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Children of the Nile info

The people

Remember the introduction from Pharaoh? "The Pharaoh is the heart of Egypt, the land is its body and the people are its blood". The people will be the single most important aspect of Children of the Nile and the quotes below are all related to the role of the people.

Daily life and predictible behaviour

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mariano asked the following question at the Tilted Mill forums:

Will inspectors and all workers behave like machines or will they may have a bad day? Will the city have an enough complex economy, trade, diplomacy and life as to its behavior to not be perfectly predictable but, may be, only its general trend?

Ken Parker answered this:

"Have a bad day" is a good way to put it. People have their normal routines, and they have interruptions in those routines. Suppose you place two basket shops right next to one another. Since they are almost the same distance from both raw materials and customers, they will tend to behave identically...until, as you put it, one of them has a bad day. One basket maker might become ill, and lose part of her day going to an apothecary for treatment. The other one might decide to go to a shrine and worship Ptah, patron of craftsmen, or maybe crime will motivate her to worship Ma'at. Maybe one of them will lose her husband, making her children struggle to gather enough rushes to keep the shop going. Maybe one of them will have more children than the other, and therefore consume food and wares more quickly, and have to go shopping more often. With all of these variables, two identical shops right next to one another will not behave identically for long. If one of them is more efficient than the other, and there isn't enough demand for baskets to keep them both going, one might even go out of business.

Now, as long as people are generally finding enough baskets for sale, and the basket makers themselves are meeting most of their needs, you don't have to bother yourself with all of these details. You're Pharaoh, after all. But if you choose to investigate at this level, you will find quite a lot of variation among households.



Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ken Parker gives an overview of migration at the Tilted Mill forums:

Migration is a very big subject. I'm not going to give you all of the details, but here's a broad sketch.

As I indicated, villagers are the source of new peasant families. Only elite citizens ever migrate between cities; lower- and middle-class people don't leave their hometowns.

Households are always on the lookout for opportunities to advance socially, especially between the peasantry and the middle class. Within the middle class, they watch for chances to take on a more lucrative occupation if their current situation is unsatisfying. Such openings occur whenever you build a new house. Between private commercial shopkeepers and government-employed craftsmen, there are a lot of different middle-class options. The life of a jeweler looks pretty glamorous to a struggling mat maker, for example.

People also have children, who eventually seek to form new households. Young adults also want a life one rung above their parents, if they can swing that. If not, they will start a family equivalent to the one in which they grew up...or even go down the ladder of success, if that's their only alternative.

Elite workers must be educated, and only some families can school their children. Although it's not unknown for educated workers to immigrate, graduates are normally the only people who can work in new career-level positions, such as scribes and overseers. Educated citizens won't follow you blindly, though. Only a prestigious ruler can lead large numbers of elite workers.

All of this goes smoothly in a prosperous, well-planned, growing city. Unfortunately, migration can also go downward, and nobody's ever very happy about that. Failed shopkeeping families often become vagrants. When people are migrating downward, those peasant occupations might not look as bad as vagrancy...assuming, of course, that the peasants themselves are doing well enough to absorb more members.


Villagers and People

Thursday, August 26, 2004

In reply to a discussion about the '188 villagers' listed at the bottom of this screenshot, Ken Parker tells us:

Here's a data point for you: Villagers are not citizens at all. They are the hunter-gatherer natives who might join your civilization if you create new peasant housing. You can think of them as the pool of prospective farmers, servants, soldiers and laborers just waiting for your enlightened leadership to offer them a better way of living.


People meeting their needs

Sunday, August 22, 2004

EmperorJay posted this as part of a message at the Tilted Mill forums:

So the people are "need" driven to say so and I think (but I can't recall if this has ever been confirmed) that once all the needs are satisfied, they'll become "greed" driven. They have everything they need for living, but now they'll be on the lookout for things that enhance their lives.

Ken Parker replied:

Peasants and middle-class people are content to meet their needs, and watch for opportunities to advance their family socially by migrating to a better profession. They are not big consumers, beyond the common household wares that they need. The elite -- especially the nobility -- want more from life, such as luxury wares, leisure activities and townhouse enhancements. These things cost food, so if they want the very best, they need to enlarge their estates by managing more farmers...which, incidentally, expands your tax revenue. Only the nobles might be called greedy, and even that is a little harsh. Once you achieve a certain status in society, you have to keep up appearances, don't you? :)


Satisfied people

Monday, August 09, 2004

Chris Beatrice explains about the rewards of keeping your people happy in his design article from August 10.

How other games handle this:

Do good things for your people and you'll make them happy, then they'll do good things for you.

How it will be in CotN:

Ok, I don't mean to sound cynical, but who on this earth is or has ever been "happy" with his or her government, let alone enough so to regularly give something back? This was a big one for me to swallow, turning the traditional system around into one that is basically negative. You don't manipulate your people by tossing them some ale, or raising salaries. No, you serve them by doing your best to make sure they can get what they need, or what they want. This game is about them after all. So the ideal is not "100% happiness" it's "no dissatisfaction." And you don't get any big reward for "no dissatisfaction". although that depends on your point of view. You don't get overthrown, for example.

This system is so fundamental to the game, and it was hard won. We knew, for example, that obviously the player needed to have an incentive to build a great city for his people, to provide them with great things, etc., but what was his reward for this? When it finally hit me, there is no reward, there's just punishment if he doesn't do this, I was concerned that the overall experience would be negative for the player. I convinced myself otherwise. This may seem like a subtle issue of semantics, but in reality this is one very crucial building block in transforming the "units" of other strategy games and the "walkers" of other city building games into the Children of the Nile.

No positive reinforcement. No sacrifice / reward exchange. No happiness.


Elite citizens

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

From the GameSpy preview in June:

As players accumulate prestige and become more renowned, more educated elite citizens are willing to work for them. These citizens are incredibly important, as they fulfill all of the functions that an advanced society requires. Priests, for example, not only attend to citizens' spiritual needs, but also help lift morale, sacrifice to the gods for good luck, and teach the next generation of elite citizens. Scribes do things like improve the city's libraries, collect tolls from trader caravans, and maintain the tax rolls that fund both those big piles of stone as well as the Egyptian army. Should the player not accumulate enough prestige before the Pharaoh dies, the next Pharaoh could find himself with far fewer elite citizens to help rule -- hurting the health of society and making the truly colossal project impossible.


The daily life of your citizens

Thursday, June 03, 2004

From IGN's E3 impressions:

If one member of a family is a farmer and heads out to the fields everyday, the other family members will be in charge of completing household tasks. But if one member is a farmer and the other a carpet maker, they're going to have to take time out of their daily schedule of producing goods to go out and find needed supplies such as pottery or jewelry. That time spent walking is time that they could be producing goods to make their life better. So as you can see, it still pays to have plenty of different items and services immediately accessible to all of the people.

But when that isn't possible, your people aren't necessarily going to immediately suffer. They'll be able to walk to the hospital across the city for attention or wander a little farther for goods, but it will make their lives a bit more difficult. At least citizens won't have to follow roads as they had in the past, they'll cut corners and walk across unkempt landscape even if they prefer set paths.


Independent citizens

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Ken Parker at the Tilted Mill forums on May 24:

CotN game characters tend to their own needs without your intervention. Consequently, you can watch people go about their business without worrying about systems falling apart because of some unnoticed minor flaw in distribution or service coverage. In fact, a CotN city functions better as individual citizens' lives grow easier and more fulfilling...and the best way to evaluate their lives is to watch them go about their day. In other words, you can spend considerable time in the course of normal gameplay "cruising around your city" and watching people interact.


Design insights: people

Monday, May 03, 2004

From one of the 'Design Insights' articles at Tilted Mill:

As the game came to life, of course our design challenges multiplied. Staying true to our original premise and the resulting touch points, everything that happened in the game needed to make sense, needed to be rooted in real human behavior, and needed to be tied into real factors going on in the city. If you see beggars on the streets, they're not just there for flavor, no, they're real people who have lost their livelihood, and have been forced into this way of life. Every figure you see in the city belongs to a family, and is always "alive."

In CotN the people are "real", that is, each has an individual AI, individual needs, and individual capabilities. As a result all the people in the city are connected to one another (like six degrees of separation). Together they form a society, and ultimately a nation. These are intangibles, but we managed to model them very elegantly, I feel. The inner workings of the game are extraordinarily complex, not based on arcane rules that you need to memorize because they really don't make sense. If you are an earthling, you should understand how this game operates solely based on your personal experiences, such as what do you do when you go hungry, lose a job, or achieve more in life. Why are you never satisfied and always want more?

If a link in a chain breaks somewhere, buildings en masse don't collapse or groups of people don't just pack up and leave. Instead, like real people, they struggle to resolve the break in the chain themselves. The fact that they have to change their lifestyle to correct the issue is what makes the system work.


People's behaviour (2)

Monday, March 22, 2004

From the StrategyInformer interview:


In the official description you mention: " is the first and only strategy game where citizens who behave like real people are your primary resource.". Can you please explain this.

Chris Beatrice:

Well, in most strategy games the "people" or "units" are mindless drones that you don't care about at all - and they don't even care about themselves. Sometimes they are really just an abstract representation that one building is communicating with another. This has become accepted in strategy games, and there's nothing wrong with it, but we felt there was a great opportunity here to introduce a whole other dimension to the play experience. This basically materializes via two components:

First, people in the game take care of their own needs. You don't have to feed them or act as a babysitter for them. You don't select them and order them around, nor do they wander aimlessly. They don't starve if you fail to feed them, and so on. Sure, you can make their lives a lot better, you can capitalize on their natural inclinations, you can exploit their inherent desire for a better life (and this is really your role in the game), but you don't need to spoon-feed them. That's the "they care about themselves" part.

Second, although your success is based 100% on them, and what they can do for you, you have very little direct control over them, and their actions are not 100% predictable. In the aggregate, over the long term, if you do things right, if you are a good leader, then you will succeed. But that's not the same as being able to focus in on one individual at a moment in time, and know exactly what he or she will do (or being able to tell him/her what to do). The challenges are very much like those of being a real leader, and as a result success is more deeply rewarding than when you're simply "overcoming the game model.".


People's behaviour

Saturday, March 20, 2004

From the GameSpy interview in March:


How do you plan on letting the player keep track of all the individual desires and actions of the people in this new game?

Chris Beatrice:

One of the things that was crucial to us from the beginning was that the behavior of the people in the game be based on human experience and human behavior. I think this expectation was so obvious in, for example, city building games such as the Impressions series and SimCity, yet we feel that promise was never really delivered upon.

The challenge for us in pulling this off was twofold: first, people are complicated, so just integrating their behavior into a manageable strategy game was a real challenge. Most of our really tough decisions, and our really intense brainstorming and problem solving sessions centered around this inherent conflict between the neat, orderly (though often arcane) rules typical in strategy games, and the beautiful organic mess that is human behavior. But of course the advantage is that we are all familiar with human behavior.

Second, gamers aren't used to people in games doing what they're supposed to do. So we have to make sure that when players take up this game they know the people in the game world are not just mindless "units." Once you "get it", that's it, and the learning curve goes away in terms of just being able to play the game. But to use an old cliché, it's definitely the kind of game that's effortless to play, but difficult to master. It's hard to achieve or even define perfection with this type of game dynamic.

The idea here is that if the people in the game behave like real people, then the causes behind their actions should be obvious. That is, they rarely need additional explanation. Most of the feedback comes directly from things you see and hear going on in the game world. And though the game is filled with tons of little realistic details, these are not "fluff." Everything you see is communicating something to you about life in the place you have created, because it is representing something real in the game model, it's the meaningful result of something that is happening in the game.


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