OK so I am a Civ addict, and despite of the game turning me off to play it a few times since it came out, I managed to make myself play one game to turn 258, and here are some observations. Not on gameplay, but on actual Civ V interface with the player.
I’ll start with buttons. Buttons are like luxury for any software interface. If you are playing a game for 10 hours and are clicking on something that you need 1000 times, why would you want to click on the same thing 2000 times because you have introduced an unnecessary menu?
I have no idea why, but on many levels this is exactly what Civ V makes you do, and it is frustrating coming straight from a really well thought out Civ IV BTS interface.
Here are some question for the interface designers:
- In Civ IV: Top right corner has all the overview screens listed by a button click, unobtrusive design, with all the views required, 11 of them.
- In Civ V: You start with a menu - extra click for no use, and only 7 options, but hey they simplified the game and gave you less choice. That is an improvement right? You got an extra menu click, or get used to hitting the “F” keys again, and less information…
- If we go to individual screens themselves…
o Tech tree –looks OK, a bit slow, reminds me of CTP which is not necessarily bad…
o Diplomacy – no comments necessary, greatly simplified, they could have taken it out altogether it would not be much different
o Military overview – do you see where your (very important now) units are? No. Can you group them by type? No. You have to scroll up and down. No minimap to indicate the unit location. Do you see unit promotions? No, I didn’t think you did.
o Economic overview – merge of the older City overview, and spending summary, simpler, less information, but when you click on a city in the overview to check it, do you go there? Off course not, this is Civ V, I should get used to this already.
o What is left, ah yes “social policies” old “civics” that became the second tech tree now… but at least for what it is – a new concept and all – the interface is actually fine on that one, and I am not going into the gaming concepts in this post, will leave that one to others… like incompetent AI, and half broken MP where the biggest innovation in this series 1UPT would come to best advantage.
- There is also something we gained in Civ V – an extra simplified menu pull in the top left corner, repeating information that is already available on the right hand side menus, just “simpler” ie less information. There you can also see the cities, you can also select them, see units, go to them, and see the science… So you can go to cities and units here, but you cannot do it from a more information full menu on the right hand side. So when you see your city/unit overview with more information on the “right” you better exit, go to the left hand side of the screen, find your unit or city or unit, click there, and there you are 5+ clicks only for what it could have taken one click. Impressive.
- In Civ V: We also got the advisors back, and I do not mind them, but the advisors have the mind of their own, they block the whole view?!? What is that, the simplified interface overtaken??? Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind that one bit, but given the rationale for the other changes for the worse, this one seems like the odd positive one out.
- Civilopedia, not going there, called HELP now, and less helpful than before, again harder to read in general, but whatever… skipping this one…
After covering the information screens we can go and take a look at the graphics themselves.
From Drop Box
From Drop Box
When compared next to each other, can you tell which game is 5 years old, and which one needs quadruple CPU and GPU power to run it’s engine? Not that easy for me on this screen nor from within the game if anything Civ IV had a more pleasant color palette so it was easier to play, to my eyes at least.
The point of a TBS game visually should not be in making invisible details that you cannot even see when you zoom in to the max, but in making an easy and recognizable style where you can distinguish units immediately and not only after playing 100 hours, or by hovering over the shield to see what it is, while making a TBS game THE system hog.
Not to forget Civ V color palette: Green forests, on green grass, with green hills, on dark green tundra, with green jungle, and green marshes, yellow green plains , pale green deserts and pale green with some green spots flood plains. Very eco is this green game. It should be called Green Civ Revolution. Even the shallow see is more green than turquoise blue… the only other colors we get is the dark blue see and white for ice and hex clouds.
After getting used to the colors, what next? A quiz
From Drop Box
How many units are in this screen?
I think there were about 20 here… and where do you want to “store” them, sure just let them hang out around the map… and this is not the whole continent, off course, my whole map is littered with units … sure some will say “but this is not how it’s meant to be played” ( Nvidia ) but well if I had a decent enemy, I’d want to have as many units as my empire can handle… than what? If you have a war – how do you get them to fight. One by one . Not going into the game mechanics and the fact that no way that AI can be up to it, especially defensive part, just interface mechanics. It is just plain poor, and don’t go into the “limiting” direction, Civ is about a lot of stuff/cities/units/empires, which need to be managed all together with an intuitive interface and not by limiting “you can only play with 10 units/cities/empires on the map, and that should be enough for this game”… In case you do not want that, you get a clickhaton. I guess I am just disappointed with the direction the developers took civ to. A game which can be large and have the interface to manage a big number of units/cities on screen can also provide a good small game, but the reverse not quite as much. The direction of Civ V is towards manageable small sizes, and a clickathon at large ones. 1 unit per tile per turn. :facepalm: .
If we take this direction to the maximum , I bet designers would be the happiest if we all played on small maps, with up to 7 civs, 5 cities each, and 10 units each. All that in wonderful GFX glory, as this obviously sells, even in a TBS…
From Drop Box
From Drop Box
In Civ IV – you can see the trade; see the bonuses, see the food, visually and not just a number, see the production in the same visual and numerical way see the clear food/gold/production in the tiles, not tiny specs that you do not know if it is floodplain green mush or food.
Again in Civ IV clear view of the specialists, in the past you add them with one click, and now select from the specific building. Do really do you care if the scientists comes from library or the univeristy like in Civ V? Change for the change itself, and not necessarily for the better.
Clear and uncluttered view of the great people generation (OK now you know who is coming first, but boy is it unecessarily BIG) Change for the change itself.
Building list, nice and unobtrusive in Civ IV, (with effects of each building) but big and with less immidiately available information in Civ V. Change for the change itself, and for the worse too.
You even have the minimap so you can see where you city is in Civ IV -not so in Civ V.
Production Queue – let’s not even go there… OK we have to so... Blocks Ľ of the screen, cannot queue more than 6 units, no automation in assigning the queue. Design failure, knowing where you are coming from, which is Civ IV. In the end you have to keep on clicking in asigning those build queues, why make it one click when you can click 6 times instead over multiple intervals in same city.
• What happened to turning off enemy moves every turn (barbarians in particular )?
• What happened to turning off animations?
• Automatic naming of save games in Civ V, gone from Civ V.
• Hovering is a big thing in Civ V interface… for the lack of better word – design idiots.
- Constant messages from city states blinking there for my attention, making me want to raze them except they provide for such great bonuses so that misses half of the point from new Civ game
Which interface takes more screen real estate?
o If anything civ V has the whole right hand side covered with not so useful popup messages
o Civ IV has the bottom filled in with useful and readily available unit information wihout menu diving
o Civ V – left hand side pointless scientific area obstruction, and City/Unit menu where you can actually select them - change for sake of change, and making it worse in the process
- So in the end in Civ V you use the similar amount of screen real estate with fewer bigger buttons and more menu diving.
- Vertical Unit Bar with extra menu diving for fortifying the unit = unnecessary annoyance, again change for sake of change and making it worse for it
- Strategic view – worse than “natural zoom out” strategic view in Civ IV
- No leader/country information easily available as in Civ IV flag
- Blocking whole right hand side of the full screen for “quick production” update, but not giving us more than 6 slots in the production queue which cannot be memorized (as far as I can tell) – someone got their time investment priorities wrong!!!
- Technology has the same block Ľ of the screen on the left hand side as an “improvement” instead of the elegant Civ IV space allocation in upper right corner, not obstructive and easy to read = Civ IV; Civ V is obstructive and no prettier for it. Change for sake of change, and worse for it.
- Minimap – poorer layout than Civ IV
- On top of Civ IV minimap, useful buttons toggle grid, toggle bare map, toggle yield display, toggle resources, toggle global view; out of it all only strategic/global view stayed as a button (which is, let’s face it - dead ugly too in Civ V) and the rest in Civ V is in a “you guessed” a menu where you can click four items of your choice, but they got rid of the “bare map”… which would be useful especially in such a game littered with units all over the map.
- In Civ IV On top of that you also got the score – unobtrusively may I add, which you can toggle on and off easily, gone missing in Civ V
- Shift + Tab does not bring up the log, quests, and overview, but STEAM interface, WOW that is an improvement – NOT.
Comparing to the earlier versions of civ the default soundtrack is very flat, as if they lifted it from Elder Scrolls Oblivion. While not outright a disaster like the interface, comparing to what we had before it is another serious let down. No distinctive “age” music, all along very similar and bland. Will we be able to change music as the ages change in Civ V?
And for the last one – Leonard Nimoy kicks ass as a narrator from whoever is the “deadly deep voice” guy they hired this time around.
Civ V – case closed, at least for the time being.