#IndieWednesdays: meet Rogue State – probably the only 'politician sim' out there

Don't get us wrong, there have been other political strategy games out there, but this one takes the experience to a whole new level. Despite its comic book-like style, it's done in a more realistic way you'd expect. Once we played it, we wondered why no one has ever tried this approach before. Well, now it seems obvious, but sometimes the darkest place is under the lamp, isn't it?

#RogueState is one of #indiegames you appreciate for being different. It's a reason why #KinguinLovesIndies!

At first glance Rogue State is… a point-and-click adventure game. It looks somewhat like the original Broken Sword: it's cartoonish, colorful, sometimes surprisingly funny, and the gameplay seems to be all about pointing and clicking. However, there's so much more hidden under the surface.

The point of the game isn't to find objects and use them on other objects. It's to meet people, to listen to their advice, to negotiate, and in effect to develop the country and provide safety and well-being to the people. The problem is, you can't satisfy everyone. Whatever you do, there's always a group that's going to oppose your choice. Will you try to find the middle way or force your ideology?

Rogue State is a unique mix of strategy and role-playing, and it's presented as one of the classic Lucasarts adventure games we all used to love. But that's not the only reason it stands out in the crowd.



#RogueState is a game that almost made us believe politicians are real human beings. #IndieWednesdays

The best thing about Rogue State is that it's played from the perspective of a real human being. There is no bird's eye view on our units. No ordering troops in real time. Instead, there are offices to visit, maps to analyse, documents to read and sign.

This approach makes the player feel like a real politician, instead of a god-like being that watches the land from above and can magically communicate with every single soldier by pointing a finger at it. It's something we don't see very often in strategy games, even the ones that call themselves 'realistic'.

The most realistic thing about the game, however, is that it's almost impossible to 'crack down' its core mechanics. There are rules, of course, but they're not always explicit. Some choices are to be taken intuitively, just like in real life. It's a great concept, and, in all honesty, we'd be glad if the game was even more inscrutable than it already is.

There is more than a lot of reasons to try Rogue State.Purchase your game key at Kinguin's store and see what kind of a leader you really are.

„Most of the news for the past decade was fair game for inspiration”. An interview with Black Shelll Media

Kinguin: Rogue State is an ambitious and unique game, but is it only a game? Are you trying to do something more using video games as a medium? To convey a message?

Black Shell Media: There is a message, and that message is that countries are typically the products of their citizens, rather than their leaders. You may think you have control when you assume power, but in the end, it is impossible to escape the demands and whims of domestic stakeholders, power-brokers and external actors. This would remain the theme even if the game was about the United States, about being a business magnate or a musical celebrity.

We also wanted to make a game about the kinds of country that games don't get made about. The Glorious People's Republic of Basenji is not meant to be a stand-in for any real nation, and is certainly not supposed to be analogous to Iraq, Iran or Syria. The original design notes were intended to invent a new country that borrowed facets from Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Yemen.

That being said, our most important goal is to give simulation-fans a good time, and that means not taking the themes too far or too seriously.

K: How do you know that the mechanics of the game are accurate, and that everything that players do would indeed have similar consequences in reality?

BSM:The game is certainly not accurate, nor realistic. I studied international relations for four years and had a successful career in that field for another five and I can say with confidence that a realistic simulation wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun.

This is a game that would appeal to a student of political theory that can appreciate correlational relationships like granting visas for foreign workers and increasing unemployment, or that increasing minimum wage will increase productivity but will drive some employers out of your country. It shouldn't be confused with a true economic simulation or a teaching tool, and it's my hope that the talking chicken would reinforce that point.

K: How much have your political views influenced the mechanics of the game? Is there a way to get better results as a leader by sticking to a certain ideology? And is it an ideology that you support?

BSM: I certainly hope not. I've tried to create a game that people with varied values and beliefs can play and appreciate, and I've done my very best to keep my own political views out of it. In fact, in my experience, the most successful players walk a tightrope between competing philosophies, doing what they have to in order to keep the country together. That's not to say that game is unwinnable as a compassionate liberal reformer or a hawkish isolationist.

K: Nowadays it's really easy to offend or enrage someone when talking about it. Were you concerned about it? Did you change any elements of the game in order to be more politically correct?

BSM: No elements were changed after we began work on the game, but we did start with some ground-rules to stay on the right side of good-taste.

First, we couldn't ignore the role of faith in statecraft, particularly in the Middle East, so we invented a single fictional holistic religion based on generic principles of virtue and used that as a stand-in for existing faiths in the region. That faith, like all faiths, have a majority of followers who are just great, and a small number of followers with differing interpretations who terrify the rest. As a leader, you can embrace or resist the role of religion among your people, but you will not be able to easily ignore it. We certainly did not want Rogue State to turn into a criticism of faith, but instead reflect that it's there and it's important.

We also drew a line on contemporary global issues we found too disturbing for an enjoyable game -- there are no references, for example, to child soldiers, slavery or genital mutilation. Otherwise, most of the news for the past decade was fair game for inspiration.

Next Week on Indie Wednesdays: Overture!