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