Kinship Diagrams. A tool to visualise relationships

Hi Dave, I’ve been following your video development of the game for a few years now, and I’m thoroughly impressed and excited at your progress.

In regards to visualising relationships (Devlog#45), have you thought/heard of kinship diagrams as a base for relationships?
I’m not sure how well they could be applied in your game but they have been really helpful to myself and other anthropologists.

I’m in my third year of studying anthropology and kinship diagrams are a huge part of understanding and visualising family units and their relationships. In anthropology what a ‘family’ is defined as is often very diverse and primarily depends on the subjects own views. This means that the diagram is often not limited to the western definition of a ‘traditional family’ (mum dad children etc). This makes me think that this representation could be really useful to Sapiens as their communities operate in a similar way to a family due to their size and proximity to one another.

Have a Google for kinship Diagrams anthropology (I can’t seem to add a link or image yet) but Lucidchart and lumin learning both provide good further explication.

Love the work and am always looking forward to videos!


I’ve googled “kinship Diagrams anthropology”. So it’s more of a family tree thing? I thought it was about how they view each other. Like if two sapiens love or hate each other or if they are in a competition and so on.

There are a few key differences between a family tree and a kinship diagram, but you are right kinship diagrams primarily identify the kinship system of a subject. The main difference of a kinship diagram is that it focuses on ego (a subject). Usually, a kinship diagram almost always exists alongside a written description of the relationships, something that wouldn’t apply to a game, and this description goes into detail about the relationships between the people depicted in the diagram.

However, you could incorporate relationships quite clearly into the diagram. This could be done by assigning colours to people in the diagram that represent egos general relationship with them. For instance, ego could have a neutral colour and others in the diagram sit somewhere on a colour spectrum, a shift from a certain colour to another depending on their ‘relationship percentage’. For example, a person with a bright green icon on the diagram would have a very close connection with ego and someone with a dark green icon could have a mediocre connection and red being a negative relationship percentage. Any colour could work of course but I use green and red as in my culture, green is generally used as a positive colour and red as a negative colour.

Of course, actual relationships are way more complex than just a percentage but this could be a good generalised representation.

Edited for clarity


That sounds more interesting than just a family tree.

Now I have another two questions.

I assume that this kinship diagram get’s extended, whenever a sapien makes a contact with a new person, within the tribe or outside. How do you treat nomads and passerby? No actually new information but it makes the tree explode in size. Would you make some kind of proxy person for a few different types of foreign people. That would lead to sapiens having prejudice against people-groups. I think this is the best option. But it might be a touchy topic. And Dave normally avoids those.

And what about when your village turns into a city. How big can those diagrams get, until they get unusable? An average human can have a relationship with about 200-300 people. And they can know more people on a casual basis. Within the game this number can be lower, but lowering it too much just because of a unusable diagram is not really a good option. How do you solve that problem? Are there priority systems, where only parts of the diagram is shown at a time?

Bonus question:
If you could add more axis than just the like-dislike, what are the best ones to add. And what are the best way to display that information. Spider chart, bar chart…

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Lots of points to unpack there and I don’t know the best answer to all of them.
I’ll try to find a conceptual solution that keeps things as simple as possible because that’s the goal of the kinship diagram. From I UI point of view I think ideally the diagram should be understandable without much if any explanation.

I don’t think just anyone should have a place within someone’s kinship chart. Only those who are kin and perhaps close friends which are easily represented through different techniques. Passersby could simply be listed under another system in the same section? Some way of organising that would be helpful, a hierarchy of bond levels or time spent together?

Since the focus of a kinship diagram is on egos kin that could be limited to a defined level. eg don’t show anyone further than 4/5 steps away from ego. Certain people could still be included and there are many techniques for this. Often real kinship diagrams don’t include all kin but those who are important to ego, some branches are simplified, some not even dipicted and others have full detail. I don’t see how a virtual kinship diagram wouldn’t be able to use parameters to do the same thing.

As for predudice based on groups that seems like adding more complexity than is needed. I think the kinship chart is best used as a tool in order to keep things simple to understand, rather than adding new systems.

Richard Dunbar suggested that humans can comfortably maintain around 150 stable relationships. Of course this varies a lot from person to person but 150 to 200 seems to be the limit. Of course those numbers are still huge and a chart that big would be pretty crazy. From what I’ve seen though, this game doesn’t seem to be heading in the direction of having numbers be that high, definitely could be wrong there of course. But even if that was the case, limiting how far the diagram extrapolates relative to ego would fix that.

Bonus question response.
If it were up to me which it isn’t of course haha, I’d probably add status as an important measurement. In a lot of cultures around the world a key driver is protecting or increasing status.

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So you would limit the diagram to friends and family and the nemesis?

While I’m at it, I think neighbors and people you went to school with are normally the ones you are closest to. Correct me if I’m wrong.
And also if there are two warring tribes, they probably also deserve a place in that diagram. More on the hate side of course.

Fair point.

Bonus question.
With status you mean people of authority, role models, kings and so on? Or more on the social rank you have in a group?

Yeah mostly, but of course this is way too much detail for practical discussion.

Neighbours and friends have always been important but you have to think of your own cultural context. Family has been the social bedrock to communities for 99.99% of humanities timeline. It is only recently and in the west that families have become somewhat less ‘important’.

Status in its simplest form, your standing in a social group. Everything else factors into that.

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Would a Kinship Diagram translate to groups of people in any way? I mean, can a tribe have kinships with other tribes, similar to how we tend to think of certain cultures as related (e.g. american culture descending from the anglican one, with influence from the rest of Europe, or for example how linguistics uses terms like family, or perhaps how nobility would trace its ancestry through the ages and how the different families relate to one another).

Considering Sapiens is all about the beginning of civilisation (and we don’t even know yet how far it goes beyond that in terms of history and technology) bringing in the kinship between families could communicate the feeling of an evolving world, a young tribe that is trying to find it’s place and identity (like a child would) and the heritage of what came before and how it still impacts the world today (sort of on the sholders of giants feeling), and how it could impact the future (which would be civilisation as we know it, even those that don’t stand the test of time).

So, my question is, can this be expanded to involve two diagrams?

  1. for each Sapien to show their kin and important friends
  2. for a tribe to show their close relatives, heritage etc

links are put in like so

by which I mean like [so](

Images like

![image description, optional](



Iroquois Kinship Diagram on Wikipedia

I find this faster to use than the little buttons that should be somewhere at the top or bottom of the text field where you’re typing into, where those things are called Hyperlink and Upload (next to Bold Italic etc, which you can do like **Bold** and *Italic* or __Bold__ and _Italic_ and of course Bold and Italic with __*Bold and Italic*__)

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One other thought is, if the player can cause individual sapiens to do actions which improve or worsen the relationship between each other.

If the relationship is high enough, they are listed as friend (i guess).
but if they are close family and their relationship is low, what happens? can you be indifferent about your siblings, or do you necessarily love or hate them? (today that might be different from how it would have been in pre-historic times)

Edit: I see what you meant. Will the player be able to cause interactions, not just will they exist.

Some really interesting points.
Just came across this article and thought you guys might like it.

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You were right. I like it. I’m curious if Dave takes some inspiration from that article, in case he clicks on that link. :yum: