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EU: Rome Updates

January 18th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 10 Comments · Ancients, Design, Paradox, Preview

There have been 11 Developer’s Diaries for Europa Universalis: Rome. It’s probably a good time to summarize what we do and don’t know and, of course, poke at a few of the details.

Not everything in this list is equally important, and the list is a little more negative than my expectations are. I am very much looking forward to EU:R, but, as always, it’s a lot easier to write about things that concern me than things that I’m excited about. Plus, I’m a little tired, so the bitchiness is probably dominant at the moment. Paradox did send me some not very tasty but stylish EU:R gold chocolate coins for Christmas, so I should probably be nice…but then I’d be selling out. So the whiner takes over.

1. The name is still Europa Universalis: Rome. Not a good name. First, it’s not just about Rome. Second, the game system will derive many of its mechanics from the personality stuff in Crusader Kings, which was not called Europa Universalis: Holy Land. But what would be better? Mare Nostrum? SPQR is too Roman and already taken, I suppose. Grain and Iron? Blood and Bronze? Game names are hard.

2. Character names are generated, of course, but ahistorically. The Romans were creative about many things, but naming wasn’t one of them. There were regular patterns of first names, family names and nicknames. If Gaius Julius Caesar had a legally recognized son, he would have been named Gaius Julius Caesar. In fact, that’s the name that Gaius Octavius took when he was adopted. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (this meaning “adopted from the Octavian family.) This is one of those historical changes that only nitpickers like me will notice and point out. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter one bit. Names are just labels to attach to characters and if that means that an Aulus Porcius Scipio gets generated, then so be it.

3. The clock time defaults to Ab Urbe Condita, measuring years from the founding of Rome. Bad idea. Romans almost never used this calendar (preferring consul lists), but, most importantly, it is inferior gameplay wise to using BC or BCE. Why? Because gamers are more likely to find historical reference points in the latter. And if touching history is an important part of the experience, I don’t want to keep subtracting the date from 753 to know if I am where I should be.

4. National ideas are back. The national ideas in EU3 were one of those great ideas that didn’t quite pan out. Intended to introduce some customization to the gaming experience, there were only a dozen ideas of the 40 (45 with the expansion) that were really useful. You almost always wanted to maximize colonial profits. You wanted to keep stability and research costs down, you wanted to avoid revolts. Here’s hoping that the National Ideas in Rome are more balanced.

5. The new economic system has a more direct trade mechanic. One province exports, one province imports. How is the price set? How does this affect provincial development? Can trade be interrupted by pirates? We get some more details here.

6. Research in tech does not confer immediate benefits. Instead, advancement can trigger specific discoveries. Different nations have different discoveries and there’s no guarantee that they will trigger at all. Given how much difficulty Paradox has had getting things to trigger properly in 1.0 versions, how will people know if there is anything wrong? Clever, no?

7. Barbarians are the roving hordes of Plutarch and Gibbon. Having just finished reading Rome and the Barbarians by Thomas Burns, I’m not sure how accurate the model is. In any case, the good news is that there are multiple options for dealing with the hordes. Fight ’em off like Marius did, let them settle in new land a la Galatia or pay them to go away. Barbarians affect the rate of Roman/Hellen/Carthago-ization as the uncouth park themselves in your provinces.

8. Provincial control is indirect, through governors. This sounds a lot like the vassal system in CK, only in a Republic like Rome, the guy you have raking in the cash in Asia could try to spend it all to become the consul, whom you control. Plus all the corruption that tends to go with long distance governance. This reflects historical reality pretty well, since, despite what you may have played in other games, the central government had a lot of difficulty setting even broad policy practices, leaving it to the people on the ground to work things out. Though I’ve written before about the pleasures of ceding power, I wonder how well this will work. Even in CK you had quite a bit of control over who would succeed you, and your vassals rarely had much money to spend.

9. Diplomacy is carried out by characters. This is another nice nod to history and it opens up a lot of possibilities. You would want to send an influential character to force the will of the Republic/Kingdom on potential allies or enemies, but maybe you want a mission to fail because it gets a casus belli so you send a blundering nitwit off to Pella to tell Phillip to step off.

10. Lots of things are not yet clear. How will elections work in Republics? How is a casus belli created? Is the historical datebase complete like that in EU3? How does kingdom management differ from that of more open systems? What are the differences in military cultures? Does religion move beyond omens? How will civil wars or wars of succession be manifested? How are client kingdoms different from allies? What will the music be like?


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Gil R.

    Since you’re a self-avowed “nitpicker,” I thought you’d appreciate my pointing out that AUC stands for “Ab Urbe Condita,” not “Ad Urbe Condita.” (For non-Latinists out there: “ab”=”from” and “ad”=”towards,” and the phrase translates as “from the city having been founded.”) Thanks for the summary. Looks like a pretty good game in the making.

  • Troy

    Argh. I know that, too. Brain fart. Edited for the correction.

  • JonathanStrange

    Thanks for the comprehensive post: you summarize so we don’t have too! I’m very interested in the game due to both the setting and my interest in EU. I hope that the final game proves worthy of the Emperor.

  • Michael A.

    9. Diplomacy is carried out by characters. This is another nice nod to history and it opens up a lot of possibilities.

    It is an interesting feature, but also poses one of the pitfalls with character-oriented gaming.

    The one problem, I find, with having the AI behavior being influenced by in-game features like this is that it provides an exploit by worsening the AI’s ability to make rational decisions (this of course, assumes the AI can take rational decisions to begin with).

    In essence: The player is never going to be swayed in his decisions by what character is sent to his nation to argue for a treaty… why should the AI? How do you force the player to stay in character? Hmm… might be worth a blog post, that.

  • Troy

    You’re doing a character based game, too, though on a smaller scale, Michael so it will be interesting to see how you square that circle. Even without making everything dependent on characters, their presence with traits beyond +/- income or +/- war alters the human calculus more than the AI’s.

    The player is never going to be swayed in his decisions by what character is sent to his nation to argue for a treaty… why should the AI?

    This is a problem developers face with a lot of diplomatic AI. Computer controlled nations can often be persuaded to act against their own interest, either as a quiet buffer zone between two powerful actors or as a cash cow for a predatory player. The introduction of characters complicates this more than a little.

    Specific to a game like EU:R, there’s always the possibility of a character’s prestige or influence forcing a player to choose between two suboptimal choices. Maybe you want war, but the prestige differential means you are left with a choice between grudging peace and submission.

    But then the player’s personal preferences are left even further behind and the game becomes a matter of murdering prestigious foreign courtiers before they arrive.

  • James Allen

    I got those chocolates, too. I don’t trust food products being sent from Sweden :)

  • Troy

    I ate a couple. Terrible, terrible chocolates.

  • James Allen

    I’m surprised you didn’t:
    (a) turn pale white
    (b) start singing Barbie Girl
    (c) some other Swedish joke.

  • Michael A.

    Remind me not to send you any chocolates, then. :)

    It’s always going to be a balance between fun and challenge. In my case, I’ve pretty much abandoned the idea of letting the diplomat character have significant influence over the AI decision. Getting an AI to act intelligent is hard enough, without hamstringing it by dumb decisions.

  • Troy

    I love chocolates. Just not these ones. Cute little felt bag though. If it was a little bigger and I was a little nerdier I could put D12s in it or something.