The basic unit of the story generator genre is the automaton character with their needs, desires, and the ability to fulfill them through interaction with objects. The first time such automata were created and widely recognized was probably by Will Wright in The Sims. Then, a crucial stage of how the concept has grown was the ultra-hardcore Dwarf Fortress and the magnificent Rimworld.
Playing these games, I was always interested in the level of complexity of the structure. In The Sims, it is on the family level, while in Rimworld, we're dealing with a tribe. At the same time, colonies have a natural tendency to grow, which works against the drama of survival. When you have 15 characters, losing one of them stops being a tragedy and doesn't carry the danger of near-loss, thus becoming a statistic.
We have games about a family, we have games about a tribe living in a village. So what happens if you complicate things further?
If you look at the history of humankind, the next stage after the tribe, which came as a consequence of the agricultural revolution, was the city-state. In the early Middle Ages, because of the destruction of the Roman state superstructures, humanity in Western Europe was brought to live mostly on this level once again.
We chose to play the earlier Middle Ages because it is chronologically closer to our time than the ancient city-states, but this is not the only nor the main reason. We also chose it as this is the stage to which (but not lower) our civilization could degenerate if we destroyed the nation-states. In a sense, we see such city-states in the modern world, in parts of Africa or the former Soviet Union.
Whereas in a tribe, almost everyone is equal, but in a city, social division is unavoidable. There are workers; there are military elites, and there are educated bureaucrats-priests. So we can play as one group (obviously the elites) and make the others autonomous.
This separation of characters helps to keep the drama of the survival story alive — the size of the elite group naturally stays at the family level. If the loss of such a group would mean the end of the game, then the problem is solved. In this way, we can increase the number of characters in other groups as much as we like, always keeping the danger of losing.
However, it is wrong to increase the numbers indefinitely. Historically, the population of the first cities was small. This was regulated both naturally - by diseases afflicting crowded groups of people in the absence of sewage - and by more complex personal choices between freedom and security. This is reflected in the game by such mechanisms as migration, control at city gates, and fertility.
In the next devlog, we'll talk about what social groups are in the game and how they interact with each other. Stay updated!