Tag Archives: Civilization II

Brave New World Brings Back Old Civilization Features

Yesterday saw the launch of the Brave New World expansion to Civilization V.

CivVBNW

I had it pre-ordered on Steam and downloaded the update as soon as I got home last night.  MMO gaming was out the window as I tried out the new expansion.

There was the usual spate of items included in the expansion.  New civilizations are included, though I cannot see that as a big thrill unless you are looking for some more “Win a game as…” achievements or want to see what the city names are.  Some new scenarios were added on, though I must admit I rarely play those, preferring the traditional long game.  And, of course, there were some new wonders thrown in.

As always, you must remember I look at this through the lens of Civilization II, which remains one of my favorite games ever.  So I used to create new civilizations by editing the game data, which was stored in a text file.  Notepad is ever the most basic tool in software development.  Achievements were barely a thing, and only if you count the high score list.  Wonders were much less numerous, and many of those that were there had a much bigger impact on the game.  And…well… I still preferred the long game back then as opposed to scenarios.

But it is that bias towards Civ II that made this expansion a must have for me, as the Firaxis team brought back two aspects of early versions of the game and integrated them into Civ V; ideology and trade routes.  Eager to see those in action, I started a standard game on a big map.  I played as Morocco, which I only noted was one of the new civilizations a ways into the game, showing how much I pay attention to those sorts of things.

Ideology used to be an incredibly important aspect of the game in the Civ II days.  Of course, it used to be a bit of an exploit as well.  If you could research democracy early in the game and build the Statue of Liberty wonder, which was a mid-game wonder that gave you access to all of the various government ideologies, and then swapped to communism, you gained a pretty steep advantage.  And it also eliminate the period of anarchy when changing ideologies.

In Civ V, ideology is now an aspect of the game, but it is limited to the modern age or after you build factories in a certain percentage of your cities.  So you can not longer have a pre-industrial dictatorship of the proletariat.   Unfortunately I did not make it to the modern age in my first game out with the expansion.  Instead I got involved with a bloody little three-way war with the Celts and Portugal, who both came at me at once, with the Greeks weighing in now and again, in one corner of the map that left us all poking each other with spears and lances well into the 19th century.  Of course, that was plenty of fun, despite not being a winning game, but I wasn’t building many universities in the middle of the war.  So that aspect is left to be explored.

And then there was trade routes.  I like what they did with this.  In Civ II trade routes were pretty simple.  You built a trade caravan unit that represented one of the items your city had to offer and, ideally, sent it off to a city that wanted that item and which, in turn, offered up something your city desired.  When the caravan arrived, the trade route was established, and that was that pretty much.  And even if neither city had the right items, some sort of trade would be established and would still be better than no trade at all.

In Brave New World, trade routes are also established by building a caravan or, for sea trade, a trading ship.  Once built, you are given a pretty detailed list of the places with which you can trade and the benefits they will give.  You select one and off your caravan goes.  But once it arrives, the unit then returns and then goes back again, and so on, actually representing the trade route in game.  And the unit is vulnerable to attack.  If it is destroyed, the trade route is broken.  So you have to actually protect your trade routes.

In my dirty little war with Portugal and the Celts, I had cavalry in their back field expressly going after their caravans as well as triremes afloat to intercept their trade on the high seas.  And during a period of peace when I was trying to annex a captured city and was facing a lot of unrest due to unhappy citizens, the uprisings managed to destroy almost all of my own trade routes, putting me in the red on both happiness and finances.

Fun stuff.

There are also some enhancements to the cultural victory aspect of the game, including tourism and great works which, in the midst of a war, were largely left unexplored by me.  But it looks interesting.

One of the downsides of the expansion is that Firaxis did not seem to spend much time on performance enhancements this time around.  That was one of the things that the Gods & Kings expansion offered, a boots to performance.  So as the game progressed, I again found myself spending a lot of time waiting for the game.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I like big maps and the marathon pace, but I still contend that my system is beefy enough on the processing front that anything that bogs it down has to be pretty fearsome code-wise.

And the team did not appear to spend any time on some of the minor annoyances.  The game still seems to delight in showing me messages out of order order.  And it always seems to jump straight to the “Next Turn” button before allowing that, just maybe, I might still have some units that need orders.  I suspect that the code has been written to show “Next Turn” right away because it is prone to getting stuck elsewhere and that button at least sends things on their way.

All in all though, I am happy with the expansion so far.  It will no doubt keep me busy for some time and make it less likely that I will buy a bunch of games when the Steam Summer Sale finally shows up this year.  Rumor has it that the sale starts tomorrow.

Waiting for Civilization

Last week my focus was a huge game of Civilization V.

Early in the week I started a few games on the largest map size (going with the Lakes option, so lots of land warfare) with a dozen competing civilizations and the usual complement of city states until I got a situation that looked good.  The first time out I was wedged in a corner between the Huns and the Mongols, which did not bode well.  The next time I was the Huns, but I managed to get into a war of annihilation with three other civs very early in the game, and while I managed to get to peace while still holding on to my capital, I was set back so badly that any rematch was going to go badly for me.

The third time out I drew the Germans which helped me build up my military quickly and avoid getting penned in early.  The Germans have a somewhat imbalanced attribute that allows them to recruit barbarians to their side a certain percentage of the time when they defeat a barbarian camp.

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Loading… still loading…

I actively went after barbarian camps, which allowed my city production to stay focused on buildings and wonders.  You don’t get the best units that way, but you get a lot of them.  My barbarian strategy actually ended up yielding too many units and some points, though I was able to gift them to city states in return for influence.  The Germans also pay less for land unit maintenance, so that helped with the budget.

I ended up playing all the way into Sunday evening in sessions of an hour or more.  In the end it was down to five civs, all of whom feared my military might and all but one of which, the Carthaginians, who were my game-long ally, I was chipping away at, declaring war, taking a city, getting another city as part of a peace settlement, and then turning to the next in line.

However, my enthusiasm for conquest was starting to wain, so I decided at around turn 1,100 to just go for the cultural victory and end it about 30 turns later.  I saved before I started, so I could go back and continue the military victory… or the political victory… or the religious victory.  All were still viable.  But I was tired of waiting.

I was tired of waiting because, in the last 500 or so turns, that was what I was doing most of the time; waiting.  I would make my moves, update production, tweak some improvements, then end my turn only to wait and wait while the computer handled each of the other civilizations, the city states, and finally the barbarians.  Then the game would come back to me.

It is a truism of the Civilization series that each version is launched at a time when they really need the next generation of CPUs to run them effectively.  I remember getting a new computer and seeing the time it took to play a game of Civ II drop dramatically.  I recall writing a note to Firaxis about the slow performance of Civ IV back when it launched, at a time when I had a pretty high end machine in terms of processing power.  Their response was quite snotty in my opinion and could be summed up as  “play smaller campaigns if performance matters to you, there is nothing wrong with our game.”

So I am left wondering when we will reach the point where average CPUs will be up to the task of speedy turns in Civ V and where the bottlenecks really lay.  The game appears to at least be multi-core aware.  Looking at Task Manager, at least four of the eight cores in my CPU look like they are in use, though none of them are capped out or even showing usage beyond 50%.  So the game doesn’t seem CPU bound.  RAM appears to be available, so it isn’t like the game is paging out constantly… or it shouldn’t be in any case.  And while there appears to be some issue with I/O… the game takes me four long minutes from launch before I can resume a game already in progress… and four minutes might not seem like much time, but try sitting in front of your screen waiting, clicking to skip through any video possible, and listening to the required speech about your civ and its leader, then it is the “watched pot” scenario… I cannot imagine that they are doing much of that for each turn.

So when will we be set on this front?

I hope that the next Civ V expansion, Brave New World, will include performance improvements like those that came with the Gods & Kings expansion…  yes, performance was even worse at launch… because CPUs not only are not getting faster in the ways they used to back in the day, but the CPU doesn’t seem to be the limiting factor at the moment.  A long campaign like last week’s, where the last third of the game was mostly me waiting on the computer, puts me off the game.

But it does make me want to dig out my Civ II disk, which is still lost somewhere in my office.  The game isn’t as sophisticated as Civ V, though there is some appeal to its sometimes crude simplicity.

A simpler time...

A simpler time…

But the game itself runs like a dream, the AI zips along, and most of any match is spent doing rather than waiting.  There are many reasons I always go back to that game, and speed is certainly one.  Yes, you can get mired into epic stalemates, but at least the turns move quickly.

Five Games I Want to See Revamped

The announcement that Hidden Path is doing a revamp of Age of Empires II, along with such refreshes as Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, naturally made me think about what other games ought to get cleaned up and brought forward into the current age.

Here are the five that I want to see.

1 – Civilization II

Civilization II remains my favorite version of Civilization.  I have continued playing this through all the follow up versions.  There is a simplicity to it that gets lost in the later games that I find quite endearing.  And by reports I am not alone in continuing to play.  One of the most popular posts on the blog is about how to get Civ II to run on Windows 7 64-bit.

Which, of course, brings up the question of why it even needs an update if it runs already.  It doesn’t even look horrible and thanks to the Microsoft programming doctrines of the time, it runs in a window that resizes to whatever screen resolution you need.

A simpler time...

A simpler time…

Well, it runs, but not without difficulty at times.  You have to get the right version of the game and use somebody’s home grown patch to get it to run on 64-bit.  And you still need the CD in the drive to play, and I’ll admit right now that I managed to lose mine… again.  And there are a number of long standing AI issues that could be cleared up along the way.

Basically, I would like to buy a fresh copy that works on my machine.  I don’t care if it comes from Steam or GOG.com, I will make that purchase.

Why It Won’t Happen

The game was published back when Sid Meier was doing games for the now defunct MicroProse, so I am not even sure who owns the rights to the code itself, though Sid did manage to wrest the Civ name from them.  Sort of.  There were issues.  And even if Sid and Firaxis owned the rights free and clear, they would much rather you buy Civilization V and some of their DLC than some code that is going on 20 years old here.

2 – Diablo

Again, back to a simpler time.  My first thought was Diablo II, but that actually runs on my system okay and doesn’t look that bad.  So no work to be done there.  But the first game in the series?

I can almost get the original Diablo running on my machine.  There are a couple of tricks to getting the palettes to load correctly.  The game loads, you can play for a bit, but it is about as happy as a summoned demon about the whole thing.  The palettes are muddy, the lighting clearly has another agenda, and things lock up at inopportune moments.  And the whole thing is presented in a very chunky 640×480 on my big monitor.

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

But it is nearly there.  You can just get a taste.  You can hear the sound effects.  You get a sense for a moment how dark and moody the caverns under Tristam were.  I think a rework of this would do well.  And, of course, Blizzard owns it all and could roll a fresh version is the desired.  I would subscribe to another year of WoW to get it.

Why It Won’t Happen

I see a vision of Mike Morhaime explaining how Diablo III is really the superior product while dismissing the idea of a rework of the original.  Blizzard never moves backwards.  Old products get some support, but once a new version is out, the old one is pretty much dead to them.  This is why there will never be an official version of the WoW Emerald Dream server.  Blizzard just doesn’t do that.

Plus, I am not sure I would trust Blizzard with this.  They didn’t even make the original.  That was the long-gone team at Blizzard North.

3 – Bolo

At this point I suspect that most of you are going, “Huh?  What is Bolo?”

Bolo was a fun little networked tank game on the Mac back when adding network capabilities to your typical DOS box took an expensive package from Novell.  Created by brilliant networking programmer Stuart Cheshire, we used to play this for hours on Friday nights at the office.  There was an interface that allowed people to create AIs to drive players, and we would set up a series of AI boxes in the lab and have horrible, bloody, never ending battles.  Great stuff.

WinBolo

WinBolo

Why It Won’t Happen

Nobody could make any money from it.  Mr. Cheshire said he was done with it ages ago, but I don’t think that means he’ll let other people take it over.  And, honestly, as a game, it had some issues with coming to a final resolution.  It was hard to win.  Basically, one team generally grew tired first and gave up.  And if it was AIs versus humans, well, the AIs never got tired.

4 – Auto Duel

Autoduel was the great mid-80s computer game manifestation of Car Wars from Steve Jackson Games.  It took the vehicular combat game and forced it into the computer RPG mold quite successfully.  There was an unfolding story and goals and side tasks and character development and buying new crap to bolt onto your car all wrapped into one game.

Autoduel

Autoduel

I spent hours sitting in front of my Apple II playing this game.  It was great.  What could possibly go wrong.

Why It Won’t Happen

Well, to start with, it was an Apple ][ game. (Along with other such now defunct 80s computer platforms.)  You cannot, would not, should not literally translate it to a version that runs on today’s machines.  Which means that you would need to re-imagine it in the way that the Wasteland 2 group is trying to redo Wasteland.  But I have my doubts on that.  It might be that this (and Wasteland) were only great in the context of the limited computer hardware we had at the time.  And… you know… Auto Assault.

Plus, if that weren’t enough, Steve Jackson Games owns the rights and doesn’t seem to have any interest in such a venture, seeming content to work on their own board game nostalgia instead.

5 – EverQuest

This one is probably the least realistic as well as being the one to which people are most likely to take offense.

Here we are, the day before EverQuest’s 14th birthday.  The game has a huge amount of content added in over 19 different expansions.  It has grown, expanded, and adapted over time, first setting trends and later following them.  It has gone free to play, so money isn’t even a barrier to playing the game.

SOE has worked to remove many barriers to getting people to play one of the great MMORPGs of the 20th century.  But one huge barrier still remains.

The client.

I don’t mind the bad linoleum textures, the primitive animations, the intermittent sounds, the decrepit character models, or some of the crazy, grindy game play.

Never an immersion breaking name in EQ!

Textures gone wild

But every time I go back to play the game, wrestling with the damn client is a royal pain.  They have tried to bring it up to date or to adhere to conventions that came into fashion for MMOs after it shipped.  Things like WASD movement keys as a default.

And they have managed it quite well.  But the client feels like it has too many features stuffed into it, while still showing some of the flaws it had back in 1999.  For example, how frickin’ big does the contact area around my character need to be.  I am constantly trying to click on something off to one side of him and ending up with him as the selection.

So I dream of an all new client, designed and built from scratch that delivers a smooth and modern user experience.  And it pains me to say that, as the cardinal sin of every young, and many old, programmers is the heartfelt need to reject anybody elses code, opting to rewrite things from scratch.  But I cannot get to my desired state by continuing to pile on to the old code base.  A fresh start is needed.

In my mind, I see what is essentially EQ running with WoW’s client.

But I would accept the EverQuest II client frankly.

Why It Won’t Happen

There is no money in it.  Having gone free to play, if it doesn’t come from the cash shop, it doesn’t bring in any money.  The only exceptions are subscriptions and expansions.  The client is free to download.

And, of course, even if there were money in it, it would be a huge operation and many a company has gone under rewriting code rather than pushing forward with new features on top of old spaghetti.  See Netscape.   The costs would be huge, and the benefits likely marginal at best.  And I may want a better EQ client, but I suspect I am in a slim minority.  Plus, how well did such revamps serve other games in the past?

Other Games

Of course, there were other games that came to mind.  I was tempted to list any version of SimCity besides the current one, just becauseGetFudgedPopulation FTW!  But we already have SimCity 4 on Steam.

I was also wondering about Ultima III and the original Wizardry.  But I suspect that neither would make good games today.  Or they might make fine iOS/Android games, but not something that would compare favorably to what we have available now on our desktops.  Basically, almost anything from the pre-Macintosh or pre-Windows era is likely mired in the time before GUI and has to be re-imagined to be brought forward.  Only dedicated hobbyists are likely to show any interest in games from that time.

Still, that does leave a good gap in time, and a whole pile of games that do adhere to at least some of the standards to which we have become accustomed and which could be reworked, polished up, and re-released.

What else should be on the list?  What would you like to see reworked and brought up to date?

The Decade Long War in Civilization II

I saw a post up at Ars Technia about a game of Civilization II that has been going on for 10 years.  This initially came up as a thread on Reddit when the player recounted his experiences with the game so far.

I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be. Naturally I play other games and have a life, but I often return to this game when I’m not doing anything and carry on. The results are as follows.

  • The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
  • There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.

It sounds almost like the world from Orwell’s Ninteen Eighty-Four, where three sides are locked in eternal warfare that does nothing but keep the three governments… two theocracies and a communist state… in power via an endless state of emergency.

We’ve always been at war with Eurasia… I mean the Vikings!

The ice caps have melted due to global warming brought on by constant nuclear war and the world is now covered by unproductive swampland.  There are no more large cities.  90% of the population has died off from its peak 2,000 years earlier.  Military production takes precedence over all other improvements.  Military power is balanced, with all three nations possessing all of the possible technologies.  And war is eternal, with each cease fire broken by the next turn.

This is probably the most extreme example of what the end-game in Civ II can turn into.  But the author is not without hope.

My goal for the next few years is to try and end the war and thus use the engineers to clear swamps and fallout so that farming may resume. I want to rebuild the world. But I’m not sure how. If any of you old Civ II players have any advice, I’m listening.

The whole thread has become hugely popular on Reddit and makes for an interesting read and has even spawned its own subreddit with fan fiction, artwork, and theory crafting.

What Google Has Been Telling Me Lately – Spaceship Edition

Nobody at Google actually tells me anything… except that they seem hell bent on redesigning their UI across all of their apps so that they all match Google+.  I am, frankly, not a fan.

But indirectly Google tells me things via the search results that get directed here.

Sometimes that can be viewed as just a message about the search terms in which this site ranks highly.  Often those are the very obvious.  Variations of the name of the blog tend to send people here.

And odd mash-ups of past topics also show up from which I am sure I could build my own version of The Road to Popehat. (Which I sort of do in my monthly summary most months.)  I think searches like “Tom of Finland Harry Potter” would certainly get me started, as does “one does not simply cat tank into mordor.”

Some of these searches can be oddly specific, such as “swtor email in use,” which I am sure is somehow related to account creation.

But sometimes my site ends up not only ranking high in a search, but that search is apparently at least mildly popular.  And from those I can derive different, more specific messages from Google.  Currently Google is sending my three such messages.  They are:

When is Hulkageddon V Already?

Easily the most popular search terms bringing people here revolve around Hulkageddon V.

People want to know when!

Hulkageddon is a player event in EVE Online when some players get together and blow up the ships of other players who, for the most part, would rather their ships not be blown up.

I put up a post about this right after the event was announced back in early November.  At the time it contained all the information available and a link to the forum thread where future information would be posted.   Two and a half months later, the post still has all the information available, and people seem to be getting impatient about it.

Of course I cannot tell if the people searching seek to actively participate in Hulkageddon V or if they just want a heads up so they can take an in-station skills break while it goes on, but there is clearly some desire out there for more information.

People Still Want to Play Star Wars Galaxies

Search terms around SWG emulation started showing up regularly the day after SWG went dark.

Connection to SWG Lost... Forever

These terms bring people to a post I did about SWG emulators that are out there.

All I can really say is that there is clearly some interest out there.  The fact that such searches have been going up noticeably as the first month of SWTOR draws to a close might be a message, but the sample size is so small that any conclusions would be unsupported.

Civilization II is Still Popular

I do not appear to be alone in my love of Civilization II.

A simpler time...

Back in October I finished up my tale about getting Civilization II to run on 64-bit Windows 7.  Things were quiet after that, but around mid-December there was a spike in searches on the subject, and Google has been delivering people here based on Civ and Windows 7 based search terms ever since.

Does This Mean Anything?

Probably only that there are a few people out there interested in a couple of topics about which I have written.  Google sends between 600 and 1000 people to the site based on search results.  These three just stand out in that variations on these terms have topped this list for the last month or more, and have kept those three posts on the Top Posts list on the side bar.  That list is usually just the home of what I wrote over the last week, that post about the guild name generator, and various Pokemon related posts.  People love their Pokemon.

Anyway, that is my read on what Google has been telling me of late.

Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit

When last we left my quest to play Civilization II on my Windows 7 64-bit system, I seemed to be pretty much out of luck.

The original version of the game was a 16-bit executable and simply would not run on Windows 7 64-bit.  No way, no how.

So I started to look around for a newer version of the game.  Eventually, over at Amazon.com, I came across a vendor in the Amazon Marketplace that was selling a copy of the later Civilization II Muliplayer Gold Edition for just $15.  It seemed like a deal to me, and when it showed up a couple of days later, it appeared to be the full package.

Box, manual, disc, and chart

That box is actually considerably bigger than what games ship in today.  And I haven’t seen a game manual that comprehensive in a decade at least.

Anway, that was the version I needed, as I had read over at Civilization Fanatics that somebody had created a patch for that version that would allow the game to run on 64-bit.  There is actually a thread in their forum with the patch.

At first I was not even sure I would need the patch.

The game installed, launched, and ran for a bit.  It wasn’t until I started my first city that the game terminated.  So I went and grabbed the patch, applied it, and gave it another go.

And, hey presto, I had a running game!

Exploring the World

Now to play a few games to decide where Civ II really belongs on my top Civilization games list.  The poll taken in the last post on the subject seemed to indicate that Civ II was pretty well regarded.  With 136 votes in, this was the list:


My own first impressions, having been away from the game for a couple of years, is how light and easy and uncluttered it is.  Relative to the later versions of the game, there is a simplicity to it.  That and how much I like that it was designed to run in a window, a popular design choice back in the mid 90s, so that it sized correctly to my monitor, which has about 4x the area that my monitor did back when the game first shipped.

Barbarian Uprising!

I pretty much fell right back into playing the game.  I started at the Warlord level for my warm up, which meant that I pretty much dominated from the start, even with the barbarians set to “raging hordes.”

Who's happy? I'm happy!

So now I have another retro gaming option on my system.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in a little Civilization retrospective about the original game, Tim and Jon at Van Console Time Murdering Hemlocks have a show up about the original Civilization.  Step back 20 years and hear how Civilization grabbed so many of us.

Civ II – Found the Disc, Can’t Use the Disc

After some searching tonight I found at least one of my copies of Civilization II.  It was hiding in a generic white disc sleeve on a shelf with some music CDs.

Civilization - 16-bit Era Disc

Unfortunately, this disk is from the stone age.  Look at it.  “IBM/Compatibles” is printed on it.  How long has it been since it was IBM and Compatibles?

Sure, Windows 95 was out when this game launched… barely… so this disc had to install on Windows 3.1.

All of the executables on it are 16-bit.

And, as I found out after an hour or so of screwing around and trying to fool it into believing it was installed, the 64-bit version of Windows 7 is not at all down with 16-bit.  I couldn’t find anything official on the Microsoft support site that definitively said, “No 16-bit,” but I found plenty of unofficial things that said it wasn’t going to happen.

Not that I am totally surprised.  I was doing WinLogo certification for the company I was working for in 1997, and even then you had to get a special exemption to have 16-bit executables… including the installer… on your disc.  That was a long time ago.

Anyway, no Civ II for me right now.  I’ll have to go find a more recently rolled version of it.

In the mean time, since there was some discussion over the best version of Civilization, I will put up a poll.

Justify your pick in the comments, if you feel the need.