Thoughts on Civ 5

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by rep1826, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. rep1826

    rep1826 Chieftain

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    There's a lot of complaining about Civ 5, but no one has come out and said what I think is really behind all the disappointment. Some people say it's simplified, that it's "dumbed down". But it's so much more than that. To understand it, I want to talk about another game that many of us enjoyed: SimCity.

    There are so many parallels. Like Civilization, SimCity became more sophisticated with each release. The gameplay became deeper and more challenging. The depth of the simulations in both were advanced enough that they had performance problems even on the latest machines, despite the fact that they were not "graphics driven" games. How often do you see a game "intellectual" enough that it is limited by CPU speed, and not RAM or your graphics card?

    People couldn't wait to see what they'd do with SimCity 5.

    Then it was announced that they weren't making a "pure" sequel. Instead, they made a spin-off called "SimCity Societies". It removed tax policies, public works, zoning, sophisticated transportation infrastructure, and other things. It was critizied for being too easy.

    The modding community for each was surprisingly devoted. I was shocked the first time I saw the effort that SimCity 4 lovers put into their game. It's truly amazing; even if you're only a marginal fan of the series, you should see it. I'll show you.

    Community members make these things called "city journals", little blogs about the cities they are building with screenshots. Frequently this necessitates making completely custom content or combining others' custom content in inventive ways. Many look nothing like the standard game, and are beautifully done and extremely creative. Here's my favorite, where a guy made a depressing, industrial city in the Soviety Union. It's 12 pages long, and each is the labor of love. This guy is a true fan.

    http://www.simtropolis.com/cityjournals/?p=toc&id=319

    Anyway, after a while it became clear that EA has no interest in developing SimCity 5. But a company named Monte Cristo said they would develop a new city simulator. But when you start up the game, you must...customize the appearance of your "character", the mayor. I don't think I have to tell you that the gameplay was simplified. The long-time fans were disappointed, just like they knew they would be.

    I get a strange feeling when I look at the city journals now. The people who love the game really love it, but it's not economically feasible for a big studio to develop a game just for the "hardcores" anymore. So SimCity 4, at it's height over 7 years ago in 2003, was the swan song of the series.

    A big budget game has to be simplified to sell. Just as importantly, a low budget game does not have the resources to improve on SimCity 4. Looking at the city journals now makes me sad, the same feeling I get when I look at photographs of closed-down amusement parks. This stuff was once a lot of fun for people, providing seemingly endless hours of fun and excitement.

    But the economic reality is that it's never getting any better for SimCity than it is right now. The project of an ever-better city simulator is effectively dead. For what it's worth though, it's still fun for them. They make due, pursuing their passion with a buggy game from 2003. It's the mark of a true fan, but it's depressing that there will be no big improvements.

    Civilization 4 was amazing to me, not because it was the best Civ game yet, but because it was a direct affront to this changing world. I couldn't believe that as late as 2007 (BtS) one last company was still making big budget games for devoted, hardcore players who really loved the series. Sure, they made Civ Rev for that other audience. But they also announced Civ 5! It seemed like Firaxis had somehow dodged the bullet that killed hardcore gaming. Despite the conventional wisdom that people love simple games, Civ had enough goodwill and nostalgia throughout the years to still sell well, even in its complicated, "scary" state of complicated gameplay.

    I read everything about the game I could in the 4 weeks before release. I was on Arioch's site constantly. I probably checked this website 30 times a day. Or more. When I heard it was "streamlined", I didn't even worry; after the way Civ 4 bucked the "dumbing down" trend in gaming, I knew Firaxis wouldn't disappoint.

    I don't have to tell you what happened. You already know.

    I started the post by saying that no one is really capturing our disappointment when we say it's simplified or dumbed down. A lot of people say "it will be patched", or "it will be modded".

    But that is naive. Read some of analysis on why the game is the way it is: the simplication is very deep in the design of the game. A lot of concepts have been removed. The "patch" to fix that would mean designing the whole thing, a monumental undertaking. They made it clear already they are happy with this design.

    What modders have been able to accomplish is extremely impressive, I'll admit. I'm amazed at what they can do, but more amazed at what they want to do, considering they aren't being paid and must spend their valuable leisure time. But as a former professional computer scientist myself, I know how painfully long it takes to test and develop anything. The modders can do a lot, but they can't make an entire game as intricate as Civ 5 should have been.

    They'd have to redo everything Civ 4 did right, and then make the game even better to make it an improvement over just playing 4. It's so much work that it has to the job of many people, who being paid full time and can work 8-10 hours per day. It took Firaxis many years, lots of expansions, and a whole lot of cash to make Civ 4. Realistically, modders can't replace everything missing from Civ. A professional design team needed to help them, not rely on them to save the game.

    Basically, we're not sad that Civilization 5 is a bad game. We're sad because we can see the series going the way of SimCity, albiet at a slower pace. Like SimCity, the fourth offering was probably the swan song of the series. And also like SimCity, the depressing lesson of modern game development applies: a big budget game has to be dumbed down to make it economically viable. And a low budget game does not have the resources to improve upon the last iteration. It's almost impossible for an indie studio. Modders have passion, but they also have day jobs.

    If you are a rabid SimCity fan, it will always be the year 2003. We fear that if you love Civ, then it will always be 2007. Because of the economic realities, I think the Civilization series itself did not stand the test of time. I suppose nothing in life really does.

    And for fans so fanatical, that is a tragedy worth complaining about.
     
  2. Mathochism

    Mathochism Chieftain

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    Of course, your post assumes that the game is, in fact, simplified, which we won't actually know until people have invested a couple months worth of time into the game. I have a feeling that Civ V was designed specifically to look shallow on the outside so as to not intimidate new players, but was made to actually be quite complex once you get past the "streamlined" exterior.

    And, even if the game is in fact simplified with respect to Civ IV, some of us prefer how Civ V has de-emphasized micromanagement and instead heavily emphasized macro-management.
     
  3. WastedEfforts

    WastedEfforts Chieftain

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    I love it so far and with expansions I will love it even more.
     
  4. diesirae

    diesirae Chieftain

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    Me being one who prefers the less intensive micromanagement, I agree that it's too early to write off Civ5 as being oversimplified.
     
  5. Nutteria

    Nutteria Tzar

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    I don`t know about your comparison but this Kalimgrad looks 99% like Sofia, Bulgaria in the mid 90`s. OH MY GOD O_o
     
  6. Todd Hawks

    Todd Hawks Warlord

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    Right on, Rep1826!

    I also wonder how long people will keep up the "oh, it's not simplified... we will only see in a few months... I really like it" attitude. Makes me wonder if they really don't see it or if they just don't want to see the truth.
     
  7. HannibalBarca

    HannibalBarca Chieftain

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    Very well written. :(
     
  8. rep1826

    rep1826 Chieftain

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    You might be right. The reason I -- and many others -- think it's simplified is that we're used to losing or at least having to think on the middle or middle+ difficulty levels, and are now beating the game quite easily in the classical era. This seems to imply that the game is not that difficult to figure out. This could be that the AI is just unfathomably horrible, but it seems like the game isn't hard because there are fewer trade-offs, i.e., it is simpler.

    My first game on Prince I built only 3 cities (on a huge map!) and really tried to develop infrastructure. It was tough and I was below average on most demographics. It was also more boring than building up and "creating an empire" has been in previous Civs, maybe because it was too slow, maybe for some other reason. I can't say I'm sure why it was no fun. It just wasn't.

    My next game (also Prince) I went all out warmonger because someone obnoxiously settled next to me. I wasn't even planning or investing in being a warmonger from the outset, but I still did it effectively. I decimated 2 enemies armies and captured their capital cities before I even settled my third city. It was so easy that I just quit.

    After that I read a post by someone who beat it at Diety, and basically what he said to do is...exactly what I had just done. I steam-rolled absolutely everything, and apparently so does everyone else using the same strategy on levels much higher than Prince.

    In previous Civs, you sacrificed things to be a warmonger. Tech leaders had fewer, awesome units. A player with a huge military sacrificed investments in scientific infrastructure, so they had a scary number of outdated units. Which was a better strategy? Neither, it depended on exactly how well you struck the balance, what exactly you did, and when exactly you did it.

    Now there is no balance to strike, because science comes from city population, so there is no trade-off. You go to war and suffer nothing from it, you just outright dominate everything. You don't even lose much happiness because cities farther away usually have different luxury resources than you do, so every conquest is a free +5 happy, sometimes +10. What you might lose in conquest, the difference is made up in bribing city states for luxuries with the gold you took in peace treaties, barbarians, and pillaging. If it's a problem, raze anything that is not a capital.

    I don't think I ever even beat Noble in Civ 4...now I'm an expert?

    It's still possible that the game is complex and the AI just sucks. But I think that is less likely. AI has never been good, so why should only this game be so easy for me? It feels like all the trade-offs are gone and it is, in the words of another poster, "turn-based Age of Empires" or "turn-based Starcraft".
     
  9. CivFanaticMan

    CivFanaticMan Warlord

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    I'm a fan of SimCity. Not a hardcore one but i love SimCity 4. I have no intentions of ever buying SimCity societies much like i never have the intension of buying Civilization revolution.

    Civilization isn't dead yet! If your a true hardcore fan of the series you can wade through the clunky interface, childish feel, and lack inspiration; like the graph and map that showed the game evolving overtime, or wonder movies.

    We are in tough times; the real world economy is badly wounded, companies are going to make products for the largest consumer group, even if it means turning down on their most devoted fans. You can be upset about the product and boycot, or you can go with it and hope for a brighter future. Or theres always option C, and you can pirate the game and get the best of both worlds.

    I know that in the past Civilization games have been spectacular, inspirational, and kickass. And i know that it can happen again with time.

    But maybe everyone is whining at what is missing, and not appreciating what is there. Maybe we expected too much, and set our standards too high. Maybe we are all caught in the past and unable to move forward; after all that is human nature.

    Bug fixes will come in time, maybe bugs were left in the game to ward off pirates. The game was already pirated on release day. With every new patch the pirates will have to work to update their version.

    All i can say is give the game time. Give it time to evolve. And if the game doesn't work, if civilization falls, then remember there will always be the relics of the past to cling onto (Civ 1-4)
     
  10. digitalcraft

    digitalcraft Warlord

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    Oh man, I loved Sim City 4 so much! :( It really was brilliantly done. And, like I got Civ 5, I got Sim City societies and didn't touch it after the first few days. Civ 5 isn't nearly as bad as Societies, but I agree that the worst part is we see the writing on the wall.

    People who say it isn't simplified are lying to themselves. They have their heard buried in the ground. People can argue all they want about which is more 'fun' or they like better, but on all objective metrics, the game is simpler. Period.
     
  11. pedropavani

    pedropavani Warlord

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    My theory of Civilization 4 to 5 = Sim City 4 to Societies is proved by a smart guy : >

    As I said in my post yesterday,it is very different and don't look like a civilization game
     
  12. Fistalis

    Fistalis Prince

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    Great post.. pretty much sums up the way I feel. civ might not die if it does attract those more casual gamers.. but its pretty much dead to me. It always felt like the game was evolving with each addition to the series... and this just feels like it lost too many chromosomes.
     
  13. rep1826

    rep1826 Chieftain

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    I forgot to add, concerning the whole simplifying issue.

    I think the basic thing that is happening is that in previously Civilizations (I actually only played 3 and 4), the opportunity cost of investing in military units was lost city and science infrastructure.

    Since they streamlined happiness, health, and science, basically "happy" is the single mechanism limiting growth. But you can get happy by killing people and taking their luxury resources, or you raze it and experience no change. In the old Civilizations, you didn't get happier or healthier by killing people. There was a very complex trade-off about what you decided to produce. You could half-kill people and extract tech improvements from them in a peace treaty...but then you had to war with someone who had better technology and probably more productive capacity than you. That productive capacity was previously spent on infrastructure, but could be spent on military at any time. If you couldn't beat them quickly, you'd lose the war. This made the game complicated enough to be interesting. I usually lost the game.
     
  14. Mathochism

    Mathochism Chieftain

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    I suspect that the AI IS, in fact, the culprit here. A lot of the strategy in Civ V comes from utilizing hexagonal movement, terrain bonuses, range, etc. in combat. The AI simply does not do a good job at utilizing all of those features, and so, what should mechanically add a great deal of strategy to the game ends up not adding much at all due to poor AI. Of course, this is different story in multiplayer, but, that has it's own share of issues.
     
  15. rep1826

    rep1826 Chieftain

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    You might be right. The reason I -- and many others -- think it's simplified is that we're used to losing or at least having to think on the middle or middle+ difficulty levels, and are now beating the game quite easily in the classical era. This seems to imply that the game is not that difficult to figure out. This could be that the AI is just unfathomably horrible, but it seems like the game isn't hard because there are fewer trade-offs, i.e., it is simpler.

    My first game on Prince I built only 3 cities (on a huge map!) and really tried to develop infrastructure. It was tough and I was below average on most demographics. It was also more boring than building up and "creating an empire" has been in previous Civs, maybe because it was too slow, maybe for some other reason. I can't say I'm sure why it was no fun. It just wasn't.

    My next game (also Prince) I went all out warmonger because someone obnoxiously settled next to me. I wasn't even planning or investing in being a warmonger, but I still did it effectively. I decimated 2 enemies armies and captured their capital cities before I even settled my third city. It was so easy that I just quit.

    After that I read a post by someone who beat it at Diety, and basically what he said to do is...exactly what I had just done. I steam-rolled absolutely everything, and apparently so does everyone else using the same strategy on levels much higher than Prince.

    In previous Civs, you sacrificed things to be a warmonger. Tech leaders had fewer, awesome units. A player with a huge military sacrificed investments in scientific infrastructure, so they had a scary number of outdated units. Which was a better strategy? Neither, it depended on exactly how well the struck the balance, what exactly you did, and when exactly you did it.

    Now there is no balance to strike, because science comes from city population, so there is no trade-off. You go to war and suffer nothing from it, you just outright dominate everything. You don't even lose much happiness because cities farther away usually have different luxury resources than you do, so every conquest is a free +5 happy. What you might lose in conquest, the difference is made up in bribing city states for luxuries with the gold you took in peace treaties, barbarians, and pillaging. If it's a problem, raze anything that is not a capital.

    I don't think I ever even beat Noble in Civ 4...now I'm an expert?

    It's still possible that the game is complex and the AI just sucks. But I think that is less likely. AI has never been good, but why should only this game be so easy for me? It feels like all the trade-offs are gone and it is, in the words of another poster, "turn-based Age of Empires".
     

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