Posts Tagged ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization V’

How the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’s Civ V mod should make us fear superintelligent AI


What do you reckon is the greatest threat to the future of humanity? Climate change? Nuclear war? A global epidemic? They’re all causes for concern, but it’s my belief that one of the greatest risks is actually posed by superintelligent AI.

You might need some convincing of that, which is why researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk have made a mod for Civilisation V that introduces potentially apocalyptic AI. Ignore the pressing need for AI safety research, and it’s game over.

I tried it out last week, seeking to answer two questions. Does it accurately portray the risks involved with the development of a god-like being? And is it any fun?

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The creator of the Civilization V superintelligence mod on AI safety


Last month, the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk released a mod for Civ V that introduced superintelligent AI to the game – not in the form of AI opponents, but as a technology that can end the game for every player if it’s left unchecked. It’s a novel overhaul to the science system, as well as an attempt to teach people about AI safety.

While I had some problems with the mod, I also thought it was a fascinating idea. Keen to learn more, I spoke to project director Shahar Avin about how the mod came about, the issues that it presents both poorly and well, and how people can get involved with AI safety themselves.

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Civ VI: Rise and Fall’s new features explained


I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down. That’s what I’ll be singing when I play Civilization VI‘s upcoming Rise and Fall expansion. There are loads of new features but the unifying theme is, as the title suggests, success, failure and recovery. That means dark ages that come with hardships but also bring about the possibility of a renaissance into a heroic age. All of that, and much more, is explained in the brand new video below.

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Cree concerns hammer home why Civ needs to reject its own traditions


In Civilization, civilization is a competition. Land and resources are limited, and even those nations that don’t expand through military might are attempting to climb to the top of the league table in other ways. Geography, technology, culture, religion, diplomacy – they’re all, to some extent, weapons to be deployed, or at least arenas where an advantage can be gained. Culture and history are the clothes that Civ wears but it’s not really about building an empire or a nation, it’s about sharpening a knife.

The upcoming Rise and Fall expansion for Civ VI introduces several new playable nations, but the introduction of one civ has led to criticism from an unexpected source. Yesterday, Milton Tootoosis, an elected headman-councillor of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, spoke to CBC News about the inclusion of the Saskatchewan First Nation. He acknowledged excitement about the news and noted that historical chief, Poundmaker, is to be portrayed as working to build “a bridge between settlers and First Nations”. But he also voiced a fundamental concern about the portrayal: “It perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land.” It’s a concern that cuts to the heart of what Civilization has always been and – I hope – to what it could become.

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The Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk have made a Civ V mod about apocalyptic AI

Researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (an actual real institution) have released a Civilization V mod exploring the hot new apocalypse everyone’s talking about: unchecked AI casually wiping out humanity in the name of efficiency. If you’ve already clicked through the universe as a single-minded AI in Frank Lantz’s ace Paperclips, you might fancy this mod. Trapping a brilliant mind in a metal box does also have its benefits, you know. Read the rest of this entry »

These are the top 100 Steam games of 2017

Another year over, a new one just begun, which means, impossibly, even more games. But what about last year? Which were the games that most people were buying and, more importantly, playing? As is now something of a tradition, Valve have let slip a big ol’ breakdown of the most successful titles released on Steam over the past twelve months.

Below is the full, hundred-strong roster, complete with links to our coverage if you want to find out more about any of the games, or simply to marvel at how much seemed to happen in the space of 52 short weeks.

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Civ V designer Jon Shafer parts with Paradox, “creative differences” blamed

Jon Shafer, the lead designer of Firaxis’s Civilization V and his own strategy game At the Gates, is gone from strategy specialists Paradox only six months after joining. Paradox say neither that he ditched the company nor that they fired him, rather that they have all “decided to part ways due to creative differences.” How enigmatic! We didn’t even know what he was working on. Read the rest of this entry »

Jon Shafer on designing Civilization 5, joining Paradox and making strategy games better

Jon Shafer was 21 years old when he became lead designer of Civilization V. Now working at Paradox on an unannounced project and on his own historical strategy game At The Gates in his spare time, he says he’s learning from the likes of Spelunky along with the more obvious strategic influences. We spoke about how the second half of every Civ sucks, the part the series played in his life, the perils of boredom in strategy design, how much we love maps, and what the future holds for both Shafer and Paradox.

I began by asking how he ended up sitting at the Paradox Convention, in Stockholm, the city that has now been his home for two weeks: “It’s quite a long story, actually.”

That story begins in Denver, around 2003.

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How historical games integrate or ignore slavery

Video games always come with an expectation that the player will suspend disbelief to some extent. Genetically engineered super-soldier clones don’t exist, radiation has never and will never work like that, and overweight Italian plumbers could never make that jump. In most cases, if we are unwilling or unable to suspend our disbelief, we may well struggle to enjoy the game and our questioning of the basics of its ‘reality’ would probably make us insufferable to be around.

There are some games however, where the realities of our world are key to enjoying the game. These are the builders like City Skylines, simulators and sports games like Prison Architect and FIFA, and even crime games like Grand Theft Auto. One genre has a particular problem when it comes to maintaining a foot in the real world yet still creating a setting where one can have fun without becoming mired in morally questionable events and choices: historically based games. And among historical games, few subjects are as complex to represent as slavery. Many have tried, from Europa Universalis IV and Victoria II to Civilization and Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, and in this article I’ll investigate the portrayal and use of slavery in these games and more to explore what they get right, what they get wrong, and how games could do better in future.

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Civilization VI Brings The Series Back To Its Best

A month ahead of its release, I’ve spent a week with Civilization VI [official site]. The build of the game is near-complete, though only ten of the twenty civs are playable and there are some limits on startup settings. When I heard that I’d be able to play so much of the game so long before release, I hoped that was evidence of 2K’s confidence in what they had to show.

Whether that’s true or not, they should be brimming with confidence. Civ VI is excellent.

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Civilization VI: Four Hours Of Wars And Wonders

Last month I spent four hours playing Civilization VI on a very hot day in central London. I came away wishing I could play for another four hundred hours, and also wishing that I had an ice cream. Mint and choc chip preferably.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what Civ VI is doing and how its many systems create a brilliant competitive race through history while also producing some weird tensions around the idea of what a civilization actually is in the context of the game. Are cultures defined by the choices they make, by their surroundings, their neighbours, by determination or by chance? Whatever the answer might be, one thing is sure: Cleopatra hates me.

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Civilization VI Egypt Vid Is Comin’ Atcha

Cleopatra can't even

I made a silent promise to myself that I wouldn’t post every single new leader/civ reveal for Civilization VI [official site] because, really, do you need a video to tell you that France is likely to have some big cultural advantages based around museums, and that Japan might have its own warrior code, and cities that enjoy the benefits that come from island life and seafood? The Egyptian video is a good one though, teasing out some details of the new adjacency bonuses for improvements, and the ways that early game strengths might change through the course of a campaign.

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Have You Played… Sid Meier’s Civilization V?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Sid Meier is famous for his line that games are “a series of interesting decisions.” Which makes it interesting that Sid Meier’s Civilization V is a game about telling people to stand still over and over again.

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Steam Charts: Demons And Souls

I say top ten, but there are actually only seven different games in the past week’s Steam charts, once pre-orders and deluxe editions are filtered out. It seems like a lifetime ago that Stardew Valley and Factorio were doing a little indie rampage around the charts, as Steam’s best-sellers have now very much reverted to big-brand type. Also: pre-ordering sure doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, no matter how unwise it might seem.
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Civilization VI Releases October: Here’s Every Detail

As if 2016 didn’t already contain a rich enough seam of strategy games, Firaxis announce today that Civilization VI will be released on October 21st. Development duties are in the hands of the team behind Civ V’s expansions, Gods & Kings and Brave New World, and when we spoke to designer Ed Beach and associate producer Sarah Darney last week to learn all the details, they told us that almost every system from the complete Civ V will be included in the sequel: trade routes, religious systems, archaeology…there’ll be no need to wait for expansions, it’s all in the base game.

The game is running on a brand new suite of software, built to be far more mod-friendly than its predecessor, and as well as brand new AI systems, there are a host of new mechanics that will explore and emphasise your relationship with Civ’s greatest character: the map.

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Wondrous: The Civilization V Community Patch Project

The last big official update to Civilization V [official site] came in 2013 with its second large expansion, Brave New World. Three years later, and almost six years after the game’s original release, there’s another big new release expected, but it’s not an official expansion. It’s the Community Patch Project (CPP; to be named Vox Populi on release), a community-made mod that overhauls and improves a majority of the game’s systems in an attempt to make Civilization V the best game it possibly can be.

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The 4X Genre Has Grown Stagnant, Here’s How To Fix It

When Civilization II came out, I spent an entire summer playing it for several hours a day. The only check on my binging was the fact that my parents would eventually come home and force me to pretend, for a few hours at least, that I cared about things other than Civilization II.

I was a senior in college when Civilization IV arrived. I’d barely played strategy games at all for the previous four years, and “senioritis” brought with it a case of intense nostalgia. I bought it in the spring before graduation. It was still consuming my days and nights when the leaves fell later that year.

That was probably the last time my enjoyment of a 4X game was pure and uncomplicated. Lately, I’ve been wondering where that joy has gone, and why so few games seem to add anything essential to those old experiences.

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The Beginner’s Guide: A Journey Through Genres

One day I’ll write a Desert Island Discs about the games I’d keep with me until the end of days, given a choice of ten. It’ll no doubt be a Desert Island Digital Downloads given the absence of physical media in my life. I live with the ghosts of entertainment.

Rather than compiling the list of games I’d take to the Vault with me though, today I’m aiming to put together a collection, one from each genre, that I’d use to introduce those genres to a PC gaming newcomer, or a lapsed gamer. A friend inspired this particular bundle of joy, someone who grew up with an Amiga but developed other interests and hasn’t touched a game for more than a few minutes at a time, either console or PC, for over fifteen years. A recent illness has left him unable to engage in his usual outdoor hobbies and games have filled the gap.

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Civ BE Rising Tide Patch Makes Peace Less Ridiculous

Oh, Civilization: Beyond Earth [official site], how sad you make me. You work so very hard to make me love you but… well, maybe you’re fundamentally unlovable. The Rising Tide expansion, that was a good try. You became more alien, less like your dad trying to wear a spacesuit, but gosh, you made a pig’s ear of Diplomacy, didn’t you? Bugs and bonkers design decisions queered the pitch.

But maybe it’s not too late. I hear there’s a big new patch intended to address one of your biggest problems; what flowers are you bringing to my door this time?

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Wot I Think – Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide

Rising Tide [official site] is the first, and some might say much-needed, expansion pack for Beyond Earth, the sci-fi Civilization V spin-off which met a somewhat muted reception. It’s out tomorrow, but I’ve spent the last few days with it.

It’s so much better. It’s so much worse.

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