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Starting a Civ4 PBEM Group

Discussion in 'Civ4 - PBEM Games' started by bkelly1984, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. bkelly1984

    bkelly1984 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
    Messages:
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    Hail CivFanatics!

    I know you're out there. Like me, you're a micro-managing power monger who doesn't like online games because everyone else is telling you to hurry up and people either quit or disconnect just as the game gets interesting. Civilization is arguably the most in-depth computer game ever written! The development, research, conflicts, diplomacy and intrigue are to be scrutinized and savored, not rushed through in an evening.

    Fortunately, for people like us the Civilization 4 play by E-mail (or PBEM) option exists. Someone can load the game, make their moves and when finished, email the save file to the next person. Since nobody is at their keyboard waiting for their turn, you can spend hours deciding if your city needs roads or irrigation. When you encounter another player, take the time to draft treaties and deal for technologies. Waste untold hours at work or school by planning out your next moves. Take the time to play the whole game, not just another Command and Conquer knockoff.

    So, I seek other Napoleon-like people who have the maturity and ambition to play a Civ4 PBEM game, ones that could easily take months. If you'd like to join, send me your name, email address and preferences of what sort of game you would like to participate. To send me mail, click on my name to the left and select "Send email to bkelly1984". We'll start as soon as we have enough people.

    There are a number of possible ways to do this. I'll draft up official guidelines soon and put together lists of options as they come up, but here is how I plan to work from the start:

    1. People can choose between three games- 8 players, 4 players and 4 players with 4 computer opponents at a difficult skill level.
    2. At the start of the game, everyone is given the names and email addresses of the other players and told which of them they are to mail their saved games to. Players are free to communicate with one another privately with these addresses.
    3. Players are expected to make their moves and mail their game within 24 hours of having the save game mailed to them. (Not when they see it, when it was mailed to them!) Games will be emailed to the next player as well as the game administrator as verification. People who turn in turns late may be replaced by the game admin.
    4. We'll plan a "blitz" session, so the first 10 or more turns can be done quickly. Everyone will be expected to be sitting by their computers during this time ready to make a quick move and send the game on.
    5. I will create and administrate the first couple of games, which may cause a problem if I also play because the game admin could view anybodys empire even not knowing their password in Civ3. I promise to be fair, but it would be better if someone would be willing to administrate games that I can play in.
    6. Anyone who joins is expected to see their games to the end. Frequently people who are losing either abandon their empire or purposefully lose to another player. Doing either will cause you to be excluded from future games.
    7. Civ3 had bugs in the PBEM implementation that allowed people to circumvent the password scheme allowing them to see other people's empires. It was also possible to fight a battle many times until you got the outcome you wanted. If these problems remain, everyone is expected to be honorable and not exploit these loopholes until, hopefully, we can find a way to prevent them.
    If anyone has other suggestions, please feel free to post them. I look forward to conquering you all!

    bkelly1984
     
  2. Daze

    Daze Chieftain

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
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    Hi bKelly,
    Thanks for taking the initiative on this. I'm up for this and happy to trust you to play and do the admin, don't feel comfortable doing admin myself as I've never played an MP game before so wouldn't know where to start. I'm not getting my game until the 4th november but after that I'd love a pebm game while I play my first SP game.

    About the rules, will there be a simultaneous move version of PEBM where everyone has to mail there moves to the admin by a certain time every day and then these are combined and the results sent out. This is how I've thought it would work and would be a lot faster, a turn every day instead of a turn every 8 days. It also means that if someone doesn't get there moves in in time that they just lose the chance to make adjustments that turn - I'm keen on this but can't garatee that I'll always be able to post a reply; I've got a pregnant girlfriend and a time consuming job...

    For the above reasons the ten turn biltz could be a probelm too. How long will it take to get this out of the way?

    Cheers again,
    Pat
     
  3. bkelly1984

    bkelly1984 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
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    Hail again CivFanatics!

    I've heard from three people so far, so we'll certainly be able to get something going here. Most expect to receive their copy of Civ 4 in early November, so we'll shoot for starting matches then. If you want to get in and are reading this after we've started, please send me email. I'm sure players will drop and new games will be started as people trickle in.

    Let me see if I can field some of the questions that I have been asked. Please keep in mind that I haven't gotten a copy of the game yet, so I'm not certain on any of my answers.
    This would be ideal, but I doubt Civ4 will work this way. The game has always resolved battles as soon as a player gives the order, so this system would require a fair amount of new code. The PBEM implementation in Civ3 was just a long-distance hotseat game (where one person plays until done and then gets up and the next sits and so on), so I expect the same here. If we can get a large enough group enjoying long-term PBEM games, perhaps we could convince Firaxis to modify PBEM game orders and combat.

    I received a few questions about the blitz sessions. Let me explain my thoughts a bit better.

    Little needs to be done for the turns at the start of a Civ3 game. Your first turn consists of either founding a city and setting production or maybe moving the settler to a better location but building the city shortly thereafter. There is then nothing to do while you wait five or more turns for your first unit to be built. After this period there is more to do, but turns still only take minutes.

    Since these turns can be done quickly, the idea is to have everyone at their computers making their moves quickly so the game can get beyond these first turns sooner. If one person is off seeing a movie or working around the house and not checking their email, the game will stop on his turn and everyone must wait, even if the player has no units to order. By the time this player returns, another person may have gone to bed, putting the game on hold again. Without some sort of blitz, it could be a month before the first unit is produced.

    To answer Daze's question, this could take some time. If we assume each person can download, play, save and upload their turn in five minutes (which I think is optimistic), then one turn of a four player game would take at least twenty minutes in a blitz. So then ten blitz turns in a four player game will require everyone to be quickly taking their turns and mailing the file on for at least three and a half hours. An eight player game would take double that- perhaps more as some confusion is to be expected.

    If this can't happen, we could try a "jumpstart" option that could run something like this. The first two or four turns are run normally after which everyone is expected to have founded their city. The admin then quickly runs 10 or 20 turns on his own computer building units in a set order (perhaps two warriors and one settler), but moving none of them. The game then continues normally.

    I've also been asked how teams would be handled, where two people who know each other would play their empires as one sharing land and technology. It is a problem, but I think it will be less of an issue in a PBEM game than a a normal one for several reasons. First, people who do this are focused on winning the game even if the victory was not earned and I would expect them to join faster moving games so they can achieve their goal sooner. Second, I expect alliances to be built between players and this will help identify and defend against this sort of unfair teaming. Finally, the admin is expected to save copies of the game as it progresses and it will be easy to audit players to see if they have been working together as they will make generous trades and never patrol their borders.

    So in short I don't see what can be done to prevent it today, but the game admin can take the necessary action if it happens and the offenders will not be included in future games.
     
  4. Eyemaze

    Eyemaze Warlord

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    Civ 4 has a simultaneous turn mode. It even has a turn timer that gives everyone x amount of time to get their turn in.
    Simultaneous turn mode is only available during multiplayer.
     
  5. Eyemaze

    Eyemaze Warlord

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    meh simulataneous turn mode is not available play by email, only in lan and gamespy multiplayer games
     
  6. Daze

    Daze Chieftain

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    Quote "If this can't happen, we could try a "jumpstart" option that could run something like this. The first two or four turns are run normally after which everyone is expected to have founded their city. The admin then quickly runs 10 or 20 turns on his own computer building units in a set order (perhaps two warriors and one settler), but moving none of them. The game then continues normally."

    This sounds best to me, I don't want to spend hours setting up the first ten turns everytime I play a PBEM game. I wonder if it's possible to start a game in a simultaneous turn gamespy mode and then switch to PBEM? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

    Look forward to playing you guys,
    Pat
     
  7. stormuzo

    stormuzo Chieftain

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    Oct 26, 2005
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    I have not tried playing a PBEM game before but would be intrigued to try one.
    I'm based in Europe so I would not be able to get my hands on the game until after the 4th or 6th of November.

    I have no problems with running the "blitz" for the first few rounds, however I'm wondering if 24 hours isn't a bit short between turns?
    Say you head off somewhere with your girlfriend for a weekend per say, with no access to a computer, would this not hold up the whole game for everyone if each turn is run within 24 hours? As such, would 24 hours/per turn not work somewhat constricting on RL.

    That aside, the PBEM multiplayer option sounds like it could be an exciting experience =)
     
  8. UglyElmo

    UglyElmo Warlord

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    Daze: I don't think that is possible until they get the "Pit Boss" feature up and running, which I believe I read somewhere was scheduled for around the New Year.
     
  9. Kolyana

    Kolyana Czarina

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    Oct 27, 2005
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    bKelly, I just sent you an email giving my particulars, so hopefully you'll get that (I didn't see an actual confirmation that the email had been successfully sent, so who knows :crazyeye:

    I look forward to meeting all of you over the negotiating table and *cough*the battlefield*cough* :goodjob:
     
  10. cass1010

    cass1010 Chieftain

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    Contact info submitted. I need PBEM to curb my play hours. I bought the game yesterday and stayed up playing it until 3am.
     
  11. HeroFromHyrule

    HeroFromHyrule Chieftain

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    I've already sent you a PM but I figured I should post a reply as well. This was actually something I was excited about, hoping that I could get a good PBEM game going.
     
  12. Silversmith

    Silversmith Chieftain

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    I've already sent you an email. I hope there is room enough for me
     
  13. KingSponge

    KingSponge Warlord

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    Not sure it this is possible but as alternative you could try to get everybody online at the same time and just keep checking their emails. :) I've done that before. It's a hassle but it'll get you through the first few turns at least.
     
  14. culdeus

    culdeus Emperor

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    I don't get the animosity towards defined teams? This could add a new level of strategy to MP games. Having 3 locked 2 person teams working could add a new level of complexity. You could pair a war-type civ with a peaceful industrious civ and work together. The games would run faster because tech sharing would push people up the ladder quicker.

    I hope this is something people are interested in PBEM games. Also it seems the interface for PBEM will check and send mail for you which should speed up the process.
     
  15. bkelly1984

    bkelly1984 Chieftain

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    Hi Everyone,

    I picked up Civ4 on Wednesday and have been kicking the tires. I thought I would fill you in on what I've found so we can discuss options.

    First, the PBEM implementation is completely hot-seat. Player one moves and when you press the turn button, the game automatically saves and asks you to email the save game to the next player. There is no way to change the play-style mid-game. It's still quite easy to cheat by opening the game, making a move and seeing the result and then reloading the game and trying something else if you didn't like the outcome. I don't know if a random seed is saved to fights in the same order would have the same results. It's very straight-forward but will probably make for slow games.

    There is no longer an official game administrator. Each player can be assigned a password at the start of the game and I have not found a way for them to be changed. On the plus side, I was unable to force the game forward with bogus passwords as I was in Civ3, so it is harder to view other people's empires or play multiple turns on the side to view the entire map.

    An interesting addition with Civ4 PBEM is that an email and SMTP address can be assigned to a race when it is created. Ideally the game could then automatically mail the savefile to the next player when you finish your turn but I have a couple of concerns. First, although you can modify the addresses before the file is sent, it doesn't seem possible to alter the address in the savefile, which means everyone must retype the address if someone changes email accounts or a player drops. Second, most mailservers won't accept mail from just any computer anymore, even if you're sending to someone on that server. So, everyone must use their own mailserver to relay the message, which is less automation and may cause confusion with some. Third, I'd still like to have a game administrator who can resolve disputes and replace players if necessary. With this option, it would still be necessary to manually mail a copy of your turn to that person. Overall, my thoughts are to skip this feature until we can setup our own mailserver that will accept everyone's savegame, handle address changes and automatically save a copy or forward it to the game administrator.

    Empires seem to always start with a settler and a warrior, which I think is a good change but it makes the idea of a "jumpstart" less appealing to me. People will want to explore some with their extra unit while their city is starting out. Also, workers and settlers now halt city growth while being produced (excess food counts as additional production) so there is more to manage when building these units. All in all, I would rather run a blitz session but we should be able to try many ideas over many games.

    There seems to be a sizable group over on the Apolyton forums (http://apolyton.net/forums/) who have more experience with PBEM and what they call "Succession" games. MarkG described them as, "Succession Game: Multiplayer game in which all players play the same civ, each one playing a specific number of turns and then passing the game to the next". You might want to check out their forums if that sounds interesting to you. I'll continue to organize this PBEM group here, but I'll stay in close contact with them so everyone has more games to choose from with more opponents.

    The groups over at Apolyton are also discussing games that use a cooperation team mode. In it, teams of players are formed from the beginning and each race benefits from your team's wonders, resources and knowledge. I'm more of an "every man for himself" player, but I think I'm more of the exception in that regard. It would certainly solve the problem about teaming I was asked about earlier. What is everyone's thought on this?

    I'm also wondering about announcing games and holding information about them. I plan to email everyone who has contacted me with information about what's going on, but it might also be a good idea to post game information, public announcements and discussion so people have a reference or can see what's going on in games in which they are not involved. We could do one thread per game here as long as things don't get too crowded for the other multiplayer folks. We could also start our own forum, but I would hate to fracture the Civ4 community even more. Any other ideas?

    A few of my thoughts on posts:

    That's right, I forgot about this so perhaps putting together some sort of simultaneous PBEM system wouldn't be so hard. And as UglyElmo pointed out...

    I've just started to hear about this "Pit Boss" feature too. Here are a couple things being said about it over at the Apolyton forums:

    Other than stating that it's a Persistant Turn Based Server mechanism, there has been little said in all the previews. This is likely because it will not ship with the first release but as part of a future patch, and therefore the specific details have likely not been finalized. The only thing that's been hinted at is that it's likely alot like a PBEM game except that no save need be sent since he game is always "online". - CanuckSoldier

    My assumption is that this would eliminate cheating and provide an automated mechanism to skip turns if players don't respond within a given window - Rommel2D

    This would be exactly the kind of mediator we've been talking about. If it is released, I am certain our group will make good use of it.

    24 hours is a bit demanding but I thought it would an expected pace a majority of people would like. My hope is we get enough players to set up games with turn deadlines from 8 hours to a week. If there's enough call now, perhaps one game we set up will have three day turn limits.

    Also, I expect people will miss the deadline but I doubt everyone will call for that person's removal after their first offense. The limit tries to set an expectation, and players should let the group know or find a proxy player if they won't be able to meet it. Talk to your fellow players and game admin. We all understand that life takes priority over fun.


    My thanks to everyone who has written me. I'll listen to everyone's feedback and start setting up the first games this weekend.

    bkelly1984
     
  16. culdeus

    culdeus Emperor

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    So from the above post it seems they have come up with a "no reload" condition for PBEM that will be available towards the end of 05? Might just sit tight and o\/\/n the AI until then.
     
  17. Daze

    Daze Chieftain

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    Quote: We could do one thread per game here as long as things don't get too crowded for the other multiplayer folks.

    Some one had a thread going about a seperate PBEM section on this forum, seems like a good idea to me and should suit the other multiplayers too as will give them more room. I'll try and reserect that thread else anyone know a moderator?
     
  18. Ephor

    Ephor Chieftain

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    I'm not very good, but since gamespy isn't working for me, I'd love to play!

    Sign me up for either :D
     
  19. Danheg

    Danheg Warlord

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    Note that the game now has a neat alarm clock to tell you when to quit. :)
     
  20. MattTjarks

    MattTjarks Chieftain

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    Hey everyone. I haven't every really done multiplayer before on games like this, but i'd love to try it out. Keep me in touch about stuff going on. I'd be willing to start a game anytime, and would be willing to do a blitz thing for the first few turns.
     

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