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[GS] CivVI is just way , way too easy: Difficulty [redux]

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by acluewithout, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. acluewithout

    acluewithout Deity

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    I posted about Civ’s difficulty last year. See here. So, what’s changed post Gathering Storm?

    Well, GS has clearly made Civ VI a way better game. GS has massively improved the game in three key ways. First, content. Sure, there are still some Civs, Leaders, units and mechanics I'd like in the game, but Civ VI does now feel like there is a satisfying amount of crunch. There is just.... so much good stuff. Second, functionality and polish. The game now has a lot QOL improvements and is much more polished overall. Dear God. The Scout has a cat. Actually. Multiple Cats. Just awesome. Third, balance and bugs. Lots of mechanics are now better balanced and a lot of bugs are fixed. Did anyone notice Spain - Spain !?! - just got cool. And in the coolest way possible - by nerfing inquisitors for everyone else?? Oh Phillip, you rogue. Just awesome. So much awesome.

    But here’s the catch. As the game gets better and better, it’s highlighting more and more what's holding back Civ VI. And what's that?

    Civ is still too easy.

    The AI is not the (only) problem

    The overall gameplay objective of Civ is broadly to “survive”, “expand” and “complete one of the victory conditions (before someone else does)”. Yeah, you may do some other stuff - 4X stuff, roleplaying stuff, chasing steam achievement stuff. But survive, expand, and win are what the game is driving you to do at its most basic.

    Thing is, none of that is hard to do. The game doesn’t really make you work to just survive, in that your cities are self sustaining as soon as they’re settled, although some work is required to make them grow. Sort of like Sea Monkies. Angry violent Sea Monkies. Expansion and winning do require more effort, although expansion fundamentally is just a matter of building settlers and moving them and their adorable donkeys somewhere (everyone has donkeys - not horses or iron - but yeah, donkeys) and most VCs just require you to fill a bucket within a time limit, so even these elements aren’t that hard really. I mean, if you wanted to, you could play the Maori, sit in the middle of the ocean until turn 450, found a city and then just chop in your exoplanet Mission. Choice, Bro.

    So, where is the challenge? Well, rather that make the core tasks intrinsically hard (remember - survive, expand, win) the game instead throws external things at you to pull you off course. Let’s call these “challenges”, i.e. mechanics, elements, events, that make it harder to survive, expand and win.

    So, what are these challenges?

    The AI. The AI is the main way Civ tries to challenge you. The AI can do a lot to challenge you in principle - steal good city locations and resources, compete for important boosts (eg Religion, Great People, Suzerain), fight you, destroy your stuff, win before you do (reducing how long you have to “win”, forcing you to play more efficiently or buy more time), “not cooperate”, or steal your girlfriend. I think the last one is a Spy Mission. Or maybe they use Rock Bands. Anyway...

    But as we all know, the AI doesn’t do any of this very well most of the time. From the last patch notes, you can see FXS are working very hard to improve the AI, but it’s just not there yet. So, the AI as a source of challenge just isn’t working. It’s, you know, “okay”. But that’s it.

    It’s actually worse than it looks too. Leaving aside the AI’s strategic and tactical abilities, its “intelligence”, on higher difficulties the AI doesn’t even get much help except for a few early bonuses. Once you start the game, the AI doesn’t get any more free Units, its bonuses don’t really scale, and it struggles with a lot of mechanics which the player in constrast can use easily (eg rams). The AI doesn’t for example get extra resources, or extra loyalty from golden ages etc. There’s really very little helping the AI overcome its intellectual limitations. Worse, there’s no mechanism for the AI to catch up with the player if the player gets ahead. So, once you overtake the AI, it’s largely screwed.

    Okay, so the AI isn’t that challenging. But what other challenges are there?

    Barbarians. Okay, so these little guys do create challenge, but only early game and they’re very one dimensional. Still, they can create early bottlenecks or slow you down. And they’re also interactive given that they also give you eurekas and era score. Good work little red non-specific barbarians. But yeah, after the early game, these guys are irrelevant. Although, I saw some barbarian GDRs on reddit. Shudder.

    Loyalty. Loyalty did create some new difficulty initially when RnF came out, but people quicky worked out that you can beat loyalty by steamrolling the AI. You can do most things by steamrolling the the AI. And loyalty really only comes into play via the AI - if the AI isn’t near you, and isn’t creating loyalty pressure, then you don’t have to worry about loyalty. There’s nothing else that really causes loyalty to become a problem, except maybe having cities with different majority religions (and only if you founded a religion) or starvation via eg droughts (which seems rare). So, loyalty is only a problem if the AI forward settles you early (so, back to the AI creating challenge, which it’s not good at doing), or you conquer cities or settle cities and don’t manage loyalty properly (silly you). At best, loyalty is a slight drag on aggressive expansion into occupied parts of the map - and not much of a drag at that.

    I know they’ve been busy, but FXS haven’t done much with loyalty ("yet" ... I really hope it's "yet"). To me, it’s still incredible that captured cites immediately become “loyal” once you peace out - new cities don’t choke under the yoke of their oppressor, instead they just sort of quietly join in with the rest of the empire generating 1 loyalty per pop (depending on Era). I assume everyone is just passive aggressively producing 2f2p. You would think captured cities would have a permanent negative to loyalty, degrading over time, and or be more vulnerable to spies causing revolt. But, no; Once you’re in charge of a captured City, the population just falls in line.

    Era. Getting Era score is generally not that hard (other than maybe avoiding a classical dark age). But leaving that aside... what impact do Eras even have? Dark Ages and Golden Ages impact loyalty ... but really, all Eras do is magnify or reduce loyalty pressure, and as discussed loyalty is only a problem if you or the AI make it a problem. If you’re in a Dark Age, there’s no real negative unless you deliberately take a Dark Age Card. Golden Ages have no downside either, but they’re also not even critical to obtain. It’s nice having a Golden Age - the loyalty buffs and dedications make expansion easier - but you never really need a Golden Age to survive, expand or win. You don’t even compete for Era score really - if the AI earns more Era score it doesn’t make it harder for you to win your own Golden Age (beyond a few “more Era score for x if you’re the first to do x”). The only completion really is don't have a dark age when your neighbour has a golden age. So, the Era / Ages mechanics are really just all upside, and so don’t add much challenge.

    Resources. It’s early days, but so far it seems the new resource system doesn’t create a lot of challenge. It’s not hard to get the resources you need (except maybe niter). And later in the game, having resources isn’t that critical - you don’t need power to survive, expand (are you even still expanding late game?) or ultimately win, and you don’t need a very big army either usually (again, because the AI is weak). This means you’re not under pressure to get resources and you’re not really forced to choose between power v military or power v climate change (and even then, it seems climate change is basically inevitable given other Civs will pollute anyway and is unlikely to hurt much if it does kick in).

    Disasters. Man, I love the new Natural Disasters system. Something about rivers, storms, volcanoes and the new map and continent scripting means maps are now just awesome. But. Again, early days, so far it doesn’t look like natural disasters or climate change really hamper your empire that much. Your empire is unlikely to be ravaged by floods or storms, causing your citizens to revolt. And even if you are pillaged, you just repair and you’re done. Perhaps if climate change caused wider and more pervasive changes to terrain - eg plains turning to desert - it would make more difference. But as the game is now, Disasters are fun but kind of inconsequential.

    Happiness, money and other yields . I’ve discussed this before (see signature), but Civ VI doesn’t really impose any empire management. As discussed, loyalty is only an issue if other empires apply pressure. Your empire requires a certain amount of food, happiness and gold to keep running, but this never creates challenges because the amount of each is largely static, and is based on population and infrastructure which you control - ie if you don’t have the amenities to support a big empire that’s not a problem, because you just avoid having a big empire.

    Your empire has to live within its means in Civ, but doing so is trivial. I mean, honestly, even going to war doesn’t create any real drain on your empire. You don’t have to spend extra gold running a war (historically, wars are fairly expensive). The only issue is maybe war weariness, but given you control growth you can just avoid the potential amenity issues by keeping your populations small. And there are plenty of wonders and polices that make any additional amenity needs irrelevant anyway.

    Your empire doesn’t even become more demanding over time - there’s no inflation or rising expectations. So, for example, at the start of the game, each 2 pop requires 1 amenity, which you can satisfy eg with truffles or ivory. Come the Industrial Era, and rising standards of living etc and ... each 2 pop still only needs 1 amenity, and people are still happy with truffles and ivory...? Huh?

    Civ VI has made some baby steps here. Keep upgrading your armies, and they do get more expensive. Flood barriers have variable maintenance costs. Govenors can be (temporarily) lost (although only through AI action). Luxuries can (maybe) be banned. Some mechanics, like Ancestral Hall, do have negatives. But empire management is still very limited, and there is very little that’s unpredictable (beyond the AI).

    FXS, we have a problem.

    Can we just reflect on the problem we have here?

    The main source of challenge in Civ VI is the AI - ie the AI is doing all the heavy lifting in terms of making the game “hard”. But the AI is not very good strategically or tactically. It also gets very little mechanical help to enable it to overcome its lack of strategic or tactical ability. And once you overtake it ... it’s irrelevant.

    Can you think if any other game like this? It’s like playing, I don’t know, Doom. But there’s only level one monsters throughout all the levels, that never get more powerful and no new more powerful monsters ever appear. And the level one monsters have little or no tactical pathing, so just run at you. And you also keep getting power-ups and leveling up as the game progresses.

    This is not a recipe for engaging or challenging gameplay.

    But don’t worry. Just in case “really easy” isn’t easy enough, the game goes out of its way to make things even easier.

    Civ VI gives you very few challenges; and then actively makes life even easier for you

    Population control. I’ve already touched on this, but players basically have complete control on how fast their populations grow. This is because growth is controlled by housing, and the player has absolute control over housing. In turn, the fact the player has almost total control over population size is a huge advantage. It basically allows players to avoid most mechanics dealing with managing your empire - particularly amenities - by avoiding growth.

    This is bad gameplay and also deeply unrealistic. Really, success in Civ should result in uncontained and unpredictable growth, which in turn should force the player to have to react to manage their growing empire by finding more amenities and resources to keep everyone happy. And the amenity needs of your empire should change. People can’t be happy with truffles and ivory and whales and foxes forever. Players need to be forced to find new sources of amenities. Keeping everyone happy should get harder and harder.

    Science and Culture are so easy to get. It’s very easy to rush culture and science - just keep plonking down districts. Keep pillaging. Keep grabbing Eurekas (which are all fairly easy to get). You’re not even penalised for rushing through the tech trees or expanding. At least with obsolescence prior to GS, if you rushed science or culture you might not have the right cards to build units etc., or you may lose access to earlier units but might not have the resources to build newer units. Pollution helps this a little, in that is penalises some Industrial Era development, but so far it doesn’t seem like pollution or climate change are much of a challenge.

    Science is the worst offender here. Being able to spam campuses and then spam projects means you just rocket through the tech tree. And then that has knock on effects, increasing the yields from chopping and pillaging exponentially. Indeed, GS has made this much worse: there are more mountains, so high adjacency campuses are much easier to get; disasters keep boosting food yields; Pingala easily gives you 6 or 7 science early particularly with all the bonus food in the game. There’s lots of clever ways to get science and culture - trade, specialists slots in Harbours and Encampments, Policies, Dedications - but none of them matter because you just spam Campuses and Pingala. (And while we’re at it - there is so, so much gold in the game - it’s crazy.)

    Quests. Civ has a lot of questing. City State quests; Eureka quests; Agenda quests; quests to get Era score; quests from your dedications. Quest, quest, quest. Gee whizz, who’d have thought running an empire was about running so many errands?

    I actually like the questing, and I think the reason there is so much of it is that FXS see it works. It does suffer from being a bit random though - there doesn’t seem to be any logic to City State quests, and the Era score quests are just a laundry list of stuff to do. It’s really only dedications that have some overarching logic, letting you decide what you want to do and then rewarding you for staying on track.

    But anyway. Love them or hate them, quests basically reward you with yields or bonuses. And it turns out that, playing carefully, you can really maximise these quests with the result that speeding through the tech tree becomes faster and faster and faster. Add into that the pillaging changes, and tech progression becomes just trivial.

    Governors. Governors are extremely powerful buffs, and you don’t even have to work for them. I like Governors. And while I think maybe they lack some flavour and flexibility (again, see my sig), mechanically they are very solid and they let you really specialise cities in a very satisfying way.

    But... for all their power, you just get titles without really having to do anything. You don’t compete for good governors with the AI like you do with great people, so you can always get the ones you want. And the titles, and the governors and promotions, just keep coming. As you rush through the tech tree, you keep getting more and more titles without fail. You’re not even under pressure to spend those titles on anything else - indeed, you can’t - and you can’t even avoid them really to make the game harder (although I guess in principle you could refuse to spend your titles, but that’s not very satisfying). Part of the issue is that the game assumes a tension between having promoted governors in your cities boosting yields etc, and being forced to spread your governors around your empire to maintain loyalty. But as we’ve already discussed, loyalty is rarely a problem, so that tension never emerges. Governors are just a free leg up.

    Difficulty levels. Leaving aside the AI, I think the biggest problem Civ has is how it handles difficulty levels. It’s clear FXS have been very conservative with challenges in order not to discourage players, particularly around issues like managing your empire’s happiness and maintenance costs and not making dark ages too punishing. And the thing is, that may well be the right approach for a lot of players.

    But if you want to up the challenge, what options does FXS give you? Well, the main one is to play on a higher diffulty level. And that’s the problem. Difficulty levels actually do very little to increase challenge. As I’ve said, Difficulty levels give the AI some early flat bonuses ... but then that’s it. The AI gets a leg up, but with how fast it is to earn science and culture, plus Eurekas, plus governors, and able to ignore distractions like needy high pop cities or loyalty etc., you quickly catch-up. The AI however gets no further help, no more bonuses, so as we discussed - the AI is screwed.

    The problem is that you have the same game rules for each difficulty. Loyalty has no new dynamics. Amenity needs don’t change. Eurekas are the same. Ages have the same thresholds. Costs are the same. You can still spam campuses. You can play on higher difficulties, but because it’s the same rules - ie you can use all the same “leg up” mechanisms - the additional difficulty just falls away.

    Think about it - why does the game uses the same rules for all difficulties? Sure, there are lots of harder, more punishing mechanics that you can’t impose on casual players or players at lower difficulties. But equally, you can’t expect more experienced players or players on higher difficulties to play with the same training wheel mechanics that weaker players need. You just can’t cover everybody with one set of rules. It’s just crazy.

    So, where do we go from here?

    Okay. So let’s be really clear about two things. First, Civ VI is genuinely a great game, and even better with GS. You can see that lots has gone into this game, that there’s a great development team behind it, and it’s fun to play and very satisfying. What we’re just talking here about how the game could be better. But yeah, the game is too easy, and it bends over to make itself even easier.

    Second, I keep saying Civ VI is easy. But I do get not everyone finds it easy. Indeed, with all its mechanics, many people find it quite hard - at first, and maybe still later on. When I say it’s easy, I mean it’s easy once you learn the basic mechanics and a few key strategies. I genuinely don’t think Civ VI is a hard game to master - anyone with a few game hours and or reading a few forum posts can play and win. Once you master it, it’s then trivial to win, with real skill only being required to win quicky / sub 200 (for example).

    I posted this thread because I want to get people to stop focusing on the AI, and starting thinking more about the difficulty of the game more generally. And I want FXS to think more about challenge generally, and get out of this rut where they think the game needs to be easy to not discourage new players. (Well, that’s what I think they think - I may well be wrong about that.)

    I’m really not sure that keeping the game “easy” for casual players is right, but even if it is, FXS need to stop treating “easy and accessible” and “challenging” as mutually exclusive, which is what they seem to be doing. This is because, if FXS introduce more punishing mechanics, then they can always provide bonuses on lower difficulties to help casual players manage those (ie an “assist mode” as game designers call it now) or put those mechanics behind options or walls - and in particular, put them behind difficulty levels.

    Playing GS, what strikes me is how enjoyable the game is, even though it is so easy. The map looks amazing now. There are so many interesting strategies you can play. And you can make the game more challenging to an extent by limiting what you do (eg don’t take Goddess of the Harvest, don’t spam Cities or Campuses, don’t take out other Civs entirely etc), playing to certain goals (e.g. 8cities on foreign continents by turn 200), and / or playing “efficiently” and seeing if you can beat the game is less than 200 turns or faster. Civ VI is a beautiful game, that really does have great strategic depth mechanically. ...but at the same time, the lack of challenge also robs the game of a lot of pleasure. Epic moments get undercut by just how easy victories are, or how meaningless defeats or setbacks are because they lack any teeth.

    Of course, this is where the AI comes back into the story. Because the AI’s lack of strategic or tactical challenge is part of what undercuts the game - and then hurts people’s perception of the game given the bad reviews and comments it produces on forums and in the media. The AI needs to get better. But while the AI is part of the problem - a big part - it is still only part. The game needs be focused on challenge across the board. And at the moment, it just doesn’t do that.

    I’m not going to post detailed suggestions on how to fix the game’s lack of challenge, because I don’t want to turn this into an ideas thread. But I do want to point a few things out to try and clarify my point.

    Given the observations above, I think there are a few things FXS need to look at in particular beyond fixing he AI..

    First, like I’ve said, they need to look at slighlty different rule sets for different difficulty levels
    . Even something as simple as making Era score or Eurekas harder to earn at higher difficulties would make a big difference (eg higher Era thresholds for the player, or more challenging Eureka requirements). And they need to stop frontloading the AI’s bonuses. There is a problem with the strategic and tactical abilities of the AI. By all means, keep trying to improve the AI. But until it’s amazing, give it some help. And not just at the start of the game.

    Second, Loyalty, Dark / Golden Ages and maybe Govenors need another look. There are more detailed comments in my signature, but for example making both Dark Age and Golden Age Dedications have built in negatives, therefore forcing Dark Ages to be more challenge and stopping Golden Ages being unrelentingly good, would create more interesting choices and make the game more challenging. Likewise, loyalty needs to be more complex, more challenging. Captured cities in particular need to be something that cause more trouble.

    Third, progress, or at least fast progress, needs to have trade offs. Climate change is a baby step in this direction, as are Tier 4 Governments having negatives, but frankly the removal of obsolescence (eg unit production cards working for all prior era units) is a massive step backwards.

    • The most fundamental thing here is that population growth needs to stop being under the player’s total control. The game has lots of mechanics that could challenge the player, particular happiness, but they’re irrelevant so long as the player has absolute control of Population.
    • Relatedly, other than climate change which frankly doesn’t have much impact, Industrialisation is just too focused on the good rather than the negatives - see here. Industrialisation needs to provide big buffs, but it needs to have downsides too. I get that, for Civ, progress means “better”. Better units, better buildings, more production, more everything. But for Civ to be challenging, progress itself needs to create new challenges that you’re forced to meet.
    • Lastly, the ease you can earn culture and science need another look. Developing your societies culture and science should be a battle. Pulling yourself up from and out of the Stone Age should require will, discipline and cunning. You should be squeezing every purple and blue dot you can out of specialists, Trade Routes, tiles, dark age card. But hats never going to happen if you can just throw down a tonne of blue districts and watch the techs fly by while you crank out Builders to chop your space missions.
    Like I said. GS introduces a lot of great stuff. Civ VI is categorically a better game than at release, and I think it’s the best version of Civ we’ve ever had. But the game need to challenge its players.

    You can’t build an empire to stand the test of time, if the game gives you all the time in the world to build your empire and never tries to test you.

    [edit: clean up. Some additional comments on yields and updated conclusion. Changed title to make the point of the thread clearer.]
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
  2. cvb

    cvb Prince

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    Great post, some additional thoughts.

    I suppose, a lot of the more "competitive" players will disagree and insist in playing "the same game" with "the same rules", without "cheating". (Still humans like notoriously complex & complicated rules, which is to their advantage and also cannot afford to wait for the AIplayers to make their moves.)

    "But if you want to up the challenge, what options does FXS give you?"
    If you want to up the challenge, You have to decide what the game is, by which rules You want to play. They will continue to look at the majority of players ("everybody is above average").
    I like the stories reported about Paul Morphy, how he "upped the challenge". He played blindfold chess in which he regularly played and defeated eight opponents at a time (in another room) while being busy the whole evening also playing Whist (related to the Bridge card game) ...

    Now as AI+ Siesta Guru seems to be back again, I have hopes, that the release of the DLL sources "Soon!" ™ will us allow to get rid of the DLL overruling with random moves whatever is coded in Lua.

    For the rest we just need some difficulty balancing ("cheating")
    - Barbarians
    In civ4 I have made good experiences with some rebellions now and then ... I dislike "empty" human empires, with just troops on the active fronts: extra units, barbarians (randomly harmless up to dangerous) as well as regular opposing troops, especially near cities with a different 'previousOwner' :D
    - The AI
    I fear, we have to go to the utmost/damnedest, we have to provoke the AI (with "felt" own military strength) ... give them LOTSOF free units and/or at least military pseudoyield ...

    A bit Soren Johnson has to say: - there are always the same two things, I remember first: Game.getSorenRandNum and this "The AI Code to Civ4 ... compile it yourself: 2kgames.com/civ4/downloads.htm" overhead during a talk on game AI. Soren Johnson on challenging the norms of 4X games

    .
     
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  3. acluewithout

    acluewithout Deity

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    I agree you can adjust the difficulty of the game by playing with your own rules or with particular goals. That’s a good thing.

    But there are limits to that approach. At some point, you feel less like you’re actually trying to play the game in a more challenging way and more that you’re deliberately playing the game in a perverse way or turning it into pure roleplaying.

    I avoid the OP pantheons; I don’t build too many campuses; I avoid Knights. But how far do I go down that path before I’m not really even playing with most of the mechanics?

    I think trying to create challenging games via “peaceful play” is particularly worrying. Deliberately avoiding most of the mechanics of the game, because the AI is so weak militarily, to create challenge just seems perverse.
     
  4. Casworon

    Casworon Warlord

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    That 10 crowns interview is fascinating and makes me very excited about the game.

    For difficulty i do think its a problem of empire management being too easy and AI being too weak.

    When i heard about rise and fall and the dark ages i got really excited since i thought they where actually bringing in the possibility of your empire to fall. However this just didn't happen. Dark ages changed almost nothing and instead gave you powerful dark age cards.

    I think Civ VI could be made into a challenging and interesting game but i feel the way AI bonuses are handled has to change completely.

    One player vs Ai game which i feel handles difficulty perfectly is a game called infested planet.

    Rather than get straight resource bonuses i would like to see the AI and the difficulty be adaptive to how the player is doing.

    For example if the player is speeding towards a science victory. Maybe a few of the AI could get a special perk that allows them to build spies really quickly and have them be more effective. While another AI gets a big reduction to unit costs and they go on a warpath.

    My idea is that every era the AI gets a new 'trait' bonus. This bonus is picked from a pool of different bonuses and is chosen depending on how the player is playing to try and counter their strategy.

    I think this is how you make singleplayer games interesting. You have to completely give up on the idea of having the AI play the same game by the same rules and instead see it as an instrument to provide challenge and an interesting experience. But to do this it has to adapt to how the player is playing so it keeps up the challenge.

    All of this could be done by modding scripts i think if somone has the required skills and had the time.

    Tldr
    Inspiration should be taken from infested planet on how to manage AI bonuses
     
  5. acluewithout

    acluewithout Deity

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    @Zenphys Some of those sorts of special perks should really come through the World Congress and or Emergencies. If you’re rocketing to victory, it’s the natural forum for the other Civs to clip your wings.

    Just an example; but one player launching the first Earth Satellite should be an Emergency. It was is real life! When the Russians launched Sputnik, the West completely freaked out, trigger what eventually became the space race and sending men to the Moon.

    The World Congress needs to pull its weight more in terms of upping difficulty. But yes, some light Empire management is also needed. Loyalty and Ages didn’t add any real Empire Management, and resources and Power are really very, very small steps in that direction - not enough at all.
     
  6. cvb

    cvb Prince

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    For myself I'm sure, that I want in fact to play with the mechanics I like. (I just don't insist, that the AIplayers have to abide by the same rules - especially if they cannot / will not.) Avoid specific Pantheons & Knights at all? No. Limiting the numbers? Of course. Districts, buildings, units can have variable maintenance - eg. civ4 city maintenance worked good. You can implement your complete own bookkeeping accounting and simply adjust the gold amount every turn.

    Some existing rules are suspicious. Do units get extra experience by killing another unit? Yeah, I hear and feel it is "fun".
    But who benefits from that rule? Is the damage for the AIplayer, to loose a slightly experienced unit which is replaced by a newbie, not already heavy enough??!
     
  7. Casworon

    Casworon Warlord

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    Yes your right. The world congress could totally be used. Im amazed at the moment that progress in science and culture arent emergencies.

    I guess diplomatic victory is covered since the AI can vote against you. But at the moment the AI do nothing to stop you when you are racing towards a science or culture victory.

    I feel this is the reason for spies in the game. The AI really should prioritise using spies to mess up a player getting close to a science or culture victory. Even AI you are allied with. In real life allied states still spy on each other
     
  8. bengalryan9

    bengalryan9 Warlord

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    I'd at the very least just like to see them fix some of the AI's more stupid behaviors... I understand that programming a "good" AI is probably a very difficult task, but just limiting the outright mistakes it makes would make the game more difficult.

    For example, in my current game I have an AI Hungary to the east. There is a decent amount of space between us, and I basically have a peninsula behind my initial cities. I grab a couple spots towards Hungary before I decide that now I'm going to focus on back filling my peninsula... I'm leaving plenty of land for Hungary to plop his cities down in, and it's not garbage land, either. Instead, the AI has twice marched settlers right through my lands to settle cities on my peninsula, and these cities have instantly faced rebellion. He's literally just handing me cities, saving me the trouble of building settlers and eliminating the biggest challenge of the earlier ages (which is IMO trying to balance building everything you want with expansion). Stop that!

    Another one goes with religious victory - the AI used to suicide it's apostles against my stronger apostles, giving me free religious boosts from killing his units. I say used to because in my limited GS experience I haven't seen this happen anymore (in fact, Peter has been making his apostles flee from mine). Whether this has actually been fixed or is just a coincidence I don't know yet, but it was another case of the AI genuinely doing your job for you.

    So while I don't necessarily expect the AI to make my life harder in the near future, I'd at least hope for it to stop making my life easier. I would think that would be an easier fix.
     
  9. bengalryan9

    bengalryan9 Warlord

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    I also find it odd how it chooses a victory condition to pursue. I laughed out loud in my last game when I got the message that "The Cree are no longer concentrating on a Domination Victory" towards the end of my last game - the Cree had about 4 cities at the time and had engaged in no real military aggressiveness, and had even lost a city or two! Was that what you were going for here, Poundmaker? :lol:
     
  10. PhilBowles

    PhilBowles Deity

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    I agree, but this should be qualified - recent posts include people complaining about struggles with loyalty and discussions from people on playing at levels below Deity. Civ 6 has a lower barrier to entry than other games in the series, and because of this a larger portion of the fanbase is going to consist of weaker players than the average Civ series veteran.

    So the game does need to be easier than its predecessors to accomodate that ... at average difficulty levels. The issue is less the difficulty, and more the difficulty scaling. For a game with eight difficulty levels the steps between them are not particularly great. I've played the game on Emperor up (I tried King when I first started but it was too easy to even be playable for me, and I quickly migrated to Deity and stayed there almost immediately after release), and there's no strongly detectable difference between these three levels. That relates to the way bonuses are applied and the way the AI uses them more than to structural decisions with the game mechanics or the AI's failings.

    So, what are these challenges?

    This is the core of the problem I identified above, and I don't know why they decided to do it this way in Civ VI. In Civs I-IV the AI had flat bonuses to yields throughout the game, and I think this may have applied in Civ V. In Civ V it received extra units throughout the game (and this was the source of particular pushback since people complain about AI bonuses when they can see them on the map, which probably prompted abandoning that approach).\

    This, however, is ingrained in the DNA of the series. Civ as a series has always been a race to the finish, with very few ways to interact directly with opponents and delay or stop their victory progress except for invasion and to some extent espionage. This is why the AI's shortcomings in war have been treated as such a big deal in Civs V and VI - the game mechanics only allow the AI one way to interact with your victory progress, and in the last two instalments of the series it's been bad at it. Civ IV and earlier games were more difficult almost exclusively because they were better at conquest - it wasn't common for them to race you to a peaceful victory (something I found Civ V AIs fairly good at, but then I tend to play non-optimally so give the AI plenty of time to catch up).

    Is this really a difficulty issue, though? Getting strategic resources has never really been a difficulty issue in any Civ game that uses them. It was more of a constraint in Civ IV, but that was because of the requirement that most units have multiple types of resource, it wasn't down to the resource system itself. Only Civ V's system actually placed a meaningful constraint on the number of units you could support.

    Nominally limited resources in Civ VI are an improvement over infinite resources from a single resource tile, but don't do anything substantive to change the difficulty.

    Agreed, but this now seems a GS review more than a comment on difficulty. Disasters are random - you wouldn't want random events to have the ability to significantly impact a player's chances of winning in a strategy game. This was a justified complaint about Civ IV's random event system - certain events were unnecessarily punishing and the player had no control over whether or not they would be the target. Firaxis hasn't got the balance right with disasters, and since you can mitigate them by not setting near certain areas they can be more impactful than they are, but they shouldn't usually be game-changing unless you go out of your way to expose yourself to multiple disasters.

    In my current game I settled my capital on a floodplain adjacent to two volcanoes - this should be a risky proposition and if I got seriously punished for it by the event generator that would be the fault of my settlement decisions. I would have liked to suffer more than minor wall damage every so often and a periodically pillaged quarry - with a setup like that I'd be willing for the disasters to be serious enough to significantly hamper my chances of winning. That they're only a minor irritant with disasters set to 3 is a problem. The largest eruptions should be capable of razing small cities, for instance.

    This is a flaw imported directly from Civ IV, since they decided to adopt the Civ IV model of static thresholds at which these factors become relevant. Unfortunately the experiment with a more dynamic system - Civ V's notorious global happiness, which essentially gave you a pool of public order from which you had to your sustain imperial population as a whole - was not implemented in a way that won that approach any fans.

    Civ VI regressed from what I would consider the zenith of the Civ economic model, the Brave New World system. The focus was on trade routes - but equally important was that gold from the landscape was almost nonexistent. You had high maintenance costs for both buildings and military units, and indeed from roads, but the only major source of income for much of the game was trade.

    Civ VI, like Beyond Earth before it, keeps the trade system, but not only makes it more generous in both gold output and number of trade routes, it adds gold back into the landscape, plus it provides a lot of policy cards that reduce maintenance costs or generate more gold, and adds districts with adjacency bonuses that generate gold. Money is no kind of constraint at all in Civ VI - the only penalty maintenance imposes is that you'll be slower to earn enough gold to rush buy things.

    Off the top of my head, can I think of any other game in which the AI has to provide all the challenge because the mechanics don't? Civ I, Civ II, Civ III, Civ IV, Civ V, Master of Orion, Master of Orion II ... okay, basically every 4x. You get the point.

    Civ VI gives you very few challenges; and then actively makes life even easier for you

    It's worse than that because falling behind in amenities is trivial - I've deliberately done it before now. Say you have 200 science output. In order to get a malus of even 10% (i.e. 20 bulbs), every single city in your empire has to be Displeased. That is not easy to accomplish, and if you have accomplished it it's probably by having enough population that it close to makes up the difference anyway. Most of the time, more population at the cost of displeasure seems more efficient than trying to avoid negative amenities, because as long as only some of your cities are unhappy (and the way amenities work, usually the less productive ones get amenity shortfalls first) the extra yields from more population outweigh the malus.
     
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  11. acluewithout

    acluewithout Deity

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    Thanks for analysis and for taking the time. There’s a few points I wanted to comment on.



    I agree the game needs to be accessible for new and or casual players. But the game also needs to provide scope for more challenge. Not just for veteran players but for the long term prospects of the game. Civ sells itself in part on being a tough game - build an empire to stand the test of time, and all that. There’s a unique brand or cache attached to that. But the game currently doesn’t live up to that.


    I think accessibility and challenge can co-exist. Doing more with difficulty levels is one approach. Maybe an “Iron Man” mode although just that’s more difficulty levels really. More starting options might also work. Perhaps a new set of modified rules via a dlc. Again, I don’t think this is a hard thing to do.

    Yes, Civ’s design is that everyone is racing to victory. And maybe that is the fundamental problem. Because once you’re in the lead, no one can catch-up.

    Of course, in a real race, that’s not necessarily true. Take, eg, a long distance bike race. Go hard at the start, and you may find yourself too tired to keep going and then fall behind. And even if not, you’ll find people sit behind you in your slipstream keeping pace but without spending as much energy, using your early lead to slingshot themselves to victory.

    I think a model Civ should try is creating penalties for being “first”. Getting to stronger abilities should throw up problems, which if you haven’t planned for will hurt you. That way, rushing techs etc and skipping good city management becomes more risky - it may still be a good strategy but it’s a high risk one.

    There should also be a risk that, by jumping to the lead early, you may get pulled crashing down. I think the World Congress could play a role here - eg having emergencies triggered by the first person to pull ahead in culture or with a SV. That way, you’ll need to decide whether to bide your time and break out for a victory when everyone is distracted versus just going for broke from turn one but risking becoming target number one.

    You made a few comments about resources and disasters and some other things. I’m not going to go into those comments in detail, and to be fair there’s a lot you say I agree with.

    But just to be clear: in the “AI is not the (only) problem” section I listed out various elements, like disasters, which I think are either intended to provide challenge or conceivable could. My view is that none of these elements provide much challenge, except maybe Barbs.

    But, to be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating that any these elements shouldprovide challenge.

    Natural Disasters are a good example. They could provide challenge in the form of RNG, but I don’t think they really should because having too much RNG undermines long term strategic decision making. The current set up for Natural Disasters is fine - it’s basically just flavour and a bit of (very light) RNG. In contrast, I do actually think loyalty should provide more challenge.

    My point in this section generally is just that there is very little in the game that currently provides challenge. But it’s only in the “final thoughts” section that I really set out where I think more challenge should come from.

    To be clear(again), I do think AI is one area there should be more challenge - ie we need a better AI. But I’m saying FXS should look at other ways of creating challenge too, eg more empire management.

    The BNW model sounds really cool, and more what I’d like to see in the game.

    Yeah, you’re right, this is a common problem for other 4X games. My point may have been better if I’d said that upfront.

    But whether or not it’s just Civ that has this problem, or instead all 4X, designing a game that lets the player get stronger but doesn’t privide opponents equal to your increased power level is highly problematic.

    I also just don’t see why any 4X game has to be this way. This doesn’t seem an insurmountable problem. Stellaris, for example, tackles this with end game emergencies which shake things up. I’m not saying Stellaris necessarily has the right answer either - I’m just saying, there seems to me multiple ways players could continue to be challenged in the later parts of the game.
     
  12. Trav'ling Canuck

    Trav'ling Canuck Deity

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    This is the crux of the matter, for me. I understand why many people enjoy Civ 6 as it works now. I also understand concerns that making the game more difficult for players who want a realistic chance to lose would make it less enjoyable for others. Civ has always walked that tightline in the past through difficulty levels.

    With the current state of the economic system and AI behaviour, I'm not sure there's a way to make Civ 6 tense or challenging for the player other than through direct player penalties at Immortal and Deity levels. Giving the AI more and more boosts just won't work when the AI is offered multiple decision points, most of which are materially suboptimal than others. Better to give the player maluses on loyalty, happiness, science output, culture output, and maintenance costs. Restrict those penalties to the highest two difficulty levels, which causal players and role-players won't care to turn to, anyway.

    Even at that, though, you likely still need to do something about the passivity of the AI and it's ability to launch dangerous attacks. Maybe a permanent negative relationship score against the player, and double the AI's combat bonus on Immortal, quadruple it on Deity. The only tough wars I've fought were ones where the AI had Crusades or Defender of the Faith. A -7 malus against the AI units on Immortal and a -17 malus on Deity should make the fights seem about right, and the AI wouldn't need to begin with a starting Warrior army.
     
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