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A "Natural Mechanisms" Game Philosophy

Discussion in 'Civ - Ideas & Suggestions' started by Trade-peror, Apr 26, 2005.

  1. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    Much as I do not expect this suggestion to affect Civ4, I would like to see Civ eventually evolve toward the use of "natural mechanisms" in its game engine. Before I explain the use of this term, allow me to explain my general philosophy:

    Currently, Civ is a game in which the player is the civ he controls, allowing him great control over many aspects of his civ. For practical purposes, however, a number of elements are abstracted to rein in micromanagement. The overall product is a balanced game with a unique perspective.

    I suggest, however, a trend toward more concrete definition of the player's role in his civ, particularly as the government/leadership of his civ. In doing this, many gameplay options in which there are conflicting agendas (such as with factions, civil war, nationalism, religious affiliations, and so forth) become available because the player is not controlling everyone, only a particular side. Otherwise, such conflicts are awkward and difficult to work into the game, since the player's ability to control his civ becomes unclear and/or contradictory.

    By including these "other identities," the game now acknowledges that the player actually plays a certain role in the game, rather than simply is everything in the game for his civ (note now the player is the government of his civ, not the civ itself). This allows the player to reduce his involvement to that of the leadership of his civ, and leave all of the mundane work to the actual civ itself (controlled by the computer). Micromanagement consequently diminishes.

    With these changes, the game environment shifts to that of a dynamic, living world. In Civ, the world is barren in the beginning and only populates with the deliberate efforts of the players manipulating it. In this new philosophy, the players guide a world that already exists. While the world may start fresh and (largely) uninhabited, the world can grow and change on its own, sometimes with the help of players and sometimes to their surprise.

    Finally, I would like to see the conversion of hard limits to processes such as feedback inhibition, used in biological and chemical systems. These models often employ logistic functions in which limits are reached gradually and in a non-linear manner. The initial conditions ("reactants") and products of game processes should essentially convert back and forth as they seek equilibrium, with the physical environment and interactions with other game processes altering and shifting the balances, creating a dynamic game environment. These are the "natural mechanisms" that would make Civ an utterly fascinating world unto itself.
     
  2. Winston

    Winston Warlord

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    Yeah natural mechanisms would definately be better for developing the economic and social aspects of the game. This mechanism would allow for far more complex, specialised economies and it wouldn't become a chore because the AI would do 90% of the work - leaving the other 10% to strategic decisions to be made by the player. The economy could develop organically according to geography, diplomatic relations, techs, city size & facilities etc.

    Natural mechanisms would also allow the introduction of social class systems - each class could potentially contain useful specialists that automatically confer bonuses upon a cities science/ economy/ enable different build options etc and could potentially produce different tech paths etc depending upon how you invest in and develop these classes - this could be done by deciding where to divert the science and luxuries to and where to draw taxes from - different combos produce different results and therefore forces a choice in techs and skills/city specialisms. There would also be a social control element in that you need to keep all classes satisfied with the government and you need to prevent animosity and 'class warfare' between them. This would tie into the unity concept that has been mentioned in other forums and disenchanted classes may stage revolts that cause anarchy/ civil war or they may emigrate away from the city etc.

    Both ideas would involve too much micro-management if the player is forced to do everything himself/herself but this isnt a problem if these things simply develop organically based upon the activities that the player dues throughout the game plus some slider bars to reflect levels of investment in each class.
     
  3. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    While I don't agree with making Civ into a series of natural mechanisms, I definitely agree with the idea of making the player's role more concrete. I always thought that you should be more subservient to popular opinion, although with the power to manipulate it and enough wiggle room to do some stuff your people don't like. Maybe less wiggle room at the higher levels.

    There's a point where naturalizing Civ becomes annoying, and that's when you take choices away from the player. The most dangerous way to take choices away from the player is to emulate the amount of random luck involved in history. Some Civs were just unlucky enough to be eradicated or weakened by disasters. While this would be realistic, I think it would take a lot to make disasters into something that empowers players rather than being a total crap shoot.
     
  4. Vael

    Vael Shadow Angel

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    Plus taking decisions like where to settle cities and a lot of the economic stuff would be taken out of the hands of the player. Civ is a game where the player has control, and for that reason I don't anticipate it will ever go this route.
     
  5. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    Dh_epic, by no means do I advocate "realism for realism's sake," so none of these natural mechanisms should take away from the player's choices; I simply see these models as more interesting and more fun than Civ's rigid and flat linear models. Disasters, as you mention, seem to be largely random and unstrategic phenomena, and these can best be left out (due to a lack of scientific knowledge, we would not be able to fashion natural mechanisms for these if we tried!). Incidentally, I also abhor "spearman beating tank" scenarios for the similar reason that they impart a feeling of randomness to the game.

    Vael, this natural mechanisms philosophy simply means that the game world will grow organically even if left alone, but the player does not lose any control at the higher strategic levels. For example, selecting city construction sites and city improvements to build would would still be player-controllable. The difference, however, is that the player is not exclusively controlling everything, like an engineer controlling a robot. The game population should be allowed to perform basic tasks on its own. In any case, a lot of the "economic stuff" currently in Civ is tedious and annoying for many, so allowing the civ itself to control the more routine tasks that the population is assumed to be performing on its own would ease the micromanagement load of the game considerably.
     
  6. Aussie_Lurker

    Aussie_Lurker Deity

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    I think that, where disasters are concerned, you need to limit them to ones which I player can reasonably control the potential for them to occur. For instance: plagues, famines, civil wars, revolutions, global warming and dark ages are all fine, because the chances of their occurance would be very much effected by player actions-and can teach reckless players that their decisions have CONSEQUENCES (something which seems to be missing at the moment). Earthquakes and volcanoes-otoh-are ones I am less comfortable with, as they are much more random (even though I REALLY like them personally ;)!). Where these latter are concerned, I think that as long as their is great benefit in being close to a volcanoe or faultline-and so long as their is a way of a player severely minimizing the damage caused by them-then they should be included. Otherwise, leave them out-with the option to mod them in if you wish.

    Yours,
    Aussie_Lurker.
     
  7. Albow

    Albow Warlord

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    Hey Aussie,

    You touched on a good point, which is, why did people build near volcanoes in the first place, well, its cause the soil is sooo much better than any other. I'd plant a city with +3 bonus food per square, if there was a 1% chance of having an 'accident' ... just like a nuclear power plant ... lots of benefits, but some risk too ...

    I'd love to see the risk benefits being more intense in Civ. And while I'm ranting, I'd love to see 'disadvantages' for techs ... at the moment, getting techs is the be all and end all, you muct get tech, but really, technology gives many problems too (like pollution, less stable societies - think industrial revolution and Luddits) ...

    ok, rant over ;)
     
  8. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    We've had this disasters discussion over and over ;) It's not a question of whether you can make it work, but a question of whether it's worth all the trouble to come up with a disaster system that's (unrealistically) fair just so players have a chance to manage them.

    But yes, I'm definitely a fan of naturalizing a lot of stuff in Civ. I prefer to use the word "dynamize". Beats the hell out of hardwiring and hard limits and so forth.
     
  9. Aussie_Lurker

    Aussie_Lurker Deity

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    Who says its 'unnaturally' fair, DH_Epic?? With many of the disasters I have mentioned, it IS possible to minimise their impact, by human actions, in real life-which is why I said those ones should be in. IMO, you can't get anywhere near 'reliving history' if the game only simulates the periods of greatest growth and development of a civs history-and not its setbacks and pitfalls. I would personally welcome the challenge of guiding my civilization through the best AND worst times-so long as a knew that recovery was reasonably assured if I made the effort. Given that even your starting location is random, yet can help to decide the outcome of the game, I think this obsession with SEMI-random events is rather strange!!! (Just so you know, I keep playing REGARDLESS of my start position because-as I said-I RELISH the challenge. Then again, it matters less to me whether I win or lose a game, than whether I had FUN!!!!)

    Yours,
    Aussie_Lurker.
     
  10. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    Yeah, I think starting locations have too much of an impact on your success as is. I'd sooner try to make that more (unrealistically) fair than add disasters.

    (Again, we're talking about a game with a deadline, and with a real limit on the number of features you can implement using Soren's "keep the level of complexity the same as Civ 3" principle.)
     
  11. sir_schwick

    sir_schwick Archbishop of Towels

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    This thread wasn't even about disasters! However I do enjoy watching you two argue, so please continue.

    ________________________________________________________________

    @Trade-Peror

    Agreed with the 'natural systems' idea. The most beautiful systems involve the combination of simple and eloquent rules that end up having infinite possibilities. I understand what you mean by organic and have always wanted an organic gameboard(map). Civ is very map-centered, so that is probably the most important element to make organic.

    Cellular Automata - That sounds complicated, but in practice the hard part is programming. Currently the civ board is squares. If they acted as cellular automata, each cell(square) interacts and is affected by the cells immediately adjacent. This means that events in a cell will affect other cell, but that affect is diminished as it travels through more cells.

    This concept can include how many or few rules and 'organic mechanisms' between cells as you want. With some tweaks, you could easily model climate, the effects of deforestation, desert creep, and plenty of other phenomenon without having to program in the unique circumstances.

    For terrain effects this could really add to the game. HOwever the most powerful application is how civies interact with each other. Now the people in each tile could interact with other cells. Now you, as the government, interact with the people rather than being their zeitgeist.
     
  12. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    This sums up the one fundamental change necessary for the natural mechanism system to work. Otherwise, players are really only their controlling robotic civs to destroy each other, rather than dealing with an actual, dynamic world.

    The cellular automata idea sounds very much like what I have in mind. In ecology, organisms and abiotic factors interact and affect each other greatly, but perhaps even more significant are the interactions between the organisms themselves. The terrain in Civ should likewise interact with the population, and the Civs interact among themselves, to produce a dynamic world with virtually infinite replayability due to the many factors involved.

    By the way, thank you, sir_schwick, for pointing out that this is not specifically a disaster thread (there are already plenty of those). It could be discussed as part of this overall concept of natural mechanisms, however, depending partially on what is defined as a "disaster." If the desertification of once fertile farmland is considered a disaster, that could very easily be part of this natural mechanisms system, since it could be the result of long term interactions between a civ and its homeland, such as overuse of land in this case. Flooding could also be included, and even tied into soil erosion issues. In any case, disasters would have to have an obvious gameplay cause and not be completely random. Therefore, earthquakes and tornadoes should not be included, since they have no gameplay causes and do not occur in any predictable pattern relevant to the game. Even volcanoes might be a stretch for erupting randomly, but at least the gameplay cause is evident--volcanoes are placed on the map to indicate that those particular mountains/hills are capable of erupting.
     
  13. GoodGame

    GoodGame Red, White, & Blue, baby!

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    The player is the spirit of the nation, but not divine (except thru CIVEDIT, and even then not Truly Divine).

    Any more 'concrete' than that, and it becomes a different game.

    OTOH, if you mean you more description in the internal situations of a civ, I think most of us want to see that---especially in the decision-making process of the civ's behavior. Especially if the will of the nation seems to conflict human behavior tendencies, which seems like a catch-22 since the nation is a bunch of humans.

    That the player be omni-potent of the choices the nation makes is kind of fun, but also feels un-realistic once you start mastering the gameplay. I'd agree that the harder levels shouldn't just represent AI cheating, but more difficult, and descriptive issues to solve (internal socio-politics).

     
  14. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    This is true, but so is any change, for that matter. ;)

    I have a fairly liberal view on what allows a game to be called "Civilization"--any game that has the "historical feel" associated with previous versions of Civ counts as Civ. In other words, anything in the "spirit" of Civ, even if the actual mechanics are drastically different, is still Civ to me. Otherwise, how can there be new versions in the future that are not just remakes of what we already have?

    By the way, I am not really sure what you mean by "more description in the internal situations of a civ," but my guess is domestic policy. Please correct me if necessary... :)
     
  15. Peck of Arabia

    Peck of Arabia Sociable Recluse

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    Good question! where am I?
    This is the best theory for what Civ should be like, I've possibly ever heard since I read that document about "A big vision for Civ 4". It's exactly what we need to make the game more interesting rather than irrigating every square availabe only gives you more food, it could give soil erosion and desertification. At the moment, civ seems to be encouraging environmental destruction and the civ that can destroy their environment the most, wins. I've often wondered that when I've chopped down an entire rainforest and then covered the grasslands in mines, surely their should be a consequence to this rampant ecological destruction.
     
  16. kafkaesk

    kafkaesk Chieftain

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    I support Trade-Peror´s suggestion (along with the class-idea Winston mentioned.)

    It would mean to finally turn away from the incorrect and as such rather unsatisfying idealistic history-model now represented by the civ-series and attempt to go for a far more believable, materialistic history-model instead.

    However, I somehow doubt such a system would ever be implemented, as it would radically change the nature of the game, turning it into a fascinating simulation rather than the "classical" strategy-game Civilization is liked (and especially: purchased) for.
     

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