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VentureBeat Interview: Why Firaxis decided to make changes to cities

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  • VentureBeat Interview: Why Firaxis decided to make changes to cities

    GamesBeat: You had a game that wasnít really broken, and then you changed it in a big way. How were you inspired to make so many changes?

    Eed Beach: I feel like a new version of Civilization is not just an expansion pack. It deserves some bold moves. Iíve personally been involved making expansion packs for Civilization V. Thereís a lot of change between vanilla Civilization V and Brave New World, but it all fits in the framework of Civilization V. It also gave me three or four years of working on Civilization V to, in the back of my mind, think of interesting things to try that we didnít get a chance to try in Civilization V because we wanted to stay consistent with the vision of that game.

    We had a backlog of things. One of them was unstacking the cities. I felt very clearly that I wanted to make the map much more important in Civilization VI. If you look at a Civilization V map, thereís so much of the map allocated to farms and trading posts and mines and improvements outside the city. It felt like a simple enough decision as to how youíre going to use all those tiles that automating the workers did still make sense. There werenít hard decisions to make about it.

    I felt like that was a case of a lost opportunity, because thereís all that space on the map outside the city. I love placement and positional puzzles in games like that. I worked on the ancient-city-building series that was around eight or 10 years ago Ė Pharoah, Caesar, Zeus, all those games. Those were very detailed in terms of how you lay out your cities and what needs to be next to each other. I thought thereís no reason we canít take advantage of all the map in Civilization and make your choice about almost every tile something significant.

    I also knew it was going to help the art. If you thought about the cities in the previous Civilization game, you might have five or 10 wonders all in the same city and you canít see them. Here are these iconic pieces of what weíre doing in a Civilization. You built them and you got a pop-up and then where do they go? Our art team would work on wonders or buildings and have nowhere to show off what they were doing. If we could spread the cities out over the map, itís a bold change, but itís good for the artists and good for the gameplay. It strikes a new direction for the series.
    GamesBeat: I have a bit of trouble with sense of scale. Now it seems like itís thrown off a little. All of a sudden everything is spreading out across a continent. If my armyís on this side and the barbarians are over here, itís gonna take two centuries to walk over here and fight them.

    Beach: Thatís true. Itís something Iíve had to come to terms with as well. I live in the mid-Atlantic area. If you think of Washington DC as the city for that area, there are lots of regional pieces nearby. Norfolk might be the harbor. Thatís where the Navy is based. There are great universities like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. That might be the campus district. West Virginia is where all the mining goes, a couple of tiles away. That might be the industrial zone. If you think about it in those terms, itís okay. Iím not saying itís perfect. Itís still an abstraction, for sure.

    You could do the same thing with the UK, the Benelux, things like that. Antwerp is the huge port for Belgium, but Brussels or Bruges is more the cultural capital. You can take any place in the world and divide it up like that.

    The other thing I love about it is the way cities get specialized. If you build a Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, it has all these mineral resources around it, so itís the right place to put an industrial zone. You can get huge adjacency bonuses. If you have four, five, six cities in the empire, this one will be the science city, that one is the industry city, hereís where the military goesóyou just make those decisions and see what feels good in terms of city specialization. Weíve tried to get this into the Civilization series before, but this is the most clear-cut way of doing it that really seems to be working.
    GamesBeat: How do you start thinking about defending a city, if itís under attack?

    Beach: Thatís one of the important reasons we wanted to be really clear about whatís on the map, so you can quickly identify whatís going on. If youíre attacking a city and youíre trying to figure out who to attack Ė ďThree enemy cities on the border, which one do I go against?Ē Ė or if you have an enemy army approaching your city and you have to decide what to defend first. We wanted to be very clear, so you could look at your research campus and say, ďThis is a campus I just started. It has no special buildings in it. Thatís my main campus here that Iíve had since the beginning of the game. It has a library, university, and a research lab. If I lose that, Iím going to lose a ton of science.Ē

    We also wanted to make it so districts could help you on defense as well. We have the encampment district, which unlocks with bronzeworking. You start building your barracks and stable and military academy there, those kinds of buildings. It can have a ranged strike just like the city center in Civilization V. Rather than just one place with a ranged strike, you have two. That encampment also has hit points of its own. In order to get rid of that ranged strike, you have to attack it just like youíd attack a city.

    In that map you were playing a few minutes ago, you could see a nice range of mountains off to the west protecting your initial city. If you put an encampment along the coast to the north or south of there, all of a sudden the enemy will have a heck of a time getting at your city. The positional play involved in spreading out the city helps with the military side of things, making that even more interesting. Now not only is the army spread out, but the targets are spread out.
    GamesBeat: I had a scout go out too far and find a barbarian camp. I left it alone, but then they started multiplying. They seem like theyíre smarter than they used to be.

    Beach: We havenít talked about this yet, but this is something that I can clue you in on as far as how itís working. Barbarians can generate scouts now. You may have seen some of those around. If you leave a camp around long enough, it generates a scout. The scout explores the map just like you do. But what itís looking for is targets. If a scout comes up to the outskirts of your city, that means he knows youíre there, and heís going back to his camp to tell his buddies that they have a target.

    Itís important to watch that. You can know, ďOkay, if the scout came from four turns away, itíll take him four turns to go home and five or six more to build an army.Ē But eventually, 10 or 15 turns down the line, that scout reporting back is going to be bad news for you. You can prepare for that, though. You can see the scout and have some fast forces block him from getting home. Heís not that strong. Itís more strategic. Theyíre not just randomly wandering guys like the barbarians of the past. Theyíre a bit more intelligent. When they come back, they come back with a collection of both ranged and melee units. They can give you a hard time.

    GamesBeat: It seemed like it didnít take as long to build a scout. You could get a bunch of those going pretty quickly and explore.

    Beach: Weíre still working on balancing everything. The exact build times arenít locked down. But right now thatís my first build almost all the time, a scout. Knowing the map is so important in Civilization VI that the faster I get that uncovered, the better off I am. We polled our QA group and the rest of the designers, though, and there was no consensus at all. Some guys said, ďScout? What are you thinking? I always go builder!Ē We were happy that there was so much divergence.

    GamesBeat: Is there any AI helping you choose where to put a city?

    Beach: There is. The UIís just not online for it yet. It will be there.

    GamesBeat: It seems like thatís very important.

    Beach: Thereís a whole system you probably didnít get a chance to play with. We have what we call a lens system. Those are UI filters that get draped over the map to help you analyze data. Thereís a religion lens that will color-code the map based on what religion is dominant in all the tiles of the map. We have a settlement lens that tells you about which plots are valid for settlement and which ones are going to have the most housing and water to get your city up and growing. A lot of UI work is going into that kind of helping stuff. Itís just not online yet.
    GamesBeat: Have you figured out ways to make it run fast when you have a big game going?

    Beach: We have a whole new AI system. The AI is multithreaded this time. Exactly where weíll land on performanceóI donít want to make any claims yet. It should be good. It should be an improvement. But until we actually have everything tuned the way we want, I donít want to make any claims.

    Weíve looked at some of the AI research going on lately, but the problem is, all of those developments assume that you have some time to spend on doing the deep thought. Our players expect to get control back. We are using some new technologies. We have a more goal-oriented AI than we did in the past. Weíre using behavior trees. It can do things like look at a chain of boosts and tell how to achieve getting three levels deep in the tech tree by unlocking boosts to get there. Once it starts down that path, it will follow through with that line of reasoning.
    GamesBeat: But they still have to be beatable, right?

    Beach: They have to be beatable, and they have to be able to produce a result in an amount of time that players consider acceptable.

    I find that when Iím playing the game, I run into fewer automatic decisions, where I know what my path is going to be and I just queue things up and get going. Thereís a lot more thinking on your feet trying to figure out, on this map and in this particular situation with these other leaders and these agendasólet me think this through so I can figure out how to get where I need to go. I end up playing the game slower than I played Civilization V, because I have to be more deliberate about the path Iím taking.

    Thatís because of the changes we made, but I think itís a good move for the series. Itís what the next evolution of Civilization needed.
    One who has a surplus of the unorthodox shall attain surpassing victories. - Sun Pin
    You're wierd. - Krill

    An UnOrthOdOx Hobby

  • #2
    Wrt encampments it sounds like they are keeping the Civ 5 slow, multi turn combat model which has pluses and minuses. On the upside it does make combat more strategic but on the downside it means multiplayer turns are going to take forever.
    Try for discussion and debate.


    • #3
      I really hope they planned on MP from the beginning and realized we don't want slow play.
      MP is where it's at for many games these days. And yes, SP is important, but please don't give us MP as an after thought yet again. Sigh...
      Keep on Civin'
      RIP rah, Tony Bogey & Baron O


      • #4
        Are there any hex based tactical combat games where you can select and move multiple units simultaneously.
        I feel like something like that would be a significant improvement. It's a chore trying to move even a few units across the map.
        Quendelie axan!


        • #5
          Sounds like religion is in the base game, nice
          This space is empty... or is it?


          • #6
            For managing armies in the field:

            Having a SMART go to command really helps.
            The ability to set up rally points would really help.
            And the fact that they seem to be moving toward a combined arms limited stacking will probably help as well.

            But how they handle combat will be the big difference maker.
            Keep on Civin'
            RIP rah, Tony Bogey & Baron O


            • #7
              yea, it looks like the combat will be somewhat similar to civ V, which i think someone here (elok?) described as being like moving a herd to graze. i can't say that i'm overly excited by the prospect.

              then again, i'd really like to see a move away from unit based combat to army based combat, but that's not going to happen, so...
              Last edited by C0ckney; June 8, 2016, 10:50.
              "The Christian way has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found to be hard and left untried" - GK Chesterton.

              "The most obvious predicition about the future is that it will be mostly like the past" - Alain de Botton


              • #8
                If it is similar to Civ V... MP will suck
                Keep on Civin'
                RIP rah, Tony Bogey & Baron O


                • #9
                  There was an open source game a long time ago called Xconq that was hex based. I wonder what happened to that?
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