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Boredom with CIV5 demystified

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by Bibor, Nov 30, 2010.

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  1. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    Hi, I'm a CIV player. I'm not a bigshot like Sid Meier or a company like Firaxis. But I know stuff. Hell, I'd have to be really dumb not to know at least something about computer gaming. After all, I've been playing computer games for 18 years now.

    The thing is, Sid Meier is not a great game developer. No, really, he isn't. Yes, he's famous, he has some really cool games that bear his name, games like Civilization, Alpha Centauri, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates etc. But he's not a great game developer. What he is good at is finding great game developers.

    Without letting nostalgia getting too much in the way, I can safely say that Civilization I was a godawful game. Civilization II was great but designed by Brian Reynolds. Colonization was designed by Brian Reynolds. Alpha Centauri was designed by Brian Reynolds. Railroad Tycoon 2 (arguably a billion times better than RRT 1 and the best in the series by far) was designed by Pop Top Software. Civilization 4 was designed by Soren Johnson. I think you can see where I'm going with this. Oh, and Civilization 5 was designed by Jon Shafer. Who the hell is Jon Shafer? Oh, he's the guy Firaxis says knows how to design games better than I do. Well I want my 50€ back Jon. Because you and Firaxis lied.

    Unlike Blizzard, Sid Meier nor Firaxis never really understood how or why their games work, which is bizzarre, considering Sid almost single-handedly (lol) defined the 4X genre. Unlike Blizzard or Black Isle or DMA/Rockstar (etc.) a game having a Sid Meier's label is not an assurance of quality. But the man knows how to sell himself, that's for sure.

    If you need further proof that Sid doesn't know jack about computer games, please watch this video (Sid Meier's speech at GDC).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY7aRJE-oOY

    To understand Civilization 5 and its failures, we need to turn the clock back 25 years and take another look at Shigeru Miyamoto's masterpiece Super Mario. It would be silly of me to go into an in-depth description of this game, but the basic principles are very important.

    The four basic principles around which Super Mario is built are these:
    1. For doing okay (having skill) you're neither being awarded nor punished.
    2. For performing badly you're punished.
    3. For peforming great you're rewarded.
    4. For having non-essential talents (exploration, persistence, memory) you're being awarded further.


    Now try to think about any great game you played and ask yourself do these four principles apply to that game. I can say with a 99,9% certainty that they do.

    Now try to apply these principles to Civilization V (regardless of difficulty level) and you'll notice that they don't fit.

    In Civilization V the logic is this:
    1. for doing okay you're rewarded.
    2. for performing badly you're not punished.
    3. For performing great you're not rewarded.
    4. For having non-essential talents you're rewarded.


    If you watched the video, this is exactly what Sid Meier has been saying on GDC. And he's okay with it. Well good for him. Except games and gamers don't work the way he thinks they do. Isn't it bizarre that the publicly best known game developer has no clue about stuff he's been doing for the last few decades?

    Somewhere in these 25 years, as game became more comples, a fifth rule emerged and it's pretty simple:

    5. Players need to feel the consequences of their decisions

    What this means is that actions from rules 1-4 can form a certain "group of actions" and the player can choose between several of these groups to make a "decision". A very simple example of this would be if the next level of Super Mario would depend on what exit you took at the previous level. Another example would be going Specialist Economy in CIV4 or deciding to be a healer in World of Warcraft. Generally speaking, "switching back" from your decision is possible but painful, almost impossible or completely impossible.

    ***

    The reason why Civilization IV plays so much better than Civilization V is because the designer of Civilization IV knew exactly what I've been typing for the last hour here. He took all five rules and distributed them evenly to last throughout the whole duration of the game.

    Lets look at the first 100 turns of the game and tell me which of these wonders, techs or concepts have a greater impact on your game.

    The Pyramids - very powerful SE
    The Great Wall - very powerful Classical tech stealing
    The Oracle - powerful slingshots
    Great Lighthouse - very powerful early economy
    Writing - powerful early tech pace
    Alphabet - first to be able to trade techs
    Polytheism, Meditation, Monotheism - first to found an early religion
    Iron Working - powerful early rush warfare
    Literature - powerful tech trading tool
    Construction - powerful early warfare of a different (balanced) kind
    Good resources in BFCs - very powerful early growth, production or commerce
    Neighbours, their attitudes, religion and location - they will define your game for the next X turns

    You can argue which of the stated wonders/techs will have a greater impact. Yes, you will argue. ARGUE. Because you can. Because all these can be ARGUED about. Because they are worth arguing about.

    Now play the first 100 turns of Civilization 5 and try to find game-defining decisions you made. There are few, if any. And this problem just copies itself to the next 100 and next 100 turns, until the game is over.

    ***

    Conclusion

    Civilization 5 is a game that doesn't reward the player, doesn't penalize the player, offers rewards only at extremely specialized playstyles and - worst of all - strips the player of the liberty (and hazard) of real decision making. The game basically runs itself, with a here-and-there very gentle nudge from the player.

    Good Sid Meier's games were never really Sid's and I doubt he'll stumble upon a new Brian Reynolds or Soren Johnson anytime soon.

    Have a nice evening.
     
  2. Sueff

    Sueff Warlord

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    Sorry, but you lost me at "Civilization I was a godawful game"!
     
  3. Armor (Veteran)

    Armor (Veteran) Warlord

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    I have to strongly disagree with your "Civilization I was a godawful game" as well, though I did read through the rest and agree with much of your IV vs V comparison.

    I'll admit that I have a hard time going back to I or II after playing IV, but that's just because something good was made even better.
     
  4. Qin Shi Huang

    Qin Shi Huang Chieftain

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    Dont understand a couple of things there but I feel inclined to agree with most of them.
    However, as im sure you'll know, there will be man people who disagree
     
  5. nokmirt

    nokmirt Emperor

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    I am just about finishing my second game (my first game stopped at the Classical era, so it, to me, really does not count). I played at warlord level, because I was just learning. Right now in that game I am in the modern era, and it is quite boring. In fact I want to go for any victory possible to end the game. Build the spaceship, culture, diplomatic, anything. I am the most powerful civ as France and Germany is second. I have double the points they do and am number one in every category. I could fight Germany but I have no ambition to for some reason. In civ 4 I have always fought to the end, something always kept you interested.

    I think they took out all of the guts, and we are left with this game that looks good on the outside, but there is nothing there to keep suprising you. We need events, naval battles, AI armies to fear, surprise attacks. And they took away the military statistics. How many units I killed, lost etc, and what unit types they were.

    It gets overwhelmingly boring. The AI does not try to get back at you, once you beat it, it runs and hides cowering. Playing at harder levels will not make a difference, once you learn to defeat it, that's all she wrote. I figured this new game would have a much better AI than civ 4. I think it is actually worse.
     
  6. KahunaGod

    KahunaGod Warlord

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    "Civilization I was a godawful game"! is the only statement I disagree with.

    Otherwise, spot on!
     
  7. lschnarch

    lschnarch Emperor

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    I very much agree, especially with the quoted part.

    With the rest I mainly agree as well. It has been properly stated and holds many points.
    Yet, since a single posting always has to be limited, and since you did not have the intention to post a novel spread over various postings, you had to stay at a very general level.

    I am pretty sure that the ones in disagreement with your thesis will make use of this general level and will try to pick single sentences, just to prove you're wrong.

    Be assured, you are not wrong. Many, if not all things which you've stated are true.
    The current iteration of the franchise is in an awful state to say the least, and any Creative Director (I think that's Mr. Meier's official rank) knowing his business would have done whatever needed to prevent this.

    It is not that Mr. Meier would be guilty of the many design flaws.... but he did allow to let them pass. He takes responsibility for the state of the game, too.

    And people putting high hopes into him as the saviour of the franchise will most probably be disappointed. Think of Civ_Facebook.
     
  8. Sadan01

    Sadan01 Conical Flask

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    I think your reasons sum up why most of the games that I've played with Civ V turn out the same (boring) way. That and the fact that I can beat Civ V on Deity difficulty whereas in any prior version of Civ, I would struggle to beat the game on the second most difficult level. I don't consider myself a particularly accomplished Civ player unlike others that have proven they are great players on this forum. There isn't anything in Civ V that makes me want to come back and play it again. Any prior version of Civ (yes, even Civ III) had me continually playing it.

    So there is something that resonates with me about your post. I do agree with it.
     
  9. Skwink

    Skwink FRIIIIIIIIIITZ

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    tl;dr: The poster is not impressed with V.
     
  10. Mad Hab

    Mad Hab Warlord

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    Civ 1 had some very serious problems (free wonders for the AI, for example), but also lots of fantastic ideas. But then again you can still sustain your point, since Meier himself used to say that Civ 1 wouldn't be half of what it became if not for Bruce Shelley's contributions...

    Best regards!

    Mad Hab
     
  11. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    A few months back I installed CIV one. The first barbarian hut I encountered spawned three Horsemen 4 tiles from my capital. One wandered off, the others promptly killed my one militia and game over. I played CIV one on Amiga, both the regular and the AGA version and there were numerous strategy games at that time that were far more interesting. Civilization was unique in its approach, but so were most games that weren't scrolling shooters. Carrier Command, Kingdoms of England II, Oil Imperium, (Middle East) Conflict just to name a few I remember.

    EDIT: Oh, and the reason why AI combat sucks (and it does) in Civilization V is not because the concepts are bad on their own, but because there's that funny little thing called AI LIMIT. Some things the AI just can't handle. Not now, not ever. Ever maybe being a strong word. Good game developers know this and work around this problem, hiding AI decision-making weaknesses by game design. Human vs. AI was never about a battle among equals, it was about introducing minigames that entertain the player (and helping the AI at the same time). A good example is World of Warcraft. One player versus 5 dumb AI enemies. But the 5 AI enemies interact with each other and the player enters a minigame of who to take out first, who to CC etc. A minigame that promptly makes the player forget how dumb the AI is. Stripping the player of built-in AI capabilities and turning them into variables for the human was always the key for good AI designs. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but not in Sid's games.
     
  12. ImperialGuard

    ImperialGuard Prince

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    I agree with the premise of your OP. Couple of questions/clarifications so I can understand your point better....

    (Actually this is not a question)....I have always considerd Sid to be a "concept guy". I think way back when, he was a programming/design guy with a great concept (Civilization). He took the success granted to him by Civilization and parlayed that into additional opportunities to explore other gaming concepts.....and found good developers to implement the concepts.

    I struggle with these statements, maybe you can qualify your meaning......

    If I perform badly, doesn't the AI beat me?
    If I perform great don't I win ?
    If I perform okay don't I risk the AI beating me?

    Not sure if I'm understanding the intent or not of this ...
     
  13. P-Zombie

    P-Zombie Chieftain

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    I think the rewards are there, but they're too small. The wonders are too weak. The multipliers are too low, or the base number being modified is so low (hammers, for instance) that the multiplier has almost nothing to multiply.

    And nothing really grows. Trading posts and mines have the same gold and hammer values from beginning to end. Any given farm only gets a boost once in a game. Same for lumber mills. Cities themselves fly through the first few pops in no time thanks to maritime food, and then grind to a crawl. In neither mode does the next citizen's appearance generate much excitement.

    It ends up feeling very linear. I think the people most disappointed with this game are those who expected more exponential growth in their empires. And there's very little of that to be found in Civ5.
     
  14. CivFanaticMan

    CivFanaticMan Warlord

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    I have to agree with you. The developers never understood what made Civilization so special: Civilization 4 was built so that the player had an enjoyable experience, where he could be flexible with his decisions. In Civ4 there was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen in the next 10 turns or 100 turns. Something could happen that could ruin your game if your not ready in the next turn. This creates a challenging aspect because you need to be ready to aid your allies or respond to an enemy attack while at the same time building up your cities and keeping your research funding high. The game was designed to be like a great adventure, and winning was an extra reward for those skilled enough.

    Civ5 is a linear game. The Social Policy system takes away a lot of flexibility. If you going for a military victory you go down the military trees. If you decide you can't win a military victory (how could you not?, since the AI wasn't made for 1UPT) switching out of your SP tree is hard because your culture is probably low. Winning in Civ5 is supposed to be the 'game high'. But winning is so easy that it hardly feels like you have done anything major.

    Jon Shafer got it all wrong. He thought: Winning makes you feel good, so winning should be what everyone is seeking. Winning is fun when the road to winning is fun. Starcraft is incredibly fun to play because winning, after playing a challenging opponent (especially if you played really well), feels so good and you feel as though you are on top of the world. Even when you lose but you know you played well, you still feel great. That 'on top of the world' feeling is what I loved about Civ4. But it wasn't only that. The things in the game and things that happened had meaning to me in civ4. In Civ5 the immersion just isn't there.
     
  15. Peregrine

    Peregrine The Swift

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    Superb post, Bibor. Well thought-out and strongly analytical. Agree with everything you've stated, with only one exception;

    Sid might just stumble on another Reynolds or Johnson. You never know. ;)
     
  16. P-Zombie

    P-Zombie Chieftain

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    I don't know if this is an accurate comparison, but the way you put this makes me think of Isaac Asimov, grandfather of modern sci-fi. The way I've heard it, he didn't consider himself to be a particularly good writer. He always expected better talent than himself to come along. He was also more of a "concept guy", blazing a trail for others with greater talent and ambitions to follow. Perhaps there's a parallel to be drawn here?

    And the environment in which Civ1 was developed was so radically different from what exists today, calling it a 'godawful' game is like...calling a Model-T a godawful car. You were expecting Ford's first car to be a Mustang?
     
  17. kayapo

    kayapo Chieftain

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    You lost your argument after this. Sorry...just NO!

    Civ I and Pirates were both designed by Sid Meier and were remarkable games for their time.

    Everything else in your post is a sophism.
     
  18. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    Asimov wasn't a particularly good writer and neither was Tolkien. What matters is that both these writers knew how to create fictional worlds that can become so real in hearts and minds of other people. Sorry, but this can't be said for Sid's work, not even within the limits of the gaming industry. CIV franchise still haven't polished out the combat system. After 20 years of development and multiple different platforms. And warfare is 50% of every CIV-like game. That's terribad.

    CIV1 was a godawful game. We remember it for the civilopedia, the tech tree and other goodies, but not for the strategy game its supposed to be. There's no need to be romantic or sentimental about it. It tried to hide its very limited strategy concepts by ways of animated capture of cities, building your palace and whatnot. Pirates! suffered from different problems: there was much to do but little to really accomplish, not in a "oh this is now wrapped up" way. The remake was much better, but still not very replayable.


    There's nothing remarkable about spending 30 minutes on an island trying to reach a city via land with no clues whatsoever what the designer had in mind when he designed that type of activity. Not to mention there was no logic behind liberating or capturing colonies and the whole concept of a network of colonies was moronic because it didn't exist. Do I need to continue? I loved its game for being piratey and for the cool fights, but the game in its whole was half-finished at best. Conceptually as well. Calling someone a visionary is dangerous business. Hey, I predict holocube data storage in the future! I'll make a really good concept and tell it to all my friends! Doesn't matter that I have no clue how its actually supposed to work! And why!

    My post can hardly be treated as sophism, because it's based on observation and experimentation. Your argument sounds more like a Creationist one :D
     
  19. Bernout1

    Bernout1 Warlord

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    I agree with most of the OP's comments except I think he might be a little harsh on Sid himself. I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't have had significant creative input on the games he's been involved with regardless of who was named as the "designer".

    Anyhow, I'm waiting for the promised MP patch to deal with what is undoubtedly a weak SP AI. This game SCREAMS for a Pitboss server and full game of 12 people. :)

    There are also some balance issues that need to be addressed. The most significant of which are the Maritime city states that give you so much food.

    Bernout
     
  20. P-Zombie

    P-Zombie Chieftain

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    But that's my point. You couldn't drive a Model-T 100k miles either. It wasn't a good car. But it did make clear what a car could be.

    Or, take a more Civ-related example: the cannon used against Constantinople. It didn't really accomplish much in the battle. It wasn't a good cannon. But it was still important historically.

    Do you see what I'm driving at?
     
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