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Tacticular Cancer: A Heart of Darkness Interview

Tacticular Cancer: A Heart of Darkness Interview

Interview - posted by Trash on Mon 15 April 2013, 15:58:06

Tags: Heart of Darkness; Paradox Development Studios; Paradox Interactive; Victoria II

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April 16th will see the release of Victoria II's Heart of Darkness expansion. With a little prodding we managed to lure game designer Chris King out of the jungle to talk a bit about fun minors, newspapers and colonisation. Not to mention international crisis growing way out of hand.

Will we get more diplomatic options such as for instance giving the possibility to a Great Power to force an uncivilized nation into opening up their markets?

No, I´m afraid not. The only diplomatic options we have are in the crisis system. Flashpoints are areas where nations own land that either another existing nation feels they have claims on, or where a conquered people want to rise up and rule themselves. Each Flashpoint has a certain Tension level which is affected by how unhappy the people living there are, random events, and a few other factors like the power level of the current owner. Existing non-Great Power nations can also use one of their National Focuses to raise Tensions in areas they have claims on. Once the Tension level gets high enough it triggers a Crisis between the nation that owns the area and the nation that wants it. Both sides need a Great Power to back their cause unless they are GPs themselves or else the Crisis fizzles out, but if both sides get support the Crisis begins.

In a crisis all Great powers on the same continent are invited to express interest or sit it out with a prestige cost. If they join they can then choose to support either side, and the original GP on each side can attempt to bribe the other powers into their camp by offering up War goals against the other camp. A Crisis has a Temperature bar that is constantly increasing, once it reaches 100 the crisis becomes a war, but before that point the leader of either camp can choose to give into the demands of the other to resolve the crisis peacefully. ​

Exciting. In addition to the launch of Heart of Darkness tomorrow will also be the last day of our Map Painting Contest. So if you want to nab a free copy of Victoria II and its first expansion A House Divided you'd better get to it!

Read the full article: Tacticular Cancer: A Heart of Darkness Interview



Thanks for doing this interview with us. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your role in creating Victoria II: Heart of Darkness?

Hi I am Chris King, and I am the game designer at Paradox and was heavily involved in the design for Victoria II: Heart Of Darkness. The expansions main features is it's adding are a new Colonial system, the Crisis system, a whole new naval combat system and we have also revamped a lot of things relating to land combat.

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Heart of Darkness is the second mayor expansion that comes out for Victoria II and seems to focus mostly on the Race for Africa. Why did you focus on this episode in history and how did you try to portray this historical episode in the game?

One of the biggest reasons for picking this part of the game was that in the base game Victoria II, we felt that the colonization system was one of the aspects of game play that could be improved. The system was very much built up so that the person who got there first was highly likely to win the race to colonize the state. So one of our goals was to make the colonial race more open, more dynamic and drive more sources of conflict between the powers.

Previously Colonization was done by using your National Focuses, we're done away with that and now instead have a system based on Colonial Points generated by your ships and naval bases. You use the points to invest in colonial provinces. If no one interferes you'll eventually be able to make these colonial states into a Protectorate, and then into full Colonies. However if another nation tries to colonize in the same area it turns into a kind of bidding war where you have to invest more colonial points than your opponents if you want to win. If this colonial conflict goes on for long enough it can even lead to a Colonial Crisis which may develop into a war.

Newspapers sound like such a great fit for a grand strategy game that I’m amazed we see so little of it in gaming. Was it difficult to implement these into Victoria II: Heart of Darkness?

The code was not huge, but the biggest part of it was the writing of the articles so we got enough content into the game. The Newspaper system in Heart of Darkness keep track of all the events happening in the game and will periodically publish a 1 page newspaper article that you can read by clicking the Newspaper button. It lists things like wars, peace treaties, battles your nation has fought in, large price change in the World Market, game events, news about Crises, etc. It also gives you a look into the AI's brain with stories about how AI nations view each other and you, so you might read about how one of your neighbors is afraid of your large army, or that France is getting friendly with Spain.

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Even economists seem to struggle to comprehend the global economy so to implement something akin to it in Victoria II must have been a gargantuan task. Its portrayal in the game has since its launch been a source of constant discussion on the forums. What changes and improvements have you implemented into the whole mechanics of supply and demand in Heart of Darkness?

We have tweaked the supply and demand of just about every good of the game and we have also looked at improving Capitalist building logic to improve the factory building logic. They may not be huge changes, but we have high hopes that it will improve the economy even further.

With the upcoming Europe Universalis IV, are there any plans to bring other core Paradox Development Studio games, like Victoria II, to the upgraded engine?

No, sorry, not at this time.

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Paradox Development Studio is known for being very careful about portraying the uglier sides of history in their games. The Hearts of Iron games for instance seem to have barely any mention of the holocaust. How will you approach sensitive matters in a game about the rapid colonization of Africa which historically led to such horrors as the reign of Leopold II in Congo?

Basically we are not focusing on this at all. History is a vast and complex thing and we cannot and don´t want to simulate everything. We will always have to pick and choose from history and overlook what are important historical happening because of time of constraints and also what to include that adds to the gameplay experience. With the colonization system, we have decided to take the angle of the European powers sitting in drawing rooms in Europe drawing arbitrary lines on the maps.

A lot has been made about improvements in both land and naval warfare for the expansion. What would you consider the most important change?

I would say the naval system rework is the most important in Victoria II: Heart of Darkness. Because we have received consistent feedback from our fans that they felt the naval combat system was a point of weakness in the game. The new system is vast leap forward over the previous system and should add to the enjoyment of fans of the series.

Firstly, we have also added some new stats to units, with the right inventions both Commerce Raiders and Cruisers can fire Torpedoes in combat, which have the potential to do massive damage to capital ships. Light ships also now have an Evasion stat which allows them to avoid some of the shots sent their way. We have re-done naval combat so that ships have a position, speed, and firing range in combat, so they must pick an enemy ship to target and move into range to engage them. Should the ship later want to break off, they will need to retreat for a time until they can get outside their opponent's gunnery range to be safe.

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International incidents are new to the game and should provide smaller nations with the chance to influence some serious muscle to do their bidding. What sort of incidents can we look forward to in the game? Do these incidents give the bigger powerhouse nations also a chance to indulge in some gunboat diplomacy of their own?

I found it a huge amount of fun as Greece to use my diplomacy to maximize my friends amongst the great powers and use national focus to stir up trouble in the Greek areas of the Balkans. I was able to gradually expand and grow in both power and stature. It was far more fun than playing the Greece of previous versions of Victoria II were I had options to play with. As for the Great Powers, although there is strictly no gunboat diplomacy there are actions that Great Powers can do that will raise the temperature of a crisis, the big one being mobilizing.

With a strong emphasis on colonization in the Heart of Darkness expansion, I could not help but wonder if anything has been done to expand and improve on the Westernization system to break the current monotony of it?

We have added the ability to gain research through conquest as an unciv.

Does the focus on The Race for Africa also mean we can look forward to more flavor in colonial wars and revolts? The Zulus really gave the British hell for instance and I can’t help but think of the great difficulties they also faced in the Boer War.

No, time constraints and our choices in what we wanted with the expansion meant that these kinds of ideas were simply not possible to do well within our existing project plan.

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Will we get more diplomatic options such as for instance giving the possibility to a Great Power to force an uncivilized nation into opening up their markets?

No, I´m afraid not. The only diplomatic options we have are in the crisis system. Flashpoints are areas where nations own land that either another existing nation feels they have claims on, or where a conquered people want to rise up and rule themselves. Each Flashpoint has a certain Tension level which is affected by how unhappy the people living there are, random events, and a few other factors like the power level of the current owner. Existing non-Great Power nations can also use one of their National Focuses to raise Tensions in areas they have claims on. Once the Tension level gets high enough it triggers a Crisis between the nation that owns the area and the nation that wants it. Both sides need a Great Power to back their cause unless they are GPs themselves or else the Crisis fizzles out, but if both sides get support the Crisis begins.

In a crisis all Great powers on the same continent are invited to express interest or sit it out with a prestige cost. If they join they can then choose to support either side, and the original GP on each side can attempt to bribe the other powers into their camp by offering up War goals against the other camp. A Crisis has a Temperature bar that is constantly increasing, once it reaches 100 the crisis becomes a war, but before that point the leader of either camp can choose to give into the demands of the other to resolve the crisis peacefully.

If you could make one change for Victoria II that isn’t in the expansion, what would it be?

That is a tough one, although I would have to say I would love to split the current world market into regional ones. The only thing is that the programmers all weep if I suggest any changes to the already very complex world market system.

What lies beyond Heart of Darkness? Will we see more mayor expansions planned for Victoria II?

We have nothing planned, but who knows what we will do in the future… ;)]

Thanks a lot for the interview, Chris!

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