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"The Bad Sequel": Sullla's Analysis of Civ5

Discussion in 'News Updates' started by Ginger_Ale, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Ginger_Ale

    Ginger_Ale Lurker Retired Moderator

    Jul 23, 2004
    Red Sox Nation
    Gaming site Bitmob has recently published an article written by CivFanatics member Sullla in which he describes his perception of Civ5 as "the bad sequel". In the piece, Sullla chronicles the big picture of Civ5's release and some of its subsequent disappointment.

    However, he also addresses the gaming industry as a whole, commenting on a pattern that seems to apply to games failing to live up to the hype:

    For those of you interested in a more Civ5-specific article, check out Sullla's website for his explanation of "What Went Wrong".

    Thanks to Rob Savillo for the news tip!
  2. glider1

    glider1 Deity

    May 29, 2006
    Where animals hop not run
    The pattern that Sulla is seeing is very accurate, but people remember that is describes an effect of some other cause. It does not actually explain the cause itself and thus it can only tell us what went wrong, not how to truly and fundamentally fix it.

    In that sense it misses the point. We gamers miss the point. If we want to fix something, we must get to the cause. What is the cause? Whenever there is a issue, look to the cause not the effect and the problem will be resolved it is that simple. But what is the true cause?

    It is our mind that generates unrealistic expectations (and believe me they were unrealistic!) We keep looking to something external to us (like a game) to fix our woes and make us happy. We have been taught to do that. But we never find that "thing" not because we are blind, but because there is no such thing (it does not exist). We keep searching for it not because we are stupid, but because we are quite naturally creatures of habit.

    We restore peace of mind by focusing on the cause of the problem (our perception) and stop focusing on illusions that do not work. Why would we want to get ourselves happy ever searching for a fallacy, a mirage of the way we think, an effect of a hidden cause we do not see but that is right between our eye balls? We start to take responsibility for our heads, the true cause, and we need go no further than that! All our expectations will then resolve peacefully.

    We would relax. We would get less hyped (because the resolution to our problems is always available and we do not have to buy something to fix it any more (although we still will might wish to buy something and do buy things). The gaming industry (a system that does whatever is necessary to sell games) will temporarily fight back with a few more temptations for a while. It is content for us to spiral into the happy/sad cycle so that it can sell games not because it is evil, but because that is the gaming industries habitual response to the habits of gamers that have insatiable needs and expectations from their games.

    But the industry is yet another end product, an effect of our mind, we make the industry and it is a by-product of how we think. If we were to calm down and relax by focusing on the true cause of our problems...

    (a mind that that continually looks for something other than itself, to fix itself)

    ...the industry would respond and it's habits would change in response and the hype would be less intense. The marketing departments would change their strategy and you would find that the quality of the games would probably improve again because there would be less heat and more light. There is light when we are inspired and we are inspired when we get to the cause of a problem and fix it. That is when we get inspired. We do not fix something by hacking at it and then throwing it in the bin (there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Civ5 except for what we expected of it). We fix anything and everything by getting to the true cause. That is when we can start to enjoy games again and that is when the "quality" of the games will improve (where our expectations by and large match with what the game delivers and visa versa). The rest is just a vicious spiral of happiness/sadness always missing the point unwittingly spawning an insatiable gaming industry that feeds on our unrealistic desires.

    But I don't know that and I am describing an idea that exists in my mind (an effect of the way that I think) and as such it may have truth, but it probably does not work in the way that I think that it does.

  3. TheDS

    TheDS Regular Riot

    Jan 18, 2002
    Daytona Beach
    From what I can tell, the game didn't deliver on its promises. We were "sold" one game with all the hype and handed another when it was released. The bugs aren't even part of the equation; we were told the game would be X and it turned out to be Y.
  4. The Hyper Duck

    The Hyper Duck Chieftain

    Nov 24, 2004
    Yup. If bugs were the only problem with CiV, I would have played it a few times since November. Both Civ III and IV were buggy as hell upon their release, but I played them during their sketchy "unpolished" periods because the underlying structure of the game was still entertaining. CiV is bland and simple, and I don't think Firaxis is going to fix it - I think they intended it to be this way. Maybe not bland, but definitely simple.

    Hardcore strategy gamers aren't very numerous and will never bring in the kind of cash you see in franchises like Call of Duty or WoW (I don't like either of these games; I'm just using them as examples). I think the objective with CiV was to simplify the game to bring in more customers; customers who don't have the patience to learn a game as complex as the earlier entries in the Civ series. Unfortunately, what they failed to take into account is the fact that strategy games without complexity don't have any strategy. Thus, it bores the aforementioned hardcore group quickly. New customers might be drawn in, but these people have a short attention span anyway and will move onto another game within a few months.

    Essentially, it's up to the modding community to make CiV appealing. Given some of the stuff produced for CivIV, I don't doubt that they can do this, but it's going to take a while I think.
  5. jacyp

    jacyp Winter Lover

    Nov 11, 2004
    Vitória (ES) - Brasil
    I think you were very accurate pin-pointing this. Indeed if bugs were the only problem (for those who think the game has a problem, anyway) of Civ 5, we woudn't have so much debate.

    I think we were promised Civilization 5, but we got Civilization Revolutions 2.

    I also agree with your analysis.
  6. cephalo

    cephalo Deity

    Jul 26, 2007
    Missouri, USA
    I gotta say that I totally disagree with the criticisms of 1upt. Yeah, it was implimented poorly. Yeah, the maps are way too small. There are all kinds of imaginable solutions to these problems though, and I think it is way off the mark to say that it is somehow fundamental to Civ5's problems. I still remember the drudgery of assembling and lugging around 50 unit stacks in Civ4 late game. It was usually enough to make me quit if war broke out. 1upt could have been the perfect answer if only the AI knew what to do with ranged units and not risk units blindly in sea transport. The poor implimentation of 1upt does not mean that the concept of 1upt is a problem for Civ5.

    Don't give up on 1upt! It has... ahem... *potential*.
  7. omurtag

    omurtag Chieftain

    Jun 14, 2006
    Reno, NV
    I see your point and when the game came out I was in the same boat as you. I liked 1upt and thought that all can be fixed by making the AI better. It cannot. The problem is that a limited number of tiles imposes a cap on the size of your army, which puts a limit on tile yields. Consequently, you produce fewer units and less often, which for me kills the game. I like to see stuff being built. A building every few turns, a new unit, and so on ... gives me a sense of accomplishment. It makes you see a direct relationship between decisions and results. When a regular unit takes 20 turns to produce, by the time it's ready I have already forgotten I was making it.

    People dislike the old combat system because it was highly formulaic, but I find the new system even more so. Melee in the front and ranged in the back. The optimal choice of your units' arrangement is fairly obvious. The only trick is to move them to their optimal positions in as few turns as possible. This, I find incredibly tedious. It's just busy work, and the exceptionally bad pathing algorithms make it even worse.
  8. Elliot

    Elliot Warlord

    Jul 30, 2008
    I thought the DLC would be a way to get more money out of the hardcore fan and hopefully design the game more towards them. Sadly, it seems the DLC is geared more for the casual fan since a large part of the extra civs is the artwork(i've had animated leaderheads off since the 2nd day to improve performance) and multiplayer doesn't work with the DLC new civs. I recall a civfanatics frontpage post from a few years ago that said that Civ4 was the 1st or 2nd most played game on an hours per week basis. There's a ton of hardcore fans out there! Try and charge us more for the game somehow and make the game truly for us!
  9. Jonathan

    Jonathan Prince

    Oct 7, 2001
    Sant Pere de Ribes, Spain
    I think this is worth commenting on because it's so wrong. Compared with Civ, Chess is a very simple game: no more than 16 units per player, very small and featureless map, few rules. But would you really say that it has no strategy?

    A problem with all versions of Civ (and with many other computer games) is that it has a lot of details that serve only to blur the game and obscure the essential elements of strategy. I'd like to see a stripped-down version of the game that focussed on strategy by taking an axe to the inessential details. As a side benefit, the resulting game would be easier to program and easier to debug.
  10. mo123567

    mo123567 Worst modder ever!

    Sep 4, 2005
    A lot of good points but the part about growing apart from the civ series as a whole seems a little dramatic. I'm sure we will see more great and disapointing civ games in the future. They tried some different things that didn't work out so well this time but at least they didn't rerelease civ 4, which was great but I already own it. I'm still looking forward to civ 6 and 7 and 8 etc...
  11. generalwar

    generalwar Philosopher

    Jul 2, 2009
    Sulla's probably right. How could Firaxis fix ciV's flaws without removing some of it's bases? I'm really starting to think that civ series are never going to be what they were :(.
  12. kaltorak

    kaltorak Emperor

    Jul 7, 2009
    The problem is you sell much more if your game is appealing for the first days, than if it has a step learning curve and is appealing for years. So they do most of the games fast and short term enjoyable nowadays.
  13. Kiwi_Mark_LFC

    Kiwi_Mark_LFC Chieftain

    Mar 5, 2008
    As soon as I heard they wanted to go 1UPT I said it would be a disaster.

    I was right.

    However I never thought they could have gotten it so wrong.

    Civ V is beyond boring...its worse than watching Woy's Liverpool.

    Shafer failed completely and totally.

    One of the worst games of all time.
  14. sickre

    sickre Warlord

    Oct 28, 2005
    A previous article had put it well - they shifted game mechanics to that of a board game, with artificial/arbitrary rules and concepts.

    By contrast, Civ 4 and previous were more of a 'Civilisation Simulator'. I think thats what we were looking for, with better graphics and hexagons. The content (more units, techs etc.) could have been modded in later, so I don't think a DLC strategy would ever work - they should have stuck to big expansion packs.

    Overall I think Civ5 was alright, but I havn't played since purchase. Changes need to be made to happiness and culture to encourage big civs again.

    Otherwise, can we have Alpha Centauri 2 please? We just need new graphics, keep everything else the same! (With some logical UI changes and modernisation)
  15. sketch162000

    sketch162000 Warlord

    Oct 12, 2010
    Here's the thing though...there are all kinds of imaginable solutions to Stacks of Doom, as well. 1upt is just one solution and probably the most extreme case. Your line of thinking, which mirrors that of the dev team, suggests that we MUST use the untried, unproven mechanism of 1upt and reorganize the game around it, rather than coming up with solution that fits better with the overall design philosophy of the Civilization series. On his site, Sullla talks about how the insistence that 1upt is THE right answer to combat led to the slew of problems that plague Civ V. Why can't we just go back to the drawing board for the combat system?
  16. plesniak

    plesniak Warlord

    Oct 23, 2006
    Really no different than the way most consumer products are designed today. It is not in a company's best interests to sell aproduct that will last forever!!

    If you only had to buy one car in your whole lifetime the car companies would have been begging for handouts a long time ago. Company engineers design the vehicles to fail after an 'acceptable' amount of time and use has gone by.

    Video game design is no different...You want to produce a game that goes off with a bang and then fairly quickly leaves you bored to tears(or waiting for the fix-all patch) and wanting something, well, different...like another video game=profits on a year over year basis.:goodjob:
  17. Apoll

    Apoll Chieftain

    Apr 16, 2007
    I don't have problem with CiV. It is bit slow, especially on marathon, and we can't generate many units, however I do like the 1upt, the improved economy & happiness system and the rare resources issue.

    I was never fun for modern era games in CIV 4. A turn it could take ages to process with all the battles going on. And if you did a mistake reverting to a save, or the game crashed, you could easily lose half hour gaming for just couple of turns.

    And when you had war, was nightmare trying to attack with the huge amount of flying and land units.

    Nope I like the current 1upt and smaller armies.

    Also don't forget there is a mod that allows the stacks of doom, for people who want it to.

    Unlimited special resources, is being solved, no more the zerg of axemen/swordmen taking out the continent before the 1st century AD.

    Can't over expand an empire fast by taking the enemies out and without planning, and no exponential growth by any means.
  18. croxis

    croxis Chat room op

    Dec 17, 2001
    Portland, OR, US
    I've never understood this whole "untried and unproven" as some kind of evidence. Borders were untried and unproven in SMAC, resources were untried and unproven in Civ3, Religion was untried and unproven in Civ4. It isn't even factually correct as these things were also found in other games!
  19. Zyxpsilon

    Zyxpsilon Running Spider

    Oct 29, 2009
    On Earth
    How's that for Sulla's closing commentary?
    I totally disagree with the above statement and there are good reasons why.

    1-- I'm not actually trapped in a bad sequel. I might have been disappointed with a few small & yet silly issues - thus i'd rather hope than be sorry. Mood swings or not, i'm just trying to be rational.

    2-- If all i care about is to "waste my time" expecting such a magical patch to fix a (somehow) broken game... it's nobody's business but mine.

    3-- Better games? Thousands? Are we talking about the actual pretty tight market sharing of pure TBS genre titles? 5, 10 maybe even a lot less! Not much more to dig up over. Are they *ALL* better than CiV? Matter of highly qualitative opinions.

    I have every rights to stress over Sulla's take on such stuff but when it comes to simply demolish a franchise cuz its latest iteration went punch-drunk-sadly off & out the gates of 2K/Steam scheme of an hurry-up distribution too soon to be taken any seriously at and since release date by most of us - i gotta exit the bandwagon.

    We all know what happened at Firaxis in the summer, half the precious staff & devs went out the door for whatever reasons. (Jon Shafer being the latest casualty, btw)

    So, i must wonder or ask what the real difference is between good & bad games - be they sequels or brand spanking new attempts at convincing the whole lotta consumers (casual+hardcore, in fact) out there; design, quality, concepts & code stability included.

    FanBase exaggerations, perhaps?! By you & him & plain just tricky me.
  20. wolfblue

    wolfblue Warlord

    Dec 3, 2010
    outstanding article I cant immagine anything i could have said better myself given any amount of motivation, time or effort.

    I think that this view is flawed in that no new civ game should ever be what a past civ game was. they should always be advancing. I feel that civ4 BTS is the pinical of the civ franchise. the great number of options, good AI, few bugs and immersive feel makes the game great. however any one who has played the game a few times even if they love it is going to have ideas on how to improve it.

    civ5 and 1upt was an attemt to do so, horribly failed, an honest attempt.

    I believe that there is no salvaging civ5 but i also believe that historicaly speaking whenever a franchise falls flat on its face to this degree, usually by ignoring the fanbase, they tend to make up for it in the next instalation by heavily catering to the fanbase and raising the level of quality control and design effort. look at MS Windows for example.

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