Chris Beatrice Interview

History vs Fantasy

ARR: It sounds to me as if you’re trying to broaden out into a more fantasy-based setting rather than sticking within the parameters of reality which constrained C3 and Pharaoh. Would this be a fair judgement?

Chris Beatrice: I think that’s fair, though I’m not certain about using the word “fantasy”, since in games that tends to have narrower connotations. I also don’t think history constrained Caesar III and Pharaoh. I think adherence to history was important for those games, but why do that again when we’ve already done it? To some, Greek mythology is boring textbook stuff, to others it’s pure fantasy (remember Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts?). In Zeus we’re definitely not constraining ourselves to strict historicity. What we are trying to do is include anything and everything people find interesting, entertaining and fun about ancient Greece. So, for instance, we’re not going to leave out the Olympic Games just because they came relatively late in the history of Greece! You may see Perseus fighting side by side with Hercules, even though that never “happened” (not even in the myths!). You may have trouble setting up a foundry because a pesky Kraken, or Medusa the Gorgon won’t leave you alone…now if that’s fantasy, then so be it.

ARR: The PR talks of “invading…neighbours” – this is a clear break with the C3 and Pharaoh past. How would a player go about invading a neighbour, and what benefits would he derive from pursuing this course of action?

Chris Beatrice: I touched on this a bit earlier, but I’ll add a little more here. This, in addition to a more interactive world level in general, was one of the things a lot of people were screaming for after Caesar III and Pharaoh. Players felt like, if their city was attacked, or other cities were demanding things from them, or attacking them, why shouldn’t they be able to do the same things themselves? On the surface that sounds very simple and straightforward, but as you indicate in your question, there were a lot of issues to resolve in order to make this really work, have a purpose in the game, and be fun.

The first step was a diplomatic system, so other cities could become living entities rather than static collections of data. In Zeus, the other cities the player interacts with are basically divided into three groups. You’ve got allies, rivals, and of course any colonies you may have established. A fourth group, called “vassals” is formed from any cities the player chooses to conquer.

To a large extent your allies all have a common interest in how you treat each of them. This is much less true with your rivals, though certain actions against one of them will get the attention of the others. Vassals have something in common with colonies, in that they are each bound to do the player’s bidding (within limitations, of course, or there could bea revolt). There are also more distant, foreign cities which don’t involve themselves too much in Greek politics.

Now, you can attack any city you want at any time. Just designate a bunch of hoplites, horsemen, maybe a trireme or two, and order them to attack a city on the world level. Of course, if you attack an ally, s/he’s certainly not going to like it… and neither are your other allies. If you attack a rival, that might get the attention of other rivals (though they might just decide to attack your city while your troops are away…).

The primary reasons you might try to conquer another city are just what you’d expect to see in… well… real life. You need something they have, or you want to eliminate a competitor. Remember earlier when I said you could make demands of other cities, and threaten them? Well, that’s just what rivals do to you when they need something. So maybe you’re just sick of some rival’s endless extortion… maybe you just don’t feel like paying for fleece any more, now that you’re big and powerful…