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Victoria 3 - Dev Diary #70 - Feature Game Jam (part 2)

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Welcome to the final Victoria 3 dev diary for 2022! Last week we took a look at some experimental features and prototypes our team worked on during our recent Game Jam. For the background and purpose of this initiative please refer to last week's diary.

Something that may not have been clear in that diary is that a regular allotment of Personal Development Time (PDT) is an integrated part of game dev culture at Paradox. Team members may use this time as they wish as long as it is something that hones their craft and makes them grow as developers.

The Game Jam initiative is a way of funneling that energy into prototypes for Victoria 3 features, and even if not everything will make it into the game (sorry lizardfolk fans!), pushing against the limits of what we know we can do with the game is important to increase quality and developer skills in the long run. In other words, the Game Jam hasn't taken any scheduled time away from bug fixing, UX and feature improvements, and balance changes. These are and remain our top priority, with patch 1.2 now fully in the works. As always, we are reading your comments and feedback carefully and incorporating many community suggestions in the next free update.

That said, let's jump into it, because there's a lot of fun stuff to cover! First up, team Map Graphics Enchantment:

Hi, my name is Ilya and I am a gameplay programmer on Victoria 3, you might have seen me in the past on Stellaris and HOI4 streams. I’ve been mostly focused on implementing gameplay graphics for the last two years on the project and wanted to use the time during game jam to push the immersive living map experience even further.

So I gathered a team of three other people (two amazing artists Daniel and Paul and one amazing programmer Viacheslav) who were as excited about enhancing map graphics as me. Here are our results!

Pavement upgrades to dirt roads when player researches Paved Roads

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Items along the roads, railroads and sea lanes that could be reflective of time

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Building highlighting on the map, so players feel the connection between buildings growing in the UI and on the map

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Our team actually won the game jam, which I am incredibly proud of  I wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the map graphics enchantment team!

Adding more contextual detail to the map, making you feel like your country is changing and evolving with the times, is something we'd love to improve! While it's not top of our priority list at the moment, you can fully expect to see such visual details bringing historical, immersive flavor to the game eventually.

We're absolutely ecstatic about the building highlighting functionality since it gives you a much closer conceptual connection between the UI and the map. A bit more work is needed here but we are definitely going to try to get this in the game sometime in 2023.

Next up, something yours truly (Mikael) worked on. Technically I didn't participate in the Game Jam, but everyone being busy with their own secret skunkworks projects meant I had some time to hunker down and make something I've been thinking about for a while but never had the chance to try out: Government Quick-Select Options for the Reform Government panel.

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With the Legitimacy calculations becoming a bit more complex with patches 1.1.x, it can be pretty hard to predict which combinations of Interest Groups are good together since it depends on the groups that are already there. Victoria 3 isn't really supposed to be a puzzle game, so I figured let's just make the computer do the heavy lifting here. Whenever you click the Reform Government button now, the game runs through every single valid government combination and sorts them by Legitimacy. The top three options are available to you to quick-select at the press of a button. You can even select an option that's almost right and then make tweaks to it before confirming, reducing a lot of the puzzling you previously had to do.

This functionality, along with tweaked Ideological Incoherence, Legitimacy balance overhaul, and changes to government composition rules to prevent Legitimacy death spirals, should already be in your hands with patch 1.1.2 when you read this!

Next we have a team that worked on a prototype for something very Victorian: graverobbing museums!

We are team The Mummy Returns, composed of Daniel, Iris, Henrik, Konrad, and Vicka. We spent our game jam week developing a new feature: Museums! Our goal was to represent the 19th and early 20th Century obsession with plundering the world for other people’s priceless cultural treasures as a game mechanic. In your Museum, you can exhibit Artifacts for prestige and propaganda.

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This is Britain’s Museum - each country can only have one Museum, buildable only in the capital state. Museums have a limited number of Artifact Slots, determined by the Museum’s Production Methods which are unlocked by society techs - including the new Archaeology tech which also acts as a gateway to archeological expeditions. You can recover Artifacts from expeditions and other gameplay content; they can be anything from priceless treasures from centuries past, to works of art, to modern ideological propaganda. In addition to the Museum and Artifact mechanics, we also experimented with a new type of archeological expedition. Unlike exploratory expeditions, you won’t need to worry about Peril as the excavation proceeds. Instead, you must strike a careful balance between progress and Recklessness; Recklessness will speed up your progress, which will allow you to complete the expedition before funding is cut off, but build up too much and you risk damaging the site and being unable to receive the best possible rewards. Here's Vicka to present the outline of that expedition: Hello. My name is Victoria, also known as Vicka. Some of you may know me as AcresOfAsteraceae, or as Pacifica from my work on the TNO mod for HOI4. I am a new content designer on the Victoria 3 team, and the designer of the Valley of the Kings expedition, here to present more details regarding the specifics of the expedition itself.

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This expedition was designed to follow the rough outline of the historical expedition to excavate the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, carried out by Howard Carter. Upon researching the new technology for archaeological sciences, and securing one’s relationship with Egypt, one can dispatch an expedition to the Valley of the Kings in order to search for valuable historical knowledge - and, of course, staggeringly valuable loot. The imperative to secure other people’s priceless historical treasures is a powerful one - and it is one that the Great Powers of Victoria 3 shall pursue to the fullest in their search for both power and prestige.

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On the site in the Valley, the expedition team will be faced with numerous challenges and decisions. The practical difficulty of excavating a long-forgotten site in a remote area will quickly become apparent - and the dichotomy between getting the expedition done quickly, and getting it done properly will rear its head.

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If one takes too long to complete it, the powers that be in your home nation will pull its funding - but if one rushes ahead too much, catastrophe may well strike, tearing down sections of the tomb and limiting the rewards one may collect.

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Finally, if both fortune and practice align in a manner favorable to your archaeologist, the expedition will return home bearing a treasure trove of artifacts. Well, of course, either that, or the few meager scraps that they could pull out of the rubble that they left behind.

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This team's explorations into new types of game content here is really interesting and may be something we delve deeper into in the future! Finally, we have team Incredible Experience, who spent their time on making some lovely enhancements to the tech tree:

Hi! I’m Aron, one of two UX Designers on the Victoria 3 team. During the Game Jam, I teamed up with one of our Programmers (Can), our 2D Art Lead (Kenneth) and our Producer (Daniel), to rework and improve the User Experience of the tech tree in our game, and oh man did we have fun doing so! The tech tree is a beast, both visually and as a code-base, and is a perfect candidate for a face lift. Currently, there is no way of queueing up tech research and no way to see at a glance what a tech unlocks. However, the biggest issue is the readability at the furthest zoom level. The text is way too small to read, but if you are not that far zoomed out you can’t really get a good overview of the tree. We tried to tackle all these issues all at once, aiming for the highest cloud. This resulted in a barrage of fixes, big and small. Let’s start with the small but impactful changes:

  • Increased text size on all zoom levels.

  • Default camera view set to the furthest zoom and at a better position.

  • Color-coded tabs.

  • New icon representing a group of modifiers.

Now to the bigger changes. We show all the unlocks of a tech directly on the tech in the tree, not only in the tooltip. They are now grouped by icon and type, and have their own group tooltip

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We made splines highlightable so they can change color depending on context + clearer highlighting of the techs themselves to be able to see at a glance what has been researched and what is currently researching. The splines and the techs share the same color scheme for the 4 different states:

  • Already researched tech has a paper brown look.

  • Researchable techs are green. (not the splines though as it did bloat the screen and mess with the visual hierarchy a bit too much)

  • Currently researching techs are blue.

  • Not researchable techs are dark grey/black.

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Finally, the technology queue. I am still amazed we managed to pull this off in less than a week and even managed to iterate quite a few times on the UX Design for this feature. The core thing here is the ability to queue up which technology will be researched after the current research is completed. We set a few goals ranging from must-have to nice-to-have.

  1. The player should be able to queue the next research.

    1. Queue unlocked research.

    2. Queue several techs.

    3. Queue locked research.

    4. A universal way of clicking on the tech in the tree to queue it up.

  2. A visual representation of the queue somewhere on the tech tree screen.

  3. Clear visual feedback and distinction between putting a tech in the queue and start researching it.

  4. Present the queued up tech’s time left to finish researching in all essential places. (tooltips and in the visualization of the queue)

  5. Remove techs from the queue.

  6. Clicking on a tech will clear the queue and start to research that tech instead.

  7. Shift + clicking on a tech will put it in the queue.

  8. Directly click on a locked tech and automatically queue up the prerequisites in front of this tech in the queue. This will clear the queue first.

  9. Shift + click the locked tech and automatically put this tech + prerequisites in the back of the queue. This will not clear the queue first.

  10. Alt + click a tech to add it to the top of the queue.

  11. Rearrange the order of the queue.

Believe it or not, but we managed to get to point 9 in this list. Let me show you how it looks. In the below image I have just clicked directly on Flamethrowers far down in the Military tech tree (because Flamethrowers!). This queues up all needed techs for me to get to Flamethrowers in the end. Notice the numbers that display the position in the queue for each tech and the splines highlighting the way. If I were to shift + click Stormtroppers here, it would put that tech + any needed prerequisites at the back of the queue. At the top of the screen you can see the queue nicely queued in the correct order with a max cap of 5 shown tech icons. It is capped at 5 since this screen needs to be responsive for any players that play on 1600x900 or with a higher UI-scaling, which we of course want to support for accessibility reasons. Any additional techs queued above the 5 first can be found under the +X numbered button to the right of the queue.

I can remove any specific queued tech by clicking the X-button visible on each queued tech at the top.

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We worked hard on displaying the information correctly to the player in each and every context. As an example of that, you can see in the tooltip in the image below, we added a prompt in the tech tooltip with our normal green formatting for prompts that tells the player to either click this researchable tech (Field Works) to start to research it immediately, or shift + click to queue it up. For any players that will have trouble finding this prompt, we also added a plus button at the top left of each tech to queue up the tech without having to shift + click (not all players read tooltips, believe it or not).

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I can’t wait until we actually get this into the game and the actual regular pipeline, and we get to spend some more time polishing it up and in the end get it out to you guys.

If you want to read up on the cool dynamic algorithm we use to generate our tech tree, here are a few links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Layered_graph_drawing https://paginas.fe.up.pt/~ei05067/documentos/bibliografia/Layout.pdf http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:882369/FULLTEXT01.pdf http://www.it.usyd.edu.au/~shhong/fab.pdf

The tech tree improvements drastically increase usability and are in most respects a finished set of features, so these changes will be coming to version 1.2.

In conclusion, this was an incredibly successful Game Jam week for us in the Victoria 3 development team: several finished features were developed that will be coming in the next major patch, we pushed the boundaries of what is possible within the game, and produced a bunch of experimental working prototypes that we can build on for the future. We hope you enjoyed the sneak peek!

We will be back with more dev diaries after the winter holidays (sometime mid- to late-January) with more details about what the future for Victoria 3 will hold, particularly for the free 1.2 patch. We hope you have a lot of fun with the game until then. I know we will!

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