Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

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Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by johnnylump » Fri Aug 24, 2018 7:22 pm

This post will cover internal and external politics in nations. See Part 1 for a basic description of nations and their role in Terra Invicta.

International Relations:
This is a fairly straightforward system governing the relationships between nations. These are things the various factions can manipulate to their own ends, like creating an alliance of nations fighting the aliens, or fomenting war between two countries to weaken them both. Early in the game, nations will sometimes engage in new alliances or conflicts on their own, as we want to make sure we’d have an interesting world even in the absence of an alien invasion.

Nations may be in one of four states with each other: Allied, at peace, rivals, or at war. These states are general set by the national executives (the faction controlling the highest-numbered control point). In some cases, such as forming alliances or ending a war, status changes require consent of both nations. Only rivals may go to war with each other. Allies defend each other if attacked; they are not required to participate in an offensive war.

Wars can accomplish two changes: a change in government, and/or change in territory. In the first case, one nation invades another, seizes its capital, and creates a friendly government there – “friendly” in this case, means both an alliance and a similar set of control points, so if a Resistance-controlled nation successfully invades an Initiative-controlled nation and captures its capital, the losing nation also becomes a Resistance-controlled nation.

Wars may lead to exchanges in territory if one nation has a claim on the territory of the other. Some claims are in place in the beginning of the game, while others are unlocked with certain social science projects (which occur through the research process, to be detailed later). Except for the aliens, current design is that territorial claims are fairly hard to come by, so you’re not going to be able to paint the world map with some super-nation. It’s through your faction you’ll gain that kind of control.

Non-existent nations with claims on territory may sometimes secede (violently or peacefully) and form new nations. Two allied nations with regional claims may peacefully federate into a larger nation.

Some examples: At the campaign’s start, Europe exists as a single nation, the European Union. Non-existent nations like Germany and Italy have claims on their respective regions in Europe; if conditions are correct, they will secede and become Germany and Italy, with their own set of control points and national assets to control.

Later in the campaign, you may finish a social science project, the South American Union. This grants a bunch of claims that enable the nations of South America to federate to a superpower-sized nation (or for the nation with the capital to try to seize other nations forcefully) if all the other conditions for such an event are met. They'll have a claim on French Guiana, which knowledgeable folks may recognize as having significant strategic importance in the context of the game. We’ve got a few dozen speculative nations, big and small, that can occur in a campaign.

Probably worth noting two things we’re not modeling as distinct systems are trade and migration. (Population changes are influenced by various factors that extend beyond birthrates, though, so migration is somewhat subsumed there.)

Internal Politics and Priorities:

Nations part 1 covered all the various stats that describe a nation and sets up various behaviors, events and mechanisms for control. Once you’ve got some control, you can set its course via Priorities.

The priorities system lets you distribute a portion of a nation’s fungible economic surplus to one or more costly (and usually repeatable) projects. These change the nation as a whole; so your faction as well as others with control points all gain/lose based on how each faction’s priorities are set.

Specifically, the process works like this (this gets a little wonky, but the player’s role is pretty straightforward: tell the nation what you want it to focus on):

GDP determines # of investment points, which are then reduced based on how high unrest is in a nation, and how many armies the nation has. The remainder is divided equally among the control points.

Example: The United States begins the campaign with a GDP (PPP) of almost $20 trillion and an unrest of 1.5 (criminality). The base number of investment points is the fourth root of the GDP in billions, so that’s a baseline of 11.87 investment points per month. Unrest reduces that by 5% (unrest – 1 / 10) to 11.2 and the USA’s six armies by 0.5 each to 8.2. The owner of each of the six control points gets 1/6 of that to distribute, so 1.36 IPs per month.

IPs are distributed by weighting each of the eligible Priorities with a value of 0, 1, 2, or 3. The weights are then totaled up daily and fractional IPs are put in each of the priorities according to weight. So if you have a setting of 3 in UNITY and a setting of 1 in BOOST, 75% of your IPs for that control point are going to Unity and 25% are going to do building rocket launch facilities, and the rest are getting nothing. Investment for a particular priority is totaled across all factions, so if someone else is also building BOOST, the new facilities will go up sooner, increasing the nation’s boost income, which is then distributed back across all the controlling factions.
(This image is from our UI in testing, but we haven’t done the artwork for the priority buttons yet, so the squares you are looking are placeholders unless we run out of money, then they are exactly what we intended all along :) I'm including it here because I think it makes the system clearer than a text description alone) .

(And rest assured the game isn't all spreadsheet-y looking things like this. Just not ready to unveil our rad spaceships, character art or master map yet)

Each priority requires accumulating a certain number of Investment Points before it triggers changes to the nation. This is usually one, but expensive stuff like building a navy costs more.

The intent here is that you address this occasionally in nations, giving them general direction and letting them develop over time toward what’s most useful to your goals. We’ve made a bunch of presets that we think correspond with various political, economic and faction ideologies and policy sets, so you can use a dropdown to set all your priorities at once. This is where you can select things like “Libertarian,” “Industrialization” or “Reactionary.”

The specific priorities are:

• ECONOMY: This represents investments in industry and growth. It increases the per-capita GDP of the nation by a decent amount, and inequality and environmental damage by a little.

• WELFARE: This represents human and social services, wealth redistribution via taxation and policy efforts, and environmental regulation and cleanup. It decreases inequality and environmental damage in the nation. (I’m chewing on a different name for this priority because of the connotations this term carries in the United States, but haven’t come up with one. Perhaps “Well-being” or something like that.

• KNOWLEDGE: This represents support for education and the free flow of information. It increases education and democracy in the nation (which in turn increase scientific output).

• UNITY: This represents efforts to unite the people against a common foe, at the loss of some civil protections for dissenters. It increases cohesion, decreases democracy, and shift public opinion toward factions with control points. This priority is less effective in nation’s with higher education levels.

• MILITARY: This represents investments in internal security and military technology. It lowers unrest; if unrest is already low the nation’s military technology score increases.

• SPOILS: This represents the direct extraction of wealth from an economy, often accomplished by avoiding paying the true costs of obtaining it. This covers such behaviors as crime and corruption, regulatory capture and tax avoidance, economic rents, unmitigated pollution and exploitation of labor. It grants a lot of money and significantly increases inequality and environmental damage in the nation, and lowers democracy. In addition, any nation that devotes insufficient resources to the SPOILS priority will have dissatisfied elites and is thus more likely to undergo a coup d’etat. “Sufficent” here is defined by the nation’s education and democracy levels, with higher scores in both reducing the portion of the economy that must be directed to elites.

• SPACE DEVELOPMENT: The Space Funding priority directs national resources into legitimate government and private efforts to support a space program. While not as profitable as the SPOILS priority, it does no harm to the nation. Completing this priority increases the nation's annual space funding, which is distributed to factions with control points here.

• SPACEFLIGHT PROGRAM: This one-time priority, for nations that do not have a domestic spaceflight program at the campaign's start, will unlock the BOOST and MISSION CONTROL priorities once completed.

• MISSION CONTROL: Completing this priority grants one Mission Control to the nation. New facilities will tend to go in regions that already have Mission Control facilities.

• BOOST: The Boost priority covers the construction of launch facilities for rockets and other surface-to-orbit craft. New facilities will tend to go in regions that are closer to the equator or already have launch facilities. The amount of boost created increases with proximity to Earth’s equator, with a maximum increase of two tons per year each time the priority is fully funded.

• BUILD ARMY: The Build Army priority will create a new Army in the nation. Nations may build one Army per region.

• BUILD NAVY: The Build Navy priority will add a Navy to an Army, allowing it to cross oceans.

• INITIATE NUCLEAR PROGRAM: This priority will add one nuclear barrage to the nation's stockpile. Nations without nuclear weapons require more investment to make their first one, and building the first one does some environmental damage (from testing).

• BUILD NUCLEAR WEAPON: This priority will add one nuclear barrage to the nation's stockpile.

• SPACE DEFENSES: This priority is unlocked later in the campaign. It constructs a surface-to-orbit weapons array in one region, which will protect it from certain threats from space.

Next up (I think) will be delving into your councilors and how they work.

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by JOKER » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:24 pm

Is there a better word to describe "nation", like "Sovereignty", "Regime" or "Government"? I do understand it's a necessary abstraction, but it still feels a bit weird to see "Non-existent nations like Germany and Italy".

English is my second language, so I apologize if there's some misunderstanding.

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by johnnylump » Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:28 pm

Fair point, and certainly there was no intent to cast dispersion on the Federal Republic of Germany or Italian Republic. :) I meant "non-existent" in game terms; that is, they initially function as regions within the European Union "nation" but can operate as distinct polities if events cause them to break from the EU.

And to be pedantic about the term "nation," it is in fact used more broadly at times, instead of just referring to Westphalian nation-states, it can also be a shared political idea that can cross existing borders. (In political science, you sometimes see "state" as referring to the polity, or the term nation-state together.)

And there isn't really a better term that captures what's going on. In adapting the messy realities of the real-world into a coherent system for a game, some abstractions and simplifications are necessary. The EU is a sort of unique thing, and would require a whole separate layer of design and code to portray with any more accuracy than we did by putting it on the same level of organization as Russia, China and the United States, and it wouldn't add a ton to the game. Alternately, we could have left it out entirely and start you with all the European nations as allied independents, but I made a design call to keep them organized as Europe because they cooperate on space programs via the ESA, and the game feels more interesting to me with three initial superpowers in the USA, Europe and China.

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by Wubs4Scrubs » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:02 am

This is all very interesting. I like the idea of Earth's nations falling into disarray and nuking themselves into the stone age before the aliens even reach Earth lol.

I have two questions:

1. Having resources such as 'Welfare' or 'Unity' to me signifies that there will be ways to topple opposing nations outside of simply warfare. Are there any plans for an infiltration system or ways to spread propaganda in another nation to cause internal strife? I could see how such a system would be very valuable to a potentially militaristically weaker nation trying to go up against a stronger one.

2. I imagine you get asked this a lot, and I read a response you posted about how it is mainly based around the funding the project eventually gets and how the game develops, but is there any potential for multiplayer comparable to something like "UFO: The Two Sides?"

If you aren't familiar, it's essentially a standalone mod for the original X-Com that had one person controlling X-Com and one controlling the Aliens. They both set up bases and had to build up their forces just like you'd expect. I tried it with a friend recently and it was so cool being the side sending off terror ships after being terrified of them for so long as the human player.

I realize this is a large question with a ridiculous amount of variables, however I was just amazed at the amount of fun I was having playing a very janky (was stopped very early in development) standalone mod for a nearly 25 year old game.

Looking forward to the future diaries!

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by johnnylump » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:31 pm


1. Yes. This is one of the main things your councilors do. You can gain control of nations via political means, through coup d'etats, and by increasing unrest until the nation has an "organic" (not caused directly by the councilor mission) coup or revolution. When I get into councilor missions in a future post, I'll explain all the options there.

The propaganda mission, which moves public opinion in favor of your faction, can lead to cohesion problems, which in turn can lead to organic coups and increased unrest as well. That said, its main purpose is to make missions in that nation easier (more public support) and to increase generation of the influence resource.

2. Multiplayer is budget dependent. Our first goal would be to allow you to play the other human factions and possibly co-op play. The alien side would be a bit more work; they have some different rules and would need some alternate UIs. Definitely doable, just a bit more work.

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by tarkalak » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:20 pm

johnnylump wrote:...
The EU is a sort of unique thing, and would require a whole separate layer of design and code to portray with any more accuracy than we did by putting it on the same level of organization as Russia, China and the United States, and it wouldn't add a ton to the game.
I beg to differ. Having the EU as a separate thing could add more then just the unique present EU situation. In another post you mentioned the creation of a South American Union nation. If you implement the hypothetical European Union mechanics you could use them for any such alliance. Furthermore the game factions could also make their own unions in order to consolidate the power of individually weaker countries, or save on control points. Similarly infiltrating the constituent countries within such union could allow you to get some leverage of control in it with less effort.

Another point against your EU nation is that in real life it is not a military alliance and doesn't have a unified military. Of course most (all?) EU members are also NATO members and are allied militarily within it.

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #5: Nations, Part 2

Post by johnnylump » Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:08 pm

The problem, I think, is within the mechanics we already have -- control points, alliances, regions, national policies -- there wouldn't be much more game by creating some kind of game element that's not quite a nation as we've defined it. Between the EU, NATO and the ESA, I think the game-relevant aspects of real-world Europe work better within the mechanics as a nation.

But it's perfectly possible that Europe can break up into its constituent nations -- in fact, any faction that gains executive control of Europe can cause this to happen fairly quickly.

It's the same story with the other prospective unions we've defined. You can also cause the breakup of other larger nations, including the United States, India, and Brazil. Unlike Europe, these events would require some additional steps.

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