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PC Games (Games)

Answers From The Civ IV Team 439

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-out-for-the-visigoths dept.
Late last month we asked you for questions to pass on to the Civ IV team. Last week we posted the responses from game designer Sid Meier to your questions about his design philosophy. Well, this week Civilization IV has shipped, and we have responses from lead designer Soren Johnson for the Civilization development team over at Firaxis Studios. He has some thoughtful answers to your questions, and they're well worth taking a look at. Many thanks to Mr. Meier, Mr. Johnson, and the entire Civ IV team for accommodating us. Read on for the responses to your queries.
1. The Civ4 AI - by Skyshadow
My only question for Civ4 concerns the AI: Have you made it a crafty enough opponent yet that it can compete at the higher skill levels of the game without resorting to the "cheating" that we've seen in previous incarnations of the game? If so, how?

Soren Johnson:
A great deal of effort has been put into making the Civ IV AI the best yet. For the first time ever, we have received direct input from the world's best Civ players during the game's development, via a very selective, closed beta that began very early. This feedback allowed us to iterate on the AI's design much more quickly and effectively than ever before.

Much of the information cheating has been removed from the game (such as knowing where a resource is before it is discovered, sending off galleys with settlers to undiscovered lands, targeting cities with fewer defenders, etc.) Further, the heuristics it uses to make decisions, such as for diplomatic demands and declarations of war, are the same ones available to the player (such as from the power chart on the Demographics screen). However, as with all versions of Civ, the AI has production and research penalties at the lower levels and bonuses at the higher levels. The level of the bonuses are lower than they have ever been before; in fact, the AI never receives any bonuses whatsoever for building wonders - a far cry from the "free AI wonders" in Civ 1. Noble and Prince are the difficulty levels where the AI's rules are closest to the human's.

2. DRM in Civ IV - by Lord Ender
Civ III requires the installation CD be inserted every time you play, even though none of the content on the CD is used by the game after installation. This annoys your customers by making them juggle CDs, unnecessarily wear out their hardware, and shorten their battery life. Consequently, many of your customers install "No-CD Cracks" to fix this flaw in your software. How do you feel about the existence and use of such cracks? Will you include this CD requirement in Civ IV even though it does not prevent copyright infringement but still inconveniences your customers?

Soren Johnson:
Like our previous games, Civ IV requires the CD to be in the drive on start-up. The funding we get for all of our games, which allows us to hire developers to work on the AI, graphics, interface, etc., is a direct reflection of how many copies our previous games have sold in the marketplace. Thus, I hope people will understand that making sure that our games are purchased instead of stolen is very important to us. Frankly, I do not agree that requiring the CD to be in the drive "does not prevent copyright infringement," even though I understand that this is almost always true for the technically adept. This is a sensitive issue, but the future of game development depends on preventing piracy, so I hope people will have patience with the basic safety measures we have used.

3. Politics - by MosesJones
How much will CiV4 use political shifts in countries as a cyclical change in approaches?

Soren Johnson:
Each of the leaders in the game has a certain political leaning that will become clear over the course of the game. Mao may pressure you to adopt State Property while Roosevelt would encourage Universal Suffrage. Indeed, playing off these various interests is a core part of the diplomatic game. We do not, however, have political shifts modeled - outside of the anarchy that occurs whenever the player chooses to change Civics. Perhaps it is an idea to consider for the future.

4. Family Gaming - by carambola5
Growing up, playing games with the family meant getting out classic boardgames like Monopoly, Risk, etc. The Civilization games seem like a prime candidate for breaking into the family-game-playing field. What, if any, steps has your team taken to bring your game(s) to the level of "game night with the kids?" What technologies, such as display and control, need to be developed before such an environment is realized?

Soren Johnson:
Civilization is a great game for families, especially now that true team-based play is possible. One could easily imagine a parent and child playing together to Take Over the World. However, that situation does require a couple computers...while hot-seat is the option for families with one computer. I am sure more could be done in this area, but the assumption of a single mouse and keyboard is certainly the limitation. On a console, "family-night" may be more viable as multiple controllers would be available.

5. Portables - by BMonger
Is there any chance we'll get to see some of the Civ titles moved to portables? I think the game would play wonderfully on the DS.

Soren Johnson:
We are very intrigued by the idea of Civ on a portable. Certainly, turn-based gaming has proved quite viable on that format - many of us are big fans of Advance Wars. The fact that Civ can be put down and picked up at any time makes it a good fit. There are, however, no official plans at this time.

6. The Civ4 AI - by freidog
Is the AI going to be as moddable and customizable as the rest of the game content? I know Mr. Caudill mentioned an 'AI SDK' for 'experienced programmers' over on the IGN Civ 4 preview to tailor the AI to their desires. But it was mentioned as a seperate entity from the XML unit files and the basic Phython scripts. Basically I was hoping you could go into some more detail on what AI and other more complex modding might entail.

Soren Johnson:
The AI for Civ IV is written entirely in C++. However, all the AI code (as well as game code) is compiled into a separate DLL which can be replaced with a modified version. Essentially, the SDK release will be all of the files required to build this DLL. Thus, changing the AI and "core" game rules (such as terrain, movement, production, etc.) is possible - one could implement a completely different combat model, for example.

7. Alpha Centauri - by squiggleslash
I'm wondering if plans are afoot to work on Alpha Centauri, and if so, how the original will be improved upon. Some of us see AC as the best in the whole (greater) Civilization series. Awesome game.

Soren Johnson:
There are no official plans to make a sequel for Alpha Centauri although it's certainly an idea we kick around every now and then. In many ways, Civ IV is an attempt to incorporate many of the things which were great about SMAC into the core series. Civics obviously derives directly from Social Engineering. Also, the promotions system can be seen as a more reward-based version of the Unit Workshop. The increased role of leader personalities is also inspired by the diplomacy from SMAC. Thanks for the feedback...it definitely pushes us to take a closer look at the idea of making a new version of SMAC. We'll keep you posted.

8. Python+XML vs lua - by SumDog
My questions are:
Why did you choose the language that you did (python + xml files)?
What are the advantages to this approach?
What are the disadvantages you've found using these technologies?

Soren Johnson:
We chose to use python because we wanted a well-supported scripting language that could extend our core code. Indeed, we wrote much more code in python than we were expecting, including all in-game screens and the main interface. It was a huge win for the project because writing code in a language with garbage collection simply goes faster than writing code in C++. The fact that users will be able to easily mod the interface is a nice plus as well. The downside of python was that it significantly increased our build times, mostly from linking with Boost. XML was chosen because it is a very flexible system for storing data, which is important for a game like Civilization that is essentially "built" from numbers. Using an off-the-shelf XML editor, anyone from our designers to end users could modify our game data. We also have a high-level file system which allows you to override any specific art, sound, python, or XML file simply by setting a specific "mod directory" that contains only the modified files. If a specific file is not found in this directory, the game just uses the default one.

9. Macro and Micro Management - by kenp2002
How did the Civ team address macro and micro management aspects of the game? RTS games are forced to place heavy consideration into managing in real time units and control and the scope of an RTS prevents a snowball effect. Turned based games become burdened by logistical considerations as a result of not having that same focus on micromanagement. Managing 55 workers in Civ3 along with 35 cities becomes a logistical nightmare when governor AI doesn't learn from your play style. Which Direction is Civ4 taking?

Soren Johnson:
Removing unnecessary micromanagement from the game was a high-level design goal for Civ IV, one which paid off huge dividends in the final product. We systematically looked at every piece of micromanagement from which Civ 1-3 suffered and figured out ways to remove it without altering the underlying game dynamic. Pollution was removed in favor of a high-level health system. Beaker and hammer overflow was introduced to end the incentive for min-maxing your citizens each and every turn. City riots were simply turned into angry citizens to take away the need to continually check on your cities' happiness in case something went wrong. Workers now have two moves so that a move and an order can be given on the same turn -reducing the number of times the player deals with an active worker by half. Also, some high-level controls to allow micromanagement were added. For example, workers can be grouped together and given an infinite number of sequential orders. Multiple cities can be selected at a time, allowing the player to change all cities on one continent to build tanks with just two clicks.

10. Do you think 3D graphics will enhance gameplay? - by Anubis333
As a long time Civ player, I would have to say that I really didn't understand why it moved to 3D graphics. Will having the engine be entirely 3D in Civ IV actually add to the gameplay in any way, other than have objects occlude one another? When I say 'add to the gameplay' I mean, add to the game experience in a way 2D sprites couldn't. For example: Physics, multipls views, wind, etc.. (I have only really seen the 3D globe, and like the idea).

Soren Johnson:
Graphics succeed in a Civilization game when they provide a good representation of the world's state. Simply put, what-you-see-is-what-you-get is a lot easier with 3D than with 2D. Wonders and buildings now appear on the map, so the player doesn't need to reference an advisor screen to see which city has the Pyramids. Improvements like farms and mines animate differently depending on whether a city is working them or not. Multiple units can now be used to signify hit-points, instead of the old red/green bars. Now, most of these ideas could have been executed in 2D, but certainly with more difficulty as everything displayed in 2D requires an algorithmic system which must be built from scratch. From a pure design perspective, 3D provides an incredible amount of flexibility for free.

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Answers From The Civ IV Team

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  • by GabrielF (636907) <<GJFishman> <at> <comcast.net>> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:42PM (#13890405)
    Aspyr just announced today that it will be publishing Civ 3 Complete and Civ 4. Civ 3 has been on the Mac for awhile now and this looks like just a new edition which includes the two expansion packs. Civ 4 unfortunately won't be available until early 2006. Announcment at MacCentral [macworld.com]
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:45PM (#13890433) Homepage Journal
    The Civilization games seem like a prime candidate for breaking into the family-game-playing field.

    Isn't Civilization loosely based on a Wargame of a similar name? i.e. Thus the use of a hex grid and all? Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I could have sworn I saw it in a list of board games a few days ago. (I'm currently learning to play Starfire, for those of you who know what that is.)

    Ah, here we are. It's under 'C' on this page [grognard.com]. The link to the website seems to be defunct (along with the company?), so I really have no way of verifying this. Anyone?
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @01:57PM (#13890539) Homepage Journal
    Ah hah! Rfunches post below mine spurred me to do a smidge more research, and I found this link [eaglegames.net] where you can purchase the board game from Eagle Games. Which would figure. The list I linked to in the parent post didn't link to the Eagle Games website.

    The Eagle Games site makes it sound like the board game was based on the video game, not the other way around. This may have its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, you'll probably get an experience closer to the video game, on the minus side the rules may be overly complex due to numbers that a computer can crunch easily whereas a human must keep track of paperwork.

    If you've never played a Wargame before, I probably wouldn't recommend starting with the Civilisation board game. Wargames are *tough* if you've never played them before, and tend to require a mentor. Since you might have trouble finding one in this day in age of Computer Games, I highly recommend starting with the free Battle For Moscow [grognard.com] board game. It's fairly easy to pick up, and should help you get down the basics of wargaming.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:03PM (#13890580)

    You are correct. Well, not really. It was a board game, not a war game (think Settlers of Catan type of thing)

    A bit of a history
    http://www.strategy-gaming.com/reviews/civilizatio n_call_to_power/index.shtml [strategy-gaming.com]

    (this is about 7 years out of date, so there's some other stuff that's happened since then -- obviously Firaxis got the rights to use the name again from the Hasbro collective).
  • by sprprsnmn (619113) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:04PM (#13890585) Homepage Journal
    The board game predates Civ I by a good bit. It's a fun game, but not what I would call a war game. Closer to Settlers of Catan than Risk.
  • Re:No CD fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by gid (5195) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:12PM (#13890642) Homepage
    I doubt this would happen. In the mean time, you can make a safedisc mini-image [cdfreaks.com]. I'm currently using it with battlefield 2 and dungeon siege 2.
  • Re:ATI Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by mslinux (570958) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:22PM (#13890729)
    Damn right... most ATI video cards DO NOT WORK with Civ 4. However, no one (except the farmed out Tech support in Ireland) is admitting it and they just hang up on you with a short, automated message before saying... It'll be fixed someday. I can't believe they shipped this piece of shit.
  • Re:ATI Video (Score:2, Informative)

    by Greatmoose (896405) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:31PM (#13890815) Journal
    I've read a lot about this, but I have not had a problem at all (9800pro and a 9000mobile). It's got to be more than a driver issue. I have heard that some people have been able to get it to work with older drivers (4.7-5.7).
  • Re:ATI Video (Score:1, Informative)

    by FIT_Entry1 (468985) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:34PM (#13890861)
    It's okay, they apparently didn't test with nVidia cards either. This game is a HOG for system resources, I can't play anything larger than small worlds with a 2.5 P4, a gig of ram and an nVidia 5500
  • Docs photo (Score:4, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) <alex&phataudio,org> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:47PM (#13891003) Homepage Journal
    Here is a quick snap [flickr.com] of the documentation included in the special edition.
  • by darkwing_bmf (178021) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:53PM (#13891063)
    Sid Meyer's Civilization [civ3.com] isn't like Avalon Hill's Civilization [boardgamegeek.com]. But it is a lot like Walter Bright's Empire [classicempire.com].
  • Re:No CD fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by skintigh2 (456496) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:17PM (#13891316)
    Requiring a CD is so stupid. At home I have to have piles of CDs around for all my games, and on the road I have to remove one of my batteries (halfing play time) to insert the CDROM drive which just spins and wastes more power, resulting in my batteries dying halfway into a plane ride. Obviously that is unacceptable, so I end up downloading a possibly infected crack from russia just so I can play on a long plane ride. Thanks Firaxis!
  • by Surt (22457) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:26PM (#13891416) Homepage Journal
    The problem is, the game publishers study this on a yearly basis.

    Comparable games from comparable publishers from comparable design houses sell more units with cd copy protection on them.

    Until customers get sufficiently fed up with cd copy protection to not buy the games at a rate greater than the prevented casual copying rate, you can expect to see this form of copy protection persist.
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:36PM (#13891511)
    Hey buddy ... its becauase you are using a workstation video card instead of a regular gaming card.

    Most workstation cards have hardware tuned for CAD / GIS type work, and when benchmarked against gaming cards with similar cores of the same generation, they kick ass on the CAD, and suck ass on the games ... by a large factor.

    Use the right hardware for the right job.

  • by sarkeizen (106737) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:01PM (#13891736) Journal
    "Go read Atlas Shrugged."

    Not really an appropriate comment. As someone can believe that people should get paid for their work but disagree with the much broader principles of AR's exercise in moral fiction.

    Also 'go read' comments tent to make you look like you are avoiding the point. Surely there is a more succinct way of expressing the need for people getting paid for their work than going trough AR's 1200 page suma-in-search-of-an-editor.

    Finally you seem to misrepresent the poster's view.

    "We don't care about the customer's convenience, we want to get paid"

    You seem to interpret as "Nobody is justified in wanting to get paid" but it would seem to me that the person is in fact saying "There are people who are willing to exchange customer convienience - which impacts their paychecks for something that ( rationally or not) they percieve as protecting their paychecks."
  • by Brad Oliver (604118) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:02PM (#13891743)
    Any expectations of compatibility difficulties for team play with nonMac players?

    Development is still pretty early (it's not yet drawing anything sensible) so it's hard to give a definitive answer. However, it seems like cross-platform play will be feasible. Ask again in a month or two. :-)

  • by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:27PM (#13891969) Homepage
    Outside of data structures (or oddball stuff involving well-known addresses), why would you ever pass a pointer around instead of a reference?

    External function calls is a perpetual one. Many libraries, especially those with C roots, still pass pointers. If you're doing any mucking with C-style stdio, file descriptors, directory descriptors, stat, networking, etc. -- it's all pointers. All of this you can (and probably should) wrap in a smart pointer class.

    Many design patterns work well with pointers (factory for example). Again, smart pointers to the rescue.
  • by Surt (22457) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:45PM (#13892150) Homepage Journal
    It might have been funny the first 10 times. Then it might have been funny the next 100 times as retro-chic. But by now it has just become dull. I'm more interested in seeing more innovative posts please mods.

  • No hex grid! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gorimek (61128) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:47PM (#13892170) Homepage
    Civilization (the computer game) does not use a hex grid. It's a regular grid of squares that is rotated 45 degrees and squished a bit, but it's not in any way a hex grid. Each cell has 4 direct heighbors and 4 diagonal ones.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:49PM (#13892181)
    Played for about 4.5 hours last night and it is very nice. Seems to have some rather large changes to the underlying systems and a distinct difference in the pacing but in a kind of nice way. I'm betting I won't really have a feel for the new systems for a few more games. I'll probably have it down better if I take the time to read through the entirety of the 215 page manual, as well.

    The tech tree feels much larger and alot more open in your path to discovering specific techs.

    There seems to be easily 3 times as many terrain and city improvements to build over Civ III. It also seems that each city will need a different, more focused approach to which terrain/city improvements to build and when to build them than the 3 previous versions. Religion and Civics are very cool additions and really help in defining a personalized national identity for your Civ as well as adding a good deal of flavor to diplomatic relations.

    Haven't got into any extensive combat so far, but I did manage to get a few units 4 or 5 promotions. The promotion system seems like it could wind up being a very cool addition to combat.

    Graphics are pretty nice, not like HL2 or Doom3 (or even B&W2, for that matter) photorealistic, but definitely a major enhancement to the experience so far. If I had to nitpick, I'd say the city improvements need to be larger in relation to the housing in the cities if they truly want the player to be able to discern all improvements a city has from the world map. Not sure if these will scale in size/distance from housing when the population of the cities gets larger (my biggest city was only up to 15 citizens). I was also a bit bummed that there doesn't appear to be a city or palace view screen as found in the earlier versions. I haven't been able to find how to access them yet anyways...

    I'm a die hard civ fiend from the days of the original and all in all I'd say Civ IV stands a very good chance of becoming my favorite of the series once I get a hang of the new rules/tech tree/improvements/etc.

     
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:50PM (#13892185)
    I'm also having performance issues. I played the tutorial relatively fine, and when I started a standard game, the frame rate dropped to next to nothing, with extremely slow responses to key presses. I play World of Warcraft and Half Life 2 on this computer, so it should handle Civ4.

    1.2 GHZ CPU
    512 MB RAM
    GeForce4 Ti 4200 (128 MB)
    Win2000

    There are threads in the Civ4 message boards along these same lines: high performance machines crapping out on this game. I hope a patch is in the works.
  • by Brad Oliver (604118) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:12PM (#13892404)
    First off, is the Mac version going to be crippled, or will it be as feature-rich and mod-ready as the PC version?

    We're hoping to cripple it in some obscure and hate-inducing way, but so far it looks like we'll have feature parity. However, there are a ton of third-party libraries used ("middleware") so you never know when one will end up causing some oddball incompatibility. Ask again when we get closer to shipping a few months from now.

    Second, am I going to need one of the new double-double G5s to run it, or will my 18 month old Powerbook not choke on it?

    Answer unclear. Ask again later.

    Third, is it going to be chained to the CD like the PC version?

    No, most likely it'll be chained to the DVD. ;) However, you should be able to eject it after the game launches, for what it's worth. I believe we'll have a serial # scheme for online play, so I guess there's a remote chance the DVD chain will be lifted, however that's not a decision that I make. I'll pass it along though, for all the good it'll do.

    Fourth, STOP READING SLASHDOT AND GET BACK TO WORK!!! AND PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT!

    Can do. :)

  • by Brad Oliver (604118) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:17PM (#13892437)
    Now the only real question is, will Civ4 for the Mac be able to play the Mac and PC World in a multiplayer/networked fashion and will it have all the same features.

    The best answer we can give at the moment is "probably". I don't see any technical reason why not, but we're dealing with a number of third-party libraries as well. You never know when a licensing agreement will fall through, or the Mac versions of the libraries will be broken in some strange way. Right now though, it looks very promising in this regard.

  • Re:ATI Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by neonstz (79215) * on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:17PM (#13892438) Homepage
    The game works fine on Radeon Mobility 9600...
  • Surprise! (Score:2, Informative)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:26PM (#13892964)
    Well I shouldnt be too surprised. I just received and installed my copy of Civ IV today, and after the 2 disk install process, the game is unable to start as it cannot find the cd that is in my drive. If I am unable to make this work, it will just be going back to the store, which is a shame as I have been waiting for this game for quite a while.
     
    The most amusing part about it is the error dialog has a link [2kgames.com] to their site. The link goes to a blank page.
     
    And they wonder why we complain about stupid copy protection schemes.
  • Re:ATI Video (Score:4, Informative)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:27PM (#13892976)
    Firaxis has posted a fix over at Apolyton [apolyton.net].
  • Re:Surprise! update (Score:2, Informative)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:37PM (#13893044)
    Well, after speaking with the nice chap from take two, I found out the play and install disks are mislabeled. You need to put disk 1 "install disk" in the drive, not disk 2 even though disk 2 is labeled "play".
  • Re:ATI Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mac Degger (576336) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:51PM (#13893820) Journal
    I'll add to the list: my 9800pro works fine. Perfect, even...and that at 1280x1024.
  • Re:Idiot. (Score:4, Informative)

    by nunchux (869574) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:25AM (#13894767)
    Have you ever had a job that required some diplomacy? I don't think he's a mental midget. He's giving the answer he needs to give to satisfy the people who need to be satisfied-- the investors, the distributors, basically the "suits".

    Read between the lines, he doesn't even acknowledge the no-cd crack issue. I'm sure he personally doesn't care, but can't say as much. I understand, it's Slashdot, let's spout firebrand politics. Unfortunately in the real world it takes capital to release a game. If he said, "Fuck you, we're not protecting this game" he's be out of a job. If the developers said it, they'd lose their backing and distribution.
  • Re:CDs (Score:3, Informative)

    by zakezuke (229119) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:19AM (#13895535)
    I have an issue where I can no longer play Civ III because my game CD cracked in the center and is no longer readable.

    There's no real solution to this problem except for me to buy a whole new version of the game which is a total waste.

    IF you're going to demand my CD, you should give me an easy/free way to keep on playing if something happens to my original disk.


    Valid enough point if they employ disc protection. There is a NOCD crack for it IIRC. But anyhow in the past they offered a low cost disk replacement program. I admit I couldn't get an Amiga version but I could understand there were issues like no longer having the hardware to make copies. I remember hearing that there wasn't really a replacement program in the UK, but US and Canada there was. Try looking in the box, if you still have the box. Try e-mailing them or mailing via post a polite letter with a nice photo copy of your damaged disc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:58AM (#13895636)
    Some examples: World of Warcraft, Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop, ...

    I don't know Photoshop but the other two require you authenticate online. So then we get the stock slashdot rant against Half Life 2 and Steam.

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