Occupy Positech: Democracy 3 Announced

When he isn’t mounting gratuitous battles between war-vehicles of various sorts, Cliff Harris likes to model the political world. The next project from Positech will be Democracy 3, which will benefit not only from updated code, being 95% written from scratch, it’ll also update its political world to incorporate the events of the last five years. Much has changed since Democracy 2’s release and the new game will include reflections on the global credit crunch, Occupy movement and Arab spring, while also reflecting technological and scientific advances. An updated GUI and stronger modding support are also set for inclusion when the game is released “sometime this year”. I enjoyed the previous version, so colour me intrigued.

Cliffski explains his return to political engineering:

I think it’s my most original and innovative design, in terms of both mechanics and GUI. I don’t think any other game I’ve made has been so ‘out of the blue’ as Democracy. I also find it very interesting (although incredibly difficult) to work on. basically it’s a custom-build neural network with a cunning GUI on top of it. I’m also a bit of a political geek, with views that range all over the spectrum, so I enjoy the analysis and research involved in working on the game.

I’m fascinated by games that are packed with data to nudge and play with, and the political theme wins my vote as well. Areas of the political model will also be revamped:

The game had no good system within its simulation to reflect the private sector with regards to social services such as health care, schools and pensions, and tended to require state provision in those areas. This is a shortfall which skews the game more than I would like into a specific political direction.

The game has been in development for a while and a working version already exists, so hopefully we might see something of it sooner rather than later. Democracy 2 has a demo, so if you fancy meddling right away, I am powerless to stop you.


  1. trjp says:

    I enjoyed Demo2 but the absolute must-have element for any sequel is the influence of wealth/corporations and political bribery (both lobbying and the less legal type) – as well as social movements and protest groups – oh and the media in a bigger way.

    D2 games tend to collapse into wrist-slapping lessons rather than actual political simulations without those more ‘dynamic’ elements – sadly – but they’ll be hard to do well…

  2. ts061282 says:

    There are unanswered questions of Democracy 2 which seems only to validate a particular view of governance. Clifski correctly mentions the lack of private provisions, but even with these, many cultural inclinations and biases are written in as absolutes. He purports to be making an educational software, but really its an indoctrinational shill.

    In addition, it’s not a good game; Democracy 2 was solvable with a simplistic optimization scheme. The way it models popular support is laughable. It might as well be Tetris with the blocks labeled with the names of social policies.

    • trjp says:

      I’m not sure Cliffski intended this to be ‘educational’ – it’s a game which plays on people’s general ignorance of how everything in running a country has to be balanced (both money and opinion)

      That has educational value in itself – just not as a “this is how it works” tool, more a “these are some of the issues” tool

    • cptgone says:

      “He purports to be making an educational software, but really its an indoctrinational shill.”
      i’m not sure how that can be avoided, as economics and social engineering aren’t exact science.
      e.g. the ramifications of legalising cannabis, as presented in Democracy 2, are totally off in my view – but i can only present rational arguments for that, and most people’s opinions are set in stone – or rather, emotion and prejudice.

    • DonJefe says:

      You can’t really have any cause-and-effect in a game like this without expressing some severe political bias. Especially when it comes to the economic policies.

      • Pasco says:

        Yeah, as it’s impossible to say what the factual outcomes of any policy other than those actually enacted are, then any outcome presented in a game is inherently flawed.

        You can base it on research, studies, statistical analysis, but in the end it will always have an agenda. The less variables you are willing or able to simulate also adds to this, as complex instruments, boiled down to limited statistics, can seem much worse or better than they are. Fate of the World suffers from this the most, as trying to project global changes across hundreds of years is just beyond what can reasonably be done in a fairly simple game.

        I’ll still be buying, in the hopes of leading the abused proletariat against our bourgeoisie oppressors, and on into glorious socialism.

        • 00000 says:

          Right, because engineering a people into your own ideal state is a “democracy”.
          Being the sole despot of the policies and structures set in place to facilitate your so called democracy is nothing but a farce. This is where the game is a sham, a hollow cybernetic inception of democracy despite all of it’s clever and nuances undertones.
          As a game, this is acceptable, but the idea that this game would be considered “educational” is horrifying to me in the same way as Atlas Shrugged was.

    • psepho says:

      Calling it an “indoctrinational shill” is a bit harsh.

      Any game (or book or whatever) is going to have assumptions based on the creator’s conscious or unconscious perspectives. If we dismissed any game with perspectival slant we wouldn’t have any games left!

      Democracy will of course show up personal or cultural perspectives more than other games because of the nature of its themes — there’s no camouflage provided by the imaginary dress-up of the scenario and so political issues are presented naked rather filtered through some nonsense about orcs or pirates.

      It doesn’t mean that Cliff is necessarily on some kind of ideological crusade. He is lucky enough to have the skills, expertise and independence to make the games he wants to and decides to make games about political themes that he is interested in. I wish more developers had the freedom and willingness to pursue their own visions in this way.

      • Bart Stewart says:

        Nicely said. In a game, virtually everyone will want to be able to win a reasonably challenging game using their preferred ideology. As a designer, that’s just crazy-hard to balance, especially when you naturally have political beliefs of your own.

        Which is why I greatly admire what Bryan Reynolds & Co. did in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. The various social policies all had benefits and costs, and the specific values chosen for those in-game effects could have been as much a product of developer bias as shrewd gameplay balancing.

        But every one of those values was defined in a text file. Don’t agree with some social setting effect because it conflicts with your belief about how the world actually works? Think the Free Market policy should not have had the biggest negative effect of all the policies? You can change it, because the developer exposed those values.

        If it’s a proper PC game, Democracy 3 could do the same thing (in its own way). For a political game in particular, “bias control” could be a nice selling point.

  3. Tei says:

    The real world is more crazy than any fiction can show without breaking the immersion.

    • beekay says:

      Yeah, I just can’t “get in” to reality. Every time I start feeling like it’s realistic, something crazy happens, like a revolution or oil shock or a technological development. How can you take that seriously?

      • Lanfranc says:

        Yes! And the tech support is atrocious. I keep submitting bug reports, but I haven’t seen a single patch yet. Unbelievable.

  4. cptgone says:

    may i suggest Peter Capaldi (“Malcolm Tucker”) for voice acting ;)

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      I would quite like a cabinet manager game – FM like mechanics but you play a Tucker-esque figure somewhere in whitehall

  5. Lightningproof says:

    Hopefully this version comes with the ‘Implement FULL COMMUNISM’ button that I feel was sorely lacking from previous games.

  6. Shinan says:

    I would have liked more parties. I don’t remember if D2 had coalition government and whatnot but I think it didn’t?

  7. DonJefe says:

    A democracy 3?? That’s great news! I am destined to be very disappointed when it is finally released seeing as my ambitions for this game are unreasonably high. But for now, weeeeee!

    • Joshua Northey says:

      My thoughts exactly, my wife and I will really look forward to it, and then be disappointed by how close it is to being an amazing game (no due to Cliff at all, just due to the impossibility of the task he is attempting).

    • The Dark One says:


  8. Devan says:

    Cool! Just the other day I was thinking I’d like to reinstall Democracy 2 and have another go at it. As other’s have said, accurately modeling cause-effect relationships is largely infeasible for this kind of project, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

  9. Kamos says:

    I know Cliffski lurks the comments here, so, if you’re reading, I have a question for you. You hold the position that your games should not receive price drops because they do not decrease in value as time goes by, unlike games that rely on graphics to sell. This is something that I can certainly agree with (I still play my DOS games, after all). My question is, how do you deal with the case of a game such as Democracy 3? Is the new version the “improved” one, which benefits from your experience with the previous games? Or are they sufficiently different that they all stay relevant? Please note that I haven’t played the two previous games.

  10. rsanchez1 says:

    Occupy is still a thing?

    Was Occupy ever a thing??

    • MadTinkerer says:

      As far as I could tell, it was only “a thing” to it’s participants. They might have actually accomplished something if they had, say, an actual goal. Or even an actual real thing to protest, instead of the abstract idea that people who have lots of money… indeed have lots of money.