Why Not Games

Materials In Syphilisation

One of the ways that Syphilisation is going to differ substantially from the Civ series is in the focus on raw materials and their conversion into finished goods. You cannot have a real discussion of colonialism without talking about the heavy role of natural resources and industrialization played in it. Similarly, I think that discussions on manufacturing (and similarly games) that elide colonialism are incomplete, but that's a separate discussion. However, due to historical importance of this topic, I needed to include it in Syphilisation.

Historical Context

There are a number of historical things in particular that I wanted to mirror with the game. The first is the destruction of the textile industry in India and the Industrial Revolution in Britain that followed on its heels. The second is the replacement of food crops with indigo across India. The third is the East India Company growing opium in India and the Opium Wars in China that followed.

The material underpinnings of colonialism are a little prosaic, but fundamental to understanding it. Additionally, this is the kind of thing that fits well into a game like this and that the mechanics can mirror well.

The Base Feature

Right now, I've just implemented a stub for the feature. For a game like Syphilisation, things aren't going to come together until more of the structure is in place. An art director I once worked with used to say that no one likes a half-done pizza and that's how things work with games like this too. There needs to be more content in place and the whole thing needs to become much more legible before it starts to be fun.

Anyway, the feature right now has a couple of buildings that convert the basic currencies of currency and production into gold and work respectively. Work essentially replaces production for higher tier building actions and gold is going to function as a higher value social currency. Additionally, I put in the special resource ethics and a building to convert that into gold.

I like putting in conversions for the fundamental currencies for a number of reasons. First of all, it's just cleaner. For a feature like this, integration is essential. Secondly, it makes sure that industrialization brings significant advantages, which will make for interesting gameplay and will help players engage with the ethical questions of colonialism better. This is worth thinking about a bit as the relentless flow of industrialization is a very Western idea and one that Gandhi and Tolstoy both questioned. However, it's one that I also largely agree with. I'm a futurist at heart. However, it is one that needs deeper examination in a game about colonization and I'll come back to it when more of the game is in place. I think that putting in global warming should add a lot of texture to the feature.

Mechanical Thoughts

I think that if I was just trying to build a 4X, I would probably skip this feature. It's going to need significant work to manage the complexity and I'm not convinced that the feature will ever justify the costs. It would obviously be well-integrated, but it might be an unnecessary complication. It seems a little unfocused for a standard 4X in that I'm not sure that it reinforces any of the key aesthetics enough. For Syphilisation however, this is obviously not a concern due to the amount it talks about colonialism. Also, it's undeniably going to add a lot of depth.

Next steps

To represent the indigo idea, I plan on having mutually exclusive buildings, like the art and archaeological museums in Civ6 and allowing the colonizer to shift buildings from one branch of the tree to the other. I also am going to make tiles that allow for the growth of cash crops and of growth crops and allow colonizers to flip those too.

Trading is also going to do a lot for this. It's a feature that's necessary for the game to function in the first place and industrialization is going to work very well with it and their combination is going to have the historical parallel that this game thrives on.

Before anything else though, I need to stabilize the game and maybe flesh it out a little to get an idea of where I am right now. This is going to be an integral feature and I would like to get a little more of a feel for it before I expand the game again.

- @murthynikhil

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