Spinnortality’s free update is drawing closer than a corrupt CEO to a poorly secured pension fund. So what else can you expect?
The base game had a fairly compelling gameplay loop: research product, research slogans, click around trying to use those slogans to market in different nations. That’s fine for the first hour or two.
By the mid-game, though, things have changed. You’re manipulating media: that involves checking which nations are media-ly manipulable, choosing a culture to target, and clicking to commit to that culture. You’re manipulating laws, which involves checking any nations where you aren’t already manipulating laws, donating money to parties, then choosing a law to deregulate. And on top of that, you’re still doing that original gameplay loop: checking each— you know what, this is getting tedious to explain, let alone do every turn.
It got a bit much.
And the biggest problem was that, by this point, you were usually not interested in launching products any more! By the mid-game you’re not that bothered by the financial side of things, and more interested in the politics of the world (and how to manipulate them, of course). I was holding the mid-game mechanics hostage behind early-game tedium.
Is there a place for this sort of design? Absolutely. If a game’s trying to convey the tedium of repetitive work – maybe it’s a game about working a dead-end job, or balancing a day-job with your weird passion – this would be fine. But Spinnortality is about the fantasy of becoming one of the most powerful people on the planet.
This dovetailed with another design problem: once the player has researched everything on the tech tree, there’s no reason to keep their workers around. Why not design a solution which solved both problems?
So I decided that each nation would have an “Automation team”, a group of workers who try to take care of any busywork in that nation. That means launching products, deregulating laws and manipulating culture with media.
Workers already have a “research” score and a “creativity” score, so I figured the more research a team had the faster it would run, and the more creativity it had the better it would do its job. (This was originally really complicated, before I realised that “your team needs creativity to launch products well” was perfectly adequate.)
But what I found most interesting was how this improved the game in unexpected ways:
- This system values creativity. If you just assign loads of normal workers to each team, you’ll get good research but poor creativity. This means you have a reason to hire creative (mutant) workers. This was in contrast to the base game, where creative workers were a little sidelined.
- Numerically speaking, a level 5 worker is more efficient than a level 2 worker in terms of “how much labour you get for the money they cost”. But Automation teams need about 1.5 top-level workers to operate at full capacity. In the past, you were incentivised to hire more top-tier workers and fire the old, obsolete ones. Now it’s more efficient to keep a mix of low- and top-tiers to staff those teams.
- Since worker unrest only applies to organic workers (see last week’s post), it’s possible for a player to fire all their organic employees and only use AIs, and not have to deal with worker strikes. Or it would be… but that won’t work if you want to use Automation teams, because AIs suck at creativity. Now players have another reason to pay attention to the new mechanics.
One thing I chose to not automate, though, was donating money to political parties. The player might not always want to spend that money: if you need to buy a new clone for $200m, and you would have had $210m this turn but that nonessential law change just cost you $16m… It could have been frustrating and caused people to lose for no reason. I also didn’t want to automate away the entire game.
So I’ve got my Automation teams. How does the player access them? Should they be available from the start of the game?
I eventually decided against that: the game’s complex enough for new players, and it isn’t necessary. So now, once you’ve researched the product “AI consultants”, you get an event where your new AI consultant has created these teams for you. Since AI consultants gets researched at roughly the point where you start to really want these mechanics, that should work fine.
(It’s possible some players won’t research AI consultants, which is a concern, but I really like how this weaves the narrative into the tech tree mechanics, so I’m keeping it.)
The Automation Update is coming on August 2nd; hope you’re looking forward to it!