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silverphyre673

IndyCiv / a new look at "Civilization" / doing away with mathematical gameplay

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Hello, all! It's been a while since I've been on this site. I'm trying to get back into programming a little bit. I'd like to start working on a game in my spare time, and I've been thinking a little bit about making a game a bit like the original "Civilization," for my own enjoyment. What I'm interested in discussing in this thread is some alternate game features to sort of broaden the horizons of the "Civilization" game. I really enjoy playing the later versions of the game, when the influence of cities, resources, trade, and infrastructure are just as important as building a strong military. I also enjoy that you had the opportunity to win through cultural achievement rather than solely through military conquest. I'd like to think about ways to expand on this game aspect. I'd like to think about new ways to play up the diplomatic aspects of developing civilizations. I feel like this is one area that the latest Civ games are still lacking in, and I think there's untapped potential for fun in dealing with the unknowns and tense negotiations involved in diplomacy. For example, in Civilization, it's very easy to have very solid reconnaisance, so that you know the exact number and strength of enemy troops, and know what sorts of resources your opponents have available. Terrain plays a certain effect in battles, but I feel like that could be played up more as well. What if it was more difficult to find out what resources your opponents had at their disposal? What if computer opponents took advantage of this fact, and, rather than just popping up a dialog demanding tribute or war, made threats: "I have bribed the local tribes of barbarians to sack your colony of Brundisium if you do not pay me 500 gold pieces." What if you could then engage in dialog with the barbarians? I think the potential for backstabbing, Machiavellian negotiation, and politics of the dirtiest sort is pretty much unexplored in any real fashion. Additionally, I've been reading LOTS of Roman history (read Tacitus' "Annals" -- freaky stuff) lately, and I'm also interested in the "human" side of running an Empire. Civilization has always assumed that you are a sort of omniscient, omnipotent god with no contest for control over your empire. What if instead your armies could revolt against you? This was a constant problem in ancient Rome, when charismatic generals were a real threat to the power of the Emperor. I realize that having a really good computer-generated conniving political drama would be really hard to pull off, and probably wouldn't be very well done, but I think that the possibility for army revolts, political drama in cities, and deals made between your subordinates and foreign powers could be expanded uppon somehow. Any ideas? Also, just in general, I think that sea power is never really made as important as it was in real life. Ocean travel was the main form of rapid transit for any empire with a coast. It seems a little silly to be able to have total, micro-management abilities over all cities in your empire. Micromanaging in Civ 4 gets tedious when empires get big, so I'd like to see about turning over more control to the computer and letting the player make bigger, more strategic decisions. Speaking of sea travel, what if instead of sending a settler to one particular patch of ground and having them build a city, they could form an autonomous colony that you taxed for resources and/or money or troops? What if, when taxes grew too high or the colony was too far off, they would revolt -- not even necessarily joining another empire, but becoming an independent colony in their own right? What if, instead of having a bunch of "barbarian" cities all working independently, waiting to be picked off, they could form alliances, empires, federations? Finally, does anyone have any thoughts on how to flesh out cultural achievements as a standard for victory? I feel like a system of awarding "culture points" is pretty lame. What if the artistic, religious, philosophical, scientific, and other cultural achievements had deeper effects on your opponents? Civ 4 seems to have attempted this (missionaries could spread your civ's religion in foreign lands, and small cities of opponents put next to your big, influential cities could revolt and join your empire), but I think that there's a lot more you could do. Lots of these thoughts have been spurred by my history reading of late, and I realize that they may not have been explored because of the "fun factor." I guess I'm really interested in making Civilization more "personal," with characters and personality coming into play. I'd like to find ways to combine the board-game-like aspects of Civilization with some of the features of the "Total War" games, such as generals and units which improve with experience. Again, this is done to some extent in Civilization, but I wonder if there's a stronger way to incorporate them. Does anyone have any other new ideas for a "Civilization"-type game? Anyone know how the ideas here could be made more fun? Drop me a line or post them here! Thanks! --Ben [Edited by - silverphyre673 on March 7, 2008 2:07:52 AM]

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One thing I wouldn't mind seeing in a game (something I've been working for my own games) is the idea that you're a single person, and you send and receive information the same way you would in real life.

What does this mean? You need AI generals that you send out to control things beyond your direct influence (for a Civ like game, beyond say, what a messenger could travel in a few weeks) and you need to balance these. Keep things vague for what you really know about your generals. Some generals are going to be better at defending, others at generating wealth or culture, some good at diplomacy with those around, others highly ambitious and likely to report back to you in a few years that they've doubled the size of the empire, and are appointing their own generals.

Something I wouldn't mind seeing is better balance of cities. After all, if you spend all your money and effort building one of your two cities into a cultural superpower, while the other is a starving military production slave town, do you think the second one is going to remain under your control for long before it rises up and crushes you?

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That's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about! I'm just wondering if you could choose, say, to play as one specific character (if you've even played Total War, this could be like choosing one specific "leader" character to play as), choosing an heir. When your character dies, you assume control over that heir. Meanwhile, you could have other members of the royal family struggling for power with you, or being sycophants who are striving for personal power within your rulership. Perhaps there could be some way of working in scenarios where there is a plot against the leader instigated by the next-in-line for the throne, or a situation where your heir is poisoned by a sibling, and you have to deal with the fact that your preferred heir is dead.

Particularly charismatic generals would be helpful in that they win battles, but problematic in that if they become too popular and too poorly rewarded, they could decide to use their military force to overthrow you. These problems could be affected by government and military structural changes -- for example, the President of the US has no need to worry about generals taking command of the army because of the way the army is structured.

I'd like to also see more emphasis on the concepts of supply lines and economic warfare. I kind of like how this is done in later Total War games, where being at war with a strong naval power means terrible disruption of the economy, which can be heavily reliant on sea trade for the bulk of its income.

How would you make the game mechanic of giving orders to generals, governors, etc. fun?

I've also been thinking that, if cultural practices were more important, how could a Civ-type game question/make use of social practices that highlight current or potential real issues a bit more? For example, there are some cultures in the world (major empires, too) that have practiced cannibalism, human sacrifice, homosexuality, and other social choices that are considered taboo in Western culture to one degree or another. In Medieval: Total War, your family members had lists of personal traits, one of which could be that they were homosexual. If they were, this trait would have negative effects. What if that weren't true. Is there some non-offensive way to call these norms into question within the context of a video game?

Going back to the idea of making personal attributes more interesting, what if genetic disorders could pop up in royal families, like hemophilia in the royal families of Europe? I just had this thought and haven't really thought it through much yet, but if anyone has any other related ideas, they would be appreciated. Thanks!

--Ben

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You seem kind of at odds with your goals. On one hand you want to provide bigger/strategic level goals at end game, but include a lot of hands on micromanagement stuff with heirs, army/population happiness, diplomacy...

It could be done (similar to how it was done in real life, your political system dictates your concerns). I am working on a 4X hobby game, and have a fairly old Design Doc floating about. There's a few new ideas that might be interesting to consider (limited population, low burden supply lines, increased economy mechanics)

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The way I see it is, the player has direct control over where the Player Character is, (and maybe your Heir) and can micromanage things. Beyond that things become more abstracted and you have less and less direct control.

From a multiplayer point of view, allow absorbing of other empires, and the human players that once were fighting with you, have the choice to continue playing as a Vassal. This means you don't just 'lose' but now have a different battle to fight. Not only do you have to fight all your original enemies, but you also have to contend with another player being able to direct you and you facing penalties from the 'population' if he is more popular than you are and you ignore his directions.


As for what traits are normal in a culture, make up lists of possible traits, then figure out combinations. Some cultures might be fine with Cannibalism of your enemies, but not each other. Another might be Cannibals, but only eat those who mistreat women or something? Most will kill Cannibals on sight. Have each player's cities be able to have different populations with different cultures, and align all cultures on a graph. Cultures that are opposed in one way or another don't mind killing each other off, but if one falls in the middle of a given field between the two killing each other off, their opinion of the culture that 'wins' will be highly diminished.

What can this do for the game play? Culture A, B, C, and D, their relations are plotted on a 2D graph, A at the top, going clockwise, with everything set at the extreme. If A Kills C, B and D will dislike A (and any players that are high on A's in their population) if B kills D, A and C will dislike B.

The impact? If Player One is in control of 75+% of the world, with his civilizations made up of 50% A, and the rest a mix of B and D, and Player Two is nearly 90% C, Player One risks still losing the game by having their empire come apart if they try to simply kill off every one of Player Two's cities.

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Original post by Telastyn
You seem kind of at odds with your goals. On one hand you want to provide bigger/strategic level goals at end game, but include a lot of hands on micromanagement stuff with heirs, army/population happiness, diplomacy...

It could be done (similar to how it was done in real life, your political system dictates your concerns). I am working on a 4X hobby game, and have a fairly old Design Doc floating about. There's a few new ideas that might be interesting to consider (limited population, low burden supply lines, increased economy mechanics)


Talroth's got my idea pretty much right: you, as the king/emperor/whatever of your country, make broad-level decisions about how to organize and run your empire, and your subordinates, whom you have no direct control over, actually carry out the tasks to the extent of their abilities. You, meanwhile, deal with more negotiation and character-to-character -- it's sort of an idea of introducing role-playing elements into a turn-based or realtime strategy game, I suppose.

I think this sort of game would definitely work best as a multiplayer game :)

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Original post by Talroth
From a multiplayer point of view, allow absorbing of other empires, and the human players that once were fighting with you, have the choice to continue playing as a Vassal. This means you don't just 'lose' but now have a different battle to fight. Not only do you have to fight all your original enemies, but you also have to contend with another player being able to direct you and you facing penalties from the 'population' if he is more popular than you are and you ignore his directions.


This is actually a really cool idea -- and if you can use the power/influence you have left to later rise up again and carve out some territory of your own, you could re-enter the game. I think if one player captures an area with an enemy king, they should have the option of killing/enslaving or retaining the other player (with the decision affecting the traits and popularity of their ruler, perhaps).

Quote:

As for what traits are normal in a culture, make up lists of possible traits, then figure out combinations. Some cultures might be fine with Cannibalism of your enemies, but not each other. Another might be Cannibals, but only eat those who mistreat women or something? Most will kill Cannibals on sight. Have each player's cities be able to have different populations with different cultures, and align all cultures on a graph. Cultures that are opposed in one way or another don't mind killing each other off, but if one falls in the middle of a given field between the two killing each other off, their opinion of the culture that 'wins' will be highly diminished.

What can this do for the game play? Culture A, B, C, and D, their relations are plotted on a 2D graph, A at the top, going clockwise, with everything set at the extreme. If A Kills C, B and D will dislike A (and any players that are high on A's in their population) if B kills D, A and C will dislike B.

The impact? If Player One is in control of 75+% of the world, with his civilizations made up of 50% A, and the rest a mix of B and D, and Player Two is nearly 90% C, Player One risks still losing the game by having their empire come apart if they try to simply kill off every one of Player Two's cities.


This is an interesting idea. I think this is perhaps the only way of really trying to incorporate cultural peculiarities into a video game, but I'm just concerned (a little bit) about defining a culture as a big mass of attributes (cannibalistic/not cannibalistic, or whatever). Just doesn't seem very respectful. I'm approaching this idea with an eye to at least dealing with Western civilization's history of expansionism, genocide and extermination of other cultures in a way that doesn't just reinforce the notion that our culture is the best/only viable one, and that doesn't just assume that Western cultural standards are "defaults." Hmmmm...

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Three replies to my own thread in a row! I just thought of another thing: I've heard it said that the problem with video games is that they aren't "smokey" enough. Victory is quantifiable, depends on accumulating a certain number of points or maximizing or minimizing.

But, since this game idea is largely about exploring human lives and cultures, I think that the common conception of "victory" within this context is problematic at best, futile at worst. How can you define a cultural "victory" except in terms of military conquest? And even in that case -- every empire falls eventually. In terms of military conquest, the Roman Empire "lost" eventually, but its cultural impacts, positive and negative, have manifested themselves throughout the last two thousand years.

Is there a way to define "victory" here as something other than a win/lose scenario? Should we cut the game off at some point, and decide who won based on their cultural influence at that point in time? Is that even necessary? Can we have a game that is just played, not won?

Also:

Ready for it? Ready to be irked, annoyed, bothered? I'm about to throw it out there, those dreaded letters...

I'll just type them, and then clarify in a moment: MMO (dun dun dun!)

As we're in a game design forum, so practical logistics aside, what if, instead of playing in a tiny little world with like eight cultures competing (which works fine in the board-game scenario that Civ explores), what if all players, or at least several hundred, competed in a very big world? I mean, really: Rome was a huge empire in its heyday, and thought it had explored and conquered the very edges of the world. It didn't know about the millions of people lived on continents across the ocean, or about the Japanese empire and the cultural struggles of the southern part of Africa or of eastern Asia. Would this add anything to the game, potentially? Can anyone picture this working?

In the interest of exploring this from an MMO perspective, with new players dropping in and out of the game, what if, instead of (as in most MMORPG games) choosing character attributes and spending the game "grinding," you chose the starting cultural attributes of your culture (which could potentially change over time), and were given land in virgin territory (perhaps there would be a defined area where new countries would start out, or perhaps we could figure out a way of adding new land for new countries to start on, or perhaps aliens periodically restructured the landscape).

As military conquest would undoubtedly be a major part of such a game in any case, we would have to figure out a way to keep competition fair where new tribes were concerned. Maybe all tribes would automatically be entered into an alliance or federation with each other, so that they can collectively fight off larger civilizations. Maybe games would not have a very clearly-defined starting point, so a large map could have TONS of space for various small tribes to start off in and expand. Until the game really got going, new players could enter in areas well away from any opponents.

Just some more ideas, don't give me too hard a time about the MMO thing :)

[Edited by - silverphyre673 on March 7, 2008 1:13:40 AM]

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I haven't read all of the posts here, but a lot of what's being discussed sounds similar to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series (don't shun it because of that first screen shot, there are a dozen modern sequels).

While you can play the game with god-like control over your cities and armies, you can also delegate vassals to govern them. You don't strictly play from the perspective of a single person, but I often did anyways. You can create custom characters, and there's nothing stopping you from delegating everything except the army/city of the character that you want to represent you.

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Original post by Kest
I haven't read all of the posts here, but a lot of what's being discussed sounds similar to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series (don't shun it because of that first screen shot, there are a dozen modern sequels).

While you can play the game with god-like control over your cities and armies, you can also delegate vassals to govern them. You don't strictly play from the perspective of a single person, but I often did anyways. You can create custom characters, and there's nothing stopping you from delegating everything except the army/city of the character that you want to represent you.


That looks pretty interesting. I've never played it, so I guess I can't comment very effectively on how it would compare with some of the ideas bouncing around in my head, but it looks like it has a sort of semi-defined storyline. I'm looking for something that's maybe a little closer to the Civilization games.

I was a little confused at the line in the wiki article "Gameplay mainly revolves around managing numerical statistics, each representing an attribute of a city or character." Managing statistics or other little things is something I want to get away from. At this point in computer technology and game development, I think games should be more than just lines of text. Not saying this is easy to accomplish, or that this is what RoTK is (again, since I haven't actually played it).

However, it sounds like a lot of other game aspects (being able to play a variety of different character roles, or having more immersive interactions with opponents) are pretty much in line with what I've been thinking about.

Interesting...

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