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Monday, March 17, 2014

Cultural Insensitivity of Europa Universalis IV

Culture groups map from EU4 wiki. Notice 4 monster groups in Asia/Africa, and mess in Europe.
Update a year later - most of these issues got fixed.

We need a serious talk because EU4 culture and culture group system is just awful. Just slightly blobby France can have 6 completely distinct culture groups (French, Iberian, Italian, German, Celtic, and Basque), but you can own all of Africa, half of Asia, and a pretty big chunk of Europe and fit all that in just 4 (African, Turko-Semitic, Altaic, and East Asian)?

Seriously EU4, pick one resolution and stick with it. There's no sensible interpretation under which it makes sense to put all of Africa or all of East Asia or everything from Crimea all the way to Kamchatka into a single group, but then make a ridiculous number of tiny groups for just about each European country.

There are two huge problems: 4 ridiculously large mega-culture-groups, and extreme proliferation of cultures in Europe.

Here's just one sensible proposal of globally meaningful, but you can pick up any scale and stick to it:

  • India, Persia, and South-East Asia have very sensible granularity, and I'm extremely happy with it. This proposal is meant to give all heavily populated parts of the Old World similar granularity.
  • Current Han/Cantonese should be one group without anything else - and divided into 5-10 different cultures, whichever way it makes most sense. I get it that China was far more culturally unified that India or Europe back then, but it was not this level of unified (just about any medium sized European country of that time has 2 cultures minimum), and that definitely did not extend all the way to Korea, and Japan.
  • Speaking of which, Korea and Japan together would make a nice culture group, possibly with some minor nearby cultures like Manchu if it makes sense.
  • African culture group really needs to be split, at a very minimum East and West Africa should be separate culture groups, since they're separated by massive wastelands, but there are probably great historical and gameplay reasons to add more.
  • I understand why Arabic can be one huge culture group, but Turkish should not be part of it. Ottomans don't need any more gameplay help, and if they got on conquering spree, they'll probably accept most of that anyway.
  • All of Altaic, Turkish, and Manchu need to be reassembled into some number of groups. It could follow basic geography of Middle East/Caucasus (Turkish, Tartar, Azerbaijani), North-East Asia (Manchu, Mongol, Siberian), and Central Asia (everything else), or something along these lines. Right now there are no major gameplay reasons to go one way or another since hordes are massively underpowered, and Ottomans will do well no matter what. Put Uralic in one of those groups as well.
  • In a modest proposal all of France would be one culture. As is all of Italy. And all of Iberia. And all three together form one Latin culture group. Maybe, if there's a really good reason some of these three could be divided into 2-3, but not into silly minor cultures like Galician, Umbrian, and Gascon with just a couple of regions and status equal with Japanese somehow. That would be approximately right for 1444, and who knows how your history will continue from then on.
  • Scandinavian looks really good. Byzantine looks reasonable. Germanic looks a bit overly divided into individual cultures, but it looks good as a group.
  • 3 Slavic groups is a huge mess. There's no cultural basis for grouping Poles with Hungarians but separately from Ruthenians. Just group it into one big culture group, and kill any silly cultures like Schlesian (in 1444, seriously?), Serbian-vs-Croatian (the difference is primarily religion not culture), etc.
  • British for English and Scots, but put Irish, and Welsh in the same group.
  • Just throw Finnish/Estonian/etc. in Baltic group. It makes sense to have a special group here, not two special groups.
  • That leaves Basque, and Briton unaccounted for. I'm tempted to just throw Briton into Latin group for long standing cultural ties reasons the same way Hungarians ended up fake Slavic. Basques can end up there as well, or as a separate weirdo group if there's a strong need to go this way.
  • The New World is about fine as is.
  • Much fewer culture union states. None is a valid number here, and with larger cultures most current culture union states won't have any legitimate reasons to have any.
Or you could pick another resolution, and stick with it. Like Europe-style microcultures? Turn Japan into 10 regional cultures in its own distinct culture groups. Like Arabic-style macrocultures? Turn all of Germanic into one big culture group. Any of that would make sense. What doesn't make any sense is having such drastically different resolutions in different parts of the world.

This isn't just about cultural insensitivity - many aspects of gameplay like culture penalties, AE spread etc. are balanced for certain culture and culture group size, and are currently completely unbalanced depending on which part of the world you play in. Having roughly similar culture resolution - with exceptions for good historical (Chinese group will likely be big even when it loses Japan and Korea) or gameplay (Hungarians in Slavic group) reasons, not completely at random like now - will make for a much more balanced game, and it will allow more aspects of the game to depend on culture system, which currently is underutilized since it's too much of a mess to rely on it for anything.


Anonymous said...

>In a modest proposal all of France would be one culture. As is all of Italy. And all of Iberia. And all three together form one Latin culture group. Maybe, if there's a really good reason some of these three could be divided into 2-3, but not into silly minor cultures like Galician, Umbrian, and Gascon with just a couple of regions and status equal with Japanese somehow. That would be approximately right for 1444, and who knows how your history will continue from then on.

wtf? Why, in god's name, why? France was definitely not a cultural monolith in the 1444s, and neither was the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. I agree that minor Gascon culture is silly, as is non-existent Norman culture, but Occitania, Catalonia, Andalusia, and Lombardia are legitimate cultural regions.

taw said...

Anonymous: These were tiny regional variations with zero historical relevance.

If entire Japan can be a single culture, or entire half of China, getting into some ridiculously tiny resolution from one French village to another is just silly.

Anonymous said...

Well, I completely agree that "Japanese nationalism" and China being homogeneous is dumb, but I think the way to fix that is just to add cultural diversity to those regions as well. I certainly don't think that Occitania, which was only conquered by the French in the 1200s and doesn't even share the same language as the French, should just be considered "Cosmopolitaine." The same goes for Catalonia and the rest.

I think that micro-differences like Gascogne and Provencal should be removed from the game, but actual huge cultural regions should definitely stay, along with the addition of more regions in inconsistent areas like Japan and China.

Also, it's stupid how Ryukyu has "Japanese culture" at the beginning of the game when the Japanese spent centuries genociding/culturally assimilating them.

T.W. said...

Hrmn, a good point. I'd actually like it if the game started with maybe 10-20 cultures MAXIMUM, and then slowly 'nationalized' into microcultures as they reached a modern tech group and late-game year.

Example, you have Lang D'oc and D'oil in France, which are two entirely seperate groups for south and north of France. When 1700 hits, they start to flip into micro-cultures within the 'french' group. Perhaps a tag to allow players to 'keep' their previous culture for sentimental reasons if they like. : )

But this would work wonders for most areas, I think. You could have West Slavic and East Slavic for example; with the divisions between such shifting as the game goes on. Hell, I'd be just be happy with Siberiak as a culture... ; P

Manchu being East Asian (and Confucian at game start!) pains me. It should probably be Altaic, and Altaic itself could be 'west' altaic and 'east' altaic. I'd argue that Manchu would be shamanist/tengrist at game start, but have mostly confucian provinces.

Japan and Korea should both be their own separate group, I think, along with Basque. But having, for example, Japanense culture slowly give way to Shikoku, Edoko etc, would be pretty cool.

And seconding poster about the ridiculousness of non-Okinawan Japanese-cultured Ryukyu at game start. Anyway! Good thing to think about.
I tend to believe that 'culture' is an illusory thing newer then we think, largely manufactured to maximize chest-thumping patriotism, and that in the time, certainly, it was far less diverse then some would like to imagine.

Anonymous said...

Why dont you mod the game to fit your own interpretation of history and culture like most people do instead of lobbing your effeminate post modern cultural sensitivity nonsense at a game creator who doesnt even live in your country; oh irony.

Anonymous said...

^ ^ ^ See the post immediately above this one? It was written by a butthurt loser.

Anonymous said...

Eh, Galician isnt a silly culture. Spain is very diverse, dont be ignorant.

Anonymous said...

"Culture" in EU4 = "where the devs want to railroad blobbing into". It has no real life counterpart.

And the Americas were always crap on the game, a shame considering colonization is a huge part of the appeal.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, I don't want to be insensitive but the game's name is Europa universalis. What did you expect ?

Anonymous said...

You've addressed nothing you intellectual coward...

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I wonder if it is related to the creators' backgrounds, education, and world travel. If they were raised in Europe and only traveled in Europe, a less educated view of the rest of the world could be understandable. It would be nice if all continents and countries were represented in equal detail.

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