Emergent Gameplay

I was reading a very very long AAR that begins with the original Crusader Kings and it got me thinking about emergent gameplay. In short I think of it like things happen in the game that the developer/designer never outright sort to accomplish, but rather it occurred simply because the game is structured in such a way that it can. On it’s own.

For example, in the linked AAR, there’s all sorts of things happening that are sort of emergent. You piss off a vassal and then later he revolts. Now; that may not seem emergent but consider: You grant title to someone else and you piss off a vassal who has a claim there. Then later; when the man you gave the title to begins to dislike you due to the size of your demesne, he concocts a plot with your spiteful wife to kill you; and it only succeeds because they can draw your pissed off vassal into the plot as well.

That’s emergent. Games like Dwarf Fortress definitely show emergent gameplay. These are the sort of games that inspire my own; and so I’m thinking about it’s inclusion.

So obviously, I can just program in emergence. Instead I need to program the game mechanics in such a way that it’s very very hard to predict how all the bits and pieces will affect each other. This allows these bits and pieces to affect each other in a consistent manner, with affects flowing on. And these affects aren’t always known from the outset of a decision by the player.

Nothing that I have planned features this to a large degree. Sure, the economy affects the budget affects the military; but these are known affects to the player. If I increase research budget I get more theoretical knowledge; this helps practical knowledge, this produces new technologies for my military. So I need something more.

When I look at both Dwarf Fortress and Crusader Kings I see the following:

  • The “emergent” behaviour is seen from characters
  • The game is in a large part organised around the characters
  • The “emergent” behaviour comes from interactions between characters

When I then look at something like Hearts of Iron; there is no emergent behaviour and the game is very little reflective of characters. But this also leads me to a revelation; the game must be completely open for emergent behaviour to be seen and for it to make sense. So, in HOI3 for example, the Commanders don’t show any behaviour, just aptitude for warfare, and you put then in a place where their skillset is most useful. But they are unable to defect; ignore orders or anything like that. This is because the game is very narrowly focused, and for good reason, mostly because of the historical accuracy, you can’t have people off doing whatever they want.

The Last Boundary is focused toward a long time span, and a high level. So it’s hard to find somewhere where I can put the ability of having emergence…

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