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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Civ V: Presentation & Reception

    I wanted to expand upon something that I was discussing in the comments earlier today. I believe that one of the reasons that Civilization V has been received somewhat poorly by the community has to do with its presentation. Not its graphics, mind you, but the overall package. To illustrate, I'll compare Civ V with its immediate, and deservedly beloved, predecessor, Civ IV. Please note that it's been a while since I've played Civ IV, so if details are a bit off, please correct me.

    Let's start with the introduction and beginning of a new game. In Civ IV (pre-expansions), the opening movie is a sweeping camera flight over an ancient (visually Greek) coast, across a battlefield, in on a king before a cheering crowd in a city, before finally zooming out to sweep over the entire planet. When a game begins, the player is presented with a slow, semi-animated piece in which the Narrator (Leonard Nemoy) describes the beginning of the planet, the rise of life, and ends with the player assuming control over a fledgling civilization.

    In Civ V, the opening movie is of an old man sitting in a tent; he is culturally ambiguous, but the decorations indicate a very ancient time period. A younger man enters, and the old man addresses him as his son. The old man describes a vision he has seen of their people across the ages, braving raging seas and doing battle in different time periods. However, he says that it is not his future, but his son's, and states that the responsibility for leading their people falls on the younger man's shoulders. The son departs, with a (perhaps worried) look back, and then gazes out over a small, seemingly Neolithic settlement in a largely untamed valley below. When the game proper begins, the Narrator is the same old man from the introduction, and he gives background on the civilization the player has selected, some highlights on the selected leader, and finally implores/challenges the player to lead his/her people to glory and "withstand the test of time."

    Right out of the gate the player is bombarded with two very different messages. Civ IV offers a distanced but grand view of history. The player is but one more bit of life in the grand story of the planet, and will oversee the fate of a civilization, the good and bad, from on high, in control but detached. Civ V offers the burden of leadership. The player's people cry out for a leader, hardship looms ahead, and the player walks a lonely path, with the wisdom of an elder--but not the direct assistance--the only tool provided.

    Next, let's look at the main menus of each game. Civ IV (pre-expansion) shows an ever-spinning globe. The dark side reveals lights, while all the while a sweeping, vaguely African song with a major vocal component plays. In this way, the grand sweep of human history, out of Africa and into the modern era, across the entirety of the planet, is neatly conveyed, with the motion of the planet neatly evoking the passage of time. Civ V depicts a static illustration of an art deco statue of Atlas, grim and resolute beneath the weight of the world, while modern skyscrapers tower around him, crowding the sky, while a rather low, entirely instrumental piece rumbles in the background.

    The thematic differences between Civ IV and V are again obvious. Civ IV offers a grand view of the entire planet; the player can see it all before him or her, both physically and temporally. In Civ V, the perspective looms down upon the player, who is himself/herself embodied by Atlas, straining to bear the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

    Selecting a Civilization is no different. In Civ IV, the split between civ bonuses and leader bonuses, combined with the sheer number of leaders (who all draw from the same pool) means that there are any number of similar civilizations to choose from. The player can play virtually any civ in the same way and have largely the same experience, simply because the differences between them are so muddied. In Civ V, civ selection can be almost paralyzing. Each civ has unique advantages, but each also has only one leader, who has an entirely unique power that can greatly impact the game. Not all of these powers are entirely positive, so players must be aware of their civ's strengths and weaknesses and must try to exploit any benefits to succeed.

    The games' approaches to governments/culture reflect their differences. In Civ IV, all government policies can be changed at will, with a short period of Anarchy to pay for the change. These policies are unlocked by advancing along the tech tree. The player can rush forward and pick his or her preferred policies without tremendous effort, and can change them should the need or desire arise. In Civ V, social policies are permanent and are selectable but rarely. Each choice is agonizing, as the point system means that the time until the next choice will be longer than for the previous. However, each selection will last for the rest of the game. Since these policies both affect and are affected by the player's approach to the game, but are irreversible, making appropriate choices is absolutely critical.

    My theory is that many people find Civ V to present a decidedly unwelcome picture of an entertainment product. It is a game that is, above all else, about responsibility: the responsibility of the player to succeed. The player's people beg for his or her help at the beginning of a game. The Narrator is the player's father figure, offering wisdom but able only to watch from afar. Poor decisions tend to be irreversible. Responsibility is a burden, and the idea of an entertainment product that so champions it can be difficult to swallow. Civ IV, on the other hand, is about observing the grand sweep of history. It doesn't matter much whether the player wins or loses because humans are hardly the first, last, or only life on the planet, and the player can easily pick another civilization to play, in which case he or she will find surprising similarities.

    it is my firm belief that this difference accounts for some, but certainly not all, of the poor reception to Civilization V. Specifically, I believe that this accounts for many people who cannot put their finger on what they dislike about the game; those who don't feel bothered by the mechanics, but still feel the title is inferior to its predecessor. Do you agree?

    I would also like say that the soundtracks for each game continue this trend, but I am not knowledgeable enough about music to articulate the idea. I certainly think that Civ IV has the "grander" music, whereas V is rather muted. Finally, for full disclosure, I prefer the mechanics of Civ V to Civ IV, although I love Civ IV and it was my gateway game to the franchise. Anyone is free to agree or disagree with me, but I feel like I've hit on something here that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere.

  2. #2
    i've always had trouble understanding what can sometimes be sheer hatred for civ 5.

    i personally loathed unit stacking and the religion mechanic of civ 4. when 5 came out i got it and haven't looked back. it's not perfect but i enjoy it much much more than 4.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Smashbox's Avatar
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    I think that each has its strengths and weaknesses, but I think Civilization V is a better game overall. There are a few mechanics in Civilization IV that are missed (religion, chiefly) but Civilization V's use of hexes and the one-unit-per-tile rule make for a better game.

    My biggest problems with the game are the predispositions of the playable civilizations. I feel more constrained in a game of Civilization V because it's much more difficult to meet some win conditions with some societies.

  4. #4
    i enjoy it much much more than 4


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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gwathdring's Avatar
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    I liked III more than IV. IV felt more polished but aside from the religion it also felt more lackluster. I'm not sure why. I love the sound of the improved combat system, so maybe I should give the Civ V demo a try.

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    Look, everyone is saying that Civ V is better. Me too. I only have to try that medieval mod, and that's it.

    I like Civ V. I think it's perfect, or as close as it can get TODAY. We'll see in three years.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsane View Post
    Look, everyone is saying that Civ V is better. Me too. I only have to try that medieval mod, and that's it.

    I like Civ V. I think it's perfect, or as close as it can get TODAY. We'll see in three years.
    Either you only play mp or you don't like smart AI. It's a fairly big issue to me, kind of a deal breaker.
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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Well the AI serms to beat me a lot in Civ V so i dont see a problem.

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    For me the thing about Civ 5 is that it's biggest strength and weakness stems from the same thing: The removal of the unit stacking mechanic.

    By far the worst bit of Civ 4 was the unit stacking and the system they replaced it with in Civ 5 is brilliant but unfortunately the AI just can't handle it, rendering warfare far too easy.

    The other ways Civ 5 streamlined the management were IMO for the best as well. I genuinely like pretty much everything about it but as Heliocentric says, it's all ruined because the AI is too weak.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    I like Civ 4's friendly and often amusing presentation. I like Civ 5's elegance. Can't choose between the two styles.

  11. #11
    Nice OP, actually makes me think that Civ V might be worth trying. To clarify, I had written it off when I found that the elements I'd been hoping would be expanded and given far more depth (environmental change/degradation and resource exhaustion, religion) had instead been removed. I still think that, given the time period Civ covers, the lack of environmental factors is a very disappointing omission and I maintain hope that this will be remedied in the future.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by baboonanza View Post
    For me the thing about Civ 5 is that it's biggest strength and weakness stems from the same thing: The removal of the unit stacking mechanic.

    By far the worst bit of Civ 4 was the unit stacking and the system they replaced it with in Civ 5 is brilliant but unfortunately the AI just can't handle it, rendering warfare far too easy.

    The other ways Civ 5 streamlined the management were IMO for the best as well. I genuinely like pretty much everything about it but as Heliocentric says, it's all ruined because the AI is too weak.
    To further your point... removing unit stacking was a very bad idea from an AI point of view. The amount of computation and sophistication needed to effectively use non-stackable armies is a lot higher than for stacking armies. If you have 10 units in a stack then the AI just needs to figure out where to move that 1 stack. If 10 unstackable armies, the AI needs to work out a plan for each one, and is a lot more complicated as the movement plan for each unit will effect the search spaces for all the other near-by units. So you can no longer treat things independently, which was a bad move by the game designers.

    I wonder if there are some proper research papers about this. There's probably a very real mathematical difference in the difficulties of the two problems. And from my own experience, Civ V on a a new pc, standard sized map, runs a LOT slower than Civ IV on my old pc on a large map (even with the FfH2 mod which slows things down considerable).

    one of the main rules in strategy game design should be "design a game the computer can play effectively, unless you're multi-player focused."

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    Quote Originally Posted by moth bones View Post
    Nice OP, actually makes me think that Civ V might be worth trying. To clarify, I had written it off when I found that the elements I'd been hoping would be expanded and given far more depth (environmental change/degradation and resource exhaustion, religion) had instead been removed. I still think that, given the time period Civ covers, the lack of environmental factors is a very disappointing omission and I maintain hope that this will be remedied in the future.
    Probably unlikely... I think there's been an ongoing trend since Civ2 of removing environmental damage mechanics from the game. Apparently having to deal with global warming, pollution, and nuclear fallout isn't fun.

    Shame, as there's all sorts of interesting things you could do with it.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus c-Row's Avatar
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    I am actually surprised that so far there have been no plans for proper expansions beyond the already present DLCs to add some new features to Civ V.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Vexing Vision's Avatar
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    The problem of Civ 5 is the streamlining of the tech-tree.

    It is boring.


    In every single Civ-game, I loved specializing, I loved the different abilities of the different cultures clashing, the different preferences, and even the trade between researching a dead-end technology for an immediate benefit, or planning long-term and hope that I will survive long enough for the race to the next technology breakthrough.

    It was glorious.

    Civ 5 is boring. Boring. Boring. The removal of dead-ends and the limitation to only three barely branching paths means that every civilization will, around mid-game, have exactly the same technological advances as everyone else on the map.

    Boring.
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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus groovychainsaw's Avatar
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    I already preferred civ 5, too, with a couple of niggles, most of which were fixed by civ nights (talked about at RPS here). More complex culture trees, more difficult tech decisions and much improved AI, along with a host of other small changes made the game pretty much ideal for me. I was already sold on hexes and one unit-per-tile, now it is my favourite version of civ, hands down.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vexing Vision View Post
    The problem of Civ 5 is the streamlining of the tech-tree.

    It is boring.


    In every single Civ-game, I loved specializing, I loved the different abilities of the different cultures clashing, the different preferences, and even the trade between researching a dead-end technology for an immediate benefit, or planning long-term and hope that I will survive long enough for the race to the next technology breakthrough.

    It was glorious.

    Civ 5 is boring. Boring. Boring. The removal of dead-ends and the limitation to only three barely branching paths means that every civilization will, around mid-game, have exactly the same technological advances as everyone else on the map.

    Boring.
    Yeah, pretty much this. The reason people hate Civ5 is because they "streamlined" away all the fun bits of Civ4 and left it just horribly dull.

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    Quote Originally Posted by riadsala View Post
    ... removing unit stacking was a very bad idea from an AI point of view. The amount of computation and sophistication needed to effectively use non-stackable armies is a lot higher than for stacking armies. If you have 10 units in a stack then the AI just needs to figure out where to move that 1 stack. If 10 unstackable armies, the AI needs to work out a plan for each one, and is a lot more complicated as the movement plan for each unit will effect the search spaces for all the other near-by units. So you can no longer treat things independently, which was a bad move by the game designers.
    And also a Stack of Doom containing a wide variety of units has no real weakness - a skilled player may be able to use a combination of siege and cavalry flanking to win when at a slight disadvantage, but there are real limits to this. If you face off against a neighbouring AI that is much stronger than you, you will lose in Civ IV, no ifs buts of maybes.

    AI competitiveness is ensured by essentially dumbing down the combat mechanics to a level where a human cannot get a major advantage by outsmarting the AI (for land combat anyway). Both Civ V and earlier Civs (which had damage dealt to a whole stack when a single unit in it was attacked and defeated) have more complex unit mechanics, but at the expense of letting the human get much much higher unit win ratios against the AI.

    A question of taste which you prefer I guess. I've always seen Civ as being about building an empire; so I like Civ IV since I win and lose with my long range planning and decision making. I accept the really quite basic unit model as a necessary part of that.

    -----

    One other issue, I've seen several people, both here and in the comments, say that religion didn't serve a purpose in Civ IV. I strongly disagree.

    Religion was the catalyst for the diplomacy model. Diplomacy in Civ IV was all about power blocks and permanent relationship modifiers. When two civs where hostile they would start forcing the human player to choose between them, giving you the option of either good relations with one and bad with the other, or mildly bad with both (normally the rough equivalent of putting up a sign saying "please dogpile me"). Religion was the catalyst to the system, causing the initial positive and negative modifiers which lead to antagonisms and power blocks.

    Quite apart from the benefits of founding a religion, I often had quite deep strategic decisions regarding religion - especially on Pangea maps where there are likely to be multiple religious blocks within easy reach. Choice of religion was how I decided which power block I wanted to join, or how I would try to switch sides. I really like the diplomacy "minigame" in Civ IV, and religion was a key part of that. Admitedly I normally play a difficulty level that is a bit to high for me, meaning I tend to face a number of civs that are significantly more powerful than me.

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    I enjoy Civ5 - I've put more hours into it over the past year than any other game. That said, I never really got into Civ4, and going back to it after playing Civ5 extensively has been pretty much impossible - I enjoy 1upt and hexes too much to revert to stacks of doom. If I played multiplayer, I'd undoubtedly feel differently about things.

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    I have liked all of the Civs without complaint, though Civ V eliminating the stacks is a thing I've appreciated as well. I actually haven't known many people who disliked the new Civ, so I can't account for what you're describing.

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