This idea has been nagging at me, so I explored it a bit today.
Here is what I came up with:
o Large numbers of units are often necessary to competitively
play a faction, but large factions are difficult to control,
and not always difficult in a fun way.
o Large numbers of units depersonalize the game.
o Having a number of men in a unit, instead of just one
individual character, tends to depersonalize the unit.
o Extra men in units are used for two things: armies, and
o Labor forces that sit around generating money exponentially
have been troublesome for the game.
Question: But if we adopt the Scott Hauck model, and players
can only control a few individual men, how can we build
ships and mine stone and have thousands of people
cleaning the sewers?
What I propose is to shift the view so that instead of modeling everyone
necessary to perform a task, we only model the interesting people.
Scott depicted this well for battles. You have a dynamic character who
goes out and tries to raise an army.
Local rulers can raise armies from their populations
Perhaps charismatic heroes can do this too, although it's
harder for them.
Any character can try to hire mercenary armies
Evil magicians might be able to summon demon armies
So there are several ways that a character can get an army stacked
underneath him. He can't issue orders for the army, however, and
he'll normally have to PAY the army to keep it in his service, or
use terror or other methods.
If he doesn't keep the army happy, it may:
unstack and disband
unstack and attack him (for back pay)
unstack and attack/pillage others
So disband your armies quickly if you aren't using them. :-)
So far so good. But what about shipbuilding, castle construction, mining
and the like?
What if we abstract away the thousands of low-skilled laborers necessary
for such tasks into gold. So a single character could direct the
construction of a ship, but a supply of gold would be necessary as an
input to take care of hiring the various workers which would be necessary.
Thus your master shipbuilder can apparently build a ship alone, although
he's got to pay gold for it as well as supplying the lumber.
We're left with an easily-tunable input for construction, and we've
gotten rid of scores of boring units, and all of the trouble associated
with them (recruit/men limits, skill dilution, maintenance costs, diminishing
returns of labor, logistics of transfer, etc.)
-- Rich Skrenta <email@example.com> N2QAV