The 3-way division of the world into "super-continents" and the constant war keeping the populace in a perpetual state of starvation and poverty, with the entire world in disrepair is so incredibly reminiscent of Orwell's 1984 it's scary.
If you haven't read 1984, it's a startlingly bleak view of a potential future (from a historical perspective, but still applicable today, I think) particularly through technology and a loss of privacy. It's the origin of terms like "big brother" and "doublethink" -- worth a read.
One of the most interesting excerpts from this piece IMO: "I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war... ...Anyway, I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire."
Although I don't necessarily think it will be because of war, I can see a potential future where people/persons decide democracy is a less effective system because it's holding back the decision making process -- democratic process being (more or less) committee-based decision making, which proxies votes through individuals based on what is essentially a popularity contest. That's particularly true here in Australia at the moment (amidst a minority government with a lot of political sniping on both sides and seemingly very little real progress) despite the fact that we have a comparatively strong economy, low inflation, low unemployment and generally nothing really significant (again, comparatively) to complain about.
>> democracy is a less effective system because it's holding back the decision making process... seemingly very little real progress... we have... generally nothing really significant ... to complain about.
This mystifies me: people sometimes talk about legislative gridlock as though it's all bad.
Do you measure the quality of a development team by the number of lines of code they produce? Of course not. The development team does not exist to produce code; it exists to produce and maintain the best possible codebase. Refraining from writing bad code is just as important as writing good code.
You just said your country has very little to complain about. What makes you think that a "productive" legislature would make things better and not worse?
I much prefer a system where any law needs broad consensus and relatively few are passed. Dumb as I often think the U.S. government is, at the end of the day, we have police, roads, schools, etc. Not perfect, but good enough that I can live my life in peace.
Of course, a dictatorship would be extremely efficient: the leader snaps his/her fingers and things happen. The question is: efficient at what?
One of the reasons the US has a divided Congress is to induce gridlock. This was a design goal.
Remember, government is other people making rules for you. The more efficient they are at changing the rules, the riskier it is for you to do just about anything. The more efficient they are at changing the rules, the more likely they'll take an extreme position on a contentious subject.
But this is why a two-party system can be a liability. You artificially create an us-vs-them scenario, with the other side as the enemy, and any agreement with them on the issues is capitulation.
As a result, you end up with a scenario in which there is always one side with a majority, who are capable of doing whatever they like, and one side with a minority, who are left to scrabble for democratic scraps, pushing bills with little impact to feel as though they've accomplished something. The few bills that do pass with bipartisan support are usually so pointless or watered-down that there's little benefit to having them at all, or it's an issue important to the country as a whole (or, more specifically, their political careers), and so it's put through without appropriate debate or consideration.
With a three-or-more-party system (e.g. parliamentary democracies, such as the UK or Canada), you can end up with a result where even the 'ruling' party doesn't have a majority. This means that when they want to pass a bill, it has to be a situation where they can get the support of at least one of the other parties. While this still requires the same sort of give-and-take as a two-party system, it provides more options for bargaining. You won't approve my 'environmental impact' bill unless I approve your 'limiting access to abortion' bill? Well screw that, the other party just wants me to endorse their 'stiffer penalties for labour law violations' bill.
This seems to me to be a more efficient solution, and I've never understood why the two-party solution was the choice made for the US.
There was never an intentional move to create a "two-party" system. That's an accidental byproduct of the winner-take-all system, which tends to reduce the number of parties. But we've definitely had some time periods where there have been 3 or 4 viable parties.
But that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the divide between the Senate (2 senators per state) and the House of Representatives (based on population), and the inclusion of techniques like the filibuster. It's harder for one party to get a majority in both House and Senate than it would be to just get a majority in a single parliament. It's even harder to get supermajorities in both. It's even harder to also get a friendly president at the same time as all of those other things. This means that there's almost never a time when one party can just ram through its whole agenda. There's almost always gridlock.
From what I've seen of single-house multi-party systems (like parliamentary democracies) there's a lot more compromise, which is a good thing, but there's also a lot less gridlock, and that's a bad thing.
It's actually a good thing that successful bills tend to be either issues the vast majority of the country agrees on, or else very watered down.
I take your point, in part, and I don't necessarily disagree with you, because by and large the system does work. But (to use your analogy) when it comes to the law-making branch of government we have this massive sprawling "codebase" and it doesn't necessarily need a lot of new code (laws) putting in place, but rather, there's a lot of cruft and old legacy stuff that maybe needs to be removed or updated, and the time it takes to get things done is just incredibly slow, which can lead to a lot of frustration for a lot of people. While on the whole that may not actually be such a bad thing, as you rightly point out ("...law needs broad consensus and relatively few are passed...") it strikes me that the attitudes of many people (even myself, on occasion) are strikingly similar to the OP's in the excerpt I highlighted wherein due to a perceived inefficiency of government (rightly or wrongly) we may come to the conclusion that the best course of action is to abandon the democratic process in favor of something which addresses these inefficiencies...which in itself leads to...well...that's the scary part... I suppose. In a game of Civilization it's not a big deal. In reality...
My only real problem with the representative system of democracy generally, is the way we have to proxy our voting authority through our political leaders. It just seems archaic and ludicrous for a region of people (sometimes many hundreds of thousands of people) to have to boil down their political ideologies to a single "best fit" candidate. Even ignoring the potential for corruption, personal motivations, hidden biases etc. you've simplified thousands of separate beliefs on an equal number of issues, social, economic, all, into ONE PERSONS' beliefs and worst of all...that person then has a legitimate claim to believe that they're representing the people.
I suppose it's the difference between a politician believing that they're a "representation" of the people of the electorate, OR a "representative" of those voters. I think most politicians consider themselves the former, and I think that's a mistake.
But it's even worse than that. Because it is seemingly unfeasible for the legislative body to write the specifics into laws, they create unelected bureaucracies to implement the specifics of broad reaching policy goals.
I've read these types of posts hundreds of times, and they never seem truthful, but here is mine:
I just want to say thank you for that image. I would like to hear your thoughts on your note, why do you find the message is debatable, and if you know where the image is from? It says the text is from "Amusing Ourselves to Death" which has just made it to #1 on my to-read list.
I found the apt summary of Huxley's points (plus the jarring images) resonated strongly with my current views on my life, which prompted me to really do some self-reflecting and organize myself. In addition, it vibes very strongly with the "create, not consume" mantra found here on HN.
I'm sorry but I don't know the original source of the image, it is one of those which just circulate on the internet. It has a web address at the bottom though, maybe it would give hints of its origin.
I feel that that image dismisses Orwells vision too easily, and attempts to make the situation seem more black&white than it actually is. As iuguy noted, the real world seems to be a blend of both, a viewpoint that the image ignores.
I really agree with your point. It reminds me of an article written by The Atlantic some time ago with the provocative title "Is Google making us dumber?". It talked about how easy it is to find information using Google, but albeit that we're being bombarded by so much information that nothing really sticks. Sometimes I find myself spending hours and hours on Wikipedia and articles on the web that seem to only leave a faint impression in my mind.
The "create, not consume" mantra seems like a good way out of this endless cycle of "Amusing Ourselves to Death".
As long as we're throwing out reading recommendations, if you're into the dystopian-future sci-fi genre I'll point out C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength as an early prototype of that genre. It documents the fall of a nation into dystopia, specifically; George Orwell himself was fascinated by this, as evidenced by the book review he published. (However, his praise was qualified, it was apparently a bit too much C. S. Lewis for his style in the end. He went on to address the very objections he raised when he wrote 1984 not too very long afterward.)
It's the end of a trilogy but you can operate it as a standalone book (and if you must start with the other books, Out of the Silent Planet is a cute little homage, but don't let the dense and somewhat-dull Christian allegory in Perelandra get you down and make you skip Hideous.)
I haven't read anything in this thread yet, but my eye caught 1984 and wanted to second your recommendation. Brave New World is without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read. Hard to believe it was written 80 years ago.
> populace in a perpetual state of starvation and poverty, with the entire world in disrepair
This is quite different from my experience. In most of my Civ II games, I produce hordes of engineers, which I use to terraform the hell out of the planet--getting railroads everywhere, irrigation and farmland on all plains and grassland, mining on all hills, turning mountains into hills and swamp and jungle into forest, and eventually turning plains and forest into grassland and hills. (Only terrain with special resources doesn't get leveled like this.) I'd probably have 30-80 engineers at some point, depending on how big the game was. Anyway, with this cleanup crew, even if the ice caps melted or whatever the exact event is (which I think changes maybe about 1 out of every 10 squares), all of the new swamp or whatever wouldn't last more than a couple of turns.
Also, what causes the global warming events is mainly pollution: terrain squares containing pollution. That takes two engineer-turns to clean up per square. I would probably be able to nuke two cities and clean up all the pollution and rebuild the terrain (a nuke generally damages and pollutes the 8 squares around its target) in one turn. Srsly, why does he have any non-terraformed squares at all, let alone pollution?
The obvious--and probably only--answer would be "war -> engineers keep getting killed -> can't maintain and use such a cleanup crew". But even then... SDI Defense defends against missile attacks within three squares of a city, I believe. He mentions spies planting nuclear devices in cities. However, you could simply put units in the 8 squares around the city you want to protect [generally try to do this with all your cities, starting somewhere and expanding outward]. A unit by itself can be bribed by an enemy spy (unless you're a Democracy--oh man), but two or more units stacked are invulnerable to spies, even if those units are not combat capable (spies, for example). Then your only problem might be enemy conventional arms. Assuming this is a problem: Use your engineers, build fortresses in each of those 8 squares, and put veteran mechanized infantry there (6 base defense x 2 from fortress). Now you'll have equal odds against the most powerful ground unit, the veteran howitzer (base attack 12) (computers tend to use tanks, though, which have 10 attack). The last problem is stealth bombers, air units with 14 attack; but I think that if you have (stealth) fighters in the city, they will "scramble" to defend against bombers even in neighboring squares. And if not, then you can still at least retaliate next turn and kill the bombers, and not fall behind in a war of attrition (assuming they don't take the city that turn).
Oh, cheapo strategy as well: Have a (stealth) bomber end its turn in a ground square. No enemy ground units--or sea, or bombers or missiles, for that matter--will be able to attack that square. They will only be able to attack with (stealth) fighters, which have 8 attack; if you also have serious ground defense units in that square [or on a sea square, have AEGIS cruisers, with 8 defense x 2 vs air], and if that square also is foresty/swampy or hilly, or has a fortress like I've been saying you should make, then that square is basically impregnable without much attrition on the enemy's part.
Anyway: defend yourself; make your cities prosperous; accumulate capital (engineers are capital, and so are thoroughly improved cities surrounded by thoroughly terraformed terrain), out-produce your enemy, and don't lose the fruits of your production faster than they do. Eventually you should have a large surplus that you can spend on advancing in their direction. If there is a large no-man's-land between your cities and theirs, you should build little cities in this no-man's-land so you can put SDI Defenses inside them and extend your absolutely-defended area outward (rather like the Zerg creep). If nuking really is a problem, then you might just keep building cities within 3 squares of each other--or 2 squares so that you can put out SDI-guarded unit stacks to block spies. If the crowding bothers you, you can force intermediate cities to disband by buying engineers and stuff.
Eventually you should have almost a direct railroad connection to them, and at the front, fortresses on hills (or at least forest) within 3 squares of an SDI-Defended city, full of mechanized infantry that serve as "rocks for them to crash the waves of their attack against". They'll waste resources on trying to kill your units, and you should be mostly able to do what you like. Then either stack up a bunch of howitzers and kill all their defenses (at least in that city, possibly in others) in one turn, or, if you like, use spies to plant nukes and then capture the cities. When you take a city... If you expect them to nuke you and retake it, then, hmm, I dunno; can they really produce nukes and military units that quickly for long? If they have SDI Defenses, try to take the city with them intact (bribing the city is good if possible); if they don't, then I suppose it doesn't hurt to just nuke them. Or ignore them and keep on with the Zerg creep, perhaps treating "capturing their city" and "building a city in that location" as equivalent.
Speaking of which, in Civ II, democracy has the following bad things when it comes to war: a) every unit costs a production shield to support (in monarchy and communism, this is "every unit after the first 3", and in fundamentalism, "every unit after the first 10"); b) as mentioned, your Senate will probably stop you from declaring war or refusing cease fires or peace treaties; and c) every military unit that ends its turn not in a city, or in a fortress within 3 squares of a city, causes 2 unhappiness in its home city that turn. Thus, a democracy is slightly worse off support-wise for a defensive war, and is significantly worse off for an offensive war. (But note that my above strategy can be done without causing any unhappiness at all.)
Democracy is the best government in Civ II for production and prosperity. I believe you get an extra trade unit on every square that produces trade; this translates to large amounts of science research and/or cash. Some of it must be spent on luxuries to prevent civil disorder, but it's usually still a large net benefit.
Btw, one annoying thing when nevertheless conducting an offensive war as a democracy: If you take a city, then enemy partisan units appear around the city, and when your active unit next encounters an enemy unit, they will talk to you, and they will offer a cease fire, and you will be forced to accept it, even if you wanted to continue attacking and maybe take some more cities. This problem can be somewhat mitigated by delaying the capture of a city until you've done all the other attacking you want to do that turn; also, if you are in a position to do a thing like this, you can:
Destroy all defending units in two or more cities. Before capturing a city, surround it--at least put units in the 8 adjacent squares, and ideally units in the full "city radius" of 20 squares. Then, when you take the city, no enemy partisan units will appear, and you will not be forced to listen to the enemy. You can then move up to another empty city and capture that as well (no enemy units, no contact with the enemy); if you have a bunch of maneuverable units (like spies or mech. inf.) and there are roads and mostly railroads everywhere, then you can even use the same 20 units for several enemy cities if you like. Of course, if you can do this, you probably won't have difficulty winning the game in any case.
I'm not really interested in how he could have handled things to have a better outcome... What I do find extremely interesting is that he's in a particular situation that he can't get out of that's just a horrible cycle of death and destruction. And it seems to draw some eery parallels with real life.
The issue the parent points out is that the situation that the game player has worked himself in is most likely artificial. It's really, really easy to keep your land squeaky clean and productive in Civ 2. If you've played to year 4000 and haven't won yet and your land is trashed, it's because you wanted things to turn out that way.
I think it was excellent design that democracy is sub-optimal for defensive war and terrible for offensive war. You wouldn't want the choice best economy with no drawbacks. Otherwise, democracy would be the dominant strategy.
"Although I don't necessarily think it will be because of war, I can see a potential future where people/persons decide democracy is a less effective system"
Its probably worth pointing out just how unlikely it is that it would be because of war. The democratic peace is probably the closest thing to a universal law of international relations that we have. So if democracy does have drawbacks in terms of speed of decision making, it has more than its share of upside too.
Eh. The democratic peace theory really just relies on a perpetual no-true-Scotsman approach. Either something's not really a democracy or not really a war.
Native American tribes? Well, they had democratic societies, but they're very different from the liberal state that has come to predominate in contemporary times. Franco-Prussian conflict? Prussia's legislatures were dominated by a rich hereditary landowning class. American Civil War? Well, civil wars don't count, and the franchise wasn't universal. World War I? Well, Germany might have had elections and might have had a wider effective franchise than many parts of the USA, but it was a bad guy, so it doesn't count. Various conflicts fostered by the Western liberal democracies (Iran, Chile, etc.)? Well, those were coups and not really wars.
What "democratic peace" really seems to mean is "countries that are under the umbrella of the United States and have highly developed economies don't go to war against each other." Give it 20 years time, and when the newly elected government of China gets into a shooting war with the government of the United States over some stupid shit (poll driven aggression in the strait?) we'll go back to arguing that China isn't a real democracy because it had only had one or two national elections, or the United States isn't a real democracy because all its state apparatus and elections are controlled by an unelected elite.
countries that are under the umbrella of the United States and have highly developed economies don't go to war against each other
Except in the case of the Falklands War. And the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor (Iraq was a US ally at the time). And the Turkish/Greek air battles over the Aegean Sea (eg, Turkish & Greek F-16's dogfighting and crashing into each other in 2006: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek%E2%80%93Turkish_relations...).
The early Romans had some good success with temporary emergency dictatorships to cut through the deadlock in times of emergency. This didn't really stop working for them till they faced the threat of Hannibal, and appointed Fabius Maximus who spent a few years studiously avoiding direct conflict with Hannibal, and the Senate got impatient and wrested back control.
I too noticed the 1984 similarities. One difference is that the world of this Civ II game is the utopia state for the inner party of 1984-- perpetual war that only happens at the borders and doesn't really risk the existence of the 3 superpowers. Such a war keeps the people from acquiring wealth and leisure and justifies a totalitarian government.
> Although I don't necessarily think it will be because of war, I can see a potential future where people/persons decide democracy is a less effective system because it's holding back the decision making process
If anything technology offered just as many avenues for people to escape a totalitarian world as to succumb to it.
With regards to this guy's game, it probably brings reminders of all the silliness with regards to Civilization game. From melting icecaps to near constant nuclear war its a sign of an AI that that too easily bounces from one extreme to another.
> From melting icecaps to near constant nuclear war its a sign of an AI that that too easily bounces from one extreme to another.
Strategy games put the player in the role of the fascist dictator. Your goal is to further your own nation at the expense of everything else. In reality, groups of people have different incentives and act quite a bit differently.
Fascinating, and wonderful to see others are out there who are weird like me, and who will actually attempt to extend Civilization games over extremely long periods. I have a Civ4 game that I've been playing for about 4 straight years now, and admittedly the file has gotten so big that it periodically taxes my system resources to their limits (Unfortunately, Civ4 suffers from poor memory management and is fairly leaky. Especially w/ mods).
The problem with Civ4 is that the AI is so hyper-aggressive that long-term stability is all but impossible, unless I become a dominant superpower and take on the role of "world police," intervening in every war of aggression on the side of the underdog. But after awhile, there's really no fun in that. So I have tried to cultivate a game in which a few superpowers are at least my equals, if not my superiors. Since I'm always going to war to defend whoever's about to get wiped out, unfortunately, I'm switching sides constantly, and diplomacy is basically out of the question. (None of the AI players will even return my calls, so to speak. We've all nuked each other so many times over that we won't even speak to each other now).
The other problem is that the AI fights total wars by default. It will never engage in a limited conflict. No, when it declares war, it won't cease until either it's beaten or it totally annihilates its enemy. It's like a Terminator. It becomes quickly apparent that the Nash Equilibrium in a game of Civ4 is one nation standing, while all others have ceased to exist. The game drives ineluctably toward this conclusion, unless the human player puts aside his own nation's interests in pursuit of global stability and game longevity. (And, ironically, being the sole force for stability renders him a political pariah among all the other nations). It's sort of like trying to play one sport, when all the other players in the game have been programmed to play another.
Sometimes I wish the AI were more sophisticated, and/or that it could be incentivized to prefer economic growth and interests over nonstop warmaking. Or that one possible victory condition in a game of Civilization would be to maximize a global human development index of some kind (i.e., "Global Victory," instead of just one nation's domination of all others by X or Y measure, or else its complete extirpation of all other peoples on the planet). I realize that's not the game that 99.99% of Civ players want to play, but it's refreshing to hear that I'm not the only one.
>The other problem is that the AI fights total wars by default. It will never engage in a limited conflict.
This is why I don't play civ. Total war AIs are a bizarre choice in a strategy game. I dislike it when games are setup in a way where I'm the only one thinking strategy and the AI opponents are there to give me a sense of action. Total war in the real world is rare.
>Or that one possibly victory condition in a game of Civilization would be to maximize a global human development index of some kind
When I was a kid I played a strategy game on the original Mac. I think it was called Balance of Power. The game punished you when war broke out. It didn't encourage it. The game ended if you and the Soviets got into a nuclear conflict. Why can't more games have rational goals instead of just being a more advanced form of Pacman?
"This is why I don't play civ. Total war AIs are a bizarre choice in a strategy game. I dislike it when games are setup in a way where I'm the only one thinking strategy and the AI opponents are there to give me a sense of action. Total war in the real world is rare."
Agreed 100%. To me, it seems silly -- not to mention cynical and fatalistic -- that the sole purpose of diplomacy in Civilization games is to add a strategic dimension to warmaking. That's what it is. The game is basically in a constant state of war, and peace only exists if something is going wrong: i.e., the powers are (momentarily) too evenly balanced to attack one another, or someone's just biding time to sneak-attack someone else, or everyone's spending a few years recovering from World War XXIV before gearing up for World War XXV.
That said, Civlization can still be an immensely fun and rewarding game. It's not the game I want it to be, but I enjoy trying to squeeze every last ounce of emergent gameplay from it.
"Why can't more games have rational goals instead of just being a more advanced form of Pacman?"
I suspect because there just isn't a big enough market for games of that nature. Maybe there is a handful of us out there. Maybe a relatively small handful, but one that's willing to pay a fair amount for a really great, truly strategic global power game. I dunno. Maybe it's worth organizing, or Kickstarting, or what have you. If any game devs out there are reading this and are interested, know that there's a niche crossing its fingers for you.
> I suspect because there just isn't a big enough market for games
> of that nature. Maybe there is a handful of us out there. Maybe a
> relatively small handful, but one that's willing to pay a fair
> amount for a really great, truly strategic global power game. I
> dunno. Maybe it's worth organizing, or Kickstarting, or what have
> you. If any game devs out there are reading this and are
> interested, know that there's a niche crossing its fingers for
I'm actually working on an in-browser MMO strategy game set in space that will try to balance around long run[a] strategy and diplomacy instead of just constantly-at-war deathmatches. Of course, relying on humans rather than AI does help.
I suspect that the market is bigger than the big publishers are willing to take a risk on, especially if it was written to be run within browsers (including mobile browsers) and was fun to play.
I have considered Kickstarter, but it seems like most Kickstarter game projects fail unless they go viral first so there's definitely a major risk[b] in going public too early.
[a] One way to make the games last a long time (perhaps indefinitely) is to make it a slow-playing game, such as using Civilization-style simultaneous turns that refresh by default once a day. This would also put more focus on forming alliances, socializing, and making strategies. Of course, the issue with this is that there would be a massive surge of traffic on the servers during turn refresh times.
[b] The main risk of Kickstarter is the uncertainty in receiving funds. I could underestimate costs on purpose and have a decent chance of being funded, but with an insufficient amount, or I could provide the "real" amount and have a very high chance of getting no money at all, even though a little bit would go a long way. Neither outcome seems ideal, especially when people would assume that "funded" means that the game is ready to be released given a certain amount of time.
You mean something like Planetarion or Orion's Belt?
To be clear, your phrasing seems to present this as a novel approach, though it is not. Regardless, it's all about the particular game design that makes or breaks a game so I wish you success, it just struck me that maybe you were not aware of this fairly large genre based on how your text sounded.
> To be clear, your phrasing seems to present this as a novel
> approach, though it is not.
Obviously, the idea of a strategy game[a] in a browser is as old as web browsers themselves. I even played a few in the mid-2000s.[b] There's lots of them, written in PHP, and with a fairly static experience.[c] There's a reason, though, that when asked for my inspirations, I'll name desktop games like Civilization II rather than browser games.
The novel thing isn't the idea, it's the opportunity that HTML 5 gives for the execution of the idea. I'm not original. I'm just lucky enough to be at the right place and the right time. My particular execution of the ultimately older-than-computers idea is possible only because of <canvas>.[d]
Digital portable media players existed as far back as 1979 and MP3 players go back to about 1997, but the iPod didn't take off until 2005. It's possible to have the right idea, but years too early and with poor execution.[e]
[a] Don't just limit it to space. There's plenty of non-space ones, too! There's usually not that big of a difference in how a browser game is played based on the setting.
[b] My observation in footnote a of my previous post that a once-a-day refresh would stress the server is something I experienced in one of the games I played.
[c] Many of them are better than anything Zynga has written, though.
[e] The poor execution is often due to being years (or decades) too early.
I hope we've come at least a bit further since the renaissance. Diplomacy doesn't have to be a zero-sum game - indeed it rarely is in the real world. War, on the other hand, is very much that. So in that respect, war is the failure of diplomacy, not the continuation of it.
That's still possible in a negative sum game; all negative sum means is that the sum of the benefits to all parties is less than the sum of the costs to all parties. So if say the US hoses the Mexicans but good it can still come out ahead as long as the Mexicans go down hard.
In Civ 4 the different leaders have personality. Ghandi is peaceful and will never backstab a weak player, Montezuma is batshit insane and lusts for blood, Isabella from Spain is a religious fanatic, Mansa Musa will quickly forget past wars and is happy to make peace to trade techs. A player can also befriend and ally a KI and win jointly.
There is a Google Tech Talk from the formet Civ lead programmer about this "Fun AI". In Civ 4 the Vanilla AI doesnt focus that much on winning. ManyAI Mods implement a more total War style and brutal min-max-gaming with huge armies to challenge experienced players. Also Civ 5 abandoned the Civ 4 style of diplomacy and replaced it with "hidden box" and a "Hard AI" which plays to win. It was at release date a huge disappointment of many veteran Civ players.
Fate of the World (http://fateoftheworld.net/) is an interesting indie strategy game. You play as a world organization and your goal in the main scenario is to prevent global warming. The problem is, as interesting as the theme is, the base game had serious issues with balance and simply understanding cause and effect, so it was difficult and not always fun (kind of like trying to solve global warming in real life! :)) I still suggest that everyone looking for an interesting take on 4x strategy games check it out.
In general board games tend to have much more varied themes and goals than video games, and often have limited direct conflict between players or none at all.
Paradox Games (www.paradoxplaza.com) are supposed to be historically accurate, if your main concern is realism. In practice they don't always achieve this goal but they do a better job at it than Civ.
In the board game Twilight Struggle, a game about the Cold War (& #1 on boardgamegeek.com), you lose if you escalate matters to defcon 1 and cause a nuclear war. A big part of the strategy, though, is knowing how to cause your opponent to inadvertently trigger defcon 1 (http://twilightstrategy.com/2011/12/12/general-strategy-defc...).
This is why the master of orion 1 AI fascinates me, especially considering how old it is. Usually, it doesn't even care to declare war. it might just expand straight through you. It might declare war for exactly 3 systems and stop. It might go on a total war. It might just start shooting your ships without even being in an actual war. It's just weird how different it feels from many modern AIs.
I recently started playing Civ V, and was surprised at how the AI approached the first war I had started against me: the AI made a really lucrative offer in exchange for right of passage through my territory, then moved a bunch of units in and declared war on me. After losing the initial wave of units and the second invading wave without any territory changing hands, the AI asked for a cease-fire. When I declined, the AI came back in a few turns and sued for peace, offering me most of his treasury and a few other perks to get me to agree to the cease-fire. I wasn't too impressed by the initial decision to take me on, but the rest of the process seemed quite a bit more complex than anything from previous Civ games.
I'm in a game of Civ V now and experienced the exact same thing you described.
Playing as India and going for a few big cities and a mass cultural strategy, but I keep getting dragged into a war with the civ to the south. Keeps backstabbing me, attacking, losing most of his units, giving me the bank for peace and 5 turns later repeating the whole thing.
Problem is, I just can't support a military large enough to defeat the civ outright - so I'm now just building a line of forts along my border and leaving my army there. Waste of money, but I have no other choice.
Frustrating, but I appreciate that I'm being forced into do something I don't want to do rather then blindly following my preferred strategy to an easy victory.
Fun fact: The original Civilization actually had it hardcoded into the AI that if the player was in the lead when the year 1900 was reached, all the AI would declare war on her.
It's slightly less obvious in the later games, but there are definitely still diplomatic penalties for the human player such that the AI are less likely to make deals with them and more likely to declare war.
Anyone interested should read Soren Johnson's blog (http://www.designer-notes.com/). Soren was lead game designer and AI programmer on Civilization IV, and he actually designed the ruleset and the AI hand-in-hand, so that they would have a game the AI could actually play well.
"I don't know Civ4's AI routines, but it might be such that after a certain year passes, it decides that the only way to stop the human player is total war. Before that it can be less aggressive."
What seems more likely, at least in my experience, is that the AI is always trying to pursue a single goal: beating everyone else. It will select whatever means it deems possible at any point in time. It will make calculations, each turn, about the relative strength of its military versus the strength of its intended target, or else the combined strength of its allies' militaries against the strength of an opposing alliance's militaries. That's about it. It's always looking for an excuse to attack somebody. The only thing that holds it back is any sort of power imbalance sufficiently not in its favor.
There are some AI "personalities" and leader traits in the game that will favor more aggressive styles than others. But generally speaking, a more aggressive AI personality is simply an AI personality that has a lower threshold for declaring war. It will go to war with slightly riskier odds than a less aggressive personality will. But they'll all go to total war if the odds are sufficiently stacked in their favor. The "aggressive" trait is really just a sliding scale of risk tolerance.
Gandhi and some other like Abraham Lincoln wont ever declare war if they are pleased. For all other leaders you have to go to the "friendly" relationship status. The exception is Catherine the Great of Russia. That bitch is the only one who can be bribed into war even if she is friendly with the victim.
There is lore that Gandhi's nuke-trigger-happy code was fat-fingered from 1 to 12. And so he will always nuke if he can. It started as error, grew into joke, became accepted as tradition, and became expected in all the sequels.
To be clear, this is a guy that has been playing a single game of Civ II for 10 years. When I first saw this I thought, isn't Civ II older than 10 years? (came out in 1996)
I love Civ and still go back and play Civ II at times. I spent a lot of time with Civ III and IV as well (and a little with V), but it's nice to go back to my first experience with the genre (Civ 1 was before my time, sadly).
For those who are revisiting Civilization II after so many years (or playing it for the very first time), remember to visit this page of bugs, fixes and workarounds for getting it working on modern operating systems: http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Civilization_II - if you discover a new fix, please add it in (no account required).
This was interesting as a simulation cum case study, but rather miserable as far as gaming goes.
There is no way a game of Civ II isn't eminently beatable - militarily or otherwise.
For one thing, there's no excuse to not operate as a Fundamentalism (0 population unrest) late game. Virtually all other forms of government, particularly Democracy, are an annoying cavalcade of civil unrest late game.
I enjoyed the read. It really brought me back in time to playing this game with fervent addiction in middle school.
>>> "There is technically no way to tell. The game officially ended years ago and I've had to transfer the save file from computer to computer over the years. Computers that don't have the original hall of fame to reference. That said, I usually played on Prince or King. As I recall, anything beyond that was virtually unplayable in Civ II."
I think he probably kept it going even after achieving victory, as a sort of weird experiment that got weirder the longer he went on with it. I can't really imagine being that singleminded/obsessive with respect to a single savegame, but I applaud him for it.
>>> What happened to the space race? Did you ever get that far?
>>> "Yes. But I didn't participate. When I play civ I usually go for the Diplomatic victory. I did complete it at some point. Probably before the war. But the game was already officially won."
read through the thread; it's anything but easy. he's hit the point where the ai civs have decided nuclear war is the way to go, and he's reaping the global penalties for it (radioactive wastelands, global warming) while simultaneously having to divert all his resources to maintaining the red queen race of building tanks and having them destroyed rather than cleaning up his farmlands to grow food.
so did i, but i pretty much always eliminated everyone else early on, or went for the alpha centauri victory. never tried playing out the total war scenario with balanced empires and nuclear weapons. but from the op, the problem is not winning from a clean state, it's that he's gotten himself into a bad situation and needs to get out.
Is it possible to run a completely automated Civ game (all players computer players)? Should be a quicker way to simulate the future. Perhaps the AI could learn "War Games" style that nuclear war is not the way to go...
Or maybe it would be a depressing result if the AIs would not nuke around without a human in the mix?
I remember trying this when I was younger (with the Cheat menu). The primary issue is that while it is quicker, it is difficult to figure out the details of what is happening in the game when there is no pause at the beginning of your turn. Since the AI "personalities" of the different computer players cause some of them to be more aggressive than others, all of the games I tried to simulate in this way ended up with one military aggressive AI player dominating enough of the world that they did not need nuclear weapons.
There was a significant amount of variance among AI personalities and winning strategies in the various versions of Civilization I played, so I suspect that your success would vary depending on which version you were using. For example, if you were using CivNet, the multiplayer version of the original game, the anemic AI in that game might very well lock into some sort of peaceful stalemate, but the contentious resource model in Civilization III would probably produce different results.
I wrote a utility a while ago to manipulate human/AI control of civs in Civ III (conquests expansion pack), as a bit of a reverse engineering exercise: https://github.com/CoreDumpling/c3me
It's possible to set every player to AI and then just let the game run to observe the results. (You'll still have to dismiss pop-ups about civs getting eliminated or wonders being built, though.) I've done it on several occasions, mostly to test out mods to check if they are properly balanced. In general, I've noticed that AI's that nuke aggressively do tend to win in the long run, but if nukes are disabled or otherwise restricted, huge stalemates can result.
I did this, more or less, in the original Civ. I was a player in my own game, I built a city in the Arctic, built a military unit in it, then disbanded the rest of my civilzation. The AI doesn't ever go there.
I'm not suggesting that civ is anyway up to the task but in all seriousness does any government systematically simulate policy decisions? I can't even remember a UK policy decision that even acknowledge the possibility it might not be a complete success let alone suggested criteria by which it should be ultimately evaluated.
I like the idea that a piece of legislation should come with concrete criteria for its own evaluation. That would be like falsifying scientific theories: "This theory will be falsified if such-and-such a phenomenon is observed." "This law will be repealed in X years if it turns out to have such-and-such an effect on the economy."
Unfortunately, laws can rarely be evaluated in isolation, but only against a wide range of other laws and actual circumstances that constantly shift. It's hard enough to come up with definite criteria for falsifying an advanced scientific theory. It will be nearly impossible to do that with laws, not to mention it's too easy to dispute whether the criteria have been met.
I love Civ 2, but how is it that the OP can't win against two AIs? They weren't geniuses, AFAIK. And though the AI was vicious early on, it never seemed competent at the end. And even if it were, it's hard to imagine that the AI could adapt to a focused, determined attack by a human player (taking one city at a time).
On the higher levels, specifically Deity, it seems that there are some variables set in the AI's favor that go beyond normal game play manipulations... Or maybe I am just misdiagnosing my own failures :(
Civ games have never been known for their stellar AI. The way they keep the AI competitive at higher levels is to brutally cheat by getting free techs and units at the start and a beneficial modifier to their production and research.
Considering how quick the AI needs to run (you don't want "end turn" taking forever) and how complex the game is I can appreciate its simplicity, it is disappointing though.
I have examined the sources for the Civ IV AI and must say that it isn't very pretty (hardly any comments too!). One thing it doesn't seem to do that often though is cheat by examining what other players are doing (such as not building wonders it wont get) which is something at least.
But still.... can anyone point me towards a game where the devs actually spent a significant amount of time (relatively speaking) on the AI? It always seems like such an afterthought. Mods seem to always be a better bet. Although perhaps that's because the most efficient ways to play a game are always developed long after the game is actually released.
GalCiv2, with the expansions, has a very good AI and one which isn't entirely focused on total war. There are options to dedicate more CPU time to the AI to increase the difficulty. It's possibly the best AI I've seen for 4x games.
Was about to mention GalCiv2 as well. Stellar AI. I once read a blog post by Brad Wardell (of Stardock) where he mentioned he only added gameplay features once he thought through how the AI can use them properly.
Also, if you're tired of the more mainstream turn based strategy games, I'd recommend something like Hearts of Iron 3 or Europa Universalis 3.
I don't think any of the games above had good AI - but rather, they had believable AI.
I once read this piece by one of the AI programmers on the Halo series (can't for the life of me find it now) where he goes into the difference.
A good AI will be able to beat you time and time again using ingenuity and creativity. But such AIs are rarely fun. Instead, we prefer AIs that merely give the illusion of competence (e.g., they take cover... but always behind predictable objects. They flank, but always in obvious ways. They retreat, but always under specific, easy to understand conditions.). What the AI does is utterly predictable, but still challenging.
An unpredictable AI will quickly become frustrating instead of fun, even though it would be more realistic.
On the other hand, the predictability of the AI of RTS-Games (and the Civilization-games) gets critized quite often.
A good AI is a believable AI, in games. The AI of a game shouldn't be too powerful, the player has to have a chance to win. But predictable? I agree that the AI shouldn't be incomprehensible. The player should be be able to predict some moves. But if it really is utterly predictable, it is also frustrating.
Take Greedcorp as an example - or chess. If the player would never be baffled by the move of the AI, it would be no fun at all to play against them.
PS: But believability really is important. I always hated the moment in late-game of civ when conquering cities of advanced civilization with nothing in them but a temple. Always made it look like the AI doesn't even build properly and only can compete because of cheating, which repeatedly destroyed my motivation to beat the game.
can anyone point me towards a game where the devs actually spent a significant amount of time (relatively speaking) on the AI?
For most games, though, AI is an unlimited time sink; every thousand hours you sink into making the AI smarter will barely enhance the player's enjoyment.
Or, often enough, will make the player's experience worse; I'm pretty sure there's no way I could possibly single-handedly kill hundreds of bad guys unless those bad guys were complete idiots who run towards me one at a time and never bother to hide, strategize, cooperate or even pick up the powerful weapons which are just sitting around on the freaking ground.
A well-developed AI is not without merit. Many players enjoy higher difficulty settings despite the added time/effort needed to complete a task due to a greater feeling of accomplishment. A good AI can offer the same inflated sense of reward.
Playing Diablo III recently was a poignant reminder to me of how badly RPG developers need to consider fleshing out their AI. In the endgame kiting again predictably emerged as the dominant strategy; developers are apparently oblivious to as to how to prevent the epidemic. Is it not worth it to program some basic responses to being kited by a player?
i think by "win" he means break the stalemate. the ai in that game sucked and only stayed competitive by cheating. he should have been able to wipe out the opposing civs after 10 years of playing. especially since the op said he was only playing at prince/king difficulty.
I have sunk several hours of my life into Civ5 (and played very few multiplayer games).
The thing about the series is that I can sit, build a large empire and take my time. In every non-turn based game (AOE) etc, everyone rushkills and shoots for metrics like FC (fastest castle) etc. without building a lasting empire. The civ series allows me to truly enjoy this aspect of the game.
OTOH, in Civ5 I have found the battles sorely lacking (the AI is not clever and artillery can do some very solid damage) so I feel cheated a bit. I still haven't found a game that combines the elements of Civ5 I like and also demands a good battle strategy.
And looking forward, I wonder what future civilizations think about their future. What kind of science fiction do people on Star Trek read? It's a convenient cop-out that everyone on the Enterprise is a fan of mid-20th century pop culture or Shakespeare.
I really enjoyed Civ2; even once you've figured out how to game the AI (it's predictable hostility and cheating are actually it's biggest weaknesses), there are still challenges, such as limiting yourself to one city (!) or finishing before a certain year.
Just one thing set off my pedant alarm: Civ2 didn't come out until 1996. I still remember getting the collector's box with the huge strategy guide ;-)
I'm not familiar with Civilization resources so how would it be possible to perpetually build Nukes ? Wouldn't there be an energy cap or is there some sort of tech to cotinually generate the needed resources.
In the game each tile gives some type of resource. If I remember right, you had food, shields (productivity) and trade (money). A farm land would produce a lot of food but little trade but a mine would produce lots of gold but no food. You gather this amount of resource each turn but it doesn't tax the land at all. Nukes just cost a certain amount of productivity so as long as you hold land you can keep building them. The game isn't really meant to last much past modern times so the model kind of breaks down in a game like OPs. Its worth noting that in later games special resources were added to help make it a little more realistic. Like you had to have a uranium mind somewhere to produce nukes. It lead to really cool strategies, like wars for oil or iron.
The reason why he had world resources dwindling at all is because its possible for global warming to cause sea levels to rise and take away bits of land and in the parts of land that don't sink their type can change (plains can become deserts, jungles to forests).