GDC 2011: Strategy Games - the next move

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by alexman, Mar 9, 2011.

  1. Lheim

    Lheim Chieftain

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    Goodwill is an inestimable and therefore often overlooked intangible.

    Firaxis has lost a lot of mine. Saying in a live address to industry insiders that 'I expect to continually be able to skimp on gameplay essentials in favor of flash'.. grr.You can't go on making lemons and hyping them as lemonade forever and stay in business.
     
  2. CYZ

    CYZ Toileteer

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    Ironically, one of the effects of this is that more gamers start downloading instead of paying. It only takes so many of these ''betrayals'' before they start playing without paying. The industry is in a negative circle.
     
  3. esemjay

    esemjay Prince

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    Civilization V is often criticized on this forum for being so stripped of features as to not deserve the title of "Civilization", instead often being referred to as "Civilization Revolutions 2." This often plays out as a satirical allusion to the game being so simple that it could be played effectively on a console, and for a time it was often used to demean casual strategy gamers.

    This complaint is in the top three most common and persistent; the other two being the AI's apparent incompetence at everything that it attempts to do, and the frustration that the 1UPT system causes when performing actions as simple as building a road or transporting an army.

    Personally, I don't understand the logic that Shaefer was trying to use. Releasing a game with the bare minimum to be considered a strategy game isn't particularly good business, unless that game is otherwise perfect. After all, you would immediately alienate your consumers if you displayed an incompetence at troubleshooting a game as simple as checkers. If you are going to release a game with a lot of flaws, the game has to be dazzling- at the very least, the game has to be more dazzling than comparable yet less buggy games.

    This effect is more apparent in shooters. "Medal of Honor: Tier 1" was outright awful gameplay, and had comparable graphics to "Call of Duty: Black Ops", which had passable gameplay; COD:BO won the fight. "Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising" had great gameplay (assuming you were it's specific target audience) but had an awful game-finding system, and was unacceptably buggy- Modern Warfare 2 won based on instant gratification and ease of use.

    Shaefer allowed the release of a game that was not visually impressive enough to truly separate Civ5 from Civ4, but significantly less feature-rich, with a significantly higher number and severity of bugs and "demerits". While it is true that some games can have a daunting learning curve, Civilization is not and has never been one of them. A few playthroughs on Chieftain and even a child can get a grasp of what to do and not be awful.

    The lower difficulties are meant for newbies and casual gamers. Emperor through Sid was designed for the hardcore. So long as you stay below Emperor, you always stand a chance, and the casual gamer can have fun-- even with the massive number of features-- because micromanaging isn't necessary. By stripping the features, Shaefer has only demonstrated that he doesn't understand his consumers desires, and may not have understood the potential that the "legacy" model provided his new goals.

    If Civ5 was just a prettier version of Civ4+all expansions, with the same features and problems, it would still have invited new gamers to the series and a lot of the animosity that Firaxis & 2K have accrued could have been avoided.
     
  4. Camikaze

    Camikaze Administrator Administrator

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    Not a well thought out quote, to say the least. If there was a point to be made, implying that AI was not important was certainly not the way to go.
     
  5. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Silly furry

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    As usual, the answer is communism.
     
  6. builer680

    builer680 eats too much Taco Bell

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    Prove this statement.

    Don't point to Steam saying it's been a #1 played game for a long time. There are lots of sales for very cheap. Prove that Civ V is financially a 'slam dunk' with actual numbers. Even better, numbers that compare profits to expenses. That would really show whether it was a 'slam dunk' or not.

    You can't. No sales numbers have been released. Profits/Loss will probably never be released, I've don't recall ever seeing a game do it anyway. Therefore, you can only guess. Perhaps a correct guess, perhaps not, but it's still a guess. So you shouldn't make a statement like this. Even milestone sales numbers haven't been released, which a publisher is typically happy to announce.

    Even VGchartz can only guess, and has no direct dl Steam numbers as far as I know, so you can't even use them as a source. Civ V may or may not have sold a lot of games and/or made a lot of money (the 2 aren't necessarily tied, because pricing can fluctuate based on things like weekend discount sales), but the point is that you DO NOT KNOW. So don't admonish people to 'remember' something that you can't prove.
     
  7. esemjay

    esemjay Prince

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    The hard part right now wouldn't be finding the Civ5 sales figures, but a set of Civ4 sales figures that would provide an accurate comparison.
     
  8. Trias

    Trias Donkey with three behinds

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    I assume that the plan was to release the game when it was tweaked more or less to perfection. (At least to the level that things have been tweaked in the current patch.)
    My take on what happened is that a couple of months before the release an executive saw the game and judged that it was good enough to be released and was released more or less in that state. This interpretation is somewhat backed by the fact that a large number of devs (including much of the QA team) was layed off a couple of months prior to release.

    I think you assume too much control on Jon's part on the state in which the game was released. I don't think he could have stopped the release if he wanted to.
     
  9. RagnorIronpants

    RagnorIronpants Chieftain

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    Well yeah actually - mods (for instance) are probably as good as they are because the people making them are making it on their own terms and not as a commodity. At any rate, a stable community of independent strategy game makers is a good idea.

    Shafer's quote suggests to me that quite an alien ethos drove the development of V. It's not all his fault, and is obviously a systematic problem similar to other creative industries (most obviously films), but the cool thing about the previous civs and SMAC was that Mircoprose and Firaxis didn't seem to really care about whether or not the game followed industry conventions. The point of them was to completely ignore what other people were doing and create original, quirky games and then refine them -then other people copied them.

    Pirates!, Colonization, Civ, Gettysburg and SMAC were all great precisely because they weren't like other games. SMAC's storyline was a mixture of Frank Herbert and Nietzsche, for instance - by prioritising creativity over commercial concerns, you often get a commercial success because you make such an original product.

    Unlike its antecedents (even III, which I don't like that much), V just felt like any other game. After this patch I enjoy playing it and don't feel tempted back to IV and SMAC - I actually want to explore the game. With the basics no longer broken I am more generous toward things I used to hate - policies, 1UPT, food based science and the happiness system. They no longer feel fundamentally wrong but seem interesting to me. That said, I'm still looking forward to the next patch, because of the awful AI.

    So I imagine the newest patch solved a lot because of some internal shake-up in Firaxis after Shafer left that saw them fix the basics in order to showcase the new features a lot better. It has a long way to go, but after two expansions I think this could be a really good game - for instance, the city state mechanism shows real opportunity for empire building if combined with something like the colony and vassal system of the last game. But that's as long as Firaxis keep the ethos they had in the 1990s.

    I am, of course, basing this optimism on a single patch...
     
  10. DavidPBacon

    DavidPBacon Chieftain

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    And this is why the strategy games are slowly dying...
    He forgets that he makes PC games, where legs are a big part of the sales. To sell 10 million copies of a game, like Starcraft, example, one has to make a great game. Period. And the next big thing on Strategy games is a good AI. We have great graphics, great gameplay and great themes. Every money spent on AI is well spent money.
    Civ V proves this point. The game is pretty much broken from within, but despite that, if it had a good enough AI, it wouldn't have so much backlash and would sell much better. Civ V will probably have the worst legs in the franchise, since the word of mouth is very bad compared to the last ones.
    So, he's own game proves him wrong.
     
  11. Becephalus

    Becephalus King

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    No one is trying to convince you that you should be happy. We are trying to convince you that:
    A) Firaxis doesn't really care if you are happy, they already have your money.
    B) You are probably not part of the core demographic of the audience (teenagers with little Civ experience)
    C) There are not good incentives right now for game companies to make games people like us would want. The market isn't large enough. As the business becomes more regularized and traditional fewer and fewer game companies are run like passion projects, and instead they are run like any other business. The bottom line is the bottom line, not making great games.

    Civ 3 came out to a lot of complaints, and the AI in Civ 4 was just as bad as the Civ 5 AI until years after release. Lets not rewrite history here. And SMAC which pretty much everyone on this forum loves was not really commercially successful, and had a catatonic AI.

    I would love for game companies to make better games. I would also love a million dollars. I am not expecting either.
     
  12. alexman

    alexman Ancient Geek

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    Good games make money in the long-run, so the question is whether Civilization can be a good game without a good AI.

    Jon's view certainly applies to some genres, but I don't agree with him for an essentially single-player strategy game, like Civ, where the AI is as important as the game mechanics themselves, and an integral part of the player's experience.
     
  13. alexman

    alexman Ancient Geek

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    The two AI implementations may have been of equal sophistication, but the AI in Civ4 was much better at playing Civ4 than the AI in Civ5 is at playing Civ5. The reason is not poor AI programming in Civ5, but mainly that 1UPT requires more sophisticated AI tactics to be competitive.
     
  14. Diplomat32

    Diplomat32 Chieftain

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    The truth is that players want the AI to be good but not too good. The AI should be good enough to offer a decent challenge and the AI should never make boneheaded decisions where it looks like it is throwing the game because then the player will feel like they did not deserve to win. But the AI cannot be so tough that the player never wins because that becomes frustrating. Players wants a game where they have to work for the win but where they can still win most of the time. Players want to feel the satisfaction that when they won it was the result of their brilliant strategy.
     
  15. Trias

    Trias Donkey with three behinds

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    Also, the AI in civ4 actually got bonuses that helped it compensate for its lack of skill. (If a stack is big enough, then it doesn't matter so much that it has bad unit composition, and bad attacking order). In civ5, more units does not compensate for bad unit positioning. (In fact, AI unit positioning may even get worse with more units.) Such a compensation should have been included in the form of a combat bonus for the AI as difficulty is increased. (Instead of the current bonus to unit supply and unit production.)
     
  16. Fabiano1979

    Fabiano1979 Chieftain

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    That is what I complaing about, they have this concept that the games must be for dummies to sell.

    They dont understand that people can improve their skill by playing, its not necessary be a genious to enjoy civ 4.

    And Shafer talking about the AI, why are you so surprise? nothing new for me in that statement.

    I kind of agree with him if (and its a big IF), the multiplayer is the focus of the game.
     
  17. Krall

    Krall Warlord

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    I certainly didn't ask for this. Would have been more then delighted with Civ V being an upgraded Civ IV and not the mess that it is.

    So he didn't want to spend any money on the AI and the multiplayer ain't so hot either. Makes you wonder what he focuses on...

    Oh hexes and 1UP!
     
  18. DavidPBacon

    DavidPBacon Chieftain

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    Tha AI was bad, but it didn't got in the way of the fun cause it was more or less well designed, unlike Civ V, where given their design choices, a good AI was most needed.
     
  19. Remember he said financial sense. And in that respect he is right.:(
     
  20. Zogar

    Zogar Warlord

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    Well, Civ 5 not only has bad AI, but is full of bugs and has an awful game engine. You would think that the game would be faster than Civ1, since computer power improved by 1000x, but it's in fact worse than ever.

    Apparently, they didn't have enough money to create a decent code for calculating worker movements (which Shafer probably thinks is the same as AI level), and the difference between the graphics engine and AI computation is not clear, we don't know which of the two make the game so laggy (probably both).

    I'm also not buying any argument 'people want shiny things the most, screw the rest'. You just need to see which game company is the most successful atm : Blizzard. Wow and SC2 are no way the most beautiful games, they are just finished games with impeccable mechanics, very few bugs, and challenging content.

    Wow engine is even not that good and starts to be severly outdated. SC2 contents are very limited compared to SC1. True, Wow is becoming more and more 'add new buggy and unbalanced features', and I hope they won't follow this line, but they are great games for the moment (as diablo 3 will be). The only great fail of Blizzard is battlenet 2.0, where they wanted to restrict players too much (communism did you say :lol: ?).

    And I would conclude that people play strategy games to meet strategy challenges, not to watch new shiny graphics, or they would play Sims 3.
    I'm not too sure about this, make a crappy Civ5 which sells a lot, you won't be able to sell Civ6. That's just narrow minded thinking, you're betraying customer's trust.
     

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