Pride of Nations Developer Diary – Genesis
Well, this is our first diary. With it, we shall try to tell you the story behind the creation of our new game, Pride of Nations (PoN). I believe that it’s important, to start with, to know the people at the heart of the project.
Quite a few of you know who I am, as I have been designing games for a number of years now, starting with the famous Europa Universalis. I have created dozens of games, both in board game format and in computer format, since the early '90s. Quite a few have been published in those same formats too. For instance, you may have heard of titles such as The Great War 14-18 (board game in 1999, and PC in 2009 and 2010), Pax Romana (PC in 2004), or Great Invasions (board game and PC in 2005).
The other core designer/creator on the game is Philippe Malacher, also known on many forums as Pocus. Almost a decade ago, he had the nice, original idea for the game engine that we are now using in PoN – and have used in many other games – and which we spent years developing and refining, known as the Adaptive Game Engine (AGE). The engine was inaugurated in 2006 with our game Birth of America (BoA), which was followed closely by other successful and popular titles: American Civil War (2007), Napoleon’s Campaigns (2008), Wars in America (2009), and the recently released Rise of Prussia (2010).
We are both fans of historical strategy and have played a lot of strategy games of all genres for years. When we launched our first successful PC game, BoA, we decided that it would be great to cover much more than a single conflict with a few opponents. We also did not want to be one more team in the crowd making WW2-based games, so we were looking for an attractive and lively historical period to re-enact.
I had always been fond of the 19th century, and spent the days of my youth playing a very famous PC game called Colonial Conquest (and a few years later, another one named Imperialism), as well as an excellent board game named Pax Britannica. Those two have consumed hundreds of hours of my time and still give me excellent memories today.
So in the late '90s, I designed a board game called A Place in the Sun (from the famous Wilhelm II quote) that was in the spirit of my Europa Universalis board game, but it was never published as the board game market all but disappeared in the following years. But the research, ideas, and feeling of excitement were still there…
Also, we had always found that games based on the Victorian era were either lacking scope or historical realism, and sometimes both. So our ambition when we decided to do the title was to achieve the goal of an epic grand historical strategy game that would place players back in the shoes of their ancestors of the previous century. We wanted to have as many items as possible: historical and random events; colorful characters, with their sometimes ridiculous uniforms; gentlemen sipping whisky in their club while deciding upon the world’s future; white man's burden adventures and atrocities; epic wars; and unprecedented gallantry…almost a new universe.
That was, and still is, a very ambitious goal…but we gathered our strength and, step by step, are moving forward in this gigantic project. We have never been as close to completion than we are today, and we are going to share the adventure with you on a regular basis every month from now on.
Now, let’s try to get a bit more to the point.
What is the essence of Pride of Nations ?
The game is all about obtaining the most envied status of Great Power (‘The place under the sun’ position) and achieving the first rank among those in the game. To do so, you must earn Prestige. It comes in the form of economic performance, military might, diplomatic aura, colonial empires, technological progress, social advances, balance at home, and overall world power.
What countries are playable?
We decided that only the eight major Great Powers of the era would be playable in the first release. Six of the eight are European – Great Britain, France, Prussia (Germany), Piedmont (Italy), Russia, and Austria-Hungary – and the remaining two include the USA and Japan. That provides quite a lot of play room to try at first. Of course, there are hundreds of other nations in the game. We have designed them in such a way that a few of them, even if they are not in the above list, can be made playable in an advanced version or via modding, so those who dream of playing Belgium, Holland, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, or even China can eventually receive satisfaction. We will ask you after release what should be the next country of choice. Please note though that, even if we are focusing most of our efforts on these eight initial countries, all countries will be active and will interact in one manner or another with the Major Powers. From large and powerful forces like the Ottoman Empire to the more humble Iroquois, all will take actions at their level, but under AI control.
What are your main features?
To start with, we have the most original diplomatic system ever created for a grand strategy game: you’ll find all the usual diplomatic treaties and options, but we have included a very original feature known as the “Crisis Generator.” It simulates the various diplomatic crises that erupted during the era and will offer unique gameplay based on gambling and bargaining, almost like a game of poker.
The game has a very strong historicity and realism that is combined with a Victorian atmosphere. For example, we paid close attention to the appearance of leaders and units. In PoN, you’ll literally find a thousand portraits of military units with their own uniforms, and leaders with vintage pictures. Another example would be the Colonial Game, which is certainly the most detailed ever done in a PC game. From exploration parties advancing boldly into the heart of Black Africa, to colonial governors deciding that a naval demonstration near the coast of an irate native will be a good idea, you’ll have ample things to do as a colonial nation. Last but not least, you’ll find that we took great care in the interface and animations to immerse you. Animated steamships departing from harbors, factories spitting forth billowy smoke in the sky, subtle animations of a lion in the jungle, and even the sound of the savannah at night, all these little things will have you feeling that you are doing more than playing a game.
Also, each country will have its own personality and agenda. This uses a network of underlying systems, including a world economy with realistic components, such as the differentiation of State and Private business assets. Here, too, we hope you’ll feel as though the world is “alive.”
What makes this game unique?
I would say, first and foremost, the scope of the game: 70 years of the Victorian Age, full of action and events. But at the same time, you can also enjoy fast, short sessions with the included battle scenarios. The scenarios allow you to try some of the most striking and unusual conflicts of the era that are rarely, or even never, covered in other games: if you've dreamed of playing the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 or the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, they will be there!
Philippe Thibaut, Game designer for Pride of Nations
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