A Week of Firsts (Leading to a Change in Lifestyle)

This week saw several “first experiences” for me. It definitely threw me for a loop.

For about a week or so before this past Sunday, I had been having odd experiences. My site had become blurry more than usual to the point that I would think that I wasn’t even wearing my glasses. On top of that, I became twice as thirsty as usual. But I went about my business, hoping that things would improve. Since I work overnight, and began using an eye mask while I slept during the day. I read that if it is too tight, it can lead to blurry vision. So I stopped using it.

On Sunday, I got home from work and went about my day as normal. I spoke to my mother that morning, wishing her a happy mother’s day, and had plans to go with my fiancée to Texas Roadhouse that evening to celebrate her. So I went to sleep around 10 am. I woke up around noon and went to refill my drink. I was super thirsty. My fiancée asked my father to check my blood sugar.

He pulled out his meter and tested my blood. It read 600+. “That can’t be right” he said. He pulled out another meter and tested again… sure enough 600+ was the result. Needless to say, shortly after, I was on my way to the hospital. When I got there, I had the fastest experience going from walking in the door to being in a bed in the ER than I ever had before. Thus came my first “first.” They admitted me to stay overnight.

Up to this point in my life, I had never been admitted for an overnight stay. In fact, the only time that I had stayed in a hospital overnight was when my daughter was born. (That is another story altogether.)

During the stay (which turned out to be two nights), my blood sugar was brought down significantly. My vision was still blurry, however, so the doctor ordered first a CT scan and, when that came up clear, an MRI. Both of those were firsts for me. Having worked as a Patient Transport, I had taken many people to the CT scan and watched the machine do its work. So I was prepared for that, though I found it interesting actually being on the table this time.

I was a bit nervous for the MRI. I had heard plenty of stories about how it can effect people with claustrophobia. And I have that to a degree. But when I got down there (my nurse gave me some medicine to help relax me before going down), I found it wasn’t all that bad.

Of course, now being officially diabetic, I had a few other firsts as well.. checking my own sugar and giving myself an injection. I still flinch at the finger pricks and the needles are hit and miss as to whether I feel them. But I am managing.

All in all, I am getting through this sudden change. I have long had a sweet tooth and I am a picky eater, so that is an adjustment. I’ve even been going through a bit of depression. Still, I have a good support system around me. My father has been managing diabetes for 20+ years. My fiancée is doing her best to help me with my diet. My daughter has been giving me lots of love. My extended support is very helpful and I have been feeling lots of love from my friends and family.

Thank you to all of those who have lent me their support. Hopefully, as I get this managed, I will once again have the focus to get my writing going full steam ahead. In the meantime, I will focus on getting my health in order. Afterall, I have my daughter and another one on the way to think about.

My Look at Humankind (the game)

I played the Humankind Victor OpenDev – here are my thoughts.

After my blog feature covering my thoughts on a potential Civilization VII, I got in on the Victor OpenDev for Humankind, the new game from Sega/Amplitude Studios. Before playing it, I didn’t know much about the game. I knew that it is a 4x game along the lines of the Civilization franchise. A game that molds itself after Civilization and positioned as a “competitor” is something that hasn’t really been seen since Call to Power II.

I know there are games like Europa Universalis, the Total War franchise, and Age of Empires, but none of those are truly on the scope of Civilization. Age of Empires is a real time strategy game, so the mechanics and how you play are completely different. The Total War franchise is a mixture of turn-based and real time that only focuses on certain periods of history, not the span. Europa Universalis also generally focuses on specific periods.

Humankind, on the other hand, is a turn-based strategy game that spans the lifetime of human history. It takes a lot from Civilization and adds enough to make it its own. I am intrigued by some of the features of Humankind. Even like that some of the things that I mentioned in my Civilization VII feature are implemented in some fashion (though not completely how I would have imagined it). And yet there are some things that I was not too happy about. But it is an in-development game, so I’m not too concerned about the latter. Hopefully, the notes that I (and other players) submitted after playing will go towards well tweaking those weak-spots and making a better game.

WHAT I LIKED

The first thing that I liked was that, just as I suggested for Civilization, they have a “prehistory” period. It was a fun little “prologue” before getting into the heart of the game… empire development. Once you reach the Ancient Era, you get to select from 10 cultures of that period. That would be your foundation and give you your emphasis for that era (builder, militarist, merchant, etc.) You get more fame by completing certain milestones in the culture’s orientation.

When you advance eras, you get to pick from a new set of cultures (or stick with the one you have). As you go, you can settle outposts and settlements within regions of the map, recruit armies and generally develop your empire. You have religion, science, and culture that you can use to give your empire certain bonuses. Those features seem well implemented to me. Combat and diplomacy are areas that I felt were hit and miss. First, what I liked.

Diplomacy is pretty much straight forward and simple. You can sign treaties (trade, border, info sharing, etc.), make trades, respond to crisis with other cultures (demand or forgo reparations), and manage your relationships (declare war). I didn’t really delve into the trade mechanic. I found myself most often in the Treaties or Crisis tabs. The major hiccup I found was when dealing with war, particularly, ending a war. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Combat is certainly intriguing when engaging. You stack your armies (in limited stacks) as you move them around the map. When you engage in combat, you go into a sort of mini game (without transition as in Total War). Hexes will highlight showing your area and the enemies. You can then deploy your troops, then engage in combat, attacking player going first. There are three rounds per turn. If you do not complete the battle in three rounds, you continue next turn. This was certainly an interesting mechanic. Mostly, I enjoyed it. But there were still frustrations that came up, especially as the eras progressed.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

My first big frustration was, in battle, when I would go to the deployment, sometimes I didn’t have enough space to deploy my troops. When that happens, your extra troops are in reserve. I struggled trying to figure out how to swap out the troops in reserve. This led to me being overwhelmed because I couldn’t get a ranged unit out to pepper the enemy with arrows. Another problem came with balance. Some units seemed way overpowered. The enemy was using Samnahya (essentially elephant archers) and they were taking out my units in nearly one hit. I was using my most powerful units at the time and couldn’t hold a candle.

As mentioned before, I had a hard time with ending wars. The mechanics there could be a bit confusing. Reducing the enemy’s War Support was supposed to lead to them surrendering. If they did not surrender, the only option I saw was to surrender to them. It could be quite confusing.

My other big complaint was the technology pacing. I was blasting through the eras via the Era Stars and far outpacing my technological development. I hope that this was just for the OpenDev and that when the game releases, the pacing will be much better.

Finally, there is one thing about the game that kind of irks me. That aspect is one of the core features of the game, the mix-matching of cultures. Every era, you can select a new culture. You can start out as the Egyptians, progress to the Goths in the Classical Era, take the Aztec moniker in the Medieval Era, then progress to the Ming in the Early Modern. I understand that this mechanic is implemented to provide a vast combination of cultures to forge your empire. I do not fault the developers for that. But the historian in me is screaming. Still, it is not a breaker for me and I can just find me a ladder and get over it for the sake of this game.

MY EXPERIENCES

So, a brief overview of my experience with Humankind. The first time I fired it up, I made my way quickly through the Neolithic ear (the prehistory that I mentioned earlier) and eventually adopted the Mycenaean culture. I made my way through and examined the different aspects of gameplay. Eventually, I found myself being threatened by my southern neighbor, the Olmecs (who eventually became the Celts while I was still in my Ancient form), and I was being hard pressed. It was at this time that I realized some mistakes that I made early on in my empire development. I didn’t split my army during the Neolithic and only had the one region while I was being quickly closed in by other cultures.

So, after a couple of days, I started over. This time, I grew my units, and split them in different directions, claiming territories as soon as I could. I selected the Hittites when I reached the Ancient Era and established a strong base of operations. I got into a couple of conflicts with Harappans and the Babylonians, but I was a much better force this time around. It didn’t take long for me to reach the Classical Era this time, at which time I selected the Romans.

I continued to develop my empire and expanded my holdings. I even converted an independent culture. When I reached the Medieval Era, I opted to stick with the Romans. I don’t really understand the “transcend” bonus, but you essentially keep the Emblematics from your previous era.  It was at this point when I started running into trouble with the elephants and the “timer” for the scenario was running out. But that was ok… I had fulfilled my curiosity of the game.

In the end, I was fairly happy with the game. There are a lot of intriguing elements that I look forward to exploring when the game is officially released. I don’t think it will replace Civilization as one of my favorite games, but it may make my “top” list. I look forward to delving deeper into Humankind.

How I Got Caught in The Wheel of Time

A look at Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, its impact on me and the upcoming TV series adaptation on Amazon Prime.

Over a decade ago, my mind got run over by a “wheel.” Not just any wheel, I am referring to The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was not expecting it. At the time, there were 11 books published in the series and one prequel novel. The final novel was in the works. Only, the untimely death of the author threw everything into question. Fortunately, Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and editor, ensured his legacy would see its end by bringing in Brandon Sanderson to finish the series (and in turn, dividing the last book into 3 for a total of 14 main series books).

The series would have a major impact on me, setting me on my own path of wanting to be a writer to doing it. It has inspired me. The worldbuilding within the series guides me in my own efforts. Following is how I got into the series to begin with, and my thoughts on the upcoming TV adaptation. There might be some minor spoilers, so tread with caution. Still, there shouldn’t be any of too much significance.

MY HISTORY

In 2003, I rejoined the Navy and was eventually stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). While stationed on the ship, I spent many days/weeks/months at sea. It was during this time that I took up reading a lot. Before that time, I had only read a handful of fictional books of my own choosing (other than the ones forced on my by schools). I got my entertainment from movies and video games. Despite that, I had built up a collection of books and I took some with me. That is when I got into reading R. A. Salvatore.

His books drew me in. I read all the released Drizzt books, The Cleric Quintet, the first three books of the Demon Wars saga, and many of his other series. I guess, in part, it was his name that drew me… Salvatore. But I stayed for the memorable characters and wild adventures. Now, I had heard of The Wheel of Time at this point, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was enjoying my time in the Forgotten Realms.

It was during the summer of 2007, after I left my service in the Navy, that I decided to see what that series was about. I sat down and started reading The Eye of the World. About halfway through the book, I set it down. It was while Rand and Mat were on the road to Caemlyn. I was getting wary of the journey and it seemed like nothing was going right. (I would later find out that if I had just stuck it out a few more pages, that feeling would have begun to change.) So, I put the book down and went back to Drizzt and company.

The following year, I started a job in Washington, D.C. At the time, I lived in Baltimore, Maryland (north of the city, in fact) and, at first, I rode the train for my commute. While dealing with a nearly 2-hour commute twice a day, I needed an escape. That is when I found audiobooks. I decided that maybe I’ll give The Wheel of Time another try and downloaded the audio of The Eye of the World. From the moment I heard Michael Kramer’s voice, I knew I was caught.

Over the next few months, I ran through every book available. Then as soon as the last three books were available, I got them and listened as well.  When I was at work imaging workstations, I was listening. When I started driving to work because I had to be there earlier than the trains ran, I connected my iPod to my car and listened while driving (that certainly helped to save my sanity during those years). Michael Kramer and Kate Reading filled my head. Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, Min, Loial, and all the rest became my friends. I was hooked!

There are a lot of factors that drew me into the series. From characters to the worldbuilding, there is a lot to admire about The Wheel of Time. Those factors all gripped me, along with the many themes found throughout the books. The greatest of those themes, for me, is the theme of balance.

Balance is very important to me. I consider it one of my core philosophies, the primary tenet of my spirituality. Many times, I had professed about how the world is made up of opposites and one element cannot exist without its opposite. If there is no heat, there can be no cold, no evil, there can be no good, et cetera. To read a book series that echoes my very tenets back to me was unreal.

THE UPCOMING TV ADAPTATION

After finally getting into the series, I soon began digging for whatever information I could find about the series. I located fan sites such as Dragonmount and Encyclopedia WOT that delved into the series, with the latter giving recaps of each chapter of each book and breakdowns on characters, settings, etc. I also came across Leigh Butler at tor.com with her reread blogs.

During that time, a little TV show began airing that peaked some folks interest in the mainstream. Something called “Game of Thrones.”  If you haven’t heard of it, it was a TV show based on a series of fantasy novels that had some moderate success in bringing in viewers. The thought of this got me excited for the possibility of a Wheel of Time production.

I began looking up information for a potential movie or TV series adaptation for The Wheel of Time. Other than a bunch of speculation, there were not many hints of any production. Mostly just legal issues that were hindering progress. I did come across a short fan-made film entitled Flight from Shadow. Then came the dreaded Winter’s Dragon premiere that rocked the fandom and fueled more legal issues. Finally came an announcement, 5 years ago, from Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet, that all matters had been resolved and they were moving forward on plans to create a series.

The next few years saw a slew of details eke out of the nether and engulfing the fandom (while the rest of the world lay unknown about what was going on). We learned that Sony Pictures had picked up the series and that Amazon was working on the production. We learned the showrunner was Rafe Judkins, who soon enlisted the help of Sarah Nakamura, a Wheel of Time guru, to act as “book liaison.” This was all great news. We started learning about writers and directors and cinematographers, many who were top-notched and respected, being involved. Then came the casting news.

I have to admit, I was not familiar with Rosemund Pike when she was first announced to be portraying Moiraine in the TV show. But I soon learned who she was and began to grow excited. Then they announced Daniel Henney as Lan who I was mildly familiar from episodes of Criminal Minds that I happened to catch. Then came the ultimate blow… the flurry of announcements of the Emond’s Field Five. The central characters around which the series follows. And I knew nothing about them. My mind went blank as I stared at the screen through those announcements. These are the people that I came to know and love?

So, I thought, and I thought. I looked up info about the actors. I watched videos from WOT analysts like Nae’blis, Rebecca (from Reading the Pattern), and Daniel Greene. Slowly (then quickly), I began to like these actors. I liked the fact that they were relative unknowns to begin with. A show like this is a great way to introduce great new talent to the masses. While sitting with my daughter, flipping channels, I came across the pilot episode of Power Rangers Ninja Steel which has the actress portraying Nynaeve, Zoe Robins. Interesting… Then I took my daughter to the Dora the Explorer movie which included Madeleine Madden in the cast. I was beginning to feel out the actors who were cast as the EF5 and I liked what I saw.

So, it was settled! I was full on the “hype train” and looking forward to a see the show in action. #TwitterofTime became a thing (an amazing group of people including named character accounts and regular fans alike who have fun with all things Wheel of Time, including polls provided by @RogueAelfinn *WoTPolls*). In a way, #TwitterOfTime has become a bit of a family within the fandom where we discuss the books, the shows, and even personal events that affect us. It is fandom at its best!

Amazon released a table read which cranked up the engine. New cast members were announced ranging from major characters to minor. Production started in Prague back in September of 2019. Of course, nobody saw the log on the rail that would bring the train to a screeching halt.

By this time, I had been riding the hype of the potential series for a while now. I was looking forward to it as a way to introduce my friends and family to the series. My fiancée and I watched Game of Thrones together and I have been looking forward to getting her into The Wheel of Time. She doesn’t like audiobooks so it is hard to get her into it that way. And it looked like everything was running along swimmingly. That is, until that dirty, no good virus-that-shall-not-be-named showed up and wreaked havoc across the globe.

The delays left a drought of information. On the one hand, the delays did not stop production altogether as Rafe Judkins ensured that post-production for the episodes already shot were well underway. They were able to resume filming the remaining episodes and it appears that the marketing is gearing up to extend beyond the fanbase. That is a good thing. Over the past few months, Amazon Prime has been releasing short clip teasers revealing items and now characters from the show. The most recent is Daniel Henney as Lan (looking badass).

Still, some worries have crept in. Increasing talks of changes to the story have filled the internet. While changes are expected, the sting that was Game of Thrones season 8 are all too recent. The fears that changes done here in season one will drastically impact later storylines from the books. Worries about what scenes from the book will survive the adaptation (I may do my own “Must Have” list soon). At least we know that the show is in the hands of fans in Rafe Judkins and Sarah Nakamura. For my own humanity and entertainment, I picture Sarah chasing Rafe around the set, copy of the book in hand with notes and markers hanging out, in a Benny Hill like fashion over proposed changes.

*******

In the end, I leave my trust to the cast and crew of the show. Knowing that Harriet and Brandon are involved in the show gives me hope that it will fulfill the desire to watch the show play out on a screen and to introduce our friends and family to the series. Whether the show will succeed or fail, well, we’ll have to see how the wind takes us. Until then, “let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.”

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise (Civilization VII Ideas Compiled)

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

The following is a compilation of Parts 2 – 6 of my blog feature on the Civilization franchise, particularly, my take one what I would like out of the next iteration of the franchise, Civilization VII. I am compiling them here for those who would like to read through in one shot. Though it is quite long. That is why I also included links to each individual blog entry below, including the introduction and Part 1, which is more of an overview of my own history and experience with the franchise. So, check it out and let me know what you think.

Separate Parts

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6

CIVILIZATIONS

Dynamic Civilizations

            The first major change is to have dynamic civilizations. What that means is that the traits that are usually associated with civilizations are no longer so. Instead, they are general traits that can be selected. As the player progresses and reaches certain milestones, new traits can be selected that are context sensitive to the situation. For example, if the player begins in a desert region, one of the possible traits could be “Desert Folk” which would give them bonuses to that environment. However, civilizations not in the desert would be unable to select the trait. Also, once a civilization has selected a specific trait, that trait would no longer be available for other civilizations. This is how the player defines their civilization’s identity.

            Clearly, this is inspired by how religions have worked in both Civilization V and VI. It develops a more natural flow of development as the civilization progresses through the ages. But what would this mean for selecting Civilizations? Wouldn’t this mean that whether you choose Rome, Egypt or Japan would be irrelevant? Well, these civilizations could have one basic trait that goes along with their civilization. Unique Units, buildings, improvements, etc. could also be associated with the civilizations allowing for some variety between civilizations, along with likelihood of civilizations spawning in certain areas. Also, the traits are permanent, even if the civilization is downgraded in level. Though new traits can be selected should the civilization reach a level upgrade threshold again.

Civilization Levels

            That leads to the next big change. Gone are City-States and Barbarians. Yes, you heard that right. However, they are not truly gone, just integrated into a “level” system of civilization growth. Each civilization begins at a basic level that could even predate the traditional start of past games. As they develop, they can be “upgraded” to greater levels that expand their capabilities and interactions. Depending on map size, limits can be inposed as to how many civilizations can be of a certain level. That said, the levels are:

  • Tribal – A nomadic civilization that essentially take the place of barbarians. There is minimal diplomacy available with tribal civilizations and often war with them carries no penalties. The player can play a Civ in this state (or even be reduced to this) as per the “Prehistory Mode” to be discussed later. After a certain threshold, the civilization can found a settlement which lays the foundation of the next level.
  • City-State – This is the foundation of Civilizations. It is the earliest stage with increased diplomatic ability. They can send out colonists to form settlements that are independent yet subservient to the founding City-State. Two or more Colonies or allied City-states leads to a Pact.
  • Pact – Formed through early alliances of City-States, some increased diplomacy with Civilizations that are part of the pact. When a particular civilization becomes dominant in the pact, they gain full control and become a State.
  • State – This is the level where a civilization can truly begin to establish themselves on the world stage. Formed when a civilization becomes dominant of a Pact and is chosen as leader (or through conquest) the State level allows for greater diplomatic options.
  • Empire – An Empire is a more powerful form of the State. It encompasses a large area but starts accruing penalties that could cripple the empire if left unchecked. However, there will be tools that can be used to counter these penalties and maintain stability.
  • Superpower – The ultimate level of civilization. Superpowers are at the top of nearly all lists. A Superpower typically won’t be achieved until late game. They may receive special benefits; however, lesser civilizations may admire or fear the superpower, causing problems with diplomacy and politics.

These 6 levels are milestones of achievements. However, they are not necessarily secure once you reach them. What goes up can certainly come down and civilizations are no exception. And since the starting map is removed of city-states (in the V and VI incarnations) and barbarians, there is room for more civilizations overall. This gives way to a feature that had somewhat been implemented in IV, related Civs.

Related Civilizations

As stated, this was seen before to a certain degree in the franchise. However, I look deeper at the various civilizations big and small throughout history that could be included. Civ VI includes Athens and Sparta both as versions of Greece. In this version, Athens, Sparta, Troy, and many others can be “civilizations” at the start of the game. Tribes that roam the world looking for a place to prosper. When they settle, similar “tribes” may settle nearby. These form the basis of later civilizations like Greece.

      This could also lead to variety of gameplay. In one game, you could come across the Civilization of Rome. In another playthrough, you could meet the civilization of “Etruscia.” Both are the same basic civilizations but depending on which related civ came to dominate the area. Later civilizations could be shattered and form smaller states, city-states, or tribes. This will lead to another topic which I had alluded to earlier.

Prehistory Mode

This mode is a sort of “prologue” to the main game. It could be an optional mode that leads into a full game where the player starts out a Tribe (as opposed to a City-State). You wander around the map establishing “camps” that serve as your base for a few turns as you gather supplies from surrounding areas. Wild Animals could make their return in this mode and be part of the quest find a suitable location. Oh, and fog of war clouds over any area out of sight range. In other words, you cannot see where you have been, only where you are. Ultimately, you must settle your first settlement, and this is where the main game begins.

LEADERS EVOLVED

No More Single Static Leaders

Yes, that you read that headline correctly. But what does that mean? It means that the leaders used to represent a civilization no longer exist. No more selecting the civilization by the omnipotent leader that carries them through all the ages. Diplomatic screens now have a shadowed leader in the background with a representative diplomat of the civilization in the foreground (who performs all of the animations of the deal and is dressed according to culture and era). All dealings are handled this way.

I know that the leaders have become the “main characters” of the franchise.  So, I expect a lot of backlash at this point. But I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the leaders chosen to represent the civilizations in the game. With dynamically crafted civilizations, I just don’t think that one leader to rule them all per civilization will really fit and would rather be counterproductive to the ebb and flow of development. However, a new type of Leader could arise to fill in the purpose and retain that “character” of the game.

Great Leaders

Instead of having one overarching leader throughout the game, the civilization will be open to multiple leaders that last over a certain amount of time, the Great Leader. These leaders, like Heroes of Civilization VI, only last for a certain amount of time. During that time, they can lead armies for significant combat bonuses and/or station in cities for special bonuses or abilities. When these Leaders are active, a representation of that leader fills in the shadowed figure of the diplo screen. There would be a pool of leaders available for each civilization group (several civilizations closely related).

Great People

                On the subject of “Greats,” it might go without saying that since there are Great Leaders, that Great People exist in the game. Admittedly, I am on the fence about great works. I like the system, but I am not sure that it is necessary. In any case, I feel the general way that Great People are implemented is fine, however will probably have to be tweaked for the new systems put in place.

GRAPHICAL UPDATES

Smaller Hexes

While most of the graphical changes, such as art style, UI, and the like would mostly be something that is subjected to the actual development and has little to do with actual gameplay, one thing that I would adjust is the hexes. At least, I would change the size of them… make them about half the size that they are now. First, smaller hexes would make for more defined landforms and better-looking maps. But beyond that, it would open greater gameplay possibilities.

The smaller hexes would allow for varied terrain types, more resource locations and more rooms for districts and wonders. Some features, districts, wonders and buildings could be greater than one hex in size. New elements such as Mountain Passes could be introduced. City development would be more strategic as well. And because the hexes are smaller, units would have a greater base movement speed than previous games.

OTHER

Roads

                I liked having roads created by trade caravans in Civilization VI, but I did not like the manual aspect so much. One problem with the caravans is that they would always look for the fastest root, including waterways. This did would not build the land roads between cities. Instead, you would have to build a Military Engineer to manually construct the road, one piece at a time. To make matters worse, the ME’s had limited charges for road construction.

                This time around, I think the player should be able to select the route, either through a couple presented options or by “drawing” it out when sending the caravan.  Or have a construct road option where the player chooses the path of the road and pays an up-front cost.

UNIT MANAGEMENT

One Per Hex

When the feature of One Unit Per Hex was introduced in Civilization V, I was a bit skeptical. While elements of it (such as archers with range) seemed logical, the idea of the feature took a certain “realism” view away from the game. I understand that the game was never intended as a “simulation” of history, still there were certain suspensions of disbelief that were hard to overcome. Archers shooting across the English Channel just didn’t seem right. Then, there was also the fact that there would be nowhere to place units. The whole idea was to eliminate the “stack of doom” that plagued previous iterations.

Soon after Civilization V released, it quickly came apparent that the “stack of doom” was replaced with the “carpet of doom.” By the end game, civs would have units on virtually every tile. Civilization VI helped with this a little by introducing “armies” where like units could be combined. This alleviated some of the issues, but the whole system of units could still become cumbersome. Another “fix” appeared to be increasing the “cost” of units. However, I felt that took away from my experience. Part of the game, for me, was being able to build a massive army to conquer my enemies and stand ready to react to any threat.

Still, the past two games have made OUPT a staple. We can work with that. Smaller hexes (as listed previously) could help with the whole “carpet” aspect. Though, I would have to admit that the question would be how, then, to implement that graphically. That would be a difficult challenge for me to overcome just in this writing. I’m no artists and I feel it would require their expertise to solve. The only thing I could suggest is make it zoomable far enough to be able to zoom in and see the unit groups we’ve become familiar with, but a single unit representation may be required at medium zoon and further. In any case, let’s look at how we can further “condense” units so that they are not so cumbersome to deal with on the map.

Armies

As I said, Civilization VI did introduce the use of armies to help stack some like units. My problem with them is that (1) you could only combine like units and (2) they came too late in the game in my opinion. In this “new” system that I am proposing, I feel that their availability should be tied to Civilization Level (discussed previously).

First, you have Brigates which would be the combining of two similar units (2 archers, 2 swordsmen, etc.). This could be done as early as at City-State level. These would be stronger versions of the individual units (much like in Civilization VI). Once your civilization reaches the Pact level, you can create Battalions which would consist of three units of three different types. (1 melee, 1 archer, and 1 anti-cavalry or 1 archer, 1 anti-cavalry, and 1 cavalry). Battalions would gain the features of each individual unit and attack of each at the strength level (with a small bonus) of each unit per attack. For example, a Battalion with an Archer would be able to attack at a range, then follow up immediately with a melee or charge attack (depending on the other units making up that Battalion).

Finally, when the Civilization becomes a State, it could form an army which would be either made up of three different Brigades or two different Battalions. Also, up to two siege units and a Great General or Great Leader can attach to the Army giving it further bonuses and abilities. A special ability that Armies would have would be to “Lay Siege” which can be done at any location within a city’s area of control. This could “spread out” the army around the city and allow multiple abilities per turn such as attacking the city or “cutting supplies”. More than one army can lay siege to a city, even from different civilizations, provided that there is space to do so.

Similarly, naval and air forces could be combined as well. For Navy, there would be Fleet (combining 2 like units), Armada (combining 3 different naval units like “melee”, ranged, and auxiliary), and Combined Fleet (joining three different Fleets or two Armadas.) Combined Fleets can have a Carrier attached as well as a Great Admiral to enhance bonuses. For Air, Squadrons would combine two units of the same type and Air Fleets would combine 3 different Squadrons including Fighters, Bombers, and Air Auxiliary (which includes Air Recon units such as AWACS).

One final note on Armies, Fleets, and Squadrons, they can be “disbanded.” However, doing so just breaks them apart so that you have access to individual units again if you so desire.

CITIES

City Levels

Just as civilizations get a revamp as to how they develop, so do individual cities as well. Now, they will have levels of their own that dictate their areas of control (AoC), what can be built in them, and how they are defended would all depend on the level of their development. The most basic of these levels would be the Settlement.

  • Settlement – this is the most basic form of city. They would be founded by a Settler or an Ancient Colonist. They are mostly confined to the City Center and have a single ring of AoC. This ring cannot have any other districts besides resource improvements as it is for the growth of the center city. Settlements can only be garrisoned by a single unit.
  • Town – Upon reaching Town status, the AoC expands an extra ring. This is where Districts and Wonders can be placed. Advanced Settlers can settle a Town directly. Towns founded in this way will have a couple early buildings already constructed. With a Garrison District (replacing Encampment), they can have a Brigade or Battalion in place and have a minimal guard when no army is present.
  • City – Cities cannot be settled directly; they can only be developed from Towns. This growth is automatic when certain conditions are met (population and buildings). The third and fourth ring can be expanded by Culture. Whole Armies can be garrisoned in the City allowing for Counter Siege abilities.
  • Metropolis – The highest achievable level for a city. The fifth and sixth ring become eligible for AoC of the City (assuming that they are not already part of another city). It could even be possible to have multiple armies garrison a Metropolis.

A few notes, Districts may have to be reworked a bit to accommodate these levels and the smaller hexes. I’ve hinted at replacing some. A city (no matter the level) may need a certain district to build certain units, etc. While I enjoy the concept of Districts in Civilization VI, I do feel that the system needs an overhaul. I think smaller hexes are a step and the City Level system laid out go towards that process. I also see other areas that could use improvement… namely Forts.

Forts

New Forts

                I felt that Forts kind of got the short stick in Civilization VI. Personally, I feel that they should have had the abilities that Encampments had. Thus, my suggestions for Forts carry along those lines. And they have their own “levels” as well.

  • Outposts – Outposts are 1 tile forts that allow single units to garrison and gives minor benefits to the units garrisoned there. They can be constructed in neutral or own territory, however, if there is no garrison, they are considered abandoned and can easily be taken over by other civilizations.
  • Forts – True Forts can later be constructed or upgraded from an Outpost. These Forts will claim a central hex and the surrounding ring. However, they are not expandable on their own. They grant better defense than Outposts and can defend just like cities even if not occupied by a unit. They can still be taken over by other Civilizations if defeated and Battalions or Brigades can garrison them. Forts can potentially be upgraded to Cities if certain conditions are met and allow.
  • Castles – These are special (single hex) fortifications that are as strong as forts and grant additional bonuses like income to nearby cities. They must be built in a civilization’s own territory.
  • Up to this point, I have covered how the idea of how civilizations are represented should evolve (in my opinion). I have also covered Leaders and their new roles, and how armies and cities are handled. Today, I begin to look at the various systems that I would carry over from previous Civilization titles. Some have been absent for a while. Others have been mainstays or recent additions that would be tweaked to work with some of the new systems discusses previously. Without further ado, let us begin…

BRINGING BACK

Statistics

One of the elements that I always love in any game is tracking statistics. There is something satisfying in seeing how I fare with a game’s mechanics. This is something that Civilization has missed in recent iterations. At least, any inclusions were very minimal or seemingly added as an afterthought (or the modding community). It is obvious that the game does track many feats and statistics as these are often used for “achievements,” leader agendas, and, to a lesser extent in Civilization VI, “Historical Moments.” From unit statistics (like number of kills, number of units built, etc.) to great feats (such as circumnavigating the world and other “firsts”), having a set place to see all of these statistics would satisfy all of us statistic lovers. And I am sure that a game like Civilization has many.

Another aspect of the statistic game is the statistics of other civilizations in the game. Perhaps this could best be incorporated via the espionage system with only certain info being available due to certain conditions. Having only met a civilization will provide only the name and not much more. Establishing diplomatic relations, however, opens a lot of information including their government type and general army composition (not exact). Spies and technology (internet, etc.) can increase the information available as well.

Finally, I would like to know how my civilization is faring with land/sea/air makeup of its army. Civilization VI tracks this as some agendas even stress navy size and air strength. I would like to know how my civ stacks up in these individual areas and how they compare to other civilizations as the game goes on.

Random Events/Encounters

Random Events are clearly a controversial subject when talking to Civilization fans. The feature was implemented in Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. These events would randomly pop up throughout the game and could spell out a significant gain or loss to the player. Some would even present options that could lead to certain affects for the player.  While many enjoyed this feature, many others loathed it. Still, it was an option that could be toggled when playing the game.

Since then, random events have all but been removed. Echoes of them may exist in the City-state missions of Civilization V and disasters in Civilization VI.  For me, they represent a needed element to help balance against the runaway civ that just dominates the game. Random Events are the great equalizer that gives everybody a chance. And they are the little anecdotes in history that change the course, like the Tornado that chased the British out of Washington, D.C. during the war of 1812.

Think of it like this, in the Mario Kart franchise, you have a race between multiple characters. Without powerups, it is most likely that whoever is leading by the end of the first lap will win the race. With powerups, however, it can still be anybody’s game up to the final stretch. The same thing with Random Events in Civilization. Sure, it sucks to be on the negative end of one but overcoming the negative events can is the supreme challenge. It makes victory all the sweeter. It may even make it worth pushing on through the rest of the game. Whereas having a strong lead by the Medieval Age just makes the game stale. For me, the return of Random Events would be a welcome addition to next Civilization.

Districts and Wonders

Districts and Wonders (both manmade and natural) would of course be in this iteration as well. With smaller hexes, some Wonders may take up more space than one. So, there would be more of a tactical element in planning cities. Besides that, as with many of the carry-over systems, they would have to be tweaked to adjust to any new implementations such as the Civilization Level and Armies (for example).

Religion

I like how religion has been adapted in the last two iterations of Civilization with the “customize” feel. It made for a more organic feel to the game and was the basis for my concept of Dynamic Civilizations relayed earlier in this feature.  I am not sure how I feel about Religious Combat, however. On one hand, it was an interesting feature, but on the other hand, it almost seemed like a tack-on element. Still, with some work, Religious Combat could make its return. Perhaps even include Anarchists and Cults that could throw the religious aspect a curve ball as the game progresses.

Trade

Trade is one of the elements that I think has been done well, for the most part. I like having traders traveling the globe to other cities. I also like the fact that they create roads, though I mentioned earlier that I would like to see more control over road creation. In any case, if anything that I would like to see improved about trade is making them more of a risk. One idea is to make Privateers have hidden nationalities (as they have had in previous versions). They can attack without provocation to war, however, espionage could the source. Also, maybe a mid-game addition could be Pirates and Marauders. These are sea and land independent groups that spring up and behave much like post-barbarian update Barbarians in Civilization VI. They can be bribed to attack trade routes, etc from other civilizations. That is something to think on, at least…

Diplomacy

This is an area that I feel needs a major overhaul. It should be more fluid throughout gameplay history. This could be tied to Great Leaders who have certain playstyles attached to them. When an AI civilization adopts a certain Great Leader, they may have a focus on a particular aspect of the game such as wonder creation or conquest. Other Leaders may change this down the road. A change in leader could affect how other civilizations view the source civilization. And the Great Leader focus should include bonuses or the like to encourage the human player to play in that manner.

Also, civilization reactions should be based more on relationships. If CIV A is friendly with CIV B and you attack CIV B, then CIV A will not be happy with you. However, if CIV A and CIV B are at odds, then your attack of CIV B will not hurt your relationship with CIV A (and might even improve it). This can create a tangled web, but that is the true glory of Civilization… the politics. (I hope that wasn’t too confusing.)

Espionage

I’ve already mentioned Espionage a couple of times. For me, one area that I would like to see improved is the time when it becomes available. After all, since people started getting together, they have wondered what their neighbor was up to. I think that it is a system that should grow over time. Essentially, at the start, a few espionage abilities would be available. These would expand over time (with some possibly becoming obsolete). There would be passive espionage such as learning details about other civilizations, and active espionage such as missions to Steal Technologies or Eliminate Leader.

NEEDS WORK

            The following sections are mostly quick snippets on some of the other systems familiar throughout the series.

Tech/Civic Divide

To be honest, I am torn on the division of Technologies and Civic. I feel that having separate trees makes sense, however, I often found myself outpacing tech with culture by a long shot in Civ VI. This made for an uneven game, in my opinion. This is another aspect that would have to be tweaked and balanced during development. Perhaps one way is to attach Civics to the Civilization Level. Tech would still be per era and civics unlock after certain conditions are met (technologies discovered, era reached, particular units built, etc.).

Something that I would possibly remove would be inspirations and eurekas. While they were an interesting experiment, I felt that they tended to muddle advancement Maybe, instead, adopting certain civics would allow a boost to progress on certain technologies. For example, adopting civics related to the sea would boost sea faring technologies. Likewise, adopting education related civics would boost science focused technologies.

World Congress

The World Congress is a feature of Civilization VI that I was not very fond of. I like the idea of a World Congress, however the implementation in Civilization VI was not that great, in my opinion. I preferred the World Congress that was in Civilization V. I liked being able to offer my own propositions and voting on them. Perhaps carrying over diplomatic favor from VI to use for votes with the two highest can propose topics to vote on. And no more of this either/or propositions. Either the proposition is agreed upon or it is not.

Victories

In any iteration of Civilization, it was always a thrill to send off a rocket into deep space and achieve ultimate victory. Or to lead your armies across the globe and bring every other civilization to your heel. Whatever the flavor of victory, the endgame can be a thrill when achieved. Multiple victory conditions helped to open up the paths for whatever the players preference and flavor was. However, it played into the race for victory that would lead to a runaway contender by mid game. The only caveat was that you sometimes had to look out for the sneak victory under a different condition.

I am not opposed to bringing multiple victory conditions back. That is part of the flavor of the series. And you could always continue playing in a post-victory sandbox world. However, for me, the key is the ability to change course during the gameplay. Ultimately, the major point in this blog feature is for a game that is not focused on a race to victory, but a journey of wonder stretching the span of civilization.

Disasters

            Disasters were an interesting inclusion in Civilization VI and did add an element that could change things up through the course of a game. I would like to see them return in the next iteration. They would be perfectly mixed with the random event feature mentioned previously. Perhaps some disasters like storms would be less graphical and prolonged like they are in Civilization VI, simply a message detailing the event and the aftermath and a one turn graphical representation. But others, like volcanoes, would be more “in-your-face” as they are in VI.

Multiplayer

            Finally, I come to multiplayer. Honestly, much of this was written with the single player campaign in mind. I rarely play multiplayer as those turn out to be even more poignant victory races than the single player. However, I feel that the bulk (if not all) of the features described over the last few days will transfer well into the multiplayer arena.

CONCLUSION

            This is just an overview of the changes that I see would make for a new and intriguing direction for Civilization VII. Whether Firaxis already has it well in development or maybe just getting to scratching some notes on post-its and placing them on a wall, I have no idea. Perhaps they are working on a spin-off before moving on like they did with Civilization IV (Colonization) and Civilization V (Beyond Earth). If that is the case, hopefully it is Fantasy Civilization.

That said, this is just my take on what would make the game more interesting and drive me to play more through the end. Many other alterations could be implemented or would have to be tweaked; however, those would be more mechanical (such as unit strength, etc.) and is far beyond the point of this writing and would take it from a concept to a design document.

            I hope that you have enjoyed my vision of what would be an enjoyable game of Civilization. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or hate the ideas.  Just remember, let’s remain civilized, lest I be forced to Denounce you. In any case, have fun taking One More Turn.

Movie Review: Mortal Kombat

A quick (mostly spoiler free) review of the new Mortal Kombat movie.

When the first Mortal Kombat movie came out over 25 years ago, I was a fan. I loved the game; and the movie, while watered down and a bit cheesy, was still fun. Between the fight scenes and Christopher Lambert’s slightly over-the-top portrayal of Raiden (meant in as lovable of a way as possible), I felt thoroughly entertained.

Fast forward to today and I have to say, the 2021 reboot is even better and a worthy of its name. There was still a little cheese and some strange plot moves (like a character being abandoned and suddenly returning later), but other than that, I feel that it pays true homage to its source material. It shows that the writer knew the game series well.

The plot was less cheesy then the 1995 movie and, despite a couple choppy scenes, flowed well overall. Without getting too “spoilly,” the mystery of the new character, Cole Young, and how he fits into the mythology is strongly hinted at early on and fully revealed about half way in. The fight scenes were well worth it and included the gore that you’d expect from the source game without overdoing it (too much). They pumped me up and even gave me a thrill when certain catch phrases were unleashed, even when I predicted their usage a second before they were thrown out.

If there was anything I felt fell short was, as mentioned before, a couple choppy story elements. I would have liked a bit more development for some of the characters and character interactions. Perhaps I am a little spoiled by the Snyder Cut of Justice League now. There certainly felt like there were some scenes left out that would have helped the narrative. But, as far as I’m concerned, those were minor. Maybe a director’s cut will come out including some of those scenes, but what we did get was enjoyable enough.

Overall, I had an fun time with the flick and it helped to keep my attention during the whole movie. There was a good bit of nostalgia that pulled me back to playing the game, more so than the ’95 movie. I would definitely recommend to fans of the game or to fans of action movies and fantasy. Just be ready for a lot of blood.

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part VI-

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

Somebody queue up Boys II Men because we are now at the End of the Road. (If you like that song, your welcome for that little worm in your ear. If you do not like that song, I am sorry) Anyway, the final stretch has arrived as I conclude this multiple part feature on a potential Civilization VII. So, sit back, strap in, and prepare yourself as we bring this juggernaut of a feature in for a landing.

NEEDS WORK

            The following sections are mostly quick snippets on some of the other systems familiar throughout the series.

Tech/Civic Divide

To be honest, I am torn on the division of Technologies and Civic. I feel that having separate trees makes sense, however, I often found myself outpacing tech with culture by a long shot in Civ VI. This made for an uneven game, in my opinion. This is another aspect that would have to be tweaked and balanced during development. Perhaps one way is to attach Civics to the Civilization Level. Tech would still be per era and civics unlock after certain conditions are met (technologies discovered, era reached, particular units built, etc.).

Something that I would possibly remove would be inspirations and eurekas. While they were an interesting experiment, I felt that they tended to muddle advancement Maybe, instead, adopting certain civics would allow a boost to progress on certain technologies. For example, adopting civics related to the sea would boost sea faring technologies. Likewise, adopting education related civics would boost science focused technologies.

World Congress

The World Congress is a feature of Civilization VI that I was not very fond of. I like the idea of a World Congress, however the implementation in Civilization VI was not that great, in my opinion. I preferred the World Congress that was in Civilization V. I liked being able to offer my own propositions and voting on them. Perhaps carrying over diplomatic favor from VI to use for votes with the two highest can propose topics to vote on. And no more of this either/or propositions. Either the proposition is agreed upon or it is not.

Victories

In any iteration of Civilization, it was always a thrill to send off a rocket into deep space and achieve ultimate victory. Or to lead your armies across the globe and bring every other civilization to your heel. Whatever the flavor of victory, the endgame can be a thrill when achieved. Multiple victory conditions helped to open up the paths for whatever the players preference and flavor was. However, it played into the race for victory that would lead to a runaway contender by mid game. The only caveat was that you sometimes had to look out for the sneak victory under a different condition.

I am not opposed to bringing multiple victory conditions back. That is part of the flavor of the series. And you could always continue playing in a post-victory sandbox world. However, for me, the key is the ability to change course during the gameplay. Ultimately, the major point in this blog feature is for a game that is not focused on a race to victory, but a journey of wonder stretching the span of civilization.

Disasters

            Disasters were an interesting inclusion in Civilization VI and did add an element that could change things up through the course of a game. I would like to see them return in the next iteration. They would be perfectly mixed with the random event feature mentioned previously. Perhaps some disasters like storms would be less graphical and prolonged like they are in Civilization VI, simply a message detailing the event and the aftermath and a one turn graphical representation. But others, like volcanoes, would be more “in-your-face” as they are in VI.

Multiplayer

            Finally, I come to multiplayer. Honestly, much of this was written with the single player campaign in mind. I rarely play multiplayer as those turn out to be even more poignant victory races than the single player. However, I feel that the bulk (if not all) of the features described over the last few days will transfer well into the multiplayer arena.

CONCLUSION

            This is just an overview of the changes that I see would make for a new and intriguing direction for Civilization VII. Whether Firaxis already has it well in development or maybe just getting to scratching some notes on post-its and placing them on a wall, I have no idea. Perhaps they are working on a spin-off before moving on like they did with Civilization IV (Colonization) and Civilization V (Beyond Earth). If that is the case, hopefully it is Fantasy Civilization.

That said, this is just my take on what would make the game more interesting and drive me to play more through the end. Many other alterations could be implemented or would have to be tweaked; however, those would be more mechanical (such as unit strength, etc.) and is far beyond the point of this writing and would take it from a concept to a design document.

            I hope that you have enjoyed my vision of what would be an enjoyable game of Civilization. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or hate the ideas.  Just remember, let’s remain civilized, lest I be forced to Denounce you. In any case, have fun taking One More Turn.

            Well, that about wraps it up. Thank you for joining me as I explored my thoughts and feeling on my personal vision of Civilization VII (or beyond). Please, feel free to comment below your thoughts. I would love to hear more from others. What would YOU like to see? Do you agree with my ideas? Some of them? None of them? Let me know.

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part V –

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

Up to this point, I have covered how the idea of how civilizations are represented should evolve (in my opinion). I have also covered Leaders and their new roles, and how armies and cities are handled. Today, I begin to look at the various systems that I would carry over from previous Civilization titles. Some have been absent for a while. Others have been mainstays or recent additions that would be tweaked to work with some of the new systems discusses previously. Without further ado, let us begin…

BRINGING BACK

Statistics

One of the elements that I always love in any game is tracking statistics. There is something satisfying in seeing how I fare with a game’s mechanics. This is something that Civilization has missed in recent iterations. At least, any inclusions were very minimal or seemingly added as an afterthought (or the modding community). It is obvious that the game does track many feats and statistics as these are often used for “achievements,” leader agendas, and, to a lesser extent in Civilization VI, “Historical Moments.” From unit statistics (like number of kills, number of units built, etc.) to great feats (such as circumnavigating the world and other “firsts”), having a set place to see all of these statistics would satisfy all of us statistic lovers. And I am sure that a game like Civilization has many.

Another aspect of the statistic game is the statistics of other civilizations in the game. Perhaps this could best be incorporated via the espionage system with only certain info being available due to certain conditions. Having only met a civilization will provide only the name and not much more. Establishing diplomatic relations, however, opens a lot of information including their government type and general army composition (not exact). Spies and technology (internet, etc.) can increase the information available as well.

Finally, I would like to know how my civilization is faring with land/sea/air makeup of its army. Civilization VI tracks this as some agendas even stress navy size and air strength. I would like to know how my civ stacks up in these individual areas and how they compare to other civilizations as the game goes on.

Random Events/Encounters

Random Events are clearly a controversial subject when talking to Civilization fans. The feature was implemented in Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. These events would randomly pop up throughout the game and could spell out a significant gain or loss to the player. Some would even present options that could lead to certain affects for the player.  While many enjoyed this feature, many others loathed it. Still, it was an option that could be toggled when playing the game.

Since then, random events have all but been removed. Echoes of them may exist in the City-state missions of Civilization V and disasters in Civilization VI.  For me, they represent a needed element to help balance against the runaway civ that just dominates the game. Random Events are the great equalizer that gives everybody a chance. And they are the little anecdotes in history that change the course, like the Tornado that chased the British out of Washington, D.C. during the war of 1812.

Think of it like this, in the Mario Kart franchise, you have a race between multiple characters. Without powerups, it is most likely that whoever is leading by the end of the first lap will win the race. With powerups, however, it can still be anybody’s game up to the final stretch. The same thing with Random Events in Civilization. Sure, it sucks to be on the negative end of one but overcoming the negative events can is the supreme challenge. It makes victory all the sweeter. It may even make it worth pushing on through the rest of the game. Whereas having a strong lead by the Medieval Age just makes the game stale. For me, the return of Random Events would be a welcome addition to next Civilization.

Districts and Wonders

Districts and Wonders (both manmade and natural) would of course be in this iteration as well. With smaller hexes, some Wonders may take up more space than one. So, there would be more of a tactical element in planning cities. Besides that, as with many of the carry-over systems, they would have to be tweaked to adjust to any new implementations such as the Civilization Level and Armies (for example).

Religion

                I like how religion has been adapted in the last two iterations of Civilization with the “customize” feel. It made for a more organic feel to the game and was the basis for my concept of Dynamic Civilizations relayed earlier in this feature.  I am not sure how I feel about Religious Combat, however. On one hand, it was an interesting feature, but on the other hand, it almost seemed like a tack-on element. Still, with some work, Religious Combat could make its return. Perhaps even include Anarchists and Cults that could throw the religious aspect a curve ball as the game progresses.

Trade

                Trade is one of the elements that I think has been done well, for the most part. I like having traders traveling the globe to other cities. I also like the fact that they create roads, though I mentioned earlier that I would like to see more control over road creation. In any case, if anything that I would like to see improved about trade is making them more of a risk. One idea is to make Privateers have hidden nationalities (as they have had in previous versions). They can attack without provocation to war, however, espionage could the source. Also, maybe a mid-game addition could be Pirates and Marauders. These are sea and land independent groups that spring up and behave much like post-barbarian update Barbarians in Civilization VI. They can be bribed to attack trade routes, etc from other civilizations. That is something to think on, at least…

Diplomacy

                This is an area that I feel needs a major overhaul. It should be more fluid throughout gameplay history. This could be tied to Great Leaders who have certain playstyles attached to them. When an AI civilization adopts a certain Great Leader, they may have a focus on a particular aspect of the game such as wonder creation or conquest. Other Leaders may change this down the road. A change in leader could affect how other civilizations view the source civilization. And the Great Leader focus should include bonuses or the like to encourage the human player to play in that manner.

                Also, civilization reactions should be based more on relationships. If CIV A is friendly with CIV B and you attack CIV B, then CIV A will not be happy with you. However, if CIV A and CIV B are at odds, then your attack of CIV B will not hurt your relationship with CIV A (and might even improve it). This can create a tangled web, but that is the true glory of Civilization… the politics. (I hope that wasn’t too confusing.)

Espionage

                I’ve already mentioned Espionage a couple of times. For me, one area that I would like to see improved is the time when it becomes available. After all, since people started getting together, they have wondered what their neighbor was up to. I think that it is a system that should grow over time. Essentially, at the start, a few espionage abilities would be available. These would expand over time (with some possibly becoming obsolete). There would be passive espionage such as learning details about other civilizations, and active espionage such as missions to Steal Technologies or Eliminate Leader.

                Well, this has been a long journey. Tomorrow comes the exciting conclusion to this feature where I wrap up my thoughts and ideas. It has been fun exploring these concepts and receiving some feedback. Don’t hold back, now. Share your thoughts below on what you think so far. After tomorrow’s conclusion, look for a compiled version later in the week for those who want to read it all at once. Until then, I will be hard at work finishing this feature.

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part IV –

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

As I write this introduction, I am starting to receive the feedback from the first part of this feature. I am glad that it is getting responses and I look forward to more. My biggest regret is that I did not write the whole feature and release it at once so that readers could see everything before making judgements (either good or bad). However, with my outline for the feature being 9 pages (the part just concerning (Civ VII is seven pages, alone), I knew that just wasn’t feasible. Still, I may, once all is said and done, post a compilation from Part 2 of this feature all the way to the final part and conclusion. Until then, let’s continue.

UNIT MANAGEMENT

One Per Hex

When the feature of One Unit Per Hex was introduced in Civilization V, I was a bit skeptical. While elements of it (such as archers with range) seemed logical, the idea of the feature took a certain “realism” view away from the game. I understand that the game was never intended as a “simulation” of history, still there were certain suspensions of disbelief that were hard to overcome. Archers shooting across the English Channel just didn’t seem right. Then, there was also the fact that there would be nowhere to place units. The whole idea was to eliminate the “stack of doom” that plagued previous iterations.

Soon after Civilization V released, it quickly came apparent that the “stack of doom” was replaced with the “carpet of doom.” By the end game, civs would have units on virtually every tile. Civilization VI helped with this a little by introducing “armies” where like units could be combined. This alleviated some of the issues, but the whole system of units could still become cumbersome. Another “fix” appeared to be increasing the “cost” of units. However, I felt that took away from my experience. Part of the game, for me, was being able to build a massive army to conquer my enemies and stand ready to react to any threat. Still, the past two games have made OUPT a staple. We can work with that. Smaller hexes (as listed previously) could help with the whole “carpet” aspect. Though, I would have to admit that the question would be how, then, to implement that graphically. That would be a difficult challenge for me to overcome just in this writing. I’m no artists and I feel it would require their expertise to solve. The only thing I could suggest is make it zoomable far enough to be able to zoom in and see the unit groups we’ve become familiar with, but a single unit representation may be required at medium zoon and further. In any case, let’s look at how we can further “condense” units so that they are not so cumbersome to deal with on the map.

Armies

As I said, Civilization VI did introduce the use of armies to help stack some like units. My problem with them is that (1) you could only combine like units and (2) they came too late in the game in my opinion. In this “new” system that I am proposing, I feel that their availability should be tied to Civilization Level (discussed previously).

First, you have Brigades which would be the combining of two similar units (2 archers, 2 swordsmen, etc.). This could be done as early as at City-State level. These would be stronger versions of the individual units (much like in Civilization VI). Once your civilization reaches the Pact level, you can create Battalions which would consist of three units of three different types. (1 melee, 1 archer, and 1 anti-cavalry or 1 archer, 1 anti-cavalry, and 1 cavalry). Battalions would gain the features of each individual unit and attack of each at the strength level (with a small bonus) of each unit per attack. For example, a Battalion with an Archer would be able to attack at a range, then follow up immediately with a melee or charge attack (depending on the other units making up that Battalion).

Finally, when the civilization becomes a State, it could form an Army which would be either made up of three different Brigades or two different Battalions. Also, up to two siege units and a Great General or Great Leader can attach to the Army giving it further bonuses and abilities. A special ability that Armies would have would be to “Lay Siege” which can be done at any location within a city’s area of control. This could “spread out” the army around the city and allow multiple abilities per turn such as attacking the city or “cutting supplies”. More than one army can lay siege to a city, even from different civilizations, provided that there is space to do so.

Similarly, naval and air forces could be combined as well. For Navy, there would be Fleet (combining 2 like units), Armada (combining 3 different naval units like “melee”, ranged, and auxiliary), and Combined Fleet (joining three different Fleets or two Armadas.) Combined Fleets can have a Carrier attached as well as a Great Admiral to enhance bonuses. For Air, Squadrons would combine two units of the same type and Air Fleets would combine 3 different Squadrons including Fighters, Bombers, and Air Auxiliary (which includes Air Recon units such as AWACS).

One final note on Armies, Fleets, and Squadrons, they can be “disbanded.” However, doing so just breaks them apart so that you have access to individual units again if you so desire.

CITIES

City Levels

Just as civilizations get a revamp as to how they develop, so do individual cities as well. Now, they will have levels of their own that dictate their areas of control (AoC), what can be built in them, and how they are defended would all depend on the level of their development. The most basic of these levels would be the Settlement.

  • Settlement – this is the most basic form of city. They would be founded by a Settler or an Ancient Colonist. They are mostly confined to the City Center and have a single ring of AoC. This ring cannot have any other districts besides resource improvements as it is for the growth of the center city. Settlements can only be garrisoned by a single unit.
  • Town – Upon reaching Town status, the AoC expands an extra ring. This is where Districts and Wonders can be placed. Advanced Settlers can settle a Town directly. Towns founded in this way will have a couple early buildings already constructed. With a Garrison District (replacing Encampment), they can have a Brigade or Battalion in place and have a minimal guard when no army is present.
  • City – Cities cannot be settled directly; they can only be developed from Towns. This growth is automatic when certain conditions are met (population and buildings). The third and fourth ring can be expanded by Culture. Whole Armies can be garrisoned in the City allowing for Counter Siege abilities.
  • Metropolis – The highest achievable level for a city. The fifth and sixth ring become eligible for AoC of the City (assuming that they are not already part of another city). It could even be possible to have multiple armies garrison a Metropolis.

A few notes, Districts may have to be reworked a bit to accommodate these levels and the smaller hexes. I’ve hinted at replacing some. A city (no matter the level) may need a certain district to build certain units, etc. While I enjoy the concept of Districts in Civilization VI, I do feel that the system needs an overhaul. I think smaller hexes are a step and the City Level system laid out go towards that process. I also see other areas that could use improvement… namely Forts.

Forts

New Forts

I felt that Forts kind of got the short stick in Civilization VI. Personally, I feel that they should have had the abilities that Encampments had. Thus, my suggestions for Forts carry along those lines. And they have their own “levels” as well.

  • Outposts – Outposts are 1 tile forts that allow single units to garrison and gives minor benefits to the units garrisoned there. They can be constructed in neutral or own territory, however, if there is no garrison, they are considered abandoned and can easily be taken over by other civilizations.
  • Forts – True Forts can later be constructed or upgraded from an Outpost. These Forts will claim a central hex and the surrounding ring. However, they are not expandable on their own. They grant better defense than Outposts and can defend just like cities even if not occupied by a unit. They can still be taken over by other Civilizations if defeated and Battalions or Brigades can garrison them. Forts can potentially be upgraded to Cities if certain conditions are met and allow.
  • Castles – These are special (single hex) fortifications that are as strong as forts and grant additional bonuses like income to nearby cities. They must be built in a civilization’s own territory.

***

With Part 1, I covered the changes to Civilizations in general. Part 2 looked at the new role for Leaders in the game. Today we went over City Development and Unit Management. Of course, all these changes are general overviews. Every change brings new challenges and details that need to be ironed out. Next up will be a discussion of some elements that have existed before in Civilization, but have been removed from the game in general.

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part III –

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series. Yesterday in my vision of what the future of the game Civilization could look like, I talked about changes to the ways that Civilizations work.  Dynamic Civilizations grow and expand utilizing a Civilization Level system that governs how the Civ is viewed and interacts with others. I detailed how more civilizations could be included and smaller Civs could be related and become bigger Civilizations. Finally, I mentioned a “Prehistory Mode” that would act as a prologue to the main campaign. Now, it is time to delve into my biggest change that could be the most controversial of all that I suggest.

LEADERS EVOLVED

No More Single Static Leaders

Yes, that you read that headline correctly. But what does that mean? It means that the leaders used to represent a civilization no longer exist. No more selecting the civilization by the omnipotent leader that carries them through all the ages. Diplomatic screens now have a shadowed leader in the background with a representative diplomat of the civilization in the foreground (who performs all of the animations of the deal and is dressed according to culture and era). All dealings are handled this way.

I know that the leaders have become the “main characters” of the franchise.  So, I expect a lot of backlash at this point. But I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the leaders chosen to represent the civilizations in the game. With dynamically crafted civilizations, I just don’t think that one leader to rule them all per civilization will really fit and would rather be counterproductive to the ebb and flow of development. However, a new type of Leader could arise to fill in the purpose and retain that “character” of the game.

Great Leaders

Instead of having one overarching leader throughout the game, the civilization will be open to multiple leaders that last over a certain amount of time, the Great Leader. These leaders, like Heroes of Civilization VI, only last for a certain amount of time. During that time, they can lead armies for significant combat bonuses and/or station in cities for special bonuses or abilities. When these Leaders are active, a representation of that leader fills in the shadowed figure of the diplo screen. There would be a pool of leaders available for each civilization group (several civilizations closely related).

Great People

                On the subject of “Greats,” it might go without saying that since there are Great Leaders, that Great People exist in the game. Admittedly, I am on the fence about great works. I like the system, but I am not sure that it is necessary. In any case, I feel the general way that Great People are implemented is fine, however will probably have to be tweaked for the new systems put in place.

GRAPHICAL UPDATES

Smaller Hexes

While most of the graphical changes, such as art style, UI, and the like would mostly be something that is subjected to the actual development and has little to do with actual gameplay, one thing that I would adjust is the hexes. At least, I would change the size of them… make them about half the size that they are now. First, smaller hexes would make for more defined landforms and better-looking maps. But beyond that, it would open greater gameplay possibilities.

The smaller hexes would allow for varied terrain types, more resource locations and more rooms for districts and wonders. Some features, districts, wonders and buildings could be greater than one hex in size. New elements such as Mountain Passes could be introduced. City development would be more strategic as well. And because the hexes are smaller, units would have a greater base movement speed than previous games.

OTHER

Roads

                I liked having roads created by trade caravans in Civilization VI, but I did not like the manual aspect so much. One problem with the caravans is that they would always look for the fastest root, including waterways. This did would not build the land roads between cities. Instead, you would have to build a Military Engineer to manually construct the road, one piece at a time. To make matters worse, the ME’s had limited charges for road construction.

                This time around, I think the player should be able to select the route, either through a couple presented options or by “drawing” it out when sending the caravan.  Or have a construct road option where the player chooses the path of the road and pays an up front cost.

***

OK, that was not so bad, was it? Well, I suppose I’ll find out soon. But wait, there is more! Tomorrow I’ll be digging into how units and cities will work. The day after tomorrow, I should be starting to wrap up, with concluding this feature by Wednesday. Until then, remember Trebuchets are coming…

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 2

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part II –

A look at the popular game franchise and my take on the next iteration of the series.

Civilization VII

What would make the next evolution of Civilization stand out? Each iteration of the series featured something that changed it from its predecessors. Yet it retained the core of what made the game. Resources, Wonders, Eras, and many more aspects have arisen and became staples in the franchise. From my following suggestions, some aspects would be removed as they are replaced by the “new” systems that I lay out. Others that I mention will naturally carry over, though possibly altered to fit with the new systems. This is NOT a design document, just a fun exercise of my own personal vision. Of course, I would be extremely happy if any of my suggestions are implemented in the next (or future) versions of Civilization.

CIVILIZATIONS

Dynamic Civilizations

The first major change is to have dynamic civilizations. What that means is that the traits that are usually associated with civilizations are no longer so. Instead, they are general traits that can be selected. As the player progresses and reaches certain milestones, new traits can be selected that are context sensitive to the situation. For example, if the player begins in a desert region, one of the possible traits could be “Desert Folk” which would give them bonuses to that environment. However, civilizations not in the desert would be unable to select the trait. Also, once a civilization has selected a specific trait, that trait would no longer be available for other civilizations. This is how the player defines their civilization’s identity.            

Clearly, this is inspired by how religions have worked in both Civilization V and VI. It develops a more natural flow of development as the civilization progresses through the ages. But what would this mean for selecting Civilizations? Wouldn’t this mean that whether you choose Rome, Egypt or Japan would be irrelevant? Well, these civilizations could have one basic trait that goes along with their civilization. Unique Units, buildings, improvements, etc. could also be associated with the civilizations allowing for some variety between civilizations, along with likelihood of civilizations spawning in certain areas. Also, the traits are permanent, even if the civilization is downgraded in level. Though new traits can be selected should the civilization reach a level upgrade threshold again.

Civilization Levels

That leads to the next big change. Gone are City-States and Barbarians. Yes, you heard that right. However, they are not truly gone, just integrated into a “level” system of civilization growth. Each civilization begins at a basic level that could even predate the traditional start of past games. As they develop, they can be “upgraded” to greater levels that expand their capabilities and interactions. Depending on map size, limits can be inposed as to how many civilizations can be of a certain level. That said, the levels are:

  • Tribal – A nomadic civilization that essentially take the place of barbarians. There is minimal diplomacy available with tribal civilizations and often war with them carries no penalties. The player can play a Civ in this state (or even be reduced to this) as per the “Prehistory Mode” to be discussed later. After a certain threshold, the civilization can found a settlement which lays the foundation of the next level.
  • City-State – This is the foundation of Civilizations. It is the earliest stage with increased diplomatic ability. They can send out colonists to form settlements that are independent yet subservient to the founding City-State. Two or more Colonies or allied City-states leads to a Pact.
  • Pact – Formed through early alliances of City-States, some increased diplomacy with Civilizations that are part of the pact. When a particular civilization becomes dominant in the pact, they gain full control and become a State.
  • State – This is the level where a civilization can truly begin to establish themselves on the world stage. Formed when a civilization becomes dominant of a Pact and is chosen as leader (or through conquest) the State level allows for greater diplomatic options.
  • Empire – An Empire is a more powerful form of the State. It encompasses a large area but starts accruing penalties that could cripple the empire if left unchecked. However, there will be tools that can be used to counter these penalties and maintain stability.
  • Superpower – The ultimate level of civilization. Superpowers are at the top of nearly all lists. A Superpower typically won’t be achieved until late game. They may receive special benefits; however, lesser civilizations may admire or fear the superpower, causing problems with diplomacy and politics.

These 6 levels are milestones of achievements. However, they are not necessarily secure once you reach them. What goes up can certainly come down and civilizations are no exception. And since the starting map is removed of city-states (in the V and VI incarnations) and barbarians, there is room for more civilizations overall. This gives way to a feature that had somewhat been implemented in IV, related Civs.

Related Civilizations

As stated, this was seen before to a certain degree in the franchise. However, I look deeper at the various civilizations big and small throughout history that could be included. Civ VI includes Athens and Sparta both as versions of Greece. In this version, Athens, Sparta, Troy, and many others can be “civilizations” at the start of the game. Tribes that roam the world looking for a place to prosper. When they settle, similar “tribes” may settle nearby. These form the basis of later civilizations like Greece.            

This could also lead to variety of gameplay. In one game, you could come across the Civilization of Rome. In another playthrough, you could meet the civilization of “Etruscia.” Both are the same basic civilizations but depending on which related civ came to dominate the area. Later civilizations could be shattered and form smaller states, city-states, or tribes. This will lead to another topic which I had alluded to earlier.

Prehistory Mode

This mode is a sort of “prologue” to the main game. It could be an optional mode that leads into a full game where the player starts out a Tribe (as opposed to a City-State). You wander around the map establishing “camps” that serve as your base for a few turns as you gather supplies from surrounding areas. Wild Animals could make their return in this mode and be part of the quest find a suitable location. Oh, and fog of war clouds over any area out of sight range. In other words, you cannot see where you have been, only where you are. Ultimately, you must settle your first settlement, and this is where the main game begins.

***

This is just the beginning of my examination into the future of the franchise. Tomorrow, I will take a look at Leaders and their new role in this hypothetical version of Civilization. A small look at the only graphical change I would implement (at least that is relevant to the rest of this examination). Until then, let me know what you think so far.

Links

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Introduction

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 1

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 3

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 4

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 5

Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Future of the Franchise – Part 6