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The Game of Everything, Part 1: Making Civilization (filfre.net)
552 points by doppp 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

I got Civilization really early on before it was obvious that it was going to be popular. I love reading the thick manual, strategy guide, and advances chart.

I really enjoyed starting a civil war by capturing another civilization's capital city. There was one game where I was in the Americas and the Zulus (always crazily warlike and expansionist) had conquered the rest of the world. It looked like they were going to overwhelm me.

So I parked an aircraft carrier and a bunch of transports off of southern Africa and captured their capital city with a surprise attack by overwhelming forces. The entire Zulu empire immediately started a civil war, with half of it becoming the Egyptians. I was unaware of the civil war feature when I did so (wasn't documented in the manual), and it really improved my opinion of the game. I ended up winning because the new Egyptian civilization and the Zulu civilization were too busy fighting each other to send enough against my forces.

The technology capturing feature was great too. I was playing in the Americas one time, and I was hopelessly behind the Chinese. I had musketeers and cannons, while they had tanks. I launched a surprise attack with all the forces I could muster and captured a few of their cities, getting technologies such as the automobile by doing so. I was then able to produce tanks, and ended up modernizing myself by capturing more cities and stealing technology.

I absolutely loved that game.

I did the same in one game.

One of the civilization was way ahead of me in term of tech.

Fortunatly I had a large empire, able to produce a lot of units, and this civilization was rater small.

So I sent loads of units on this civilization to take one city. Countless units died, but in the end I was able to take over the city and gain one tech.

What I did later was a bit of a cheat, but it worked. I removed all my units from the city, let the other civilization retake it, reconquered it the next turn and got another new tech.

I did this for a few turns, and presto, I was on par with the other civilization in term of technology. Then, it was game over for all the other civilizations as I was also the biggest producer in term of industry.

As for the capital, I did the trick to make a raid on it in another game. The motivation was a little different however. They were getting really close to launching to Alpha Centauri, taking their capital destroyed their spaceship. And I was able to win.

I also remember playing the game way past its end (something like year 3000 or 4000). It was quite funny, because of global warming, all the terrains were converted to swamps or deserts.

> I also remember playing the game way past its end (something like year 3000 or 4000). It was quite funny, because of global warming, all the terrains were converted to swamps or deserts.

It might have been in civ 2, but I think I once lots of nukes just to see if I could terraform the deserts into arable land through global warming.

Turns out I could, but it would make so much damage to the rest of the land or infrastructure that just sending loads of engineers/settlers to do the transformation was more economical.

Good times!

I never played Civilization (got bored of video games when I was 16-17) but Civilization always intrigued me. Maybe I should give it a try. Are there modern versions of the game would the original version still be fun today?

Try Freeciv. It's inspired by the original game and it's open source too :)


I played every new version of the game over the years. In some ways the game changed a lot, in other ways it still remains true to it's origins. You can still get the original version from some sites that specialize in old games. The newest version is Civilization 6 which is available from Steam. The versions I personally enjoyed the most was Civilization 4 and 5.

The full version of Civilization 6 is available as an iPad app, I was delighted to discover this year. Recommended (on any platform).

This game blew. my. mind. when I was a kid. The first summer we had it, I played it eight hours a day on our IBM PS/2. When school was back in session, I wrote about it and drew maps for school projects. I dreamed about it.

As a child, I loved this game.

I remember spending hours on it, not knowing what I was doing.

I had an english version of the game, and being 9 or 10 at the time, I didn't speak a word of english.

It took me ages to understand that you could switch from despotism to another form of government (monarchy, republic, etc). I was always wondering why my cities were so small, even with irrigation and railroads everywhere.

Also, I didn't have the manual, so with time, I started to learn the tech tree by heart (the "license" verification was based on knowing the parents of a given tech IIRC).

I've also read the civilopedia countless times.

I'm still proud to have beaten the game in Emperor ^^.

I've also spent a lot of time on other Sid Meier's games like Railroad Tycoon or Colonization.

Thank you for these lost hours.

same here. I was having great fun travelling around with the little carriage and exploring the world. Took like three playthroughs to realize you can and should build a city with it. And being super proud I've learnt a new english word - "granary" was probably in the first 100 english words i knew

Try being given SimLife at 7.


Think my parents may have overreached a little on the educational software, there.

I also had this as a kid. I think the game was quite lacking in the "game" aspect, though it was nice to have my new mutated orchid overtake the world.

I had the same experience. I was a bit older, but didn't know much English either and had a printed copy of Civilopedia with me to study. It was fun experience both playing the game and studying English (and a bit of history) at the same time. I still occasionally play it with my kids.

The game taught me some high-level things at an early age, like cities grow near water, transit lanes are like blood vessels, and food becomes people.

That's actually a really good point... it also goes on and shows how viscerally those cities are connected in terms of trade, movement of troops, and thus warfare/conquest.

Thank goodness for Civilization on SNES, too. ;)

And then people become Soylent Green :)

No spoiling of fine movie plots! :)

Also brings back memories for me. I was never good at managing many cities, focusing on a few megacities instead and opting for large scale nuclear war :) Kinda reminds me of another game I used to play around that time, Global Effect.

Civ.exe was also the first game I customized. I was entertained to no end when I found out you could use a hex editor to change the strings. I rewrote the introductory text, and gave all the leaders new dialogue. That was also probably around when I started getting more interested in how games worked, rather than just playing them...

My life got strange and confusing when my sibling used the hex editor to start making those changes to the hex editor itself.

> I rewrote the introductory text

I remember eventually seeing "my" intro texts on the computers of people who had absolutely no chance of understanding the terrible in-jokes I put in there years earlier. Fortunately they did not know who ruined the experience for them.

We had absolutely no concept of "legitimate copy" at the time, I had one industrially labeled disk (Genius mouse driver) and its existence confused me to no end.

>interested in how games worked, rather than just playing them

I've commented on HN before about the power I think "hackable" games had teaching us how to create on the computer. I have a similar fond memory of heavily tampering with Halo PC via the fan-made Halo Editing Kit, which gave hex access to do all kinds of fun things. Those summer weekends spent changing which side I played on Silent Cartographer were key to me becoming more than "just" a computer user.

I've hacked just a couple games back in the day.

One was this Galaga clone for the TRS-80 Color Computer. The CoCo had a couple analog joysticks [1] which were ergonomically horrible. The player would move the joystick left and right to position the on-screen spaceship. The x-position of the joystick would correspond to where the spaceship would be. However, you couldn't just let the player move the joystick quickly from one side of the screen to the other, that would be "unrealistic" video game physics, and from a gameplay perspective, would make it too easy to dodge incoming bullets.

So the ship would move slowly on the screen until it reached the position which corresponded to the joystick position. This was rather annoying and hard to control.

Since I had seen an article to convert a digital joystick (from an Atari 2600) to be used on the CoCo, I also modified the game code to use a more normal control scheme. That involved searching through the disassembled code to find the joystick polling routine, and patch it out with my on version instead. Which, unfortunately, didn't fit, so I had to jump out to a bit of code past the normal end of the program, and then jump back when finished.

Fun times!

[1] https://goo.gl/images/A2DAQK

RedEdit in the system 7 days was a godsend in my life. Hacking new sounds into Maelstrom. Changing character names in Pararena. Stumbling into learning what a sprite was.

ResEdit. A word I haven't seen in decades, still one ECC pointer hop from top-of-mind.


And it was a staple of Escape Velocity plugin editing too. Very fun program for a child with an old mac at that time.

The ResEdit days! I changed every sound in Marathon to the point it was unplayable. I had no idea what I was doing but I was fascinated.

I don’t think it involved ResEdit but we once changed the Starcraft sounds at one computer in the school Mac lab so that when you made a dragoon it would play “carrier has arrived.” Freaked opponents out all the time.

As an amateur game developer and professional developer. I got into both because of similar origins of things. I do wonder though how modern games and tools are both easier to use but also more complex how it will shape the next few generations of devs and game designers.

Sadly, its sequels still have that same pull. Bought Civ VI on the iPad around Christmas, and have lost countless weekends since...

* have enjoyed it for countless weekends since.

Fixed that for you :).

Not mutually exclusive!

better to have enjoyed and lost than to never have enjoyed at all

What a joyful connection across generations: I did the same with Civilization III & a Compaq.

Civ III and a Compaq - same! I even got involved making multi-unit graphics over at CivFanatics.

If I wasn't so good at mathematics, my teacher would've probably called my mom for me being late so often when I just needed to play one more turn before bed and one more turn before going to school...

That's your problem right there. We convinced the teacher of it's historical merits and brought the game to class each day to play after we completed our assignments!

I had an RE gcse exam (a mock I think) in about 95. One question was "describe a creation story".

So I wrote something very close to this:

In the beginning the earth was without form, and void. But the sun shone upon the sleeping earth, And deep inside the brittle crust, massive forces waited to be unleashed. The seas parted, and great continents were formed. Mountains arose, earthquakes spawned massive tidal waves. Volcanoes erupted and spewed forth fiery lava, And charged the atmosphere with strange gasses. Into this swirling maelstrom of fire and air and water, The first stirrings of life appeared. Tiny organisms, cells and amoeba, clinging to tiny sheltered habitats. But the seeds of life grew, and strengthened, and spread, and diversified, and prospered. And soon every continent and climate teemed with life. And with life came instinct, and specialization, natural selection, reptiles, dinosaurs and mammals. And finally there evolved a species known as man. And there appeared the first faint glimmers of intelligence. The fruits of intelligence were many: Fire, tools, and weapons, The hunt, farming, and the sharing of food, The family, the village, and the tribe. Now it required but one more ingredient: A great leader to unite the quarrelling tribes, To harness the power of the land, To build a legacy that would stand the test of time: A CIVILIZATION!

That's genius. I feel like I've missed crucial Civ time now!

I used to love games like Oregon Trail and Spaceward Ho as a kid, and I remember dreaming about what games could be as a result. Then Civ came along and it was a revelation. My dreams were nothing, and I fell headfirst in love with Civ. It was the first game I could point to and say, “Do you see that? Can you see where this medium can go from here? The value and pleasure in it?”

It was just so deep, and so far beyond anything else I’d ever seen. I think I can honestly say that it was the first game that was at least as good as a great book.

>[Talking about the early strategy game Empire:] But the most relevant version for our purposes was created by Walter Bright, a 20-year-old student at the California Institute of Technology, in 1977. Bright himself later ported it to microcomputers, efforts which culminated in him selling the game to a small publisher called Interstel

Bright would later be known for earning over 18000 karma on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=WalterBright

Among other things :)

Empire (or rather, Empire Deluxe) is still today one of my all time favorite games.

I don't have a lot of time to play videogames anymore, but I'm like you - my favorite is Master of Magic (never surpassed, in my view). Sometimes I play it on Dosbox.

Agreed! Empire Deluxe is my favorite! Sadly, I've never been satisfied with the Killer Bees "modernization" ports - the UI/UX is odd and deficient.

I just want a good Empire Deluxe for tablet. Polytopia is the closest I've found, but it's not really the same.

I always preferred Colonization with its far more detailed economic mechanisms. In Civ, I never got over the feeling that my actions actually had little impact.

Similar in SimCity: build all three types of zones, then build whatever services are in demand. There is nothing creative in those games. Intersperse commercial and residential zoning to reduce traffic? Nope. Build a school blocked in by coal power plants? Sure!

Colonization is a great game from a mechanical perspective (aside from the AI bugs, which make it a slog to play today, and the crazy behaviors of the game when you have Ben Franklin). I find it difficult to play today in no small part because of the level of violence done to history. Civilization posits itself as almost a board game, and to me it largely strips itself of the historicity that its setting implies by turning it into overtly "gamey" stuff. Pottery implies Granary. Colonization personalizes a lot...and stuff like the way that native "converts" "flock to your mission in their city" when you attack it with artillery is a significant whitewashing of what anybody playing the game as an adult knows is going on.

I don't think Brian Reynolds had ill intentions by any stretch; you can, of course, be peaceful in Col, and it's probably the best way to play at higher levels (France becomes really advantageous, especially stacking with the Pocahontas bonus). And the way the manual is written clearly indicates that they understood the parts of the historical record that the game leaves out. I have always assumed that there was fear from higher-ups at MicroProse that made them sanitize the game a little. But it mostly makes me wonder what a more honest game, made today, would look like.

I might or might not have half an engine written on this laptop, as it happens...at some point I'd love to sit down and talk to Reynolds about that game. Everyone asks him about Alpha Centauri, but I really want to know about Col!

(Also: while Civ4Col is pretty lame, I think its biggest mods, The Authentic Colonization and Religion and Revolution, take important steps toward a more honest representation of things. They're also really, really fun in ways Civ4Col was not.)

The amazing thing for me about Colonization is that it still runs on relatively recent versions of windows. Just stick the wing.dll file in your system32 directory, and run it.

Does it? I've never tried. I instead use GOG's DOS version, because I really like the DOS version's music when rendered through MIDI.

I wonder if Colonization for Windows fixes the trade route bugs though...

man, why you building power plants you gotta replace every 50 years? Hydro or nothing.

Colonization was great too...

Sc2k you could raise land, build water, then build hydro. It was dumb, but useful.

and even top it off with a water pump!

Although the country is nowadays irrelevant on the international arena, it's always a shame to see represented only four of the five then-big players of the colonization race, missing Portugal.

It's like a game about space exploration missing the USSR, for example...

I'm a long-time Civ player, and I've recently tried the Civ IV Colonization. One match later I installed the 'Religion and Revolution' mod and I'm amazed at how deep a community-made mod takes an already deep game

Since Jimmy Maher's essays on gaming history like this one are so consistently popular on HN, allow me to point out that he has a (criminally under-subscribed, IMHO) Patreon here:


>“Sid had a very clear notion: he was going to make it fun. He didn’t give a damn about anything else; it was going to be fun. He said, ‘I have absolutely no reservation about fiddling with realism or anything, so long as I can make it more fun.'”

This reminds me of Will Wright's answer to the typical deep questions he's frequently asked about the design of SimCity:


>Designing User Interfaces to Simulation Games.

>On the simulation model: ...

>Some muckety-muck architecture magazine was interviewing Will Wright about SimCity, and they asked him a question something like "which ontological urban paridigm most influenced your design of the simulator, the Exo-Hamiltonian Pattern Language Movement, or the Intra-Urban Deconstructionist Sub-Culture Hypothesis?" He replied, "I just kind of optimized for game play."

It's really all about reticulating splines

For anyone who's interested in a detailed look at Sid Meier's history in the game industry from the man himself, I highly recommend this series of interviews from the Designer Notes podcast: https://www.idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/sid-meier-... It's long (4 parts, each of are 1.5 - 2 hours), but worth it. The interviewer is Soren Johnson (one of the lead designers of Civ4) which makes for some great behind-the-scenes stories/insights.

"An extremely rudimentary diplomatic model came in, with geopolitical relations boiled down to make war or make peace, demand tribute or pay tribute."

Actually seems like a pretty accurate description of American diplomacy in 2018. "This week, I shall make peace with North Korea but demand tribute from Canada. Next week, we'll see what happens?"

In some ways I prefer the simplicity of Civ 1 over the current Civ 6.

For example, in Civ 6 establishing trade routes becomes really important, but it's impossible to automate. So EVERY time a trader finishes a route you must MANUALLY select which city to trade with. By endgame you're clicking through a dozen trade routes every turn.

Also, unless you decide to annihilate everyone prepare for NPCs to constantly pester you with stupid requests, like trading your capital for a resource of peaches. And then they can keep repeating the same requests. Why can't I just set my disposition to always automatically deny all incoming requests?

The waging war by religion seems incomplete too, you only have two unit types: apostles and missionaries.

I recommend 6 overall but Civ 1 doesn't overcomplicate it, it's still as great today as it was back then.

> The waging war by religion seems incomplete too, you only have two unit types: apostles and missionaries.

There are actually four or five: missionaries (inexpensive weak offensive unit), apostles (expensive strong offensive unit with random unique bonuses), inquisitors (defensive unit), and gurus (support unit, heals adjacent units). There are also warrior monks, which only one religion may have and, despite being melee units rather than religious units, will spread their religion when defeating another unit in combat.

I'm still a little torn on the religious mechanics in 6, but it's certainly the most involved the series has ever made it, and probably strictly better than 5's implementation. Your points about AI trading are true to home, though there have been a few improvements to trade routes in patches and the recent expansion (by adding a "repeat route" button to the trader menu, and also generally by nerfing trade routes so you generally have fewer of them).

I introduced my girlfriend to Civ 6 after seeing her play a bunch of similarly-veined strategy games on her phone. She was hooked within days so we started a 'hot-seat' campaign via Steamcast and passed the controller back and forth for hours on the couch.

At some point it became clear that my path to victory was an all out religious assault, and effectively all I was doing was micromanaging my missionaries and apostles.

This got old extremely quickly in the hot seat format. I'd kill for an engaging 2 player couch-coop gameplay mode in here that didn't make us hate each other.

> I'm still a little torn on the religious mechanics in 6, but it's certainly the most involved the series has ever made it

I think it is far too complicated for something that is entirely optional. In v6, you either do an early bet of going all-in on religion or you ignore it completely, just keeping in mind that a military intervention might be necessary if someone gets too close to a religious victory.

I'm generally not too fond of the multitude of victory conditions: space player vs religion player vs culture player isn't the most exciting game imho. Imagine a race where all the contestants run off in different directions, towards different goalposts. "It looked like it would become a close finish between the swimmer reaching Dover and the runner arriving at Athens, but then the weather changed and the cyclist got up Mount Ventoux much faster than expected, so he won", that's not how triathlon works.

Civ 3 feels like the right version with the level of detail vs fun.

Civ 2 is better, it's got a bit less detail (i.e. less endless managing of cities...), and got the more aged graphics to boot. Then again, it's already got the the isometric perspective.

Civ 3 was good, I played way too much of that.

The one big improvement of Civ 6 I can attest to is not having to build individual boats/ships for melee units once you have the appropriate skills -- just direct your helicopters to the oceans and they turn into transports.

All good games. But a few simple adjustments would just really relieve a lot of the small annoyances.

Civ 3 was great fun. I actually installed windows to play it when it came out. I remember one game, I was doing well, better than my neighbours, then oil appeared on the map. But not in my terrortry. This required an unprovoked war of expansion into a neighbour, and quickly, to gain control over this critical resource.

Call to power was quite good too - with undersea, space, and future tech.

I think the current sweet spot is Civ5 with the Vox Populi mod that fixes many AI and gameplay oddities of the vanilla version. I hope Civ6 will overtake at some point, but it seems to still have a long way to go before being good enough.

One aspect of the original Civ I always enjoyed was when a country could sometimes split into two. It wasn't in later versions, although I haven't played some of the more recent versions. I know myself too well (Civ games are great time sink).

I can confirm that this hasn't been a feature in any of the modern versions.

This probably doesn't qualify as a modern version, but I occasionally play Civ2 (the original Win32s version, in a 32-bit Windows 7 VM) and the empire splitting happens there as well.

They kind of reintroduced it in the Rise and Fall expansion for Civ VI.

For those here that love Civilization as I do, I recommend checking out Stellaris from Paradox (who make some.other popular strategy games).

Imagine Civilization, but in space, and maybe crossed with the Foundation series by Asimov. It's really really good, and the new patch (2.0) makes it much more enjoyable (in true Civil fashion, where you wait for the mature DLC or big balancing summer patch to really bring the game into its stride).

I haven't tried Stellaris, but I've heard complaints that it suffers from a "don't know how well you're doing" problem, in that you can be many hours into a game before you encounter other aliens and immediately realize that you're so far behind that your eventual defeat is inevitable.

Have you encountered that problem and/or do you know if it has been addressed?

Stellaris suffers from many things. Civ (and all other historically inspired games) draw a lot from the relatable content. If Ghandi threatens Cesar with nuclear weapons, it may be absurd, but we relate to this absurdity in ways that we don't relate to [randomized species A] threatens [randomized species B] with [deadly thing that is supposed to be more deadly than some other deadly things].

Stellaris is trying to be generic (the Stellaris world could be the background for almost any interstellar epic, it's full of little cameo references to every sci-fi classic the authors could think of), where Alpha Centauri went to great lengths filling the canvas, in one specific way.

Yeah it does happen, but that's part of the fun. It's not a 'set up a game, put X hours in and win' situation.

If you do encounter that in a game just do what you'd perhaps do 'in real life': try and be friends with them and not tempt them to anihalate you until you're strong enough to defend yourself. That might mean giving them resources, or not taking stars near their borders. And obviously up your ship building capacity and start investing more resources there.

That's an important point. Stellaris is intended to not be a defined, balanced race from planet to galactic empire, but more a "biography simulator" for a space-faring civilization: you may have older siblings and they will always be older than you. An important conceptual step away from the "Empire" roots that will be much easier to grasp for those who have been exposed to other Paradox titles like CK2 (where a single paythrough might go from count to emperor and back to count again, and then make the jump to a completely different religious group where a similar story unfolds under different rules) or EU4.

But Stellaris fails to pull it off. There are a few sleeping giants which, after learning the hard way, you'll just ignore until you are ready to take them on. When you have mastered those pitfalls (and that isn't hard) you are back to the single-minded race for empire, with no interesting goals for those left behind due to some early blunder which stalled the resource throughput growth rate for a while.

Hm, The best answer as I see it is that the game allows you to set both the size of the galaxy (map) and the number of civilizations in it (competitors). If you are concerned with not seeing competition soon enough, you can always tweak those settings to ensure you do, although I personally have never had that issue.

Great article. My favorite part was learning a new word: grognard!

Makes me sad that I only got into the series at Civ5, which I enjoyed every bit of except for the ultra creepy 3D models of the leaders.... totally unnecessary in this kind of game. Also it's ridiculous to see Gandhi pop up and declare war on you. It was a good example of a typically superfluous feature tacked on to an otherwise decent piece of software.

> Also it's ridiculous to see Gandhi pop up and declare war on you.

Yeah, but it's a staple of the series now. If anything, I think an installment without a warmongering Gandhi would be disappointing!


Thanks for sharing this! Quote from the article:

In the original Civilization, it was because of a bug. Each leader in the game had an “aggression” rating, and Gandhi - to best reflect his real-world persona - was given the lowest score possible, a 1, so low that he’d rarely if ever go out of his way to declare war on someone.

Only, there was a problem. When a player adopted democracy in Civilization, their aggression would be automatically reduced by 2. Code being code, if Gandhi went democratic his aggression wouldn’t go to -1, it looped back around to the ludicrously high figure of 255, making him as aggressive as a civilization could possibly be.

It kinda sucks that nowadays that would be fixed in the next patch and forgotten about as a minor bug in the games history. There was definitely something more artistic about the old software distribution style. Once your creation was given to the world it was able to take on its own life.

I mean, from a gameplay perspective it's absolutely more reasonable for this bug to have been fixed.

That said, the best user experience does not always derive from the perfect game. What the developers have to do is compare the experience for a new user (who knows nothing of Gandhi's warmongering history in the Civilization games) to the experience of someone who is familiar with the series and might even expect such behavior.

They clearly couldn't keep the old rule in place — that Gandhi suddenly gains the highest aggression value possible is unexpected for new players. Instead, they simply made Gandhi have a slightly elevated aggression — something that new players can handle ("Oh, haha, it's funny because it's Gandhi I guess") and something that old players will recognize. It's a good middle ground. (Note that they have kept around Gandhi's elevated aggression in more recent incarnations, though they have reduced its effect somewhat.)

But, again, from a pure gameplay perspective, the bug should have been fixed.

> Note that they have kept around Gandhi's elevated aggression in more recent incarnations, though they have reduced its effect somewhat

Kind-of. Civ 6 makes him sneaky and shitty aggressive rather than just straight-out homicidal. This matches my experiences pretty well: https://kotaku.com/gandhi-is-still-an-asshole-in-civilizatio...

In Civ 6 the Gandhi AI will actually never declare war on you, AFAIK. For the instance where a human player is controlling Gandhi and declares war, he has a unique cutscene where he lampshades the absurdity of the situation. The Gandhi AI does have an uncharacteristically large chance of "randomly" spawning with the agenda that makes him revere nuclear weapons, as a throwback to Civ 1.

I have had Civ 6 Gandhi declare war on me, but only extremely early in the game. Which suggests that, as the Kotaku article indicates, he'll only do so if he won't be warmongering.

I'm in the middle of a game of Civ VI right now. Gandhi will not stay happy with me and he keeps declaring war on me every 40 turns or so. But I just took his capital so let's see if we can get him to knock it off.

When I played the original Civilization, there was a bug with the Trade technology where as soon as I unlocked it, the game froze and was unplayable.

So, I learned to play the game without learning Trade, and instead just destroying my enemies as fast as possible without it.

You could even pretend it was planned functionality instead of a bug!

Here are videos of two GDC 2017 talks about Civilization that I enjoyed:

Classic Game Postmortem: Sid Meier's Civilization (with Civilization creators Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley):


Absolutely No Pressure: Continuing a Successful Game Series with Civilization VI (with Civilization VI lead designer Ed Beach):


As soon as I saw the screenshot from Empire with the unit actions menu ("Fortify", "Wait", "Sentry", "Disband") I was blown away. I had no idea the idea of this combat system was that old!

I'm thinking of trying it out for the first time. Which version is the best? I hear people don't really like the newer versions?

4 and 5 are both superb.

Civ 4 marks the end of the 'old' Civilization games, and honestly I don't think there's much reason to look further back than that if you're just joining the series. It's fully-featured, cheap with all expansions, and offers a great experience.

Civ 5 was the start of the new era, but has been out long enough to get two much-needed expansions. It cleaned up the look and interface of the game substantially, and changed the feel of combat to a more modern TBS approach. I think common consensus is that it's a bit less deep than 4, but plays more smoothly and with more engaging combat.

They're both great, and I don't know that it matters too much which way you go. If anything about either game frustrates you, there will be a mod to change it. You really can't go wrong.

Civ 6 is more controversial - it reworked a lot of the city-building elements really substantially, and I'm not sure it's for the better. It'll probably be a solid game by the time all the expansions are out, but right now it doesn't feel complete and polished the way 4 & 5 do.

Don't get Beyond Earth. Honestly, it's just not worth it - it doesn't have any real merits beyond 5 except "in space!", and it's long on balance and design issues.

Some traditionalists never cottoned to the isometric angled view, and prefer the original overhead style.

I, for one, was sick to death of the dreaded Stack of Doom that Civ IV and earlier had. Civ V was a remarkable breath of fresh air. Square vs hex just isn't a big deal to me.

Civ V's combat is frustrating in a lot of ways, the unit-per-square system makes ranged strength overpowered and takes away all value from numerical superiority.

But I still hugely prefer it to the doomstack approach - wars actually involve doing something now.

Civ Revolution is the "streamlined" version of the game for consoles. It's a good introduction to the series as a whole and a joy to play in shorter sessions. (I haven't tried its followup)

Of the mainline series, 1-4 is a straightforward progression that doesn't rock the boat too much. Civ1 is still fairly easy to get into but has a lot of crude, unbalanced or easily exploitable elements(e.g. the AI has a random chance of building a Wonder of the World every turn instead of having to actually allocate a city's production to the project over many turns like the player). Civ2 has fewer exploits and more polished 90's-era graphics, but now the number of units and cities explodes into a very tedious, micromanagement heavy late game - the degenerate strategy of Civ2 is called "smallpox" because it involves spamming a lot of small cities across the map. Civ3 added a lot of additional balancing and finetuning and graphical flair, and Civ4 does more-or-less the same. I have trouble remembering Civ3 after Civ4, really. But the basic feeling remains consistent: Most Civ strategy is focused around optimizing fine details across your entire empire towards a focused direction, so that you survive now and gradually get ahead of the AI players later. And the late game slows down because a lot more is going on in each turn. It gets hard to keep track of things.

The games after that make more drastic changes. They still feel like Civilization, but with major changes to the cities, board and combat components that differ from the "Empire" model that had been employed since the first game. The ways in which you have to make tradeoffs of "now" versus "later" or the kinds of capabilities to emphasize are more varied. And they have higher system requirements - Civ5 at release was quite heavyweight and buggy, and Civ6 has gone similarly. But these are things that everyone expects will get smoothed out with time. With the newer Civ games, it's more a case of the designs just being different versus being definitely better, with emphasis placed on different things.

You really can't go wrong with any of them, depending on your tolerance for older game engines and older gameplay styles. The newer releases incorporate newer gameplay styles and graphical styles. I love classic CRPGs but I know a lot of people who cut their teeth on Dragon's Age who despise the clunkiness and outdated graphics. To each their own.

Some vocal long-time users of things tend to dislike newer versions of that thing, no matter what it is. Personally I started with Civ 3 until I tried Civ 4, and then it just felt outdated. I liked Civ 4 until I tried Civ 5, and then it felt outdated. I liked Civ 5 until I tried Civ 6, and then it felt outdated.

If you started with Civ 5 or Civ 6, I don't think you'd be missing out or disappointed with anything.

I have played every game in the main series. Civ 1 was amazing, a great breakthrough in gaming history, but from the perspective of 2018 you probably can skip it, as Civ 2 is richer and more polished. Maybe because I'm a bit old (sigh), but for me the favorite is Civ 2, and in particular Civ 2: Test of Time, which is even better than raw Civ 2.

It has the particularity that it has an optional "extended game" where the tech tree goes further into the future. Instead of stopping developing technologies at the present time, you could develop cyborgs, plasma weapons, force shields, and stuff like that. And you could go to Alpha Centauri, where you would find a different map and an alien civilization there. IMHO no game in the series has done the future so well.

As a bonus, Test of Time lets you play the original Civ2 game with improved graphics if you don't like the extension, and it also includes space and fantasy scenarios that are not bad at all.

Why almost no one knows that game? Probably the reason is that it was panned when it came out as it was widely seen as a cash grab. It came out a few years after the regular Civ 2, and it didn't feel good that they were charging the price of a full game for what was essentially an extended remake of the game people had spent their money on previously. But now that we are in 2018, who cares about that. In my view it's the best game in absolute terms.

Civ 3 introduced many new concepts, but some of them didn't worked too well and the playability was not too polished IMO (culture, and absurd lack of basic resources like iron and coal, I'm looking at you). Civ 4 continued the trend of Civ 3 but polished it, nerfing or buffing mechanics that were unbalanced, and it is the game I would rank as the second best of the series if you don't want to play Test of Time.

Civ 5 made some quite radical changes mentioned by other commenters, while it's still great I personally don't find it as fun as the earlier games. And the same goes for 6.

Also, RIP Civ World. Not quite a Civ game, but maybe the best Facebook game I've ever seen. It would have been great if they had bothered to solve the bugs. Some of us still remember you.

As a huge civ fan, I couldn't agree more with this analysis. Civ2 is still my favorite, I wish we could fork it and just enhance/enrich that version. I know freeciv exists, it just isn't quite the same IMHO though

In particular I found it way too easy to get a tech advantage and march across the map in 5.

Definitely a tough question because of people's nostalgia for the older versions.

Civ 4 is the best version of "classic civ", so if you want a modern take on 1, 2, or 3, go with Civ 4.

Civ 5 was dramatically re-developed. Instead of a square grid (4 possible movement directions for a unit) they moved to a hex grid (6 directions!). And they removed unit stacking, so you don't have these army hoards on single tiles that can wipe out everything in their path. They changed a lot and I think it was for the better - a lot of quality of life improvements. It plays much better than 4 while still retaining the classic civ "just one more turn" feeling.

Civ 6 is too much. It's got too many features and too much user interface. It feels like a chore to play some times. The music is better in Civ 6 than 5, but nothing beats Civ 4's Baba Yetu.

On the square grid, you can move in 8 directions, moving diagnoally is pretty important to max your vision in the early game.

The square grid actually gave eight directions of movement, but introduced the problem of diagonal and parallel moves being different distances

Yep, and I think the hexagon is thus quite superior both in logical sense and aesthetically.

4 is the last one voiced by Leonard Nemoy, isn’t it?

The only one voiced by him.

Nimoy did all the vocals on Civ 1

> Nimoy did all the vocals on Civ 1

That's true in the same sense that it's true thst I did all the vocals on Civ 1.

That's a joke, right? Civ 1 is old enough that it shipped on 5 1/4" floppy disks. Or did he help with a remake I'm not aware of?

Huh. I could have sworn he was on III. Maybe I’m misremembering IV stock and with expansions as two different games.

I enjoyed Civ4 most because of the detailed fight stats/info before you attack.

Civ5 brought some significant changes to the gameplay but you are in the great position to make an unbiased choice. I loathe it (playing since the first release does that to you) but I have friends who prefer the new gameplay.

I've been playing since Civ2 ~97-98, and I actually enjoyed Civ5 and 6. I kind of like having new constraints and styles to learn, but I know the change to hexes rubbed a lot of people raw, as well as no more stacks of doom! My only complaint is that it's really easy to lose a day or two in a single session.

I played civ 1, 2, ctp and 3, but didn't realise later cobs would run on my laptop (only time I get to play is when away for work) until very recently, and I got civ 5. Seems great to me, perhaps it's the 15 year hiatus.

The general consensus is that Civ 4 is the series' high point. I prefer Civ 5 myself, though. It set out to streamline the Civ formula, which led to a game a lot of purists thought was too simplified but I found quicker to play and more enjoyable.

It's also worth remembering that Civ games are mostly judged in hindsight.

By the time Civ 5 came out in 2010, most series fans would have been playing fully-expanded Civ 4, with all the rebalancing and new content that entails. Anyone who liked vassal states, Great Persons, corporations, or the complex space and culture victories was going off expansion content.

First-release Civ 5 made some interesting alterations to the series, but had a lot of implementation issues. Unbalanced wonders, AI bugginess, and a late-game slog often made it feel bad regardless of the design choices. BNW-era Civ 5 brought a lot more logic to the tech tree, smoothed out broken features like "one free technology", and made the late game vastly more interesting.

Honestly, I suspect we've only recently gotten to a 'fair' comparison of 4 and 5, with both of them feeling like classics in light of BE and 6.

I have very mixed feelings about Civ 5 after ~200 hours. I started with BNW but it still never felt quite finished – the tech pacing & unit balancing always felt a bit off; the AI, trade, & diplomacy felt unfinished; and multiplayer was a flaming dumpster fire (we had to scrub a game a hundred turns in when it deadlocked, and their support took 3 weeks to say they didn’t support Macs and close the ticket (it was running on Windows)).

There was so much polish in other areas that it was odd that the rough edges were never sanded down. The bad AI & especially diplomacy were one of the most immersion-breaking experiences and unlike some of the other tweaks they haven’t been well solved by community modders.

Excellent point about how they are judged in hindsight.

It's funny seeing Civ V so praised, because it was a decisive game when it was released. The AI bugs you mentioned were occasionally annoying, but overall I loved V - the combat changes alone made the game better then IV, but I always felt like a bit of an outcast when people would rag on the game.

I feel similarly about VI now. I really enjoy the depth added to the city changes and how they cleaned up the UI. I hope it gets a similar hindsight appreciation as V.

>Honestly, I suspect we've only recently gotten to a 'fair' comparison of 4 and 5, with both of them feeling like classics in light of BE and 6.

Let's just pretend BE and 6 never happened.

6 still has time to mature, I think the district system is neat and make you think about the geography of you empire more, but it defenitly needs some tuning. Also they really need to get a handle on the AI.

I always find this so weird -- the tech world is rife with machine learning and AI, but the big game studios can't produce a good single-player opponent even though it's year after year at the top of the wishlist. Note that even smaller studios (like Paradox) and hobbyists (like Vox Populis for Civ5) can outpace the mainline Civ AI experience. It's nothing short of embarrassing for 2K Games.

I've never understood this - it's like they insisted on some bizarre approach to AI creation (a trained neural net or something?) and then flatly refused to add fixes by hand.

I'm not sure how else you explain screwups like "will trade 9 gold now for 1 gold-per-turn over 10 turns". It's like they understood the concept of a loan but got the system backwards.

Or military strength judgements, which are blatantly just running on "number of currently active units". You can be feared for having lots of spearmen in the Industrial Era, but the ability to crank out 10 high-end infantry per turn isn't even present in the assessment.

It's a bizarre and embarrassing weakness for a series most people play in single player. These aren't grand strategic errors, they're "make the number bigger/smaller" errors that random modders handle vastly better than 2K.

>The general consensus is that Civ 4 is the series' high point. I prefer Civ 5 myself, though. It set out to streamline the Civ formula, which led to a game a lot of purists thought was too simplified but I found quicker to play and more enjoyable.

5 is a perfected 4. 4 Will forever be the GOAT because of Leonard Nimoy's narration, but 5 is technically the better game IMO.

Civ II was excellent.

I also liked IV and I and all the newer ones too (I never played III because IV came out before I got my hands on a Mac port of III). The main negative point of the newer versions is how slow turns get toward the end on large maps with lots of civilizations.

For me Civ 2 was peak Civilopedia, and Alpha Centauri was peak content-accompanying-discoveries (with the addition of quotes), but when that style got fed back into Civ 3 it lost something in translation.

I literally did not study for history from grades 6-10 because I had learned 80% of the content by reading Civilopedia entries during gameplay. It's been a huge inspiration later in life as I've thought about educational gaming -- both as a classroom teacher and now as a technologist.

PS - I still quote CEO Nwabudike Morgan and Chairman Sheng-ji Yang on a monthly basis in adult life

> The main negative point of the newer versions is how slow turns get toward the end on large maps with lots of civilizations.

That's not exactly new; it's just if you're playing Civ I or II today, turn processing takes maybe a hundredth of the time it did at the time of release.

Perhaps, but I never played Civ II with less than the largest map and fewer than the most opponents available (even on my LC 575.) Whereas I usually set up games with just one or two opponents most of the time (starting from IV) to keep from getting bogged down in the endgame. (Maybe I just didn't care as much?)

I'm willing to bet you just didn't care as much or just expected it. I played the hell out of Civ II and distinctly remember having to wait for turns to complete as the game progressed.

Eh... I just tried to play a game of Civ VI: Rise and Fall on my Mac and it was bogged down in the BC era with like 2-3 minutes of sitting around between turns.

I need a new computer :D Or maybe just play Civ IV instead.

Alpha Centauri. Still play it from time to time.

I quite like SMAC, but in many ways it's hard to go back to and I don't think I'd recommend it to a newcomer. Civ provides a certain kind of historical grounding--like I said in another post, Pottery implies Granary, which implies better food storage, which implies growth, in a way that Recycling Tanks don't off-the-bat.

I think I'd probably recommend Civ4 or Civ5 as a starting point. Civ4 is the "old school" style, Civ5 is a very boardgamey experience. Colonization, modulo the historical issues I described in my other post, could be a good fit for the more economically-minded.

It's funny, I liked SMAC exactly because it did not have any historical baggage. This allowed it to have more "pure" leaders and historical projects (I can still quote Prokhor Zakharov and Chairman Yang by heart) in a way that regular Civ never could, because historical leaders just can't embody an ideal quite as purely as a fictional character. It also allowed for a "story", even though in hindsight it was pretty thin, which is not really possible in regular civ because we pretty much know how it ends...

Sure. I'm saying, SMAC made much more sense to me after playing a Civ game to which I could draw analogies.

Oddly I could never get into SMAC.

Civ 4 or 5 depending on whether you think "1 unit per tile" is a good idea or not.

Make sure you use the latest community AI mod since the original AI is usually not great (mediocre in Civ4, bad in Civ5 and nonfunctional in Civ6).

There's Freeciv (http://www.freeciv.org/) if you want to try one without spending anything.

Civ2 is pretty fun and not too complex. The very best “Civ” game is probably Alpha Centauri but Civ2 is a good gateway drug.

If you get stuck refer to this: https://lparchive.org/Civilization-2/

> I hear people don't really like the newer versions?

As someone who's been playing since 3, I consider those people tragic victims of nostalgia. :P The newest game, 6, is great and strictly better than 5 (I could make this a very, very long comment explaining why, but I'll spare you), though with one exception: the mod scene on 5 is much more mature, so if you were considering modding the hell out of 5 you could make something that rivals 6. In contrast, it's hard to compare 6 to 4, because they're really such different games (5 was sort of a conceptual break in the series). If you don't mind the dated graphics then 4 is super solid, and I think you can get it on Steam for $20.

For the long game, I like 3, 4, and 6 best. For short games, Civ Revolutions is excellent at capturing the most important points.

Just get the latest one. You'll have fun.

The only game that I can still play non-stop, 20 years later.

I was able to as well, until the iOS version didn't get updated, and is no longer playable on iOS 11.

sadly, Pirates went the same way, as well as getting removed from the App Store.

I have to recommend Vox Populi for Civ5.


Community Patch Project & Community Balance Patch. Still under regular development, a lot of (if not all) base game issues are ironed out. After playing this I couldn't force myself to endure Civ6 and its many flaws.

I'll chime in and say too that this game changed my life. I honestly don't even remember where I got it from. But there were days when I'd wake up around 11am, turn on my 486, start up Civ and then look outside and it was dark.

It was crazy how much play I got out of this game. While I've enjoyed the successors to various degrees none has matched the life-alterigness [tm] of the first Civ.

I sort of found Civ2 & 3 just more... tedious.

Civ4 was huge for me however. In particular a mod called Fall From Heaven 2. I probably played this 20x as much as base Civ4. At least.

Civ5 of course invented the hexagon, which people went nuts for for some reason. I played this some. Likewise I played Civ6 some.

Oh and let's not forget Alpha Centauri, which seemed a little... underdeveloped? I mean it wasn't bad. It was good in fact. It just could've used some fleshing out in the sense of sequels to expand on the concept.

Probably 50% of the CPU time executed on my 386SX was playing Civ. Good times, not good for my study habits though.

While it's a wonder in many ways, the issue with civilization, as with age of empire as it happens, is that it never have been strongly balanced. If you are a game developer and if you want to make money, I believe there is a $1B game in a balanced civilization.

The way Starcraft solved balancing a strategy game is genius. Basically, most unit have the same damage / cost ratio, but they have different orthogonal abilities. Kinda remind me the weapons of Duke3D which none was better than the other, and all useful depending on the circumstances (little known was the fact that the default gun was absolutely deadly at distance).

A propos, there is a longturn Freeciv game starting in two days: http://longturn.org/game/LT43/ 30+ players, one turn per day.

Tangentially, this article reminded me of this great video about politics in video games : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_tdztHiyiE

Civilization is given as a great example of political views influencing a game in the win states it provides : militaristic cultural or economical domination, all very American values. That's a very imperialistic view of the world.

It has certainly changed my perception of this great game (although not as much as it did for Sim City)

When I was an undergrad, I had a roommate who was a metallurgy PhD student.

When I mentioned this to high school friends, too many of them asked: "Wait - so he's involved in cannon technology?"

For those interested in learning more about simulation games and the grognards that play them, I strongly recommend "Playing at the World" by Jon Peterson. It's everything you ever wanted to know about the origins and theory of simulation games, especially D&D, but were afraid to ask.

Jimmy Maher's thoughts about "experientialist" games (linked in TFA) definitely echo Peterson. Worth a read for anyone interested in games.

Tangentially, the article mentions Global Conquest [1] as another "all-encompassing" strategy game that came out around the same period as Civilization.

I have good nostalgic memories of Global Conquest, and every so often wish to replay it again. It is indeed much more limited in scope than Civ, focusing on the purely military aspect, but like Civ (and Empire before it) had the notion of cities producing units and forming the economic backbone of your faction.

Its twist was the random events that would come up every 5 turns, applying effects for the next 5 turns, like Battle Fatigue (units wouldn't regen) or my favorite: Solar Flares, that would make the interface glitch and sometimes ignore clicks.

I spent a great many hours playing multiplayer hotseat with Global Conquest.

I wonder if anyone's re-implemented it as a web-game since...

Edit: here's one DosBox/emscripten online playable version: https://classicreload.com/global-conquest.html

[1] http://www.mobygames.com/game/global-conquest

This was a really enjoyable read. The "aimlessness" of SimCity series resonates with me, and while I loved the game, when my arcologies shot off into space I felt a certain empty sadness. Its great to see talented designers addressing this in their games.

I remember spending many hours playing Civilization. I wish someone like GOG would pick it up and package it for modern systems.

Related, and quite an interesting perspective: https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2018/03/15/all-rise-and-no-...

Does anyone know why the original Civilization (or CivNet) and Civilization 2 aren't avaliable to buy digitally?

Had the Amiga version of Civilization - I was absolutely hooked immediately. A little later on I got into CivNet on Windows 3.1 (Trumpet Winsock and SLIP!), and eventually Civ2 (the pinnacle of the series).

I haven't really liked the latter games in the series. It just seems like something is missing :/

I started playing the original Civilization (floppy disk version) back in middle school. Gradually went on to play other versions that came out later (including the Alpha Centauri version). I consider it one of the best strategy and overall enjoyable game I've ever played.

The best thing about Civ, that player already has all the concepts from studying history.

You've reversed cause and effect there :-)

Civilization and Orion 2 - childhood gaming life secured. I still buy, play and enjoy the sequals whenever they are released. I actually had a few good hours of Master of Orion just now this evening. <3

Am I the only obsessive-compulsive weirdo who would do stuff like this? https://imgur.com/a/ZDzzi

Amazing history. I had no idea about the relation to Avalon Hill or the gentleman's agreement between the two CEOs. Anyone knows where can I read more about it?

I thought it was based on a board game?

I like it because you run your own nation and see if you can do better.

The end of the article touches on the computer game’s complicated relationship to the board game.

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