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Ask The Civ IV Dev Team 384

Posted by Zonk
from the historically-accurate dept.
On Monday, we asked you for questions for industry legend Sid Meier. Today, we're asking for question to put to the folks behind the technology of Civilization IV. Besides the actual coding and development that went into the game itself, the team has made Civilization IV infinitely moddable through technologies such as XML, Python, and a fully developed SDK. Led by lead designer Soren Johnson, the team will answer your questions about the creation of the fourth chapter in one of the most influential game series out there. So, fire away with your questions. One per comment, please, and keep them topical. We'll pass the ten best questions to Johnson and the team, and the answers will be posted as soon as we have them in our hands.
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Ask The Civ IV Dev Team

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  • Time Delays (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ranton (36917) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:20PM (#13668246)
    In Civ III there were unmanageable time delays in between each turn at the mid-late stages of the game. If you played on a large or huge world, it could take five minutes or more for the AI to complete its turn. And you couldnt just go and eat a sandwitch, because there would be prompts along the way for diplomacy and such that you had to be ready to click on. Is this new version of Civilization going to run faster, even on non top of the line computers?
  • Mac version? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Naum (166466) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:20PM (#13668255) Homepage Journal
    Or is it suited for single platform (Win OS) only?

    Multiplatform development has been wildly successful for Blizzard, it would profit Civ IV.
  • Religion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by karvind (833059) <karvindNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:25PM (#13668299) Journal
    From an earlier IGN article [ign.com]: The first Civilization to discover a technology attached to the founding of a religion will establish a holy city for that religion and it will begin to spread, although slowly. To speed up the process, you can create missionaries and send them out to try to convert other cities. Also, just like the Civics, AI leaders may try to get you to convert to their religion.

    My question: I have recently adopted Pastafarian [wikipedia.org] and would like to know if Civ 4 will support it ?

  • by jiawen (693693) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:27PM (#13668319) Homepage

    Which user-requested features are you implementing?

    One of the things I've wanted most is the ability to name geographical features (Commander Taco Mountain, The River Sid, etc.). This is helpful both aesthetically and practically. Any chance of such an improvement in Civ IV?

    I hope that rivers make more sense generally -- i.e., movement by river should be faster than overland. The model in Civ III leads to explorers going from mountaintop to mountaintop, which is not at all historically accurate.

    Oh, also -- any chance you'd be willing to pay for a new computer for me, so I can actually run the game?

  • Re:Linux Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trelane (16124) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:29PM (#13668332) Journal
    This is my main question, and will directly affect if/when I purchase the game.
  • Re:The Civ4 AI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) * on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:36PM (#13668391)
    Cheating AIs are not always lame. It's when the cheating becomes obvious that it detracts from the gameplay. Sid himself has said on several occasions that (to paraphrase) its the end result that matters. If you can make the game more fun by letting the computer cheat a bit, then go for it.

    The real advantage the computer has (IME) isn't the cheats, which you can generally learn to recognize and accomodate, its the infinite awareness and attention span. Games of Galciv, etc., especially during end-game in large galaxies, become exercises in repetition, scrolling through dozens of systems and hundreds of units each turn. This is something the computer is far more able to manage than I am.
  • Mandatory ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:48PM (#13668474) Homepage Journal
    After the Ubisoft PR department pretending to be the dev team:

      "Is this really the developer team answering these questions?" ;)
  • Re:Linux Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Radres (776901) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @01:52PM (#13668508)
    I know I'll get modded troll for this, but I hate gamers that insist upon there being a Linux version. I can't think of a greater waste of game developer resources than providing a version of the game that runs on the same exact hardware but under a different OS. Yes, Linux is great and all, and we all want to see it become the next desktop platform, but is it too much to ask for you to either dual boot Windows or have a separate box for your Wintendo? I'd rather see the game developer focus more on making a quality game than have a lesser game that is cross-platform.
  • Re:Linux Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skreems (598317) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:03PM (#13668605) Homepage
    A) It's more convenient to have it run in the OS.

    B) It lets you get rid of windows entirely, instead of keeping it around soley for games.

    C) Lack of games is one of the biggest obstacles stopping Linux from being much more popular among the non-tech crowd.

    D) With a tiny amount of planning at the beginning of a project, and using the correct cross-platform libraries, making a game run both on linux and windows is an essentially negligible problem.
  • Re:Linux Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trelane (16124) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:09PM (#13668665) Journal
    es, Linux is great and all, and we all want to see it become the next desktop platform, but is it too much to ask for you to either dual boot Windows or have a separate box for your Wintendo?
    If you want me to buy your game, then yes, it is too much to ask. It's called "voting with your wallet," and I try to practice it. If you want Linux to be well supported, you have to help out. It ain't gonna happen on its own.

    Additionally, cross-platform game development needn't add too much additional labour if you start off designing it as such, and generally the quality of the code is better (because you have to sit down and think about how to do things intelligently, not to mention bug fixing).

    Now, if you think that Linux support is intractable because of support costs, then fine. Give me the game without support. Just give me some version of the game. Of course I won't pay the same amount as with support, and if someone else does more, I'll be more loyal to them. But it'll eliminate the need for support costs.

  • Re:The Civ4 AI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:11PM (#13668679) Journal
    The thing that annoyed me most in CivIII was that it was almost impossible to get a solid technological lead.

    You could have a commerce/science race, with all the science buildings built in all your cities, with at least as many cities as the next two largest races combined, and a population that was more than the top FOUR other races combined, with 60% of your GDP going into science, and all the science wonders in one coastal city producing nothing but science, with more science specialists than citizens, and you'd STILL have trouble keeping ahead of other races.

    Now, that's just not realistic.
  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:14PM (#13668713) Homepage Journal

    I like the idea of an AI reacting to the subtleties of the map.

    But what I would like to see is an AI that reacts to how its opponent is playing.

    For example, I would like an AI that evaluates how aggressive a player is. If a player is constantly attacking the AI, it should react by foregoing some research to build up a defensive army. If a player is defensive, on the other hand, the AI should patiently build up an overwhelming attack force, complete with research upgrades and such.

    If a player shows a preference for attacking with one particular type of unit, the AI should "realize" it and start building counterunits. It would even be nice if the AI would do things like sacrifice some scouts to find out what its opponents are up to and compensate for it. Does the scout see some lots of planes in a city? Build some anti-aircraft missile batteries in surrounding areas. I've beaten lots of various players at various strategy games using these kinds of tactics. If an AI used them too, it would add a whole new dimension to player-vs.-computer strategy games.

    Plus, it would be nice for developers to observe some really good players playing, make some notes, and ask the players why they do things that the developers don't understand. Are there any general rules that can be programmed that a human uses in making decisions like when he or she starts building military units, how those units are deployed, how much and what kind of research he or she conducts and when, and so on.

    I think a cool AI feature of a game would be for the AI to "learn" how a player plays over the course of the player's games. If I beat the computer one way, it will know where it went wrong and play the next game differently, under the assumption that the player will still use some of the same tactics. Perhaps a game would even include some sort of profile manager so that if my brother plays the game, the computer will play against him differently. I've used that tactic several times in AoE2—record the games so I can go back later and study why my opponent did to spank me so badly. Next game I play against that opponent, he or she will be pwned by someone who has prepared for his or her tricks and strategies.

    I think it would also be cool for the AI to try a few odd tactics now and then to see how a player reacts. Start building a wonder. What did the player do? Immediately start one of his or her own? Use that knowledge to make him or her waste resources that could otherwise be alloted to the military. Declare war on a player out of the blue and see what happens. Does the player start making concessions to re-establish peace? If so, that player can be bluffed. Send a lone military unit to camp close to another city. Does the player attack him immediately, though he's no threat? If so, do the same thing, but have a larger army waiting on the other side of the city to go in while it's not as heavily defended.

    I guess what I'm saying is that if we could get to the point where computers are "thinking" like humans, I can finally shed the last vestiges of my need for friends to play with, and that can't be a bad thing, right? :-)

  • Alpha Centauri (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:16PM (#13668727) Homepage Journal
    With the dust being blown off the Civilization for the third time, I'm wondering if similar plans are afoot to work on Alpha Centauri, and if so, how the original will be improved upon.

    Some of us see AC as the best in the whole (greater) Civilization series. Awesome game.

  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:28PM (#13668832) Homepage Journal
    We've all heard the horror stories coming out of companies like EA, with programmers working sweatshop hours and driven to burnout. How are the working conditions at Firaxis? Do you guys get time to stop and smell the roses? Or at least time to play other games?
  • Re:Globe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Derek Pomery (2028) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @04:11PM (#13669686)
    Seemed like a good question to me, so I started googling to see why FreeCiv hadn't done it.
    Maybe the answer to this depends on the movement model.
    FreeCiv Dev List [complete.org] discussion from years ago.

  • Re:The Civ4 AI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @04:23PM (#13669787) Journal
    People keep treating this like 60% science is my idea of a winning strategy. I agree with you...you're describing how I like to play, with the exception of:

    1) If there is a civ that starts near you, killing them is a nice source of cheap cities.

    2) If you have iron and your neighbor doesn't, crush them. There may be oil on their land in the late game. The same goes for saltpeter, but less so.

    and 3) If someone does declare war with you, bribe everyone else to attack them, put a little effort into defense, and go on with your expansion.

    My whole point is that any technology focused strategy is inherently weak, and that they did it that way on purpose, and that it sucks. I like being technologically superior, I like having tech that not everyone has, I like having subs when other races are still using galleons...But in Civ III, that's not really possible. A strong tech lead is having one or two things that not everyone has...Pretty lame. I understand that the Civ AI has always been weak in terms of tech, but gimping the player is not the way to solve that.

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