Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

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Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by johnnylump »

Nations on Earth are an important game element that serve as battlegrounds for the alien invaders’ designs on Earth. They are sites of both political and military conflict. Human factions, including the player, will complete to control nations in order to make use of their resources to fulfill their objectives.

Your councilors are your primary asset for political influence and espionage. Acquiring sufficient control in a nation will grant you access to any armies for use in conventional warfare.

As mentioned in a previous post, a nation typically represents a single Earth country, although in several cases we have combined several countries into a single nation so they can have more relevance to the scale of the game. Examples of these are Central America and the Caribbean being two nations instead of two dozen; we’re not asserting they are unified in any real sense, just that any inter-nation issues exist below the scale of the simulation. Players function as something like in investors in nations, and with enough focus you can take significant control over its future.

This and the following Dev Diary are going to be mechanics and simulation heavy, with less time spent on player interaction with it. More on player-related mechanisms in the future.


Use your councilors to gain partial or eventually total control of nations. Gain money, research, boost, mission control, and armies and the ability to make war on other nations. Set the nation’s priorities to give you more of those resources.
Exhaustive Detail:

Nations are composed of one or more Regions. Regions are named for the primary city in it. The function of regions is primarily geographical, not political; they exist to mark the locations of critical assets and armies. When new nations form or existing ones change, they are composed of regions from other nations. Regions in particular are home to space facilities: launch facilities that provide boost; mission control facilities, and later in the game, surface-to-orbit defenses. Some nations have claims on regions that aren’t theirs; these are the regions they may acquire through warfare or secession movements. Armies can control regions, but councilors do not -- they work at the national level.

The UI image attached to this post shows the list of regions in the United States. “St. Louis” is shown at the top because that region was selected by the player in the Geoscape.

The game elements representing political control of nations are called Control Points. These represent key nodes of political, economic and military control over a nation. Each nation has between one and six control points; the number corresponds with the size of the nation’s economy. (The exact formula involves the fourth root of the GDP PPP in billions and some other math.) Initially all control points are "neutral" -- they are the nation's existing set of leaders fumbling about without any coherent policy toward the aliens.

At the campaign’s start, the United States, China and the European Union have six control points; India has five control points; Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and Japan have four. Other nations have three, two or one.

Remember your factions function as something like secret cabals; control points are acquired for factions by councilor missions that involve putting your supporters in key jobs and purging your enemies. You can also try to clear the board by overthrowing a government with a coup d’etat, or installing your people directly via warfare.

Control points have a rough order; factions acquire neutral control points in that order. The highest-value control point is the “executive” point, meaning if you control it, you can set policies over things like whether the nation goes to war. In nations with more than one, the executive point can only be acquired if you already have a control point in the nation. I’m currently working on names for the other control points on a given nation, stuff like “legislature,” “oligarchs,” “mass media,” “religion,” and so on, and chewing on whether those can provide some bonuses based on their definition.

In the displayed UI, Humanity First has three control points in the United States, and the Resistance has one, and the Initiative has one. The sixth, rightmost control point, is still neutral.

Control of armies is tied to ownership of control points. Big debate I’m having with myself is to put them all in the executive, or, as shown in the UI, spread them out among the control points, meaning to conduct a war efficiently you’ll need more than just one in the bigger nations – otherwise, armies may end up sitting out an interstate conflict. (You can’t go invading anyone without a declaration of war via the executive, however.)

Finally, each control point grants you an equivalent fraction of the nation’s relevant resources. More on that below.

Key National Stats:

This section will get a bit deeper into the simulation. All these values play different roles and may be modified by the player or the AI in different ways – typically through the priorities system.

UI Overview Section

Democracy/Government Score (the capital building): This measures the amount of democracy in a country, which represents things like civil liberties, popular selection of leaders, press freedoms, and rule of law via an independent judiciary. This impacts national stability and cohesion, research production, corruption, economic growth and the effectiveness of the military in controlling unrest.

Unrest (the fist symbol) is violent resistance to the status quo in this nation. High unrest hampers the economy and may result in a coup or revolution, which will transfer or clear many or all of the nation's Control Points at once.

GDP (PPP): The size of the nation’s economy. Determines number of control points, number of investment points, and research production. It also critically determines how difficult it is to gain a control point there.

Military Section

Miltech: The technology level of the national military. Determines how effective armies and regional defenses are against each other.
Nuclear weapons: Nuclear weapons in Terra Invicta represent strategic barrages aimed at destroying the economy and military of a particular region.

Naval score: Wet navies are abstracted in Terra Invicta into a sort of attachment to an Army. It allows the Army to travel to any region touching the ‘World Ocean.’ A nation’s naval score is the number of armies with a navy multiplied by the nation’s Miltech score. When nations are at war, only the side with the higher naval score can cross oceans.

Development Section

This describes critical resources generated by the nation and how much is going to your faction.

The first item in the list is what we’re calling “Investment Points.” This represents fungible surplus in the nation’s economy; the owner of each Control Point gets to distribute a share of them to various Priorities, which are how you fund national-level projects in the game, such as space programs, armies, or changes to the general political and economic conditions in the nation. This will be described in detail in Part 2. The number of Investment Points is determined by the nation’s GDP, with a reduction for each Army the nation has on the map.

The other rows are space program funding (which is the money resource), research, boost and mission control. In this case, the Resistance has 1 of 6 control points, so they get 1/6 of the nation’s incomes in these categories.

People Section

Education (book symbol): Plays a critical role in research production and how the nation responds to propaganda.

Cohesion (X symbol): A measure of unity among the nation’s citizens – a catch-all for cultural, ideological, ethnic and religious unity or conflict. Low values mean the nation’s people are fragmented or even tribal; middle-lows represent a high degree of polarization. High values mark a unified society that brooks little deviation or dissent. Middle values represent a fairly diverse society that has both conflict and creativity. Middle values provide bonuses to research while high values drastically reduce unrest. Low values are just bad.

Public Opinion Chart: This is a breakdown of how the population of the nation feels about the aliens, with points of view corresponding to the ideologies of the various human factions. Favorable ideological conditions make running certain councilor missions a lot easier. Ideology can be affected by world events, certain R&D projects, and councilor missions. In the attached UI, support is strongly in favor of cooperating with the aliens, which supports the Academy’s goals.

Per-Capita GDP: A measure of the quality of life of the average citizen of the country. Higher PCGDP lowers unrest.

Inequality (seesaw symbol): A measure of distribution of wealth and income in the nation; high values mean the nation doesn’t have much of a middle class. Inequality grows as a product of normal economic activity (a little) or corruption (a lot). High inequality reduces Cohesion as the nation divides into haves and have-nots.


So in looking at grand strategy and 4X games with a modern or futuristic bent, there’s a strict line between “Earth games” and “space games.” Earth games stick exclusively to Earth with lots of detail and mechanics. Space games tend to treat your homeworld as a well-developed, fully populated colony planet – that is, you can settle some other planet and eventually build it up to be something close to your homeworld.

Neither works for our scope: During the timeframe of the game, mother Earth will remain so, and the space development taking place on and around other bodies in the Solar System will function via different mechanisms – generally by working directly for your faction, rather than functioning as a big shared space you are fighting over.

In Terra Invicta, the player will determine which nations to target, and how to target them. Do you go for big wealthy countries with lots of resources, but are expensive to conquer and will also be battlegrounds with the other factions? Or grab a corner of the world to build up and serve as the geographic core of your efforts? How much violence are you prepared to use to acquire control of nations?

Coming Up:
Nations, Part 2 will describe International Relations and the Priorities System.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by vt11 »

Interesting. Why not make the military a control point? Declaring war could require controlling at least the executive and legislature, with control of the military giving some (big) bonus to troop performance? And likewise for other control points. E.g. Mass media control could result in reduced or eliminated cohesion maluses by declaring war, and the cohesion malus could accumulate for extended wars. Depending on the outcome of the war, this measure could be affected, and could recover with time.

Personally I think religious control is only significant in few countries, and so perhaps control points should not be uniform and could vary across nations. What of creating and maintaining control points through investment? This would keep them dynamic, too. For example, the Carribean could start off without a military control point, China could start off without a religion control point, etc. If not enough priority was 'invested' into a control point, it could eventually decay. The control point could have various sizes (e.g. the US would have the biggest military control point in the world, making it the hardest to control, but also give the biggest bonus). Another example, prioritising the executive but not the legislature could eventually lead to the legislature CP shrinking or disappearing, the country thus becoming a dictatorial style executive-government.

Just some thoughts. Glad you got investors to support you - LW1 was probably my most played game ever, would be great to see you produce something truly original.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by johnnylump »

Thanks for your thoughts!

I'm pretty happy with the way we determine how many control points there are -- the size of the economy describes how large and complex the country is, and clues the player to the relative power of each nation. Early on, we gave everybody a flat six CPs, but that was too many and made smaller countries pretty uninteresting.

Beyond that, giving the control points some individual character and gameplay qualities is something I'm still chewing on. (I've kinda set it aside for the moment because what's in there works on a technical level and I'm getting other stuff up and running.)

What I'd do is have the other national qualities determine how we'd describe a particular CP. For example, if a nation had a high democracy score, we'd say this CP is called "The Legislature." If democracy is low, and inequality is high, it's "The oligarchy." If democracy and inequality is low, it's "The Party." Another one would be either "Mass Media" or "Religious Authorities" based on some mix of the nation's education and economic scores. Still another might be extractive, manufacturing or the financial sector, based on certain economic conditions.

Stacking most or all of the armies on a particular "national security" control point is indeed one way to go. I guess the question becomes are you really in control of executive power in the country if you can't get the armies to do your bidding? The control points are intended to represent real power, not nominal power.

... The other thing I've thought about doing is representing internal power struggles by making a control point "tree" where you can only access certain high-value control points if you control some point below it. Say you've got a six-point nation structured like this:
powermap.png (6.4 KiB) Viewed 16182 times
(Do not consider the programmer art representative of what's in the game.)

So councilors from a faction without any control points in the nation could only seize control points on the lowest level -- the mass media, government bureaucracy or labor sector. From there, they could go after either the Legislature or Commerce and Industry sectors, depending on the connection, and only those who control the second-tier sectors could try to control the executive CP.

(Right now what we've got is you can't pursue the executive CP unless you control any of the other CPs in nations with 2+ CPs.)

Anyhow, I'm not sure we'll do that more complicated structure. I do like how it visualizes something that's a fairly abstract concept --relationships between nodes of political power in a nation, but it would take some heavy UI redesign to make sure it's communicated well and easy for the player to interact with from the main geoscape and during councilor mission target selection. Plus, each of the 80-90 nations would have one of these, and while most would have fewer CPs and thus simpler structures, it might be overload for players.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by Varicen »

First, this game continues to look amazing, any word on when/how we might be able to support?
Two Questions:
1. How will space units work, are they more directly controlled by a faction or are they controlled through control of a nation i.e. US Space Force?
2. What does the player specifically represent? a cabal of likeminded people or more of an organisation such as Xcom?
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by johnnylump »

Thanks! The encouragement is much appreciated.

No word yet on when/how you'll be able to support. We're working off funding we've raised privately and trying to get as much done as possible with that, and we'll weigh our options (publisher, Kickstarter/Fig, or both) when the time comes.

1) Space ships and habs will be directly controlled by a faction. There will be a (difficult) way to steal them or, in the case of large habs, parts of them. (Human ones, that is.)

We looked at flagging space assets to nations as a gameplay element like you describe, but that added an extra layer of management that seemed overboard and fiddly. Presumably the space assets may have flags, or are flagged to the UN, but they aren't modeled to have a gameplay effect -- its the factions who are controlling the admirals and captains and hab commanders.

2) This has been evolving a bit since my factions post; to help give the factions some more personality we're developing leaders for each one. For the human player's faction, the 'leader' will become an aide to the offscreen decisionmaker represented by the player.

The general idea is the factions are transnational cabal of people with a common ideology, interests in many nations and control over a variety of assets. It is not necessarily publicly visible as a unified entity, but operating through other entities. So you may have a councilor who is a politician class and affiliated with the United States government. She's probably a senator or deputy cabinet secretary in her day job but she's really advancing your faction's interests.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by Fthagen »

Interesting stuff! It's leading me to think of how it could be neat, though likely too complicated, to add in real-world ideologies as a counterpart to the in-game factions. I'm envisioning a system where each country can be either capitalist, communist, or fascist, with each ideology having a (randomly-generated, for replayability's sake) attitude towards each of the factions. The fascists may see the aliens as the True Superior Race who created the Aryans, thus supporting SUBMIT (perhaps making it easier to gain command points for that faction?), whereas communists would call for a Trotskyist-style permanent revolution and complete opposition to both bourgeois forces and the alien menace, thus strengthening DESTROY. Or conversely, the fascists could think the Jews are behind it all and that they must be exterminated along with the alien menace while the communists go Posadist and call for rule by the more advanced aliens who have abolished class society. It would add flavor to a lot of decisions, differentiating between helping a military coup to install a fascist dictator, or supporting protracted people's war to install an ideologically friendly marxist-leninist regime, or perhaps push for a referendum to open the markets and develop the economy. It would of course tie in well with the control point tree; you might want to spend resources suppressing dissenters in a nation with a fully planned economy in which you control the bureaucracy and labor.
Of course, this might all be too complicated or redundant of layer to add in an already complicated game, and there's the problem of there being very few socialist countries as of now (and even fewer who are actually trying to work towards communism), and also very few openly fascist governments. You also run into the problem of countries such as Pinochet's Chile, which were officially fascistic but were great proponents of capitalist neoliberal policies; or countless military dictatorships in Africa with a very thin communist coat of paint in order to receive aid from the USSR. There's also the problem that Paradox has always had: allowing players to support fascism always leads to fascists playing your games (or conversely with communists, I don't know the official views of Pavonis Studios) and that might not be worth it.
Anyway, I'm just throwing out ideas here. The game already looks intricate and complex enough politically to have piqued my interest.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by johnnylump »

So re-reading this two years later, a couple of relevant changes we've made:

1) Federations. Federations are groupings of nations that are stronger than alliances but somewhere below fully integrated polities. The European Union and Russian arrangement with some of the former Soviet states are the two federations in the beginning of the baseline 2020 scenario.

This means we did break up Europe into component nations (or groupings of real-world nations, as we did elsewhere). While Europe can ultimately unite, the federation mechanic just felt more a more accurate representation of the world at this stage in history.

2) Breakaways. Intended primarily to cover the special case of Taiwan, but applicable elsewhere. Taiwan largely functions as an independent nation in gameplay terms, but as a breakaway it has certain restrictions on its behavior with respect to other countries.
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #4: Nations, Part 1

Post by PTTG »

Someone mentioned the military brass being a relevant CP to control before warfare can be engaged. I think that's a reasonable idea. This doesn't need to conflict with the idea of controlling the executive to control the military. Maybe the faction that controls the military gets to choose if they want to "soft mutiny" (in Czech, švejkovat) the armed forces. If they do so, the military refuses to start new engagements, but holds position effectively. This simulates some level of friction between the brass and the civilian command.

In nations with low cohesion or democracy, the "soft" part of the mutiny might be dropped if there's enough tension between the faction that controls the military and that which controls the executive. That's definitely a different story, but it does a very competent job of simulating the difficulties of dealing with countries where there isn't good civilian oversight of the military.

Still reading up on the old devlogs, but this is cool as HECK.
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