Sim State

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. This idea really started when I watched Day[9] play the new Sim City, and then picked up Sim City 4 again. I wanted to create a game which brought the ideas of micromanaging infrastructure and government into a larger scale. The player would be able to control education, government type, military, trade, etc. Eventually it grew into a sort of “third-world country simulator”, since that seemed like the most interesting route to people I pitched the general concept to.

The basic premise is that you are the leader of a small country, recently put in power by a violent revolution. This country is located in a faux South or Central America, but there is also the possibility for having multiple templates: African, Southeast Asian, etc. The player can only really see the small land area he controls, plus some of the bordering sovereignties. There is no global map (and this isn’t a game about conquest), but there are references to current global institutions (or fictitious characterizations thereof) like the UN and US, or WHO, etc.

Winning the game means pulling your country out of poverty and onto the world stage. This requires many parts, including building infrastructure, establishing governmental rule, and appeasing the international community. However, the win condition is gaining control over every province in your nation. Control just means being the dominant power faction. Routes to control include stamping out resistance (militarily) and appeasing interest groups. Thus a large part of the game is balancing political control; keep the military leaders on your side, stop workers from striking, and stay elected. The last one may mean establishing a dictatorship, rigging elections, or spending a lot of resources maintaining public image.

At the start of the game, your country is poor and unequipped. There are two forms of currency: money, and international repute. International repute can be spent on relief or treaties; perhaps getting a foreign oil company to leave your country. On the other hand, if you drive out the oil company by force, some factions in your own country may approve, while the international community may impose sanctions. Similarly, if their are pirate along the coast, you could demand tribute or try to exterminate them at a potentially great cost. If the world catches wind that you are allowing pirates to operate, however, you will lose repute.

The other form of currency is money. A little macro-economics comes into play here, since you have to manage your currency (printing money), and real “world dollars”. Rapid inflation can be bad for your industries, but it attracts tourists (but only to good parts – nobody is going to visit the region controlled by drug cartels). Real dollars come from exports, mainly. One way to get a boost in the beginning of the game is to exploit your natural resources: cut down rain forests, strip mine mountains, etc. However, you have to establish a more mature manufacturing industry at some point, otherwise you will exhaust your resources and fall back down into poverty.

In terms of infrastructure the player has to build, the main forms are education and industry. Industry includes transportation networks and resource collection, as well as processing. Industry also means municipal improvements, since nice cities attract high-tech corporations and commercial companies. Another route to improving the quality of your workforce, reducing crime, and eliminating overpopulation is education. Building schools takes a lot of resources for little immediate payoff, but it will start to improve your country greatly. It is also a great way for dictators to indoctrinate the population.

Late-game opportunities may include hosting Olympic Games or researching nuclear technology.

As you can see, there is a lot of room for expansions; this is more of a framework for a game, rather than a fleshed out game idea. I know there are games like this, such as Tropico. I think this would be more political and deep than Tropico, but obviously I would aim to offer a different experience overall were I to build this.


Plot has been Achieved

For a while I’ve been developing a set of characters who will certainly be the protagonists in the short story I’m writing. There are five protagonists, forming the crew of a small customized freighter called the Meridia. They work as private contractors, independently solving “problems”, or complex operations and tasks which require both skill and delicacy. Each crew member has a number of specializations, allowing them to collectively pilot their spaceship with only a fraction of the usual crew size. Every one of them is adept in combat and knowledgeable in a wide range of subjects. But they are hardly a veteran team, and having only recently met, they don’t have their team dynamics quite ironed out. Individually, however, they have years of experience in their respective fields and were notorious in the various parts of the galaxy where they worked alone.

But the characters haven’t had a clear purpose until now. I finally came up with a good idea for an overarching plot for my short story. It involves rebels, black hole generators, and perhaps aliens. I mocked up a military intelligence report, so I’ll let it speak for itself.
A report by ONGI on a joint operation between ONGI and OSCO.
Download as PDF

OSCO (Office of Specialized Covert Operations) will end up contracting the crew of the Meridia to infiltrate the rebel operations and discover the source of the tachyon tech. In the process, the crew uncovers a plot way beyond their league, yet it is up to them to stop the impending galactic war. Of course, the crew has had previous run-ins with these particular rebels. While transporting a piece of a key (cryptographic keys are one of the most precious physical cargoes), they have an unlucky encounter with a raiding party. They are forced to make a semi-blind jump with the Meridia, and end up stranded at a backwater spaceport. They manage to repair their ship before the rebels find them (tracking a jump is difficult and imprecise, meaning you have to go through the laborious process of sweeping a great number of systems in order to find the quarry) and barely make it out alive.

On another note, the English language is crazy. Making up words is really fun, especially if you have a certain amount of education in Latin. The great thing is that people are able to understand any word you make up if you do it right. While I mostly mean scientific words, I also mean Jabberwocky/Ulysses style words too. For example, in that short summary I used two new words: terrasapient and extraspecial. I needed to use terrasapient because extraterrestrial is meaningless when you are a spacefaring race. Terrasapient refers to something sapient originating on Earth (humans). Extraspecial is similar, except that it means something is external to the usual system of classifying something by species. It basically means any alien lifeform.

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