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.