February 18, 2010

Civilization V? In development, apparently

Filed under: Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

I was a huge fan of the Civilization series of games, starting with the original game and running through the series, although as I mentioned back in 2005, I wasn’t enjoying the later releases as much as I had the earlier ones. To my surprise, there will be a follow-on Civilization V available later this year:

Funny story, I was musing about a Civilization sequel just yesterday while out for a run, and lo and behold, 2K Games says it’s in development as I’m typing this. What’s more — and I have to admit, somewhat unexpectedly — it’s still being developed for PC.

What’s Civilization? Surely you jest . . . but in case you’re serious, it’s pretty simple: One of the most important turn-based strategy video game in the history of the medium. Also: A pretty spot-on history simulator (in terms of history’s broad strokes and ideological angles, anyway). The general goal — to conquer the world by diplomatic or less-than-diplomatic means — hasn’t changed much since the original debuted in 1991, but as they say, the journey is all, and that journey’s generally improved by leaps and bounds with each installment.

Calling Civilization V‘s new engine “astonishing,” 2K says the game has been rebuilt “from the ground-up” with a brand new combat engine, more sophisticated diplomacy, and expansions all around to existing features.

Here’s the web site for the upcoming game. Yeah, I’ll almost certainly buy it, even though it may be coming out around the same time as my current gaming addiction’s next release (Guild Wars 2).


  1. At last. My life is complete.

    Comment by Publius — February 18, 2010 @ 22:44

  2. I’m going to end up getting it, but heavens… Hex maps?! Does it come with a Crown Royal bag full of 20-sided dice?

    Comment by Chris Taylor — February 19, 2010 @ 09:09

  3. “Does it come with a Crown Royal bag full of 20-sided dice?”

    No, the weird and wonderful dice were a very late addition to the world of hex wargaming . . . as long as we date the “Golden Age of Wargaming” to roughly co-incide with the rise and fall of SPI.

    And didn’t Sid Meier do hex-based for his civil war games? It doesn’t feel like a “new” thing, even setting aside the whole recreating-board-wargaming vibe.

    Comment by Nicholas — February 19, 2010 @ 09:46

  4. Yes I believe Gettysburg did have hex maps. I know everyone has reservations about a new version of Civ, but we’ll be re-addicted soon enough.

    Comment by Publius — February 19, 2010 @ 10:37

  5. “we’ll be re-addicted soon enough”

    Alas, yes, damn you!

    Comment by Nicholas — February 19, 2010 @ 10:44

  6. Oh they’re not new… that’s my objection. The interface should be appropriate to the technology.

    In the Golden Age of Wargaming hex maps made sense because how else would you manage world-spanning tabletop games where facing and manoeuvre and supply mattered.

    30 or 40 years later, we can create vast, visually complex virtual worlds, and our computers are capable of managing a lot of the logistics of virtual empire management and virtual warfighting. Hexes and squares are concessions made because the technology of the time (i.e. cardboard chits and human brainpower) didn’t permit more holistic, less “gamey” use of terrain.

    It reminds me of Microsoft’s approach to mobile device interfaces. When they launched Windows Mobile, they didn’t design an interface specifically around handheld use. They ported screen-eating GUI elements from the desktop environment (Start Menu, Task Bar) and jammed them into the mobile platform world of tiny screens, assuming familiarity would win out over functionality.

    Contrast that to the interfaces developed by Palm and Apple for their mobile devices. These are GUIs designed for use with small mobile screens, and don’t waste space trying to replicate the desktop user experience on a much smaller scale.

    This is what we need for Civ, and for games in general. Interfaces that make sense given the game objective and available technology, not just a reflexive fallback to old and familiar paradigms that were originally meant to satisfy different requirements and limitations.

    Comment by Chris Taylor — February 20, 2010 @ 04:05

  7. “In the Golden Age of Wargaming hex maps made sense because how else would you manage world-spanning tabletop games where facing and manoeuvre and supply mattered.”

    I started off with hex-based wargames, so the area-map variants always seemed less “correct”, even though they were often a better solution to the scaling problem of tactical/operational movement & combat than hexes. Without resorting to “mini maps” or “tactical cards” (both of which raised the production costs of the games of that era), deliberately abstracting to a larger scale was a clean solution.

    One of the potential traps of having more powerful computers available is to encourage too much “zooming” of focus. You can design a game (say, the Battle of Waterloo) that allows you to take the role of Supreme Commander, but also lets you drop down to lower and lower levels of command (perhaps to battalion, squadron, or battery level) whenever you feel the need. Such a game might encompass tactical details down to the specific rate-of-fire or speed of movement of each individual unit (continuously adjusted for fatigue, casualties, supply, and morale), yet you’d almost certainly bog down in the detail very quickly. As long as they’ve been creating wargames, there’s always a trade-off between historical verisimilitude and playability. In the paper-and-cardboard era, the best simulations were almost unplayable; the same will be true today and in the future.

    In general, the better the simulation, the worse the game (as a game).

    Comment by Nicholas — February 20, 2010 @ 13:05

  8. Civ’s always been strategic in focus and has never really been in danger of devolving into a simple RTS where tank (or uber-unit) rushes solve 99% of your tactical problems. Civ is turn-based and not dependent on frenetic realtime action. I don’t see that changing any time soon no matter what kind of map gets used; I think the lineage of the game is clear enough that adding RTS action to Civ is not what people are after. If they want that, there’s the Total War series of games (Rome, Medieval, Empire, etc).

    But I also don’t see why hexes are the solution, given that they exist to accomodate human data processing limits, and since the human isn’t going to be doing the rolling, chart-referencing and computing, there’s no real point in using that schema. Harpoon never used a hex map, even in its board-game incarnation, nor do other global strategy PC games (Superpower 2 would be one example). It’s possible to do without hexes, account for terrain variation, and not become an RTS, but obviously that’s not the direction they want to move in.

    Comment by Chris Taylor — February 20, 2010 @ 15:41

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