Disasters

Verrucosus

Warlord
Joined
Mar 25, 2002
Messages
175
The original Civilization had a random chance of disaster happening to a single city (famine, earthquake etc.) at the beginning of a turn. Most of these could be guarded against by building a city improvement or researching a technology. This feature is not included in Civilization II.

The change is not mentioned in the manual's faily comprehensive chapter about "Changes form Civilization to Civilization II". Oddly enough, the section about Global Warming in the Terrain & Movement section replaces the original manual's detailed description of global warming's consequences with the phrase "... environmental damage occurs, as detailed under Disasters." However, there is no section "Disasters". This might be a hint that the change happened at the last minute.

One possible reason for the removal of disasters is a design choice to make the game less random. This would fit with the Civ2's new combat system that reduced the randomness of combat by introducing hitpoints and rounds. On the other hand, I don't think there were as many (or any) complaints about the random disasters as there were about the famous phalanx-vs-battleship duels in Civ1. Also, they were cautious enough about the combat change to have players use the old all-or-nothing system with an optional rule. Such an option could have toggled disasters on and off as well ... that's how Alpha Centauri did it a few years later.

Anyway, all of this is speculation. Is there any information out there about why disasters were not included in Civilization II?

P.S.: It's amazing how much fun this game is after all these years.
 

Verrucosus

Warlord
Joined
Mar 25, 2002
Messages
175
Contrary to my memory, there's no interview in the Chronicles booklet, just a few quotes from Reynolds in Goodfellow's essay about the history of Civilization. In one interesting comment, Reynolds mentions that a month before the Civ2 shipping date he was told to stop working on scenarios ... and promptly spent two weeks doing nothing else because he really wanted to have those features included. It's not directly relevant for the disasters, but it shows that they were on a schedule and willing to cut features to make it. It'll be a while before I actually listen to the extensive Designer Notes interview ... I've got to get a few more actual Civ2 games in before these virus restrictions get eased. I'm still curious about the disasters, so if anyone would ask Reynolds himself about their removal, they'd be very welcome.
 

old_hand

Chieftain
Joined
Apr 11, 2020
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51
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Madrid
His reply

Oh dear, too long ago! Can't really remember! I remember the ones in Civ 1 as being a little boring IMHO, compared to the "calamities" in the Civ boardgame that inspired them. So we probably just hadn't thought of a way to make them cool enough. Until SMAC! Then they were cool.
 

Verrucosus

Warlord
Joined
Mar 25, 2002
Messages
175
That was fast! Thanks!

The response is very interesting. Yes, the Civ1 disasters were mild, removing either a single improvement, a single citizen or the contents of the food/production box, although the last bit could be nasty when you were turns away from finishing a wonder. I have a vague memory that Mr Meier once mentioned harsh events as an example of "the game having fun" (as opposed to the player), and described Civ1's mild disasters as a sort of design compromise. He didn't want to annoy the player too much.

The Alpha Centauri events were cooler because there was a lot more variety to them. Translated into Civ terms, they could cause +/-10 boosts or penalties to food, resource and trade production for the whole city for ten turns, reduce the city population by 50 % or destroy all terrain improvements within the city radius. There were also events with global effects like blocking diplomatic contacts for 10 to 20 turns. The most dramatic one was the asteroid strike that created a new crater wiping out any cities in its radius. I think it occured only on high difficulty levels and large maps, but had a way of finding the best cities of the civilization topping the power chart. Only some of these events could be countered with city improvements, but there was the option to disable random events completely.

Arguably such an optional rule would have been a sensible choice for Civ2 as well even if the designers didn't have the time to make the existing disaster system "cool" (and I realise that Mr Reynolds is just speculating about why disasters were not included). The Civ2 world would have been a richer simulation and some city improvements would have been more useful. For example, with the lowered food support for settlers under Monarchy, granaries were less useful than in Civ1 (at least on higher levels where happiness caps kick in soon). With the famine event, there would have been one more reason to build them ... although I suspect many players built the Pyramids anyway just to enjoy the wonder movie!

Anyway, thanks for asking the Game Chief himself, old_hand. I very much share his fond memories of Alpha Centauri.
 
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