As a nation simulation game, one of the biggest aspects the development team has to focus on is the implementation of some sort of law system. This is where most of the potential for nation customization happens; where you can, at your leisure, be a militant dictator, a benevolent monarch, or anything else you wish to be as leader of your nation. PT Alpha's law system reflected that decently well -- laws were numerous and diverse, and had relatively small effects on your nation that could rapidly build up to make you an economic powerhouse, a sprawling utopia, or a swiftly-dwindling nation of oppressed citizens that were doing everything they could to get out.
But, at its core, the Alpha system was fairly simplistic. You had a set list of laws, your chances of passing any given law were purely based on how much of a majority you had in your government, and each law's effects were fixed and uniform for every nation that passed them. For the most part, all of the top nations passed the exact same laws. For Beta, we wanted something that had more depth and felt a bit more organic so each nation could be different without sacrificing customizability.
With Beta's law system, every nation has three graduated scales:
Foreign Policy: Interventionist - Isolationist
Economy: Capitalist - Socialist
Social Freedom: Authoritarian - Libertarian
Each law passed affects your nation's place on one (or more) of these scales; so (for example) as you pass more socialist laws, your nation becomes more socialist. Laws whose values resemble your nation's will be easier to pass than those that do not -- which means it will be easier to pass multiple laws on one end of the scale.
As an example, let's pretend my nation is far to the Authoritarian side of the Social Freedom scale. If I wanted to pass another law that resembled the ones my nation is known for -- say, pervasive government surveillance -- it would be considerably more likely to pass than, say, a law allowing freedom of speech.
The impact of your nation's scale doesn't stop at just passing your laws, though. The impact each law has on your nation is modified by how closely it matches your nation's policies as a whole -- so even if I somehow managed to pass that freedom of speech law, its effect on my nation's stats would be significantly diminished compared to its effect in a nation that is typically libertarian.
Government types in Alpha were never really touched. Every nation was a Democracy (though as far as mechanics went this meant basically nothing), and there was no way to change it.
Clearly, this tied into laws -- so we decided to integrate the two.
Any nation will be allowed to attempt to change its government type to one of four options: Democracy, Republic, Oligarchy, or Autocracy. Your government type will affect how you pass laws.
Direct Democracy: All citizens vote on each law. Instead of holding elections for representatives and attempting to gain seats in a parliament, your chances of passing laws will depend on your citizens (and how happy their are with your rule).
Republic: Will function as it did in Alpha. Elections may be held up to once every 3 days to determine seats in Parliament; your chances of passing a law will depend on how many seats you control.
Oligarchy: Instead of elected officials, you have a council made up of self-interested oligarchs. You may gain influence over them by funneling some amount of your tax income to them, and -- like the number of Parliament seats for a Republic -- your amount of influence will determine how easy it is to pass laws. The percent of your tax income that you use to bribe your council members may be changed at most once every 3 days.
Autocracy: You have supreme rule over your nation. Any law you attempt to pass (including changing government type) will succeed, but your nation will suffer significant happiness and growth penalties. Additionally, any laws you pass while an Autocracy have a chance of being automatically repealed when changing back to a different form of government.
Attempting to change your government type will consume your ability to pass a law for the day. Additionally, you may not change your government type for 3 days after calling an election (if you are currently a Republic) or changing your bribe amount (if Oligarchy).
It is our hope that this system will reduce the amount of cookie-cutter nations we saw all too often in Alpha, by creating multiple viable paths and encouraging nations to form their government and policies as they wish.