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The Fundamental Cause of Civ Micromanagement

Discussion in 'Civ - Ideas & Suggestions' started by Trade-peror, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    The reason that the Civ series has always been plagued with excessive micromanagement is that the very nature of the game fundamentally demands micromanagement from the player. This situation is due to the general fact that the role of the player in Civ is to be the in-game forces, rather than manipulate them.

    For example, a major cause of micromanagement is the assigning of terrain tiles so that no food or shields are wasted. This is due to the fact that the player is in direct control of this aspect of the game, and thus it would be the job of the player to be as efficient as possible. Since the player is human, this necessarily translates into annoying and time-consuming work much better left to a computer.

    Another tedious job of the Civ player is to manually build terrain improvements. Although military improvements such as fortresses and radar towers are reasonably left to the player's discretion, being strategic in nature, personally directing the construction of every road, irrigation, and mine is unnecessary; directing the general plan of terrain infrastructure and allowing the computer to carry out the specific tasks would be much more enjoyable.

    In both cases above, the Civ player is acting as the game dynamics of terrain production and infrastructure construction, rather than guiding them to accomplish the player's needs. To be thorough in being a game dynamic, micromanagement is obviously necessary. Therefore, Civ will ALWAYS entail excessive micromanagement, unless fundamental changes occur, such as by replacing old features with new models in which the player manipulates rather than acts as the shaping forces of the game.

    My general suggestion is simple: have the Civ player only guide in-game forces to accomplish objectives, rather than actually be the dynamic of the game. Even though the player would be "losing control," the only alternative is for the player to not lose control, but be thorough in the performance of his job to be competitive--a situation that necessarily involves micromanagement.

    I would say that the "unfun" notion of losing control would not be nearly as annoying as the unfun hours of micromanagement!
     
  2. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    I wouldn't have such a problem with automating certain parts of the game and letting the player make larger decisions.

    Sometimes I think the game would be better if you chose between "train military" and "build improvements" and that's it... more as a passing notion, but an idea that interests me nonetheless. I'd really like some more high level choices to replace some of the "should I move this guy left" type choices.
     
  3. JFranco

    JFranco Chieftain

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    Providing general direction for a civilization is critical to affording the player a more fluid, enjoyable gaming experience. Just this evening, while playing Civilization 3, I wondered why it was not possible to automate my worker to build a road to some luxurious grapes and establish a colony.
     
  4. Jorgen_CAB

    Jorgen_CAB Warlord

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    There is a lot of people who are strongly against macromanagment, then there are people like me who like to think that I'm the one in power and control of the empire, not a God controlling everything.

    That way, internal politics might be as important as external politics.

    I'm definitely in favor of this type of model, but there are to many RTS fans out there, and old school strategists that feel they are left out of some of the fun part if you do it.

    I'm more a role-playing guy, than a playing God like guy.
     
  5. Sirian

    Sirian Designer, Mohawk Games

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    Quicksilver tried that in Master of Orion III. It was a disaster.


    I see the root cause of micromanagement in Civ as the game's core math. Too many integers, not enough floating point. When remainders get truncated, players can gain advantage over time from babysitting the math, looking after all those bits and pieces that would otherwise be lost, then salvaging them.

    Example #1: Building pikemen. Pikes cost 30s apiece? Not always! If a city is producing 10spt, it will build a pike in three turns at a net cost of 30s. If a city is producing 9spt, it will take four turns and cost 36s. If a city is producing 14spt, it will take three turns and cost a whopping 42s. Player is encouraged to micromanage in numerous ways to squeeze better efficiency out of this math. If his city is at 14spt, he can swap a 2f/1s tile for a 1f/2s tile to bump it up to 15. Not only will his pikes cost 30s instead of 42s, but he will produce them faster. Or if 14spt is the max shield configuration, he can swap high shield tiles for high food tiles and have the city growing faster, while still producing pikes at the same rate. Or he can build his longbow units out of this town, which cost 40s apiece, and get more costly units out of the same town in the same time for the same price.

    Example #2: Research. In Civ1, research overruns were applied to the next tech, but not in Civ3. Any remainder on a turn is wasted, so at the very least, when there is one turn left to go on a project, player should dial down the research rate to whatever is just enough to cross the finish line, pulling "free money" out of the system that would otherwise go up in smoke.

    With too much integer math, and not enough real math, "playing the game" too often boils down to min/maxing the tiny bits and pieces. The only way to gather these lost bits is to micromanage, to look after them personally.

    The game design could be dramatically improved by getting real with the math. Imagine if those remainders were NOT being lost, but were preserved. TONS of useless babysitting would disappear, and the gameplay could focus on the strategy instead of on chasing pennies that are rolling around on the ground.


    The MOO3 concept was to ask players to ignore wasted opportunities, to let the automation BE inefficient and players just put up with it. That's a losing design from head to toe. Players play games to have fun, not to be handcuffed and made to watch incompetent AI butcher the situation in their name. :(

    Much better would be to target the root cause of the problem and FIX IT, to remove the incentives to micromanage by removing the rewards to be gained from it. Have the program itself automatically look after the pennies, preserve the remainders, carry over the bits and pieces from one item to the next, to clean up all the no-brainer stuff, leaving players free to concentrate on meaningful activities. :cooool:


    - Sirian
     
  6. Ivan the Kulak

    Ivan the Kulak King

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    Good point on the integer nature of civ. I think a lot of ppl think it fun to be able to go into a city and boost production just enough to get that pikeman in 2 turns instead of 3, it's sort of like cheating the game, just a bit, and it feels rewarding. Unfortunately, later in the game, this kind of thing becomes a MM nightmare, what with pollution popping up, new specialists to manipulate (civil engineers and policemen) WLTK and corruption changes, etc. Things get unfun later in the game, nobody wants to spend 10 minutes moving workers and rearranging city specialists in 8 cities because 8 tiles of pollution popped up this turn.

    Maybe we could keep the worker functions intact for the first part of the game, and abstract much of this stuff through PW system later on.
     
  7. bkwrm79

    bkwrm79 Prince

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    Superior automation of workers is certainly a possibility - SMAC had a 'build road to' command that I used all the time. There were in fact a ton of possible auto-commands.

    I really like Sirian's idea of getting rid of all that micromanagement. Not that I do that at the city level, but I have to with tech, and it's annoying.
     
  8. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    Yeah, Sirian summarizes the more valuable question. Most games will have some amount of micromanagement -- and actually *should*! Sirian pinpoints the bad kind of micromanagement. The kind where you could teach a monkey to do it, but it's annoying to do so, and nor is it particularly strategic (no matter how long you spent writing your "building efficiency FAQ" and pushing it on various forums). It's mildly acceptable when you have 3 cities and 9 units, but becomes a recipe for masochism by the industrial age.

    Just by letting science filter down to the next tech, and letting production filter down to the next improvement, you'd save the player a lot of time and needless energy. A huge bonus, as well, is that the AI would easily be able to play up to the quality we expect of it. Part of the reason that the deity level can even exist, where the AI "cheats" to get ahead, is because the AI ignores some of this "efficiency math".
     
  9. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    Unfortunately (or fortunately, I supppse ;) ), I have not played Master of Orion III, so I cannot really comment as to whether that is really what I am referring to, but from what I have heard, the MOO3 system was horrible because the player never really knew what was going on, and things would happen "randomly" as a result. Of course, that would indeed be a recipe for disaster, but what I am advocating is a system in which the manual labor that the human player could do, but would rather not do for tedium, is left to the computer to perform.

    I perfectly agree with your conclusion that gathering the "lost bits" warrants a lot of micromanagement, and that this type of micromanagement could easily be eliminated with mechanisms that allow "carrying over." Note that this is what I mean by allowing the player to manipulate but not be the force of change--for example, the assigning of population to terrain is normally automatic, and with the micromanagement thus eliminated, it remains automatic, and subject to the player's manipulation of the terrain (in improving the yield of certain tiles, those tiles are more likely automatically chosen when the population grows).

    However, I see micromanagement as the constraint that keeps Civ broad in scope but rather narrow in focus. For example, the Civ military is much more in-depth than the Civ economy or Civ politics. Because the management for the military aspect is significant (and rightfully so), the other aspects cannot be addressed but superficially, if Civ maintains its current nature of gameplay and management is kept to a tolerable level.

    Thus, the flaws in Civ are due to micromanagement, and the fundamental cause of that micromanagement is the direct-control nature of the player.
     
  10. Trev

    Trev Prince

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    The ability to micromanage games is essential to separate good players from the best. Yes, much of it is tedious and I will not do some of it, this keeps me at demigod level, not sid, but there must be a means provided within games to separate the best players from the rest. Hopefully however the computer can be better programmed so that those who choose not to micromanage all aspects, but instead trust some of it to the computer do not suffer as severely as they do now.
     
  11. sengfossil

    sengfossil Chieftain

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    That's absolutely correct: MOO3 was designed as a kind of virtual real live simulation. You had the opportunity to to play the game by only pressing the turn-button. If you wanted to play with a successful strategy, you had a huge micromanagement at least.

    Part of the fun for me is always, to TAKE CARE. And be better than the AI. What I would expect, is some funktionality which let me take care with less work.
    Examples:
    -Templates for city buldings like in galactic civilisation: you put all available builings in a order row for building and give it a name like: front cities or cities at war; then you have to any city only the assignment of the template. Further you must only take care for the templates, not for each city.

    -Like others here mentioned before: better Worker activities, like "build road to", or "1st clear pollution, otherwise clear jungle" .....

    -Upgrade of units: "Should I upgrade all units of this design or only the selected one?"

    and so on...
     
  12. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    This sounds as if to say that most Civ players treat Civ as a competition against other players, which I do not think is the case. If I have misinterpreted, however, please correct me. :)

    As for MoO3, just hearing this portion
    does not make it sound so bad to me. However, then there is this addendum:
    With that, MoO3 must absolutely have been a horrible game, because it apparently tries to eliminate micromanagement through excessive automation and fails at this purpose, resulting in a loss of control and no improvement in terms of micromanagement.

    Even so, I maintain that adding complexity to Civ will not automatically render it a MoO3. The difference between the automation I would like to see and MoO3's automation is that automation in Civ should only cover aspects in which the player could do manually, but would make little difference if the computer took over the tasks.

    Please cite some examples of automation in MoO3 that broke the game. Since I have not played MoO3 before, I cannot otherwise compare it to examples of what I would like to see.
     
  13. searcheagle

    searcheagle Emperor

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    Well, there may always be micromanagement required, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot we can do to simplify it. Much of the micromanagement is the result of doing the same thing 50x, like changing production in cities. This has no impact of strategy or tactics but is just plain repetition.
     
  14. arkammler

    arkammler Chieftain

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    Yes it is, Ctrl B.
     
  15. ybbor

    ybbor Will not change his avata

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    that actually already exists, Shift-R. also if you have conquests you can hit 'turn on advanced buttons' that will open up tons of new posibilities, failing that, you can just read the hotkeys entry in the civilopedia
     
  16. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    Absolutely true. This is the kind of micromanagement that should be automated, not macromanagement that involves planning and strategic considerations (as may have been the case with MoO3). Automation does not have to be bad!
     
  17. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    I never understood the thought behind no "carry-thru" of shields, beakers, and the like.

    (Yes I know it could, with certain implementations, allow obscene "pre-builds" - have a 100 spt city build a 60 shield unit for a while, and then instant-build a wonder when the accumulated 40 spt as soon as the enabling tech is unlocked. But I don't see how this would be very big problem, or how it's worse than the Palace pre-build tech. And limiting carry-thru to one turn would eliminate most of the opportunities for bean-counter MM without allowing this kind of pre-building. Another way to combat it would be with reimposing switching penalties.)
     
  18. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    This, to me, is a very commonly used statement that is LOADED with assumptions. (Emphasis added by me.)

    Ability - Ability connotes a kind of intelligence. Ability and intelligence are certainly virtues. Micromanagement is considered an ability, a skill. I won't deny this, but so is the ability to lick envelopes for 8 hours a day for a year. My point is that it isn't enough just to measure ability, but to choose an ability that is worth measuring.

    The Best - The best again focuses on the idea of merit, that winning is accomplished by being the best. Trev concedes that the only reason that he does not win at Sid level is a lack of willingness, not a lack of ability. I do not believe that Trev is a worse player than me. This is further enhanced by what the Sid level is: the computer cheats more aggressivelly, and has many more handicaps, creating a much more artificial-feeling challenge than something internal to the game or the player. The Sid level exists because people found cheap new ways to exploit the game design, even if finding these ways took a lot of time and energy to find, and even more time to exploit.

    Essential - I do not take issue with the idea that micromanagement is a necessary part of the game. Essential has connotations that far exceed the importance of mere necessity. When you say that the essence of Civilization is micromanagement, you make a bigger statement about the semantic meaning of the game: that the point of the game is to see who can better micromanage. In a game like Civilization, where the semantic meaning suggests something about the scope of history, you're actually suggesting that the difference between China and Rome is an issue of who found the fastest way to move around their workers.

    In my game of Civilization, the way you seperate the good players from the best, the ability you should be rewarding, the essence of the game -- it's big vision. Who can concoct that one major turning point in strategy. Not someone's ability to accomplish in 19 turns what his opponent was trying to do in 20.
     
  19. Trade-peror

    Trade-peror UET Economist

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    I completely agree with dh_epic on this matter. The better Civ player should not be the one who can execute actions most aggressively, but the one who can think of better actions. And the think part is the part that the player should focus on, and leave the doing to the computer who will not tire to execute the action however many times the player wants. Why bother the player with unnecessary mundaneness and tedium?

    Since micromanagement is mostly tedium and basically no thinking, then doesn't micromanagement seem to be a much better basis of comparing two machines than two human players? Human players distinguish themselves from machines by being able to think, so why should human players not be compared on the basis of their thinking? Let CPUs fight over which one can crunch numbers more quickly...

    And all this is why I am zeroing in on the fundamental cause of micromanagement, which I currently see as the current excessive-compulsive control forced upon Civ players. Obviously there are players who are control freaks, but most of us are not, and do not want to be. Remedying this problem would make the game physically easier to play and still remain competitive. Even more importantly, it would allow more in-depth development of currently superficial aspects of the game (such as domestic politics and economics) that are currently not possible because they would add even more micromanagement if tacked on in a way consistent with Civ's currently micromanagement-heavy nature.
     
  20. dh_epic

    dh_epic Cold War Veteran

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    Yeah, to me the killing of micromanagement of this kind is a win-win situation.

    One is that you eliminate a lot of stupid repetitive actions, like finding ways to jiggle around your tiles for an extra shield, or your workers for an extra square of movement, or checking your science slider at the end of every cycle to squeeze out a few more gold... where squeezing 50 turns out of 49 becomes your most important claim to success.

    Two is you make room for the game to do many great things that people have always wanted it to, but it was held back by 20 hour games. You can make words like "The New Deal" or "The Blitzkrieg" or "The Great Leap Forward" or "The Cultural Revolution" or "The Cold War" or "The Rennaisance" or "De-colonization" mean more than that extra turn.
     

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