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In-House Preview Part 8: "Springboard"

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  • In-House Preview Part 8: "Springboard"

    This is the third installment of my more narrative approach to previewing Civilization: Revolution and eighth overall; when part nine arrives, it will revolve around my playing of the game itself. This then serves as my final general overview that not only concludes the narrative but also offers some reflective comments. First, some odds and ends that I did not fit into my ongoing write-ups before.

    Keeping with the "greatest hits" theme for technologies to research are buildings to, 'er, build. Where you construct a Courthouse in a city of yours, its extends the radius of workable tiles farther out from your city site. Sid says these buildings come a little later in CivRev than, say, CivIV but how later is not yet known. Other available buildings include Barracks, Temples, Cathedrals, Marketplaces and Banks that total 15-20 in all.

    Those existing Civ players who like to specialize their cities along production, trade, research and cultural lines will find CivRev has a kindred spirit approach taken in its development. Sid elaborates:

    What we're working towards here was to kind of get away from the phenomenon of every city building every building and being very similar [as a result]. Given the cost for the buildings and the times of the game, you can't build all the buildings... you want to steer up a city in a specific direction. Buildings can do that [and] depending on what Great People you put in the city, it will add to the personality of the city as well as the terrain that's close by. [These influence] what a city's good at and how it becomes unique. If you get this 'perfect storm' of the right terrain, the right Great Person, the right buildings, all of a sudden you're cranking out technology at an incredible rate or you've got a really productive city or a city that grows really fast.

    As Sid is describing this, I'm thinking that CivRev is resembling CivIV more in respect to city management than earlier Civ titles. It's not a game about having a zillion cities, he continues. You tend in a normal game to maybe end up with 5 or 6 cities so. ICS (Infinite City Sprawl) is not coming back from the dead and rightly so.

    When I began my narrative I mentioned how researching Pottery will allow you to make use of any Wine resource you may have in your territory then and there on out in that game. Wine provides extra trade and, as another example, Cows +2 food per turn. Other to-be-included resources include Dye, Fish and -- yes -- Whales. (There is no word yet on whether Whales will be more useful to players than they were in CivIV, but they couldn't hardly be any worse. )

    One of the things that we streamlined is that by default, any particular terrain tile only gives you one [bonus], Barry explains: where a tile gives you additional food, it does not give you production as well. This is consistent with the behaviour of base terrain: food, resources, trade... one or another, but not more than one. It's just a lot easier to understand for new players, OK, trees get me lumber and that makes sense.

    What changes this default value is if you play a particular civilization with a unique trait that changes this dynamic. For example, the Japanese get food from water so they will get both the default trade and the food benefit from water tiles.

    Another dynamic that CivRev is changing is at least one aspect to the sabotage Spy units can cause. In addition to disrupting production they can also, to borrow Barry's words, cause a ruckus. They can knock a city defender's defense factor down a notch: a Spy unit could remove a city fortified unit's defense value just before attacking it with a combat unit.

    Earlier three of the game's four eras -- Ancient, Medieval, Industrial and Modern -- were mentioned in reference to Great Persons. There are 7 Wonders of the World in each 3 of these era for a total of 21 Wonders. Stonehenge is the first of these Wonders that could be built. By contrast, there are 7 relics. When Sid checked the Civilopedia later to verify something else entirely, I caught a glimpse of three Wonders that I do not recall seeing noted in any preview to date: the Manhattan Project, the Internet (replete with a less-than-flattering close-up of Al Gore's face ) and... Leonardo's Workshop! No word on what benefits any of these Wonders will provide in CivRev though.

    It seems our army has quickly proven its worth: Cleopatra contacts Sid to offer peace. Most noble Lord Lincoln, I had no use for THAT Warrior anyway. Nevertheless, you have proved the might of your armies. Let us now end this wasteful conflict. Our choices are to accept, deny, accept on the condition of being given the Horseback Riding technology in return or consult with his advisors. Sid accepts peace. "We Love the King Day" is celebrated with firework fanfare the same turn. Between building a Barracks or a Wonder of the World, Sid chooses a Wonder: Stonehenge specifically. Sid reminds us of the Temple that was automatically built in Washington following the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant artifact not long ago.

    Thanks to the recent addition of Washington's Temple, its culture has more than tripled from 3 to 10 points per turn. For a cost of 100 resources -- 6 turns in Washington's case here -- city Temples will be 50% more effective which would bring the point-per-turn total up to 15. Barry reminds us that Stonehenge could be rushed with our Great Person, Cheops, as he is a Great Builder specifically. Oh yeah. Barry, you've played this game before, Sid says coyly. Once or twice, Barry replies with dry wit. After this is done, not only are we notified of the completion of Stonehenge but that this also constitutes a first Achievement being unlocked as it is the first Wonder we have built.

    Sid's Caravan is now in trouble with barbarians suddenly seen nearby. Barry advises that Sid may be able to get the Caravan to safety. His efforts prove successful... for the moment anyway.

    I'll let you guys play soon, I'm sorry, Sid tells both Civilization Fanatics Center's Kevin "Padma" Zimmerli and I.

    We now start building a Settler in our capital, but that proves to be somewhat eerily premature. The Angkor Wat is not so much Wonder in CivRev like it was in CivIV as it is an artifact. Our Phalanx army discovers it next turn. Angkor Wat is an isolated civilization which has built one of the Wonders of the World! Here's the eerie part: the benefit for the player is that this civilization agrees to join yours in the form of a new city. Sid names it Boston and orders construction of a Phalanx in it immediately.

    Presumably random is what Wonder the Angor Wat builds, possibly relative to the player's progression through the technology tree. In this case, it builds the Great Pyramids. Not only are the Pyramids a Wonder in Civ (again ), its CivRev iteration comparatively inherits that from its CivIV counterpart: the enabling of all forms of government. Sid's first intention is to choose Democracy to get more trade from where trade already existed, but ultimately opts for Monarchy given the great culture coming from the Palace in the capital city of Washington. Its culture is now 21 points per turn.

    The barbarians catch up with our Caravan and it is destroyed. They then turn their attention to our Phalanx army, prompting a detailed battle scene animated in real-time (a la CivIV). They're going to be sorry, Sid rightly predicts. The army is pretty effective, Barry notes as the battle is won.

    500BC. Science Advisor is looking for new direction next: Alphabet, Ceremonial Burial, Horseback Riding, Pottery (all 3 turns apiece) or Iron Working (4 turns). Like CivIV, if you're working on one technology and switch to another in mid-progress CivRev will remember how far you had progressed so you can resume its research later. Unlike CivIV, CivRev's city production does not penalize players for changing construction focus. [That penalty] works really well for CivIV but for a game like this where we're trying to attract new people it's a very non-fun sort of concept -- [if you accidentally did so], we don't want you to have to load a save just because you made a bad decision.

    Sid activates a cheat to turn off the Fog of War so he can more quickly highlight a few more things about CivRev. As he's roaming across the map, he finds one city other than Washington or Thebes -- a city that made me decide that when I got the chance to play my own game, I would be certain it would not be an enemy city. Yes, it's Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. That means Montezuma. There's also Shaka Zulu of the Zulu as we see the city of Zimbabwe off in a corner of this simulated world.

    We're having too much fun here. -- Sid Meier


    The li'l capital that could...
    Near the start of Firaxis Games' Sid Meier and Barry Caudill's demonstration of Civilization: Revolution, Sid briefly commented on the variable pacing of the game. The length of the game really depends on your play style. You can play a game where you toil in your one city for the one game and maybe it goes by quite quickly, or if you're going to conquer the world that can take some time. Whichever end of this spectrum you are on, it should take less time than in previous Civ titles but still proportional to such experiences. But as has been said before the primary demographic target for CivRev is not within the PC market but rather the console. Besides a lot of cool units, Sid describes knowing that there will be a lot of new people playing the game as the other thing that's especially fun for me. To reemphasize CivRev is not Civilization V -- if it were, it would be called Civilization V.

    Adaptations are being and have been made not just for the controllers from the towerlike Xbox360 to the handheld Nintendo DS but also a general playing style on these systems: greater speed of a game from start to finish. But greater speed does not necessarily mean less time played; it can also refer to more things occurring at anytime in-game (and in particular on-screen). But CivRev has not 'turned' the series to fit this mould that has and continues to serve real-time strategy well on consoles. Much has been learned about cultivating and nurturing deep, meaningful turn-based gameplay from the four direct iterations of Civ on the PC over the past one-and-a-half plus decades... good, bad and ugly. One can formulate, hypothesize, analyze and critique the bullet points, flowcharts and arguments of game design for hours on end without answering a fundamental question: is the game fun?

    Though talking about another aspect of CivRev entirely at the time, I think back to something Sid said about his approach to this design: going back to the original Civ on the PC as that was the game that introduced Civ to the world. Firaxis is aiming to introduce the series to console gamers on their own terms and turf; from the preview build I saw and played for but a short time last fall, it is already a saving grace in the wake of the third-party clunky console ports of the past. Whether you accept it yourself or not, CivRev  is re-introducing Civ to the gaming world; this has precipitated its developers to arguably re-examine and challenge more of the series' evolution than ever before. But CivRev must also be able to stand on its own and out from the shadows of what has come before it... I already see it casting its own. As someone who has never owned and rarely played on any gaming console before, I had not thought it plausible that I would be considering purchasing such a system – that is, until now. It that withdrawal doing my speaking for me? Probably, a symptom in any game design that ought to be welcome.
    PolyCast Co-Host, Owner and Producer: entertaining | informing civ
    >> PolyCast (Civ strategy), ModCast (Civ modding), TurnCast (Civ multiplay); One More Turn Dramedy

  • #2
    This preview was very interesting, good job Dan.
    Modern man calls walking more quickly in the same direction down the same road “change.”
    The world, in the last three hundred years, has not changed except in that sense.
    The simple suggestion of a true change scandalizes and terrifies modern man. -Nicolás Gómez Dávila


    • #3
      Thanks, Heraclitus. Glad you enjoyed it.
      PolyCast Co-Host, Owner and Producer: entertaining | informing civ
      >> PolyCast (Civ strategy), ModCast (Civ modding), TurnCast (Civ multiplay); One More Turn Dramedy


      • #4
        Having played civ from the very beginning i was very warey of a console version of civ. However after your preview and the videos i am very ready to add it to my must buy list. Thank you so very much


        • #5
          You're most welcome, marks76. Happy to have been of service.
          PolyCast Co-Host, Owner and Producer: entertaining | informing civ
          >> PolyCast (Civ strategy), ModCast (Civ modding), TurnCast (Civ multiplay); One More Turn Dramedy