Posts Tagged ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization IV’

Soren Johnson on challenging the norms of 4X games

“Sid [Meier] didn’t know he was inventing a genre back in ’91 – if he had he might have been a lot more careful. He was just making it up as he went along.”

That’s how genres begin. By mistake. Somebody creates a set of rules and systems for the needs of a particular game, and then either people adopt and adapt those rules. Soren Johnson, creator of Offworld Trading Company and lead designer of Civilization IV, is working on a new game called Ten Crowns and after spending almost an hour talking with him at GDC, I get the impression he’s going to be very careful indeed. Not cautious, because I expect some bold reinvention of 4X strategy fundamentals, but careful in his treatment of a genre that we both agree needs to escape its own past.

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Civ VI: Rise and Fall’s new features explained

civilizationgenghis

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

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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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Best PC games of all time

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There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. 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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The 50 best strategy games on PC

An entirely objective ranking of the 50 best PC strategy games ever made, now brought up to date with the riches of the last two years. From intricate wargames to soothing peacegames, the broad expanse of the genre contains something for everyone, and we’ve gathered the best of the best. The vast majority are available to buy digitally, a few are free to download and play forever. They’re all brilliant.

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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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A Lament For The LAN Party

Before broadband and the connected world of information, we found different ways to mix our social life and our games. LAN parties. Where our PCs had a big group hug and let us kill one another in peace. Michael Johnson remembers those times.

Growing up as a PC gamer in the 90’s was a curious experience, the dawn of the internet age was upon us, but everything was still a little bit rough around the edges. To illustrate this – try playing the dial-up modem noise to a millennial and tell them that this sound used to accompany turning on the internet and they’ll say something precocious like “You had to turn on the internet?” before laughing in your face and stealing all your pogs.

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Offworld Trading Co Comes On-World Later This Month

Offworld Trading Company [official site] is the combat-free, trading-centric sci-fi RTS from Soren Johnson, best known as the lead on the beloved Civ 4. It’s been kicking around in Early Access for a while now, and both Adam and I rather liked it. If you’ve been holding off because you fear the unfinished, you may be glad to know that the Mars-set building’n’business game gets itself a full release on April 28th.
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Lost Worlds: The Saved Games I’ve Abandoned

These are my personal Edwin Droods. Stories that I’ve failed to finish, for one reason or another, and that are left suspended. In the manner of somebody reversing out of a relationship like a heavy goods vehicle, trundling slowly and beeping nonchalantly, I’d like to say to the games included: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

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Why People Are Making The AI Fight Itself In Civilization

A strange thing happened in the Civilization community r/civ on January 10, 2015. Inspired by similar, smaller-scale offerings by a Twitch.tv livestream and fellow redditor DarkLava (from whom he explicitly sought permission), user Jasper K., aka thenyanmaster, shared the first part of an experiment he was conducting wherein he put 42 computer-controlled civilisations in their real-life locations on a giant model of the Earth and left them to duke it out in a battle to the death, Highlander style (except instead of heads they need capital cities).

Since then, the practice has exploded in popularity. Reddit’s Civilization community has AI-only fever, but what exactly is so compelling about watching the computer play a very slow-paced turn-based strategy game with itself?

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Former Civ IV Lead On Strategy’s Future, Making Another Civ

Once upon a time, Soren Johnson was the main brain behind Civilization IV. Now he has a mohawk. An indie mohawk. Also, he’s making a game about managing a crazy intricate (yet disarmingly accessible) economy on Mars. Last time around we talked about how a Mars economy simulator even works, boardgames, and the current state of strategy gaming, and today we continue that discussion with the future of strategy (and its alleged “death”), MOBAs, the advantages and disadvantages of working at a company like Firaxis, whether or not Johnson will ever make a game on the scale of Civilization ever again, and why Johnson is *glad* that big publishers aren’t paying attention to strategy games. It’s all below. 

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Former Civilization IV Lead On Mars Game, Revitalizing RTS

Mohawk Games is an excellent name for a company. And so it is that former Civilization IV lead designer and Spore man Soren Johnson approaches me sporting the company haircut. It’s a recent trim job for the old headshrub, he tells me, but he wears it well. However, the brain beneath the mohawk – the mind behind some of strategy gaming’s greatest greats – is the real main attraction here. Johnson’s goal is to design “core strategy games” in conjunction with Civ V art director Dorian Newcomb and in partnership with Galactic Civilizations (no relation) developer Stardock.

First on the docket? A still unnamed Mars economy RTS with no units and 13 different resource types. Is it madness? Probably, but it’s the good kind, the kind that drives a man to shave off most of his hair before a business conference, the kind that sounds wicked fun when people exchange fireside tales of their favorite matches.

Go below for a discussion with both men about how the game works, boardgame influences, how videogames might be able to replicate boardgaming’s face-to-face appeal, designing strategy that’s extremely complex but also accessible, release plans, and heaps more.

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Life After GameSpy: Civ 3, Civ 4 And Borderlands Go Steam

Secret gamegent man

You might well cheer the demise of GameSpy Technologies, but an awful lot of games will lose official online multiplayer support when the service shuts down on May 31. Publishers scour the battlefield running triage measuring pulses peeling eyelids shining lights flexing smashed bones jabbing fingers in wounds licking blood. “We’ve got a live one here!” they cry occasionally and haul the game up on their shoulder, but all too often stand up, brush themselves down, then step over the grasping bloodied hand as they quietly walk away.

2K Games shall save Borderlands, Civilization III, Civ IV, and Civ IV: Colonization, the publisher has confirmed, along with their expansions. A dozen of its less popular games will be less lucky.

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Yikes: GameSpy Shutdown Will Affect A Lot Of Games

I always did enjoy how poorly drawn the GameSpy mascot was - Xs for eyes or not.

GameSpy, a relic from times long before the modern Internet – or indeed, games and spies – existed is closing down. This on its own is not surprising as the multiplayer service is, by modern standards, buggy and kind of a joke, but it leaves a startling number of games with their e-wings clipped and their online-heaving hams strung in its wake. How many, you ask? Well, Reddit’s /r/Games board compiled a massive list, and the results aren’t pretty.

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A Game And A Chat: RPS BFF GDC Ultra Force Go, Day Two

The GDC War Train of Impossible Enrichment trundles on, and RPS is on the scene with gusto, aplomb, and a stuffed lion. Each day this week, I’ll be gathering impromptu panels of colossal brains inside frail (but very handsome) human bodies to dissect the show piece-by-piece. Yesterday, John, Cara, Hayden, and I did so by crawling into bed and talking about our socks. Also games. But day two was different. John fell to exhaustion, and Cara was carried away by a throng of adoring fans, presumably to be worshipped and then made into soup. Fortunately I was able to drag Gunpoint creator Tom Francis, writer and camera whisperer Nika Harper, and Incredipede creator Colin Northway over forests, woods, hills, and plains to fill their not-shoes.
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Soren Song: Civ IV Designer Founds Mohawk Games

Soren Johnson named it after his hair.

Soren Johnson is a clever man. He was a programmer on Civilization 3, the lead designer on Civilization IV, and then he moved over to Maxis to work on Spore. Now he’s building himself a new home by founding Mohawk Games, a studio dedicated to creating “core strategy games”. Read the rest of this entry »

Civ IV Accidentally Wins A Grammy

Fellow writers of RPS: you have betrayed me. And on this, the day of love? You wound me, sirs, you wound me. The title track from Civilization – aka The Greatest Gaming Moment of 2005 – won a Grammy at the weekend. It is the first piece of music originally recorded for a videogame to ever scoop a Grammy win. We should have celebrated this. We should have posted three, four, five times about it. Yet no, you did not post it during my absence today. HAVE YOU NO LOVE IN YOUR HEARTS, SIRS?*

It is the song of union, the song of peace, the song of harmony. Come, let us reforge this bond between us! Let us sing it together.
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