Updated Plans for DoC 1.18

Leoreth

Blue Period
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This is an update for the previous thread on my plans for DoC version 1.18. Let's have a look at the roadmap from that post:
  1. Finalising and releasing DoC v1.17
  2. Incorporating remaining suggestions into the map, including suggestions that will have been made by then
  3. Making changes to the existing game mechanics and adapting them to the new map, like mentioned above (we are here)
  4. Applying my current list of desired changes for civilizations and their victories
  5. Adding new civilizations
  6. Balancing, balancing, balancing
By that list of tasks we are now on the one final task of balancing all the changes and additions. From the perspective of 1.17 where this was written, that was probably as much as I could say at the time, but now that the other steps are completed it's a bit too broad.

I mention in the other thread that at some point I will make all of this available in the develop branch during the balancing process, so the most important question is what is required until that can happen. Eventually to fully balance everything, I definitely need feedback from the full community. However we are not ready for that yet.

I also want to properly manage expectations about what is currently missing and will not be addressed in some time.

As far as I see it, the following things are left to address at this point:
  • Balance
  • Immersion
  • Aesthetics
  • Documentation
  • Additional Content
We can further break down these categories into the following concerns:

Balance:
  • Relative power of different civilizations
  • Challenge for the player
  • Historical behaviour
All of these fall under broad "balance" but are not quite the same - civilizations can be balanced relative to each other, but that does not mean that playing a particular civilization must be challenging. Challenge can come from making a civilization weaker, but that also makes it weaker in comparison to other civilizations overall. Although historical behaviour might seem unconnected to balance it often depends on how capable a civilization is, e.g. Rome needs to be strong enough to create its historical empire etc.

Immersion:
  • Historical behaviour
  • Great people names
  • City names
  • Dynamic names
"Immersion" is everything that makes a game feel like real history - note how this intersects with balance in that both involve historical behaviour of civilizations.

I use aesthetics to refer to art assets for units, buildings, leaders, city sets etc. Documentation is mostly in reference to full strategy texts and other civilopedia entries being available. I will get to "additional content" later.

Let me start by saying that these things have the lowest priority and probably will only be addressed at the very end: documentation, aesthetics, and all forms of immersion that are not related to balance. In particular that means there will not be great people names or dynamic names for new civilizations and no civ specific city names (currently the game uses a shared city name map for all civilizations).


So what is the priority? Currently AI performance still leaves some things to be desired. The major reason for this is that I skipped defining any flip zones that exceed a civ's core, so civs where there is a difference between those areas have a much weaker start than intended. Similarly, when I defined the settler/stability maps I mostly focused on having the stability aspect done and only eyeballed the settler AI aspect. The AI could definitely do better in settling more aggressively and more ideal/intended locations. So I will have to revise the settler maps for all civilizations. Starting units also have not been adjusted yet.

The second most important thing to do is research speed - I added a lot of turns to the game, especially in its early third, without adjusting tech costs. In some cases this actually addressed a distortion present in the current state of the mod (civs being behind of where they "should be") but generally civs reach the medieval era too soon.

The third most important thing is available slots: I did not increase the number of slots from the 1.17 state (where I significantly reduced it) but added a lot more civilizations. So I have to monitor if more slots need to be added.

When it comes to player challenge in the balance perspective, none of that can really be balanced for until the goals are known. At this point, I will need to implement the UHVs of the new civilizations (I already have rough plans), adjust UHVs of all existing civilizations to the new map (this has not happened yet), and also potentially implement some suggested/planned changes of entire goals. To actually do so I need to at least cursorily test these goals - which in practice means I need to at least briefly play every civilization in the game. At that point I should have at least some confidence that every UHV is fun / interesting / challenging / possible.

All of this taken together results in the new list of priorities:
  1. Adjust AI start conditions and settler behaviour
  2. Balance tech speed
  3. Adjust number of available slots
  4. Implement, playtest, and balance UHVs for new civilizations
  5. Adjust, playtest, and balance UHVs for existing civilizations
  6. Rebase the map branch on the develop branch
  7. Merge the map branch into the develop branch - balancing and bug fixes continue from here based on community feedback
  8. Additional content
  9. Aesthetics
  10. Remaining immersion features: great people, dynamic names, city names
  11. Documentation
What does additional content mean? It's basically anything that I can come up with that I consider needed during development. One thing that is definitely needed is scenarios: right now the game only has a 3000 BC scenario. Obviously the 600 AD and 1700 AD scenario are going to be restored eventually, but I had to wait at least for all civs to be in the game to do so. I don't know when I will actually add these scenarios - it might actually happen earlier because it would help me in playtesting later civilizations quicker, and keep the current principle that every civilization is "the most balanced" for the latest scenario date that precedes its spawn.

But in addition, I am fairly certain that I will eventually add more scenarios than these. With 1.17 scenarios became a lot easier to manage, and the only reason I haven't added more in that version is that they would need to be redone with 1.18 anyway. Scenarios do not only exist to save loading time but also to remove the element of randomness / "historical butterfly effect" from the game to have a most historical situation. Currently I am thinking of this set of scenario dates:
  • 3000 BC
  • 1200 BC
  • 250 BC
  • 600 AD
  • 1500 AD
  • 1700 AD
One additional thing that I will do for sure (and which could also fall under aesthetics) is to add a South Asian / Indian cityset into the base mod (i.e. without VD). Originally there were only two civilizations with Indian aesthetics: India and Khmer. But now there are nine: Harappa, India, Tamils, Kushans, Burma, Thailand, Khmer, Malays, and Java. These civs currently awkwardly have to use middle eastern or east Asian art.

I think that's it for now. I hope this makes sense! I will update the list of priorities as I progress through them but keep in mind that steps 4-5 in particular will probably take some time. So the move to develop might take some time, but at least I will be able to share more concrete content as it develops. It's possible that I will share information on new UHVs and related changes on a civ by civ basis instead of doing a huge drop like this time.
 
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It might be an interesting idea to move the 600 AD scenario to 500 AD so that both the Vikings and Japanese can get their full timeframe, and since it's the closest 100-year mark to the Fall of Rome.

Also, for aesthetics/immersion, would you be open to some changes in the soundtrack? I'd love it if the ethnic soundtracks extended at least through the Industrial era, from my perspective, it's kind of weird to be playing as early modern China and be hearing Beethoven, Brahms, and Dvorak.

I'd also love to see more modern styles of music in the 1900s. It would be cool to have some ragtime, jazz, etc...

I think it's also worth considering creating a soundtrack for "pioneer" civs (currently US and Canada, but if the Boers and Australia are ever added, it would work well for them, too) that contains more folk and traditional types of music. You wouldn't need a full soundtrack's worth, since it could be mixed in with the standard Western Industrial/Modern soundtrack for these civs. Adding a couple Latin tracks for when you're playing as a Latin American civ would be nice, too.

If you'd like some new music for the Middle East and Asia to use in the Industrial/Modern era so it's not the same as the Classical/Medieval/Renaissance soundtrack, I have a lot of pieces to suggest, generally they are a mix of ethnic/world music with some orchestral elements, which makes them feel a bit more modern, if that's what you're going for. A lot of them come from other games, too, including the Anno series (which should be fine to use, since 3D models from Anno have been in Civ 4 mods for over a decade).

I'm also happy to make suggestions for the soundtrack in general - I have a music degree and had to take several music history classes to graduate, so even though I don't know anything about modding or making graphics, I'd love to help contribute this way. I also have some of my own music I've written that fits the style of Civ 4 that you're welcome to use.
 
Not opposed but there are so many other things up in the air at the moment that I cannot devote any attention to the soundtrack.
 
:lol: So I guess we will get a beta version months later.And I saw some southAsian art styles in other mods,maybe we can connect with them.
 
  1. Adjust AI start conditions and settler behaviour
  2. Balance tech speed
  3. Adjust number of available slots
  4. Implement, playtest, and balance UHVs for new civilizations
  5. Adjust, playtest, and balance UHVs for existing civilizations
  6. Rebase the map branch on the develop branch
  7. Merge the map branch into the develop branch - balancing and bug fixes continue from here based on community feedback
  8. Additional content
  9. Aesthetics
  10. Remaining immersion features: great people, dynamic names, city names
  11. Documentation
I made some slight adjustments to the priority list above and some progress on the list itself:
  1. Adjust AI start conditions and settler behaviour
  2. Adjust number of available slots
  3. Rebase the map branch on the develop branch
  4. Balance tech speed
  5. Implement, playtest, and balance UHVs for new civilizations
  6. Adjust, playtest, and balance UHVs for existing civilizations
  7. Merge the map branch into the develop branch - balancing and bug fixes continue from here based on community feedback
  8. Additional content
  9. Aesthetics
  10. Remaining immersion features: great people, dynamic names, city names
  11. Documentation
Tech speed balancing will begin soon. It will not take too long from what I can tell.
 
I would like to give another progress update:
  1. Adjust AI start conditions and settler behaviour
  2. Adjust number of available slots
  3. Rebase the map branch on the develop branch
  4. Balance tech speed
  5. Implement / adjust, playtest, and balance UHVs for new and existing civilizations
  6. Merge the map branch into the develop branch - balancing and bug fixes continue from here based on community feedback
  7. Additional content
  8. Aesthetics
  9. Remaining immersion features: great people, dynamic names, city names
  10. Documentation
As you can tell I have finished balancing slots and tech speed to a satisfying degree for now. Certainly further balancing is necessary/possible once I get more playtesting feedback.

So I am currently in the process of working on UHVs. I decided to merge the original two points that split this process between existing and new civilizations, because instead I have decided to just go through them in the order of their spawn date. If there is something else to fix about a civilization it is best to start with earlier ones so the later ones can be compared to them with the fixes already in place.

This is a slow process because I usually play every civilization to at least some extent to discover obvious issues and get a sense for how it feels to play them. This is especially true for civilizations where I decided to make some more substantial changes to their UHV goals. Even some existing civilizations have not only had their goals adjusted in scope but completely changed or rearranged, which I did while referencing previous UHV feedback. Like before, this is not necessarily the final state - everything is subject to discussion, feedback, balancing and further expansion. I deliberately decided not to touch some things I want to change eventually because it feels too early to do so.

To give you a sense of the progress, I am currently working on Nubia. I have to say that all civilizations up to this point had a fun experience playing for historical victory and I have really been enjoying this part of the process. Both the expanded time frame and the expanded space really added some interest to the game. Especially the ancient and classical middle east is now a very dynamic place where different things can happen and the different civilizations provide a different lens to experience it. In general it feels really nice how the varied geography differentiates the playing experience of every civilization, you really feel a unique sense of place. Even though you are located in the same general area of the world you look at it very differently if you are Babylonia, Assyria, or Phoenicia.

I hope speed is picking up as I need to spend less time on each civilization (besides the completely new ones), but I needed to be more detailed with the early ones because they have a lesser degree of freedom, so if their situation and goals do not work they are just not fun.

Please be understanding that I cannot give constant updates here on my progress because that just ends up creating pressure for me. I will post updates like this from time to time.
 
I am also adding minor improvements to the game as I go along. Two that come to mind right now are:
  1. I added additional colour coding to the treasury/income display in the main interface. Currently there is a three colour coding of red (deficit exceeds treasury at the end of the turn), yellow (deficit that does not exceed the treasury), and green (surplus). I also added an orange colour coding, so that now yellow indicates a deficit that does not exceed the treasury before the current research is completed, and orange indicates a deficit that does exceed the treasury before the current research is completed. This is helpful if you are doing binary research and want to know if you have sufficient gold in the treasury to research the current technology.
  2. I added a notification to all victory goals (as far as I could tell) that can expire early because another civilization completes a part of it before you. For example a "be the first to discover X, Y, Z" goal can expire if another civilization discovers any of these technologies before you, but previously you were only notified that the goal failed, but not why. The new notification will let you know that civilization A ("an unknown civilization" if you have not met them) is the first to discover technology Y. Obviously this does not help you win the goal anymore but it's useful to learn and adjust your strategy, and to make what happened feel less random and arbitrary.
 
This is great stuff, very nice to hear how all of it is progressing! Keep up the good work but indeed take your time, I'm sure the 1.18 version will be amazing once it's ready! Also, any chance you could sometimes share some gameplay screenshots while going through civilizations? I understand not from every civilization but maybe a few you found interesting or something? It would be nice to get a glimpse of how a 1.18 world can turn out.
 
I have thought about if and what I should share from this but I think it is difficult to do without prompting too much baseless speculation and conjecture. I think this stuff is best experienced in the actual game instead. So at the end I decided it's best to err on the side of not sharing any in progress stuff. Sorry if that makes the wait longer. Maybe I can do a few generic "state of the world in whatever BC" screenshots from my savegames.
 
Yeah that's what I meant above. It's better experienced in the game and I do not want hypothetical discussions.
 
Random question - I know you're still relatively early on but have you found yourself having to change core sizes or the core formula because of the larger map letting you fit more core cities?
 
I haven't changed anything in that regard yet, but I am currently biased on earlier civilizations both from my own games and from what I am observing in autoplay. My expectation would be that while there is more space for core areas, there is also more space for cities overall, so the naive assumption right now is that there is no need for an adjustment. It's definitely very difficult in the ancient/classical eras to conquer a large empire without becoming collapsing. I will definitely keep an eye out for the later civilizations and make adjustments as necessary.
 
Maybe you should adjust the stability point for population in core cities compared to population in outside cities, instead of increasing the core areas?
 
I never said I would increase the core areas.
 
Is there any chance we might get a change to the way demographics in the demographics screen are calculated to make them more realistic? As of now, a lot of the time in the end game, you barely have 1 billion people and many endgame civs are not as big as they should be from what i can remember.
 
That is kind of in competition with realistic city sizes - this statistic is just the sum of your city populations, and if at all your city populations are usually unrealistically large. Which is unsurprising because you have very few cities in this game.
 
Depends if you take the city's population to represent its own or that of every tile in its cross. Which, at the scale of the map, makes for a very big area.

If the latter is not the case I guess a multiplier could be applied to the sum of your cities' populations, representing population outside of the main cities?
 
It could but to be honest I don't care enough to make all of this work. The demographics screen is a little bit silly anyways, do the bushels of grain or whatever it lists make sense? I have no idea. It's best to assume that these are bogus numbers that only matter in relative terms.
 
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