Tag Archives: In Praise Of

Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 3

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Civilization 3 was the first Civilization I actually bought with money. It was released in 2001, and by that point I wasn’t having to rely on bootleg copies or swiping my brother’s Civilization 2 CD when he wasn’t looking; I was still in sixth form1 but had a small amount of disposable income thanks to a rather unpleasant summer job, and so I wandered down to Dixons2 the lunchtime of release day and bought what might actually have been my very last big-box3 PC game ever.

It was a big disappointment.

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  1. Note for any non-British people reading: the sixth form covers studying for your A-Levels between ages 16-18. At the time it was the thing you did if you wanted to go to university, but these days the government keeps people in education until they’re 18 to keep the unemployment figures down.
  2. Note for any non-British people reading: modern British high streets are derelict wastelands thanks to the rise of online retail, but twenty years ago they were in rather ruder health and you could find shops that sold things outside of clothing and food. Still, even back then Electronics Boutique and HMV wouldn’t venture outside of the cities, and so if you wanted to buy a PC game in a smaller town you had to fall back to Dixons, a seemingly-omnipresent electronics retailer who would at least carry the biggest releases for a few weeks as part of their PC section.
  3. Note for any non-European people reading: big-box PC games died earlier in Europe than they did elsewhere (I understand they held out in the US for a few more years before eventually succumbing there too), and by 2001 most new games were being shipped in smaller DVD-style keep cases.
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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 2

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To me, Civilization 2 has for many years been the Bigfoot of the Civilization series. You can find the original Civilization on abandonware sites quite easily, and once you’ve got it you can run it via DOSBox with zero fuss. You can buy Civilizations 3 and 4 on Steam, and they both still work fine apart from the missing Gamespy functionality and the occasional crash to desktop. But Civilization 2? It’s not available on GOG, but acquiring a copy of Civilization 2 via alternative methods is just as easy as Civilization (so long as you’re happy with losing the music, the wonder videos and the advisors, anyway); however, it was a Windows-native game released in 1996 — in other words, that awkward period where Microsoft were still sorting themselves out in terms of drivers and APIs for Windows-native games. Consequently it doesn’t play nicely at all with modern versions of Windows, and since it doesn’t have a commercial release on a digital distribution platform it’s entirely reliant on dedicated fans to drag it into a state of semi-compatibility. Getting it to work on Windows 7 was a bit tricky, but doable. Getting it to work on Windows 10 was nigh-impossible until a new fan patch was released towards the end of 2017 that specifically addressed Windows 10 compatibility; up until I found out about it I was seriously considering installing Windows XP on a virtual machine just so that I could play Civilization 2 again.

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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization

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Over the Christmas break I found myself playing through Civilization 4 for the first time in about ten years. It did a lot of neat stuff that I’d just plain forgotten about, so I decided to play through all of the Civilization games to see how well they held up today and how the series had evolved from one iteration to the next, and then write something summing up that experience so that I’ll have something to refer back to when I inevitably forget again.

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Civilization has the distinction of being the very first game I played on a proper IBM PC. This was way back in my school computer room in 1995, which was an environment that was far too cheap for Windows 95 and the flashy multimedia games that came with it, and so the four year-old Civilization was the best we could manage on the 386s we had available. By this point I’d played newer, better-looking games on the Atari, Archimedes and Megadrive (not to mention Doom and Command & Conquer on some weird PC card hookup jammed into an Acorn RISC PC), and Civilization looked positively primitive by comparison. It didn’t matter. I was instantly hooked.

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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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In Praise Of: Halo.

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A little over a year ago I wrote a two-part history of Bungie Software. It took in their early games – Pathways into Darkness, Marathon and Myth — which were nearly all superb in one way or another, and then abruptly stopped with only the barest mention of the series that’s eclipsed all Bungie’s other achievements: Halo. There were several very good reasons for this, first and foremost of which is that Halo is Microsoft’s flagship game series and it’s already had countless column inches written about it. There’d be little if anything new that I could add to the discussion, even if that discussion is one so corrupted by PR and marketing that it’s now reaching the point of parody, and so that was where that particular pair of posts ended.

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In Praise Of: Flashback.

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The trailer for the Flashback remake was released yesterday. It is one of the most awful game trailers I’ve ever seen, not only because it looks so dreadfully boring with its plasticky 2.5D visuals, snap cuts of explosions and its inexplicable side-scrolling hoverbike section, but also because it couldn’t be less true to the spirit of the original game if it tried.  Flashback is an admittedly flawed game but it’s one that I revere nevertheless, and so I went back and dug out this half-written piece from a couple of months ago to try to explain why.

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In Praise Of: Another World.

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I vacillated shamefully over writing this post. It’s my blog, and I can do whatever the hell I want, but Another World is one of those games that’s already quite well-respected by the gaming establishment and has had plenty of words written about its storytelling and depiction of an alien world. I prefer to cover the less well-known stuff on here and was doubtful I could say anything useful about it that hadn’t been said already.

On the other hand, I really like Another World. Seriously. It made a hell of an impression on me as a kid, to the point where I stole the box art twenty years later to make one of the header images for the site. In my opinion while there have been games that have been superficially similar – including the also-excellent Flashback made by Another World’s publisher, Delphine Software — there’s never been another game quite like it.  It’s not quite an adventure game, not quite a platformer, not quite a puzzler; the cliché here would be to say it combined elements of all three but I think instead that Another World is its own thing entirely, and just happens to resemble that particular genre mishmash because it’s the best way of describing it given the way games subsequently evolved. Another World is, for lack of a better term, unique – and truly unique games are very rare, and totally worth discussing further.

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