Wonderful game, but some diplomacy oversights break immersion and logic


Jan 23, 2019
I’ve been playing Old World with friends as a single player game in which we share the responsibilities and make decisions together (by the way, this is a great way of playing the game in a “couch co-op” style). The balance between 4X, grand strategy and role-playing is nicely done in this game and the historical atmosphere is captured very well. :thumbsup:

Initially we thought the diplomacy and its opinion mechanics were actually one of game’s highlights, with frequent and dynamic changes in leader and civ opinions due to various events and decisions. Each civ has an opinion of the other civs in the game, and you can see each opinion by hovering over each civ and checking what they think of the other civs they’ve encountered. The view that a given civ has of another civ can be different than the other way round. For example, Babylon might have an opinion of +50 of Persia, but Persia might have an opinion of -20 of Babylon. And that’s fine because it depends on each civs’ actions towards the other.

However, we have noticed major oversights in the opinion mechanics when it comes to the interplay between human and AI civs. There seems to be only one opinion in the relationship between a human player and each of the other civs. The other civs’ opinions are displayed when hovering over each civ. But when hovering over the human player’s civ the opinion values are exactly the same as the opinions of the AI players of the human player. So there's no dedicated opinion value that human-controlled civs have of the AI-controlled civs. That makes no sense. The logic described above (that civs can have divergent opinions of each other) suddenly no longer applies to the human player. Surely, the human player civ’s opinion of the AI players matters at least as much as the other way round. For example, other civs stealing research or money from the human civ and doing other bad stuff to the human civ has no consequence on opinion: only when the human player does that to the AI it's reflected in opinion. The human player can’t even react when such an event happens to them (there’s only a notification that research was stolen, for example) or when clicking on the other civ. That way, the AI has no incentive to send an ambassador or send gifts to the human player to improve relations or initiate trade to improve relations. 🤨 This may be similar in other 4X games like the Civilization series, but for a game like Old World which puts a lot of emphasis on opinions of characters, families, religions and civs, it’s quite an annoying oversight that takes immersion, logic, balance and fairness away from diplomacy. In our view this is the most glaring issue with immersion in an otherwise wonderfully immersive game.

A related issue we noticed is that an AI civ that broke a peace treaty with the human civ did not get a -20 opinion penalty with all other civs and tribes, while the human player’s civ actually did get that penalty when breaking a peace treaty. This adds to the illogical asymmetry of the diplomacy mechanics.

More broadly, we also observed that any civ that is friendly with another one can break the peace and declare war in the same turn. Surely, that’s too much in just one turn. For example, we had brilliant relations with one civ (more than +300; the best relationship among any of the civs in the game) that decided to declare war on us without any clear justification other than greed or the fact we hadn’t defended our borders with them well enough (which isn’t all that surprising given the great relationship and the fact we were fighting wars elsewhere). The barrier for this kind of thing happening should be much higher, for example by having to go in steps (break peace one turn, declare war the next).

We're keen to hear what other players think of these issues. We've seen that some of the devs actively take part in this forum so it would be awesome if this feedback reaches them as we hope these diplomacy and opinion-related issues can be addressed in a future update. We're very appreciative of the frequent updates and the responsiveness of the devs, who keep improving the game. Keep up the good work!
I noticed it, but I thought the human point of view of a civ did not matter because the game cannot dictate to you (the player) what to think of a civ.
Maybe you're someone that forgives everything or not at all.
The roleplaying works well enough for me to get reasonably cranky when someone steals my research. And I'm free to do nasty things to them in return. That's me playing the role of the ruler. Wouldn't it be too restrictive for the player civilization to have an official opinion about the opponents? How would this work as a practical matter? Say I want to make peace with Babylon and I conduct diplomacy to get them up to "Pleased". Should I have to wait for them to be nice enough to me for my "official" opinion about them to hit +100?

As a broader point, I don't mind some level of asymmetry in diplomacy. Diplomacy is very much intertwined with characters and events and those are asymmetric by nature. The war declaration from a very friendly civ sounds like some event, and those are not bound by the normal ruleset. Even in areas like warfare and economy, only glaringly obvious asymmetries would disturb my sense of balance. I hadn't noticed the lack of a -20 penalty for peace breaking AIs. If I had, it might have felt wronged for a moment. Then I would have thought of my AI-opponent Alexander the Great, sitting in front of his screen, a glimmer in his eye as he gets closer and closer to a points victory by civilising tribal lands. Then, with just two points missing, he gets a popup: "Verrucosus has won an Ambition victory" :)

Of course, a lot of this comes down to personal preference. Fortunately, there are lots of settings at game start. I played several games without characters and events to get a sense of how the economy and the military work without my characters modifying everything with their stats and creating all sorts of other mayhem. Those games felt more Civ-like than the standard game, still complex enough to be very enjoyable, just with less roleplaying and a purer focus on strategy. Like the OP, I enjoy characters and events too much to use that mode exclusively, but I really like it that it exists.
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I understand why including my own civ’s opinion of other civs may seem like imposing an opinion on me. But it wouldn’t take away my own choices of how to react to that opinion. I would see it as my diplomatic advisors’ advice on how to view the other civs based on their actions towards my civ. I don’t have to behave nicely towards them if the opinion is high or behave badly towards them if it's low. It’s still my choice, so there is no imposing or dictating.

It’s not about the human player’s opinion of the AI civs but the human player’s civ’s opinion of the other civs. I as the player may like or dislike another civ, but that's not the same as the opinion of my civ in Old World which has clear rules associated with it, e.g. penalty when research stolen, bonus if trade initiated etc. Remember that in Old World we play as the leaders of a civ not as the civ itself. Ideally, the game should give me as the leader of my civ an indication of what my civ thinks of another civ depending on events and decisions in the game. I could then still react to that information strategically and make decisions accordingly as the civ's leader.

The problem with just relying on the human player’s opinion of other civs based on memory of events or even just based on personal preferences (rather than something that is embedded in the game world) is that the AI doesn’t know my personal opinion of them. There’s no mechanic that allows me to convey my opinion of each of the other civs, so the AI doesn’t know if it needs to be nice to me to improve relations with me. It doesn’t have to initiate trade or send an ambassador because it doesn’t have to care (there is no stat to improve as it’s only a one-way relationship). And that’s imbalanced and unrealistic as it means the AI leaders usually have a stronger incentive to be nice to other AI civs than to the human civs.
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