So according to the latest poll, it looks like the community agrees that faction differentiation is the most important thing for team Stardock to work on. But what does faction differentiation actually look like? That's what this thread is about. Here are my ideas:
1. Getting the personality down
Not so much an idea as a general principle, but it's got to be said first. Before we can suggest gameplay changes for the factions, we've got to know what the factions are like. In a nutshell, this is what I'd suggest the factions are/should be like:
Altar: Adventurous idealists. Want to make the world more free, just, egalitarian. Loves heroics, hates empires.
Capitar: Pragmatic merchants. Want to survive in the world as best as possible. Loves trade, hates chaos.
Pariden: Magical elitists. Wants to restore the world back to its former glory. Loves knowledge, hates ignorance.
Gilden: Honorable industrialists. Wants to build a strong kingdom. Loves principle, hates treachery.
Tarth: Isolationist ex-slaves. Wants to get revenge on their former masters. Loves freedom, hates slavery.
Kraxis: Scheming diplomats. Wants power through serpentine politics. Loves master plans, hates chaos.
Resoln: Ghostly nihilists/fatalists. Wants to transform the world into its own ghostly image. Loves death, hates life.
Umber: Conscientious settlers. Wants to build a large, righteous empire. Loves the open land, hates their origin/Curgen.
Magnar: Enslaving imperialists. Wants to rule the world. Loves glory, hates kingdoms.
Yithril: Bloodthirsty warriors. Wants to fight everything. Loves bloodshed, hates weakness.
Each of these personalities ought to be partly sympathetic and partly less so. Altar is idealistic but easily provoked. Pariden is elitist, but genuinely see themselves as the only hope for restoring the world. Tarth is independent but vengeful. Kraxis is scheming, but it was they who were first spurned by the kingdoms, and they're doing what they must to survive. Yithril loves bloody war, and is FE's Drengin, but they also appreciate the honor of the battlefield and a strong opponent. Magnar see themselves as the progenitors of the Titan's wrath and the rightful rulers of the world. And so on.
Oh, and what about the custom factions, you ask? There should be base template personalities based off of the leader's origin story trait. Of course, a custom personality could be modded into the game for a specific faction, if the creator so chooses.
2. Unique Techs/style
What I'm really getting at here isn't so much from the stats as it is the style. Some Altar swordsmen should dual-wield short swords. Tarth archers should drape themselves in the leafy camouflage of the forest. Capitar should have the shiniest silver armor of all. Gilden shouldn't use swords, but battle-axes. Pariden units should be shielded by a magical aura. Wraiths should look like wraiths, and command skeleton soldiers. Umber cavalry should ride naja, and lesser Magnar troops should have a slave master with a whip in their ranks. Kraxis units should use scimitars and flaming arrows. All factions should have some units that display the faction's banner in their own unique way. Ditto the appearance of their buildings. The -look- of the game should be radically different for each of the factions.
Custom factions by default copy the style of one of the main factions, determined by their race.
3. Unique Quests
Each faction should begin the game with a personalized quest, based upon the lore of the leader. For example, if you start the game as the Tarth, you get a mission on your first turn to hunt down Ralen the Merciless, the slavelord who was the former master of Irane and many of her people. You hunt down his last-known location, only to find an abandoned shop, a shiny new bow, and a clue to his whereabouts. Heading there, you run headfirst into Ralen's men, which should easily be dispatched by Irane and her new bow. Then you finally find Ralen, and you're given a choice. Imprison him, and your Tower of Dominion will reduce unrest by 2x the normal amount, or kill him in cold blood and earn the Gauntlets of Tarth. It'd be cool if the quests continued for every few levels the leader gained, but all I'm advocating for here is a single quest at the beginning of the game. That extra flavor should spice things up a lot and give you a feel for the story and personality of the faction and the leader.
Custom leaders should get a quest based upon their origin story trait.
Each of the leaders should have their own painted background on the diplomacy screen. Ceresa's throne room should be adorned with skulls and coursing with raw magic, while Carrodus should be flanked by money-lenders and trade maps. Likewise, leaders should speak in their own style. If Procipinee is going to demand money from me, I want her to couch it in terms of restoring the world and doing our fair share. If Verga does the same, I want him to say "Look, we need money. Cough it up or we're gonna start crackin' skulls."
Custom leaders should get a background based on their portrait background selection, and personality based on origin story trait.
I could keep going, but this list is kinda getting large as it is. So what kind of things would you add to this list?