I'll quote myself from the opening post:
All suggestive my friend. It's more a Sim set in Roman times than an attempt to walk directly in the footsteps of Rome or Ancient History for that matter. My writers are using Roman History for inspiration - a leaping off point - and not so much a rule to be governed by.
I like that Southpark Episode where they're doing Civil War reenactments and Cartman messes up the reenactment on purpose so the South will win the battle.
I'm not trying to dishonor Rome or any ancient peoples, or rewrite history. I'm creating a game where players can get a sense that they're living (approximately) in the times, where they can act like a Roman among other history enthusiasts who understand at least a little. There are plenty of games where players can play the role of a character from Rome. I don't want players knowing what comes next. For example: perhaps a Hannibal like character is decimated in his first battle against Rome. And you'll notice that I left 'Brutus' off of Lucius' name so that I was only suggesting him, and not implying the exact historical person.
At the same time I am concerned that if history is completely abandoned you are left with players wondering what the setting of the game is. "What does Rome look like right now? How do I know how to act if I don't know where we are?" I want players to feel like they are alive during Roman times more than playing a character from our Roman History. So this presents a juggling act of fact and fiction, and plenty of opportunity for confusion.
There are a number of things in play to handle these concerns. One is the fact that the early Monarchical Rome is heavily steeped in myth and legend. So some interpretation doesn't hurt quite as badly knowing this. Even so, without history as our reference we can easily get lost in creating a Roman world that is just a mask over our modernist sensibilities. To help herd players back into reality I created a feature where writers can post as an NPC. This allows them to create characters that look and act just like other players posting in the forum. Only they have their own custom avatars and their own custom names. Writers can post as an NPC without logging out, so it's not a big hassle to drop an NPC post in from time to time to indirectly or directly warn players when things start getting questionable or if players are getting confused about what to do next. We're using NPCs to help paint a picture of what Rome looks like, and if players start trying to make it look like a Modern Libertarian state the writers have very convenient access to the mechanics of the game and can use nature, economics, and pure military force to bring players back into the realities of the time. For example: A good intentioned western-minded Senate can free all the slaves, and then immediately start paying the heavy economic consequences of their choices. Then there is also the wrath of Senators who are invested in slavery who may have or gain equal or greater access to legislative powers via a carefully planned series of assassinations. (Yes, characters can hire assassins and bodyguards - all simple and automated.)
As for the date, yes, that's kind of ridiculous sounding. With games there are always these strange compromises we see from the outside, but if we dig a little deeper we see where the compromises were necessary. I can explain this one: Each real time day is a year in the game. You sign-up and create a player account. Within that account you then create a character that you actually play as. This character is a Senator. Your character grows old and eventually dies. Then you can create a new character (perhaps an heir?) and continue playing. This mechanic allows characters to grow in ability as they age. One hurdle to cross is that we're in a beta. What's the site traffic going to be at first? If it's quite low we'll miss countless interesting historical stopping off points along the way to explore. Ten or twenty Senators logging in twice a day won't be able to deliberate 60 years of Rome in 2 months, no matter how simple I make the game. And if it was that simple it would probably be quite boring. So the plan was to start a good bit early, contrive, and have faith that we can always start over and try to hit some of the other important events in Rome's history the next go around. The other option was to increase the time ratio from 1:1 to something higher like 4:1 (4 days = 1 year). The trade off here is that the game starts to lose immediacy. Staying alive starts to become so important that players are afraid to take risks. If a 40 year old senator dies in battle or due to assassination it requires several months of play to get back to where they were at 40 years old. (players start out as 20 year olds - which yes, is not a very accurate Senator even if you were Scipio.) Now imagine having a character that was 60 years old? I wanted to find a middle ground so players aren't completely devastated if their character dies young or due to poor planning.
There are numerous developments in the game mechanic that I have planned. I learned from an earlier game that putting too much in at the top makes the game impossible to balance. You'll notice the actual url is brunorotk.com as in bruno Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It's a very cool game that I developed around the book by Luo Guanzhong. The problem is that I got a bit too ambitious and the game became impossible to balance. So I've pulled it from the web so I can break it back down to its simplest form and then slowly add to it and bring it back to life at another location.
Too much complexity is a fun killer. There are people who thrive off of tweaking things, and I have put some of that in the game. But for many people it can be annoying and too time consuming. I want as many people to be able to join and enjoy the game as possible. You can log in and post several times a day, or log in several times a week and still contribute. The person who plays less often doesn't stop the process.
Future development examples are creating a number of Temples for the Pontifex Maximus as well as the office of Pontifex Maximus. That office will be able to make sacrifices to the various gods at the temples to receive blessings for Rome. Players give gold and items to the Pontifex who then invests them in whichever temple he sees fit. Each temple offers a certain selection of blessings based on the gods they are attributed to. Each blessing requires a certain stored investment of sacrifices before it can be used. Once the sacrifice is used it must be replenished to be used again. Weaker blessings cost fewer sacrifices whereas powerful blessings require more sacrifice. This will hopefully create a tension between Senators who want blessings that help their interests the most and the Pontifex Maximus who wants to either do what's best for Rome - or pander to bribery and threats.
Another future office is that of Censor who can moderate Senators in the Forum Romanum as well as in the Senate. One feature of this office will be a word list that the Censor can add to or take away from so players can't use words that offend Rome's policies and morals.
Quick list of others:
Colosseum that utilizes a similar combat system where characters can start out or be banished to - via the Censor or a Judiciary.
Interactive map with regions that offer various resource rewards and geopolitical challenges so players get a sense of the expanding empire.
Families and Clans so players can chose to create dynasties rather than free characters - allowing for some inheritance to pass on to their offspring.