On the Quirks of Civil War Generals and Civilization's Scenario Design

Firaxis' lead designer, Ed Beach, and lead producer, Dennis Shirk, talk through the designs of the two new scenarios coming in Civilization V: Brave New World.

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The Civilization series has always been known for its massive campaigns spanning centuries of human history. However, it has also been supported by a series of challenging scenarios for players seeking a more directed experience. For Civilization V's latest expansion, Brave New World, Firaxis' lead designer, Ed Beach, and lead producer, Dennis Shirk, have two new scenarios in the works: the American Civil War and Scramble for Africa. These scenarios not only put a new twist on Civ V's mechanics, but also let the developers show off some of the new technology designed for this expansion.

"When we started working on the American Civil War scenario, we wanted to come up with a way to reflect the quirks of Civil War generals and the big effect they had on [soldiers'] performance," explained Beach. To do this, Beach and his team developed a promotion system where every unit, before entering combat for the first time, is considered "green," or untested. After that unit goes through battle for the first time, that green promotion is swapped with a random one from a pool of good and bad promotions each named after a Civil War general. "For example, you might get the Stonewall Jackson promotion, which gives a bonus for flanking attacks, or the George Pickett promotion, which gives a penalty for charging across open terrain."

While this randomized promotion technology was developed specifically for the Civil War scenario, that technology found another use in the main game. According to Beach, when designing the Indonesians, the team decided it wanted to have a swordsman unit that used a curved, cursed blade out of Indonesian folklore. According to the legends, some of these blades were good, while others were, well, cursed. Now, Indonesian kris swordsmen start with the mystic blade promotion, which is swapped out for good or ill after their first combat.

With Scramble for Africa, the main goal was designing a scenario that would showcase some of Brave New World's new civilizations, including the Moroccans and the Zulu. In this scenario, the colonial powers of the world aim to conquer Africa, while the natives must battle back this invasion and establish dominance. Regardless of which side you take, the layout of Africa is what makes this scenario special. The continent's borders always create the shape of Africa; however, its interior is randomized each time you play. For Beach, using this technology in a scenario serves a dual purpose: it gives Scramble for Africa a unique quirk and also demonstrates to the game's modding community how to implement this new technology.

Scenarios have become a long-running part of the Civilization series and they let the development team flex its creative muscle. "We can put situations and historical events in place that we really don't have the flexibility to put in the main game; Empire of the Smoky Skies from [Gods and Kings] is a prime example," said Shirk. "The other thing to mention is that [scenarios] give us a chance to come up with a whole different set of victory conditions than what's in the base game," Beach added. "We get suggested different victory conditions all the time, and scenarios are our chance to explore those conditions."

With the exception of Into the Renaissance, the scenarios in Civilization V are intentionally designed to be shorter than the base game. "If you end up with a really long scenario, you end up echoing the base game as you're once again showing a progression through a large portion of history," explained Beach, adding that most scenarios are designed so that you feel like you're diving deep into a specific part of history with a highly tailored experience. "The scenarios I enjoy most," added Shirk, "are the shorter ones because of how [Beach] is able to create such a dramatic story arc. He is able to keep the stress level very high because there are no long periods where you're not really engaged with the game."

Those high-stress situations have kept a dedicated few coming back time and again to certain scenarios in pursuit of the perfect strategy. For Beach and his team, it has been rewarding to see which scenarios are still being discussed today. "I've been heartened by the fact that the discussion for the Rise of the Mongols scenario has been going on for over three years," said Beach. "Just the fact that the discussion has remained so active has been very interesting to keep an eye on over the past few years."

Outside of their own designs, the two developers have taken notice of the community's efforts as well. "I've always been a fan of R.E.D., a massive World War II scenario [with] an unbelievable amount of custom units and expansions," said Shirk. "It's an amazing undertaking!" Beach, on the other hand, has his eye on something more in the fantasy realm, adding, "I've looked at some of the Game of Thrones mods, but I can't say I've had time to play deeply into any of them. However, I like seeing the level of enthusiasm for that genre that's going on right now."

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29 comments
fadlee
fadlee

now compare this to Europa Universalis IV.. hahaha

roysubs
roysubs

Civilization is great, at the start that is, but mid to late game is *always* awful; sluggish, uninteresting and I barely work a game to completion for this reason. I hope that this expansion can alleviate the tedious late-game play but I'm not confident. The above trade routes look fun (but at the expense of even more micro-management I suspect).

I wish wish wish that Firaxis would do something about this. 2 simple ways would be:
1) have a unified production/city screen, that would look like a spreadsheet, in here you can tweak all possible production options, specialists etc, but also with the ability to CTRL select multiple cities in your empire and apply a setting to all of them such as "build Granary" to apply to 5 cities etc.
2) as civilizations enter certain "eras", certain micromanagement should be folded/disappear, so for example, when get to a certain era, granaries are no longer things that you explicitly build, but are just automatic in every city.

As I'm stating it here, 2) could be unbalanced, but with some thoughts and options along this line to streamline the micromanagement as a civilization progresses is what I'm getting at, so that things don't take forever, but 1) above would be so simple for them to implement and would make mid-to-late gameplay hugely more more streamlined (clicking on every city and changing stuff is such a boring chore and so inefficient!)

Faraxis don't really seem to worry about how boring the late game is though. The start game is great, and they seem to sell it on that alone, but damn, with a few simple changes, a bit of thought, the whole game will become so much more appealing as a whole package.

bentelkalb
bentelkalb

Civ V multiplayer, the time between turnes get s sooo long its no longer playble, anye one lese have that problem?

megamanmatt450
megamanmatt450

Will this expansion finally make me install Civ V again? Highly doubtful.

Leivve
Leivve

The trade trailer made me wounder, can trade ships pass through your hexes freely like religious units, or can you tax a convoy for passing through a choke-point you control.

PesmergaYuber
PesmergaYuber

Yah the scenarios are not meant to be easy that's for sure. This expansion looks pretty good, it's been a while since I've played Civ V looking for a reason to get back into it.

ihateds2
ihateds2

Reminds me of the Seven Kingoms II trade system. Incidentally, my favorite trade system ever.


LOVE. IT. 

duderdave
duderdave

Well, it looks like they are going to beat The Creative Assembly at making a grand scale Civil War strategy game. And the CA was sooooooooooooo close to it with Shogun 2's Fall of the Samurai... a pity that...

St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

I have never played a scenario in Civ 5 so far and I probably won't in this expansion either but I'm looking forward to the trade route system.

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

The last expansion was awesome bet this is just as good..You guys whine to much, it doesnt have isreal i wont play it..This doesnt look good..Omg this looks horrible, man oh man..Like the trade route system, adds some depth to the game..You get to close to your neibors u get ganked..Its pretty cool..

skunkpants
skunkpants

Why wasn't trade routes like this before? I have waited a while for this!

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

I won't buy this unless Israel is a playable civ.

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

I have the whole set of DLC so far but I actually want this for the XCOM soldier cameos lol.

Vambran
Vambran

I need to upgrade my pc. After i expand beyond a certain point the game lags so much i give up.

Zarkhaine
Zarkhaine

@St0Ne4Ge lol, I tried a senario once - I had no idea what was going on or what I was supposed to be doing. Never touched them again...

streamline
streamline

I wish they would just add all the good elements from Galactic Civilizations upfront so that we can stop paying for all these expansions. Not saying that GalCiv is better than Civ5 or purely original. Just saying that I know what Firaxis is doing and I am getting tired of paying for features that should've been implemented already.

bentelkalb
bentelkalb

I wont buy it unless Palestine is a playble civ.

bentelkalb
bentelkalb

I wont buy it if Palestine is not a playable civ.

Saidrex
Saidrex

@Vambran lol. even my 4 core 3.6 ghz pc lags. Play on smaller maps, it should lag a lot less or not lag at all.

Furi0
Furi0

@Imperiacommando @mssangol 

Not quite... 

About 75% of the population are Jewish... Get your facts right...

Off topic, the game is awesome, I don't care if Israel would become a CIV or not,  I already pre-ordered the game and can't wait for it to be released!

Saidrex
Saidrex

@gbbenner @Imperiacommando @Lord_Vader "jew" is race? Go back to school kid, you are to stupid for comments yet