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Rome Dev Blog: The Campaigns

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Level 14 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm
Tagged: hegemonyrome devblog campaigns screenshot

There has been a lot of interest in exactly which parts of Roman history we're covering. Most games tend to focus on the Roman conquest of Italy, which is an obvious choice for games because you get to play as the familiar Romans, in the familiar boot of Italy, and there's a nice smattering of enemy factions around Rome. Other mediums – TV shows, books, plays – tend to focus on Caesar's civil war against Pompey and his eventual assassination. Obviously everybody knows Caesar, and the intrigue of this era is fascinating, but it doesn't work very well for a strategy campaign; the civil war was a bunch of one-off battles that happened all over the ancient world with very little building or expansion.

But one transformative period that is too often overlooked, is Caesar's ambitious campaign in Gaul.

It is said that, before the Gallic Wars, Caesar saw a statue of Alexander the Great and came to realize that Alexander had, at Caesar's age, virtually conquered the entire known world. It says a lot about Caesar's ambition, and perhaps his hubris, that he would not be satisfied so long as Alexander – the most notable historical figure of the time – was more accomplished than he.

The Gallic Wars were a chance to change all that. By the end, Caesar had ballooned the territory of the Roman Republic by nearly half and again its size and built an army powerful enough to support his civil war, which laid the groundwork for his ultimate dictatorship along with the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. This was a pivotal point in history, and it's the story that we're telling in Hegemony Rome.

With such a rich story, we decided that we wanted more freedom to recreate those events, but we didn't want to give up the free-form nature of the original game.

This is something we discovered after developing the original Philip of Macedon campaign. We were rather happy with the organic nature of the campaign, but we also saw something special in the Bardyllis quest at the beginning of the game, where you come across a set-piece battle against the enemy general who so recently threw your kingdom into chaos.


Encounter the enemy on the same battlefield Caesar describes in his commentaries

Unfortunately, as the campaign progressed, the free-form nature of the game worked against our ability to create such set-piece battles. We wanted the best of both worlds, and we couldn't do that in a single campaign.

That's why we released Hegmony Gold with a separate sandbox mode. This allowed us to offer a completely free-form experience, similar to the middle portions of the Philip of Macedon campaign, while allowing us to focus on a more scripted experience, like the beginning of Philip's campaign.

We learned a lot from developing Hegemony Gold that way, and we think there's a lot of promise in that approach. In a future post we'll discuss how we've improved the sandbox mode, but today I want to talk more about how we've structured the campaign.

One of the things we discovered is that the best part of Hegemony is when you're starting from scratch. When you have a single city, alone and exposed, and you're tasked with carving out your own empire from the surrounding area.

This plays perfectly with the history of the Gallic Wars. In 58 BCE, Caesar was forced to respond to the threat of the Helvetii near modern Geneva. In 57 BCE, he was forced to respond to the rebellions in Beglium. 56 BCE brought with it a new invasion of Germans crossing the Rhine, along with Caesar's own ambitions to conquer Britannia. Finally, in 54 BCE, Caesar was faced with a unified Gallic rebellion, starting just north of Lutetia (modern Paris) and eventually ranging all the way south to the Mediterranean, ending in 52 BCE when Caesar defeats Vercingetorix and pacifies all of Gaul.


Belgica on the strategy map

This allowed us to break the campaign into four separate chapters – they play like completely separate campaigns – each allowing you to start in a new area.

You can play these chapters in any order you like, but they get harder as you go on. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed some gaps above in chapters 3 and 4. That's because these chapters are two years long; these chapters are longer because it's assumed that you're better at managing a large empire by this point, and you're also ready to deal with the changing seasons. Basically, the further into the game you get, the more closely it resembles the sandbox experience, so if you're new to the game, the best way to learn how to play is to start with chapter 1 and work your way through the entire story.

As I mentioned above, one of the new things we wanted to do with the campaigns was add more set-piece battles. But one of the important features of Hegemony Rome is that you're playing on a seamless map, so we didn't want to introduce some sort of “instanced” battle that interrupts the gameplay like some other games do. Rather, as you complete the objectives and push against your boundaries, you'll occasionally encounter specially scripted battles. If you lose the battle, there's no unnatural restarting of your mission. You merely retreat back to your own territory, build up a larger army, and live to fight another day. And don't worry; your enemy will be ready for your ultimate return.

So that's a brief overview of what you can expect in the chapters. What I would like to hear from your guys is if you'd like me to go into more details about the chapters in a future article. Would you like a more specific overview of each chapter? If so, would you like to try to avoid spoilers, even when they're on the historical record? Or would you like some more technical articles, like how we do the battle scripting, or how we manage the difficulty curve and teach the player how to play the game? Let us know below!

Gloria Romae!

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Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on July 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Probably it has to do with my decision to re-listen the whole The Lord Of The Rings soundtracks today, but while reading this I had some feeling like "There's something epic to come!". Regarding your question, I think I would prefer to hear something about the learning curve as you seem to dedicate a big part of your game to the learning aspect. Could you imagine making the first chapters in two different styles: Once with the learning curve thing and probably very limited abilities for player and the AI alike and one more challenging and with all features of your game? I mean, there's nearly nothing that reduces replayability more than knowing that this is a tutorial and no challenge for an experienced player anymore...

EDIT: You could tell us if there will be a change of names due to romanization/de-romanization during the campaign. After all, the settlements shown in the game must have had original names and Roman names, didn't they? You would not have to implement this for every faction, of course, but the Romans as the "winning culture" should imo have some sort of direct impact on their conquered territories. Did Caesar colonize territories like Philip with his spear-won land of Macedons?

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful
Posted on July 30, 2013 at 3:40 am

Roman settlers were indeed encouraged, even given incentives to proceed across the Alps and settle in newly conquered regions of Gaul. I wonder if this is the ingame mechanic that will supply the settlers needed to grow cities (assuming that is unchanged from Gold).

Admittedly I'm a little sad that the campaigns final stroke won't be the crossing of the Rubicon and the march on Rome itself. That particular part of history to me is the culmination of everything Caesar accomplished previously, his time in captivity, the rebellion in Greece, governorship of Spain and finally the conquest of France. I don't know, just feels like the ending of the story will be missing. Sure I realise the beginning is missing also but those previous times all basically lead to Gaul which is where the legend of Caesar really takes off. Of course crossing the Rubicon also starts it's own chain of events, but as you have already said those were mostly large battles fought in far off lands.

That aside I like the variety of the Dev Blogs so far, something different each time. Perhaps if release is still a long way off then for now it may be better to stick to the general nature of them as they have been so far, then go into more detailed technical stuff later on when all the main aspects have been covered as a whole.

Also my usual beg for the Beta, I feel as though I must add this to every thread :)

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on July 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

Roman settlers were indeed encouraged, even given incentives to proceed across the Alps and settle in newly conquered regions of Gaul. I wonder if this is the ingame mechanic that will supply the settlers needed to grow cities (assuming that is unchanged from Gold).

Thanks for the info.

Also my usual beg for the Beta, I feel as though I must add this to every thread :)

No, Bansh, you are not Cato the Elder.

Level 14 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Could you imagine making the first chapters in two different styles: Once with the learning curve thing and probably very limited abilities for player and the AI alike and one more challenging and with all features of your game? I mean, there's nearly nothing that reduces replayability more than knowing that this is a tutorial and no challenge for an experienced player anymore...
I agree completely! Our plan is to have an "Advanced Mode" for players who've already gone through the campaign once. This will skip the tutorial segments, and give you access to features that normally you wouldn't be able to access until later in the game. For instance, the first chapter doesn't feature any siege engines, but if you're playing in advanced mode, you'll be able to use them from the very start.

Now, when I say "the first time", you might be worried that we're going to lock this feature out, and you'll have to beat the game to get this mode as a "reward". Don't worry, we recommend that you leave advanced mode off the first time around, but just like how you can play the chapters in any order, you're free to turn on advanced mode right away. There's nothing I hate more than installing a game on a new computer and being forced to play through the early content again in order to access the stuff I already unlocked.

You could tell us if there will be a change of names due to romanization/de-romanization during the campaign. After all, the settlements shown in the game must have had original names and Roman names, didn't they? You would not have to implement this for every faction, of course, but the Romans as the "winning culture" should imo have some sort of direct impact on their conquered territories. Did Caesar colonize territories like Philip with his spear-won land of Macedons?

The names of cities is an interesting thing. There's many places where archaeology shows that a Roman city was actually built atop a Gallic city, so we know that there was a Gallic city there at the time, but we're not sure what the original name was. The Gauls didn't record the original name, because they didn't keep written records, and the Romans didn't record the original name because founding a city was a rather religious matter to the Romans; each city had its own heroic founding myth, and recording that a city was actually founded by barbarians simply wouldn't fit the bill. When this happens, we're forced to make an educated guess about the name of the city; most often, we'll name these cities after the tribe that was known to occupy the area.

However, according to Roman records, we know that pretty much all of these "new" cities were founded after the war. Bansh is right that there were incentives to settle newly conquered land — in fact, new farm land was often a legionaries reward — but unlike Philip's campaign, which lasted over twenty years, Caesar was only in Gaul for eight years, and Gaul was rather unstable for most of that period; there really wasn't much opportunity to do a lot of settling during that period.

The exception is "The Province": the southern part of Gaul that the Romans had conquered in the 2nd century BCE. (The Roman's didn't give this area a very creative name, but the name lasted: Provence is still the name we use for this region in the south of France.) This region was conquered a century earlier, and had remained rather stable during the whole war. Prior to the war, it received many settlers, and after the war, Gauls in this area received Roman citizenship. Still, not a lot of renaming going on during the war.

We've often mused about the ability to rename cities and brigades yourself. This has been one of our wish-list items going back to Philip of Macedon, but we never found the time for it. I think it'd be fun to go through and, every time you conquer a city, name it after some Roman god. Although the gravitas might be lost the first time a player names their city "Buttsville".

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on July 30, 2013 at 10:52 pm

So that's a brief overview of what you can expect in the chapters. What I would like to hear from your guys is if you'd like me to go into more details about the chapters in a future article. Would you like a more specific overview of each chapter? If so, would you like to try to avoid spoilers, even when they're on the historical record? Or would you like some more technical articles, like how we do the battle scripting, or how we manage the difficulty curve and teach the player how to play the game? Let us know below!

A "Click to see spoilers" would be great indeed.

We've often mused about the ability to rename cities and brigades yourself. This has been one of our wish-list items going back to Philip of Macedon, but we never found the time for it. I think it'd be fun to go through and, every time you conquer a city, name it after some Roman god. Although the gravitas might be lost the first time a player names their city "Buttsville".

It seems like only making it possible in the sandbox mode would make sense.

Level 9 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Location: New Jersey
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 1:47 am

Question re: the four separate chapters. Do your units carry over between them? One of my favorite parts of the Philip campaign was upgrading the Macedonian units as they gained experiencing. By the end, the Companions and Hypaspists were old friends, as were some of the phalanx units that had campaigned with them. I would miss doing that if I couldn't take a unit from chapter 1 all the way to the end, though obviously if you can start in any order there would be "starter" units for each one with set abilities.

Level 8 Human Test Dummy (MK III)
Alignment: Lawful
Location: Middle of Nowhere
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I might have missed something, but will sandbox be included so i can play as whoever i want?

Level 14 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I notice you're mostly talking about the special units that you earn during quests. In Rome, we'll also have a bunch of special units like this, including all of your legions. Every winter, Caesar would station his legions at different locations under different generals, and then reunite with them at some point when the fighting recommenced.

So you'll definitely have a number of "old friends" that you keep using throughout the whole game. Because they often weren't stationed with Caesar, you won't start every chapter with all of your old friends, but eventually you'll reunite with them, and as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder :)

Carrying over your upgrades is a bit more complicated, but we have talked about it, and it's certainly not out of the question. The biggest problem is that when you finish a chapter, you're not necessarily going to want to start playing the next chapter right away; there's a good chance you'll still have lots of side quests that you haven't completed yet, so you might want to keep playing the current chapter after you've already won it. So to carry over your upgrades, we would need some sort of import interface when you start a new chapter.

Instead, I'm more inclined to start your veteran units out with a reasonable amount of experience whenever you start a new chapter, which also has the benefit of letting you re-spec when you move to the next chapter.

Level 14 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I might have missed something, but will sandbox be included so i can play as whoever i want?
Yes, there will also be many improvements to the sandbox mode, and we'll almost definitely devote a whole blog post to that.

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful
Posted on July 31, 2013 at 11:08 pm

How about letting units and/or officers carry over their exp? Would that be easier than having it carry over everything?

No two years were exactly the same in Gaul for the Romans so the ability to "retrain over winter" would be quite nice imo. Certainly starting from scratch each campaign when we all know it was the exact same legions and people would seem.. quite dumb actually.

Could easily be explained by Caesars extensive network of spies and informants. He always had some inkling of what the mood was in Gaul, and of course he always had his own plans for the next campaigning seasons. Unlike the dossers on garrison duties the Gallic legions were never allowed to go soft over winter.

Oh another question. How much of a role will the Aedui cavalry sworn to Caesar play?

Level 9 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Location: New Jersey
Posted on August 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Thanks for the info Rick! Can't wait to play.

Level 14 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on August 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Oh another question. How much of a role will the Aedui cavalry sworn to Caesar play?
Can you be more specific? Caesar often levied cavalry from the Gauls, especially from the allied Aedui, but if there was anything particularly interesting about them, it's slipped my mind.

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful
Posted on August 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Oh another question. How much of a role will the Aedui cavalry sworn to Caesar play?
Can you be more specific? Caesar often levied cavalry from the Gauls, especially from the allied Aedui, but if there was anything particularly interesting about them, it's slipped my mind.


Nothing special per se. If I remember right they mostly made up the bulk of his cavalry often used to great effect. I was just wondering is this will be represented in game play and if any special mechanics will be used to obtain allied units.

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Good
Posted on August 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

It's a good idea to split the campaign into chapters imo because it's true that the beginnings are often the most fun. Managing just a couple of cities, making the most out of limited resources and troops, things like that.