered about this. The 1.1 update feels like it was going to come regardless on how imperator was received and you probablly talked about the 1.1 patch before 1.0 was released?

The 1.2 patch in comparison really shifted quite afew core mechaincs of the game. Do you think the game would have evolved in a simular manner from 1.2 onwards if imperator had a better reception at launch? If not what would have been the biggest differences?
 
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And here I thought we weren't going to hear from you before Monday! <3

I'll say what I've said in other threads in other places: 2.0 made this to me the lowkey best game in the Paradox catalogue. I agree with your assessment about 1.2 being the turning point, but 2.0 was the flourishing of a well-nurtured seed. This team has done such incredible work!
 
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Arheo

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I've sometimes wondered about this. The 1.1 update feels like it was going to come regardless on how imperator was received and you probablly talked about the 1.1 patch before 1.0 was released?

The 1.2 patch in comparison really shifted quite afew core mechaincs of the game. Do you think the game would have evolved in a simular manner from 1.2 onwards if imperator had a better reception at launch? If not what would have been the biggest differences?

To answer question 1: this isn't unusual in game development. Final builds often need to be frozen many months before release (for many reasons). It wouldn't be vastly productive to sit there twiddling our thumbs and waiting for release, so work is done on prospective future updates.

To answer to second: No. The old adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' comes to mind. Whilst evolution on a successful game is entirely possible, I don't think it would have been possible to justify the magnitude of change in any scenario other than that with which we were presented.

As to what it might have looked like; well, I think 1.2 lit a fire under the simulation balloon. PDS games always involve simulation, but I think we took it to the 'next level' in 1.2. I guess imagine Imperator without those changes.
 
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Started playing again Imperator yesterday, haven't played since 1.4.
I've found a completely new, fantastic, game, more complex than almost any other PDS game.
You've made a great job, and I wish the next two years will be similar to these ones.
 
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Here's to another 2 years. Ave and thanks for this great gem of a game that I have sunk many, many hours into, and will inevitably sink many more into in the future.

Ave, friend <3
 
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At the time of writing, it has been two whole years since the launch of Imperator. It would be remiss of me to let such a momentous occasion pass without any acknowledgement, so in time honored tradition, I shall begin the trawl through our early development archives to find some anecdotal and/or interesting snippets :)

I will not be covering anything to do with upcoming content, so fair warning - if you were expecting that, you can safely skip this post ;).

For me, the journey on Imperator began in Content Design - putting together the map region by region while working remotely from the UK. Of course, there is a vast amount of work done on games before and during this stage, although such work is often less visible.

View attachment 708961

For many months, everyone in the world was Egyptian. You can also see that a great deal of work went into figuring out the likely state of the coastal lowlands later on in development. The question on why Dogger Bank is not submerged in this early screenshot remains... unanswered.

View attachment 708962

At one point we tried more organic looking sea-zones; but didn't feel this added much aside from making sea boundaries more confusing. You can also contrast this Sicily with some of the changes that have occurred to the region in Magna Graecia (and beyond).

View attachment 708963

The 'important' nations are added. Icons are shamelessly borrowed from other games! Wars were quite interesting to observe when the map was as empty as this, and as the AI began to undergo development.

View attachment 708965

This is one of the earliest concept spreads we have for the 4 (now deprecated) 'power' types. Interestingly, you'll see that whereas we shipped the game with the 3rd concept style, the UI rework that came with 2.0 was strongly influenced by the first and earliest concept here.

View attachment 708966

At some point, something fairly vital disappeared from the game.

View attachment 708967View attachment 708968

A before and after - this should be a testament as to the incredible talent of our art team.

View attachment 708969

One of our most troubling and long-standing bugs was trying to discover why certain large greek nations would end up looking like swiss-cheese in our overnight runs. This persisted for several months. The culprit, is transpired, was the Olympics event. It would target and send governors to the olympics, who, rather than travel alone, would transfer ownership of the capital state of their governorship to the country holding the Olympics.

The olympic event has proven to be responsible for causing or identifying numerous issues and bugs over the course of development. Without it, we would also not have realized that babies born to mothers in country A would instantly arrive at the location of their father in country B, presumably by means of some mediterranean child cannon.

View attachment 708970

The OG megacity.

Severe Bordergore Warning

View attachment 708972

If you thought the Imperial Challenge CB could lead to bordergore, you ain't seen nothin' until you've experienced pre-release builds.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course, this is all material from before the release of the game. After the release, a huge amount of work was put into changing and developing core features and mechanics.

The 1.1 Pompey patch snuck in under the radar a little, but had some pretty cool features - my favorite of which were the sadly rare volcanic eruptions:

View attachment 708976


The 1.2 Cicero update is still one of the most comprehensive overhauls of core system mechanics I can imagine in a live game; perhaps comparable to the Stellaris or Imperator 2.0 updates.

Regardless of the continuous debate around reception and fanbase, the 1.2 update, to me, signaled the point at which many things fell into place about what Imperator was going to be. The defining and unique identity as a Civilization Builder. The pop simulation and expansions to the granularity of the administrative process (cities, settlements, trade etc) organically led to a design to tie more and more of these systems together into a very neat and interconnected simulation - culminating most recently in the 2.0 update.

The Religion (1.4), Culture (1.5), and finally Warfare (2.0) updates were each built successively upon the foundation of their predecessor - the warfare update could not have existed without first having a robust and diverse population cultural management system, for example.

Ultimately, I feel the game has made great strides towards where I wanted it to be. I see great fondness in the words of our dedicated fans, for the experience that Imperator offers them, which is an experience that is unique to it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All of the successes and hard work you see in our live game and in the anecdotes/screenshots above has been created by a passionate and talented team, the membership of which has changed over the years in development, but whose collective ability to adapt and overcome still inspires me.

There are so many things to say about the development of Imperator - many tangents I wish to follow, from the UI rework down to details about AI, feature implementation, and funny bugs - but I'd be here all day. Instead, you'll have to make do with the meandering ramble above!

I'll do my best to answer any questions below, with the obvious caveat that I won't answer anything about future features/content/development.

You can also track my own metamorphosis from keen, naive, eager content designer with hair, through to autocratic Imperator (with no hair), here:

View attachment 708983

First of all, congratulations on the two year anniversary! I can't believe it's been that long already, Imperator still feels like "the new game" to me...

I'm wondering if there are any idea that you had for previous versions of Imperator that are never going to see the light because the game ended up going into a different direction. Especially things like "Before the launch (of 1.0), what did you think was going to be part of 1.2?" or "When doing the culture rework, did you already know that you wanted to have levies?"

Also, let me just use this opportunity to point out that the new innovation system is easily my favourite technology system in any game. Especially since you took the opportunity to slip in a bunch of features that I had been clamoring for since 1.0 - like the ability to turn a guaranteed country into a subject. I really hope you continue to expand on the trees in the future, especially by adding more inventions that significantly alter the way you play the game (e.g. Mayor syncretism or Coloniae).
 
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I'm wondering if there are any idea that you had for previous versions of Imperator that are never going to see the light because the game ended up going into a different direction. Especially things like "Before the launch (of 1.0), what did you think was going to be part of 1.2?" or "When doing the culture rework, did you already know that you wanted to have levies?"

Well, there's never a shortage of ideas. I don't think there's often a subject that is totally locked out by other design choices In the case of levies, this was part of the plan for a fairly long time, yeah, and though changes were made to tie it more securely into the culture system, having connections between the various 'system reworks' is part of our core design theory.

Also, let me just use this opportunity to point out that the new innovation system is easily my favourite technology system in any game. Especially since you took the opportunity to slip in a bunch of features that I had been clamoring for since 1.0 - like the ability to turn a guaranteed country into a subject. I really hope you continue to expand on the trees in the future, especially by adding more inventions that significantly alter the way you play the game (e.g. Mayor syncretism or Coloniae).

I agree, as I think I've stated in a few interviews. The innovation trees themselves are a super simple way of giving design a massive amount of freedom to structure and deliver their ideas. It grew out of a fairly off-hand idea that someone had and iterated on as a side-project. We realized pretty soon after that, that the system had a lot of merit and scope for expansion, so we threw more time that way.
 
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I was on the fence for ages about Imperator (god I hate mana in EU4 with a passion, was so annoyed to see it reappear in Imperator) but recently bit the bullet and I must say, I love it. There's a rare joy in simply watching your nation develop demographically/politically/technologically over time, in an organic way, that I haven't really seen since Vic2 (though recently Stellaris is coming close).

Just wanted to say you guys did a great job and Imperator is a rare treat for this old PDX fan who doesn't care for some of the more "board game-y", hyper-abstracted aspects of the more modern PDX games.
 
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Well, there's never a shortage of ideas. I don't think there's often a subject that is totally locked out by other design choices In the case of levies, this was part of the plan for a fairly long time, yeah, and though changes were made to tie it more securely into the culture system, having connections between the various 'system reworks' is part of our core design theory.



I agree, as I think I've stated in a few interviews. The innovation trees themselves are a super simple way of giving design a massive amount of freedom to structure and deliver their ideas. It grew out of a fairly off-hand idea that someone had and iterated on as a side-project. We realized pretty soon after that, that the system had a lot of merit and scope for expansion, so we threw more time that way.

Since we're talking about innovations, I was wondering why you ended up choosing technology as the way to implement this ability to shape your nation. Many of these innovations might also be characterized as political decisions or laws. I don't want to start a philosophical debate, but I'm curious why you went the route of technology instead of "policy making".
 
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I will not be covering anything to do with upcoming content

So there will be upcoming content confirmed. Thank you! Thats all I needed to hear.

Seriously now though, very interesting to see what IR looked before release.

You're one beast of a dev lead and I hope youre at the helm of the game for years to come, which allows me to sleep peacfully knownign the game will still continue to be the best PDX game, at least for my taste of course.

And thank you to all the team behind you that makes your vision come true!
 
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Yeah, many thanks to you and the team for all the hard work and dedication to making I:R what it is today.

I stayed away on launch, and almost forgot about it until about a week before 2.0 launched. It was love at first sight once I pulled the trigger and got the game.

I really think it speaks volumes that the team and PDS in general had patience and kept working the problem instead of just abandoning the game. Certainly not something you can take for granted in today's gaming business.
 
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After reading your post, I wonder how much is reused from other games codewise and how much creative leeway do you have when creating a new game.

It seems that contrary to popular belief, you had to build the game mechanics from scratch. Do you think this has been good for I:R developing into its own thing? And how much old games drag your creative freedom?

PS: thank you again and congratz to the whole team for the game
 
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GloryGloryByzantium

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You mentioned 1.2 solidifying the game identity as a civilization building. In the talks leading up to this moment, were there alternative identities still being entertained?
And there has been plenty of chatter from players regarding the feel of a nation and / or of characters related to how other pdx games treat nations and characters. Any comment on how these games might have affected the early development of these entities?
 
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Hi @Arheo !

congrats on the second IR annversary and thank you for sharing insights on the early development.
incredible talent of our art team.
it's be the best art team at PDX!

Some questions:
For many months, everyone in the world was Egyptian
Are odd things related to cultures (Hebrew jewish pops outside Judaea, Greeks in Sri Lanka, Wrong cultures in Aetolia and Boeotia a leftover of this?

If you thought the Imperial Challenge CB could lead to bordergore, you ain't seen nothin' until you've experienced pre-release builds.
What caused this?

Since neither of the 2 roadmaps was not finished, what exactly caused their derailment?
  • What was planned for the Cassander patch and the big DLC?
  • What exaclty caused the delay of Autumn of War?
  • Why didn’t you make a 1.6 patch OR an open beta?
  • How helpful was the Cicero Beta for you?

Why was the release day NOT April 21 2019?
 
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Arheo

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Hi @Arheo !

Are odd things related to cultures (Hebrew jewish pops outside Judaea, Greeks in Sri Lanka, Wrong cultures in Aetolia and Boeotia a leftover of this?

No.

Since neither of the 2 roadmaps was not finished, what exactly caused their derailment?

As we've been very careful to point out, roadmaps are not promises. I don't consider any of our roadmaps to have been 'derailed'. Same applies to the 'delay of Autumn of War' question. It wasn't delayed - the roadmap was a rough indication of where we wanted to be. Reality never matches planning, even with the best will in the world.

Why was the release day NOT April 21 2019?

Because we base our decision making on practical affairs, not meme value ;)

You mentioned 1.2 solidifying the game identity as a civilization building. In the talks leading up to this moment, were there alternative identities still being entertained?

Not really. That's what I saw the game as needing to be, and that was my driving vision before and after I became the Game Director here.
 
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RonBurgundy

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@Arheo

Hello, and congrats on two years. I've really enjoyed the 2.0 update!

I've always been curious about something: in the fall, while everyone was waiting for the war update, the wonders DLC was announced. Later, we would learn that all of this would be wrapped up into a 2.0 update. At what point did you decide that the next update to Imperator would be considered 2.0?
 
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