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ICS: A list of factors that contribute to its success

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by Irgy, Oct 31, 2010.

  1. Irgy

    Irgy Emperor

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    ICS (Infinite City Sprall) will, for the purposes of this post, be defined as a strategy of building an empire of small cities packed as tightly together as possible.

    For contrast, some alternatives include:
    * A smaller number of very large, well developed and efficient cities.
    * A large, conquest fueled empire of conquered cities.
    * A large, spread out or even sparse empire

    A lot of people dislike ICS, as it gives a very bland and repetitive empire. Personally, I think ICS should be a viable strategy with the right social policies. However I also think there should be alternatives which are competitive. At the moment, it seems that well managed ICS is simply streets ahead of the alternatives.

    Here I will attempt to list all of the factors that contribute to ICS being better than the alternatives. I tend to use civ4 as a reference point, partly because it's the most recent comparison point, and partly because I've played a lot of civ4. I am by no means saying that any one of these factors should be changed, I'm just listing them. To me it's the sheer bulk of factors that is the biggest problem, not any specific one of them. This list can hopefully help explain the problem to people, and maybe even help provide inspiration for solutions. I'll try and update the list with more suggestions that people might post here (as long as I agree with them).

    This is also not another civ5 sucks thread, I quite enjoy civ5. There's just some things that I think are worthwhile improving about the game in potential future patches.


    So, the list:

    * Colliseums are the best value happiness building. If the happiness buildings got better rather than worse, then you'd be rewarded for in-depth development of less cities rather than lightweight development of more cities. More expensive later buildings is fine, but for all those extra hammers a Theatre gives the same 4 happiness and costs 5 instead of 3 upkeep.

    * Unhappiness per city is supposed to be the big ICS killer, however it can be easily removed or in fact reversed by social policies and the Forbidden Place (which the AI also doesn't seem to build as quickly as many other wonders, although maybe that's just my experience). The upshot of all this is that a small city with a colliseum can actually be a happniess profit.

    * Too many flat per-city bonuses. Maritime city states and a number of social policies give per-city bonuses, rewarding a player for building more cities, and making 1 population cities very productive. The "city centre" hex is by far the best hex available.

    * With land tiles generally a lot weaker, specialists come out better value by comparison than in civ4, even before certain easily accessable social policies help them along. With maritime food, you don't need to develop a large number of farms and food resources and grow a huge city to be working a lot of specialists, you can have a small city quickly grow to 4-7 pop and work as many specialists as you have slots available. So ICS gets a lot of specialists (particularly scientists), and specialists are good (particularly scientists).

    * Infrastructure is "underpowered". It's generally less useful than in previous civs, and production is so scarce that it's a lot harder to come by. In previous civs, it was practical for cities to build a full set of specialised infrastructure, and once they'd gone to the trouble of doing so you wanted those cities to work as many of the appropriate tiles as possible. With infrastructure so scarce it makes little difference which cities are working the tiles.

    * National wonders are underpowered (no need for "quotes" on this one). A specific case of the above, but national wonders seem to provide bonuses that mostly aren't even better at all compared to standard buildings, at significantly higher hammer price. In civ4, the planning of many national wonders was critical to optimal play, because they were so useful. In civ5 they're often not even worth building. This also means the "X in every city" requirements, which could otherwise hamper ICS, aren't such a big deal because missing out on the national wonder doesn't hurt so much.

    * Cultural border expansion is slow. Buildings do not provide incidental culture the way they did in civ4, instead there's specific culture buildings which aren't good for anything else. ICS in a lattice avoids the need for any cultural border expansion entirely, which saves a lot of hammers for culture buildings or gold for buying tiles.

    * Growth at high populations is painfully slow. Partly because the new "granary" is so far up the tech tree, but mostly because the food costs of growth rise so rapidly. This means that to get more population it costs much less to just settle a new city than to grow an existing one. It's also another reason that the dream of mega-cities, with well developed infrastructure and working many tiles to get the most out of their % bonuses is very hard to realise.

    * City location is no longer all that important, so there's no real penalty to just sticking them down in a lattice. This is a culmination of a whole lot of factors:
    - Resources are weaker in yield, so the benefits of claiming bonus resources are low.
    - Tiles in general are weak, so settling in desert/tundra is no big deal. The hills in desert/tundra are as good as anywhere else too, and food tiles aren't necessary for ICS with maritime food.
    - Cities don't grow quickly past 10 food, and rarely make it as far as 20. Working most of the 36 theoretically available tiles is reserved for OCC, maybe the capital, and games that set out specifically to do it. This means there's no real need to avoid "wasted" tiles in core cities, as they'll always be able to find worthwhile tiles to work.
    - Location dependant buildings (observatory, circus, monastery, coastal buildings, some wonders like Machu Pichu etc.) do attempt to encourage planning of city placement. However, those buildings generally aren't any better than their alternatives (circus < colliseum, monastery ~= temple, observatory ~= university, mint ~= market etc.) and with production so limited it takes a long time to build both. ICS doesn't lose out on those buildings anyway, it just doesn't stack them up cleverly.

    * Trade routes provide a lot of gold, but are offset by the costs of road maintenance. ICS minimises the road maintenance for the amount of trade route gold generated.

    * The trade route equation also favours more cities given the same population (thanks PieceOfMind for this point). The equation is (1 + 1.25*city size), making the '1' effectively another flat per-city bonus. The free '1' is presumably to partly offset the cost of more roads to more cities, but two small cities packed into the same space as the alternative one bigger city actually need less roads in general, as the city centre tiles get a road "for free".

    * Social policy culture costs are the one thing that actually genuinely hit back at ICS. One thing that mitigates this a little is cultural city states. A few early cultural city state allies can generate enough culture to buy some of the key ICS social policies (which with the exception of some of the order tree are generally quite accessible) before the number of cities gets out of control.

    * Tightly packed cities are an ideal defensive set up.
     
  2. Celevin

    Celevin King

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    Good thread, and well needed. It could use a bit of organizing... Some of these points are contributing to ICS much more than others.

    This is the big one to me. There's 2 anti-expansion mechanisms right now, or at least we think the developers intend there to be 2: happiness and policies. Right now happiness is doing the reverse of intent, where you actually want to expand (and suffer a very short happiness hit) in order to gain happiness.

    When you build a new city and then build a colloseum, the only thing that hurts is your policy intake. In every other way, happiness, gold, production, food, science, you are better. And colosseums are actually very cheap. I almost just increase the cost of my settlers by the colosseum amount when I'm figuring in if I want to expand.

    This shows its ugly head really bad when you directly compare your small / large civ games. It's a bit of a headache when you realize you can get 3+ size 15 cities up and running more easily than a single size 20. Size 20+ cities have such a bad soft cap before hospitals that it honestly feels like a hard cap.
     
  3. Becephalus

    Becephalus King

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    I completed disagree on the national wonders issue, I through they were much too powerful in Civ 4. BUt other than that I agree with a lot of this.

    Tile yields need to be a tiny better, growth a bit easier, and the value of the higher level happiness building reevaluated. Overall the cost of infrastructure is a bit too high.

    And obviously the way Martime food is handed out needs to be completely redone, as do most of the bonuses that apply to the city tile.
     
  4. Celevin

    Celevin King

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    Another part of the problem is I build the majority of them in big empires as well. In fact, thinking about it, my cities are no smaller in big empires than small empires. Happiness isn't binding enough, and growth isn't fast enough for me to actually have bigger cities in a 4-5 city empire.
     
  5. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Irgy:

    Reversing the point value of happiness buildings doesn't solve ICS, if we viewed ICS as a problem. It would simply reward a lot of big cities rather than an equal amount of small cities.
     
  6. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    A lot of big cities are harder to come by. Plus they require more space to have enough food.
     
  7. Lightzy

    Lightzy Warlord

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    This is actually fine.
    At the beginning of the game you need some extra happiness at times but economy is a lot weaker due to no banks/civics and so on than in later game.


    The problem isn't with per-city bonus, it's with the flat per-city bonus.
    If maritime/cultural CS gave 15% bonus (rounded down) to total culture/food produced in each city, then each city would still have to be large enough and work enough tiles to support itself, albeit more easily. With cultural then the city will have to be culture focused to get much benefit.
    This is pretty good.
    Another system that would work well would be to simply limit the ammount of food a CS can give.
    Say, 10 units of food total, spread randomly around ur civ.

    I prefer the % way because it promotes city specialization.. although it still benefits to ICS under certain conditions (that the city is build in a good enough place to support itself food-wise, that it's big enough to work the tiles, thus leading to unhappiness and so on).


    Land is completely pointless in civ5, true.
    Attempts at making land more important would require the complete rebalancing of every facet of the game (more food in good tiles = faster growth = faster research = bigger economy = all game completely realigned).

    This is unfortunately a change that civ5 will remain a failure without, and I doubt the toffs at firaxis would ever completely rehaul the system like that.

    another solution is to go fractional, so that tundra gives 1/4 food, grassland gives 1/2 food, floodplains give 2 food, etc and try to rebalance land and resources that way. by first reducing overall bonuses so that certain tiles can be meaningfully productive.
    They wont do this either.

    This whole aspect of the game is one of the biggest design fails of civ5.
    It combines also your next problem of 'infrastructure upgrades meaningless'.. of course they're meaningless. it's better to build trade posts everywhere and plant cities on resources instead! so much better and more effecient.



    more or less agreed with you on everything else, but there are also a few potential NEW systems that can balance this...


    for example, as proposed in another thread:

    Make late game resources such as oil and coal directly affect inflation rates.
    A nation needs a certain stockpile of oil/coal to avoid catastrophic inflation...
    Gradual inflation becomes more problematic the further you are from your civs oil/coal requirements and is truly crippling.

    Then:
    a civs oil needs depends on the number of cities.

    Thus completely removing the ICS mechanic by simple inflation, while also functioning as a very very clear and realistic motivator for empires to get their hands on resources by any means, and by functioning as a rubber-band mechanism so that smaller cives can remain a bit more competitive in late-game.

    for example.
    we can all think up a ton of mechanisms I believe.




    Economy should completely suffer and die if a civ is made of many small cities.

    In history the almost universal step to boosting an empire/kingdom/whatevers economy was to move populace from the countryside to big concentrated cities.
    This should be properly simulated.
     
  8. DarkMaster

    DarkMaster Warlord

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    Very good thread. This should be forwarded to 2KGreg so he can pass along to the devs. They are obviously listening, so we should feed them quality feedback.
     
  9. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Lightzy:

    If you feel that Civ 5 will forever be a failure, then what is the point of participating in threads of this sort? I ask this because the viewpoint you take must be considered in the feedback you provide. If you feel that Civ 5 will always be a failure, then any negative feedback you present can't possibly be that constructive.

    I would like this thread to remain about constructive discussion about ICS factors. The position from this quote:

    appears to be that you want ICS to be completely unviable in Civ 5. Fair impression? Correct?
     
  10. Lightzy

    Lightzy Warlord

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    Of course I want ics to be completely unavailable.
    Competition should be for arrable land and resource rich real estate. Not won by whoever takes a small risk and produces only settlers and some warriors to upgrade to swordsmen.

    There is no logic to ICS whatsoever. not historical logic for one, but most importantly, no gameplay logic whatsoever. just select the appropriate civics and send settlers every which way.
    terrain should be a huge deciding factor in the placing of cities. as it is, terrain is meaningless as you can't have a bad city.

    And the fact that I don't believe firaxis would ever fix this game (because this would require a complete total redesign and rehaul of core systems), doesn't mean that I can't see how to fix it and post.
    Ideas for betterment are constructive in themselves. the overarching pessimism is just that.



    read sullas last playthrough and mrgametheorys civ5 guide - they did a very good job of highlighting just how deep the flaws of the game are
     
  11. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Lightzy:

    You have to forgive me, but I don't worship Sullla, so I don't take his insight on the game at face value. Sometimes he has a point, but other times I just don't see where his reasoning is coming from.

    These are personal preferences, nothing more. You can't just select the appropriate Civics and send Settlers. I tried that. I lost.

    ICS can feel a little ahistorical, but since Civ is kind of heavily ahistorical most of the time, I don't see how that's such a huge objection to the style. Is it any more historical to win by "rushing" to Riflemen? No.

    Terrain may or may not be a deciding factor for cities. Some like it one way, others like it the other way. It's not set in stone, and it's a little disruptive to just ignore everyone else's preferences and just say that how you want the game to be is constructive suggestions for improvement.

    If the game is totally redesigned and overhauled, then it ceases to be this game and becomes another game. It is not constructive to ask the game to be something that it is not, which was my exact point.

    If you want Civ VI to be designed the way you like, you're welcome to suggest ways to do that, but not at the expense of Civ V, and certainly not in Civ V forums. I hope you understand that this is not because I like Civ V in every way - I just don't see anything constructive out of a viewpoint that considers Civ V a total failure. Better to move on, for everyone concerned.
     
  12. LegioCorvus

    LegioCorvus Prince

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    Another of the many features that annoy me of this game.

    All buildings are single focus, and the only differentiating feature most of the time is increased cost & maintenance. There's no complexity or sense of dynamic to it.

    "We need more wealth."
    "Build a bigger bank!"
    "We still need more wealth."
    "Build a bigger, bigger bank!"
     
  13. Zogar

    Zogar Warlord

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    Like it or not, if you want to balance ICS in civ V, you will need to do a serious rebalancing of the game (and most probably sacrifice a core design). It won't be the same game after. That's the consequence of the design decisions taken so far. It's also why some people think the game is a total failure, not because they don't see how to fix, but because fixing it while keeping all the core designs seem impossible (maybe it's not, the solution has not been found afaik).
     
  14. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Zogar:

    The only rule I need to put into the game to stop ICS would be:

    "Players cannot control more than 15 cities."

    That would stop ICS pretty darned cold, did not require a serious rebalancing of the game, and does not affect how I personally play the game right now whatsoever.

    Arguing how the game is a complete failure can be constructive when you're making another game. That is outside the realm of Civ V, and discussing how Civ V is a complete failure can never be constructive in a Civ V forum, especially when other players are enjoying the game just fine.

    Sullla points out a lot of problems. Not all of them are valid observations. Since he is influential, he tends to gravitate a lot of opinions about him. The only thing positive about what he's doing is that he's not more influential than he already is. We don't need more players talking problems that are nonexistent.

    This thread is about factors that allow ICS to do well. LegioCorvus complaining about building design for Banks is totally off-topic and his negativity is off-putting.
     
  15. CurseUppl

    CurseUppl The bureaucracy expands.

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    ICS might be the thing do to, but I don't see why players who enjoy having large empires should be penalised.

    Rather, if anything, the opposite should happen, in that a non-ICS play style is buffed in some way.

    *edit*

    This only applies in SP games. In MP games obviously other players will be gunning for the FB.
     
  16. Bandobras Took

    Bandobras Took Emperor

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    The biggest thing preventing the large cities from as competitive as a bunch of small cities is the way growth is handled, both food-wise and happiness-wise.

    Food-wise, it's a lot easier to grow 3 cities to size 10 than it is to grow one city to size 30. And it's also a lot easier to put libraries in those cities than it is to put a library, university, and public school in the size 30 city.

    Happiness-wise, lower-population cities grow more quickly and eat up happiness. A city that goes from 3 population to 4 eats up the same happiness as a city that goes from 29 population to 30. If I'm trying to grow a big city, I need to found a small city of trading posts to pay for the buildings in the big city, but it needs to work those trading posts, which means the city must eat up the happiness that I was going to use on the big city.

    To fix it:

    1) Higher Populations should grow more quickly; or
    2) Higher Populations should provide more reward research and happiness wise than lower populations.

    e.g. population points above 10 give 2 research and .5 unhappiness.
     
  17. spfun

    spfun King

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    I agree with op, im more of a builder myself but also like doing the best for the win. ICS + maritime is just such the obvious best thing you can do in this game. Just look at all the things in the game that help ICS over a few big core cities... its baffling. My poor 3-5 city games that i always played in civ 4 simply got PWNED in this game. Unless i want endless Culture wins, where im always behind in money, science & happiness & military... because of my large population/city ratio.

    ICS is pretty boring to. Queue system needs a reworking. Better city queue & it won't be as boring. But still pretty boring :(
     
  18. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    spfun:

    Should be possible to win with Science, Culture, or Diplomacy with 5 cities. The AI doesn't pursue the Win Conditions well enough for you to lose.

    If you're getting problems with war, it's because you're not handling the diplomacy properly.

    Doesn't mean that ICS still isn't better, but it should be possible to win with 5 cities.

    Too, you can't actually win easily with Culture using just 3 cities in Civ 4, since you need 3 Legendary Cities, and you would need 3 more cities for each such Legendary City for the Cathedral requirements. It's probably easier to win 1-city Culture in Civ 5.
     
  19. Bandobras Took

    Bandobras Took Emperor

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    Heh. Who needs Cathedrals? One city to build wonders, once city to settle/great work great artists, and one city to run a Hermitage+National Park+Artists. Helps if you're Qin. :)

    I still find it frustrating that it's much harder to grow a large city a population point, and yet that population point gives the exact same research return and eats up the exact same unhappiness as a size 1 city growing to size 2.
     
  20. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Bandobras Took:

    Not exactly the same return. A size 1 city likely has no Library, for instance.
     

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