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New Game Mechanics
#1
Hello All!
It's been a while since you last got a proper update on how things are going and I know you have all been rather starved of information, so today we have decided to show you all the details of what mechanics we will be changing in game to improve game play, enhance immersion and iron out many of the often very notable creases in how the game works that have existed for a while now. We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes as since the 'pause' of the game in early December and are very pleased with the sheer number of improvements we have thought out. When we created these mechanics we focused on several items:

- First off we wanted to make the game more accessible and less time consuming
- Secondly, we wanted to enhance the immersion involved in the game
- Thirdly we hoped to rebuild the game mechanics to encourage and reward diligence in the game rather than punishing players for contributing.
- Lastly we aimed to empower backbenchers, as well as party leadership, by ensuring everyone in game has something to do and a means to achieve goals without being allowed to ruin it for everyone.

With those proposals in mind, Nathan, Amelia, Andy and I have produced a detailed analysis of how the game will work from now on for you all to read through and get an understanding of in advance. We hope you enjoy the new features and if you have any questions to ask regarding them feel free to fire us private messages or ask in the main chat on Telegram.

Kind Regards

The A-Team

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How You Win

One of the basic structural features of any game is how you achieve goals and essentially 'win'. For a long time it has been the case that to win you had to somewhat subjectively prove that your party was the most suited and had campaigned hardest to get into power or remain there. This would be done by contributing to the Press Cycles - a feature we added last round - that would give you the so called 'momentum' that has been used in the game for years now and is essentially a currency to buy 'rewards' for your party that then give you benefits in elections and in debate over certain issues. The problem with this system has always been that while it does encourage you to contribute for the sake of your party, there is little point in contributing to Parliamentary debate and frankly even to the media if you are not that bothered about working together as a team. Therefore our response has been to not only re-focus the game as a much more team based game, but equally we have added new systems that ensure that by playing a part in that team you personally benefit - so we give you...

The Influence System
Influence is essentially a points based system that gives you as an individual player more control over the backbench MPs in your faction. For example, if one person has, lets say, eight influence points and another has five, the person with eight will be backed by a reasonably larger number of MPs than the person with five. These points will be achievable through contributions to the press, as well as contributions to Parliament. 

Influence points are something we have trialled before in a different way that essentially does what it says on the tin; the more you get, the more MPs from your faction in your party will vote along your lines in Parliament. Obviously the more backers you get in Parliament, the more people who vote your way on legislation and as such more influence you have over your party, your leadership and your faction. This puts you as an MP in a position of power where you can ask your leader for concessions on policy if you disagree with one of their ideas - and a good leader will compromise to find the best agreement possible for their platform. Theoretically a powerful MP within a party could even hold the Government hostage, but be aware - by doing so you will damage your party severely if this becomes a trend and while you may win a vote, you may not win your seat back!

Influence points will be gained through several methods that I will outline below:
- Through appointment to the Cabinet/Shadow Cabinet 
- Through election to the leadership
- Through contribution to Parliamentary debate
- Through appointment to head of a Select Committee
- Through contribution to debate in the media

The benefit of this system is that instead of having to constantly check to see which player deserves how ever many additional MPs for their contributions we can simply check whenever we mark the press cycles and Parliamentary debate - thus making the system much easier than the old 'Backbencher Support System' and including a very helpful feature into the game with little additional admin requirements. Details on how you can get points are set out below.

Changes to Press Cycles and their Marking
One of the key irritants in the new Press Cycles system has been that while the system is much easier to mark and grade, as well as much faster and less taxing to contribute to, often the admins can miss an event that MPs want to speak about in the press which can mean sometimes players don't get to make an argument that may work well for them. This round we have decided to fix this by introducing a 'General Issues' cycle that remains permanently open and will be marked on a weekly basis or dependent on the level of contribution to the debate there. In this thread you will be able to make comments about events that do not get their own cycle, and if the debate over an area in this thread gets heavy enough it will trigger the creation of an independent cycle for the issue. What we will say though is that this will not be an area to try and continue a debate after it has ended in it's own dedicated cycle - there is a reason they are timed and simply put it's because after a while a story becomes dead. 

This is not the only change being made to Press Cycles however, while in the last round we used the cycles as a means of encouraging individual contributions the problem was that by limiting marks to set numbers that you would essentially 'rank' in a large number of contributions were naturally left out which doesn't exactly give players who didn't often get into the top five an incentive to contribute and equally could often lead one party either winning a landslide over the other or not getting their deserved score. As such, we have now divided Press Cycle marking into two 'halves' essentially. Each cycle, once completed, will now be marked per party's contribution to the debate and ranked accordingly with 50 momentum divided between the contributing parties dependent on their performance. This could look something like this:

Quote:Conservatives: 27 Momentum
Labour: 16 Momentum
Liberal Democrats: 7 Momentum


This we believe will mean that every contribution will matter and will encourage teamwork which is a central theme of this new structure of the game in order to win. However we equally intend to reward stronger contributions by incorporating influence into the system. This will be done by deciding which characters from any party have contributed the best arguments to the debate, the top three of which per debate will each gain one influence point to be added to their total. This will apply to the top five contributors in a debate however should a debate become big enough that the admins determine it to be worth the additional two influence points. It should be noted there is no limit on the number of contributors per party to get influence from one debate, if the top three contributors are all Conservatives or Labour they will get the points. This will look like this in a press cycle marking:


Quote:Influence Earners
Christian Braden (UKIP)
David Rackham (Conservative)
James Clifton (Labour)


This system we feel will not only open up Press Cycles by making them accessible in the "General Comments" thread, but they will also encourage teamwork through marking it based on parties rather than individual contributions and will also retain a reason for individuals to comment for their own gain in order to get influence points - which of course translate into support in their party.

Influence points may also be earned from taking part in live events if we deem the interview good enough for you to gain them. It should also be noted that you cannot lose influence points unless the admins decide you truly have screwed up enough to deserve it, but obviously if someone in your faction is gaining them and you are not you will naturally lose supporters in your faction naturally. 

Return of Factions - To a Limited Extent
As I've mentioned earlier in this, factions will be returning this game after a brief hiatus from the game last round. Unlike the 1970's round however they will not be anywhere near as empowered as they were in that round - this is because this essentially created 'parties within parties' that divided both major parties in game and ruined the teamwork element of the game that is so important for a party to succeed and get into or stay in Government. These factions will be visible for all players in the sign up area to allow players to see the make up of each party so they can decide where they want to play. Factions will play a key element in the new influence system as your influence does not determine how many MPs in your party, but how many MPs in your faction support you. This we think will mean that there isn't a perfect balance between how many supporters back each MP and will mean certain factions can populate more players while retaining a significant number of MPs backing them proportionally. 

The final key difference to this game is that while in the past we have allowed players to be unaffiliated, from now on they will be required to join a faction.

Appointments and Leadership Influence
In order to make things more streamlined and realistic in regards to this influence system we have also decided to apply a certain number of points automatically per appointment to the cabinet or shadow cabinet, election as leader and appointment as chairperson of Parliamentary select committees. These will look something like this;

Quote:Leader of a Party +5 Influence
Great Office of State +4 Influence
Other Cabinet/Shad Cab Position +3 Influence
Chairperson of a Select Committee +2 Influence

This is done so that the leadership of a party has a naturally larger level of support to build on and so that they are not constantly taken advantage of by backbenchers making demands. 

If you lose your office for any reason, you will not lose all of the influence points gained by receiving it, but you will have your influence gained from it halved to reflect your loss of direct ability to influence power (eg. Stop being chancellor and you'll lose 2 influence, or lose your chairpersonship and you'll lose 1 influence). If you are demoted however you will retain the number of points of that rank (eg. If you go from Shadow Chancellor to Shadow Environment Secretary you'll have a 3 influence boost rather than 4) ad if you are promoted you will recieve the additional points to bring you up to the equivalent of that rank (eg. Chancellor to Prime Minister will give you an extra influence point on top of your 4 points as chancellor).

Character Creation
The rules around how you create your character are changing dramatically. We are not going to give you a number of points and a number of costs to spend them on. Instead there is going to be a list of compulsory facts about your character (age, marital status, education, career, party etc) and we are giving you freedom to design around that. When the round is announced, we will release a ‘What Does An MP Look Like?’ that will give you rough guidelines for the time period. 

Obviously there is a requirement to be realistic which is why we are eliminating a number of life possibilities, so no diplomats or senior civil servants for example. Every character bio will have to be checked and approved by an admin. If you want to do something interesting, it is probably best to run it by the admins before you post. But we wanted to give you greater freedom, make writing your bios less of a tick box exercise and ensure realism. 

Scandals & The Role of the Chief Whip
One of the most irritating things that has existed in game for as long as I can remember is the fact that if a player wants to be disruptive to their party they can be without any consequence. This could mean one player from either major party in game - and there have been many examples from virtually every round I can think of in both parties (usually between the right and left of each party) - can essentially guarantee a perspective of division or force their own party to lose votes on issues they probably don't even disagree with their leadership on that much. That is why in this new round we are taking a two-pronged approach: while players will have more power to throw around their weight and get concessions from their leadership, the leadership too will be empowered to fight back. This we believe will ensure that players who disagree with their leadership will find new ways of working with their leaders and compromising on issues as real life parties and MPs have to do in order to survive. This comes in two new linked systems we are adding to the game:

The first is a 'scandal' system. This is entirely voluntary but comes with great benefit to both players and their leadership and as such use of it is highly encouraged. Each player will be permitted to submit up to two 'scandals' of their own design through a spreadsheet that will be created through Google Forms which you can find here: Submit a Scandal Template Form

When submitting a scandal you will be asked several questions, the first being your name and party, the second being the 'nature' of your scandal: is it to do with money? adultery? and the list goes on and on. Then you will be required to 'rank' the severity of your scandal out of five; if you choose to get the maximum level scandal (5) you will receive 5 additional influence points for free, if you choose a minimum level scandal (1) you will receive one additional influence point for free - this is the main benefit of Scandals for players. Once you have done this you will be asked if you want to add any details about your scandal, we do not expect anything long or detailed, but if you want to know what you might have to deal with should your scandal leak to the public or your Chief Whip you can outline that in that section. The A team however will generally decide the specifics of your scandal should it be released and as such that section can be left blank if you want.

The final part of registering your scandal will be to pick a number between one and fifty. This number will be used for a random number generator that will be refreshed every week in order to determine if your scandal has leaked or not. This is where the role of the Chief Whip becomes vital - each week all players in the game in major parties have a 1/50 chance of being found out by the Chief Whip. This will mean that suddenly the Chief Whip has a card in his hand that he can use to ensure you comply with the Government/Opposition agenda. They could threaten to leak this scandal to the press, and if it is damaging enough that threat may be big enough that you may want to do what the Whip says. Of course you could negotiate what the whip does with this information - on a vital bill for example you could request that they destroy the information after your vote is cast, however they are under no obligation to do so - and as such it is down to them and how much they like you/think you will tolerate being blackmailed.

This is not the only thing that your number will be used for however, this number will also be put against 150/1 odds over it leaking to the General public. This means that it could in theory leak to the public before even the Chief Whip sees it, or while the whip has it in their possession - the latter making an interesting scenario where the whip may have to explain why they did not inform the public. This means that there is of course always a chance that your number will come up and you'll be subject to a scandal in game, but equally you benefit from taking that risk by getting additional points that could earn you a promotion due to your influence or even win you some key concessions or votes. Only the chief whip will be aware of your scandals, not even your party leader, however they may choose to inform individuals at their discretion, those individuals however could end up leaking the information themselves and as such weakening the Whip's hand so that is down for them to decide.

The final detail I want to cover here is new powers for the Chief whip to use; much like how the whip will now have a chance of uncovering your scandals, they too will have the power to take from you influence points should you rebel from the whip. Defiance of a two line whip will empower the Chief Whip to issue you an official warning about your conduct, breach of a three line whip will allow the Chief whip to subtract from you an influence point for each rebellion against the Government whip, thus diminishing your backing in Parliament and your vote share. While some might say breaking a two line whip would be seen as legitimate to take influence points from that cabinet member, we have chosen not to do this because in the event of a cabinet member breaking a two line whip for example that cabinet member will almost certainly be expected to resign or be fired, this of course may be changed once we begin using this system. This system we feel will balance out the divisions in parties more from now on and ensure that while Government can be questionable and challengeable, it will not be easily done. Furthermore this ensures that individual players from now on will not be able to constantly attack a Government's legislative agenda in the press and in Parliament without consequence - especially if they rebel against the whip. This means that players have to learn to get along rather than constantly forming their own splinter parties that in this round we will be very unlikely to grant you the right to do.

Available Parties
This round we will be setting a firm set of restrictions on available parties to better encourage cooperation between players and the use of major parties. The parties that will be available will be the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats - the latter of whom will be restricted to a one player minor party. As the Lib Dems will be a minor one player party, influence essentially will not matter to them - however it will still be counted anyway in case of there being a desire to use this later through additional mechanics.

Changes in Government and Whitehall
One of the final additions to my section of the game changes is changes to how Whitehall will work from now on. Instead of just being expected to produce legislation or 'solve' problems, from now on Ministers will be presented with scenarios from time to time in which they will be given several options to choose from - one of which will be the ability for the Secretary of State to pursue their own plan. This we feel will mean that the Government will not only have a legislative agenda to campaign on, but also a set of ministerial actions and responses to scenarios they can hold up as their record in power - while also being criticised for.

Changes in Elections (Including Leadership Elections)
Finally from me; in this round we fully expect to have to deal with an election after just over a year of gameplay. In this election and in all leadership elections from now on unlike the previous elections we are going to expand the system of campaigning by introducing a new 'time' based feature alongside your funding. This feature will mean that you have to work as a team to dedicate the amount of allotted time per individual per day to campaign to maximize the amount of points you can gain an events you can use in a day alongside advertising that will be entirely money based. Furthermore we are going to change speeches in elections to not require full written speeches, instead just requesting a venue, a summary and some key quotes for speeches instead to make campaigning quicker, less demanding and easier to contribute to.

Influence will also play a role in all general election campaigns with the final campaign summary giving out up to ten influence per party (except for minor parties) to reward contributors even if your party does not win the election. This will help define a leadership election following an election and reward those who turn up to campaign against those who do not. Leadership elections too shall feature influence dependent on the party and where you place in the running, but to a much lesser extent - more on this will follow once we start the round.

Now over to Andy to talk about polling...

Polling
At each polling update you will see results from 3 different companies, who will give their headline  voting intention figures. It is important to remember that polling results are inherently variable, and any individual poll is probably wrong by some amount. Rather than watching individual polls, or treating them as an infallible scoreboard, instead look at averages or longer term trends.

Each pollster has other questions that they will report on from time to time. Gallup will reveal the public's level of approval of the government and of the leadership of each party. MORI will report on the economy, particularly through their Economic Optimism Index. ICM is more flexible, and polls on other important questions of the day.


And now with that, i'll hand you over to Amelia and Nathan who are going to explain how Parliament is going to change this round!
Edward
Head Administrator of PolUK
Special Advisor for the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Foreign Office, Defence and the Chief/Shadow Whip
Advisor for the Labour Party

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand." ~ Milton Friedman
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Thanks given by: Rebecca Flair (Unmasked)
#2
What changes will we see in Parliament?

Select Committee Chairs

A past criticism of PolUK is that if you aren’t leader or a frontbencher, you have nothing special to do. Sure you can ask questions or write PRs, but little prestige comes from that. We wanted this round to give a different career path to some players who don’t want to be leader or a frontbencher.

In real life, Select Committee Chairs offer an alternative career path for backbenchers. So we will introduce the same for PolUK. We are not introducing Select Committees as a whole and we have no intention to do that. So how will Select Committee Chairs work?

Select Committees would mirror the departments of Government. AVs will divide Committee Chairs up and give them to each party. Each party will elect the Chair for that department. We'll introduce a Public Accounts Committee Chair, who must come from the Opposition benches, and is elected by the whole House (or every player). Chair elections will follow those for the leadership and the selection of the (Shadow) Cabinet. NPCs will represent any Select Committee Chairs that are not filled by backbenchers; they will be used by the Admins to propose motions, give quotes to news articles, and potentially be interviewed on the key issues of the day.

Select Committee Chairs will be given the privilege of guaranteed motions – limited to one a week – that are debated in the House (like Opposition Day Motions). These motions can only relate to their Committee (so no Treasury Chair opining on war in Madagascar). The Public Accounts Committee Chair will be able to propose a motion on any issue. But to ensure these motions are related to their field and in a manner of the meticulous, cross-party cooperation embodied by Select Committees, they will have to be approved by the AV in charge of that department.

Select Committee Chairs will have a higher profile in the news and be interviewed when a new article relates to its activities. This position is a chance for you to become experienced in a certain field without being encumbered by collective responsibility. It comes with powers and responsibilities; use them well and you can be influential in Parliament.

Motions

Motions will broadly remain the same, but they can only be proposed by the Opposition and third party on Opposition Days, and by Select Committee Chairs. Backbenchers will not be able to propose debatable Motions. 

Early Day Motions (EDM's)

Early Day Motions have been described as ‘parliamentary graffiti’. They often range from the banal to the inconsequential. But occasionally an EDM can change the political weather (e.g the popular 2017 EDM calling for Donald Trump's state visit to be cancelled, or the EDM on 'Ladydata' signed by many Labour MPs which garnered debate). They are also useful for party leaders to appreciate the depth of feeling among the backbenchers, including NPCs.

Only backbenchers (but including Select Committee Chairs) will be able to propose and sign EDMs on any topic. AVs will determine how many signatures your EDM gets (but bear in mind that most get less than 20 signatures – don’t expect the entire House to rally around your beautifully drafted Motion).

They are your chance to raise interesting and novel issues that both the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are missing. These EDMs will be picked up in the press and generate a higher profile for your character in the press. The press may not always be good: if you sign too many, you may be criticised. 

EDMs last for the Parliamentary term, so feel free to sign any old EDM's - you might even bring a topic back to light.

EDMs are for you to use how you wish. It takes one EDM to change the course of history (ok I’m lying, but they are still effective).

Bill/Motion Marking

As part of keeping Parliament a vital fixture in the game, it's important that Parliamentary debates as well as media ones are marked. This has been attempted in the past but unfortunately it never persevered. This round, it is vital that as much if not more attention is given to Parliament than in the media.

Marking will happen as outlined
  • Parties' overall performances will be marked out of 20 in the most vital debates - so for budgets, Queen's speeches & rarely for key debates (decided by AVs). An influence point will also be given to the top five contributors to these debates.
  • Your average bill will be see parties' performance marked out of 10 with an influence point given to the top three contributors. 
  • Your average motion will have parties marked out of 5 and an influence point will be given to the top three contributors.  
Some pointers r.e marking in Parliament:
  • Don't be put off by debating in Parliament because you don't have the time or energy to make long speeches. Quality is not defined by quantity. If you have one good point to make, make it. Something is better than nothing and a single point or fact could win the debate. Long speeches, if they're repetitive and ramble, may actually be penalised. 
  • Remember - contributing in Parliament is vital. If you don't make your presence in Parliament known, the media will pick up on it, especially if you're always running to the press and/or are in a position of power. That doesn't mean contributing to every debate, but it means showing your face every now and then (attending all debates relevant to your brief or participating in at least one debate or motion a month is a good rule of thumb). 
  • That's all the advice you're getting. There's no universal surefire way to debate. Whether your style is pathos, logos, ethos or somewhere in between the three, go with it - just make sure you do it well if you want a good mark.
How Votes are Calculated

The votes of NPC MPs will be distributed proportional to the influence points of the player MPs from the same party faction. For example, if faction has 60 MPs, a player from that faction with 10 influence votes Aye and a player from that faction with 5 influence votes No, the votes of the faction split 40 Ayes and 20 Noes.

If a player fails to vote, that just means that they've missed their chance to influence the outcome; it doesn't cause a block of NPCs to abstain, unless a player posts in the Division Lobby that their character abstains. The A-Team reserves the right to deviate from this system in exceptional circumstances.

General Points/Conclusion

For too long Parliament in game has been put on a bit of a backseat compared to government and media. While the latter two are crucial to the games' health, Parliament is as integral to the political scene as the media landscape and the goings on in Whitehall. It is where the Opposition will get most of its spotlight (as the government gets its spotlight, you know, governing). It's where laws are made. It's where much of the drama happens. If you look at previous rounds, there's a very strong correlation between Parliamentary activity and the rounds' longevity and health - I don't think that's a coincidence.

So the media will be scrutinising Parliament as much as it does Whitehall or the BBC studios. It will report Parliamentary gossip, scrutinise bills and motions, note key performers, absentees, rebellions and histrionics. As Parliamentary AV, I'll keep an eye on all of you. You've been warned. Angel
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Thanks given by: Rebecca Flair (Unmasked)
#3
Hi guys, so, some small updates to the game mechanics as promised:

Rewards:

We are upping rewards to 150 momentum points instead of 100, due to the new press system not having negative momentum, lots of momentum points being up for grabs and there being only two parties. There will be one exception for this - both Labour and the Tories have claimed one reward which will be coming soon (or in Labour's case has come) and as this was claimed prior to the changes, will dock the original 100 points.

Time:

Instead of 3 days, one month will be four days. I will solve this by now for freezing the calendar a day after the initial three days it's functioning normally, but if any tecchie ex-AV can help resolve this in a more smooth way, that'd be much appreciated. 

Legislation:

In the past, old legislation was not allowed to be rehashed. We're going to change this, feel free to rehash old legislation (copy and pasting the relevant bits you want to enact being preferable for simplicity's sake, of course). This will change though: we still encourage characters to invent their own legislation, so any party that comes up with something original will get extra momentum points.
Head Admin.
Admin Responsible for the Houses of Parliament.
Cabinet Office/PM's Office/Foreign Affairs & Defence.

“In politics, guts is all.” - Barbara Castle.


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#4
(02-27-2018, 11:36 PM)Nathan Wrote: Legislation:

In the past, old legislation was not allowed to be rehashed. We're going to change this, feel free to rehash old legislation (copy and pasting the relevant bits you want to enact being preferable for simplicity's sake, of course).

For the sake of clarity, when real life legislation is used unedited, any references to dates, legislation not yet existing in game, etc, should be interpreted in a way that makes logical and practical sense. I like pedantry as much as the next person, but debate should ideally be about the issue, not lawyerly analysis of the precise text used.
Andy
Advisor for the Labour Party, the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Communities, and the Regions
Poll wrangler and election psephologist
Scandalmonger

I forget Andy has political opinions. I always just think of him as a Civil Servant in real life - Mac
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