Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 July 2006
Thin Civ, anyone?
I was reading Cyrus Farivar's review of Civ IV over at MacWorld, and the following paragraph got me to thinking that we're doing Civ all wrong:

This increase in the 3-D graphics' depth and complexity and the greater complexity of simulation in areas like Civics explain why Civilization IV's system requirements are considerably higher than its predecessor. Some Mac gamers have fumed over the greater requirements, but, at later stages of the game when empires are particularly large, the game can slow down unless you're on a machine that matches or exceeds the game's hefty system requirements. (A G5 or better is mandatory, according to Aspyr.)

Note the concern in this paragraph isn't so much the 3D as the game's strategy. He's talking as much about why the G5 is required as the Radeon 9600 or GeForce FX 5200. And the high sys reqs go cross-platform fairly reasonably, so this doesn't seem to be as heavy a Mac Gaming Tax as usual.

[Note/Update: One reader does not believe there's anything new in Civ 4 worth experiencing beyond the updated graphics. As clarification, I'm implicitly stipulating (now explicitly stipulating) that there's something in that G5-grinding AI that's an improvement to the game. That anyone would purchase Civ 4 solely for the updated graphics confirms my worst fears of The Standard [Civ] Gamer, I'm afraid. If that doesn't make sense, read on...]

If a lack of processing power for the AI's strategy is truly the reason behind much of the high system requirements, and not simply the fancy eye candy, Civ 4 is begging to go client-server to off-load that extra processing time, and it's time Firaxis started charging for access to official Beowulf clusters or something similar to speed things up during the later rounds.

This also reminds me of Combat, and perhaps there could be a tiered release via Combat's lessons. In Combat, the 2600 [and its programmers; to some extent, every platform is a cyborg] didn't [yet] have the kind of power one needed to have a game that free-form -- as let's face it, moving a tank or plane to any pixel of the playfield is much more free than having invaders scroll down slowly from the top of the screen -- also contain intelligent enough AI to provide a challenge without cheating. In the Age of Combat, which I've argued before we're still in, Civ 4 might need to ramp it down and release a game that only allows play against other humans, via LAN or PBEM (play by email, apparently). Voila, from a 1.8 Pentium to something even more manageable. Perhaps we're even talking a G4 again?!

I know, we still need more than Intel integrated graphics (thanks, Rein) just to show the interface, and that concerns me too. Why can't I simply watch smaller or even static images "fighting" if I don't have enough muscle? Is Civ 4 so dependent on its eye candy to attract its flies? I'd like to think not. Heck, I've even played Quake 1 recently in software mode just to remember how bad it was. It is bad -- but if the game's exciting enough, it ain't. That is, give me something I enjoy, and I won't mind crappy visuals.

Unfortunately, not minding crappy visuals apparently makes me, even in Civ, A Nonstandard Gamer.
That's too bad, because if Civ gamers can't appreciate their genre without eye candy, well, nobody short of MUDders and angbanders can.
--ruffin at 20:22
Comment [ 7 ]

Comments on this post:

This is a really bad argument. You want a lower powered civ. And yet you want civ 4, which changes basically nothing.

So what you want is Civ 3, or freeciv.
Why is this that hard to figure out. I play Civ 4 on windows, and enjoy it. The great graphics just enhance the regular civ gameplay, as far as I can tell nothing else is enhanced as far as the player is concerned.

By Blogger Zachary, at 30 July, 2006 22:30  

You lost me at "Hello."

Are you saying that Civ 4 is exactly like Civ 3 and/or FreeCiv, gameplay wise? From what I've read, that's not really the case. I have Civ 1-3 & Freeciv, and though the changes might be every bit as earthshattering as the differences between one year of Madden and the next, they are enjoyable enough for me to want to upgrade. The religion and government changes + updated rosters (new wonders, etc) are enough to get me excited about 4.

So my points are...
1.) Why don't we get more creative trying to keep the non-graphical elements low.
2.) Why don't we get more creative trying to keep the graphical elements low.

If you're arguing for the lack of changes in gameplay, well, you're in the wrong thread.

By Blogger rufbo, at 30 July, 2006 23:07  

Your argument is that you want the game with (as you admit) few gameplay updates to the same game from ten years ago to run with fewer graphical updates so that you can play it with as poor graphics as the last game.

And *I'm* the guy on the wrong site :)

(fwiw I don't care about the lack of gameplay updates, I wanted just a graphical update to this excellent game)

By Blogger Zachary, at 30 July, 2006 23:52  

*gives up*

By Blogger rufbo, at 31 July, 2006 00:24  


By Blogger Zachary, at 31 July, 2006 01:06  

Sid seems to agree with zakk on what makes a Standard Gamer:

My skin is thick, and people can tell me, "Sid, Civilization looks like an EGA game" and I accepted that criticism. But we tackled that with Civ II.

The pain.

By Blogger rufbo, at 31 July, 2006 09:27  

But, as I addressed here (, the problem is that the only reason Civ IV requires the sort of machine it does is because of the graphical glitz.

Yes, there are plenty of gameplay enhancements. It's a good game. A good turn based strategy game that someone decided needed a real time 3D engine that performs like crap because they were stupid.

By Blogger Peter, at 31 July, 2006 16:56  

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