1. Society Overview
  2. The World & its provinces
  3. The Game Mechanics
  4. What makes Society Special
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Society Overview
Society is a real-time massively multiplayer on-line strategy game set on a world that begins in a pre-medieval setting. Each world is broken up into thousands of provinces. Players start with a single province to build in and can expand into other provinces over time. They can choose to play the game as the trader/diplomat in which their society only holds a few provinces or they can attempt to conquer the provinces held by others.

In their provinces, players build cities through the construction of roads, farms, shops, schools, libraries, banks, armories, barracks, factories, etc.

These cities then generate the necessary money, population, and resources for players to expand out to eventually control a given province of the overall world. From there, players can expand into other provinces through the building of a military.

Players can join empires, build alliances, fight wars, make treaties, trade goods, and more in this persistent world in which cities, technologies, virtual families all move forward over time.

The pace of the game is gradual. New technologies are achieved at the same rate as new levels are achieved in games such as EverQuest or World of Warcraft. Players spend most of their time building up their society by improving the lives of their citizens.

A player’s Society is relatively safe from conquest in that only a quarter of their provinces can become contested in a given game day – and only then if they are not surrounded by “friendly” territory.

Figure 1: Early Society concept
Society is being developed in such a way that it can support as many platforms as possible so that it will eventually be available on all major desktop operating systems, connected game consoles, and connected portable devices.

The game is expected to go into public beta in 2006 and release in 2007. Stardock will be providing both a free version along with a premium version that will provide enhanced content, province protection (ability to set a handful of provinces as un-attackable for those players who do not wish to see their core cities destroyed), and technology protection (players technological ability will always remain competitive). The premium version is expected to have a monthly fee of approximately $9.95 to $14.95.

The World & Its Provinces
Society is played in two parts. The first part is the province map that plays similarly to traditional real-time strategy games. Players have a map in which they can construct buildings, make roads, direct armies, etc. The second part is the strategic world map in which they can manage their overall society. This includes managing troop movements, resource allocation, international diplomacy, family locations, arranging marriages for family members with other players and more.

The Provinces
A given province is represented in-game by a map that is roughly the size of maps found in other real-time strategy games such as Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, Empire Earth and so forth.

When the player begins, they start in a single contested province controlled by no other players. Their only opponents are barbarians in the province controlled by Stardock’s award-winning computer AI. The player must build their capital and subdue the barbarians to win the province.

The types of buildings players may construct include:
  • Farms: Farms produce food. Food is one of the requirements needed for population growth. Unlike other RTS’s, players cannot simply will the birth of people (there are no peons). Rather, the conditions of one society determine the population growth. Players then decide what their existing population does.
  • Hospitals: Hospitals (clinics, medicine huts, etc.) help determine the death rate for your population. Your people are born, grow old, and die. How long they stay in the world depends on the quality of their health.
  • Mines: Mines (logging camps, etc.) are placed on strategic resources in a province which provide your society with special resources such as copper, iron, silver, gems, wood, etc. These resources are required by your society in various forms.
  • Shops: Shops can take your resources and convert them into money.
  • Libraries: Produce knowledge (schools, universities, learning huts, etc.) for your society which in turn is directed towards researching new technologies.
  • Cathedrals: Produce culture for your society (stadiums, theaters, etc.) which in turn decreases the emigration from your society or can increase immigration from nearby societies.
  • Markets: Markets provide a radius of supply to your people where basic goods can be purchased.
  • Wells: Wells (water towers, etc.) provide a radius of water supply to your people.
  • Public Works Building: The Public Works Building (civil protection, public safety, etc.) provides a radius of civil service to your people.
  • Barracks: Allows for the training of soldiers for your people.
  • Houses: Provides a home for your people.
  • Armory: Factory, training center, elite training, etc. provides bonuses for your soldiers.
  • Export Center: Allows players to export resources to their global society.
  • Expedition Center: Allows players to make available troops for use in other provinces.
Players do not create units. Instead, they assign where the existing population is to go. Players can directly allocate citizens to work in particular buildings. Citizens not allocated to a particular building work at whatever the globally set priorities are (buildings provide significant bonuses to their output).

For example, a player can set that 20% of their unassigned population works in food production. If the player has say 100 citizens that are not allocated into a particular building, then 20 of them are assigned to producing food and they will produce food at 1 food unit per time cycle. However, if the player builds a farm and puts that same citizen in the farm, then they will produce 2 units of food per time cycle. If the player then builds a road that connects the farm to the rest of their city, then that same citizen can produce 3 units of food per time cycle. If the farm comes into range of a well, public works building, and market, then the farm is upgraded up to twice as much of its previous production based on whether it meets all 3 criteria or not.

Players can also put buildings together into blocks. Put 4 buildings together to form a 2x2 block and it creates an enhanced building that produces the equivalent of 5 of the individual buildings. Build a block of 3x3 and it produces the equivalent of 12 of the individual buildings.

Warfare in a province
When a player attacks another province, the two provinces are connected together to form a single large map. This puts both players at risk of losing their province. Players can only attack provinces that are perpendicular to their province (i.e. north, south, east, west).

When armies move through their cities, they gain a 3X combat advantage. When they move through friendly territory (territory on the map they control but not part of a city) they gain a 2X combat advantage. This encourages players to only attack if they are very serious about it (i.e., no “rushing”). A given province is considered conquered when the enemy’s town center is taken.

Resources in a province
Depending on the technology level of the player, different resources will show up on the map. Players can build structures on resources on a map. They need those resources in order to build certain types of shops and units.

Roads in a province
Roads are essential for ensuring that a given structure is achieves its optimal production. Buildings connected by a road receive a substantial production bonus. All roads must be connected to the player’s town center.

One feature unique to Society is that players themselves design their buildings and structures. While default visuals are in place for shops, farms and houses and how they will perform, players have the option of designing their own structures. They will be able to control the look as well as the functionality of a given building. A shop could contain a home up above that provides housing for 2 citizens. A farm may include a small marketplace at the back of the house.

Creating custom structures is not required to play the game. Players can take and share their designs with others.

Furthermore, the engine will support other players plugging in .X files and .DXPack files to add new models, textures, and user interfaces to the game.

The World
Strategically, a given world is divided into a 200 x 150 grid map. Each grid represents a single province (assuming it’s land).

Provinces that are not surrounded by friendly territory can become contested at a rate of up to 25% of the player’s total territory per day. For example, if a player’s territory is a single long line of 9 territories, then any 2 of them can become contested per day. However, if that same player’s society is shaped in a 3 x 3 grid, the center most province cannot become contested because it is surrounded by friendly territories.

Moreover, players can also join up with other players to form empires. Territories controlled by someone in the same empire are counted as friendly territories.

If someone attacks one of your provinces while you are not on-line, someone from your empire can take control of your forces (players can also set which members of the empire have this privilege or can set a certain imperial points threshold) to defend your province. If they are successful, they can win imperial points which help them gain standing in the empire and provide other bonuses. If no one is available to defend your society while you’re off-line, the computer AI will be quite effective at doing it.

Border provinces can be fortified with expeditionary forces and defensive structures so that they are more defensible during the player’s absence.

When players create their society, they can choose a profession. What profession they choose determines what artifacts they can use. Artifacts are found randomly in provinces and become part of your society’s global inventory. These artifacts provide significant bonuses to your society if you can use them. That also makes them highly valuable in trade.

Players can also trade resources between players. Because of the nature of the advanced technology tree, it is unlikely that any two players will have the same technology (and technologies cannot be readily traded). As a result, some societies will be able to use different resources more effectively than others and therefore create a demand for trading those resources.

In addition, each society has a royal family. A given Socian can live up to one game month. During that time, he or she can have several children. Each member of the royal family can be based in a given province giving that province unique benefits. Therefore, marrying them off to other royal families is crucial.

The Game Mechanics
Players will become attached to their individual cities, towns, and virtual family members. Each of these entities has a vital role to play.

Provinces need food and housing for population growth. That means building farms and houses which cost money to build and maintain. Players then need to build shops to produce money but require mines to harvest the raw materials needed for those shops. Players also need to research new technology so that they can take advantage of more resources, new types of buildings, better weapons, etc. which in turn require money. Citizens need doctors and clinics to keep them healthy and entertainment to keep them happy. They need policemen, firemen and civil servants to keep the peace, put out fires and build/maintain the roads.

And on top of all this, they need an army to protect them and expand their dominion further into the world so that they can get more resources and more fertile land so their society can keep growing.

Various buildings have upkeep. Players will have to balance their need to provide food to grow their population, build shops to produce money, and libraries to research new technologies,

What Makes Society Special?
Here’s a 10 item list of what makes Society unique.
  1. It is the first massively multiplayer RTS (that we know of) that combines the elements of a city building game and a traditional land-based civilization style strategy war game.
  2. It provides a way for gamers to play for free. It’s not adware. It’s not nagware. Stardock’s perspective is that a high quality, fun, massively multiplayer strategy game that is free can generate a large user base which will take on a life of its own and generate more opportunities for Stardock’s other products and services.
  3. It lets players design their own societies at a level few games have ever attempted. Games like “The Sims” allow players to design a given house, but Society allows players to design the functionality of a whole range of structures.
  4. It is designed so that casual players do not have to worry about being conquered. While up to 25% of a player’s society can become contested, that means that a player who simply wants to have a 3 province society can never be attacked at all and can just play the game as a international trader, city builder, etc.
  5. Its design allows itself to be ported to many different devices. Because the strategic world map is not graphically intensive, players could manage trades, royal marriages, and resource allocation from a PDA, cell phone, or other portable device. This also means that a player can check in on their society and its people anywhere, anytime.
  6. It’s much more collaborative than most MMO games are. Empires (Society’s version of clans/guilds) truly mean something in Society. Players protect and help one another as part of the game. Society will provide out of game tools to help empires coordinate communication amongst each other.
  7. It’s incredibly scaleable. Even the province level map could be represented with either minimalist graphics or with the latest/greatest 3D engine. That makes it possible to play Society in all kinds of environments.
  8. It supports user created content to a high degree. Players will be able to upload their own models, textures, user interfaces, and other customizations to for other players to download and use.
  9. It will have an open beta. Players will be able to openly participate without NDAs in stress testing the system so that when it’s officially launched, downtime and other problems can be minimized.
  10. Players can design their own citizenry at the beginning to control what their people will look like, what they’re called (which will make for some interesting children in inter-society marriages), and more.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: You say that Society is going to be free. How are you going to do this? What’s the business model then?

A: Stardock makes a lot of products and services. A successful MMO can deliver hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of visitors to our websites. The Alexa ranking of is 515. That means tens of millions of people are visiting that site every month. That kind of user base creates opportunities of its own. Stardock is hoping that the popularity of Society will help and our other ventures become even more successful.

Q: Will there be any pay-versions of the game?

A: Yes. We are going to make the free version extremely moddable. That is, players will be able to create their own models and graphical content to upload and share with others. We will provide a base set of content for the free client.

However, to be competitive in the market, and to be able to justify a retail presence, we will have a premium version of the game where we create high quality visual content for it. Much of the cost in today’s games come from the art requirements. This is the same with us. So users who want stunning, state of the art graphics will be able to get it via the premium version.

Moreover, the premium version would come with a $9.95 monthly service charge that will provide players with some additional benefits, such as the ability to set a small percentage of provinces as untouchable (for players who have a few provinces that they really care about) along with some automated server conveniences that we’ll flesh out as we move forward.

Q: How do you keep the guy who lives in his mom’s basement and just plays the game all day, every day from just conquering the world over night?

A: Well, there’s around 30,000 provinces in a given game, but more to the point, players gain bonuses depending on how few hours they play per week. A player can bank up to 8 hours per week of “bonus” time where their units gets various bonuses. If a gamer plays more than a certain number of hours per day, they start to take penalties to production and unit effectiveness.

And those players still have to contend against the AI. So even if their opponent isn’t there, the AI will be, and Stardock is pretty well known for its good computer AI.

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