You take the story and you put it in the economic simulator

One of the next steps for us in terms of the actual GAME development is going to be the inclusion of work time and not-work time for the characters.  This is kind of tricky, because if you have a button that lets you control how much of any given time period a character works, you’re going to want to crank it all the way up.  And when the characters get cranky, you’re going to want to just ignore their demands for the good of the production chain.  But we want your characters to not be working sometimes, because that means that they can form relationships with other people that they don’t work with, and they can sleep and drink strange liquids and have Super Secret Meetings.  It’s important!

This is a trap.

See, if we make your people not do what you want them to in order for them to do what we want them to, that’s not very fun.  It’s even less fun if we punish you for trying to get them to do what you want them to do.  The storied history of economics games is littered with games that tried to make their agents interesting and the players weren’t motivated to let them be interesting.  It almost always gets in the way, and you would rather nerve staple them all and have them work forever with no rest than let them have a good time.  I get it, I’ve been there.

What’s missing, honestly, is an incentive for making this an interesting choice.  Working them less needs to be beneficial in some ways, just like working them more does.  The old “let’s not work them so much so they’ll be happy so we can work them more later” isn’t actually a choice, it’s basically stupid.  Players don’t bank possible work like that.  Well, most people.  MOST people crank it up just a bit because, you know, you get more widgets, and then there’s a problem and they crank it up like crazy, and then after the problem is gone and everyone is angry and tired, players will begrudgingly lower it and just sit around waiting for their characters to have high enough spirits to lower their morale some more.

Instead, what if giving people more free time actually increased long-term efficiency, to the point where they actually produced more than otherwise?  We probably can’t diverge entirely from having a downside to working your characters more, because it wouldn’t be very convincing if there wasn’t one, but what if you were reminded, periodically, if you did up their work hours too long, that this was a “bad idea” with visible and escalating consequences?  And what if, perhaps, you could spend some prestige to convince people to work longer hours without any negative effects?

We’re going to play with some ideas.  It’s a core tenet of the game that the characters have lives, and as such we can’t just work them 24 hours a day.  It’s important that they interact because it increases the chance of interesting occurrences.  I mean, if you’re clever enough to separate the imperialists and the communists into different work parties, they need some way to be really upset at each other, and we have all these lovely plans for pubs.

That said, there will also be a night cycle. Night time is interesting thematically, which may roughly (but not necessarily) correspond to the amount of time a character has free. It will, however, cause Fun and Unremitting Terror due to the Baleful Moon leading to irregular periods of darkness, which we call “Night”. Night time lends itself to interesting possibilities. Some nice fog rolling in, some ominous meetings, people cramming into a packed pub for safety, food, and booze, a diminished range of vision for your constables and military units, and perhaps some noises emerging from that mysterious meteorite that just landed in the woods…

From this point it was agreed by the Colonial Bureaucrat that the artist named 'van Cog' should no longer be let out of the asylum during the night-time.

From that point forward it was agreed by the Colonial Bureaucrat that the artist  ‘van Cog’ should no longer be let out of the asylum during the night.

Posted in Clockwork Empires | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

36 Responses to “You take the story and you put it in the economic simulator”

  1. Matt says:

    If there is a concept of a “Trade Depot” and a “Broker” (or any value thereof) who is the only dwarf Clockwork Imperialist eligible to do the job that needs doing on a tight schedule, and who will decide to spend months doing all of his or her non-work activities (eat, sleep, bathe, make obiescence to the Eldritch Statesmen, etc.) before answering the call to go to the Trade Depot, then there will be blood.

    There has to be a “drop EVERYTHING and go do this NOW, no really” command. No, of course I won’t abuse it.

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  2. Adam says:

    If this game contains half of the Exotic Capitalized Nouns/Events that you generously sprinkle throughout these dev updates, I don’t know that I’ll ever play anything else again.

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  3. Shawn says:

    I can see some interesting things coming from a “Spirits” system of some sort.

    Villager is at “full spirits” -> works at boosted efficiency and 100% safety.

    Villager is at “half spirits” -> works at normal efficiency and 100% safety.

    Villager is at “low spirits” -> works at low efficiency and 50% safety (meaning he/she can get into an accident at work).

    Numbers can be tweaked of course, but I think this would give incentive enough to keep your Villagers occupied with something other than “work” to keep their spirits up so they work more efficiently and safely.

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    • Jeff says:

      Am I the only one who read “full spirits” and thought it meant completely smashed, “half spirits” (a little drunk) and “low spirits” (depressingly sober)?

      “What happened here? How did he cut his arm off in the band saw?”
      “Looks like he wasn’t drinking enough on the job sir.”

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  4. Nathan says:

    I like Shawn’s idea, but a situation in a mix between Prison Architect’s “schedule” concept and a traditional RPG’s training might work as well. During “free time”, an NPC *might* train (becoming more efficient at their work), and they *might* converse. Or something like that. I don’t really know.

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  5. Christopher says:

    And when you do click on a peon, every once in a while he/she should say “Zug zug.”

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  6. Edward says:

    I hope that overworking your colonists for extended periods of time will lead into an increased chance of a worker making a Horrible Mistake which will then result in Steamy Machinery unleashing Hot And Vaporous Death And/Or Injury on the said worker and all nearby co-workers.
    Nothing like a little accident to remind you of the importance of free time.

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  7. Jacob says:

    Ehm, Endless space has a similar concept, they just use taxes insted of free time. You lower the taxes (the working hours) to something-percent, the people get happier, the industry and science and food you get is increased by a little bit. You probably don´t even need a table that calculates happieness, just let the efficiency drop dramaticly. I don´t know the numbers Endless Space uses, but maybe you could work like this, give each profession their own free time and let people gamble around with the numbers, I would certianly like that ^.^

    Great Ideas,
    Great Game,
    Keep it up!
    Jacob (:

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  8. Magpie says:

    Well, you could always follow the real world model…workers revolutions are FUN

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  9. Coaldust says:

    In a game like Civilization the game is won or lost based on how rapidly you progress, or how much you can slow down everyone else relative to you. Characters being “interesting”, rather than working, in this situation would be irritating to the player, since it harms their ability to win the game.

    In a game like Dwarf Fortress you don’t have to be concerned with “racing to the end”. The closest thing it has to a “end” is the dwarven king arriving, which will happen at random after you meet the various criteria (which have to do with population level and trade, I think). Characters being “interesting”, rather than working, doesn’t harm your ability to win the game in this situation.

    Unless Clockwork Empires has taken a turn for highly competitive play, I don’t see why there should be an urge to work your characters to death. I hope it won’t turn into some sort of Starcraft-with-cogs-on.

    A “management simulator with amusing story generation” might need characters to care about self-preservation, to avoid annoying the player. For example, it would be irritating if, during one of the yearly attacks by Eldritch Santa, my characters stopped working on their bunkers to drink fogmoss tea and discuss the troublesome inflation of hat prices, while getting slaughtered by ethically-challenged toys.

    Basically, characters should work until exhaustion, thirst, or hunger overcomes them when completing the assigned project would reduce a survival need. Obviously you’ll be tracking thirst, hunger, and sleep already, so you may as well use this for intelligent behavior. A additional stat is needed, referring to something like “safety”, and improved by acts like getting weapons and armor, escaping enemies by running or (preferably) getting inside a sturdy structure without enemies inside, and killing enemies. Nobody should work to exhaustion to build a statue of their glorious leader, of course, unless that leader is a demanding elder god.

    Realistic side effects of overworking your characters would be:
    * dropping population (can’t make babies if you’re glued to an assembly line)
    * anger (leading to crimes against management, vandalism, and revolts)
    * mental and physical illness (depression, repetitive stress injury, accidents due to sleepiness, dampened immune system, etc.)
    * decreased quality of products (anger, illness, and sleepiness don’t encourage attention to detail and artistry)
    * decreased quantity of products (uncooperative, sick, and tired employees don’t work fast)

    Some games reward allowing “time off” by allowing the player to build entertainment facilities to recoup some of what they pay their characters. Others just “force” it by not providing a way for players to force characters to work all the time, or punish/kill them when they don’t. Honestly, I prefer the latter, assuming the AI isn’t stupid, because it discourages thinking about micro-management, and encourages you to think of more interesting solutions.

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    • A fair point! And no, we’re not making the game about economic efficiency, but it will be one way that some people play the game. There will be ways that you can take your economy that will be interesting, but they are definitely not win conditions.

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    • Jabberwok says:

      It’s those cases where group preservation is an issue where I worry about control of units. You’re about to run out of some crucial resource, or no one feels like manning the barricades on the day of the attack. How do I tell the AI what’s important?

      This is making me think of Majesty. In that game, you had zero control over your units, aside from the initial decision of whether to create them. But if something was important enough, you could use gold from your treasury to place bounty flags in locations or on enemies. Your adventurers still had the free will to decide whether the risk was worth the bounty, but if you pumped it up high enough, you could overcome their cowardice with greed. That really helped out in the moments when having a strong economy became secondary to not being overrun by a horde of giant minotaurs. Maybe it’s not a system that would make sense in this context, but it seemed like a good compromise for a similar problem.

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  10. Coaldust says:

    I just had some more ideas…

    Time off could have long-term positive effects. Think “going to school”. In this case, for a character to ‘level’ it would need time off. It could also result in new inventions, since people don’t tend to have “eureka” moments without a, sometimes long, break.

    Overwork could have long-term negative effects. Examples include a long-lasting increase in anger, sadness, and criminal tendencies, and permanent injuries or death. This would discourage “abuse them, then let them rest, so we can abuse them more” style play. And since overwork could be necessary in a survival situation, it encourages planning ahead to avoid disasters (and “damaged” characters).

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    • One of the things we are thinking about is events that require a certain amount of free-time-related activities before they can occur. Like kids, as you described earlier, but… we don’t actually have those, because, um… well… you have to pick your battles, y’know? Maybe in the future!

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  11. Daniel Siegmann says:

    Some interesting thoughts, but I think you’re going the wrong way. As a player, I only need two simple options: (1) push my workers hard, and (2) declare something an emergency (drop everything and do this).

    Instead of bonuses for going easy on my workers, or only temporary drawbacks for pushing them hard, I should accumulate risk of something Seriously Bad happening. Perhaps some Important and Highly Valuable Machinery is destroyed (by accident or sabotage); or workers revolt and I have to kill some of them (and maybe lose some soldiers); or a worker goes made and murders a few of my higher-class citizens.

    As a player, it won’t be a matter of simply balancing things. It will be an Exciting Roll of the Dice. The longer and harder I push my workers, the greater the risk. (Note that I should be able to occasionally push my workers with little risk – the question is how much do I push my luck for just a little more production.)

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  12. Dtolman says:

    I see this as approaching the problem wrong way. If these real agents, with independent motivations, we shiuldn’t be able to work them 24 hours.

    We should be providing jobs with certain conditions (I pay you 10 cogs, you work 16 hours a day digging in the salt mines ), and let the Agent decide if he wants it.

    Work them too hard? Then they’ll quit, and no one will fill the position. Abuse them all? They’ll revolt. It works well in Tropico.

    I hope you guys make the right choice here, and create a system that gives the agents carrots and sticks, and nit orders they mindlessly follow.

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    • Tyler says:

      This is kind of what I was thinking of as well. I dont think of the Empire as a communist work camp, One would assume that the citizens are getting paid, and with that money they buy things like alcohol, laudanum, and lodging.

      If in order to get more work out of your citizens you need to pay them more, and the more that you pay them the less they want to work, then the economic realities of pushing workers will quickly become pointless.

      At some point your workers are going to rather drink in the pub than work. For instance to get a cog stamper to work 8 hours, maybe you need to pay them anywhere from $8-10 (depending how much they love their extra-curricular cult activities) while if you want them to work 16 hours a day, it might cost you $15-17. While if you were to try to get them to work 20 Hours, it might cost $30-40, and you will be rewarded with some nice riots.

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    • Spent a bit of time thinking about your response, because it’s interesting, and I wanted to make sure that we weren’t reneging on promises we had made.

      Yes, any decision we make that essentially forces the characters into particular tasks removes some of their personal goal oriented agency. Obviously we can’t have totally autonomous characters, because then the player would have nothing to do. Rather, we are taking the role of presumably some abstract benevolent force over the settlement, with a similar level of control to, perhaps, a benevolent dictator (or if you like, the captain of a pirate ship, which i think is also somewhat philosophically relevant). The player, just like a dictator or captain, can’t pick up and move their subjects forcibly, but can designate high level decisions such as civil planning, military goals, economic decisions, and so forth. Likewise the player can designate targets for the law to pursue, and so forth. This is the frontier, after all. There is no philosophy other than utilitarianism, or everyone basically dies, and the characters will give your benevolence the benefit of the doubt to start.

      That said, the characters don’t have to do what you want them to, just as you the player don’t have to follow the mandates of the empire. If they’re unhappy or unhealthy they will turn away from social utility and toward personal utility. They will go eat, sleep, and otherwise not work until they’re happy with things again. If that doesn’t happen, expect civil unrest. Fights, crime, that sort of thing.

      The bit about work schedules being dictated by the player is, again, something that fits within the theme of the player as a benevolent dictator. They are not forced into servitude for the majority of the day, but they are strongly encouraged. Similarly, if we gave the player some method of basically forcing people to work who were unhappy, you can bet there would be significant costs, not the least of which would be a deepening sense of disloyalty of the characters to the settlement. Again, this would be like forcing them to work at gunpoint. If they’re sufficiently upset, they might still not work.

      Theoretically, you could remove the need to dictate work hours by, as you suggest, imposing some sort of economic motivation for the characters to do their jobs. Work 8 hours, collect 8 wooden nickels, spend them on 4 mugs of ale, et cetera. That is the sort of thing we are honestly just not capable of doing. I can honestly say I don’t know enough about the human condition OR economics to make a system where agents make and spend money and have it look anything like reality, be it period appropriate or not. Characters behaving as emotional people is seemingly an easier task than creating heuristics for how they spend money: mistakes in emotional programming lead to hilarity, where mistakes in economic models lead to people refusing to buy food because they value sand too highly. The stable points of an unbalanced economic model tend toward extremely non-human behaviors. And the focus of the game is not to simulate markets.

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      • Robert Tseng says:

        well, one thought, if a leader of a society (of whatever size) wanted to impose work hours…

        well, take a step back. The issue of work schedules and work hours is something which is fairly complicated and gets largely taken for granted imho. Most people don’t think about the second shift… the people stocking stores overnight, and that they may be asleep during most of the day like vampires, and not have as many hours to get done chores and errands that other people do… or the long term effects of operating on a biologically antagonistic work schedule (such as sleeping during the day and working at night) on health, mental strain, beliefs, and so forth.

        Work itself is by now a sort of accepted standard of hours; it can be influenced by pay and the availability of jobs. If you’ve got low pay and scarcity of employment, people are probably going to except worse working conditions (including hours) due to lack of choice.

        But as a leader, you can influence schedules through minimum wages, mandated holidays, and other such labor laws.

        However, you can ALSO declare martial law, put people under armed guard (a de facto state of state slavery if you will), and jail them for disobedience (and possibly frighten others into obedience).

        How you might (or might not) work all that in is, fortunately, not my problem =x

        However, on that subject, I don’t think a nerve staple button is necessarily out of the question as a frontier administrator… presumably, you could, when needed, send her majesty’s finest persuading gentlemen to ‘convince’ individuals that they “really ought to see to a certain issue with a great deal of alacrity” (and perhaps do so under guard). On a more wide scale scenario, that would be a sort of martial law.

        of course, to do that, a colonial tyrant needs agents to do his bidding… not enough (in body or loyalty) can be disastrous. And utilized too often harkens on disaster as well… a military coup may result, or an uprising… but perhaps it starts with a labor strike.

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  13. Jer says:

    Overworking the workers coud lead to fun things. Oppressed workers could join the luddites, start a evil cult and sacrifice ther managers or worse – join a union.

    I think I’d enjoy seeing satanic luddites join up with trade unionists to challenge my control of the colony.

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  14. Jotwebe says:

    Overwork leads to stress, stress leads to Horrible Accidents at work and Disturbing Proclivities at leisure.

    There’d be a tradeoff with operating at low stress levels and having a reserve in emergencies before things start getting problematic, or running a lean, mean, super-efficient clockwork colony where everybody teeters on the edge of collapse and/or madness.

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  15. Sky says:

    Yes please! 😀

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  16. Bohandas says:

    Workers that are worked too hard should form trade unions that have to be repressed with hired thugs. Push them further and that’ll hire also their own thugs and so on back and forth until somebody winds up buried in a football stadium

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  17. Zentay says:

    Rather than direct control via a slider, have you considered social engineering choices (like in Alpha Centauri) that allow the player to influence various aspects of the colony and colonist behavior? Each choice would have distinct pros and cons.

    Some choices: capitalist or communist, liberty or stability, piety or innovation, etc.

    These choices would be something that cannot be changed on the fly when needed, if at all.

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    • Zentay says:

      I’m suggesting this because I’ve never been a fan of sliders, and because I think this type of decisions fits into a game that wants to let the player tell his own story.

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  18. Dtolman says:

    Interesting – I think are point of views are overlapping. When I say autonomous agents, I share the vision of agents that decide the tactics, so to speak – but you as benevolent dictator set the strategy. So as you say, instead of directly ordering an agent, you set policies that they are encouraged to follow (here’s a job opening, here’s a building that needs to be built over there, here’a a crop that needs to be grown), and they fulfill them based off their own needs (money, fun, food, etc).

    But I do think that a rudimentary economy (combined with simple desires/emotional needs) is the lynchpin of such a system – otherwise why would they work at a job? How else can you make the smart agent miserable at a mindless labor job? If you offer multiple levels of entertainment venues (bars, restaurants, cabarets, theatres, etc), how do you stop them all from going to the “best”, and make them suffer through sub-standard fare without a simple economic bar?

    Again, I can only point you to Tropico (and its modern remake Tropico 3/4) which uses an agent system just as you envision, and combines it with a rudimentary economy to direct their actions.

    Tropico’s agent based (“Tropican”) economy is very simple – you set a salary for various jobs, rents for various buildings, and _entrance_ prices at entertainment venues. Food is free. The Tropicans then spend the money from their job on rent and entertainment. If they can;’t afford rent anywhere, they end up homeless, and their housing desire is unmet (and overall happiness decreases). If they can’t afford to go to a pub, or a movie,etc, they get bored (entertainment desire unmet) and happiness decreases (and desire to revolt increases). It has some other factors (education, job preferences, political leanings, etc), but thats the basic framework. So if they earn 8 cogs, and rent an apartment for 6 cogs, that leaves 2 cogs for entertainment. Set the restaurant to 5 cogs, and the pub to 2 – and welcome to economic warfare! Thats the whole Tropican/agent economy in a nutshell.

    The only way you can directly affect them is to fire them, arrest them, or execute them. Otherwise everything in Tropico is policy decisions (build here, set the tax rate to this, export this, build that, grow this, etc) that they pursue (or not).

    Obviously you can will come up with your own answers (class based entertainment, housing, etc is one – but then do you have one of each for each class? If not, what differentiates them between agents, and how do you avoid inferior venues from going unused without an economic differentiatior?)

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  19. YetiChow says:

    I’ve been watching these deep, engaging mechanics discussions for a while, and I’m really loving the attention going into the game.

    I play a lot of management games, and there’s one thing I’ve never seen: sleep quality. IRL, there are 2 ways to stay awake – you can take lots of power-naps until you get a chance to sleep properly, or you can stop and have a good, refreshing sleep. They’re not “equal” options though – the power naps will keep you awake, but they won’t keep you alert.

    I’d love to see a system where you can keep pushing your people to wake up and keep going, but each time they don’t “wake up” as much. Eventually they burn out from this, but it lets you get that emergency work done immediately.

    In other words, each time you force someone out of bed to do their work, you’re only getting a “part” of that person’s ability. It’s not a way to slave-drive your peons, but it will let you force them to get something done IF you don’t over-use it. Players who abuse it will soon find it stops working anyway, and those who stubbornly keep hitting the buttorn will see their peon dying.

    Of course, in a Real Emergency the peons might actually want to keep working, so there could be a chance for the order to automatically pass without penalty when there’s danger nearby. IDK if that would be best using LoS, the events/rumour system or whatever, but I think that there would need to be a way to simulate Heroism Under Pressure.

    Throw in a small chance to ignore the order to account for Personality, and the occaisional check from Beurocrats Back Home that you’re not committing any wide-scale human rights abuses by forcing your peons to work 24/7 under the reason “emergency”, and I think that could be a way to handle an “overwork penalty” without simply cutting off the peons’ ability to work after a set amount of time.

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    • Robert Tseng says:

      actually, there was a sense of sleep quality in Dwarf Fortress. Dwarves derived pleasure from having a nicer bed, as well as higher quality sleep (and thus happiness) from a nicer bed (i think they ended needing less sleep as a result, which was counter intuitive).

      But beyond that, they also factored in noise pollution. Noise emanated from workshops to a certain radius, severely reducing the quality of sleep (and thus happiness) of individuals.

      as a planner, this influenced your zone placement, space-utilization planning, and commute and traffic ways (too far, and they were slow, unproductive… too close and they were unhappy, unproductive… not enough efficient paths, and the chain of production snarled terribly).

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  20. Astaldaran says:

    @Dtolman, you bring up some good points but I think your vision of the game is a bit different from the creators (though mostly in form, not function).

    I too am a tropico fan by the way!

    Anyway, I think in terms of colony management this game is going to be more like Dwarf Fortress than Tropico–though fairly actually probably somewhere in between.

    In DF YOU are basically a supreme dictator; you make the the decisions and hope it gets done. The individuals still have wants and dislikes which affect how and what they do but you make the decisions.

    I think at its heart, in many ways, the new community you found is a type of communism; not so much in the marxist way but it an earlier communal way. Perhaps it is closer to serfdom? (except that would require, us, the player to be the local strongman with the swords; ).

    The economic questions are solved by us; and it either makes them happy or sad. It is up to us who gets the really nice cottage and who sleeps in a barracks. For those of a higher class, they will expect the best and if we don’t give it, they get upset. The lower class might be super happy if we give them sort of a nice but aren’t going to riot at the barracks (at least at first).

    I think instead of creating a free-ish market simulation; the devs are saying the only market they are going to create is the market of emotions. It is up to use to reward/punish as we want and can.

    I think there are plenty of historical semi-examples where one person was in charge of a village or settlementh. Individuals made some decisions but the town elder/magistrate decided who go a house next, who should do what job , etc.

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    • Dtolman says:

      Some good points – I’m not that familiar with the DF model of agent management, so can’t comment on it. I certainly hope they come up with a way to model behavior that feels engaging. So far outside of Tropico and its remake I’ve never found one, so fingers crossed this is the third

      Even if it falls short in that area, still have high hopes for the overall experience!

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  21. muffinimal says:

    I love the Van Cog painting!

    Some nice discussions going on here. Sadly I don’t have the time to read it all, so for my 2 cogs:
    I am still not very sure as to how the player will interact with the peons, but I wouldn’t like to change the behaviour of them to change by changing some sliders and seeing some numbers automagically appearing on some dashboard. I can always start sim-city if I want to do that.

    I’d rather employ some coaching Agents of various types, who encourages people to do stuff they wouldn’t have been doing on their own: a life-coach (wouldn’t it be wonderful to get better at your job? At scrum? At tinkering with your little trains?), a slave-master (Do this, or…!), a priest (etc), a drinking buddy (well… you need inspiration somewhere, I don’t claim the inspired people will actually do something), a dog (you might want to go for a walk with it, or vent your anger at it). I am going to hope you get catch my drift and won’t elaborate on how I think this would work and affect moods/goals/output in game. As an addition to the coaxing-agent system, if I want to know how my people are doing, I will have to rely on the reports my agents send me. They could be a bit off, as they suck at their job (or don’t want to tell me to make them look better), or they could be very well informed and overload me with just a tiny bit of Too Much Information.

    Right… To conclude! Keep it up! Looking forward to it all!

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