The Story of Mobocratic Union – vol. 1

May 29, 2024

In spring 2019, some months before the European elections, we got to thinking about how interesting concept they really are: there is a supranational legislative organization having its own system of political parties, but also other forms of political community (gre. politeia) besides party politics: executive politicians like the Commission members, legislators like Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), lobbyists and Brussels-focused media (like Euronews and European version of Politico). Despite fascinating, still just only few average Joes know anything about that. But well, could there be a video game simulating the European decision-making? We believed we could carry that out!

In the beginning of the development process, we were really optimistic: just two months and we would be done, right? We couldn’t be more wrong. After one or two months, we had just scratched the surface and written an engine for simulating election results and writing them to files. Besides that, everything we had was a barebones system of recruiting and managing staff.

A file containing game engine generated election results
A recruiting view

In August 2019, we had something distantly resembling a game, but ridden of bugs and lack of meaningful playing mechanisms.

An ancient character editor
A simple main menu
Game’s side bar v. 0.0001

Especially, one of our most “iconic” features was an infamous loading screen the game showed for minutes – mainly because of our resource-wise stupid implementation of various technical systems. As it reads, the game’s original planned name was not Mobocratic Union (in fact the name Mobocratic was not invented yet), but a science fiction like Parlamentator.

Still, Parlamentator got some ideas, if not exactly right, then well enough, that we carried forward to our first published game, Mobocratic (that’s basically a a village politics simulator). Among the features was our system, where player could hang out in bars and make deals with lobbyists other politicians: a feature resembling a slot machine, where players can continue playing and negotiate some great deals but also, if it backfires, get pickpocketed or find themselves in the middle of a political scandal.

While our game was far from perfect, at least we had some confidence and even met some real-life MEPs in Brussels just for developing our game. We will probably newer forget when we showed our game in action to some MEPs’ advisors and our game crashed in that critical moment. Then we just had to improvise similarily than Steve Jobs did 2007 when presenting an iPhone, trying to get listeners attention away from bugs and crashes to avoid an awkward situation.

Likewise, during the same trip to Brussels, based on conversations with several politicians, we redesigned our European Parliament simulator to focus on scenes (such as plenary sessions, committee meetings, and office rounds) instead of numerous features that players would need to discover themselves. Another change of direction was the decision to build game top-down (starting by simulating the EU-wide legislature and moving on to local-level election simulation) instead of a bottom-up approach, starting in the local level and expanding to union-wide level.

In the summer 2020 we had the first prototype that was conceptually somewhat similar to Mobocratic Union (while technically MU was designed from scratch, beginning in spring 2023). Still, the committee meeting and calendar views in Mobocratic Union continue the same idea we came up with at that time.

The main view in Parlamentator (2020)
The parliament / committee view in Parlamentator (2020)
The main view in Mobocratic Union (2024)
The committee view in Mobocratic Union (2024)

As mentioned before, we started building the final version of our European-parliament simulator, Mobocratic Union, in spring 2023. We simply reimplemented the best ideas we already had, and moreover, complemented them with some new features. Most important, we focused on details we previously had merely disregarded. Much of work went into developing our in-house game engine: Mobocratic Union is not based on Unity, Godot nor Unreal Engine, but our own engine we haven’t even bothered to name yet.

Which should be our game engine name?

And then, oh God, our journey continued. We launched MU beta in July 2023, opened our Steam page in September 2023, participated in the Steam Next Fest in February 2024 and finally entered Steam Early Access launch in May 2024.

And we’re just getting started…