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Civ V's downfall: differences between programming and designing

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by Thimble, Jan 5, 2011.

  1. Thimble

    Thimble Chieftain

    Sep 29, 2010
    At heart, Civ V is a boardgame. The type of person who excels at building a boardgame is quite different than someone who is a brilliant programmer.

    The old Id games (Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake) were incredible, technically speaking. Gamewise, they were very simplistic. And a lot of the game elements (basically everything outside the 3D engine) for Doom were not designed by Jon Carmack, but Tom Hall.

    Technically, Civ V is a giant leap over Civ IV due to the complexities of switching to hexes and 1UPT. But game design wise, a lot was removed from the table. Game design went backward in the latest iteration. Not only is the latest game simpler (not always a bad thing), but the balance is totally out of whack. And, like Sulla said, the fun parts were stripped out.

    What Civ V needed was to consult with a designer with a boardgame background. Someone like Matt Leacock (Pandemic), Andreas Seyfarth (Puerto Rico), etc... Someone who could say "Is this fun? No? Then how about this?" without regard for the technical or marketable challenges.
  2. Surgeon

    Surgeon Warlord

    Aug 20, 2002
    The biggest thing letting the game down for me is the AI* which is what I thought you were getting at with that subject line but then you end saying its the basic design and a board game designer could have fixed it... So I guess I'm disagreeing, its not a design problem for me but an implementation problem, something you don't need a specific type of designer to fix/identify, just a good one.

    *explaining further. 1UPT is a great idea and they should try to avoid going back to the stack of doom (zzzzzz boring) BUT the AI can't handle it. Add balace issues like the +33% +25% defense in own lands social policies and the poor AI has real trouble attacking anyone and surviving. Yeh i know i can not use those social policies but its so tempting!
  3. DaveGold

    DaveGold Emperor

    Dec 1, 2009
    I'm not convinced by board game connection. CIV5 is a poor game with congestion problems in limited space, mathematical decisions, and high maintenance for assets. Powergrid does all that in a board game and is a very, very good!

    Computer games should provide much more scope and less abstraction than a board game, need a completely different interface, and should encourage solo thinking time during play rather than involve all players regularly.
  4. AriochIV

    AriochIV Colonial Ninja

    Jul 25, 2006
    Civ V has problems both in design and execution. The design is flawed, and the coding is flawed. It's very hard to say which is worse.
  5. spoooq

    spoooq Warlord

    Sep 14, 2006
    I posted this a while ago. It definitely has the feel of a boardgame to me too.
  6. ohioastronomy

    ohioastronomy King

    Dec 14, 2005
    I really like the Euro-style board games, but Civ 5 lacks their careful attention to balance. I also doubt the mass appeal, because there are a lot of aspects of the game which are traps for the inexperienced. Build a lot of things in your cities...and drive your economy into the dumpster without knowing why. Do well in a war, have someone offer you a lot of cities...and get crippled by happiness. Build a bunch of cities and slam up against the happiness ceiling. Deal with the bizarre diplomacy system. Try to use the cultural policies and get sandbagged by too many cities.

    Vets can work their way around these things, but they are not intuitive and mass-appeal friendly.
  7. Eskel

    Eskel Warlord

    Mar 19, 2006
    Poznań, Poland
    I guess problem lies within fact that Firaxian and 2K's high ranked "suits", blinded by success of Civ 4 (which was in many ways streamlined in comparison to Civ 3) and driven by the desire of appealing to mass market, couldnt understand properly the meaning of popular principle: "gameplay >> realism".

    I think it means no more, no less but that game's rules cannot fully simulate reality, as too complex games are becoming unfun. Somewhat it goes along with rule of thumb : perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away. This idea is very well supported by factual background, as human mind has its finite capabilities. Usually people gets tired and frustrated when they are forced to put too much effort into understanding something that should be just relaxing entertainment.
    It might seem then that less is better.

    However, it is not truth. That principle, as much as every else, has its extents. While usually right, it doesnt automatically mean that in every single case less is better than more, nor that rules can become irrational in sake of good gameplay. It is not that simple. I would dare say, that it is allowed untill it gets into conflict with logic, common sense and everyday experience.
    My statement comes off directly from the same source as "gameplay >> realism" principle. Human mind gets momentarily absorbed and its activity rises when it meets something unexpected, e.g. logical inconsistencies. Moreover, illogical rules might be received as unjust by player who judges them on his own merit and everyday experience and cause frustration. Which means, that right in general principle, improperly applied could bring conterproductive results.

    The reasons why and when it can happen constitutes difference between just programming (ability to program rules) and designing (knowledge how to construct rules or when apply/not apply them).

    IMO that is perfect explanation why game developers need not only programmers and managers, but game designers as well - if not in the first place. Regrettably, that is also an area where Firaxis/2K failed badly in case of Civ 5. It seems that in pursuit of profit, they actually forget how to make good games. Did they just belived in lucky star of Jon Shafer, or thought that 1UPT alone will make up for the whole game?
  8. oChuckles

    oChuckles Chieftain

    Mar 16, 2010
    How exactly is Civ V more of a board game than the other Civ games? I've always thought of them as board games, really. It would be easy to stack chips on top of one another or something to represent stacks... you know, with a "stack." Not that much more of a pain than keeping track of bonuses and resources would be. (Really any civ game would be pretty annoying as a board game and require lots of little pieces for your dog to choke on beyond just military units.)
  9. Smote

    Smote Emperor

    Aug 23, 2007
    I can see the whole board game thing. I've always considered Civ5 as a complicated game of chess, with a random component as well (map, ancient ruins, combat results).
  10. Maestro_Innit

    Maestro_Innit Warlord

    Jan 6, 2006
    Derby, England
    All strategy and "God games" are board games rendered on a computer. Not sure why this is such a big revelation to people. Can anyone name one that isn't? :confused:
  11. Venereus

    Venereus This Is Streamlined!

    Aug 8, 2010
    Black & White? It's a god-awful game more than a God game, but still counts.
  12. Nares

    Nares Emperor

    May 2, 2006
    Apparently the real problem was that they assigned an unqualified and inexperienced modder as the lead design on a game which not only demands a high level of professionalism to maintain the appeal of a long running series, but also demanded a high level of skill in implementing what is to this game a radical change (1UPT).

    It's the kind of thing you'd expect some veteran developer who quite probably led development of the last title in the series to tackle, and even then temper your optimism.

    The game completely reflects that inexperience.
  13. spoooq

    spoooq Warlord

    Sep 14, 2006
    There are many computer games that, while it may be possible to execute as boardgames, are not practical due to number of units, or complexity of calculations, or so on. It is more about the feel of the game, as in a group of humans could handle the rules and apply the maths. The point with CiV is that the rules feel simple enough that they could be written on a sheet of paper and handed out around a table.
  14. edpovi

    edpovi Chieftain

    Jun 15, 2010
    Civ has been translated into boardgames multiple times, there are two versions with Sid's name. Both of those games are MUCH less complex than any computer version of CIV.
  15. Poke

    Poke Warlord

    Oct 30, 2010

    I don't consider either of these complex. Hexagons are simple from into a grid, and 1UPT has been employed effectively in all the popular tactical RPGs of yore
  16. Markstar

    Markstar Warlord

    Jan 24, 2001
    I have to say that while I don't like Civ5 at all, I disagree with most of what you said. But most importantly this:
    The switch to hexes did not increase the complexity of the game from a programming perspective at all. As was discussed elsewhere, hexes are actually easier to implement than squares and result in much easier algorithms, since distance calculations are straightforward compared to squares.

    Also, I don't think 1UPT is that much of an accomplishment (especially when Civ5 was released), since the AI clearly has (had?) no idea how use the concept effectively. What the AI basically does is build a little of this, build a little of that and hope to cause some trouble for the human player. :mischief:
  17. serikas

    serikas Chieftain

    May 5, 2003
    Civ 5 is more board game like than previous ones.

    For example, commerce. In civ 5, all cities trade exclusively with their capital only, and they never trade with any other cities. And there is very simple formula to calculate the commerce: 1.25 * population.

    This is a logical choice for a board game because people are trying to play a game not math assignments. However, civ is a computer game, and computer can calculate complicated formula very fast. There is no point of oversimplifying things here.

    Many other mathematical aspect of the game is so simple and/or linear that it is not too hard to believe that the formulae are made to enable human players do the math by hand.
  18. moscaverde

    moscaverde Prince

    Apr 26, 2004
    *Agree with serikas that Civ 5 feels much more like a boardgame than the previous iterations (even more so Civ 4, wich for me feels more like a sandbox/godgame).
    *All the ingame reference to rules, pointysticks and the game itself kill the immersion I would want in a Civ game.
    *No, i don't want Civilization to feel like a boardgame (there's the actual gameboard for this) like Catan or Puerto Rico.
  19. suliman

    suliman Chieftain

    Jul 19, 2006
    Thats not a giant technical leap. Its not hard to do at all technically. To code a 1UPT game is basically easier then allowing stacks. Its harder to do the ai for such a system though. But in civ 5 they didnt do a AI for that obviously... The AI cannot play for S.H.I.T.

    Hexes are more tricky than square tiles, but its not at all something to mension for a programming crew that deals with multiplayer and 3d graphics. I can do it myself damnit.

    These are two good changes in civ 5 though (1UPT and hexes). AI and extremely long waiting times are the worst problems...
  20. OrsonM

    OrsonM Our man

    Jan 1, 2011
    Well that's debatable, before Civ 5 all the AI had to do was stack all the units in one gigantic SOD and attack smaller SOD's. Now it has to evaluate each option, has to plan ahead, now it can't move all units at once and most definitely cannot spam units like it used to. Before Civ 5 it didn't really matter how you would move artillery or bows, you'd just stack them in one gigantic tile with everything else (and archers were defensive units, not offensive units).

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