DevDiary 11 - Merchants and Trading
Hello friends, and welcome to the 11th DevDiary for “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign!” In the 6th DevDiary, which feels like ages ago to us, we talked about the marshal class. Now, let’s take a look at merchants, who are, debatably, just as important as Marshalls for any kingdom which aims to become a great power in the Old world.
Let’s start with the primary role of a merchant, which we all most likely know from every strategy game out – to bring gold into the kingdom’s coffers. This is true for the KoH series as well, but there are different ways to achieve it.
First of all, each knight can be selected as a governor of a province, and merchants have the most skills and governing effects that can boost gold income and commerce. Additionally, once a merchant is appointed as a governor of a province, trade caravans and ships start visiting nearby towns, bringing gold from trade when they return, unless ill fate (also known as “rebels”, stops them in their tracks. Being a governor does not hold back a knight from performing any other functions, it is a “secondary” role they have, so it is not a matter of whether to have them as governors or not, but rather who should govern where, as different classes gain and provide different bonuses to provinces.
Each merchant can also be sent on a “mission” to establish and maintain trade with a chosen kingdom, as long as a trade agreement with it is signed and valid. This means you’ll need good relations to expand trade, which is where diplomats could be needed as well. Prosperous trading between kingdoms and good diplomatic relations are well tied together – on one hand kingdoms are more benevolent and eager to make agreements and pacts of all kinds with their established trade partners, and on the other hand trade is more profitable and offers more opportunities when the diplomatic relations between kingdoms are warm. Many other factors also play effect – for example distance, personal qualities and skills of the merchants, and whether they have royal blood – kings and princes have advantages in almost all trade endeavors.
Trading with a kingdom is a “full time” occupation, so a merchant cannot simultaneously maintain trade with more than one kingdom, or trade while leading an army, for an example. If there are more promising offers elsewhere, merchants can always return “home” and try establishing trade in a new kingdom, but in that case any developed position and all deals with the original partner they were overseeing is lost. This can often be a significant step back, since one of the possible, costly, and time-consuming actions is to expand trade to gain more and more profits and a bigger share of the market of a kingdom.
Now, we haven’t talked a lot about resources in the game yet and we won’t get into details about them now, but another thing a merchant can do within a kingdom is to arrange the import of goods. Resources are needed for the construction and function of some buildings, for hiring troops, and other things, so arranging imports can be particularly important. Food can also be imported or exported; it is needed for upkeeping the armies, as well as for maintaining the population growth and happiness. Historically, food trade and grain trade in particular were one of the oldest and most stable over the centuries, so we felt it important to represent this our game. This can also create different strategic choices for players – they can produce their own food, rely on import (if they have the gold for it!), or focus on agriculture, stock-farming and food export as a stable source of income.
There is one significant new addition for the trading system in KoH2:S and that is “Kingdom’s Commerce” – a parameter of the kingdoms that is required for “upkeeping” the continuous trading deals, such as imports, exports and general kingdom trade. Players increase commerce mainly by constructing trading-related buildings, but also with traditions, skills, governor effects, etc. Here the challenge for players is providing the needed Commerce availability for their merchants to use, as well as putting all available Commerce into good use and thus maximizing the benefits from it.
Up to a point of the development process, this was what merchants were all about. Were they useful? Undoubtedly. Were there strategical choices for the players, like how many merchants to have, when and where to send them and what to do with them? Sure, there was. But we decided that we wanted to try and make this class even more interesting. Thus, we implemented the “Opportunities for merchants”, based on a system we so far used for spies. Thanks to it, we managed to add many additional actions that pop up from time to time for merchants on a semi-random principle. Our idea with that was to spice up the merchants and present even more choices to the players.
Each opportunity has its own story and specific effects, and we will continue to add more of these during the development of the game. Here are just few examples:
- If one of your armies is near or in a province of a kingdom you are trading with, your merchant can try to arrange a supply of provisions to that army, which can sometimes be crucial.
- Often merchants have opportunities to make some risky deals, for example reselling goods; thus, the players can invest some of their gold and hope to make good quick profit.
- Merchants can hire mercenaries in the kingdom they trade in and call them to their own lands.
They can sometimes try to convince their trade partners to stop trading with another kingdom and shun a foreign merchant, if they a have strong enough position to do so; besides hindering an opponent, this has additional advantages – reducing the competition increases the chances of getting a bigger share of the market.
As a result, the merchants can be very useful, not just by making gold. We are trying to make them both a part of the overall strategy of players and a driver of the economy of their kingdoms, as well as introduce some emerging stories and gameplay with the class. We will talk more about Merchants and Trading, as well as the opportunities that can emerge, in our DevStream on Thursday, October 1st, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 11:00 AM EST. The Twitch stream will be hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic and we’ll be grabbing responses from this post as well as answering questions live during the stream.
We really want to hear your opinion about the merchant – do you like the wider opportunities for the class or would you prefer it to be simpler? What kind of opportunities and actions of merchants would you like to see in the game? Do you like the concept of the random trade possibilities, or would you prefer to always have the full arsenal available and rely on chance as little as possible?