How do you quantify a relation between 2 countries?

I am trying to create a computer game similar to that of Europa Universalis or Civilization. FYI, those are grand strategy games - you select a country and try to guide it through the years in order to create a world superpower.

In these types of games the existing relations between your country and other countries are crucial for making alliances and signing trade agreements. In most games this relationship is usually a number (integer) between -100 and 100, where 0 means neutral, +100 means excellent, -100 means very bead relations.

My game is set at the present time so I need know how to quantify a relation between any 2 countries.

The first idea that came to my mind was to collect different questionnaire data to find out what people from this country think of that country. However this method doesn't always reflect real relations between governments.

• What value is there in using a "realistic" value? Is your goal to produce something as dysfunctional as the real world? Or to produe a game people will want to play? Plus, however would you validate your results? Governments pretty much by definition don't tell everything they know.
– Dan
Jan 12 at 0:57
• Well, the games like Europa Universalis are set in the past, so each country already has defined relation scores towards other countries, usually based on shared history, wars etc. - this concept is actually what makes these games exciting because you can relate to that time and age. For example people like to play as France in Late middle ages because that was the time of the Hundred Years' War between France and England. In my game I imagine people would like to play as Russia and beat USA to the ground ... see now?
– DVN-Anakin
Jan 12 at 1:09
• Now Imagine that today there are 195 countries in total. Do I really have to research every country and determine the relation it has with the rest of the world?
– DVN-Anakin
Jan 12 at 1:13
• A country is not a person, and it is way more complicated than even persons. If my country sells bananas to X and buys apples from X, banana producers and apple consumers will like (that aspect of the relationship with) country X while apple producers will not like (that aspect of the relationship with) country X. Add to that ideological motives (and remember that not everybody in a country has the same ideology, and not everyone would perceive country X the same). Add to that... That quantification of relationships is a thing for games and nothing else, and games are games and nothing else.
– SJuan76
Jan 12 at 10:27
• This is more about game development than actual politics.
– SJuan76
Jan 12 at 10:27

The Crusader Kings series simulates relationship scores not just between countries but also between any relevant people in those countries, which can easily get to tens of thousands of characters. While they did quite a lot of historic research, they of course did not go so far as to find out what the Duke of Wessex thought about some minor noble in India in 1066. They modeled the relationship system in a way which scales far better.

The gist is that each character received a bunch of character traits like "Zealous", "Cynic", "Brave", "Craven", "Arbitrary", "Just" etc. Some of them based on how historic evidence described well-known historic people, but most of them randomly assigned. Now the relationship between any two characters is simply a function taking their personality traits into account. "Zealous" vs. people of other religions: -20 opinion. "Brave" vs. "Craven": -10 opinion. "Both Just": +10 opinion, and so on. This allows to calculate a hypothetical relationship score between any two characters anywhere in the world, even if they would probably not even have known of each others existence.

Opinion modifiers between any two characters might also be affected by temporary modifiers resulting from interactions between those characters ("insulted me during a banquet: -20 opinion for 5 years") but those are rather the exception than the norm when it comes to quantifying the relationship between any two characters.

The advantage of this system is that this system scales linearly instead of quadratically. You still need to research and apply properties for n entities, but you do not need to do the same for n * n relationships.

The same system could be used for countries in your game:

1. Think of some inherent properties countries could have which could affect their relationship with other countries: Political system, culture, language, values, etc.
2. Make up plusses and minuses for opinions based on those properties. Like "Democratic" vs. "Autocratic": -20. "Same official language": +10. "Both socially progressive": +20.
3. Think of any other game systems you have which might feed into the opinion system. For example, when your game simulates exports and imports (a very important factor for real-world political relationships), then you might add opinion penalties for countries which are competitors for the same product or opinion bonuses for countries which trade a lot with each other.

A word of warning, though: When you are trying to model the world of 2022, then you are stepping into a minefield of controversy. Your data and the simulation resulting from it will necessary contain a couple things with the potential to offend a lot of people. So make sure that it is clear that your product is supposed to be first and foremost a game and not meant to be a political statement. But even then you can expect that the PR and community management of your game will become a pretty nerve-wracking job. Oh, and if your game is sufficiently successful, then it will probably get banned in a couple countries for contradicting the local government's narrative of world politics. For example: Good luck modeling the middle-east in a way that is not going to offend the censors of any authoritarian government in the area.

• This answer really deserves a hundred upvotes. Thanks Jan 12 at 13:25