Diecast #302: Barely Edited

By Shamus Posted Monday May 18, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 129 comments

In this episode, I asked how old Civilization VI is. Eighteen months? Two years? Something like that, right? Nope! I looked it up after the recording and discovered it came out in 2016. That makes no dang sense. Where does the time go Despite what the Steve Miller Band claims, I’m pretty sure it goes into the past.?



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast302


Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:54 Repairing a Piano

I don’t usually think of physical objects being easier to maintain than code, but Paul makes a pretty good case for it here.

06:01 CIV 6

I was going to revise some of my thoughts on this game now that I’ve played a little more, but it looks like that’s going to get its own post.

21:28 Paul beat Quern.


Link (YouTube)

39:53 Mailbag: Unpopular games we like.

Hello Shamus, Hello Paul and Hello Isaac

You are famous for nitpicking on games “everyone else” loves (The New Collosus, ME2), but are there any examples the other way around. Are there games (video/board/cards) you love/like which everyone else hates?
My example would be Dragon Age 2. I read admiration for Origins everywhere and hate for the second series entry. It’s pretty much the opposite for me.

Paul, you mentioned playing video games with your kids last week. Did you ever get to play the good old rage infusing hot seat modus of Worms?

Regards

Lars

During this segment, I said I could remember saying something like, “This game was changed to suit me, a more casual fan. I like it, but it looks like they alienated their core fans.” At the time, I couldn’t remember what game I’d said that about.

I just realized that the game in question was Civilization V. Kind of odd that I couldn’t think of it, seeing as how I’d just been ranting on Civ VI.

49:57 Mailbag: Blender for extending games.

Dear Diecast,

recently (link in the postscript) Egosoft (creators of the X universe series) talked about their switching to using Blender and how it makes it easier for modders to create new things for their games.

Do you guys think we will reach a point where games using prolific tools like Blender will be malleable enough that instead of buying new games players who want to play something new will just install different mods, like Bethesda games taken to the extreme?

Vale,

-Tim

P.S. https://www.gamingonlinux.com/articles/egosoft-developer-of-x4-foundations-talks-up-moving-to-blender-and-appreciating-open-source.16630

55:46 Mailbag: What makes Paul angry?

Dear Diecast,

How’s it going, fellas?

Cheers,
Darek

PS: Actually, I have another question – for Paul. Shamus mentioned recently that games like Dark Souls can make him really, really angry. So, I wonder – what is your berserk button, Paul? And how do you deal with anger management if the game is really driving you nuts, but, at the same time, you really want to finish it? Or maybe you never get angry at all?

 

Footnotes:

[1] Despite what the Steve Miller Band claims, I’m pretty sure it goes into the past.



From The Archives:
 

129 thoughts on “Diecast #302: Barely Edited

  1. Steve C says:

    I don’t have a problem with late game high-tech barbarians. I consider them outlaws from the existing society rather than real barbarians. Society has always had to deal with that regardless of population happiness. Including nonsensical and/or self-destructive tendencies.

    For example, Mexican Cartels. They aren’t a civilization. They aren’t a government. But they fight with government forces and have submarines! They are pretty barbaric too. Why not call them barbarians in game mechanic terms.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Mexican cartels are pretty rare as modern developed nations go though. There’s nowhere in all of Europe that has to deal with anything much like Civ’s barbarians, and it feels weird that it acts like Switzerland should have a barbarian problem.

      1. Geebs says:

        Barbarians could be a relative term, I suppose? Like, for Switzerland, it could be anybody who plays their music slightly too loud, or arrives five minutes late to a social gathering.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          I like the idea of those people getting together and rolling tanks across the countryside in order to blare their music in defiance of local noise ordinances.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        OK, maybe not cartels, but pirates, bootleggers…there’s other things that they could represent, which would all make sense at different tech-levels.

        1. Steve C says:

          I did not mean literal “cartels.” Nor is that word important. I mean what they represent; an unlawful violent group that is not directly allied to another nation. Yes that does include pirates and bootleggers. It also includes coups, warlords, other criminals plus indirect proxy wars between nations.

          The most famous example would be Julius Caesar before he was Caesar. He had the highest grade military units in the world. He was declared an outlaw. It had nothing to do with city revolts nor population happiness. The end result is he conquers Rome and we have a month named after him. He was at the time, an army without land nor nation, nor production base. In Civ game mechanic terms that’s a barbarian. One with tech better than anyone else.

          More recently in the Soviet–Afghan War, the Afghans had Stinger missiles. The mujaheddin did not make those missiles. They did not even have a means of production like cities represent in Civ. But using their horse-level-tech units they could and did shoot down the most advanced helicopters in the world.

          Something like this has always existed. And @Ninety-Three, I didn’t mean in every nation. I’m saying throughout time, regardless of era, there have always been equivalents of barbarians in game mechanic terms. They represent the outlaws that flourish in the dark corners of the map where the zone of control of real nations are weak or non-existent. In Civ terms, Switzerland sees all of its map and barbarians do not spawn. Mexico and Somalia have dark areas.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Yes, and my complaint is that the game’s system for spawning barbarians does not respond to whether your Civilization feels more like Switzerland or Somalia. The game has mechanics tracking various conditions that might increase the chance of powerful outlaws and they have almost nothing to do with the simple map vision check of barbarian spawns (which isn’t even about you by the midgame, instead asking “Do you have neighbours at the borders of your empire?”).

            1. Decius says:

              If you don’t have neighbors at the borders of your empire, that’s a thing that doesn’t have an modern example.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  Heck, Australia is mostly empty space, they should be overrun by barbarian infantry divisions spawning out of all that uninhabited wilderness.

                  1. Asdasd says:

                    Crocodile Dundee and his mates are keeping the barbarian threat suppressed.

      3. The cartels are the result of the Drug War. Something similar (though not identical) exists everywhere there’s a highly profitable black market.

    2. tmtvl says:

      This feels like it can easily stray into politics, so I’ll just say that the real-life counterpart to Civ-style barbarians are complicated.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      The very first Civ game actually called them “militia uprisings” or something similar, if you somehow still had barbarian attacks after the invention of gunpowder.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        This renaming thing seems like it would solve half of Shamus’ problems[1]. Where did they get an aircraft carrier? They’re a military unit gone rogue! Where did they get cannons and muskets? They’re bootleggers who traded illicit goods! Why do they have nuclear first-strike satellites and a moon-base? They’re Cerberus, waiting to kick off events in Mass Effect’s universe!

        [1] It would cause new problems, but let’s assume for now that those could also be mitigated.

        1. Redrock says:

          There’s a conceptual problem to that, though. Barbarians are presented as an outside force. Uprisings, cartels, rogue military cells are all internal problems. I expect that most players would feel that things like that would have to be tied to political systems, population happiness, etc., and allow for prevention and non-violent solutions. The fact remains that after a certain point in history external stateless roaming bands of marauders just don’t make that much sense. Furtermore, I don’t really see what gameplay purpose late-game barabrians serve. They make a nice foil when you’re exploring and expanding, before you come in contact with other civs. But as time goes on and the civs get closer and closer to each other, barbarians aren’t really needed. By that point the opposing civs give you all the motivation you need to maintain a reasonably sized military. Barbarian encounters just devolve into an unnecessary hassle.

  2. Joe says:

    Shamus, there’s a short film that touches on your Civ 6 discussion. Ghenghis Khan Conquers the Moon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8W9tObWc3o . Okay, not quite. But it’s a decent 15 minute watch.

    I thought Scorched Earth was a watered-down knockoff, because I discovered it in the late 90s, when Worms had been out for a few years. But no, Wikipedia has it as a predecessor. Learn something new every day.

    Quern stones are used for grinding things like grain, though less these days than, say, the bronze age. Was the game itself a real grind? Groan, I know. Not being into puzzles, I certainly would find it that way.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      It was a bit of a grind now that you mention it. Solving the puzzles took almost as much time as implementing the solutions.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      My brother and I, and our varius different friends all played Scorched Earth at some point in elementary school. That game was great!

      1. Algeh says:

        In middle school, we had Scorched Earth installed on several of the various donated computers we had for students to use. (I went to an unstructured hippie school that did not require you to attend classes as long as you could show you were learning something. It was, in many ways, like an SF con that went all year and was full of 10-18 year olds, including weekly student-run all-school meetings that used Robert’s Rules of Order in which students allocated funding for things and established school policies. Most of our tech consisted of donations that various students set up and got working.)

        I remember one day coming up to a computer and seeing a long string of incorrect commands, with increasing profanity involved, when one of the less tech-savvy students wanted to play Scorched Earth but had no idea how to deal with a command prompt. I wish I’d had a way to screenshot it. The various attempts took up the entire screen by the time I found it and he never did get the game started. DOS prompts respond poorly to threats.

        I miss both that game and that era of computing.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus complains about the theming of midgame barbarians, but I dislike the mechanics. The point of barbarians is to give you something to do in the early game before international war becomes viable, and to reward investing in a military. By the midgame, other players are fulfilling that role and barbarians are just adding clutter, the games should really wind them down instead of relying on the principle that they will stop spawning once players have constant vision on the entire gameworld.

    1. Joshua says:

      Kind of an annoyance that a part of your city placement or tile acquisition strategies (albeit small part) are to minimize unseen tiles so barbarian calls won’t spawn.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The worst part is when there’s a worthless little arctic island away from the rest of the map that ends up pumping out barbarian aircraft carriers well into the lategame.

        1. King Marth says:

          It’s TIM Island! This is why you don’t give a rogue cell billions of untraceable funds and an invisible island.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Bringing back a joke I made in the Mass Effect retrospective: Cerberus’ military might does make sense if you assume that like Civ’s barbarians, their bases spawn out of thin air literally anywhere people aren’t looking.

  4. Henson says:

    There was one game I liked that it seemed EVERYONE hated, which was Velvet Assassin. It was dour and not really ‘fun’, and completely unforgiving in its stealth, but there was something about that uncompromising approach that appealed to me. I guess it really sold the mood of being stuck in the dark miasma of WW2. And if there’s anything I look for most in games, its a compelling sense of atmosphere.

    Also, a lot of people talked about how the main character is dressed like a pin-up girl, but I never really saw that. Sure, it’s attractive, but it’s not unreasonable.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I have my fair share of games that many people don’t seem to like: Final Fantasy VIII, Dark Souls II, TESIV: Oblivion,…

      The various entertainment industries have their niches (in music: punk compared to metal compared to electro; in film: action blockbusters compared to romcoms compared to biopics), and subniches (heavy metal compared to black metal compared to death metal). In video games we already have the niches (shmups vs rpgs vs tbses), but I don’t think we talk about subniches a lot, and that may be where the “less popular” games fit in.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        You mean all of the visual-novel games aren’t about crippling suicidal depression? :O

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I think it also depends on what stage of the game you’re in, in Velvet Assassin? This trailer plus some reviews I found, all have her wearing a bomber-jacket and pants, or some other “normal” clothes at some point. There’s definitely part of the trailer where she’s in a night-gown, but that seemed more like part of a disguise in this building, than something meant for all of the game.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I never played Velvet Assassin, but as I recall, most of the levels were framed as flashbacks, while the protagonist was in a coma. The nightgown represented reality breaking into the hallucinations, or something?

        Also, it’s probably best not to think too much about why the hospital staff dressed their comatose patient like that.

        1. Henson says:

          That’s correct. Almost the entire game is a flashback while in a coma, but you can use morphine as an item at any time for a ‘slow time’ ability, during which the main character appears in her hospital ‘nightgown’.

          While the nightgown is a bit unrealistic, given the circumstances, I was actually referring to her normal outfit that people had called a ‘pin-up’ style.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Yeah, after looking up the box art and its hiding the heroine’s face for a butt shot, I get your point.

  5. Joshua says:

    I’ll have to check out this part of the diecast out later. I still actively play Civ 5 (G&K/BNW), tried Civ 6 a couple of months ago, and neither my wife nor I liked it. There were some features we did like (auto-escort should have been available in earlier games YEARS ago), but overall it just didn’t click for us. Just wasn’t getting that One More Turn feeling.

  6. MaxieJZeus says:

    Interesting note on the Civ barbs. They don’t bother me, but I totally get why you’d hate them.

    So, maybe barbs are one of those things that worked really well in Civ I, when the game was much more simple and rough-hewn, so you could more easily forgive their lack of reality? And because they worked mechanically, the devs have since then adopted an “isn’t broke, don’t fix” philosophy, which is usually wise. But by now that primitive-but-successful mechanic breaks immersion, at least for some players.

    Would rebranding them be a solution? And to reflect historical realities, they should vary according to era. So, maybe:

    * Ancient Era: Wandering tribes of axemen, charioteers, and ships, coming in out of the fog of war.
    * Classical Era: Wandering tribes as above, plus hordes of horse units that spawn in the steppes (any stretch of contiguous Plains tiles of a certain minimal number).
    * Medieval Era: Horse units as above, plus independent city-states that spawn permanently at war on the borders of civilizations.
    * Renaissance Era: Independent city states as above, plus rebels that spawn in-territory.
    * Industrial Era: Rebels that spawn in-territory.
    * Later eras: Rebels that spawn in-territory only under certain economic, cultural or military conditions.

    I’m looking forward to a longer post on Civ 6. I’m one of those “core fans” that Civ 5 alienated, and I only got Civ 6 a few months ago, and have yet to finish playing a game. It doesn’t piss me off — it was Civ 5 that did that — so much as it just disappoints me for failing to revive a game series that I was fanatical about for the first 4 iterations.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      I’m one of those heathens who really liked 5, but could never get into 6.

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        I’m really happy for anyone who likes 5. By this point, I only ask that OSes don’t evolve far enough fast enough that I have to stop playing 4!

        For me, it’s the stuff that 6 has in common with 5 that tires me out, so I’d be really interested in knowing what it is in 6 that tires out fans of 5.

        1. Retsam says:

          Painting with broad brush strokes, but as a whole I think Civ VI has largely won over the Civ V crowd. As is the usual pattern, it needed a few rounds of expansions to flesh out the features enough to have parity with Civ V, and it has some really nice updates to the formula.

          It’s not going to win over the people who prefer the mechanical complexity of Civ IV, but if you like the “streamlined” flavor, I think it’s just a more polished version of Civ V now.

        2. Tohron says:

          GoG’s Civ4 will probably be maintained for a while to come, at least.

        3. The Puzzler says:

          I was really into Civ 4 at one point, and then was disappointed in Civ 5. Later I became a fan of Civ 5 with expansions.

          Having only played Civ 6 briefly (after some patches, but without any expansions), my experience was:

          (1) The mechanics for building your civ peacefully are pretty baffling. Maybe if I’d stuck with it longer I’d have learned to appreciate it, but I had no idea if when to prioritise religion or culture or expansion or science or production or food or military. I gradually fell behind the AIs without knowing what I was doing wrong.
          (2) The combat mechanics are almost identical to Civ 5. I already know how to win at that. And the AI is still bad at it. So once I started going to war with my neighbours, I was able to beat them even when military rating was more than twice mine. When I’d conquered enough territory to catch up, everyone hated me for being a conqueror, so peaceful trade is no longer a good option. I basically felt like I had to keep going and conquer the world.

          Basically, the wars were mildly fun and too easy, and the rest of the game was not fun and too hard for me. I hadn’t learned much about anything, and didn’t have much desire to repeat the experience.

          1. MaxieJZeus says:

            I spent some hours today goofing around with Civ 6 (for the first time in months) and that was my experience too. I’m not ready to give up on it, because I remember being baffled by Civ 4 when I first tackled it. But where Civ 4 was *fun* to play while figuring it out, Civ 6 is just bland.

    2. John says:

      I love Civilization V. I like hexes, I like one unit per tile, and I especially like the universal happiness mechanic. Civilization V’s systems are transparent to me in a way that Civilization IV’s systems just weren’t. I know why the things I’m doing in Civilization V are and aren’t working in ways that I never did in Civilization IV.

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        I like hexes too. Actually, I love them. That’s one reason I hated hated HATED Civ 5 when it came out, because it retrospectively ruined the square-based Civ 4 for me. I had to spend years away from the game before I could return to Civ 4 without cringing hard at the grid set up.

        Civ 4 was very complex and intimidating, there’s no possible disagreement about that, and it was a game that greatly benefited from those early adopters who went in, broke it open, and explained to others (like me!) what was going on and how to take advantage of it. )Without many, many posts in the CivFanatics forums, I wouldn’t have been able to get into Civ 4 to the extent I was.) I think it was necessary for Civ 5 to simplify some aspects of the game, but I wish they hadn’t flattened it out so much.

        1upt and universal happiness are topics on which it is best to simply agree to disagree, because they are core changes that lead to radically different game experiences, and have to be judged on whether you enjoy one experience over the other.

        1. John says:

          There is no disputing matters of taste.

          Conceptually, I am not fond of universal happiness. I think the old, city-specific happiness levels make more sense as a matter of simulation. The reason that I like universal happiness in practice is that it makes it easy for me to tell when I should or should not found a new city, especially during the early-game land rush. I struggled with that a lot while playing Civilization IV. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really figured it out. Universal happiness, on the other hand, clicked for me after just a couple of games. I guess I’m willing to sacrifice a little verisimilitude for the sake of transparency.

          1. The Coach says:

            Universal happiness is was ruined it for me too. The concept makes no sense thematically, and it seemed to create more complexity where it wasn’t needed. Having to simultaneously micro manage every city at once to pick which cities gets to grow next after City X builds a stadium was a real drag. I’ve stuck with Civ IV Beyond the Sword instead.

            1. MaxieJZeus says:

              Well, you always have to micromanage cities in Civ, don’t you, because the cities are the basic unit of play. The question is, What do you have to micromanage them for, and what tools do you have to micromanage them? (Okay, yes, that’s two questions linked by a comma. But you know what I mean.) I guess the trade-off was this: Universal Happiness gave transparency at the global level, but made local management tedious, while City Happiness was better for local management but made global transparency more opaque.

              I wonder what Civ 5 players would make of Civ 4 BTS mods like Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization and its modmods. These are even more complex iterations of Civ 4, but ironically can make the game simpler because features like Historical Victories and Collapse can force very focused gameplay within a very limited arena.

            2. Joshua says:

              It sounds like you micro-managed the game a lot more than I have. I almost never tweak the city citizen management unless I’m trying to rush a wonder or something by switching to a Production focus.

              From what I understand, having a few citizens go angry is not that big of a deal in Civ V compared to previous games (where your cities immediately go into anarchy). As soon as you go -1 Happiness, the Growth Rate of all of your cities instantly turns to crap (like gain a new citizen after 80 turns), so you’re unlikely to really start seeing much more unhappiness past that unless you found a new city, lose access to a luxury, start losing units during wartime, or other fairly important events. It’s not until you reach -10 happiness that the real problems start.

              So, you shouldn’t have to micromanage your cities to worry about growth being deleterious to happiness. Once you go below 0 happiness, it’s typically more like entering the yellow zone than red zone. I.E. time to pay attention on what you can do to fix the problem, not panic because everything has gone to hell (like past Civilization games).

      2. Steve C says:

        I have a big problem with one unit per tile in any game like Civ. I can make ablative meat shields of the cheapest unit and make my entire country 100% safe from attack. Because the enemy can and will win, but they can’t push through to ever threaten the means of production. It is fatal flaw if any game has a mechanic that prevents the push. The game is effectively over soon as the means of production (cities in Civ) can produce more than the enemy can kill per turn. The result is you can never lose soon as you understand how to take advantage of it.

        For example Endless Space could stack units. But it was trivially easy to lockdown enemy fleets and prevent them from leaving a system regardless of strength. Game over. Player wins through the lamest means possible.

        1. MaxieJZeus says:

          1upt: That’s the fuse to the stick of dynamite that will blow up any discussion of Civ 5. Not only will people argue about it as gameplay or as grounds for exploits (as above), they’ll argue that it’s responsible for everything else that’s wrong with Civ 5. (*coughsulllacough*)

          But the franchise has always had a problem with its combat systems. Every one of its attempts deserves some degree of legitimate hate.

          I’ll say this for Civ5 combat: I much prefer a system where units take damage and can retreat instead of the previous win-or-lose manner. Can that system be married to a stackable system? I’m not sure.

        2. John says:

          Steve, is that something you’ve actually done? Units have upkeep costs in Civilization V. What you’re proposing sounds like a good way to go bankrupt. Even if it’s possible it sounds like an un-fun way to play. Furthermore, I speak from personal experience when I say that it’s completely unnecessary. I don’t understand why you’d get mad about something like that.

          1. Steve C says:

            I consider slowing-the-enemy-down-with-expendables to be a bread & butter strategy of 4x games. I’ve done it both in small scale (generally this is all that is ever needed) and large scale. It is pretty easy to pull off in most 4x games to some extent. In fact I’m coming up blank where I’ve had an enemy unit get close enough to siege (or equivalent) in any game in the past 20 years. It is always decided by armies away from the city. It can be a hell of a lot of fun sometimes too. I remember one Endless Legend game where I barely managed to survive by delaying an enemy doom stack for a few extra turns. All while my (fairly thin) army split up and simultaneously sieged all their cities. Which bankrupted them. The result being the doom stack I could not defeat had to be sold off.[1] It is great design when delay is sustainable in the short term while being obviously unsustainable in the long term.

            The real problem is when it becomes the optimal way to play.[2] And with a 1 unit per tile it pretty much guarantees that it will be. If I can come up with a simple strategy that always works in a strategy game then I don’t see any reason to continue playing it. Doubly so when it costs few resources.

            But mad? Why would I be mad about it?
            [1] This is the counter to doom stacks bulldozing btw. Which I’ve never seen an AI do, but would love to see.
            [2] Which was the case in Endless Space due to a skill that paid you more for a ship dying than it cost to build it.

            1. John says:

              Sorry, sometimes it’s hard to infer mood from text. I read “I have a big problem” and went right to “oh, he’s mad”. I guess that’s on me. In any case, I thought you were proposing to surround all of your cities with cheap units at all times. Given that the cheapest available units in Civilization V aren’t all that cheap–a couple of militia units can be the difference between positive and negative cashflow in the early game, for example–and that it would take six units to surround each city, that strategy would get unsustainably expensive very quickly.

              “Slowing-the-enemy-down-with-expendables” makes more sense, though it’s somewhat contrary to the way I like to play, at least in Civilization V. Until late in the game, my cities generally can’t pump out military units quickly. It can easily take around ten turns for even my most productive city to produce a military unit. (Possibly this is because I tend to go close to all-in on either technology or culture, depending on the victory condition I’m going for.) Nor do I have enough cities, usually, that I can make up for it by producing units in parallel. In other words, I just can’t produce military units fast enough for any of them to be expendable. On the other hand, “slowing-the-enemy-down-with-expendables” is my go-to strategy in any pure-combat strategy game like Advance Wars, where I like to hide behind a defensive line made up of cheap, easily-replaced infantry backed up by cheap artillery units until I can amass enough high-end tanks and rocket units to push for a breakthrough.

              1. Steve C says:

                Well I wouldn’t do a surround in that situation. I’d have to be threatened by something first. That’s just not going to happen in early game. And if I was, and I had 6 units in early game, that already is an effective doom stack. I’m not going to defend something that has no possibility of being attacked. And I regularly do the math checking movement points etc to figure that out. (Though if I know the city cannot be attacked, I never build city walls or similar buildings.)

                In different situations though, yes. Like producing really cheap ships to block a harbor so an enemy cannot get in. Or finding a nice choke point at the edge of a territory and setting up a line. Normally a complete surround of a city is unnecessary and way too close anyway. Point is that if the mechanics are set in such a way that it doesn’t matter the player wins or loses a battle turn after turn, then I consider that mechanic a major game flaw.

                For example consider a mechanic where 1)all movement points are lost on attack and 2)no stacking units. That’s a broken game from that alone. A human will always be able to use a blocking line of cheap units with a second single unit behind to replace one that is lost. They could attempt to move around, but that would never work since a human could just move into the way. That is an impenetrable barrier. No thought or strategy required.

                I remember one game of Civ 2 or Civ 3 where I found the perfect choke point. Problem was it was really close to an enemy that was stronger than me. So I gifted a unit or city (forget which) to another player who was nowhere nearby to put them in the way. I kept the choke point manned for the rest of the game with cheap units. They were allies and could not move through each other. Effectively making a 1 unit per tile rule. I was completely safe on that flank until whenever they decided to declare war on each other. That required thought and strategy to pull off.

                1. The Puzzler says:

                  “For example consider a mechanic where 1)all movement points are lost on attack and 2)no stacking units. That’s a broken game from that alone.”

                  Only if you can build cheap units in very large quantities. I can imagine a game like that where your entire front line would be wiped out in one turn by a similar number of high-quality units, your entire second line is wiped out on the second turn, and after that your entire military is be gone.

                  My go-to strategy in Civ5&6 is to build ranged units, wipe out the enemy forces as they approach, bombard their cities into submission, then send in a swordsman / tank to capture it. It would never occur to me that building large numbers of expendables was necessary.

        3. Retsam says:

          I find this to be largely factually untrue. My last Civ VI game was basically a test of this exact strategy: I was Germany, an industrial superpower with a huge number of cities pumping out units, my cousin was Korea, much smaller, but with a science lead.

          The issue is that even with a huge industrial powerhouse, there’s basically no point at which my means of production could outweigh the number of units that could be killed in a turn. Units in Civ VI are relatively expensive, on standard speed, they usually take 5-10 turns to build. Even with 20 cities pumping out units (an exhausting number to manage, especially in multiplayer, I’ll mention…), that’s maybe 4 units per turn, (and many of the units are going to have multiple turns of transit to get where they’re going).

          It’s not hard to kill (or lose) 4 units per turn – especially late game with bombers and longer range artillery. And this ignores the other difficulties: the expense of unit upkeep, and that dedicating all of your output to production of units means you’re not actually improving your cities or doing anything that that will win the game except by military victory.

          In actuality, I conceded the game. My troops just couldn’t get through his defenses. (Even with rushing tanks to make up my science deficit). They didn’t take any of my territory either, my superior numbers would have been more helpful defensively – but they didn’t need to. They were on track for a science victory, and the “all units all the time” strat can’t actually win the game if you can’t win the war.

          Because even if you can make yourself “unconquerable” with a lockdown and spamming units… “Defense” isn’t a win condition. If you devote too much of your production to producing expendable trash units, you’re just going to lose to someone who actually produced science or culture or religion.

          1. Steve C says:

            The game is effectively over soon as the means of production (cities in Civ) can produce more than the enemy can kill per turn.

            there’s basically no point at which my means of production could outweigh the number of units that could be killed in a turn. […] My troops just couldn’t get through his defenses.

            That sounds like the same strategy I described used against you. Your means of production could not outproduce what the enemy could kill, so the game was not over for you. Yet the enemy could keep up his defenses vs your superior overall production. His means of production could outproduce what you could kill while still maintaining the goals he needed to win. So his defense won.

            In no way do I consider what I describe as “all units all the time”. It is the opposite. It’s how to counter that strategy and how much easier it is to beat when mechanics (such as 1 unit per tile) prevent a push through it.

            1. Decius says:

              It sounded like you were saying “Build more than can be killed by any amount of force”, not “Build faster than you take losses”.

              And you doubled down on that interpretation.

              1. Steve C says:

                As far as I can tell, these two statements say the same thing in this context.

            2. Retsam says:

              That sounds like the same strategy I described used against you

              The strategy you described:

              I have a big problem with one unit per tile in any game like Civ. I can make ablative meat shields of the cheapest unit and make my entire country 100% safe from attack.

              The situation I described was not the strategy you described being used against me. They had a few, very powerful units with good air-support, against me trying to flood the board with units. (i.e. rushing fodder, like you describe)

              1. Steve C says:

                (i.e. rushing fodder, like you describe)

                …That’s not what I described.

                I described a game state that prevented any possible gains by an attacking player. One where neither winning nor losing battles caused any change to the outcome. Nor could it cause any change due to the underlying mechanics that deny a “push.” Where neither unit quantity, nor unit quality matters at all. A situation that is common in games with a 1 unit per tile limit. A situation exactly like how you described. A situation that I do not approve of. One I consider the hallmark of a deeply flawed 4x game.

                Then I described example situations where and how it was bad. A player can prevent cities from being attacked with 100% certainty. Or they could take an extreme forward position that should be untenable to hold yet is easy. To be clear, “making ablative meat shields of the cheapest unit and making my entire country 100% safe from attack” is not a good thing.

                There are a lot of different ways to take advantage of it, but soon as there’s one strategy in your playbook that always works, then it is a broken game. It guts all the complexity and strategy out of it. For example if you know you can always prevent a city from being directly attacked, then the entirety of the tech tree and mechanics involved in that can be ignored. (And must be ignored if playing optimally is your thing.)

  7. Lino says:

    Obligatory video for when someone mentions Civilization

    Also: YAY, incoming Shamus rant about worldbuilding!

    1. Platypus says:

      Honestly trying to think of an unpopular game i like is difficult cause of the fickle nature of the internet. Like i would say Bioshock 2 cause it got roasted on release as a phoned in sequel but now i see alot of people saying its a solid sequel with better gameplay but a worse story. Honestly the closest i have been to liking a really unpopular game is when i was a teenager playing call of duty. All my friends HATED Ghosts and went back to the previous entry but i liked it alot because there was alot more focus on objective based game modes rather the normal clusterfeck of Deathmatch. Still hard to say any COD is unpopular considering the sales charts. Still can”t believe Modern Warfare sold so good despite being a mediocre reboot based on a game alot of their new fans arent even old enough to have played.

      1. galacticplumber says:

        I’ll even argue Bioshock 2 has an objectively superior story.

        Bioshock original recipe blew its entire story load at the big betrayal reveal, then proceeded to jerk you around in a cluttered bit of filler to pad the runtime.

        Bioshock 2 had effective, powerful revelations and twists right up to the end. It ALSO had a morality system that asked actual philosophical questions of you instead of just number tally.

        Any arguments about it being too simplistic or childish fall apart when you remember the central thrust of the story is that your actions are being constantly watched and learned from by a child. YOUR CHILD, whose behavior will be determined in late-game by the example you set for her!

        1. Platypus says:

          Id probably agree with most of that, was more just commenting on what ive seen said about the game. Honestly the most powerful scene for me in a bioshock game was when you meet the jazz singer lady in bioshock 2. She keeps calling you a child snatcher even tho she knows the big daddies are slaves and she also complains at you for “stealing” the families children when u rescue the little sisters they kidnapped. So when i confronted her i intended to just walk away but she just kept taunting delta, insulting him whilst showing no regret for the pain her “family” was causing. So after a minute of this i turned round and shouted “Fuck you”, blowing her head clean off with a shotgun. Rarely has a game gotten that sort of reaction out of me especially since i also had sympathized with her earlier when i heard she had been blacklisted for speaking out against Ryan. I think thats what i liked about bioshock 2 as it was more player driven with its story rather than just having the player character stumble through rapture like in the first.

          1. galacticplumber says:

            That basic? I walked ALL THE WAY BACK to the entrance of the level, grabbed an explosive canister with telekinesis, and brought it back. Why? Executions should carry emotional weight.

            This is why the game has better story. It more effectively builds hate for antagonists, and makes REAL ARGUMENTS for violence being the more moral option regularly.

            Looking at YOU poor sea critter man who literally asked me to end it in a recording.

            1. Platypus says:

              Man that alex the great was a phoney, he didnt even have a library :(

  8. tmtvl says:

    C is a nice and simple language, although various inconsistencies between compilers (GCC, Clang,…) can make things tricky sometimes.

    For people who want small and performant languages, I’d also recommend you take a look at Zig, which is aiming to compete with C.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I normally dislike new languages, because we’ve already got so many with so many problems, and so many abandoned SDKs, libraries, and frameworks that only work in Some Abandoned Language. However, I really like that this language treats Null with the suspicion it deserves. :)

  9. Lino says:

    In terms of games I enjoy that most other people hate, I have plenty! With both games and movies, I always try to have a good time, so I end up liking most games I play.

    So, here are a couple of examples off the top of my head:

    – I absolutely loved Hitman: Absolution. It was probably my favourite game of 2012. I loved the gameplay, as well as the story. I guess I liked it so much due to my weird relationship with the franchise. To me, Hitman was always a guided, narrative experience with a couple of sandbox-style levels sprinkled in between.

    – I also really liked Thief 2014. There were a couple of janky bits, but in general I loved the athmosphere, and the gameplay. The Dark Project and Deadly Shadows were one of the first games I ever played, so I have very fond memories of the franchise. To me, Thief 2014 was like a facelift of the way I remember the old games. I suppose I was the only one :D

    – Another game that saw a lot of hate was Darksiders III. Now I admit, the game was obviously rushed (just like the other games on this list). But what a lot of people didn’t like was the series’ pivot to a more SoulsBorneo combat system. But I loved it! It was fast, dynamic, and impactful. To me, it was very close to the way Devil May Cry does things, which is my preferred style when it comes to hack ‘n slashes. As a fan of Darksiders in general, I also really liked what they did with the world and story.

    Again, there are definitely other games that could make this list, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.

    1. Henson says:

      Brave stances for this website! Also, we are now enemies and must fight.

    2. Platypus says:

      Honestly i think Absolution gets a bad rap, its a decent enough game with solid mechanics. Its one of those games thats tone is very love or hate for players and i think the spoiler warning season on absolution captured this well. If your in the mood for something outrageous, cheesy, very un PC then its a blast and half but for me i always felt Hitmans better with a touch of class and subtlety to the story telling that i dont think Absolution got at all. Then again my favourite in the series has you assasinating a bunch of other hired killers in bird costumes who make bad bird themed sex puns so maybe im just a hypocrite :P

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        I feel that if you describe it as a decent enough game (albeit with perhaps a terrible story), but a terrible Hitman game, you probably cover most of the complaints. The things people hate about the game have a lot more to do with what people expect from the franchise, rather than on its own merits. But things don’t exist in a vacuum, so these games are more than legitimate. At least this specific story has a more or less happy ending* with the last two releases in the franchise (which basically boil down to one giant game) that a lot of people both new and old love and definitely brings more of the magic expected in this franchise.

        *as opposed to many franchises and series that just end after taking a terrible nosedive and people stop consuming then

      2. Redrock says:

        Absolution is okay, if absolutely bonkers. Yeah, the story is nonsensivcal, but if you let the cheese wash over you, you can have fun. Also, it’s really entertaining to just go guns blazing and slaughter the population of a level using their version of the Dead Eye system. I still occasionally boot up the game to get into a crazy shootout at the gun range – it feels like a game directed by Robert Rodriguez in the best possible way.

    3. Duoae says:

      I, too, liked Thief 2014. The story was a mess but i preferred the mechanics to Dishonoured.

      My own personal list includes the abortive Prince of Persia Reboot, ferTILE grounds and all.

    4. Lars says:

      Darksiders III was a very good game in the open space levels. But in the all too similar tunnels the player was fighting the camera as much as the enemies. The SoulsBourneo element of the “new” fighting system was the opportunity of a massive conter if you dodge at the right moment. Dodging in these tunnels pressed you and the camera into a wall, which prevents you from seeing the enemy wich prevents you from dodging at the right time (or at all). Grr.
      Other than SoulsBorneo, DS III had a savepoint right before each boss and skippable cutscenes. That helped alot to keep my sanity.
      The story was okay-ish, but I still wait for the story of Darksiders I to continue and not going 500 years back again.

  10. John says:

    It’s funny that barbarians are such a sore point for Shamus. I’ve played a lot of Civilization and Civilization-likes over the years and, thinking back, I find that I mostly don’t remember the barbarians at all. I saw the occasional barbarian battleship in Civilization. It didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t bother me much. What’s a random battleship or two when I’m in the process of flooding the world with tanks? I have no memories whatsoever of barbarians in Civilization II, Civilization III, and Civilization IV. I’m sure they were there; I can only assume that they never did anything notable in any of the hundreds of hours I spent on those games.

    Civilization V is the exception in that barbarians are a fairly big deal, if only in the early game. They’ll capture your workers and settlers if you aren’t careful, and that can really set you back. Conveniently, they will also capture other people’s workers and settlers–and you can acquire those workers and settlers by raiding barbarian encampments! It can sometimes take a new-ish city 20 turns or more to produce a worker in Civilization V, which, for those unfamiliar with the series, is a lot. Not having to produce your own workers is a tremendous advantage. After the early game, however, barbarians aren’t important. The AI-controlled civilizations will eventually cover the map (assuming that you don’t do it first) and there’s little room left for barbarians to spawn in. Even if a barbarian encampment on some wretched little rock somewhere does manage to spawn an implausible aircraft carrier, it’s hard for me to imagine that affecting the course of the game in a substantial way.

    My personal experience of Civilization V is that barbarians typically spawn military units that are a tier or two behind that of the most advanced civilization in the world, which is usually mine. If I’ve got, say, riflemen, the barbarians spawn pikemen or, in the worst-case scenario, musketeers. If I’m using mechanized infantry, then the barbarians spawn riflemen or sometimes non-mechanized infantry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a barbarian naval unit more advanced than a caravel, and I’ve put a frankly alarming number of hours into Civilization V over the years. I’m not disputing that it happens in other people’s games. I recognize that other people have different playstyles than I do and may be playing on different difficulty levels. I tend to play on the default Prince level, which is, I think, right in the middle difficulty-wise. It’s possible that barbarians are more aggressive and more advanced on the super-hard difficulties and people who play on those difficulties are free to tell me so.

    The other exception is Alpha Centauri, which, properly speaking, has alien mind worms rather than human barbarians. Contrary to Paul’s assertion, mind worms don’t have a tech track. There are only ever three kinds of mind worms (in the base game). One of the three, the flying kind, is more likely to show up in the late game than in the early game but it isn’t any more powerful than the land-dwelling kind or the aquatic kind. The difference between an early-game mind-worm and a late-game mind worm is one of degree. Early-game mind worm swarms are small and puny. Late-game mind worm swarms are huge and terrifying. Mind worms remain dangerous throughout the game because they attack psychically rather than physically. Mind worms don’t care about your weapon and armor upgrades; they’re going straight for your brain. It’s your units’ morale or experience that matters in a mind worm fight rather than their impact rifles or their singularity lasers. (Unless you bombard them from a distance with artillery, in which case there’s quite a big difference between impact weapons and singularity lasers.) The interesting thing about mind worms is that, unlike the barbarians in Civilization V, they never stop spawning. In fact, the more aggressively you expand and the more aggressively you develop your cities and the surrounding terrain, the more frequently they spawn. A highly productive city in Alpha Centauri is also a highly polluting city. High polluting cities tend to trigger xeno-fungal explosions which in turn trigger larger-than-normal numbers of angrier-than-usual and bigger-than-usual mind worm swarms.

    I have mentioned Civilization VI yet because I have not played it yet and at this point I’m not sure that I ever will. I really like Civilization V and I don’t feel any particular urge for a newer, shinier version. The mechanical changes I’ve heard about sound interesting but not especially compelling. I assume that there’ll be a deep-discount sale or a bundle at some point, probably as the launch of Civilization VII approaches. Maybe I’ll get it then.

    1. Joshua says:

      I mentioned above that I tried Civ VI a month or so ago and didn’t care for it. I played for about an hour, and most of that time was spent messing with barbarians. I think I only met one other Civilization, but just got hounded non-stop by barbarians for that entire hour. I had read somewhere else that they had cranked the barbarians up from an annoyance in V to a serious aggravation in VI. It just wasn’t that interesting to me, and I’m someone who plays with Raging Barbarians in IV and V.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Put me down in the camp of “content with Civ V, not particularly interested in Civ VI*”, though in my case another thing that influenced me was the discovery of Paradox’s grand strategy games in between when the two came out. For context, I have ~600 hours in Civ V, the majority of that spent playing with friends; I have over 1400 hours in Europa Universalis IV, and another 427 in Stellaris. Grand strategy games turned out to be everything I was looking for in 4X games like Civ, except…more so.

      * I started with Civ III, spending hundreds of hours playing and modding it, then bounced off IV hard due to its removal of ranged combat—my favorite part of combat—from the game almost entirely (another reason I liked V so much, it went in the opposite direction and made ranged combat available earlier, and much more important overall). Which does make it a bit odd that I enjoy GSGs as much as do, considering they have no ranged combat at all…

  11. Rariow says:

    I don’t really like any games that people generally dislike, but I do have a penchant for liking the least (or close to least) acclaimed game in a series the most. I prefer Dragon Age Inquisition to Origins, I think Persona 4 is better than either Persona 3 or 5, the super controversial Danganronpa V3 is my favourite, Syndicate is my favourite Assassin’s Creed, KotOR2 is among my favourite games ever, Pokemón Sun/Moon is my favourite Pokemón, Mass Effect 3 is my favourite in the original trilogy (gasp, shock and horror). I’m fairly baffled as to why this is. I notice I tend to have a very different reading of the game I liked in these situations (the clearest example is people tend to say Persona 4 is the most cheerful game in the modern Persona games, but I think its “people seem nice but everyone is secretly awful and is going to doom the world” message is way darker than Persona 3’s “everyone dies but life is worth living” and Persona 5’s “the world is messed up but earnest young people can fix it by rebelling” messages). When I was younger, more arrogant and a lot more of an ass I thought this meant I was better at interpreting fiction than most people, but nowadays I guess it just means I’m a weirdo who sometimes has weird takes on things which makes him like them more.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I like standard P4 more than P4:TG. I love the original Chie VA, and I hate the scooter story segment.

    2. Thomas says:

      Syndicate is my favourite Assassin’s Creed and KotOR2 is among my favourite games ever. I do like the story of Persona 4 than Persona 5, I think Persona 5 maximised the style and polish of the series at the expense of a shallower story.

  12. Narkis says:

    CIV 6

    I was going to revise some of my thoughts on this game now that I’ve played a little more, but it looks like that’s going to get its own post.

    I can’t wait. I’m one of the core fans that got alienated by Civ 5, but at least I can appreciate that it knew what it wanted to do and largely succeeded. Civ 6 is just an incoherent mess that somehow managed to be worse than 5 in practically every regard.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The only thing I appreciate about Civ 6 is that its move towards features like districts makes me feel downright prophetic for saying in 2014 that Endless Legend felt like it was two steps ahead of Civilization in terms of iterating on the same formula.

      Calling it now, quests in Civ 7.

      1. MaxieJZeus says:

        I like the idea of districts, but it didn’t turn the game around for me. (Though, full disclosure, I’ve only played a couple of incomplete games of Civ 6 since buying it, so maybe I just didn’t figure them out.) They felt like they were adding complexity at the local, city-specific level in a game that was still designed to be played at the global, empire-wide level. The result was more tedium and complexity without corresponding interest. Epicycles, basically.

        1. Joshua says:

          I guess this could be thought on the game, that I was finding it fairly tedious, plus too many barbarians. However, I’ll admit I didn’t give it too much time to grow on me, because I wasn’t feeling it after an hour and I couldn’t play it for too much longer before being unable to get a refund.

  13. GoStu says:

    I really got into the Civilization series at Civ 5. For whatever reason I just can’t get into Civ 6.

    The real chronic bugbear of the series to me is that the A.I. is egregiously, offensively stupid. There’s no difference whatsoever between the newbie difficulty AI and the top difficulty, except for the amount of resources it gets and how much of a discount it gets on techs/units/etc.

    In Civ 5 the Deity AI starts with something like two Settlers, a couple Workers, a couple Warriors, and a couple Scouts. Its opening build order is completely hardcoded and one of the nastiest tricks you can play on them is to declare War early and steal the worker… they won’t rebuild it until the pre-determined time.

    They’re still as sharp as a sack of mice though. The ones programmed for aggression will without fail attempt to zerg you off the map and will never change their tactics. Most default to pursuing the fiddly Cultural Victory but they’re absolutely terrible at it and the game doesn’t really support more than a couple players trying to win that way at once. I think there’s only one AI who even attempts Diplomatic victory, and when you learn more about how the AI thinks it’s amazing how much of their difficulty hinges on just leveraging the immense advantages afforded to an AI player, rather than anything unique about the civilization itself.

    I got really burned out on the game after a while. If I make it through to roughly the Renaissance era I’m almost certainly going to win. If I can get anywhere close to caught up with their tech advantage, it’s over… I just have several more eras to click through to see the victory screen.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      AI-wise, the move to one unit per tile was a terrible mistake. Civ 4’s AI wasn’t any smarter, but its stupidity was less prominent and less likely to get it in trouble when all it had to do was build a doomstack and roll it around the map. I remember a game of Civ 5 where the AI wardecced me and instantly moved in with seven units, my city having only two equal-tech units to defend. It spent most of the battle re-positioning its forces among my dense forests, while I bombarded them to death over the course of ten turns. In the end they got off less than one attack on my city per unit.

      I understand why they did it, doomstack warfare is so boring that anything would be more fun, even if OUPT AI is like playing chess against a pigeon.

      1. Joshua says:

        I get where you’re coming from in that the AI is annoyingly weak at times and IMO way overemphasizes melee units in a game where ranged attacks are so much stronger, but I prefer it to the stack of dooms from previous games. My previous experience was with IV, and it seems like the AI would get such awesome bonuses to support troop maintenance that they would be flooded with cheap units, often in large stacks. This made offense against them annoying, and while I wouldn’t be as worried about a bunch of weak units attacking my cities or units, they certainly liked to go around pillaging all of my stuff to annoy me. So, I prefer the single-unit per tile warfare where everyone has to be more strategic with their unit creation and placement. I just wished the AI was better at it.

        My one complaint about the one unit per tile actually applies to the non-combat units rather than the combat units. Even if they didn’t want stacks of workers rushing improvements or holding up in cities, at least they should have allowed them to travel through each other in the wilderness without all of the pathfinding issues they had.

      2. GoStu says:

        I agree that doomstack warfare is not interesting, but I can’t call one unit per tile a “terrible mistake”. Interesting gameplay should be prioritized, the fault isn’t with 1UPT, it’s with the dullard AIs. Having doomstacks would really exacerbate all the problems of the AI being able to fling 7 units at you while you’ve only got 2, and it does nothing to address the fundamental failings of AI on higher difficulties.

        Half the time I see hostile territory, they haven’t even done basic stuff like improving some tiles, and their city placements are ridiculous. I have many memories of Hiawatha waltzing a settler around my cities to plonk some worthless shithole town next to a single desert iron with no food tiles, or another similar AI proudly founding an arctic city next to one Fish tile and an expanse of frigid ocean.

        I don’t even think it’d be that hard to tweak; the AI loads up and slightly randomizes “flavours” to determine how it’ll make decisions – the assorted AIs could just have different flavour they use at appropriate times. Enemies with strong lategame units shouldn’t kneecap themselves because “aggression” got set high and they bumrush you with three archers and a spear… early aggressors with war chariots should know to consolidate their gains. There should also be very little room in the AI’s desire to improve tiles – that’s Civilization 101 right there and should be a function of difficulty setting if anything.

        For the real example of how those AI flavors play out, look at Alexander the Great in Civ 5; he’s by far one of the most reliably dangerous AI opponents, but it’s not because of his innate bonuses (they’re mid-tier at best), it’s because he’s flexible on win condition; opportunistic to snipe weak opponents but not self-destructively bloodthirsty, seriously determined to improve terrain and his own tech, and relentlessly competitive for the favor of City-States. You can count on him to be a factor in Diplomatic, Scientific, or Domination victories (and isn’t a slouch on culture) in a way few others are… and his Hoplites and Companion Cavalry barely factor into it.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          I agree that doomstack warfare is not interesting, but I can’t call one unit per tile a “terrible mistake”. Interesting gameplay should be prioritized, the fault isn’t with 1UPT, it’s with the dullard AIs.

          This is a weird response when I specifically said that it was a mistake AI-wise. Similarly with Joshua above, who says “I get where you’re coming from but it’s more fun” when my own post already said “I get why they did it because it’s more fun”. Is there some archetype of internet argument that people are pattern-matching me to after only briefly skimming the post?

          Having doomstacks would really exacerbate all the problems of the AI being able to fling 7 units at you while you’ve only got 2

          Also, this is not the problem. The reason I had a third the AI’s army size was that I was getting greedy and macroing, because I knew the AI was a drooling mongoloid that couldn’t punish my greed. If the combat AI were less bumbling then I would be forced to strike more of a balance between growth and defense and the game would get more interesting. Insofar as that makes me unable to beat the highest difficulty setting where the AI has +200% to everything, that is not a problem! I can just turn the difficulty setting down, a game is not ruined because you’re unable to meet its toughest challenge (heck, AI War 2’s designer explicitly states that max difficulty is supposed to be unbeatable, and anything that beats it is an exploit which will be patched).

          1. Hector says:

            I have no right to police this website, but perhaps you should *not* use that kind of offensive language, sir. Not ever. That’s absolutely beyond the acceptable bounds of society. That you would say that while discussing Civ disturbs me.

            1. Shamus says:

              Okay, I’m going to guess that “mongoloid” is the word you’re talking about? In my experience this word is archaic, but I was never taught that it was some terrible slur. Mentally, I have it filed in the same drawer with “dunderhead” and “ninnyhammer”.

              Was the word recently (last 20 years) added to the no-no pile, or is this a regional difference?

              1. Nimrandir says:

                I think it’s the former use of the word to refer to people with Down syndrome (which I just learned is no longer said as a possessive). Even separated from that, I could still see it as derogatory toward Asian people.

                1. Paul Spooner says:

                  Yeah, the former is what I’ve heard as well. My sister has Down Syndrome, so we’ve been able to see it first hand. One of the characteristic physiological features of Down Syndrome is “slanted” looking eyes and a much less pronounced bridge of the nose, which bears some resemblance to native Mongolians. There’s also differences in the way that creases develop in the palms of her hands.
                  Anyway, I don’t generally take offense at terminology, but if I did, it would be at the unfavorable comparison made to the intellectual capabilities of mongoloids. The AI in computer games is really not very impressive, even by retarded human standards. It doesn’t even make sense at all if it’s a dig at Mongolians, considering their legendary prowess at exactly the sort of strategically effective combat which the Civ V AI seems to so apparently lack.

              2. Hector says:

                If I saw someone using it in the specific scientific meaning, I might not object. Using as he did is a racial slur aimed at a third of the human race. I do not find that to be an empty insult.

                1. Nimrandir says:

                  For what it’s worth, the context indicates the word is being used as a disability slur. It just happens to be offensive on multiple levels.

                  In any case, it’s probably best just to let that term fade away. It seems the ethnographic community has.

              3. Chad Miller says:

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolian_idiocy

                I already knew that it was largely considred offensive, but it wasn’t until I looked it up that I found out medical experts have been blanket discouraging the term since the 1960s. It was slow to fall from general use (I could swear I heard it used without pushback in 1990s also)

                1. Shamus says:

                  Thanks for the context!

                  I have the same vague memory: I last heard the term somewhere in the late 80s / early 90s, and nobody was scandalized by it, although from usage I was able to figure out it was an archaic term for “very not-smart person”.

                  That wikipedia article you linked is amazing. I noticed the shift in “retard” over the years. When I was very young, that was the proper word to use for intellectual disability, but it had also been co-opted as a schoolyard insult. So then it passed out of favor and a new clinical term was invented.

                  What I DIDN’T know is that “retard” was just the most recent example in a very long line of similar terms. It seems anything adopted as a technical term will eventually be employed as a slur that overshadows the original meaning.

                  “Idiot” apparently hung around long enough that its offensive roots were forgotten, which doesn’t seem to be the case with “mongoloid”.

                  I wonder if this process of term degradation has stopped now. The problem with all of those older words is that they were all short and malleable. “Idiot” fits nicely into an insult and can be easily turned into the adjective “idiotic”. That makes it easy to weaponize the term.

                  But “intellectual disability” and “developmentally challenged” don’t work that way. They’re long and ponderous and lack with bite and punch of the earlier terms.

                  It’s very interesting. I’d love to show this to a 1920 clinician and see what they thought of this evolution.

                  1. kincajou says:

                    An interesting one (although less problematic than the other terms addressed above these days) is “cretin” , a term which originally referred to European alpine populations which suffered from iodine deficiencies and were de facto physically and mentally disabled. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_iodine_deficiency_syndrome#Terminology )

                  2. MaxieJZeus says:

                    It’s called “the euphemism treadmill.” Words that have a neutral meaning but refer to traits, objects, or behaviors that are seen as having a negative aspect come to be themselves negative words, so new words have to be invented to take on the old, neutral use. And then those euphemisms become corrupted and have to be replaced.

                    It’s a widespread phenomenon. “Villain” once neutrally meant “farmhand,” as in “someone who works at the villa.” By a drift that might be described as “farmhand” –> “peon” –> “lowlife” –> “thug” it took on its present meaning.

                    I’ve heard “developmentally challenged” used as an insult on a par with “retarded.” What it lacks in punch it makes up in sarcastic bite. And the drift has nothing to do with the words themselves. Only with the fact that they are associated (via reference) with something that people think is ugly.

                    1. Retsam says:

                      Yeah, it’s fundamentally the same process that leads to all of the euphemisms around race, which inevitably get associated with racism and end up getting changed regularly. (Bit of trivia: while it’s considered pejorative today, the word “colored” lives on as the C in the NAACP)

                      Leading to the awkwardness around “African American” seeming to be the currently preferred euphemism, leading to it getting applied to people that are neither African, nor American.

          2. Joshua says:

            ” Similarly with Joshua above, who says “I get where you’re coming from but it’s more fun” when my own post already said “I get why they did it because it’s more fun”. Is there some archetype of internet argument that people are pattern-matching me to after only briefly skimming the post?”

            The archetype for multiple people misunderstanding what you wrote is “You wrote your argument poorly”. The strong point in your post was saying that it was a TERRIBLE move. The part saying it was more fun was the secondary, short one that came off begrudgingly.

    2. MaxieJZeus says:

      Here’s a hypothesis I’ll throw out for discussion: In a game like Civ, the secret isn’t to develop a good AI for the computer players. The secret is to fashion a game where the player (without realizing it) is actually fighting against himself, and the AI is just there to disguise that fact and to add complications.

      This occurred to me while thinking about the Civ 4 mod Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization. It adds an interesting mechanic: If the player expands too much outside their RL historical area, they may experience a collapse that causes most of their cities to secede; in the worst outcome, the collapse can cause an outright, game-ending loss. There are, however, various strategies the player can pursue to mitigate the penalties that lead to collapse, but these strategies themselves bring additional complications. The result is that the player is mostly focused on finding and holding an equilibrium while still chasing classic Civilization goals, the pursuit of which will cause that equilibrium to wobble, forcing the player to chase a new equilibrium.

      The player is thus, in a sense, his own worst enemy because the pursuit of his goals is what endangers his own stability and survival. The AI civs, meanwhile, don’t have to be very smart in order to cause trouble; they only have to be smart enough to play spoiler.

      I think this might be one reason I find even Civ 4 vanilla to be more fun than other iterations of the franchise. It has enough internal complexity, even without what the RFC mod adds, that I feel the pinch of competing goals. In Civ 4, I can play a satisfying game even with only a single, pacific opponent. I get no similar satisfaction from Civ 5+. Moreover, when a game’s only interest consists in fighting against an AI, then the stupidity of the AI is going to be laid bare very quickly, and the player’s strategy over time will inevitably shift toward discovering exploits.

      1. Retsam says:

        This is something Crusader Kings II does well – the AI isn’t amazing, but it doesn’t have to be. Civ assumes players are on an equal-footing, and has a level of exponential growth: any advantage you get tends to compound as the game goes on.

        Whereas in Crusader Kings, you’re often playing as the little fish in the big ocean, (at least initially) – you’re often so out-matched numerically that being smarter than your opponents just helps to even the playing field, rather than giving the player an insurmountable advantage.

        And when you do become a big fish, there’s enough internal challenge that it’s sometimes hard to keep your empire together, even without any external pressure. Whereas vanilla Civ doesn’t really have much of this. If the enemies aren’t pressuring you, you pretty much just expand, and stuff like happiness mechanics just slightly slow you down.

        And coming from a different direction, for a game like Civ, “good AI” often isn’t even the goal in the way most people mean it. A lot of the most passionate fans of the games clamor for better AI, but these are a small minority of players, in the bigger picture. Your average player either finds the standard difficulty challenging enough, or else doesn’t care that the AI is “just cheating” on the harder difficulties, or just enjoys stomping the computers.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Not surprisingly considering it’s also Paradox Stellaris has a similar appeal. I’ve seen a lot of people roleplay specific empires and just play for the fun of it because it’s much better than CIV in creating emergent stories, even though the AI can sometimes be dumb like a sack of hammers and has some fairly exploitable features. It’s also one of the games where I’ve seen people say that “playing a small guy can be more fun than the big winning guy”. In fact one of the new origins specifically starts you subservient to one of the passive but initially superpowerful fallen empires.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          The description of having to be careful not to overextend too far or too quickly in Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization also reminds me of the intrinsic mechanics of Europa Universalis 4, where taking land raises your base unrest value. Take too much, and you’ll have constant, powerful revolts going on which can and will end your game. This is, in fact, pretty much the main impediment to a world conquest run—spacing out your conquests so that you’re always ingesting a steady trickle of new land without pushing yourself into revolts you can’t win.

          Maybe if I had discovered Civ IV at the age I discovered EU IV I’d have been more interested in it.

          1. The Puzzler says:

            Spacing out your conquests, or feeding the new provinces to your subject nations so you don’t get overextended. Of course, that still leaves aggressive expansion penalties to deal with…

  14. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    For me the Civilization franchise peaked with Beyond the Sword, and especially with the dark fantasy total conversion Fall From Heaven 2. In it the barbarians were evil creatures like goblins, lizardmen, and sometimes an actual boss like a dragon who takes over a barbarian city. Much more interesting.

  15. Bubble181 says:

    One of the things most people who play on the higher difficulties and sink thousands of hours into tend to forget is how little variation you’re really allowed.
    No matter what strategy you want to play in the end, you’re still forced to be aggressive, militaristic, and wide. I don’t really think going tall and turtling has been viable since, what, II? Somewhat in IV, depending on expansions, and in V you can sort-of-maybe.
    At lower levels, you can get away with actually going full-culture or full science. The only serious danger – and their main reason for existing – are barbarians. I’ve actually lost games to them when I’m deliberately not amassing an army.
    I just don’t like going wide all that much, but VI completely forces you to. The only way it was viable was playing Germany before they nerfed Hansas (which needed the nerf, to be fair).

    1. tmtvl says:

      In II going tall was terrible. Go wide, go democracy, and celebrate your way to the top. And if you go monarchy you can take out your neighbour before the rest steamrolls you.

    2. GoStu says:

      I found Tall play in 5 worked better than Wide; 4-City Tradition was pretty much always viable with most civs in most start positions, while trying to do a wide strategy was super dependent on having enough room to spread out and leverage your flat per-city bonuses. If you don’t start with that room then you’re gonna have to go claim it.

      In the small amount of 6 I played I definitely found that expansionism isn’t optional; cities cap in size pretty hard and it’s just difficult to get BIG cities and get enough mileage out of them.

      1. John says:

        Four cities and the tradition Civic track is pretty much my default way to play. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it’s the most reliable strategy I’ve found so far.

  16. Redrock says:

    Speaking of games that everyone hates, I kinda like most of David Cage’s games. Granted, I didn’t play Beyond, but if found Detroit to be pretty engaging. I can see all the problems people complain about, the games certainly are pretentious and at times poorly written, but they’re also lavishly produced and allow for some truly impressive story branching, the sort that most Telltale titles only pretend to do. And while the civil rights allegory in Detroit was cringe-inducing as hell, I can’t in all honesty say that it was that much worse than similar attempts in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided or, say, the latter seasons of Westworld. I still remember Omikron fondly, too.

    The QTEs suck, though, but when do they not?

    1. Platypus says:

      Detroit become the Cop robot cause hes the most interesting oh David Cage why didnt you make the whole game about him and Hank you could have printed money for years.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        Robot cop and his Clancy Brown buddy were the best part in the game. I’ve heard, these two actors adlibbed most of their performances, much to the annoyance of the David Cage

    2. Lars says:

      I could never beat the final boss in Omikron. I’ve beaten him down to 1 HP two dozen times – and then he was to quick to attack that vulnerable spot on his back.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      And while the civil rights allegory in Detroit was cringe-inducing as hell, I can’t in all honesty say that it was that much worse than similar attempts in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

      This is a really weird point of comparison, because DXMD was also widely derided for its hamfisted and generally terrible handling of the topic. It’s sort of like saying “Sure falling out of a third story window was bad, but I can’t in all honesty say that it was that much worse than getting hit by a car.”

      1. Redrock says:

        Can’t argue with that, but no one raises an eyebrow when you confess to enjoying DXMD, even if most people see it as a rather flawed sequel. That’s probably because DXMD can be excused as a gameplay-driven title as opposed to Detroit, but another major reason is that people just really enjoy dunking on David Cage. Now, I’m not saying the man doesn’t deserve it, but there’s a bias there that really messes with any attempt to discuss his work in any meanigful way.

    4. Christopher says:

      I’ll second Detroit. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s written by David Cage, lol. It’s a really awesome realization of the whole choose-your-own-adventure cinematic adventure games that are normally relegated to Telltale or Dontnod games. It uses that formula, but thanks to the whole AAA thing they can actually make them look really beautiful – and have choices that changes the outcomes dramatically to boot. And while Cage’s writing can be pretty dumb, it is at least, I think, entertaining. I mostly enjoyed Detroit a lot.

  17. tomato says:

    Quern is a poor man’s Obduction.

    1. Lasius says:

      I wouldn’t say poor man’s. Both are good games in their own right. Unfortunately Obduction had to be rushed in the end for budget reasons and it shows in the Maray cell.

  18. I don’t necessarily think that games are going to turn into a Bethesda-style mod-frenzy (although some may). I suspect what may happen is that we’ll start seeing more “eternal” games, where the actual developers view the existing game as merely a platform for an endless stream of releases.

    MMO’s already do this. I suspect one reason why most other games don’t as much is that the technology curve is still there to an extent and sooner or later your game just runs out of steam.

    Also, a lot of creatives don’t like to squat on one project forever–they want to do something new, and they frankly would get bored with making content for the same setup for a couple decades. I think this is another reason why franchises and series deteriorate over time even if they manage to keep the same creators. The creators who show the least tendency to run dry tend to do lots of “stand-alone” works or short series instead of running in the same rut for all eternity.

    It’s interesting that there isn’t more obvious conflict with publishers over this, because it’s definitely in the PUBLISHER’s interest to build one big platform and then run it into the ground–building new stuff for an existing game is way cheaper than building a whole new game from the ground up.

    1. Hector says:

      There are likely several reasons for it, but one absolutely huge one has been that it’s not very easy to build such a platform. Very few of them have proven to be long-term successes and it was not at all obvious which would actually take off like rockets. Once actually created, the games tend to burn out eventually and you can’t necessarily port players over to new stuff, and furthermore the players themselves may not be even remotely interested in whatever else your platform includes. And that assumes you can even continue to create new content.

      Except for Fortnite players. What I have to say about that experiment in turning humans into mindless drones cannot be printed on this website.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I do think we’ve reached a point where this is becoming increasingly more feasible on several levels. A lot of games are available digitally only so going online to download an update is more acceptable. The glut of games being released has the side effect of people being overwhelmed and falling back on tried franchises, developers or even specific titles (I don’t think the recent series of remasters and enhanced editions is a coincidence), being able to stick to something and getting both the novelty of new content and the familarity of the old game is becoming more and more attractive. And now that some devs find homes on subscription based platforms I think we might be in for more episodic or otherwise serialised games. Who’d have thought GameTap was ahead of its time.

      I mean between DLC, Early Access and various forms of post-release updates we’re seeing a bit of that already. Minecraft is in perpetual development since forever, many Paradox games change over the years (even if you don’t buy expansions they overhaul major game mechanics), Stardew Valley got not only new content over the years but entire multiplayer mode, Terraria only just got its (supposedly) final update, Neverwinter Nights after getting an Enhanced Edition release (where backwards compatibility with fanmade modules was considered a major feature) is actually getting new official modules released. And on the less glamorous side of the story the “survivocraft” genre is chock full of titles that got abandoned after promising perpetual development when the devs did not meet the Minecraft level of success they expected.

  19. tmtvl says:

    For those who haven’t seen it, Paul uploaded a video with some more thoughts on Quern.

  20. thark says:

    Paul, if you haven’t already played it, I strongly recommend Obduction, by the original Myst guys.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I watched a friend play it, but have never played myself. Visually very interesting, but had performance problems even on cutting-edge computers. I never got to engage with the puzzles, so I couldn’t speak to that. $30 is a bit steep, but I’ve wishlisted it so we’ll see if it goes on sale.

  21. JjmaCXIII says:

    Little late, but the Korean Scorched Earth-like game Paul briefly mentions was probably Gunbound. It had a cash shop that was kind of p2w iirc. All the tank designs were fairly unique from each other so I enjoyed learning them all, favourites being the boomerang tank and the satellite-guided laser-shooting tank.

    Scorched Earth brings back fond memories of several holiday gatherings for being one of the games us kids would play until dinner was ready.

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