What's the power of Modding in Civ 6?


Nov 3, 2023

More of a meta question here about modding in Civ 6 as a whole. How powerful is it? Can you make a mod that most people would consider a 'different game'? I've been wanting to build a 4X hobby game for a while and wondering if Civ 7 would be a great place to get started with many of the 4X fundamentals included already.

An example would be Auto Chess, which came out of Dota 2 modding... and Dota which came out of Warcraft 3 modding!

Can Civ 6 mods have a similar level of evolution? Or is it more a classic mod suite about changing content and quality of life improvements?
I think it depends on your definition of 'different game'. Don't get me wrong - I understand the principle of what you're asking; and I will do my best to provide a level of targeted reply. It's something I've pondered, myself, from time to time - as an avid/active modder of the game who is reasonably familiar with the structure and how it all stitches together. I will say - I have no knowledge of the points-of-reference you cited: neither Auto Chess, nor Dota 2, nor even Warcraft 3.

For a question like this, I think it's important to boil down the game to its core components. The game itself consists of the game engine, which I would describe as very much 'hard-coded'. That game engine is designed to enable a turn-based, 4X game, based on a tiled map made up of hexagons. There's no getting away from that core concept.

There are then the layers of 'game information', 'specific gameplay experience' and 'scripted behaviour'. Broadly speaking, I consider the first to be the UI, the second to be the (static, but modifiable) database and artwork (both 2D and 3D) and the third to be the more dynamic, Lua-driven evaluations and changes to instances of items in the game.

In essence, each of these layers is highly moddable. With enough effort and imagination, you could make a completely different turn-based, 4X game based in a tiled map made up hexagons. In terms of player interaction with the game, you probably need to accept that you're stuck with concepts that are the equivalents of players, units, cities, improvements, buildings and suchlike. Of course, you can heavily reimagine them - but I am specifically referring to the interaction between these elements. The game will be based around having multiple players, sharing the map, interacting with each other ('diplomacy', but also in other ways on the map), using 'units', founding 'cities' building 'improvements' and/or 'buildings' and so on. Generally, the player will collect 'yields' to make progress and have different things locked behind certain milestones (e.g. 'technologies' and 'civics') and there is also a general idea of 'time passing'.

Of course, these are all concepts that are the basic building blocks of the Civilization series. From a reimagining/re-theming perspective, it is all up-for-grabs.

When I was early in my learning-to-mod journey, I pondered whether I could make a purely exploration-based game, set in space, for example - where 'yields' were 'matter, where 'cities' were actually 'stars', 'improvements' were actually 'planets' and so on. The simple answer: this would be possible. Would it make a good game? Probably not. But the point here is that it could be done, if one wished. How much of that is worth doing before you are better off making your own game with its own engine is also debatable.

In my considered opinion, the sensible limit to mod the game from the ground-up is probably an entire re-theme. Of course, there are many enterprising modders who have bolted on 'new things' within the existing theme - which proves the power of what is possible. But at the point you do both a complete re-theme and start to implement brand-new mechanics, you're going into 'new game' territory so much that I think the better investment of time is to, well, make a new game from scratch.
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Thanks Maconnolly, my current aspirations for ‘the actual game I’d love to make’ are most definitely New Game territory. Unfortunately I’m not much of a coder, so was thinking that if I can get a proof of concept done by piggybacking on Civ (which is the basis) then maybe that’s enough to validate if the game design has potential. I was also thinking that an in-built mod loving audience would be more likely to try out the experience and give feedback :)

It seems like from your description, it probably gets me 80% there for the whole 4X layer of my game concept (and I could retheme the whole thing) but my combat system would be closer to a popup Heroes of Might and Magic style experience compared to the on-map that Civ has.

I expect that element is the tricky bit
I can say, almost without reservation, that using Civ VI as a base engine won’t allow for a ‘tactical’ combat approach as you’re describing.

Don’t get me wrong - there is probably a way to get it done; but it would include rewriting the game engine, no doubt. Using Civ VI as a base just wouldn’t be the right approach.
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