on Feb 28, 2006
I was reading Mark’s first impressions on GalCiv II and he had this to say:
I hate this. It is an ongoing problem in turn-based games. Civilizations had it. Alpha Centauri had it. The original CalCiv had it. What is this “Surrender to someone else” stuff? It’s nonsense!
Imagine near the end of the European campaign in World War II: Our troops reach the outskirts of Berlin, and Germany realizes they can’t stop us. So they surrender to Brazil. We are forced to go home, because we can no longer take Berlin, which is now part of Brazil. More recently: We are about to take Baghdad, and Saddam surrenders to France. The parts of Iraq which we do not control are instantly and seamlessly transformed into French territory, and to continue our press into Baghdad would be an act of war against France.
This is just lame. I understand the gameplay concern here: This surrendering is done to keep the game even. The AI usually surrenders to the second-strongest player in the game, which keeps one race from leaping ahead of the others and ending the game before it’s really started. But this is just nonsense. In war, if you surrender, you surrender to the person attacking you, not to some unrelated third-party on the other side of the map. Even if Germany did try such a maneuver, and even if Brazil was willing to accept a besieged territory beyond their reach, it is insane to expect the invaders to respect or even recognize such an arrangement. Yet in the game, you must. If you attempt to continue the conquest, you will be obliged to declare war against the third party.
How much more absurd is it to extend this to a war between alien races, where the parties involved are going to be even more different than Iraqis and Frenchmen? More different than Brazil and Germany? When the two parties not only have different value systems, culture, and languages, but who also from entirely different spieces? When they very probably hate each other?
Here you are, at the victorious end of a hard-fought conquest, and the prize at the end (usually the homeworld of your foe, which is quite valuable) is simply handed to a rival. You have to just give up and go home at this point, or accept that you must now begin a whole new war. Perhaps you do accept war and elect to take those last worlds. The new owners will be bitter about losing this planet that was in their hands for one turn. They will fight long and hard, and harbor a lasting grudge over losing it. Sooner or later they will (hopefully) start to lose this war, and you will begin to eat into their territory. You can claim world after world, but in the back of your mind you know that once you corner them they will just give their remaining worlds to yet another third party, who will stupidly accept, and on it goes.
I just don’t understand the push to design brilliant and varied AI when metaphor-destroying stuff like this is still part of the game.
(The title of this post is in honor of the Drengin, who do indeed look like monkeys:)
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.