Tag Archives: microprose

In Praise Of: Civilization’s City View.

city

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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In Praise Of: Master Of Orion 2.

Note before we start: “4X” is an acronym invented by a moron for the same reason that the term “FPS” was inserted into the general gaming lexicon: because calling games “Doom clones” and “Civ-alikes” is seen as demeaning to the ones that might actually be trying to iterate and develop a genre. Genre labels are necessary; the term 4X, however, is spectacularly awful, standing as it does for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. I sometimes wonder if the bored gaming journalist/PR bod who came up with it ever regrets this most enduring of their contributions to gaming culture. Whatever. We’re stuck with it now.

If you cast your eye back over the last decade or so of strategy titles, you might notice that the 4X genre is littered with the corpses of dead and dying space-based empire building games. Some of them have been badly made buggy messes (Sword of the Stars 2, for example). Some of them have had a limited amount of impact but are ultimately fading away into obscurity (Galactic Civilizations, Sins of a Solar Empire). Even though the last year has seen an extraordinary number of these titles released – I can probably count at least five off the top of my head –  only one of them has had any staying power to my mind, and Endless Space is a game with many of its own problems.

Perhaps this isn’t that unusual. I’d expect sci-fi to be a popular setting for games because it requires even less thought than fantasy; you can basically do a hundred iterations of “Modern day thing X, but in the FUTURE” and then call it a day. But why the 4X genre in particular? Compared to sci-fi settings you can count the number of fantasy 4X games on one hand, and I think even historical real-world settings (which are largely propped up by Paradox’s prolific output) are outnumbered by sci-fi ones. This cornucopia of sci-fi games doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though. They exist for a reason. They’re trying to recapture and/or recreate the spirit and feel of an ancient classic. They’re trying to do Master of Orion 2 all over again.

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In Praise Of: Darklands.

Really I should just rename this column the Microprose Nostalgia Hour, because that’s what it is now.

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In Praise Of: Colonization.

Colonization, then. It looks like Civilization, it’s spelled like Civilization, it’s even controlled in a similar fashion to Civilization. In terms of the way it plays, though, it couldn’t be more different.

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In Praise Of: Microprose Manuals.

Sitting on my desk just across from me is my copy of the original Civilization manual. It’s a relic of a bygone age: 129 pages long; written in a single language meaning all 129 pages are relevant; and just chock-full of information about how best to play the game. Twenty years ago this is what manuals for complex strategy games like Civilization had to be – while the game had what was for the time a very advanced in-game encyclopedia and tips system, dedicated interactive tutorials that taught the player to play as they played were not yet a thing. They couldn’t be; games came on a couple of floppy disks and computers and development philosophy were not yet mature enough to implement that sort of advanced feature.

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