This update, we actually are responding directly to a question asked in a comment on a previous update, because this brings up an important topic worth discussing in depth. (With apologies for the delay in response as this cycles through…)
To quote the question, “Many gamers are not as political and methodical as I am, and will simply make a direct push towards their goal. They’ll expect to be made mayor if they try to be mayor, general if they want to be general, or Supreme commander. The faction system is very attractive to me, and would be very immersive, but many of my friends would likely find it as a frustrating obstacle in the way of their enjoyment. How would you address this?”
The simplest response to this sort of problem is, essentially, “Scale”.
Scaling The Challenges Before You
Simply put, we do want to make it easy to become mayor (or general or the owner of a business) for someone who wants to enjoy the challenges of tackling the job of being a mayor… It’s simply that you will be mayor of a very small town (or army or business).
You gain respect with factions in a similar manner to many other games: You do missions for them, or give gifts or socialize with the leaders or members of that faction. Factions scale, however, from a couple cavemen grateful for a warm fire and food enough to make it through another cold night, to global (or interplanetary) trade empires that will not take notice of anything less than bringing a whole new planet’s market to fruition. Impressing a few people on the verge of starvation takes only supplying them with food for a few days, while impressing the powerful and wealthy requires showing you are a powerful, reliable, and indispensable ally.
The way that you become mayor is to gain reputation with different factions until they are willing to support you at least more than any competition. In a town consisting of a half-dozen loggers because it’s just a small logging camp detached from a larger city, there is probably only one real faction, and its needs are small enough that you can probably earn their trust and respect taking out some hostile lairs near the woods and buying them a few rounds at the pub you built.
You can also found your own town, if you can manage enough reputation with just a few followers to come with you as you cleave a homestead or five out of the landscape, and make your own player-ville.
Thing is, you’ll probably find you don’t have much power as mayor in such towns – they’ll probably not have much going on that would require you behind your desk at all times, and you’ll probably need to help build that town with your own two hands (or four pincers or six grasping tentacles or…) until it is more established.
Two Roads to the Same Destination
Thing is, we understand that you only really appreciate a goal when you have to work hard to achieve it, and that satisfaction comes from accomplishment in spite of difficulty. The player can become mayor of a well-established town only if they can bring together enough favor or leverage over factions to secure a victory in a race with plenty of strong competition, or become general over a serious military force if they have a distinguished career.
At the same time, players can also become mayor of a grand city by just being mayor of a tiny hamlet, and growing it with proper management.
Functionally, players either “cash in” on skills they have in other parts of the game to become mayor, or they demonstrate how good they are at being mayor from an early stage to get the power to build up to their goals. (And being mayor can allow them to branch out into other jobs if they so choose – they now might have a chance to start a business in the town they built, and have passed on to a successor who they personally mentored, and owes them a great number of favors… perfect for negotiating favorable building permits and tax exemptions!)
Scale is also a major factor in how cities operate. Like was discussed in the “Big War” update, the game does not track every individual in the game. Abstractions are what will allow us to build huge worlds. Like with individual soldiers not being tracked but as abstract attachments to their non-abstract commanders, citizens become just part of broader populations of factions in larger cities. We’ll discuss this topic more later, but the important part for now is that using this, we hope to have cities with hundreds or even a thousand or so citizens that are abstract with the possibility of becoming “important” if the player does something to focus attention on them. Likewise, player cities can interact with towns that have their own agendas, events, and calamities occurring “off-screen” because of abstraction
– The Imagine Nations Team