The Development Trade-Offs Of Axioms
How can you have so much mechanical detail when major studios don't?
Have you played strategy games for a long time? Tactical turnbased, grand strategy, and 4X? How can a random indie dev with no shipped games provide what I’m claiming when existing developers and publishers don’t?
I started on this game after pausing my work on a Majesty1+++ open source game based on the Glest Advanced Engine code base. I got a ton of stuff done on that but I realized I needed to be in a better place financially before working on an open source game. I chose to make a fantasy geopolitics simulation type game for a simple reason. No need for fancy graphics.
During the time I was posting about my game I got a lot of recommendations for existing games. You might have heard of a lot of the studios people mentiond.
Some of those are more famous or more prolific than others. I was really only aware of Creative Assembly, Firaxis, Illwinter, and Stardock when I started. I bought games from all those developers and played them. But I could never find what I wanted. Paradox had more non-combat stuff than most developers but a lot of it was shallow and flavor only. Many of them do have things I probably won’t have, though. At least on the initial release.
Knowing my limitations as a programmer and developer and what caused me the most trouble on my previous work I made a series of decisions early about where I would focus and what I would at least put off.
Axioms Of Dominion is a gameplay first project. There are no 3D models, there probably won’t be a fancy portrait system, all the icons for things will be made by me in GIMP and they won’t quite be “programmer art” but they won’t be super high quality either.
Both Creative Assembly and Paradox have fancy 3D map systems that often look pretty damn good. Axioms will not have that. It will probably be more similar to the map in Sovereignty or Elysium.
I use SFML and TGUI for images and UI. At or near the end of gameplay development I will be making a custom TGUI theme with a decent amount of effort put in. It won’t look like a Paradox or Amplitude game with a graphically fancy UI. Again probably more similar to an Illwinter or Wesnoth UI.
No Official Handmade Scenarios
Axioms will ship with a variety of Worlds with maps and history generated by the built in procedural generator. The game supports mods and scenarios but that stuff is incredibly time consuming especially since I plan to ship with 8000+ province maps.
The mod support is decent but not incredible and I expect it will take a year or so after release before it becomes super good. The plan is for significant scripting support, for all the assets to be defined in the gamedata files, and so forth. Not quite 0AD levels of moddable but as close as I can get.
I already worked out the broad strokes of what I wanted before I was aware of most games that went beyond Civ/GalCiv style 4X games. I’d played Illwinter and Total War games a bit I guess. When I did interact with games from Slitherine or Paradox or Iceberg I enjoyed them and they were better than mainstream stuff but in the end they didn’t go far enough to get me where I wanted.
I took a long break to play a ton of EVE, ending because of personal issues with ~100bil ISK in the bank and over 100 characters, as well as work on both Bernie Sanders primaries. Don’t worry I have no interest in mixing contemporary politics with gaming. I also worked various jobs during this time that were pretty blegh and made it hard to focus on a complex game project. I managed to get to a spot where I have roughly a year to get Axioms on early release. Then I can reevaluate from there if I can keep going without a day job.
Axioms is laser focused on gameplay. Of course the scope of the gameplay is quite broad but also detailed. That is the tradeoff I am making. Axioms won’t be shiny but it will, hopefully, be stimulating, and simulating. My specific focus is on the DIP mechanics. I know this will never catch on but I am stubborn. [D]iplomacy, [I]ntrigue, and [P]olitics. Foreign, shadowy, and domestic affairs.
There is a stong economic simulation. A sort of grand strategy/city builder blend. There is a detailed and trans-combat magic system. There are spells and abilities that impact economics and politics. Naval, and especially littoral/riverine, gameplay is something I really wanted to make important. Whether that involves trade, exploration, or combat.
However DIP is the true focus. Characters, populations, and their interactions in a sprawling world and with lots of details and options. You can read some of the more focused design posts to see what kinds of things I put a lot of thought into that are barely there in other strategy games, regardless of the developer.