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Governors, viceroys and underlings

June 13th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

As I work my way through Supreme Ruler 2010, I am astonished both by its ambition and its solutions to overreach. Though you will have to wait until the review is published to get my full opinions on it, I can confidently say that it does a much better job than Superpower 2, the only other modern geopolitics sim out there.

Part of their solution to user confusion is rife with peril – the assistant manager.

The use of a territorial governor to handle micromanagement is an old answer to a growing problem. As games get large and more complicated, designers are confronted with the basic fact that gamers either can’t process all the information they being fed or they have no desire to deal with the increasing levels of micromanagement. If these duties can be delegated to an AI helper, the player can focus on the big picture.

In Civ III we see this in its most barebones form. The production queue and resource management of cities can be given to a “governor”. The governor is assigned a priority (happiness, city growth, production, etc.) and then the player doesn’t have to worry about it. It works well enough for some chores. It can manage happiness reasonably well, and can prevent unrest in many circumstances. When it comes to military production, it tends to create a more balanced force than is usually necessary for your basic game of Civ.

It’s certainly much better than the infamous governors in Masters of Orion III, who would produce hundreds of transports even when their orders were overridden. Though patches did ameliorate this to some extent, the developers were never able to make the viceroys trustworthy.

Supreme Ruler uses cabinet ministers to handle government policy and my opinion is still being formed on how well this works.

But efficiency of the governors is only part of the problem. If developers can make an AI that can manage my cities as well as I can, I would be an idiot to not use them. But, if they can get to that point, what is the player supposed to do? Micromanagement is really an essential game mechanic in a lot of strategy games and if it is removed the designers need to find something else for the player to do.

Right now, most players don’t use automated governors because they like the micromanagement but because the AI substitutes are so terrible. So the choice is between queues and losing. Most gamers will choose the queues. And complain all the way.

But if Civ, for example, had good city managers the player would have little to do beyond set the priorities for each city, choose the next research topic and conduct diplomacy. If Civ had a large canvas with a wide range of diplomatic options and conditions (like Europa Universalis) this would be more than enough. But then, it wouldn’t be Civ.

So now, with Supreme Ruler, I am trying to find out what my role is. Am I a senior bureaucrat or a leader? Or does Battlegoat Studios see those as two sides of the same coin?


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