C-evo is a freeware empire building game for Windows.
With a time scope of several thousand years, it covers aspects of exploration and expansion, industry and agriculture, warfare and diplomacy, science and administration. C-evo follows the spirit of popular turn-based strategy games from the mid 90s, but with more emphasis on powerful AI and careful design of the rules, resulting in a true challenge.
The game is based on Microprose's famous Sid Meier's Civilization
and has many basic ideas in common with it. Actually, this project has arised from the wish to correct annoying design mistakes and AI weaknesses of Civ II. The priorities of the C-evo project are considerably different from big commercial games. While those are focused on easy entertainment and mainly compete for the most realistic and exciting up-to-date multimedia, this one aims at ageless challenge. There are six design principles, see below.
The project does not have a team in the classic meaning. I'm doing the main programming alone and I put my work to the public domain, while the game graphics are supplied by the Civ community. Since a clever AI is essential for a strategy game, C-evo has an open AI interface implemented. So everyone who feels called to can code his personal AI engine and let it compete against others. Some alternative AIs are already available from the files section.
Principle 1: Low Risk.
The basic idea is correction, not revolution. The playing experience with Civ II is used to overcome its design problems. New and overturning ideas will hardly be implemented, because this would only lead to another unbalanced game.
Principle 2: Fun by Challenge.
Computer games get to bore after a while - that's a fact. The reason is that they remain the same - that's a common assumption, resulting in a stream of new games and massively extended sequels, each trying to temporarily suppress the boredom again. Call it fun by novelty
. This project is based on a completely different assumption, induced by a few old games outside the computer world, which never change but are usually played for a lifetime. The problem of computer games might not be that they don't change but that they are bad
- bad design, poor AI, false priorities set, constructs of perfect style and overwhelming size but not of intelligence. The challenge declines rapidly after a winning strategy is recognized. One wins every game with much to work and little to think. Doing this better should be possible.
Principle 3: AI Liberation.
Empire building games are typically asymmetric. They are built around the human player as their center, with some pseudo-AI mainly having the job to keep him amused and to make the whole thing a realistic simulation. C-evo, in contrast, is a competition of equals. AI has no jobs
, because that would reduce its strength. AI just has a goal
, which is the same as the player's goal: to win. All are playing by the same symmetric rules, no matter if human or AI. Frequently made suggestions show that many players do not fully realize the consequences of this principle (which is forgivable because the games they're used to are far away from it.) Particularly, there is no way to direct
the behavior of the AI - the AI is as free as the player is. Rules and AI are strictly separated. Some examples for ideas that are not compatible with this principle:
- A wonder that improves other nations' attitude towards the owning nation. As hardly as a human player would ever change his opinion about another player because a rule tells him to do, as hardly would true AI.
- Democratic and fundamentalistic states being more aggressive against each other than two states usually are. Same thing - AI is not under the game's command!
- Use of certain methods or weapons (like nuclears) resulting in international contempt. Same thing again.
- A diplomatic option for the human player to ask AI allies for support in his war campaign, expecting true effort. AI to subordinate to the player's plans is as ridiculous as the player to give up his strategy and instead help one AI fight the other.
Principle 4: Focus on Strategy.
It's the nature of a Civ-style game to be a simulation and a strategy game at the same time. This double-ambition causes serious conflicts in game design and the need for compromise. While Civ I and Civ II chose a middle course, newer Civ sequels are clearly directed towards simulation. C-evo gives priority to strategy, which means:
- The game is played by the players, not by itself. Everything happening is happening because one of the players does it or caused it, not because the game decides it's time for a surprise.
- You can't win the game by hitting Enter a hundred times and accepting everything that some advisors are advising. C-evo is a game, not a movie.
- Elements that are irrelevant for the game's end are out of place.
- Rules of the game that represent a mathematical effect are specified as a formula, not using nebulous phrases ("more", "less", "better").
- Main goals are maximum challenge and minimum boring busywork. Realism is welcome but does not take precedence over these two aspects.
- Poor players will not be helped in order to keep the balance of power. (Yes, this means most games are decided before they end formally, but that's natural and common to almost all good games.)
- The fun you'll have playing the game without reading the manual is comparable to the fun it is to move pieces on a chessboard without knowing the rules of chess.
Principle 5: Compact Rule Set.
A bigger game is not necessarily a better game. Additional elements can damage a game just as much as they can contribute to it. C-evo tries to keep its rule set small. Rules that would make the game more ornate but not bring new aspects of strategy will not be implemented, even if they'd add to realism.
Principle 6: Balance of Strategy and Micro Management.
The game should remain small enough so that micro management can still be an important part of it. C-evo does not try to split into several levels where the lower ones are so boring that it takes automatics to keep the game bearable. The goal is to make the micro management interesting - or to remove it. To hide it away from the player with the help of macro management is the worst solution (though sometimes necessary).