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Problem the whole Civ series suffers from

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by Olleus, May 19, 2017.

  1. Olleus

    Olleus Chieftain

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    There has been lots of discussions about what the problem with Civ6 is (or, indeed, any iteration of Civ), but I'd like to discuss a few problems with the series as a whole, partly prompted by this article. I apologise in advance, this will not be a short post. That said, I will focus it on a single problem: the late game, and winning is boring. As I see it, this is the case for two separate reasons.

    The first is a lack of competition. Chances are, in the late game you are a runaway winner. Or another Civ has become a runaway winner and there is no hope left. Changing the difficulty doesn't do much to resolve this, as it just changes the chance of being wiped out in the early game. Changing the way difficulty levels work by giving the AI bigger bonuses in the late game has proved mostly ineffective.

    This is due to snowballing: an small advantage in the early game becomes a huge advantage in the later game. This is fundamentally a mathematical problem that is inherent to most strategy game, growth is exponential. The more resources I have now (be it population, military strength, gold, science, etc...) the faster I can get more resources. Exponentials grow very vast and small differences at the start blow up into huge differences later. This makes game balance virtually impossible. In Civ terms, it doesn't matter how much better a late game UU (say F15 replacing jet fighter) is: an early UU (say Legionary) will allow me to conquer a bigger empire in the early game and then produce so many more jet fighters that they will win against F15s no matter what. Same thing in science, in Civ4 having a tech lead in the early game (by building the National college early) allows you to get universities first, which gives you an even bigger tech lead so that you can get Public schools even earlier, which in turn...

    A small advantage over another civ manifests itself as a little more resources. With time exponential growth/snowballing turns this into a huge amount more resources, which translates as a gigantic advantage over another civ. And a gigantic advantage over neighbours is boring.


    The second reason the late game is boring is more repetition of fewer decisions. By that I mean that the early game has lots of different decisions that are only made a few times each. What does my capital build? Should I go for a religion? Where should my 3 units move? Which single policy card should I run? The late game, by contrast, has fewer different types of decisions that have to be made many times. What should cities A through Z build? Which 7 policy cards should I run? Where should my 20 trade routes go? That this is less interesting doesn't require explanation.

    The cause for this is that as the game develops, new elements do not really appear (spies may be the exception), while some major elements disappear (eg exploration, deciding who to be friends with). But more importantly you have far more of everything. More cities, more units, more trade routes, etc... Managing each of these doesn't change, you just have to do it more times. This is partly for the same reason as the first point - snowballing. The number of stuff in your empire rises rapidly.


    Luckily, as both of these share a cause, they also share a solution. In abstract terms the problem was stated as
    Preventing exponential growth of resource acquisition is very hard, but what can be done is to require an exponential resource cost to gain a larger advantage other over civs. This is already done to some extent for techs and civics, the more advanced you are the more expensive techs/civics become. But this can be extended for other game systems.

    To take a concrete example take warfare. At the moment each unit costs the same amount, independent of how strong your military is. If you go to war over someone who has 10% less production/gold than you, you will have 10% more units than them and the war will be interesting to fight rather than a forgone conclusion. Say, that you do win the war and conquer them. You now have double the production and come the next war, after rebuilding your strength, you will find yourself with 100% more units as your next target. That war will be a boring slog that is decided in advance, and it just gets worse from there.

    However, say that the cost of building a new unit increases linearly with the number of units you already have. 10% more production would still lead to roughly 10% more units, so nothing much changes here. However having 100% more production may only lead to having 20% more units. An increased advantage to be sure, but not one that makes the next war boring. Doubling your production again would only give you 30% more units than you had at the start. That is, an exponential growth in resource gain is balanced out by an exponential cost in gaining an advantage. The same principle could be extended to other game systems (say, a the cost of each additional trade route is double the cost of the last one).

    This means you have to work ever harder to get ahead and that snowballing is halted in its tracks. An advantage in the early game carries through the whole game, but doesn't grow out of all proportion and makes the rest of the game irrelevant. Furthermore it keeps the repetition of the late game down by making it impossible to have a huge number of the same thing.

    TL: DR. Fair enough, posting a wall of text on a forum is very arrogant from my part (as is quoting my self). Just read the bits in bold if you're in a hurry.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  2. chrisgatt7

    chrisgatt7 Chieftain

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  3. Katakanja

    Katakanja Chieftain

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    The issue with adding exponentially scaling penalties to any part of the game is that, generally-speaking, its a profoundly unsatisfying game mechanic for the player. Sure, battles will be more evenly matched, but it creates the illusion that the player is effectively climbing a hill that they can never surmount - their next opponent will always be just as powerful as the last, no matter the relative difference in size between their empires.

    Not to mention, tech cost scaling was the main cause for the primacy of the three city tradition strategy in Civ V, which honestly made that game become increasingly stale as time went by. Start bringing in harsher scaling penalties to Civ VI and you run the risk of inflicting a similar fate on this game too. The fact of the matter is that once you introduce a scaling penalty, players are going to determine the precise point where the positives of expanding further are outweighed by the negatives, which removes one of the X's from a 4X game. In the case of your military unit cost idea, surely people will just start razing more cities rather than absorbing them into their empire to avoid raising their production costs too high?
     
  4. Eliminator_Sr

    Eliminator_Sr Chieftain

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    Personally I enjoy the late game though SV can get tedious. I think the best thing they can do to make it more competitive is to improve the AI. Negating snowball advantages might help a little but I doubt the AI would be well equipped to take advantage of it and I think players would easily adapt to the limits. Once the AI has some potential to snowball early then that will translate to a more difficult endgame. To do that they need to be able to capture a lot of cities from nearby opponents or expand a lot more. I'm usually well behind the AI on high difficulty till medieval era at earliest so I wouldn't say that I have a huge snowballing advantage - rather it's the that AI is not maximizing their advantages. The main reason I'm able to pull ahead is that I just have more cities and can dominate the AI in combat when needed.
     
  5. DJ_Tanner

    DJ_Tanner Chieftain

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    Having a game designer talk about design flaws when their ONLY completed work is (pretty universally) considered the least complete iteration of a series (CiV vanilla) seems like asking John DeLorean to wax poetic about issues in car manufacturing.
     
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  6. Olleus

    Olleus Chieftain

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    You raise two interesting points there. The first is the psychological impact of "climbing a hill that they can never surmount". I think that this can be solved by balance, the exponential cost must not be so severe that it completely negates any advantage from playing well. The second is that at some point the costs of expanding out weigh the benefits. This would be the case if the cost was a direct penalty that was removed from the player (think maintenance in Civ4 terms). What I'm going towards is more of an increased opportunity cost. An extra settler will always give you an extra city with all the benefits that brings. The change will be that this extra settler will become more increasing. So the decision is not "A settler is better than a granary, therefore always build settlers". It is more "A settler is better than a granary, so build one. The second is more expensive so maybe it is better to build a granary now. However it is still better than an aqueduct, so build the settler after. [5 settlers down the line] now maybe an aqueduct is better than these now very expensive settlers". There isn't a single tipping point at which settlers are never worth it. Think of it as dynamically introducing balance between the different options available to the player. I guess there is the possibility that this will force every game to be "middle of the road, no specialisation", but only if the scaling cost is much, much too steep.
     
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  7. Olleus

    Olleus Chieftain

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    I'm not sure the AI is the problem. Even in MP one player will generally steam ahead. Although I've only played a little MP since Civ4, my experience is that most players quit a game around 1/3 of the way in when they know a come back is impossible.
     
  8. Katakanja

    Katakanja Chieftain

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    The thing is, if we're talking about settlers and builders, that's how they already work in Civ 6 - they have a scaling cost that rises each time you build one. Personally that only ever feels like an obstacle to me in the early game where, as you have pointed out, spending an extra 2 turns to get a settler out is potentially costing me, say, 20 endgame turns of science production if I had built a library instead. Once the endgame rolls around though, the snowballing effect has kicked in and I can rush-buy or build as many settlers and builders as my heart desires in no time at all. If we apply that to military units as you propose, it might reduce warmongering in the early game as once you gave your first 3 units out the cost becomes prohibitive and the alternatives more attractive, but again, 200 turns later you will have surmounted the curve and be able to steamroll your adversaries.

    This suggests to me that the scaling needs to be harsher and more noticeable to the player before it will start have a marked effect on gameplay, rather than the gentle increase you're proposing, which takes us right back to the never-ending hill problem. :think:
     
  9. Olleus

    Olleus Chieftain

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    I think we're on the same page here. The scaling has to be gentle enough in the early game to not rule out building more than one settler, but harsh enough in the late game to not be ignorable. An exponential cost does just that.

    One place where the game does have an exponential cost is in the food necessary to grow an extra pop in a city. That is also the one mechanism that *feels* balanced the whole game. Population rises steadily through out the game, rarely exploding out of all proportion or halting entirely.
     
  10. Bactrian

    Bactrian Chieftain

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    I agree that snowballing has been a major issue for the Civ series throughout the entirety of its existence. While cost scaling is certainly one possible tool to attack the problem, as others have noted, it can quickly lead to unsatisfactory gameplay. Better than direct mathematical scaling would, I think, be the periodic introduction of new resource sinks via new game mechanics (replacing mechanics like exploration that lessen in importance as the game goes on). Obvious examples might include an increasing need to dedicate resources toward internal stability as your civ grows in size and complexity, or major infrastructure projects that require heavy up front investments.
     
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  11. PYITE

    PYITE Chieftain

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    I think the long turn times of the later game are also an issue that causes people not to finish games.
    I also think the beginning of the game is so great that it sets a pretty high standard of enjoyment that is hard for the end game to match.
    I agree with the view point from the ciV designer that exploration and expansion are 2 of the best aspects of the game. But it leaves me to wonder why ciV was so restrictive with expansion.
     
  12. UWHabs

    UWHabs Chieftain

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    I agree. I think one big problem in the games is that they don't have enough scaling as you go through. For example, in techs, if you have the eureka, often a tech from the next era will be cheaper than a tech from the current era without a eureka. That can encourage you if you have a good set of eurekas to beeline. And in a similar way, the gain as you add more buildings to a district don't actually make enough of a difference. For example, the Library is worth 2 science, the University is worth 4, but then the reseach lab is only worth 5. If they truly believed in exponential scaling, the research lab should probably give 10 science.

    Another big problem with the snowball effect in regards to the AI is that it's too easy to simply create a standing army and invade the world, without ever having to worry about building more. Or if I need to add to my army, I can buy a unit in my newly captured city. I mean, when Germany conquered Paris, I don't think they could suddenly recruit a new Panzer division there right away. I think I would be very tempted to essentially completely prevent healing of units in foreign or occupied territory, like we have now with ships. Maybe there would be an easy way to replenish your troops - like you combine troops to make a corps and they gain the average health of the units, I should be able to build an infantry unit in my homeland, send him to join the war, and then basically combine him in with a damaged infantry unit on the battlefield to heal. This would sort of simulate a supply chain, and would at least slow down a potential invasion, making it more likely that the other side can defend.

    That brings up an interesting point too. Currently, I think it's simply too easy to get modern resources online. For example, if I find oil under my campus, it's automatically connected for me. There's no cost to it, it magically appears immediately and I can use it. And I think the fact that one resource is enough to fuel my entire tank army, yet is not needed for any cities either, makes it too easy. If you had a late game mini-game where you didn't just have "housing" and "amenities", but added another resource like "power" that you now have to develop in your cities to have them grow and be productive, that might help add extra challenges for the late game to maintain. Power can come from resources, from buildings, from infrastructure, so that the larger you are, the more you need to build to maintain your empire or it won't develop further.
     
  13. Disgustipated

    Disgustipated Chieftain

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    I don't see too many problems with the franchise other than long turn times mentioned above, and general burdensome micromanagement of large empires. The only thing I can say for Civ6 is have more tech diffusion. I don't think Civs getting too far ahead in science is particularly realistic (I know we have real world examples of various indigenous cultures, but I'm not calling them civilizations, not to mention they were isolated). Far behind civs should get some techs for free, obviously they shouldn't rise to the level of the leaders, they should remain one generation of tech behind the leaders (think battleships versus guided missile cruisers). Would also like to see tech trading come back.
     
  14. Leyrann

    Leyrann Warlord

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    I think you raise some good points regarding games snowballing out of control so easily, as well as the repetitiveness of the endgame, and while the solutions you mention are good, I do think they need some more work. (and I figured I might just as well try to write and even longer post than you wrote)

    As for stopping the snowballing with scaling - Katakanja raises a very good point that it can very easily feel as if you're climbing a hill and you'll never reach the top. I do think it is good to mention, however, that Civilization V, where all our bad experiences regarding scaling come from, had very unintuitive scaling: Science and culture were produced with cities, but building cities increased science and culture costs. However, if something scales on itself, like your proposal to make units more expensive if you have more of them, then there is never a "sweet point" where it's always best to stop. It's just that, the bigger your army grows, the more production you need to put in to make it grow even more. In fact, it is very similar to techs and civics becoming more expensive over the duration in the game, though applied to a different mechanic and therefore working slightly different*.

    Still, seeing the costs rise every time again can give the Sisyphus feeling, so I think that the "army cost" scaling should not solely be production. Instead, make a chance to the maintenance: Each unit has it's own standard maintenance cost (may or may not be different from what it is now), but you also have an exponential scaling cost depending on units owned and how technologically advanced you are, which is somewhere very visible and is called "Army communication and logistics costs" with a tooltip that explains that this cost goes up depending on how advanced you are and how many units you have. My proposal for this is so specific because if it's spelled out this clearly, it does not break immersion (after all, bigger armies do get exponentially harder to maintain because of logistics and communication) and neither does it frustrate players, as it's a logical mechanic with clear solutions (like, have a small but efficient army; improve your warfare so you can do the same with fewer units, etc). Similar changes can be made to other parts of the game, again working best if there is a clear, logical explanation explicitly offered ingame.

    Regarding the repetitive endgame, I myself kind of enjoy selecting production for cities, redirecting trade routes, etc until I get to the point where I'm just clicking end turn until I win. However, I also understand that, for many people, this isn't fun. I know from own experience that, if it does get boring, the best solution is to do something like start a war (again, this is typically at the point where it's "click end turn to win") and have something else to do in between too. Therefore, I think the best solution would be to add endgame mechanics. As you already mentioned, the spy system is a step in the right direction already. Another addition could be some different kinds of infrstructure - canals, railroads, etc - that are built by builders, giving the players an additional kind of action - using builders. World Congress/United Nations would also be such an addition, though it needs to be balanced correctly. Another would be to add endgame projects, maybe even international projects, where you have to spend production, gold and builders, maybe even science and culture, to build things like the International Space Station or to upgrade all your roads to Highways that have an even lower movement cost. Ever since the Industrial Era there has been a lot of infrastructure building going on in the real world, which is barely represented in game.

    On the matter of increasing Settler costs: Currently, as Katakanja mentioned, the increase is right for the early game, but in the endgame you simply buy a settler when you need one. This is because, right now, the increasing cost is linear. To address these problems, the scaling could instead be made exponential, slightly cheaper in the early game (coupled with reducing the bonus production from that super strong policy card, to bring that more in line too), but notably more expensive in the late game, and probably felt most with gold (as 10 more production to build means 40 more gold cost to buy). The same applies for builders, but I would want to argue against using this scaling for military units. Firstly and most importantly, military units are not around all game - at some point, they are upgraded into different units. This would make it extremely hard to balance the numbers correctly. Secondly, this would make it near impossible to recover from losing a war, as you lost some cities and most of your units, meaning you now have extremely expensive units as well as fewer cities to build them with. Instead, unit costs should scale on the amount of units you currently have plus the amount of units you're currently building (to avoid just building 10 units at once for the low price). This would also be a general scaling for all military units, independent of the kind of unit you're building right now.

    *On one hand, science and culture cannot scale on "techs researched" and "civics researched" as this would make beelining far too efficient, while on the other hand, units need to scale softer as you start with needing 5 units and end with needing 15 units (assuming no domination victory), whereas techs go from a few to 60 or however many there are.
     
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  15. Leyrann

    Leyrann Warlord

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    I like the idea, but I feel like the proposal is a bit crude, and in fact already in place (except that you also heal if you're skipping your turn). I would say that it is better to formalize supply lines, as they are something that is majorly missing from Civilization anyways. There should maybe be civilian units (so if they get captured the enemy can use them) that you can build in your cities and can then spend while on top of an allied unit to heal that unit, or something similar. This would require you to defend your supply lines while also making it harder to go very far away from your own cities, as you cannot heal without getting your supplies to your army.

    And while supply lines are something major missing from Civilization, I think tech diffusion is the major thing missing from civilization. I'm not going to use any wall of text for it (already done that enough), I'm just going to keep it at: If a city close to a city you own has access to a technology, you get a very small part of that technology every turn. If you have more such cities, you get a larger part every turn. To balance it out, everything after the classical era should, of course, become more expensive. But that needs a rebalance anyways as it's much too fast currently.
     
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  16. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    I reply directly to the OP since I haven't read the other posts.

    This problem is not that easy to solve.
    If Player A has 200 cities and Player B has 100 cities, Player A would have 120 units and Player B would have 100 units. A fight Player A against Player B would be challenging for both sides (when they are on the same tech level).
    However Player A has to guard 200 cities with only 120 units (0.6 units per city) while Player B has 1 unit for each of his 100 cities, so Player B has an advantage.
    Now there is a Player C with 100 cities and 100 units. Player C allies with Player B. The alliance has 200 cities (like Player A) but has 200 units which have a good chance against the 120 units of Player A unless Player A has a significantly higher Tech Level.
     
  17. Olleus

    Olleus Chieftain

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    Lots of good ideas in the thread. Of course, exponential scaling is not enough on its own to make the late game interesting. But without it in some sort of shape or form I don't see how it could be interesting. The devil, I'm afraid, is in the detail about how steep the scaling should be and even exactly what the exponential rise should be linked to.

    Maintenance costs rising exponentially with the total number of current units sounds good though, much better than simply rising building cost (although it would change the balance between gold and production substantially).

    As for the objection raised by @historix69, that is correct, but I feel besides the point. Larger empires tend to not have significantly more borders to defend than smaller empires due to linear vs area scaling and the tendency to go to natural border (oceans or mountain ranges). Anyway, the exact numbers I gave in OP where just to illustrate the point, I don't really know what a balanced scaling should be other than increasingly steep as you get increasingly strong. The point about several smaller empires being stronger than one big empire is entirely valid, and not one I had thought about at all. However, I believe that's it a good one! It forces diplomacy to stay important even when you are powerful, and provides plenty of immersion for the player. History is full of instances of a group of small nations defeating a much larger rival (Greece vs Persian empire come to mind)


    On a more personal note, I must admit that I am touched by the discussion here. Not only was my wall of text not ignored as I expected, but discussion has been constructive, polite and warm. My faith in these forums is restored.
     
  18. Manifold

    Manifold ModderProtectionAdvocate

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    Simple suggestions:

    1. hall of fame
    2. missions (e.g. crusades)
    3. age of revolutions midgame
    3a. railways as infrastructure mini simulation game
    3b. more modern and later infrastructure (e.g. offshore wind farm, canals...)


    Other suggestions:

    One part of the Civ series named "Test of time". But at the moment Civ6 is become the lead and roll to the end. After a proper point in game the play is not tested anymore.
    For my view, a prerequisite for more challenge would be a Civ skill system. Rudimentary it is already the Governmental Legacy Bonuses. A very good thing in Civ5 was to choose your next bonuses when you have enough culture. So if there is such a skill system for the Civ and a hall of fame it will be possible to annoy or test the player and his Civ more if he gets a compensation (skill progress) for master the new challenge.

    4. major natural and barbarian triggered events
    5. civil wars (e.g. when the Civ changes the Government or Religion. This could be settleable option or the player could be asked if he wants to risk a civil war and double his points in the hall of fame.)


    At the moment last suggestions:

    6. AI Scripting:
    7. Scripted world wars

    I have the feeling that the AI does not want to win and will also not prevent me from winning. There must be a mechanism that every participating Civ tries to win or tries to prevent another from winning even if this means the downfall if this try is unsuccessful.
    I cant understand why a defeated Civ gives me more cities in a peace deal when this takes all chances to win for them. Would it be not better to give their gold and city to another Civ who could stop the warmonger. Like Pergamon did when they jointed the Roman Empire.

    8. diplomatic option to join a war for everyone
     
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  19. agonistes

    agonistes wants his subs under ice!

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    I'd rather see a solution that is engaging and that I can pursue, instead of simply being an anchor I have to drag along.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  20. Barbarian King

    Barbarian King Chieftain

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    Concerning some of the potential balancing mechanisms mentioned in this thread, I think the tech diffusion which Civ4 did should be brought back, as it seemed to do a good job at preventing runaways (tech really is the most important aspect of the whole runaway issue). Unit cost scaling was also apparently considered for Civ4, as there was a working mechanic for it that you could enable for mods (I enabled it for a modern mod to keep the countries with the strong starting positions from just steamrolling everyone), but with the 1UP change I don't think it's necessary as you never really need a large army anyway. The most obvious thematically appropriate method of putting a brake on large empires would be a revolt system or societal decay system, but such negative systems often aren't fun to play with. As for other mechanics that could be added to the late game to keep things interesting as you slog your way to the end, I would not be surprised if they bring back the world congress and maybe even corporations in a future expansion.
     

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