The core of 4X games "boring endgame problem" - a short essay about Rapidly Increasing Complexity

Krajzen

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We all know the eternal endgame curse of 4X games (and some other strategy games but not not all of them). When a typical 4X game begins, it is so interesting; but we abandon so many games we begin, because they often (not always) become significantly less exciting the longer game session goes on. What's the problem? War system, victory conditions, diplomacy, yield balance, pacing, eras, tech tree? [well it's visible part of the problem is "I know I have won already, game is set halfway through, but I have devoted separate post below just to that aspect of the same problem]

The problem is deep: growth of complexity across every 4X game session is exponential and those games design fails to keep up with that inherent growth in terms of mechanics and interface, leaving the player more and more overwhelmed and burned out as the game goes on. Player has to use interface and mechanics built around early game very low complexity, to deal with the scope orders of magnitude greater by the endgame. And every game session, in every 4X game, trying to somewhat model human history over time, it simply has to contain rapid, exponential growth of complexity. In the early game you deal with two tile improvements and two barbarian units in one city, over the course of several turns. By the late game you can juggle dozens of cities and units with hundreds of tile improvements, and the more game goes on, the more happens in shorter amounts of time. This is unavoidable.

Not only the more game goes on the more and more happens in shorter and shorter amounts of time, here systems sciencr gives us the idea of emergence - at some threshold critical points, rising complexity creates entirely new qualities which cannot be reduced to their precedessors. In the early game you think of individual tiles and your little city neighborhood. Over the course of game you fluently start thinking in terms of local diplomacy, larger diplomacy, finally "globalisation" and victory conditions. In 4X games thus in every game session you dont just do more and more per turn; your ingsme activities and their menral framework and scope and scale of complexity fundamentally and dramatically changes as the game goes on.

This is not typical for most other video games. In most of racing, sport, action, rpg games you progress, unlock new toys and obstacles, but you think fundamentally about the same things from the beginning to end of your campaign. In Doom Eternal you begin with few toys and enemy types and end with dozens of toys and enemy types but you essentially have the same mindset as you begin and end the campaign: kill monsters by shooting gun at them. Even in complex tactical rpg games, even though you unlock tons of more items and skills and enemies with time, you do fundamentally the same things with your 4 - 6 team members: use skills and items to kill enemies. Relatively few game genres have this rapidly expanding and deepening cognitive load which 4X games have.

This is the problem, because interface and mechanics of 4X games being built and tested and designed around early game, collapse under weight of huge end game numbers. 1UPT district system feels great in civ6 early game, and it is a tedious terror of the late game - by the very nature of things, 100th tile improvement (+1% imperial yield) matters orders of magnitude less than 2nd tile improvement (+100% imperial yield), but you still have to spend the same amount of time to manage it. It becomes more and ml ore meaningless and therefore more and more boring!

It doesnt matter what shallow another mechanics, or number balance, or fancy fireworks you throw at that problem; you cannot solve the above issue of rapidly increasing cognitive load and rapidly decreasing meaning of individual player's actions by throwing even mire garbage on top of that, or tweaking some numbers.
The only solution I can imagine which could work would be to rise to the level of challenge and make game's mechanics and interface evolve as the game goes on. So for example player moves from having to manage every damn mine in an empire of 100 mines (tedious, boring, meaningless) to now having to manage imperial mining policy on a strategic level, or mineral trade in the global context. Less tedious, more impactful.

"Do you have any examples of 4X games dealing well with this problem?"
I think civ5 had one mechanic which was good in this regard, and the fact it was removed is miserable. Ideology system emerging in the industrial era. It was building upon your previous achievements and imperial backbone (so it doesnt "come out of thin air", it emerges from previous complexity), didn't require tedious micro on previous levels of interface, and introduced an entire new layer of complex interactions between players just in time to shakeup lategame.

However, significant offensive against this peoblem woukd need more than one such mechanic dealing well with the endgame/rising complexity problem, the core game design should recognize this issue and attempt to figure out how to keep "not feeling overwhelmed and bored" ratio to "making meaningful decisions" less asymmetric over a game session. Over the entire game design and pacing and balance and all mechanics.

Time will show at what point will 4X realize the nature of the problem (if I am right ofc; I was inspired by my recent months intensely enlightened by systems science in my academic fields)

EDIT
_hero_ and Kan Boztepe have rightfully pointed at the huge role played by "I know I have won already" aspect of the endgame problem. I devote a separate post to it, few posts below, but I still think it ties to the general theory of everything; "there are clear champions and losers 2/3 through the game" is because of exponentially rising power of early dominators, and to change that 4X games need some bottlenecks which shakeup things and make new rules of the game emerge by the late game, allowing underdogs to potentially win. There is actually such historical thing which can be adapted into great mechanic like that in civ series, Industrial Revolution; I have written more about this idea in that post below. So I think this caveat is still within my theory of What's Wrong.
 
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aieeegrunt

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The way 4X games tend to work means that decision fatigue quickly becomes a limiting factor to your enjoyment of the game
 

HorseshoeHermit

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We all know the eternal endgame curse of 4X games (and some other strategy games but not not all of them). [...]

The problem is deep: growth of complexity across every 4X game session is exponential and those games design fails to keep up with that inherent growth in terms of mechanics and interface, leaving the player more and more overwhelmed and burned out as the game goes on. Player has to use interface and mechanics built around early game very low complexity, to deal with the scope orders of magnitude greater by the endgame. And every game session, in every 4X game, trying to somewhat model human history over time, it simply has to contain rapid, exponential growth of complexity. In the early game you deal with two tile improvements and two barbarian units in one city, over the course of several turns. By the late game you can juggle dozens of cities and units with hundreds of tile improvements, and the more game goes on, the more happens in shorter amounts of time. This is unavoidable.

Not only the more game goes on the more and more happens in shorter and shorter amounts of time, here systems sciencr gives us the idea of emergence - at some threshold critical points, rising complexity creates entirely new qualities which cannot be reduced to their precedessors. In the early game you think of individual tiles and your little city neighborhood. Over the course of game you fluently start thinking in terms of local diplomacy, larger diplomacy, finally "globalisation" and victory conditions. In 4X games thus in every game session you dont just do more and more per turn; your ingsme activities and their menral framework and scope and scale of complexity fundamentally and dramatically changes as the game goes on.

This is very well put. I think you build a brilliant statement of the issue up through this part of the post.

This is the problem, because interface and mechanics of 4X games being built and tested and designed around early game, collapse under weight of huge end game numbers. 1UPT district system feels great in civ6 early game, and it is a tedious terror of the late game
This is a particular and specific charge which is also a good point on its own. A game needs to be quality tested for all phases of its gameplay. If I made up a board game and didn't have more than a couple of data points for anything in the second half from playtests, I'd be unmoored from reason to move on from prototyping. I hope that no studio actually has this shortcoming in such stark terms.

The only solution I can imagine which could work would be to rise to the level of challenge and make game's mechanics and interface evolve as the game goes on. So for example player moves from having to manage every damn mine in an empire of 100 mines (tedious, boring, meaningless) to now having to manage imperial mining policy on a strategic level, or mineral trade in the global context. Less tedious, more impactful.
I think others who have sat with the dissatisfaction, or pondered openly on this forum, have also seen it the same way. "The interface needs to evolve, in line with" "the mechanics need to evolve". The question is, what is a design which would actually do that. What is the game and system that works like this - that's our Game Design big bucks question.

To begin to answer it, I can refer to what you say just before this:
- by the very nature of things, 100th tile improvement (+1% imperial yield) matters orders of magnitude less than 2nd tile improvement (+100% imperial yield), but you still have to spend the same amount of time to manage it. It becomes more and ml ore meaningless and therefore more and more boring!
This is core, to me. As the empire grows - really, as anything bound by economics grows - it must turn itself to concerns of commensurate scope to itself. In the case of an empire, this means letting go of smaller things to claim ahold of that which has larger impact. I would love a game that brings this fact into the gameplay dynamics, and the thing is, *every* game *except* 4X would do this automatically, because the reason we don't get this economization is because we can take our turns, and the action economy is per asset. Every asset can do something in the passage of time, and you get to choose what those are. Real-Time games let you issue orders as fast as you click, so you prioritize heuristically but also reward the technical ability. Assuming we want to stay turn-based, this means changing the action economy. We have to make the player not able to act at the scale of each asset - while maintaining, however, we still want you to have a power that grows with the pile of assets! (This latter criterion is where I still draw a territory distinct from where Johnson went with Old World. I think we can do more without just imputing time constraints to turn-based rules.)

edit: To get a little more specific, I would like it if the gameplay included the skill-testing dynamic of needing you to do things that mattered to your big picture, lest you squander your actions. I mean, it's the same as the general gameplay crunch of the genre: Do spreadsheets and maximize output; but, I'm just saying I think I'd like a game that was more of adding these new scopes of action, and implicitly punishing you from not moving beyond the early tools, rather than just taking those tools out of your hand. I want the gameplay to have you feel that shift and need to make the change in your game moves.

I was inspired by my recent months intensely enlightened by systems science in my academic fields)
Please let the creative juices flow! Preferably onto this forum. :)
 

Rg339

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Civ6 sorta exacerbated the issue by the lack of large-scale late game wars. You don’t run into WW2 type scenarios. Or WW1 scenarios in which overlapping networks of alliances result in gigantic wars.

The AI would probably blunder through said war but hey, it’d be entertaining. In other 4x games, Paradox games, past versions of Civ, large late game wars were and are a staple. It’s not present in this edition and it really stacks up the tedium.
 

SirNovelty

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This is the problem, because interface and mechanics of 4X games being built and tested and designed around early game, collapse under weight of huge end game numbers. 1UPT district system feels great in civ6 early game, and it is a tedious terror of the late game - by the very nature of things, 100th tile improvement (+1% imperial yield) matters orders of magnitude less than 2nd tile improvement (+100% imperial yield), but you still have to spend the same amount of time to manage it. It becomes more and ml ore meaningless and therefore more and more boring!

It doesnt matter what shallow another mechanics, or number balance, or fancy fireworks you throw at that problem; you cannot solve the above issue of rapidly increasing cognitive load and rapidly decreasing meaning of individual player's actions by throwing even mire garbage on top of that, or tweaking some numbers.
The only solution I can imagine which could work would be to rise to the level of challenge and make game's mechanics and interface evolve as the game goes on. So for example player moves from having to manage every damn mine in an empire of 100 mines (tedious, boring, meaningless) to now having to manage imperial mining policy on a strategic level, or mineral trade in the global context. Less tedious, more impactful.

This is a genuine problem, and definitely something the genre needs to look at (and to be fair it looks like it has recently), but I might posit a different way to phrase the problem. What if the problem isn't the number of discrete actions a player needs to take, but rather how those actions are dolled out to them? In my experience, the sheer scale of the late game can bring some satisfaction: The speed with which you can make a new city functional with chops and efficient building, and therefore the speed with which you can, say, colonize an island to decent productivity. Or maybe planning out and then executing's a very large scale attack. Buying 4 Naturalists on the same turn because you finally got access to them and watching everything start to click in your various parts of your empire. These things are innately satisfying, and I would argue that a not insignificant part of that, is the interface being symmetrical with the early game. Therefore a time when your empire was much less capable, and the period of planning that went into these actions, echoes in the back of your mind.

This is not something I'd want to lose, but it's also something that takes up a pretty small portion of the late game. The reason for that is the way turns are structured, you only get to make 1 or two moves on that new city, you mind's distracted from that for about 5 minutes until next turn. You move a few units of your army into their positions in prep, attention's shifted away into distant domestic matters or other fronts until next turn. Buy up your four naturalists? Now time to shuffle your build queues and refresh trade deals before you can use them. In the late game, the player is never allowed to take one train of thought from start to finish, and see its results, everything happens piecemeal, and the more pieces there are, the less of them feel like they might soon be impactful in any given chunk of turns. Automation can play a big part here, like how in Stellaris you can queue up all the actions for any ship, and you'll only be alerted if something changes. Or some limitation on direct player control, maybe Old World Style, or Stellaris's Sectors system. But what if you could even start to group cities and take multiple turns of action in those areas at once. Obviously wouldn't work for military things, or play nice with random events, but for Workers, Traders, build queues, it could be alright.
 

Rg339

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Automation can play a big part here, like how in Stellaris you can queue up all the actions for any ship, and you'll only be alerted if something changes. Or some limitation on direct player control, maybe Old World Style, or Stellaris's Sectors system.
Here, you run into another problem though: the inefficiency of automation will bug players.

Sector automation in Stellaris doesn’t come close to what skilled and experienced players can manage if they optimize their economy manually.

That forces the player to choose between tedium and inefficiency. Many, maybe most, pick tedium. If you are going to use automation as a hatch to climb outta late game boredom, it has to be on point. It doesn’t have to be as good as a talent players effort, but it has to be close to good enough that they’re not so irked they never automate anything.

Programming automation that efficient absolutely cannot be easy.
 
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DeckerdJames

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There is probably a straight forward solution. Civ 6 doesn’t adequately reflect the vast improvement in production that technology provides. A fully industrialized city should probably provide thousands of times the productivity of an early city with hunter gatherers. Likewise, founding a new city in the late eras without modern roads and transported goods should seem like watching the ancient era all over again. Therefore, founding a city in different eras should involve the support of the evolving technologies.

Building the pyramids should be quite a bit faster in 2022. Not 20 or 100 times faster. More like 1000 times faster. Therefore, in late era cities that have been founded, it should be far more advantageous to build an industrialized infrastructure.

If tile improvements represent modernized industry, a modern lumber yard should yield far more than 2, 3, or, 4 times the productivity of a forest with gatherers in it. It produces 100s or 1000s of times what axe bearers can acquire. So building a lumber industry is more advantageous, but it shouldn’t be a single turn improvement in a new city either. It should need support and supply from other, more developed cities, to get it built. Therefore, the adjacency bonus provided by woods to an industrial zone in a modern city should be like 100 production from each, but the cost of building the industrial zone should be very costly too. Perhaps many thousands. The cost of a battleship would be 1000s or 10000s. By comparison, building a battle ship in a city without industry, but with only what people can gather from the land, should take quite some time. However, shipping.technology should be in the game. Production, battleship parts, in this case, should be transportable, so multiple cities should be able to work together to produce a battleship.

so, as technology improves the ability to transport, cities should be able to ship production to wherever the project is located. A harbor, in the case of a battleship. Second, if districts were vastly more important than tile improvements, war strategy is much more clear. Disabling an industrial zone in the late game is crippling, but tile improvements are marginal in the late game. However, before industrialization, tile improvements should seem significant.

the problem in Civ 6, imo, is that the scaling of production and gold is far too little, but the means to scale it up should still be through building the things that new technology makes possible. Second the need for tile improvements should be increasingly overshadowed by the need for districts as the game progresses through time. Also, the bonus for an industrial zone should just be the features of the land. I think the need to improve the tile to a lumber yard or mine is unnecessary. Just build it next to the woods or hills and it is enough to get the bonus. The whole improvements system needs rethinking, in light of a much more significant district and district building system. Tile improvements should be more significant in the early game, and should represent unindustrialized improvements.

As for the tech race, getting very far ahead is only possible, in real life, by geographical separation. Once civilizations come into communication with each other, the backwards civilization tends to learn very quickly, but the race to key technologies is very important and the advantages are very significant. A civilization with electricity is far more powerful than one without it. There are many such milestones in history and each one is a race, with some rewards going to the one who gets it first, but learning it and applying it should be different endeavors. The second to reach the milestone might end up being in a better position to make use of it depending on what has already been built. Radar is very important for ships, for example. It should allow the ability to see blips in the fog of war. As the tech improves, perhaps even the type of ship the blip represents might become known. So if the second civilization to reach the milestone of radar already has a large navy, he might be far better off than the first to have learned it, who had a small navy.

However, the whole idea of generic production might be a bit oversimplified, but the idea of needing to acquire and stockpile every type of raw material might be too overwhelming.
 
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SirNovelty

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Here, you run into another problem though: the inefficiency of automation will bug players.

Sector automation in Stellaris doesn’t come close to what skilled and experienced players can manage if they optimize their economy manually.

That forces the player to choose between tedium and inefficiency. Many, maybe most, pick tedium. If you are going to use automation as a hatch to climb outta late game boredom, it has to be on point. It doesn’t have to be as good as a talent players effort, but it has to be close to enough that they’re not so irked they never automate anything.

Programming automation that efficient absolutely cannot be easy.

Well hopefully you make the AI better in general, and then the automation (which if I'm not mistaken in Stellaris's case is just its own borked AI playing those sectors for you) naturally improves, but yeah it's a real problem to which a balance has to be found. I think there absolutely does cross a point where players simply don't care. Sure, if the game's still in question, and I'm still fine-turning my build, inefficiency will bother me, but if I own 40 cities in a Domination game, I don't care if most of them are managed as poorly as before I took them, I'm doing good enough. Stellaris probably forced automation on you too early by default (after looking it up for clarification I realized the auto-build feature of Sectors is optional now, for exactly this reason, lol), but maybe a different example would be Nobunaga's Ambition, SoI (never played the others). In that game you won't come up on the limits of manual control until the snowball's well and truly underway, but even before then automation's always available if you want it. Of course, that game benefits from a pretty narrow win-condition of "conquer real good" and a relatively simple economy, so the AI can handle it better.
 
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Just a thought here . . .
To tackle the problems of late game tedium, multiplicity of decisions in the late game and consequent lack of impact of any one of them, and the problem of programmed decision-making's lack of efficiency compared to the obsessiveHuman player's Micromanagement -

Why not try a form of one of Old World's most intriguing features? The Orders system. In that game, the number of Orders you can give each turn is strictly limited, and Orders are required for every Unit of any kind.
Tweak that: require an Order to move any unit, OR to move an Army (stack), OR to start building something, OR instigate Diplomacy - virtually Everything you could do in a turn.
Then, as the game progresses, based on changes in technology and/or Civics, Social Policies, Government types, etc You get Great People which include Great Administrators/Bureaucrats. And these 'non-unit Characters' can give Orders too. Specifically, a Great Administrator can take over all the decisions for a city or even a group of connected cities (at which point we might even call it a Governor and make it actually operate like a 'real' Governor for a change) - what to build, what to improve, what to Upgrade, etc. They might not be as Efficient as the Human Player, but they would save that HP from using up his limited supply of Orders making those decisions, moving those units (that would be the job of a Great General or Admiral, wouldn't it?) or building and improving and otherwise massaging the cities, tiles, and units.

I will freely admit, this suggestion is part of my on-going attempts to make the game focus more on the actual Place of the Gamer in the Game making appropriate decisions for that Placement. As the Immortal God-King Grand Poobah of Slobbovia (or whatever Civ you are playing) it should not normally be your job to move every piddling Platoon of Scouts all the time or decide where every muddy patch of farm is going to be laid out - unless the route of the Scouts or placement of the Farm is incredibly important to your entire Civilization.
 

_hero_

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I think the problem is at a more fundamental level. You mention sports games, racing games, etc. One thing all those have in common is you usually don't know you are going to win until around the time the game ends. In strategy games, you usually know you've won HOURS before you get to the end of the game. When you know you've won, everything stops mattering and becomes busywork. In civ, it's especially frustrating because I like getting to the victory screen, but I really hate those last few hours it takes to get there when nothing matters anymore because I'm so much more dominant than the remaining competition. I found that in Civ 6 I started quitting games I'd won long before I actually got to the end and this started happening earlier and earlier until I eventually just quit playing altogether. At least in older Civ games, going fast and being efficient as games wound down rewarded you with noticeably higher scores, so there was at least some small incentive for staying engaged. There were also more things that could be automated in older civ games. Ultimately Civ 6 just really makes you feel that your time is being wasted.

All games are a waste of time ultimately. But good games make you want to waste your time. They keep you engaged by being fun and challenging. Civ 6 tries to keep you in the game for a long time after the fun and challenging parts have passed. That's where the problem lies.
 

Kaan Boztepe

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you usually know you've won HOURS before you get to the end of the game
for me it is not the complexity , it is this knowledge that the game is already over and i am just hitting end of turn towards that inevitability. basically i get bored at that point. There is no comeback mechanics for the AI , no events to rally the opponents for a last stand or a great war to shake things up. there are even no accidents that put you back allowing others to catch up even a little bit. Throughout history whenever a nation has done well , eventually some internal strife was caused by different people or ideologies wanting to take it over for their own agendas which lead to their demise. no revolts , no power hungry generals no absurdly rich person wanting to rule instead of the player ?

but then again we are fanatics of the genre and the vast majority of players might very well not like the complexity issue a lot more then the lack of events in endgame.
 

Krajzen

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I think the problem is at a more fundamental level. You mention sports games, racing games, etc. One thing all those have in common is you usually don't know you are going to win until around the time the game ends. In strategy games, you usually know you've won HOURS before you get to the end of the game. When you know you've won, everything stops mattering and becomes busywork. In civ, it's especially frustrating because I like getting to the victory screen, but I really hate those last few hours it takes to get there when nothing matters anymore because I'm so much more dominant than the remaining competition. I found that in Civ 6 I started quitting games I'd won long before I actually got to the end and this started happening earlier and earlier until I eventually just quit playing altogether. At least in older Civ games, going fast and being efficient as games wound down rewarded you with noticeably higher scores, so there was at least some small incentive for staying engaged. There were also more things that could be automated in older civ games. Ultimately Civ 6 just really makes you feel that your time is being wasted.

All games are a waste of time ultimately. But good games make you want to waste your time. They keep you engaged by being fun and challenging. Civ 6 tries to keep you in the game for a long time after the fun and challenging parts have passed. That's where the problem lies.

Damn it, I have spent so much time thinking about the clearly visible "I already won" aspect of the problem, only to forget about it while formulating the big theory of thing.
Although this also goes back to exponentially increasing complexity. The reason this problem of "we have already won" is very naturally occuring in 4X games is because to some degree it resembles real history they are trying to model. On the faraway macroscale of things (I am talking milenias and continents but that's the scale of every civ game session) major civilizations which rose earlier and stronger tend to dominate their regions and it is very hard to break this lead. China, India, Middle East as an entire cultural complex, "Western civilization" (let's interpret this by Greece -> Rome -> Europe) very heavily culturally dominated their neighboring areas which were far later to arise (China - Korea, Japan, Vietnam; India - South East Asia; Middle East - Central Asia and Maghreb; Greece/Rome - "Barbarian" Europe). Africa and Americas were crippled by geography so hard from the beginning they never managed to catch up to Eurasian civs etc.

What does happen in history though is occasional radical shakeup of this hierarchy by unique events which sink some civilizations and elevate others, such as:
1) Great military affair which gives power to supposed underdog so hard it changes history on macro scale (Cyrus, Alexander, Maurya, Roman expansionism, many steppe empires, rise of Islam, Slavic and Nordic conquests, Turks in Anatolia, Mughals, Manchu, England, Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia etc). This actually happens in the game, the problem is usually only in human hands as 1UPT is the system which forever cripples AI offensive abilities (also AIs in civ6 are way too pacifist in general).
2) Climate change/ecology and disease - first one sank Mayas, Khmer, Missisipi and few other civilizations, second one destroyed entire Americas, the problem is both can't be really put into the video game as they would be almost completely out of player's control and frustrating.
3) Bottleneck of some sophisticated socioeconomic processes which are really hard to model in a game like this (like how do you model in Civ casual game "economic miracle" of certain 20th century countries, or backbone of Dutch economy overtaking Portuguese in early modern era?)
4) Industrial revolution, which makes countries succesfully undergoing it capable of dominating far larger entities not undergoing it


Industrial revolution is my top #1 idea of how to make civ series endgame more interesting in terms of concrete mechanics. It is literally what are we seeking: a process which made some very competend small countries completely overtake grand empires traditionally dominating the entire human history. Civ series really should turn industrialization from "oh yet another set of buildings, a production jump" into massively important affair, where each civ has to invest its previous achievements and competence to painfully industrialize, and the event has such a massive importance that it can heavily shake game session hierarchy of "winners" and "losers". In real life England was laughable when compared with China for most of history, and then industrial revolution happened and things reversed for centuries. Maybe such extreme swings are too extreme for video games (where there has to be stronger continuity with player's past achievements) but we need something like that for endgame to be more exciting:

An emergence of something changing rules of the late game, moving it onto another layer of rules which build upon previous foundations but elevate the game to a new level, at which underdogs can win if they are competent and champions fail.
 
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KayAU

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Good thread. :) Yeah, I think the fundamental problem is relatively simple. In the beginning, you are making just a few decisions, and they are each very impactful and interesting. Do I settle on this hill, or do I settle on the luxury? Should I get a shrine or a granary? Which district am I building first, and which one gets the site with all the mountain adjacencies? Do I risk going for a settler to grab this nice site, or do I build up my military? Towards the end, however, you have vastly more stuff to decide, and each decision is much less impactful, often to the point of being completely meaningless if you already know you've won the game 10 hours ago. This is exacerbated in a game like Civ 6, where you are encouraged to get as many cities as possible. The fact that I'm still deciding whether to build granaries or shrines in the late game is a flaw in the design as far as I'm concerned.

I think pretty much all 4x games suffer from this, but I did find it more bearable in Civ 5 than in many others. The fact that I could viably play "tall" meant that by the late game, my cities were all done with the early game stuff, and I would focus instead on things like ideology, the world congress and cooperative projects. There were many empty turns where I was just clicking "End turn", but I prefer this to having turns filled with tedious chores.
 

Noble Zarkon

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Great thread.
In strategy games, you usually know you've won HOURS before you get to the end of the game. When you know you've won, everything stops mattering and becomes busywork.
This is the key thing, along with individual decisions being less impactful. Some ideas:-
  1. Incentives for finishing the game - like the score boost you got in earlier versions, see some of the Civ IV threads where people pushed the high score possibilities to dizzying heights making each turn critical.

  2. Civ IV is still popular on here because of competitions like GOTM and HOF which are possible because of the ability to ensure everyone is playing an unaltered game and our ability to parse a save file. Again it doesn't necessarily remove all of the tedium but it does give it a purpose! Better tooling for competitive play in Civ 7 please.

  3. Better automation as has been mentioned, maybe tied to the tech tree so it doesn't kick in too early. Ability to tell a builder to improve terrain around a specific city; focus a city on e.g. Science so it will build the L1, 2 and 3 buildings in the Campus and run projects when it doesn't have buildings to complete.

  4. Ability to save a Production queue and apply it to a new city like Civ IV - put a city down and then you don't have to worry about it again until it has a Monument, a Granary and a Watermill.
 

Krajzen

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Oh, another aspect I have forgotten to mention, I think civ5 and especially civ6 have WAY too many "modern" eras which GREATLY worsens the endgame problem.
Yes I know there is this OCD desire to make techs for all stages of modern military units, and yes I know modern eras produce much more information (events?) that ancient ones but seriously, in the larger context of those games it is still awful for pacing and artificially prolonging the endgame how you have four eras before Industrial (4000 BC - let's say 1789 AD, almost six thousand years) and four eras after Industrial (let's say 1914 - 2050, around 150 years). Especially as I am damn sure modern eras are thematically less interesting for most fans than older eras, also please notice for example how modern eras by their nature always in practice contain far less faction unique units and buildings than older ones. In civ5 most of lategame techs were devoted just to military units sobthey artificially made the game longer for nothing when you werent fighting modern wars.

Imo there should be either eight or even just seven eras: ancient (IRL 4000BC - 600 BC), classical (600 BC - 600 AD), medieval (600 - 1492 AD), early modern (1492 - 1789), industrial (1789 - 1914), and either
modern (1914 - 1947)
atomic (1947 - 1991)
information (1991 - 2050)
or even, going not with political divide but by more subtle economic processes
modern (1914 - early 70s) (70s oil crisis)
information (1970s - 2050) (analog, industrial -> digital, deindustrializing society, post sexual revolution and demographic transition)

Online Speed
Turn limit 100-125is
Score Victory Only

Not sure what are you trying to say, as it's very unclear form of communication, but if you are pointing at the problem of how to implement ambitious game design in poosible short simple format then only answers you can get in such abstract thread is either "eh it is probably doable" or "those settings are far from average/normal way of playing the game and multiplayer quick duels could as well have slightly modified game rules anyway, as they are very different game mode in practice"
 
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Bleys

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Very good thread. Personally, I think Civ VI is the greatest game of all time, and for many many hours this issue wasnt a factor.

Now I am playing Emperor, and every game becomes what this thread is describing. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I am NOT winning, lol.
 

EscapedGoat

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Messages
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Very interesting thread. For me, CIV VI is a perfect example of how NOT to design the endgame. The fact that the only way to win faster is to build more cities, and each city needs micromanagement, is a recipe for "late game burnout". I simply don't believe anyone who says that they find it fun to micromanage 20-30+ cities, esp. beyond the point where you are simply so far ahead that you will win no matter what, it's just a question of passing enough turns.

Take for example how they have designed the maybe most "popular" or coveted victory type: the science victory. It's what, like 3 different "projects" and then the voyage takes 50 turns unless you get the tech for those annoying lasers (which are gated behind a random part of the tech tree!) , and then you have to produce something like 10+ of these to accelerate the ending fast enough. All the while managing your by then 20-30 city empire, each turn taking 10+ minutes. Ugh. Not fun, even if you set up efficient chop-cities (also, the notion of "chopping" out lasers from the forest is ridiculous, but whatever).

Civ V was better in this regard as you could actually win a game somewhat optimally with a "tall" approach and % modifiers were a lot more prominent, so you could add to your cities rather than expand infinitely.

Humankind had some built-in mitigation to end game "bloat" by being able to merge cities. This was a pretty cool feature even if the game was a bit of a dud (haven't played it much since the initial excitement, where we sort of broke the game with neolithic populations booms and turn 70-ish science wins abusing builder and science cultures). Humankind fails because it lacks identity and is a bit bland (choosing new cultures every era was a design mistake IMO), CIV has much more personality, which is really nice, but the gameplay gets so tedious.

I'm very divided on the "unpacked cities" and districts thing. On the one hand, it's a fun mini-game which rewards optimal play, on the other hand it's a slog because even for "generic city 29" you still need to sit and ponder where to put that damned district, and placing a district removes the tile yield (bad!) and that's not really fun - It may be fun for the first few cities, late game = just a waste of time and annoying. Much easier and faster to just queue up the correct infrastructure on a macro level.

I'm convinced the solution is to return to making "tall" play viable (less "entities" to manage, but those entities matter more), maybe have the "merge" functionality of humankind, while at the same time doing something clever on automation (linked to "orders" to governors or something as was mentioned). If we can make more meaningful decisions for less entities, I think the game would be more fun.
 

aieeegrunt

Emperor
Joined
Jan 8, 2021
Messages
1,113
Oh, another aspect I have forgotten to mention, I think civ5 and especially civ6 have WAY too many "modern" eras which GREATLY worsens the endgame problem.
Yes I know there is this OCD desire to make techs for all stages of modern military units, and yes I know modern eras produce much more information (events?) that ancient ones but seriously, in the larger context of those games it is still awful for pacing and artificially prolonging the endgame how you have four eras before Industrial (4000 BC - let's say 1789 AD, almost six thousand years) and four eras after Industrial (let's say 1914 - 2050, around 150 years). Especially as I am damn sure modern eras are thematically less interesting for most fans than older eras, also please notice for example how modern eras by their nature always in practice contain far less faction unique units and buildings than older ones. In civ5 most of lategame techs were devoted just to military units sobthey artificially made the game longer for nothing when you werent fighting modern wars.

Imo there should be either eight or even just seven eras: ancient (IRL 4000BC - 600 BC), classical (600 BC - 600 AD), medieval (600 - 1492 AD), early modern (1492 - 1789), industrial (1789 - 1914), and either
modern (1914 - 1947)
atomic (1947 - 1991)
information (1991 - 2050)
or even, going not with political divide but by more subtle economic processes
modern (1914 - early 70s) (70s oil crisis)
information (1970s - 2050) (analog, industrial -> digital, deindustrializing society, post sexual revolution and demographic transition)



Not sure what are you trying to say, as it's very unclear form of communication, but if you are pointing at the problem of how to implement ambitious game design in poosible short simple format then only answers you can get in such abstract thread is either "eh it is probably doable" or "those settings are far from average/normal way of playing the game and multiplayer quick duels could as well have slightly modified game rules anyway, as they are very different game mode in practice"

Sorry I am saying that I have started setting my victory conditions there, because at that point you are either winning or you are’nt, and the rest of the game is watching the snowball
 

Noble Zarkon

Elite Quattromaster - Emperor (BTS)
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I'm convinced the solution is to return to making "tall" play viable
Totally disagree with this, Civ is a game of expansion!

this OCD desire to make techs for all stages of modern military units
Not just modern, the last patch ruined the careful balance with early units in a particular line only appearing every alternate era.
 
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