In the real world, human intelligence doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and compelling, human-like AI shouldn’t, either. When a person thinks and acts, he’s influenced by all sorts of exogenous factors, like his social network, his environment, and his culture. Culture is a very important motivator in OC and has a tremendous effect on how its humans behave. Let’s walk through OC’s culture system and see some examples to get a feel for how it works. Cultures are also tied to the game’s playable and minor factions, so we’ll take a look at each of these, too!
- OC (currently) features 4 major, playable factions. These four factions are the Surssians, the Kelgonians, the Core Worlders, and the Clans of Dagoroth.
- The differences between these factions are largely described in terms of different cultures.
- It’s not just different “units” or equipment that differentiate the factions, but widely varying behavior in each faction’s NPCs.
- This makes leading an expedition a significantly different experience for each faction.
- Cultures exert a tremendous influence on the behavior of OC’s NPCs.
- Each culture has a set of cultural features. These are important, defining aspects of the culture. They impose behavioral constraints or modify underlying elements of an NPC’s goal selection and action execution process.
- Cultures recognize different kinds of social relationships to varying extents. This makes social networking and socialization different for different cultures.
- Peoples of different cultures can have different tendencies.
- Cultures value physical characteristics and personality traits differently. This has a significant impact on the human life cycle, as experienced by the culture’s people.
- Cultures value achievements and experiences differently. This, too, affects behavior and human life cycle.
- Cultures exhibit varying degrees of materialism. This impacts how consumer goods are used by the culture and drives manufacturing strategy.
- Some cultures have inherent preferences for specific items or item properties. For example, Core Worlders love spicy foods.
- Cultures can also have access to unique technologies and schematics, allowing them to build items that aren’t available to others. This is especially true of military hardware.
- Cultures exhibit varying degrees of genetic and behavioral homogeneity. This has short term effects on human life cycles and can have a variety of long term effects on the human composition of an expedition.
To describe how cultures work in OC, we’re going to use a bunch of examples from its four major factions. Before we get into those details, it’s useful to have a general picture of what the four factions are like, in order to understand how OC makes them that way.
In designing the main factions, our goal was to include an interesting variety of cultural elements found in various human civilizations. We wanted to make the factions really different. Not just different units, not just different sprites, but different behaviors. Different expectations of normality, different living requirements, and significantly different character at the macro level. Leading expeditions with different cultures should yield different experiences for the player and advanced cultural modeling helps us to achieve that goal.
The four main factions in OC are Core World, Kelgonian, Surssian, and Dagorth. The faction selection interface provides the following brief descriptions of each culture:
The Union of Core Worlds constitutes the greatest economic and technological power in the galaxy. Expansionist policies and military strength have made the core into a galactic superpower.
Core World civilization is expansive, adaptable, technologically advanced, and powerful. A massive empire at the height of its power, its people tend to be materialistic and somewhat decadent. Still, its scientific edge the capable elements of its populous make it a formidable adversary.
Kelgonian society is open, communal, and economically egalitarian. Though currently confined to the galaxy’s periphery, the Kelgonian Federation seeks to expand its influence and topple its ideological enemies everywhere.
Kelgonian society is centrally ordered, authoritarian, and uniform. With no nuclear families, suppressed demand for consumer goods, and a tough, resigned mindset among its people, Kelgonian expeditions can accomplish many sorts of specific objectives more quickly and with greater focus than other societies. Their ideology is inherently aggressive and harbor a natural enmity toward most other cultures.
Intensely militaristic and nationalistic, Surssian society values honor, discipline, and bravery above all else. Surssian troops compensate for their limited numbers with unparalleled fanaticism and are universally feared.
The Surssian dominion is much smaller in terms of space and population than either that of the Core Worlds or the Kelgonians. Aspects of their culture make them tremendously productive at both the individual and societal levels. They’re rigid militarists, excellent engineers, and fantastically capable per person. Overcoming their numerical deficiency is the severe Surssian dilemma.
Clans of Dagoroth:
Fiercely independent, steeped in tradition, and renowned for their tenacity, the Clans of Dagoroth submit to no greater dominion. Here, on the edge of space, they seek to preserve their culture and way of life.
The Clans of Dagoroth prize individual liberty more than any other faction. Their inventiveness and creativity produce more fantastically talented individuals than any other group, but they can be unwieldy on the group level. Strong tradition helps to hold these people together, but their difficult individual requirements can make Dagoroth expeditions unwieldy and easily fragmented.
Hopefully, this paints a general picture of the four main factions and gives sufficient context to the sections below. We’ll break down each aspect of cultural modeling individually and provide examples of how they work in terms of these four major factions below.
Genetic & Behavioral Homogeneity
Genetic and behavioral homogeneity is one of the most important measures for any people. This describes how widely varying traits are, on average, for a population belonging to the given culture. The rating has influences both personality and physical traits of individuals, making it extremely important. A low rating here means that individuals vary a great deal. Of the four main factions, Dagoroths have the lowest homogeneity rating:
This means that there are all sorts of individual Dagoroths. Over a large population, they’ve got the most creative scientists, the most brilliant engineers, and the most talented artists. They’ve also got plenty of drunkards, bruisers, miners, and pirates. When the homogeneity is low, the variation is high! It’s a double edged sword that requires careful management to properly exploit in gameplay.
Kelgonians, on the other hand, have the highest homogeneity. There’s more uniformity among a large population of Kelgonians than Dagoroths. It makes accommodating and managing them easier in terms of gameplay, but deprives leaders of the benefits derived from spectacular, rare talents.
The materialism rating of a culture describes the typical extent to which its people care about consumer goods. High materialism means that individuals will like larger numbers of consumer goods, and that they’ll like these goods to a greater extent. This rating, in combination with individual personality, drives personal preferences. Let’s consider Core World culture, which is, by far, the most materialistic of the main four.
We can see from the Encyclopedia Galactica that this culture is very materialistic. Let’s see how this is expressed in an individual Core Worlder, Bithmus Tungstedt:
She likes a lot of items. She likes luxurious beds, potted plants, technovisions, audio systems, and more! Kelgonians, who are the least materialistic, would rarely care for these sorts of things.
In terms of gameplay, is materialism good or bad? Like nearly everything in OC, it depends. Like cultural homogeneity, it’s a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, if you can produce consumer goods in large quantities, it’s an easy pathway to increase the happiness of your people. But this will always drain resources that you could otherwise spend differently. If your people demand lots of consumer goods and you can’t produce them, however, it’ll leave people unsatisfied with their living conditions and disgruntled.
Cultural features are special properties of cultures that cause behavioral modifications. Each cultural feature is expressed as a set of linked characteristics, each of which has a different but related effect. Cultural features make for some of the most salient behavioral differences between cultures, as they can directly affect the goal selection, planning, and action execution elements of OC’s AI framework.
Let’s examine a prime feature of Surssian culture, the Surssian Cult of Death:
The Surssian Cult of Death describes their behavioral inclination to accept (or sometimes embrace) death. It is a prime element of particularly Surssian militarism and a defining aspect of the conduct of their soldiery in battle. How does it work? The “Diminished Fear of Death” characteristic is expressed as a modifier that affects action weights in the AI’s planning system. Actions that carry a high risk of death are typically assigned very heavy weights, and NPCs will avoid these dangerous actions whenever possible. It takes a great deal of military training and experience to make NPCs overcome this fear of death (expressed in terms of action weighting) and to perform competently in battle.
The modifier for Surssians, however, is greatly decreased. This enables them to undertake actions that would be deemed unacceptable by other combatants. Elite Surssian troops will readily undertake suicide missions and hold positions to the last bullet, when other soldiers might break off attacks and flee.
Is the diminished fear of death good, or bad? Again, it’s accompanied by pros and cons. On the one hand, in terms of individual, tactical actions, Surssian performance is unparalleled. They will do things that other soldiers simply won’t. On the other hand, their decreased emphasis on self preservation makes them more likely to get themselves killed. If your Core World infantrymen decide to abandon a defensive position and flee, you might sustain a tactical setback, but those troops live to fight another day. If your Surssian troops are dug into the earth because they’d rather die than sustain the dishonor of a retreat, then that’s the end of them. Their training, their equipment, their experience, their competence – it’s all lost, irrevocably, when they’re killed.
Furthermore, their diminished fear of death makes them more inclined to accept suicide as an alternative to unfavorable situations. The decreased fear of death affects all action weighing, regardless of the circumstances.
Of course, the Surssian Cult of Death is just one example of a cultural feature, but it’s a good one. It demonstrates how the modification of one value, the weighing of death in action calculations, can have such a varied and profound set of behavioral ramifications. This is the strength of OC’s AI. Other cultures have all sorts of other features, and while covering them is outside the scope of this article, readouts of some cultural feature data is shown below.
Social norms are another very important aspect of a culture. Social norms describe which types of social relationships are considered normal and which kinds are considered abnormal. A culture can define any kind of relationship in OC as abnormal, and this can have an immense effect on the behavior of that culture’s people.
Perhaps the most significant social difference among the four main cultures is the recognition of the nuclear family. Core Worlders, Dagoroths, and Surssians all recognize and value the nuclear family, while Kelgonians do not. Below, we compare the cultural readouts of Surssians and Kelgonians:
This difference is extremely important in terms of the human life cycle. While describing these differences in detail is outside the scope of this article, nuclear family dynamics are wholly absent from Kelgonian culture. Marriage is not a prerequisite for reproduction, families don’t demand individual living quarters (since there are no families), and children are raised communally. A Kelgonian expedition’s cumulative social network is completely different from a Surssian one, and this affects many, many things. Covering all the effects would be impractical, but this is another change that makes playing a Kelgonian expedition very different from playing a Surssian one.
Personality & Physical Tendencies
Personality and physical tendencies are fairly straightforward. These describe prevalent traits, at the population level, for the people of a culture. Surssians tend to be tall, loyal, and self disciplined. Dagoroths tend to be inventive, compassionate, and have a high occurrence of blue eyes. The individual occurrence of these general patterns have all sorts of effects described in the personality and physical trait articles.
Esteemed Traits & Experiences
Esteemed traits and experiences describe specific aspects of a culture’s value system in terms of personal preferences. These play a very important role in attraction assessments and the greater human life cycle. If we examine the lower portions of the read out on Surssian culture, we can gain further insight into their value system:
Aside from the physical traits they collectively deem attractive, they hold soldiers and combat pilots in high regard. This further cements Surssian warriors as a (generally) higher social stratum than their noncombatant counterparts. Again, this valuation here is only a rule of thumb at the cultural level, and individual assessments will vary a great deal. Much of the conformist <-> rebellious personality trait is expressed in how an individual regards these norms, and a rebellious Surssian will largely disregard (or intentionally work against) these cultural values.
Cultural Item Preferences
Cultural item preferences describe the sorts of items and properties of items that a people find attractive. These cultural preferences have a marked effect on individual preferences, which in turn affect the living requirements of specific people in your expedition. For example, core worlders love consumer electronics:
If left to their own devices, they’ll spend their time glued to their technovision and jamming to their elaborate audio systems. From a gameplay standpoint, these sorts of item preferences impose manufacturing requirements on an expedition. Core worlders gravitate to these complex, technically intricate sorts of devices, so a Core World expedition will need access to all the specific metals, metalloids, and sundry chemicals needed to build these devices. Most Kelgonians couldn’t care any less about these sorts of things, so in Kelgonian expeditions, there’s no need to manufacture these kinds of items. Again, this makes the gameplay significantly different.
Unique Cultural Technologies
The last topic I’ll cover in this article is culture-specific technologies. Some cultures are capable of producing certain items that aren’t available to others. This is especially true with military hardware, which tends to differ greatly from culture to culture. Again, this makes combat significantly different among cultures. Kelgonians, with their large population, tend to view individuals as more expendable. Their military technology focuses on ease of use, reliability, simplicity in material requirements, and mass production. Surssian hardware is the diametric opposite. Their soldiers are fewer in number, but exquisitely equipped with technologically advanced items that impose difficult material constraints and require much more skill to manufacture.
Many cultures also have specific food items, and these can make agricultural requirements somewhat different, too. Unique Surssian items that are currently in the game are pictured below:
They have access to advanced weaponry (which will be covered in an upcoming article), can cook grennage rolls, and can brew Surssian ale. Most people from other cultures would recoil in horror at the mere sight of grennage rolls, but nearly any Surssian farm will boast a few rows of grennage.