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Old Nov 20, 2010, 05:14 AM   #1
EmpireOfCats
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The neurological basis of why Civ V is boring (and Civ IV was not)

While we are waiting for the next patch, allow me to speculate on why Civ V does not grip most of us like Civ IV does. It in involves brain chemicals and bananas. Oh, and your girlfriend.

Dopamine is part of the brain's reward system. Current theory states that what you hold in your attention ("mental RAM", working memory, however you want to call it) is regulated by a "gate" that is open and shut by this chemical. When there is a constant stream of dopamine, the gate stays shut -- your attention doesn't stray. When dopamine levels drop, the gate pops open. When there is spike of dopamine, however, the gate opens, too. If the dopamine level is already very high because of great rewards, even this spike has trouble opening the gate.

The best example I have heard involves a monkey eating bananas in a tree. As long as there are enough bananas, there is a constant stream of rewards, and the gate stays shut -- no need to go looking for something else, your attention stays on the bananas. When the bananas run out, dopamine drops, and you look around for something else. Also, even if you are eating bananas, and a sexy monkey walks by, you forget the bananas and follow her (or him): Dopamine has spiked, the gate has opened, and your attention shifts.

So what does this have to do with Civ?

Civ IV produced a constant stream of rewards. Small stuff, yes, but you were constantly making some decision or seeing the result of an earlier decision. There was always something somewhere that functioned as a reward. This constant stream of rewards, so the theory, produced a high and constant level of dopamine, and kept your attention on the game. In fact, your dopamine level might have been so high that even if your girlfriend came in the room in those "special clothes" (wink-wink nudge-nudge), your attention stayed on the game.

Civ V is "streamlined" (aka "dumbed down", etc), with a lot of these "minor" decisions taken out. You spend a lot more time just waiting or clicking next turn. This means that the constant stream of rewards is gone, which means that dopamine levels have a chance to fall, which means that your attention tends to wander. In other words, by trying to make the game "less cluttered", they have removed the mechanism that made it so fascinating. On the other hand, your girlfriend is probably a happier person.

If all of this is true -- and, please note, IAMANP (I am not a neurology professor), I just read in the field -- it bodes ill for any chances we have of getting this game up to where Civ IV is in terms of being an attention-grabber. You'd have to patch in something rewarding for the player to do all the time, some problem to solve, even if it is totally minor. This would probably mean going back to a game that has more units, quicker building times, more factors (pollution, religion, espionage) that require doing something all the time.

Note this doesn't mean that the Civ V developers were wrong to say that, for example, pollution can be folded in general unhappiness. It just means that doing so is bad if you are trying to get somebody neurologically hooked on your game.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 05:24 AM   #2
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There is a lot of truth in your statement. I think you worked out a key point that the developers should pay attention to!
I can confirm from my CiV games that I feel exactly the same way.

Also, it is written in a humorous and intelligent way. I wish there were more approaches like this on these forums.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 06:04 AM   #3
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Firaxis should hire a psychologist.

Or you!
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 06:24 AM   #4
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So, how do people who could never get into Civ 4 but can't seem to get enough of Civ 5 fit into your little theory?

Is it possible that the stimulus that causes this constant dopamine supply varies by person?

If so, your theory doesn't really explain anything except, some people like Civ 4 better, some like Civ 5 better, and some like both about equally. But I think we all knew that already, right? It may give some insight into why, but OTOH, the mechanism may be something else entirely.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 06:36 AM   #5
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You say some people like Civ4 better some like Civ5 better. I say 99.9% lime civ4 better .1% like civ5 better.

I could only play 2 games of civ5. It was terrible. There are many reasons why... I made a long textpad list whilst playing the 2nd game of changes that would be required... it was/is around 4 pages.

I was so incredibly excited about the launch of civ5 that I used VPN to get US access to it just to get it a few days early. I stopped playing by the time it came out in the UK.

I never released the textpad flaws in the end - by the end of the 2nd game I realized the game is flawed at its core, and needs a redesign from the ground up.

some examples include: incredibly high building maintenance means you would be in negative by the end of the game, i.e. the best strategy was to NOT build most buildings.

Cultural victory means making a few (3-4) cities and pressing end turn 500 times. There are so few ways to boost culture beyond the first few buildings that the difference between a culture focused civ and non-cultured is minute.

One unit per tile, whilst good in theory was badly executed, its both badly run by AI and boring to play for a human with lots of units (no new management tool for an entirely new concept)

And this is coming from someone who has loves every single civ till now, Civ1, Civ2, Civ3, Civ4 - hell i even liked multi-player civ-rev.

take it for what u will.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 06:38 AM   #6
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Nein ! Firaxis should get rid of their dependency on take-two/2k first ! the current situation is genocidal to the franchise.

Civ 5 came with X amount of good and fresh features to the expense of X+N good and acclaimed features where N>X.
Not to mention it is barely playable atm.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 06:51 AM   #7
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Well, coming from someone who loved Civs 1 and 2, but was little more than lukewarm toward 3 and 4,, and loves 5, I would have to say that if you believe the ratio to be anywhere close to 999/1 then you are ignoring much evidence.

"I could only play 2 games of civ5. It was terrible. There are many reasons why... I made a long textpad list whilst playing the 2nd game of changes that would be required... it was/is around 4 pages."

And I think the above quote explains much. Sure you don't like it, but you are not the measure of the appeal of the game. Not everyone looks for the same thing in games, so if you are using yourself as the gold standard, you've missed the mark entirely.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John-SJ View Post
Well, coming from someone who loved Civs 1 and 2, but was little more than lukewarm toward 3 and 4,, and loves 5, I would have to say that if you believe the ratio to be anywhere close to 999/1 then you are ignoring much evidence.

"I could only play 2 games of civ5. It was terrible. There are many reasons why... I made a long textpad list whilst playing the 2nd game of changes that would be required... it was/is around 4 pages."

And I think the above quote explains much. Sure you don't like it, but you are not the measure of the appeal of the game. Not everyone looks for the same thing in games, so if you are using yourself as the gold standard, you've missed the mark entirely.
The general trend on these forums has been that even folks who like Civ 5 initially seem to get tired of it pretty quickly - or at least far more quickly than they did for Civ 4. I think that fits with the reward strategy theory outlined by the OP, which makes a lot of sense to me. I've been doing fall from heaven 2 (and enjoying it much more than civ 5; I never did BTS or scenarios in it before now.) Cities grow a lot faster, there are more buildings, more units, and more decisions to make. The game feels a lot more engaging to me even though the graphics are older and there are some of the same annoying mechanics to deal with in both games.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:04 AM   #9
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Lack of rewards is exactly why I'm not happy with the game. I love cultural victories in BTS. Backing the cultural borders up on the other civs and surrounding their cities was fun to me. Buying a tile is just ridiculous to me it is not fun. My feelings regarding this are especially evident in the fact that I have not chopped a single tree on this game. When I built a world wonder I felt rewarded by the video, and their effects. As I play more I can look past the pictures, even though I still want a video, but the reward for building them is just insignificant. It's one of those hoh hum type of moments where instead of it being OMG I won the race, it's about as exciting as building anything else on the game. Also the planes displaying a number in the city is totally lame. It's fine for bombers, but my planes used to fly around. I had a reward for creating them it added to my little civilizations look.

Last edited by ezwip; Nov 20, 2010 at 07:09 AM.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:12 AM   #10
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I must agree with homan1983. I liked too civ 1-4 but now this version 5 is step back in development.

Many good things are now simplified or totally removed; diplomacy, trade, spying... I realize that this game is made for wargame-enthusiastics and it's warfare system is even limping. Building maintenance is high so most of buildings give more disadvantage than advantage. Even defensive buildings are useless, I prefer make units than them.
I try to like this but when I have played it some time it starts to boring me. So I haven't played even one game to the finish. This is boring, developers underestimates us who like real strategy games.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:13 AM   #11
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This is an interesting theory that I agree with.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:47 AM   #12
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EmpireOfCats has some very good points. I still play Civ2, I can still get a thrill, a sense of anticipation, etc. My attention on the game is fixed until the very end, and then I play it again!

Too much about Civ5 seems terribly elitist - from the recommended systems requirements, the necessity of Steam to authenticate, etc. It seems incredible that they have radically 'dumbed down' the game while simultaneously making it almost impossible to play. Civ5 is a great example of how to maximise sucking all the fun out of a PC game. Which is bad news for a dopamine junky like me!

There is definately a lot to recommend game developers utilising psychologists - physiological, cognitive and behavioural. I think that Firaxis can throw as many patches and fixes as they like at the game (and so many so early is a real indictment) but it is a clear-cut case of the 'emperor with no clothes' syndrome - no matter how they try and dress it up it has no real substance.

In the immortal words of Tolkein, 'All that glitters is not gold'.

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Old Nov 20, 2010, 07:49 AM   #13
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 08:25 AM   #14
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Me Too .... there comes a point where you cant defend the indefensible. Civ5 has dumped all the Core vertues of the Franchise.

Even the Tooth Fairy now becomes a better bet, at least with the latter you know what you are getting, the promise is kept, the story lives on, and you dont lose money.

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Old Nov 20, 2010, 10:36 AM   #15
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So what's stopping you from going back to civ4 and ignoring civ5....
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 10:51 AM   #16
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This thread is a bunch of people agreeing with each other who should really be examining what features and gameplay choices it is they are agreeing on.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 12:30 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowpredz View Post
So what's stopping you from going back to civ4 and ignoring civ5....
Er, nothing. In fact, that is just what I have done.

Today, in fact, I deleted my Windows partition on my MacBook Pro, which I had only for Civ V -- all other games I am interested in, including Civ IV BtS, run OS X native. I still have it on the dual-boot Win XP/Linux server, but I haven't been playing it for weeks. You can see that I haven't been posting here for long time, either.

I'll check Civ V out in a few months, when they have time to patch it some more. But to be honest, I think this is simply a failed game, as much as I wanted to believe otherwise. All I hope is that they take the few good things and include it in Civ VI.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 01:17 PM   #18
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Er, nothing. In fact, that is just what I have done.

Today, in fact, I deleted my Windows partition on my MacBook Pro, which I had only for Civ V -- all other games I am interested in, including Civ IV BtS, run OS X native. I still have it on the dual-boot Win XP/Linux server, but I haven't been playing it for weeks. You can see that I haven't been posting here for long time, either.

I'll check Civ V out in a few months, when they have time to patch it some more. But to be honest, I think this is simply a failed game, as much as I wanted to believe otherwise. All I hope is that they take the few good things and include it in Civ VI.
+1

Civ0.5 is gone from my computer. Back on Civ4.0 + RAND mod

Since, I use to come on the CiV forum to let you know how a massive fan of Civilization, since the first version, is desappointed about this crap new release
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 02:50 PM   #19
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This thread hits the nail on the head. Civ V just isn't as interesting as Civ IV. To point that out is not merely to criticize, but to point in the direction of improvement. There is a lot to like in Civ v, it just needs more.
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Old Nov 20, 2010, 03:24 PM   #20
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I couldn't agree more. I'm wondering if they thought, adding a whole bunch of pretty uncreative steam achievments would replace any of those "small rewards" you re talking about.

In particular I m thinking about the whole ecology factor, that has been taken out. That wasnt such a bad idea in fact (since compensating your fallout with bananas wasnt really realistic or logical), but there s no relation to the planet you're playing on whatsoever. It s just a map. No penalty for chopping down forests or raising factories, no global warming effects or happiness related to surrounding forests (I think that s one aspect that made Alpha Centauri so great). There s no reward for taking care of the planet. And that's just one thing.

Helping a city state would be somewhat motivating, if the quests werent so generic and just so few. City states are static and don't feel alive. After what seems like 2000 rounds, Copenhagen should realize nobody's gonna fulfill their wish to burn down Vienna.

Civ V has done a major step towards simplifying the whole design. Civ has never been so accessible (if you ignore the useless Civilopedia, how did they mess that up?), yet the price being its loss of overall interactivity and possibilities.

E: Another example: The abstraction of happiness: If you re Civ 4 city was overcrowded, you d get an unhappiness penalty. But even that penalty made you think: Ok, I need to do something here. And you had a few number of actions to you disposal. Now there s just this large count of + and -. If people are unhappy, then you ll just build another colosseum anywhere or trade another ressource (that have become so worthless).

Last edited by Ciproflox; Nov 20, 2010 at 03:31 PM.
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