Scale of civ (Warning! Long post ahead!)


Jun 17, 2011
This is mostly a ‘what if’ thread, but let’s start with what is: the scale of civ is wrong.

This can be seen on many levels, most notably population sizes and map dimensions.

Let’s assume that the civ world, which is 80x50 tiles (mentally add some rows of ice on the poles to make it rounder), is the same size as our own planet. That would mean a single map tile in civ is 500 kilometers wide, a medium sized country by territory in the real world. Population levels are also fairly low. 20-30 million people are enough for the player to comfortably win the space race or subjugate all AI civs and then cover the map with cities while chasing the high score. Even then, however, you reach a few limitations, like how many cities you’re allowed to build and the population counter bugging out after around 300 000 000.

Now, let’s assume these limitations aren’t there, you can build as many cities as you like and the counter doesn’t bug out. A civ world with large landmasses can theoretically hold a population of… how much? (Waiting for the high score freaks to help out here!) Perhaps half a billion? Maybe even one billion people? Still very far even from the five billion we had when civ was released. Theoretically, to approximate modern-day Earth population levels, you’d need a civ world to have roughly ten times more land than it currently has. Let’s say we increase map dimensions by a factor of 3, so a map is now 240x150 tiles. This way we get nine times more land and the world’s population can reach several billion. But… that still requires the entire map to be covered in cities and rails, whereas Earth has very large areas that are essentially uninhabited, while population is very concentrated in others. Map tiles are also still quite chunky, with a width of approximately 170 km.

To make life-like population sizes and distribution possible, as well as to properly scale city and country sizes to geography (for example if you want to create a detailed real-world scenario), you’d need to increase map dimensions by a factor of 10, which would net you roughly 100 times more land on a map sized 800x500, with a single tile representing the much more realistic 50x50 km. This would be, however, overwhelming, unmanageable and likely unenjoyable without gameplay upgrades like better GoTo pathfinding, building queues, interlinking menus, map sharing between civs, etc. There are other game elements that should also be brought up to scale. You’d need more civs, slower research, faster units, maybe even more game turns.

But, again, this is just a ‘what if’. I personally wouldn’t want to play on such a map. Or rather, I would like to, but I’m sure I’d never be able to go through an entire game. Even fast and tight games on good old regular Pluto-sized civ planets can get tedious towards the end, I can’t really imagine dealing with such a monstrosity. But it has always bugged me that civ’s scale is wrong. And I think it’s wrong on purpose. Not just because the game wouldn’t have fit on the disks if Sid had gone for a more realistic scale, but also because it wouldn’t be as fun to play.

There's always a balance with these things trying to keep it fun whilst retaining some semblance of reality. In Civ II at least which isn't a million miles away from Civ I and much more open for modding, you can have absolutely enormous maps like this one. But unless you very specifically tailor a mod to it, it gets boring very quickly as you bump into things like the unit caps, civs being too far apart and the tedium of having to manage hundreds of cities. I think you're right, whilst I'm sure the memory limitations of 1991 era DOS PCs was a consideration, I'm sure the scale was a conscious choice to improve the flow of gameplay.

Still, doesn't mean I wouldn't turn down a world map large enough to have the UK be more than about 4 tiles!
Well, if I succeed in reconstructing the original code of CIV 1 all things are possible. And I hope I will ;)

The dimension of the original Earth map has been consciously chosen for a game to be more quick and interesting (somewhere I read that Sid Meier has chosen to scale the map downwards by a factor of 2 for a game to be quick enough and interesting), also a less than 640K of memory was a real challenge these days. But I agree that the map should be at least twice the size of the current map.

But we will see how things progress later on with a real gameplay. Also, adding more ancient civilizations like Sumerian, etc. would be more interesting on a larger map...
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