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The Paradox of Civ6

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by Karpius, Apr 25, 2018.

  1. Karpius

    Karpius Chieftain

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    I have been following this forum since August of last year when I first bought Civ6. Previous to that, I had not played a computer game since Civ3 back in 2003. Civ6 is the only game I have experience with so take that for what its worth.

    My Steam account claims I have played over 3700 hours, but that is rather inflated because I rarely turn the game off. It sits there, waiting for the next turn, whether I am sleeping or at work. Nonetheless, I would estimate more than a thousand hours of actual game time to be more reasonable.

    Civ6 is indeed designed as a game. It has defined Victory Conditions and a scoring system. We can debate how well or poorly the these are designed or implemented (which is not my intent here), but they exist. Except for "Score" (which only matters with a turn limit in place) all Victory Conditions require that one of the Civilizations reach that condition before any others. That right there makes it a race to win the game.

    Despite it being designed as a game there are individuals (myself included) that play it less as a game and more as a simulation, or a sandbox. I have referred to Civ6 as a "Lego set" at times, or a storytelling medium at others. I use all the features of the game to build my civilization based on my whim at the moment with little regard to Victory Conditions - except on the rare occasions where I actually played optimally for a win on Diey, or just to see how fast I could go.

    I am not suggesting people should follow my lead in this, but just wanted to illustrate that I could not enjoy the game in this manner if it wasn't so loaded with so many features. Others, quite rightly, seek to achieve each victory condition in as quick a time as possible. Still others fall somewhere in between. That, to me, is a paradox and it is a paradox that then creates many discussion on how the game could be tweaked or adjusted or even redesigned, but these suggestions often come from different preferences on how it is enjoyed.

    Some will complain the game is not challenging enough, while others complain about specific challenges that they find too 'gamey' or inappropriate for a strategy game. Some want more automation and less micro-management, while others want to be able to tweak their empire detail by detail as it grows. None of these are right or wrong but only reflect varying preferences. What amazes me is that we can even discuss all these variables in one single game title.

    The real paradox is that Civilization is a game that represents something that has no true example of a victory condition in reality. In game, a Victory Condition effectively ends the game, as though no further history is written that has any meaning. In reality, the U.S. moon landing would only be a victory condition if all other progress stopped and all the nations of the world declared America the one, true victor. But that is precisely what a game is about. It must have arbitrary goals and conditions and rules. It is expected to follow a certain logic. For the most part, I feel Civ6 accomplishes this. However, this then creates another paradox.

    Human civilization did not have a rule book to guide its development. The first tribal chieftains did not evaluate their first settlement based on what district yields it might realize in a couple thousand years. No leader was able to predict that upon meeting certain other leaders just how they would react or what their agenda was because the civilopedia told them so....or because they had 'played' them before. In 100 A.D., no Roman was trying to see how they could ramp up their science development to better prepare for that eventual Space Race. But in game, WE know how to do all of that and more.

    The one element the developers cannot provide is the true element of surprise and the unknown. The moment we plop down that settler, we know what to expect from the surrounding tiles. We expect there to be barbarians that will harry our civilization in its infancy. As players, we have it all worked out and that is how we want it. Well, we want it that way until all that prescient knowledge makes the game too easy. But that is simply the paradox of it all.

    History is itself a paradox over and over again. Feed your tribe, it grows and then it needs more food. Figure out how to provide more food, you have more citizens and more citizens start wanting more stuff...like amenities and housing. We are still in that same cycle today. We have improved medicine exponentially in just the last century. Infant mortality is down, life spans are up. Even with average birth rates down in the last 50 years, population continues to increase which places more pressure on food, medicine and a host of other social programs.

    In the past, there were events that no one could predict and if they could, had no preparation for. In game, we have nothing (except some unpredictable diplomacy) that is unpredictable. There is no 'surprise' waiting in the next turn. Throughout history, humans faced various natural disasters of the sudden, catastrophic kind (such as earthquakes, tsumanis, volcanoes, hurricanes) or the slower, but more devastating kind such as plague, famine and climate change (both warming and cooling). From what I gather in the forum, most players do not want some sudden, random, arbitrary event to set back all their hard work. Such events would, in my opinion, add another element to the game, but would create another paradox.

    The players would never accept a game condition that they were not previously warned about. So, if natural disasters became a possibility, you can bet most players would study everything about these new game mechanics and start preparing for the possibility as soon as they could.

    The paradox of Civilization6 is that some of us want a competitive game while others want a sandbox to build their own version in. The paradox is that we want to be challenged, but we want the chance to prepare for all possible challenges. The paradox is we want to emulate the growth of civilization, but we dislike the luck factor involved in that growth. The paradox is we want a good war game (though I neve really saw Civ6 as much of a war game) but we cringe that war is the one element that comes closest to reality by being the single most effective path to any victory.

    I don't know about anyone else, but me?........I love a good paradox!
     
  2. UWHabs

    UWHabs Warlord

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    Yeah, it's both the biggest benefit and the biggest flaw in a title as large as civ, that there's so many similar but completely separate ways to play, that it's impossible to balance them all. Especially when you bring in "historical accuracy" into the equation.

    I would love to see a game with a truly unique events system that completely altered the structure of the game over time. I shouldn't be able to "plan" for a Eureka for a tech that I'm only going to research 2000 years later. I really shouldn't be able to even plan where is a good spot for an industrial zone before I even place my initial settler, but there's some things that simply have to be abstracted in order to have the game be replayable. I think the best we can ask for would be to have some limited alterations in each game - randomized eurekas, maybe a form of "blind research", maybe dynamic tech costs, etc...

    I do think there are ways to balance things out to not skew too much one way or another. I would say I play somewhere in the middle - I'm playing to win, but I do want to play within the scope of the civ I'm using. So it means trying to use the best CB even when it really doesn't matter, trying to use a civ's UU, etc... I do think there's things they can do to give that balance, and I do really like how the civs have enough bonuses that I will change strategies depending on who I'm playing, but they're generally not so over the top that it becomes ridiculous. Like, France can't use spies to win every game, but they get a big enough bonus to using them that you're going to miss out if you try to skip them.

    I think they do a good job overall with it. I do think the biggest problems I have (other than the AI just being bone-headed at time) is that certain uniques are just not unique enough that it distracts from things. Like, I've used Great Wall pieces as China, but only really because I kind of wanted to try them out. Same with Samurai or Berserkers. In reality feel like they should be crazy valuable, but in-game, they're just awful that make no sense. I don't need them to be like super-invincible, but would love to see even a few extra little things added to them to make them at the very least more fun to use.
     
  3. newbie2

    newbie2 Chieftain

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    Paradox makes a different type of games
     
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  4. Aristos

    Aristos Lightseeker

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    They don't need to be exclusive. That's why VCs are optional; the real problem is that the AI is poorly coded to account for optional, variable VCs.

    Surprise is a challenge itself, because the player needs to adapt. Take surprise out, and you have almost a fake challenge. Again, AI is so poor now that the game feels almost at that fake difficulty level already. Take the element of unpredictability out, and what is left as challenge?

    Any historian here will tell you how much luck was involved in the rise and fall of entire civilizations throughout history (although Jared Diamond may argue otherwise https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns,_Germs,_and_Steel)

    Once again, in-game that is a direct consequence of the poor AI, unfortunately. Using your Space Program example, the Us of A did not need to attack the USSR to beat them soundly in the Space Race. War is in reality not the most effective way to "victory", and some may even argue, it is the opposite.
     
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  5. MisterBoomBoom

    MisterBoomBoom Chieftain

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    A well-stated opinion to which I personally as a similar player am in full agreement with. Nice Post sir! :goodjob:

    I have been wanting random events since they were introduced and then removed. Nothing was as beautiful (or frustrating) than having that nearby mountain erupt and destroy your nicely cultivated farms. A set back yes- but totally able to be recoverable from none-the-less. If this game added those back I would be extremely happy. Obviously, the choice to have random events toggled or not would be the optimum method of execution. Graphically this game is absolutely gorgeous. Can you just imagine what they could to with an exploding volcano, swirling typhoons, or earth shattering earthquakes? Pestilence such as the black plague or smallpox outbreaks amongst the arrivals from another continent would not only add depth but choice considerations for the player. Units and research choices would begin to really matter perhaps. I would sincerely welcome it all!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2018
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  6. Forster

    Forster Chieftain

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    I think requiring players to search for resources would be a nice addition and slow the pace of the game. Some resources should be readily available and easy to find, such as stone, fish and other wildlife. Others, like metals such as gold and iron, rare items like oil, uranium and such, should require an prospector type unit to find. This would be better than the resources just popping up because you reached a certain tech.
     
  7. MP | Moongazer

    MP | Moongazer Chieftain

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    Well said.
    Civilization series are 4X games. And somehow in the real world, we also see history as a great game of Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate.
    I play Civilization not because I want to achieve a certain victory, but because I want to experience the feeling of leading my own empire, rewriting history, to answer the question "What if". What if the World Wars never happened? What if the US is the country that colonized Europe? What can I do to prevent the Holocaust? What can I do with nukes? Should I use it for war or use it for peace?
    Should I go to war just because I want more lands or should I be peaceful and diplomatic? Should I be a dominant global power that will kill anybody who disagree with me, or should I be empathy, helping countries defend from the aggressors, or should I backstab my allies?
    Civilization series simulate our decision in history and reveal "what have we human done" to our own civilization. It is a very interesting way to understand about our own civilization, which can make us redefine our goal as a species.
    There is a very interesting video on YouTube which was named "Civilization - Between the lines". It talks about all of these stuff.
     
  8. Karpius

    Karpius Chieftain

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    I would agree, but my point was that most players (or so I have gathered through a number of comments on this forum) do no want such random events. The paradox being, they want the challenge, but not the challenge of a true surprise that humans have faced throughout history.

    Actually, Jared Diamond is next on my reading list, but from what I have read of him so far, he certainly understands the significance of "luck" throughout history. Although the Chinese invented gunpowder, it was "lucky" for the Europeans that the East chose to invest little in their development, while the West took to firearms in a bigger way. Much of that had to do with geography and circumstance and little else.

    Perhaps not in the 21st Century (though that debate is ongoing) but I would argue that historically it has been. There is no surer way of dictating terms than being able to prove you have the muscle to enforce those terms.
     
  9. Aristos

    Aristos Lightseeker

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    You will very much enjoy that reading. Although I am not in complete agreement with his thesis, the book is fascinating and the main line well presented. His "luck" approach is more a deterministic "luck" than the random events I would call luck and that force humans (or players) to adapt or perish.

    Put that book at the top of your reading list. You'll not regret it.
     
  10. Wizard-Bob

    Wizard-Bob Chieftain

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    Great thread. Thanks, OP, for starting the topic! :goodjob:

    As Moongazer said,
    I agree 100%. That is how I most enjoy Civ.
     
  11. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam GiftOfNukes

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    Firadox shares a lot of issues, including the principle one highlighted in this thread (mostly cognitive dissonance by players in playing a game and only sometimes wanting to acknowledge that it's a game, but not other times, all while self-inconsistent).

    Generally speaking, good strategy games manage surprise by making players work with incomplete information (with nonlinear cost:benefit for more information), rather than just making them win/lose on random chance or hiding the rules.

    Physics hasn't yet settled whether luck is technically even a possible factor :p. The idea that it's all causal influences all the way back is still alive as a theory, even if actually anticipating futures or perfectly tracing the past is beyond human capability.

    There is a right and wrong way to handle RNG in strategy. The difference is in agency, aka how much the players' choices actually matter.

    A decent chunk of Civ 4 events were complete trash, some were solid.
     
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  12. Aristos

    Aristos Lightseeker

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    Agreed 100%. Specially because hidden != incomplete.

    Quantum mechanics begs to differ... :thumbsup:

    Unfortunately, players choices have become more numerous and less relevant with the "progression" of the series, enhancing, once again, that fake sense of challenge and reinforcing the appearance of meaningful decision making...
     
  13. UWHabs

    UWHabs Warlord

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    Especially resources in the fog of war. I mean, just because my scout passed by some terrain in the ancient era shouldn't tell me that it's rich in oil when I get the tech for that 4000 years later.
     
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  14. DWilson

    DWilson Where am I? What turn is it?

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    So this thread inspired a chain of thoughts on how we could potentially implement something like a plague mechanic.

    • Make plagues more likely to appear with higher levels of trade, particularly international trade. They move along trade routes, and thus can be spread when you can track them. And they will fade more quickly, when you diminish trade.
    • Potentially make plagues more likely to occur when at war, especially when conquering or acquiring foreign cities (this seems historically accurate from my recollection, but I could be wrong- I haven't studied the matter).
    • Have a set number of turns until the punishment stops, and your civilization becomes immune. Allow it to, later in the game, spread to other civilizations which trade routes exist with, that have not previously become immune.
    • In civilizations with very low housing, potentially allow a second epidemic of an individual plague, regardless of previous immune status (to represent lack of proper hygiene and waste systems, access to clean water, healthcare, etc.). High housing levels helps eliminate plagues faster.
    • During a plague, population growth becomes negative, possibly other penalties apply.
    • Multiple plagues can be effective on a given civ at once, but hard cap the number that appears game wide based on eras (maybe 1 plague every 1-2 eras). This represents the danger of isolated civs coming into contact with civs that have experienced several plagues and built immunity. This would punish the powerful isolated starts in a realistic way (Eurasian diseases hammering the Americas all at once).
    This would create a system that is not completely surprising or random, thus enabling civs to prepare for it and address it by changing their efforts (lower international trade, higher infrustracture investment). It would also create an in game manner of displaying that things are not always progressive and that set backs happen, but that they do not have to be debilitating and are not limited to a single civilization.
     
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  15. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam GiftOfNukes

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    It might or might not. Copenhagen's looking increasingly less likely but AFAIK not out (collapse postulate has always been an iffy assumption though), many worlds and full determinism are still very much in play last I heard (only local hidden variables ruled out, while full determinism with non-local is as useful as any other theory for now).

    We can't just assume causal interactions stop at some arbitrary point. We need a better reason than "let's just assume x interpretation over y". It's a lot more fair to say physics hasn't settled this than to conclude that randomness is necessarily a factor.

    Needless to say, this is well outside the scope of understanding of historians, who are working off incomplete information at the macroscopic scale. What they mean when they say "luck" is a lot more likely to be causal than measurements made in attempt to understand quantum physics.

    #2 reason I don't play the series much anymore, with #1 being the related "2-3x necessary inputs and time investment to play compared to what a competent UI designer could manage 20 years ago".

    Here's a paradox with mechanics like this:

    • If we want to be historical, something like the black death would be a 1-2 turn event (maybe a couple more in later eras) that arbitrarily wipes out huge numbers of pop disproportionately for a large chunk of the world.
    • In game terms, this would be extremely punitive and largely degenerate. However, if we start altering this from "realism" into "abstracted game mechanic", why prefer this to implementations where player decision making matters?

    Why implement a historical themed mechanic then push it into anti-history? Disease risk was at its worst in cities on average, not in rural areas. Such an implementation instead makes the most population dense regions of the world the most resistant to epidemics. If we're going by strictly historical reasoning this is complete nonsense before modern times, well after the introduction of housing/neighborhoods as a game concept.

    This is also one of the few time's I've ever seen isolated starts referred to as "powerful" lol. It's actually a suggestion to nerf weak positions in that context.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  16. Archon_Wing

    Archon_Wing Vote for me or die

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    I think what is missing is that random events do not just hurt you either. Thry sometimes hurt the ai too and that ruins a game by making it too easy. Random events that give too big of an advantage which makes the game autoplay is not fun either. All it really does is variance for the sake of variance.
     
  17. BarbarianHunter

    BarbarianHunter Chieftain

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    Civilization is not a wargame? ;-)
     
  18. Olleus

    Olleus Warlord

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    There is a single solution to all these paradoxes, which cannot be stressed enough:

    The strategies that work well in the game must be the ones which worked well in history, and vice versa

    There are a few layers of meaning to this and I will waste everyone's time by pontificating on them.
    1. For that statement to even make sense, the game must have a historical setting which is accurate enough that it even makes sense to relate a "game strategy" to a "history strategy" (using the loosest possible meaning of the word strategy).
    2. The game must have enough mechanics to replicate the most important historical strategies.
    3. The available mechanics must be balanced such that they match with history.
    4. The AI must understand the mechanics well enough that the player needs to respond to what they're doing with the appropriate game (and therefore also historical) strategy.
    Civ6 sometimes does well at this: Historically, the best way of dealing with archers is to charge them with cavalry. Horsemen and archers are available at the same time in the game (point 1 met), and it's clearly possible to attack the latter with the former (point 2 met). Horsemen are very good at attacking archers (point 3 met), and the AI is occasionally good enough that it's actually necessary to use horses to defeat archers rather than - say - spearmen (point 4 sort of met).

    On some point Civ6 fails. In history there have been both sedentary civilizations and nomadic ones which have done very well. But the focus of Civ on cities means that there is no meaningful way in the game currently to represent nomads (point 1 failed). Maintaining the flow of slaves was also crucial in the ancient world, as was keeping them from rebelling. But there is no slavery mechanic in Civ6 (point 2 failed). Fast early conquest is the best thing to do in Civ, but historically this often led to empires falling apart - for example Alexander the Great (point 3 failed). Historically, having your entire army go out campaigning and leaving yourself defenceless was a shortcut to getting yourself mercilessly invaded; therefore you needed garrisons or fortifications. The AI is not capable of taking advantage of this in Civ, therefore you don't need defences (point 4 failed).

    Upholding the principle list above has one crucial consequence: it creates a game with very many different strategies that are balanced with each other. This obviously makes for a good strategy game. Very roughly speaking, we know of a huge number of strategies from history (we being the general public rather than specialised historians), and those worked relatively well. Those that failed are quickly forgotten, because history is written by the winners. Therefore, the historical strategies that any developer would possibly want to be replicable in a civ like game are de facto already roughly balanced. For example, a possible choice of very different strategies on entering the early industrial era is "Mass a huge army and conquer my home continent" (what France did) or "Expand into an intercontinental trading empire" (what England did). Now we know from early 19th century history that, in our world, the second approach worked better. But the first came sufficiently close that its plausible to imagine an alternative history where it won. Therefore the two choices above are historically almost balanced, and provide a range of possible ways to play the game. On a crude level, you can make the grand strategy choices roughly balanced by picking them from history; making them exactly balanced is just a question of fine tuning.

    At a stroke, this solves all the paradoxes of the OP. A roleplaying player will do essentially the same stuff as a trying-to-win player if the good historical strategies are also the good gameplay ones (this also holds true for the AI!). History has provided a huge number of challenges to our ancestors, but some of them did well out of it, so history also provides the way to overcome them. War has created successes for some people in history, but often as huge cost to themselves and often backfired. The issue of luck is a different one, if only because nobody can argue on how important it is in history (but I've yet to see a history book which concluded "The Romans got a huge empire for 1000 years because they were really lucky a few times")

    As a final note: this is *not* an argument for unrelenting realism. Features should not be in the game because "they're realistic". I'm arguing that we should take a look at the strategies (on all scales) that worked reasonably well in history, and figure out which features the game needs in order to reflect these strategies well. This has the added benefit of making the game far more intuitive to play, which is one of the reasons why I find Civ a more engaging experience than Stellaris.

    If you made it this far, apologies for writing so much.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  19. Rosty K

    Rosty K Chieftain

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    Good points some of these. However, I'd probably not like the completely random elements of surprise. However, this game has enough for the 'weakly defined' elements. We already have an option to gamble on Great People and (sometimes) wonders. What if we could also gamble on Eurekas? E.g. have a pool of different ways to get this or that eureka/inspiration, but once someone did it, you need to go another way (and the game really shouldn't tell you what you need to do for it).

    Then, the tech/civic trees could be more fuzzily defined (meaning not the rails we have now).

    In other words, there should be more than one way to achieve things, which would be very realistic and historically accurate. Some of this is already there (faith vs gold for example), but I feel everything is too clearly defined from the start.
     
  20. acluewithout

    acluewithout Chieftain

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    @Olleus I like any posts which make mine look short. But regardless, all very good points.

    The nomadic thing sometimes bothers me. I don’t think Civ should actually enable a player to play a truly nomadic people: I just don’t think it would work. But I wish the game could at least touch on it somehow.

    In Endless legends, I think you can sort of meet local inhabitants and either absorb them or anhilate them. The closest you get in Civ is goody huts (treasure chest) and barbarians (wandering monsters), neither of which are particularly immersive or complex.

    On slavery, although that’s not specifically represented in the game, I assume that’s what’s going on in the early eras. It just not spelled out, and I’m fine with that. Whenever I see people suggest mechanics for slavery specifically, much like taxes, I find the suggested mechanics fairly trite. Some things just work better as abstractions.
     

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