The robot capitalists will kill us all

Not an update, but a prelude to one.

The game now has some simple AI. I need to implement a UI that will let you toggle AI players on or off, but for now the AI players can run through a game by themselves.

For various oddities in the code, the game updates the graphics of only certain things if there are only AI players… and it does so really fast. Hence the weird screenshot of a fully-autonomous Neocolonialism:


0.8.2 release: “Reconnecting with old friends is my favorite hobby”

Download here.

Finally solved various lingering issues.

  • If you disconnect from games, you can now reconnect. And the rest of the game will be cool about your abrupt departure.
  • The game now supports multiple languages. I currently have the finest minds in the world on translation duty.
  • Various bugs introduced in the past release have been squashed.
  • And more. See the Version History pdf.

The game is (dare I say it?) approaching a feature-complete beta. There is an AI in the works, and the plan to bequeath it public Internet is now more than just a dream.

0.8.1 Release!

Hello Galaxy,

This took longer than expected, but I have here for you the 0.8.1 release. Download it here.

Version numbers are funny phenomenons, especially if you’re a one-person team that doesn’t need a tremendous amount of organizational strategies. The jump from 0.7 to 0.8 is meant to reflect the tremendous technical changes, and to make me feel better about throwing so much time at it.

Major features:

  • Most Regions have less open slots to develop.
  • Clearer interface for trade deals
  • Some framerate improvements
  • And a lot of background changes to the code

Right now, you probably won’t notice those background changes because they merely replicate what the game could already do. However, they have paved the way towards a more glorious future, and will eventually help accommodate the implementation of public Internet support and solve other networking issues.

To accommodate the changes, most of the non-UI code had to be rewritten. The result will work better in the future, and tends to work better now, since it is more simple. However, since so much of it is fresh, expect a host of new bugs too.

We apologize for the delay; we are correcting for egregious geographic determinisim

There are huge back-end changes in the works. No longer a weakling 0.7 alpha, a full-grown rampaging 0.8 alpha release will be out soon and you will shed tears of bittersweet joy. Promise.

In the meantime, let’s talk about how I’ve so far addressed that knotty problem of geographic determinism.

For the first time in human history, the map of Neocolonialism has been changed. Since the earliest prototypes (not including the very first, which had twenty-three Regions), there have been 11 Regions. These Regions have always been divided the same way, and they have always had the same Mines, Factories, and open slots.

Until now.

This is the old 0.7.2 map:

And this is the new 0.8.1 map:

Most Regions have less ‘slots’, or open spaces in which they can build Mines and Factories (slots are represented on the map by tiny X’s). Many Regions had too many slots that players never had the time to develop.

Meanwhile, Africa is still represented in geographic homogeneity, but the justification now is that you, the horrible capitalist, perceive it that way. Meanwhile, Africa has more space to build than most other Regions because Africa is really big. Furthermore, Africa is the only region to start with two Mines, as opposed to one Mine or none, a characteristic meant to reflect historical exploitation (in old releases, Southeast Asia had 2 Mines, but I couldn’t have told you why).

So that’s my game-balancing compromise for now. It could still  be mis-interpreted as a problematic statement, but this time around, I have a pretty good idea of what I mean to say, and I will refine that statement in subsequent releases.

Geographic Determinism and Video Games

This past weekend, I had a brief, wonderful conversation with Kwasi Mensah at the No Show Conference. He’s a cool guy who asks cool questions.

I was busy explaining the mechanics of Neocolonialism, and he asked me why sub-Saharan Africa is one region, suggesting that I was conflating what should not be conflated–at least not without seriously thinking why I’m doing it.

I don’t have a good answer.

I defined the regional boundaries in Neocolonialism without thinking it through enough–they’ve stayed static since the very earliest build, when I had considered it something I would re-think at a later date. I do know that the current number of regions, eleven, works well for gameplay purposes, and I don’t want to deviate too far from that quantity.  I could, of course, subdivide the world to an infinite degree of geographical distinctions, but after a while, that wouldn’t be useful or fun or meaningful. To make a good game, or even a useful macroeconomic simulation, things need to be modeled at, well, a macro level. But to say that the line has to be drawn somewhere is not the same as to explain why the line is where it is.

Then, Kwasi and I also talked about geographic determinism.

Currently, the game has the same beginning each time you play. Each region always starts with certain structures, which subsequently affect their industrial capacity. North America, for example, always starts with a Mine and a Factory, while Central America starts with just a Mine–North America always starts wealthier than Central America.

Kwasi questioned this design decision, once again for socio-political reasons. Just what do I mean to express, anyway?

In my imagination, my video game takes place some time in the 20th or 21st century, and the starting map is meant to vaguely reflect the global distribution of wealth as it stands today. However, I now see that there are some very problematic conclusions that someone could hypothetically draw from North America being always wealthy and, say, India always being poor. My game isn’t meant to be geographically deterministic because geographic determinism is a really harmful and stupid and crappy way of thinking about things–in my game, you’re not supposed to think that India is poor because of some intrinsic idiosyncrasy. As far as the game is concerned, India is poor mainly because you, and the horrible capitalist, and all of your horrible capitalist predecessors, made India poor.

I do not know if I want to change this aspect of the game. I could implement a random setup, but I might lose some of the intended message–people that I’ve demoed the game for and with often light up with comprehension when they see how the starting wealth of North America inevitably leads to exploitative practices elsewhere. The current start setup reflects the present day in a way that a random setup would not. Perhaps all it needs is some additional conceptualization–maybe there could be several start options, like 2012, 1946, 1968, and Random.

Bottom line: there are aspects of my game that are lazily thought-out and they shouldn’t be. I will work on it.

Send me your favorite evil corporate quotes

As of v0.7.2, at the start screen of Neocolonialism, there are evil corporate quotes:

But there needs to be more quotes.

What is your favorite evil corporate quote?

Also, check out the new youtube video in the Media section.

0.7.2 Update!

Download it here.

Big changes:

  • Proposed policies no longer have time limits
  • No-confidence votes remove
  • Stock market bubbles only occur where players have invested
  • Only the Prime Minister liquidates assets from a region when Banking
  • Many, many small UI changes and bug fixes

See the manual for details.

Overall, this release is all about making many, many small but necessary fixes rather than addressing the handle of big pieces that still need to fall into place.

The past few weeks have been very exciting–I’ve received some very positive feedback on the game, thanks to rockpapershotgun and indiegames (I’ve also received a lot of confusion about the inverted map). I will be demoing Neocolonialism at the No Show Conference at MIT on the 14th-15th. If you are going there, you should totally stop by my booth and tell me what your favorite dinosaur is.