Tag Archives: civilization

Thoughts: Civilization VI

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God help me, but I was actually looking forward to Civilization VI. After experiencing both Civilization V and Beyond Earth at launch I really shouldn’t have been; both were eventually patched into a decent state and after two expansions Civ V even went on to surpass its predecessors, but at launch they were flawed, buggy messes with plenty of basic functionality missing. Given Firaxis’s previous track record here it seems foolish to have expected great things from Civilization VI on launch, but after peeking at the development videos I just couldn’t help myself. The lead designer is the guy who pulled Civ V out of the muck. As a headline idea I can’t exactly call unpacking city management onto the world map inspired since Endless Legend got there first, but it’s potentially completely game-changing and Civ VI looked like it was going to explore the concept in far more depth. And in a departure from previous Civs they weren’t going to leave trade, espionage and religion for the expansion packs and instead integrated them into Civ VI as core features, essentially making it a Greatest Hits version of Civ V post-expansions. How could this possibly go wrong?

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In Praise Of: Civilization – Call To Power

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A funny thing happened to the Civilization licence in the late 90’s. It started with Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds – designers of Civilizations I and II respectively — upping sticks and leaving a waning Microprose along with several other key staff members to form Firaxis Games in 1996. While Firaxis had the talent, though, what they didn’t take with them were the rights to the Civilization name, which remained firmly in Microprose’s clutches – not that Microprose could do a whole lot with it, seeing as their premier strategy game developers had just left the company. Enter a pre-CoD and WoW Activision, who nevertheless signalled their future bastardry by seeing that there was perhaps some money to be made by capitalising on the Civilization name and acquiring the rights to market PC games called “Civilization” from board game manufacturer Avalon Hill, who had been making a moderately-successful board game with the same name for decades.  Avalon Hill and Activision’s next step was to claim that they had sole rights to the Civilization name and sue Microprose for copyright infringement. Microprose were more than a little annoyed by this since they’d already licensed the Civilization name from Avalon Hill back in 1991 before releasing the first game in the series, and so they countersued. Judging by the results this did not go well for Avalon Hill, who had to settle out-of-court and acknowledge that it was Microprose, not Avalon Hill, who had the right to make computer games called Civilization. It didn’t go so badly for Activision, though, who came out of the whole sorry business with a licence from Microprose to publish their in-development historical 4X title under the name Civilization: Call To Power.

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Thoughts: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide

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Firaxis are a developer with a reputation for releasing expansion packs that dramatically improve their base game. Yes, you can say that this is partly because the base games tend to be broken, unbalanced or otherwise underwhelming in some way, but there’s no arguing that Civilization V was a much better game after Gods and Kings, and while Enemy Within added some flab in the form of Exalt it did wonders for the pacing and balancing of the XCOM campaign as a whole. They’re commendably committed to improving and expanding on their games post-launch; even so, the existence of the Rising Tide expansion pack for Civ-V-In-Space ‘em up Beyond Earth surprises me more than a little. There was so much wrong with Beyond Earth that I was convinced that this time around Firaxis would just tie a rock to it and let it sink rather than send good development money after bad.

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Thoughts: Beyond Earth

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Beyond Earth is a doomed-from-the-start attempt to shift the familiar Civilization empire-building action into the future. It’s doomed because no matter how good Firaxis made this game, by setting it around the colonisation of an alien world it draws inevitable comparison with one of Firaxis’ very first products: Alpha Centauri, a game that’s rightfully regarded as one of the genre’s absolute classics. Beyond Earth was never going to live up to Alpha Centauri’s better qualities, both real and imagined, and I’ve tried to take this into account when playing the thing; Beyond Earth should be judged on its own merits, not the nostalgia-fuelled remembrance of a sixteen year-old predecessor. What surprises me, however — and especially so for a Firaxis title — is that even if you take SMAC out of the equation, even when you compare Beyond Earth to the modern Civilization franchise that spawned it, I think it fundamentally still isn’t a very good game.

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In Praise Of: Civilization’s City View.

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I found myself cranking through yet another game of Civilization V the other day and a thought crystallised in my brain that’s been niggling me ever since I started playing it back in 2010: for a game that is based so much around cities and the civilizations built from them, a city in Civ V is a staggeringly two-dimensional entity. Open up the city screen for your capital and all you’ll see is a big list of numbers, symbols and building names. Open up the city screen for your newest colony and you’ll see exactly the same thing; the numbers might be smaller and the lists shorter, but there’s nothing to really differentiate the two as entities apart from the name. Cities in Civ V exist purely as resource gathering and production nodes, and while this is certainly how they are supposed to function mechanically I feel that the game loses something for not having them feel like places.

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The Procedural Generation.

“Procedural generation” is a phrase I’m seeing in gaming press releases increasingly often. Character names are procedurally generated. Loot and equipment is procedurally generated. Levels are procedurally generated. Entire games are becoming procedurally generated1. Procedural generation has become shorthand for any game content that isn’t designed and constructed ahead of time by a human being, but which is instead created on the fly by an algorithm or two inside the game program itself. It’s hardly a new concept in computer games – even the earliest roguelikes incorporated it to a significant degree, for example – but it’s one which is getting more and more traction in today’s gaming market, especially on the indie scene. It seems that many of today’s developers look at procedural generation as a kind of holy grail of game development; because the algorithm outputs and the content they generate is pseudo-random it means in theory that you can provide a player with a potentially limitless amount of content for a game and in effect give it infinite replayability, as every time they load the game up they’ll be practically guaranteed to see something different.

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The Two-Fingered Salute.

Oh hey, that was serendipitous. After spending most of yesterday afternoon writing an excellent science article (oh, you are going to like this science article) I found myself at something of a loss for what to put in Wednesday’s slot. Usually I go on a nostalgia-filled ramble through my gaming past, but while I have several candidate ideas for things to write about they need a little bit of time to ferment while I clear the mists of blarney from my head. I was a bit stuck, so I did what I usually do in this situation: I said “Screw it” and went off to play a game instead. I went off to play Civilization V.

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