Character Emotions Model

Today I am describing some of the most central components of Star Dynasties which make it a game about humans – Happiness, Approval, Empathy and Contact;  and how these interact with each other.


Characters have an overall happiness score, which is a measure of mood based on emotional reactions to events in the game.

Players can see the list of emotions with +ve or -ve modifiers that aggregate (non-linearly) to create a character’s happiness.

Emotions are generated by events. Updates show the direct emotions (not empathy – see below) that are created on key characters related to update.

To prove the point, let’s show what happens when you (playing as Leader Cristy Molina) unjustly torture one of your house members, Melodie Haynes.

Torture of Melodie Haynes

You can tell at a glance that Melodie is in a bad place from the colour and size of the bars to the left and right of her portrait – red is bad, green is good (mouse-over shows the values).


Emotions create opinions, based on how credit/blame is attributed for an emotion. For example, each time, Leader Cristy Molina tortures Melodie, she thinks less of him by -25 for each torture event (“Actions” opinion).

Opinion Change – Actions


Actions which have a moral dimension, i.e. that significantly break or reinforce the social code of this world, also trigger a public opinion reaction shown here under “Reputation”.

Opinion Change – Reputation

In the example above, a neighbouring faction leader has a -9 (Cruel) opinion of Leader Molina because of his actions.  Each character that knows of Leader Molina will form these opinions (to varying degrees, based on Contact – see below).

Opinions are also generated by other mechanisms, currently; personality, attraction, diplomacy, liking happy / disliking unhappy). These are all summarised under “Personal” opinion. Other sources will be moddable.

For example, Melodie’s “Personal” opinion of Leader Molina, ironically, is positive (+10) because their personalities are similar.

Personal Opinion


Now let’s say, you regret torturing Melodie and start doing nice things for her.

4 years pass. You gave Melodie a position on your council as your Head of Medical. You arranged for her to marry your son (and heir), and a year later they had a baby boy. Then you granted the couple permission to try for a second child (a favour in this world where living space is rationed).

So now Melodie is personally very happy …

Melodie – Effect of Positive Emotions on Happiness

… and now she is also close kin; your daughter-in-law, wife of your heir, and mother of your grandson which allows me to explain Empathy and Contact more easily!


Empathy is, as it sounds, the ability of characters to feel happy or sad based on their understanding of the feelings of others.

Star Dynasties models four variations (friend-happy, friend-sad, enemy-happy, enemy-sad), e.g. if you are my enemy, and something bad happens that makes you sad, I will feel happy at your misery.  Conversely, I will share my friends’ emotions and feel happy (or sad) when they do.

The amount of Empathy a character feels is modified by how much they like/dislike the other character. For example; following the birth of his grandson, Leader Cristy Molina feels more empathy with his son, Jake, whom he has a higher opinion of than he does for Melodie (but he does feel some empathy for her too).

Leader Cristy Molina’s Empathy

Empathy also generates approval so if A does something nice/nasty to my friend B, I experience a reduced version of the +ve/-ve approval emotion that B experiences towards A.

For example, because of Leader Molina ‘s +ve opinion towards his son; he experiences a smaller +ve “Empathy Approval” emotion towards Melodie for events which make Jake happy (e.g. birth of their son), i.e. he is grateful towards Melodie for making his son happy.

Direct Approval versus Empathy Approval

As an aside, Jake really dislikes his wife’s personality!

His “Personal” opinion of her is negative (-21) because although compassionate, she is also fickle, irresponsible, content and dull. However, his overall opinion of her is +ve (+18).

This is a good example of how opinions layer.



Contact is a calculation based on distance, importance, and social/political relationships between characters. It provides a heuristic of how much mental attention a character pays to another character (before factoring in how much they like/hate each other).

This is both realistic and necessary; otherwise, characters would experience empathy with every other character in the universe (e.g. no matter how far away, or how distant their relationship to each other is)

Contact affects Empathy, and Approval from Empathy, i.e. the amount of Empathy/Approval which a character experiences for another character is reduced sharply as Contact is reduced.

Leader Cristy Molina, his son, Jake, and daughter-in-law, Melodie, have high contact because 1) they are living together in the same colony (proximity dimension) and 2) they are very close kin (social dimension). Other factors contribute to Contact as well, for example, political dimension measures the relationships between Leaders and Rulers.

Note: Apologies for the lack of a visual here! Contact has not been included in the UI in the current prototype yet 

Want to Comment?

Please share your feedback about the Character Emotions Model and join in other discussions on the Star Dynasties reddit

Please follow and like:

One Reply to “Character Emotions Model”

Comments are closed.