Daavpuke / Member

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Civilization V - An open letter to Sid Meier [UPDATE 29/04/10]

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Dear Sid Meier,

And for that matter, everyone over at Firaxis.
I can hardly describe in words the anticipation I have for your new installment(s?) of Civilization you are promising us this fall. In fact, it is so big, I'm prepared to finally get rid of my tyrannosaurus computerex and save my ass off for a new one. Crysis, BioShock and other flaunters of insane flash be damned, I'll upgrade my rig for a static strategy game with little to no razzle dazzle. There's just no way I'd want to miss out on a new Civilization. How is that for irony?

Your keynote address about Civilization and games in general only fueled this anticipating fire. It is clear that there is not only a lot of technical thought in your games, but also psychological consideration. Not afraid by modern standards, you successfully debate the fact that you can leave out certain elements in a game, to make room for others. As you said, the human imagination is a powerful tool and it's good to see that it's being put to good use. It reminds me of days where everything was a square and the only indication of what that square was, rested in the game title. I am a strong follower of this concept and believe that it will give a lot more room to create an even bigger epic than the fourth installment. Hopefully developers were paying attention and we can see a trend of details being cut away to accommodate gameplay value. Don't get me wrong; Civilization V will still hold its own graphically, as I've seen from various short videos and cutscenes. It just won't add flash where not needed and that's a good thing; a very good thing. I like more game and less movie, to put in short.

This has only been strengthened recently by me completing Zone Of The Enders on Playstation. Sure, this game looks and feels amazing, but before you can draw a second breath, the ending credits grace your screen. And there is no real encouragement to play a new game after that. I think that makes it a bad game to play. It's just too short. So, replace graphics for gameplay equals good, but not reversed. This is one of the aspects that have made Civilization stand out throughout time as one of the best games ever made.

[video=6253529]
You might want to grab some coffee, it's going to be a long thing.


The past few months that I've heard of this glorious news, I also have been hearing about numerous rumors, as these things always go. In this letter to you, I'd like to discuss with you these rumors and clear up my opinion of them as an avid fan, but also avid gamer and consumer in general.

We already know you'll be revolutionizing your world with hexagon tiles. No, not revolutionizing the strategy world, these tiles have existed since Master Of Monsters. I am still very interested in seeing how this will affect the known world of Civilization though! So many things will need to be rethought and tactics redone. Change is scary, but we'll have to bear through it, for the best.

Add to this the other changes you'll be making in combat, with only 1 unit per hex, finally some ranged combat and units consisting of actual troops. It will make for an entirely new game. Yes, I know how that sounds, of course it's a new game; but I mean for a new game in its entirety, not just a new Civilization game. You could call it Sim Society or Humanity Tycoon! Just kidding, that sounds awful. Nonetheless, CIV V will not be Advanced CIV IV and that's a good trend to follow, as CIV IV also felt radically different than its first 3 brethren. I'm not sure if all these changes will be to my liking, I just hope they will inspire me like everything you put into Civilization IV.

And here is where the real chatter begins, sirs. My ears have heard you'll be making changes to some aspects of CIV IV I loved so much. Well, I liked 100% of the game, so that's not hard. I'm just saying that it's perhaps not necessary to take out the hatchet to some concepts. Please, let us bury it for now.

For instance, I heard that random events will not return. I hope this especially isn't true, because I waited 4 installments for this to happen. There is nothing more refreshing than completely random events. It keeps you on your toes and keeps a game new and interesting. Just like Mother Nature herself, most things are out of our hands and that is a good thing. Don't listen to purists that demand 100% control over everything they do. If that was the case, this world wouldn't have Brussels sprouts. You can't control an eruption cancelling all flights to Europe. You can't control an earthquake destroying your tropical paradise. But that is the essence of life. And it's not like all events are bad. We discover new and amazing things every day. Things that improve life through medicine, new ways to provide food, cleaner power sources; all these things also create the life we live. If games have taught me one thing, it's that random events are the single, best implementation of games.

I DESERVED THIS!WHY ME!? I HATE random events. The AI is out to get me...
A perfect example of a good and a bad event. *click to enlarge*

There is nothing better than having a completely random game, as it will give you a new and unique game each and every time. It is like buying a new game every time you play it. It's because of this, that my top 3 games I sunk the most time in are Diablo II and your own Pirates and Civilization. In Diablo, it was the rush of finding new items and clearing new dungeons each time that made you come back time and time again. In Civilization, playing a different game each time, created a new world with different outcomes, different leaders and different situations. It's like starting a new life.

But the most fun was playing Pirates on Commodore 64. We go a long way back, to the days of Microprose, sirs. In those days, it gave you such an amazing sense of freedom, you kept coming back every day. Encountering random ships and slaying them was so fun, you would just roam the seas and forget about the rest. Heading into ports, not knowing what might happen and the conquest to becoming the best you could be, made this game one of my all-time favorites. It was so good that our Commodore was the center piece of our living room and it would run night and day in rotation between me, my brother and even my mother. That's right, even my mother was completely addicted to it, perhaps even more than us.

Pirates! on the Commodore 64
Sailing the simple seas.

If all these arguments have not convinced you to keep random events alive, I have no idea what will. Though I'm sure I can debate even more on the fact. But as I'm not a paid employee at Firaxis, this is all I can do without access to board meetings and developer feedback. I'm not saying they are perfect and do not need fine-tuning, because they most certainly do. They ruined multiplayer games at the drop of a hat, placing players out of sync and the community might frown on some events obliterating their success rate. But even when it ruined my multiplayer games with my brother, we persevered time and time again, for the love of these same events. So, put them under the microscope, sure, but don't leave them out altogether. Quests especially, as they were the best element added to the game. You could downsize others, but don't take away the small RPG element you threw in there for us. I bet I'm not the only one that felt like a kid receiving a Nintendo 64 at Christmas when such a quest first popped on my screen.

I'm glad we got that out of the way. Perhaps it is time for a small break? No, let us press on to one more rumor. It might not be as important, but I feel it needs saying.

Religion and culture were a new addition to Civilization IV and I've read official reports that religion will not return. Why is that? You must've extensively put time in placing it into the game, so it must've been good. It doesn't seem like you'd be the type of people to add something last minute to a game. Is there something that went wrong in lobbies or politically? Perhaps it hit some weird taboos, as religion has always been a very delicate topic. But if any religion has also taught us 1 thing and 1 thing alone, it's that it inspires people to be good. So don't listen to fanatics, I liked them better as generic characters in Civilization II's fundamentalist times anyway. They should bear an open mind to people advertising faith and humbly accept any differences they might have. Isn't that what their respective prophets say? It's the reason I hold an agnostic belief, instead of an atheist one. Because I believe that teaching others to be decent human beings is something that should be welcomed.

A Taoist Missionary, ready for service
Compassion, moderation, and humility.

I, for one, enjoyed this addition. It might not have been my favorite, but it did add a new way to play. And this is my main concern upon taking it away now. You've finally taken in account this aspect of a society, so we can play this way and now you'd take it back? Please do not throw it away as of yet. Let us bury it with the previous concept and build on the additions, instead of discarding them. It would seem such a waste of labor and effort to do so. You can research what people disliked about it and finetune it from there, but I saw no flaws in it. It's not like it was a groundbreaking way to play, like winning through culture. Although it aided in that resolution, I never felt it overpowered anything or anyone. My brother and I both went out of our way to create our respective societies under our religious banner, not because of the meager benefits, but because of the added realism to it. You'd start out as a given religion and throughout time, if your civilization would allow it, you'd take in other beliefs to strengthen your community and culture. It sounds like real life, doesn't it? Good thing it's not; I wouldn't enjoy Mongolians tearing down my city walls, in their conquest for glory in the 21st century.

Let's hope you don't take away any of the game experiences you've added previous time, because I fear it will shrink gameplay value. This way Civilization IV will be better than V, simply because it has more aspects to offer. Sure, there's room for different additions, but even that will just feel like a replacement, more than an addition. So, I advise to build upon the given choices from the previous installment, instead of altering some. Because the new aspects you've already given out now on top of the old facets would already suffice to make Civilization V a better game. But I'm sure you're much better than that and have even more in store for us. Lucky us, gamers, that we get spoiled with such masterful game designing, surpassing any other.

In this same line, I can only imagine the broadened appreciation you'll get once Civilization comes to Facebook. No doubt, this will topple Farmville of its unrightful pedestal in no time. Facebook has a good reputation of offering addicting and time consuming games. So I'm sure that offering an actual good game will blow the masses minds and set forth an entire new era of Facebook games. Perhaps it will even alter browser and social network games altogether. I can only think of the vast opportunities that can be exploited in this massive game. It will be like a real social network. Wait, we already have that. It will be like an actual Civilization come to life! Yes, that sounds better. The interaction and social possibilities are endless in my mind and I'm sure it will turn out for the best. If ever I could be a beta gamer, it would be for that very game. My social studies, accompanied with my favorite game; it would be like heaven.

Civilization on Facebook!
Mafia Wars better plan a hostile takeover

On this note of flattery, I shall leave you to your business, for I know you have busy days ahead. I hope I will have persuaded you all, over at Firaxis, to reopen some cases and perhaps salvage old ideas that were put on the table. It's all a huge drawing board and you have to clear it sometimes, but it's always better to hoard something than to discard it and regret it later. Now I'll let you get back to it, that masterful drawing board. Creating an entire Civilization is hard work.

We all know Rome wasn't built in one day.

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