I know this is a fairly common topic of discussion, but the more I play Kudos and Democracy 2, the more I can see why. Positech games are consistently well polished, with easy-to-use UIs and fun, relatively balanced gameplay. However, the amount of content can be truly underwhelming. It seems like a waste to provide such great game engines with so little actual game. Modding tools help a lot, but it seems the third-party modding community has been limited severely by lack of documentation and lack of a good, reputable file hub.
Rather than going on and on with paragraphs of my thoughts on content, I’ll propose a list of ideas for discussion. Feedback and new ideas to add to the list in order to address this problem are encouraged.
DOCUMENTATION: The mod-friendliness of Positech games is truly impressive. The capacity is there to add tons of new content. However, very few people seem to know how to do it. There’s no comprehensive first-party manual defining the exact file formatting and the options available for each field. There are reasonably active forums for modding each game, but none of them seem to feature good, community-reviewed guides. My sense seems to be that the combination of being indie games and appealing to a lot of casual gamers means there’s not a critical mass of modders to develop all the needed documentation. Future Positech games NEED good modding documentation. To me at least, modding is one of the biggest appeals to Positech games, and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into making these games mod-friendly (e.g., moving virtually all ‘magic numbers’ to a config.txt file instead of being hard-coded). A small fraction more effort could make all of these wonderful features several times more useful. Cliff, if you read this thread and take only one thing away from it, let it be this! This would almost resolve the problem on its own in time.
MOD TOOLS: this is a bit more pie-in-the-sky, but 1st party editors that gave a clean UI for entering values (with dropdown lists of available options for relevant fields, mouseover info for each field, etc.) would be incredibly useful. If the documentation exists, the community could produce these tools anyway, but making them first party and distributed along with the game would be an enormous step.
MORE CONTENT: this is pretty straightforward. More content out of the box would obviously help. My favourite example here is Kudos; the school and work systems work very well, except that there are only a handful of jobs and classes. There’s pretty much never a reason to get more than one advanced degree. If you’re playing “to win” or to do as well as possible, there’s pretty much no excuse for going anything but Corporate Law, as most other fields simply stop having any new jobs well before you break 6 figures with salary. Kudos’ replay value would skyrocket with a lot more jobs and a couple more classes. Some new activities, events, etc. would be cool, too, but adding jobs and classes is the simplest and most straightforward place to add content. More random events in Democracy 2 is another good example; the core gameplay works well and there are a good number of policies, but once the core game is ‘solved’ (strong electoral base, correct policies in place), nothing ever really happens that demands a response. This brings me to my next point:
DYNAMISM/RANDOMNESS: Given the relative lack of content, the static nature of that content becomes problematic. Aside from ‘role-playing’ excursions, my Democracy 2 games invariably involve a few early policy measures: childcare, rural development grants, free eye tests and other entirely (or almost entirely) beneficial policies. Having the effects of policies vary with random events (for example, random events that can cause different demographics to change their opinions on certain policies, maybe even enemy party ad campaigns to influence public opinion, more situations tied to various events to make the effects of various policy changes less predictable, etc.) would alleviate the lack of content. Similarly, having randomly created jobs (slight variations in requirements and pay, randomly generated names from appropriate lists of affixes, etc.) could really spruce up Kudos. A general principle should be that the same game plan (a certain career track and friend-managing strategy in Kudos, a certain set of policy changes in Democracy 2, etc.) should never work all the time. The player should have to adapt to random or unpredictable circumstances in a more direct way. Events in Democracy 2 early game are a good example, as an event that angers/pleases a major demographic may change the player’s electoral strategy, but by the time the first election rolls around, the player has basically won or lost and will either coast through the rest of the game or lose the first election 99% of the time.
Oops, I guess my numbered list became a numbered list of paragraphs anyway
This ought to go without saying as I’m on this forum and care enough to write this, but I love Positech games. I think they have major flaws regarding the amount and static nature of content, but they are addictive regardless. I see so much potential waiting to be unlocked in these games, though; changes along the lines of what I’ve outlined would, IMHO, raise Positech games from ‘good for indie games’ or ‘great for the price’ to some of the best games currently being produced, hands down. Positech is probably on my top 10 list of favourite game developers as it stands (along with other independent studios like Spiderweb and Ambrosia and mainstream ones like Blizzard), but these changes could conceivably catapult it to #1 status.