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Pax Romana

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy

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'Pax Romana' - Developer Interview & Screens

by Rainier on May 20, 2003 @ 10:19 a.m. PDT

Q: What is the particularity of Pax Romana? Why is the politics mode so revolutionary?

A: Pax Romana is a rather impressive undertaking, covering nearly three hundred years of Roman history. The game includes a large array of features, such as glorious conquest, internal schemes and complex plots involving many characters, the opportunities and pitfalls of commanding the legions and exotic auxiliary troops. The title also depicts a historically accurate military, economic, politic and legal structure.
The Strategic version of the game is a rather "classic" expand and conquer strategy game, where the player handles Rome efforts in 5 various scenarios (including a Grand Campaign) to capture the ancient world.

In the Political game, all players are Roman politicians, and a great part of the gameplay evolves around internal politicking and infighting, to reach dominance within the Roman Republic. The final and ultimate winner will be the one that achieves supreme power in the end (Emperor !) while ensuring Rome's success and survival versus all other nations.

I would say the key novelty of the game is that it places negotiation and cooperation at the highest level in a strategic game, as nobody can achieve success without it, going so far as collective defeat if players fail to balance their own little interests with the common good.

However, every one keeps in the corner of his mind that there can only remain one winner in the a good dose of guile will be a minimum requirement !

For instance, we included the brand new idea of the stratagems: these are secret tricks that can be used to tweak things in the player's favor or hinder opponents actions or assets. They affect most game's fields of action. Each political faction in Rome (and other nations as well) will gain them in limited but regular influx each year, and some may also be earned by the player's political efforts (e.g. the one who manages to be appointed Pontifex Maximus – Great Priest – will receive a free "Good Omens" stratagem each year!).

Pax Romana places you in a "close to real-life" leadership position, with all its satisfactions and disappointments, and players quickly find out you they are no "god-like", i.e. they cannot control everything.

There are hundreds of characters (both historical and random), rated on a broad base of different skills, from military talent to charisma, loyalty or business proficiency. A wide range of factors influencing political life are also included, and can be modified by pure politics (such as electoral or business laws).

A player will learn to manage those "assets", and strive to have them assigned to business, administrative or military posts where there unique abilities can be best used.

For instance, historical character Cicero is an excellent orator and should be best used in political functions (or as a lawyer during trials, his main asset). Having him appointed as army commander would probably be a sound mistake, due to his low military rating. However, you can still have him elected Consul during peacetime, where is military ineptness is unimportant.

Q: What is the difference between Pax Romana and Europa Universalis?

A: I have designed the original board game Europa Universalis (EU) and its computer sequels, working with Paradox in creating the major game design features and adaptation for the PC version, from 1998 to 2001.

The experience gained at the time gave me the knowledge on how to translate game concepts into a working computer game code and architecture. In particular, this enabled us also to find out new ways to implement more historical accuracy into sound gameplay for Pax Romana, something we had not the time or leisure to do in EU but were thoroughly studied back then.

Aside from obvious different time periods, Pax Romana includes a political mode that is absent from EU, while the former allow for exploration and colonization of the world at large, a feature irrelevant in Roman times. Also, technological research and religion plays a large role in EU, but is less a concern in Pax Romana.
In terms of gameplay, the Pax Romana experience will force the player to concentrate a lot of attention on "domestic" foes and troubles, whereas the EU player all-powerful status in his realm allow him to target almost exclusively outright foreign expansion.

Q: What influenced you when designing the game?

A: I have been playing strategy games for over 25 years and always been puzzled to discover that, in most of them, you had all the powers. But this has never been the case in History, wherever and whenever you search for such an occurrence. So I felt it was also time to include this key element of life in a game. Among the sources that inspired me, aside from the deep passion for History I harbour since years, are some movies (such as Kubrick's Spartacus or the more recent Gladiator) and books, especially the excellent Masters of Rome series from Colleen Mc Cullough

Q: How long do you imagine the game will take to complete?

A: Indeed, some players might be concerned with the potential length Pax Romana, due to the real time nature of such a complex game. However, the advantages with this method (over what some might consider a more traditional turn based approach) were to enhance multiplayer capacity of the game over LAN or Internet without the main drawbacks of turn-based games in that matter (i.e. waiting sometimes quite long for other players to complete their turns !).

We also felt this would add a lot of suspense in the political arena, as players would never "know" when and how opponents are acting or re-acting, and time-pressure would force them sometimes to make those speedy decisions and blunders that are so characteristics of political life.

Of course, we have included 15 scenarios of various length, in order to have games that can be completed in anywhere between 2 hours and a few days!

One key element is the inclusion of what we call "Sudden-Death" victory or defeat conditions. For example, all players will automatically lose the game simultaneously at the instant Rome is beaten and conquered. And in the same spirit, the game can stop before its "normal" end at the minute one of them is designated Emperor and survives potential assassination during his first year of rule.

The game is also designed for multiplayer, with up to 6 Roman players in Political mode. In fact, we feel the key fun and spice in Pax Romana will lie in a 6-players political game, where even the best AI could not match deviousness, treachery and inventiveness in dealing that are common to human players. Playing the Grand Campaign (300 years) could take quite long indeed, but it may also be over fast.

Q: What replay value does it have?

A: In Pax Romana, historical authenticity regarding the events, considerations and plots in the world of the Roman political elite is quite clearly a paramount concern. We strove it to design a game that's both believable and enjoyable and finally found out that to the degree that realism enhances one's options and encourages immersion, and that accuracy and complexity aren't necessarily at odds with the idea of fun.

I know from EU experience that a lot of gamers want to have a good time with fun games that also allow them to re-write History. I am convinced that historical faithfulness and seriousness can be happily married with gameplay and appeal to a growing crowd of gamers.

Pax Romana offers all this and we know you could play hundred times the same scenarios and have a completely different feel, game flow and final outcome every time (this occurs every day while testing the game now!).

Q: How much time has been spent on developing Pax Romana?

A: Game design took nearly two years of my time, both in thinking and writing out the game's main features. This is without counting the unbelievable number of books I had (and loved) to read about those 300 years of Roman history. I used up also numerous hours and days of fellow players, computer artists, game programmers, history students and scholars to share with my ideas in order to fine-tune everything and find the best gameplay combined with the highest historicity.

As for direct production of the game, it started in the middle of 2001 with a small team, which now has grown in size, and will be about 30 months in the making.

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