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Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

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Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby morphles » Fri May 02, 2014 8:28 pm

@Davide: please read this, as there is interesting suggestion in the end ;)

Well it's another post in my series of civ problems :) Though this is probably lesser problem in itself, more a peculiarity that people might not think about, this might be considered philosophical so not everyone might be interested. But I'll practice my writing anyways, so here it goes :)

My main point (again) is that civ isn't a simulation game, but why I'm saying that might be unexpected, I'll leave main reason for the end, first lets look at not really important points that still might be interesting, just for interest sake.

First and foremost game is of course restricted in the amount of details, though as games should be manageable I do not see it as problem at all.
Another thing that I do not like quite a bit is that in civilization space is discreate (that is divided in cells), not a bad thing per se, still I consider it a bit negative (esp when one considers distortions of most popular square grid)
Turn model is just bad, though it is imposed by discreate space. You have two options: sequential turns - which is totally unusable for something like GT as one turn would take "number of players" days and is also quite bad in regards to fairness, while you get to move insane amount of stuff can change; another option is simultaneous turns - what we have in GT, much better, but it allows for various "race conditions" and the like
Another fun thing about civ turn/space model is that it has infinite speed units! How so you ask? because time does not exist in civ turn. Take unit, load it in ship, move ship to other ship, load unit to just reached ship move it to third ship, and so on ad infinitum, transported unit breaks the speed of light ;) can travel any number of times around the world in single turn! Admittedly this could be somewhat limited but introducing some cost to load operations, but there really is quite little need for that as I do not think many people use such peculiarity for advantage, it's just property of how turns work in civ. And the load cost would still not make it logical in any way. Transported unit is still in some kind of "quantum superposition" where slower unit moves more in one turn than one faster unit (transport). This is due to a simple reason that logically time/turn should happen at the same/time rate to everything, namely every unit and city, but instead time really only passes to unit being moved (as only that unit loses opportunity to act by expending movement points).

A bit more serious issues - which, now that I think of it, applies to most strategy games.
Spatial information problem - you have information of whole civilization (or more if you share), instantly and constantly no matter the distance or whatever. This of course never was and very likely never will be possible in reality, you can not be solder on the front line nether can you be leader in palace or HQ as such omniscience/omnipresence is not possible, also in reality the amount of information would be overwhelming for single leader, that why real life has various hierarchies, often of quite many levels. Yes I know lots of things are abstracted, also as turns are quite long we could conceive that leader has enough time to analyze everything (all of this would be unworkable in a past when information moved at "leg speed"), but I still find it significantly unrealistic.
Temporal(!) information problem - you know what leaders of the past could have never ever known, the biggest "elephant in the room" is tech tree, you know right from the start, when you can can only build spear wielding warrior, that you will be able to research and build nukes, aircraft and similar. Past leaders could have never ever dreamed about what we have today. In my eyes such information discrepancy in game an reality is very serious blow at any realism. It distorts "simulation" in very peculiar way, it's not that your units could not do this or that, is that you would have never ever made decisions you make in game if you did not know "the future" (of course such a strongly directed research is not really realistic for old times in itself, but thats quite minor in my eyes). Of course this applies to probably most if not all games, as it is hard to make a game where you play without knowing rules (but there are certain remedies, roguelikes are a bit of an example what can be done, though not directly applicable).

Now what I consider the most serious point that precludes, general civ, and other strategy games (esp. ones that cover long timespan) from being considered simulation:
What you are in game? Supposedly you are a leader, or if you stretch it a bit maybe a dynasty? But thats just nonsense, leaders do not live that long, not even dynasties. So what? The what is that again you will not be acting anything close to real leader, you have basically no emotional investment in game, there are other games to be played, you know the goal (and also remember magic temporal and spatial information) your decisions are based on clearly known (and very distant in general civ case [and I think thats very bad as per other thread]) victory conditions. Reality is not like that at all. When you are human leader in real world, you can not and will not (or at very least are very unlikely) plan 1000 of years into future (nor can you guess where people will be or what tech they will have in that time). You have immediate real issues at hand: unhappy people, untrusted subordinates (from hierarchy that does not exist in game), threats to _your life_, maybe someone is trying to assassinate you; you also have strong emotional interest in your family, say your son or daughter is very ill, and you are the leader! you have resources at your hand and you spend them on which doctors and the like to push bullish on you in hopes of saving what you care about. There are cases where leaders spent enormous resources with "guidances" of basically bullshit peddlers. And then in most cases leaders just want to leave a legacy. Maybe you are a pharaoh that wants a grave that will stand the test of time(thin Egypt OFC); maybe you are a warlord that wants to conquer all known land (think anything, Mongols, Romans); maybe you want to protect your people from some long standing threat (think China and great wall against Mongols); Maybe you are emerging leader from lower branches of hierarchy that wants to overthrow the tyrant; Maybe you just want to appease the gods for good afterlife. Maybe you have "axe to grind" and want to extract vengeance on your neighbors for slaying your father in battle. Maybe you want to expand your dominion by finding and settling new lands. All such things have quite some precedent in history, but none of it is present in game, those are just small parts of game, they do not define you, they do not drive your actions. You have magical knowledge of how everything should end after long long time, and you act on that.

What to do about it? Well mostly nothing, as game is just that, a game.

On the other hand... We have quite some new people appearing in GT, some of them want more classical things and do not find scenario games all that attractive (oh how I understand them;) ). But me, and I would presume significant number of other existing players "might have their hands full" with already running games and might not want to start another one. Thus new games would be started only quite rarely (not that there is anything bad about that). But here I see and interesting opportunity, inspired by communities of other games. Dwarf fortress and some roguelike players do this some times: they play a game for some time/turns, when they give their save file to other person and that other person continues, and so on and so on. These are so called succession games.

Now lets combine three things: succession game, ladder and the points I made in "leader life section". So here is the possibility: have some, very long running game (not sure about map sizes or properties), that would most likely need to have tech cost significantly increases (and as much roadblocks as possible to tech trading) to ensure long duration. The game would start "normally" with some significant amount of players, probably at least 30, maybe 50, some if not all could be bot controlled if we get lazy waiting for humans to join. But you could not win that game, in any way, and you would only control nation for something like 15-30 turns. You would however have some goal assigned to you, think of it as a lifetime goal of current leader. If you achieve that goal in time you control the nation, you get some points on the ladder. And if you want you can stand in line for next "leader position", but you will most likely not get same nation, and definitely not the same goal. And thus you would be played this game from various angles with various goals collecting "achievements". If game starts with bots and players are introduced something like 3-5 every (other) day, after some time you could ensure that free slots for new players will be available in just a couple of days or maybe even immediately! I would think that this could be desirable for making people stay in community.

There of course issues with that, goal assignment would need to be done by someone, as goals should make sense, that someone would need to be able to see map and situation, currently only Davide can do that, but maybe there can be exception for such succession games. Also if there is ladder score for goals (partial)completion would need to be assigned. For now I do not see any systematic way of doing this. Still I think the general idea is quite interesting, and with certain appeals (maybe you know you are going on vacation in moth's time and can't don't want to start full gt game, you just stand in line for a slot of succession game, play for 2 weeks and go to your vacation:) ; maybe you just want to play without waiting for next game to be set up etc, etc.) Anyways, for guys/girls that read this far I'm very interested in what you thing.

Lastly I'll just brainstorm some possible goals in succession games:
research/acquire some tech (assuming tech cost is significant to make it worthy goal)
increase number of cities in your country by X (using specific means [conquest, incite, settling] or any means)
take certain important city(ies) from certain enemies
build certain wonder
increase population by some value
ally all neighbors
settle new island with X cities
build huge army of N of X units
build certain improvements in all/N of your cities (maybe you [current leader] think that literacy is very cool and practical so all your people must have access to library, no questions asked!]
kill certain number of certain kind of units
kill certain number of units of certain player
accumulate certain amount of gold
reach certain milestone in city (30 production, 100% citizens happy for 5 turns, ...)
build "great wall" line of fortresses, optionally occupied by units, to keep the huns out of course!
alter certain number of terrain tiles, say clear 20 forests (people need farmlands to feed themselves!), or plant 20 forests (thats stupid deforestation is bad!)
there are others with more special stuff that would need to be introduced, but not too difficult,
say there is unit princes, that is capabler and can't enter city for some reason, one player has to keep it safe/keep owning her
his neighbors need to capture the princess, or free the princess :)

Well enough this time, thanks for reading if you did.
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby XYZ » Fri May 02, 2014 10:01 pm

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby morphles » Fri May 02, 2014 10:08 pm

Dunno what you precisely mean with that, but yes, destroying certain city could be a goal too ;)
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby Corbeau » Fri May 02, 2014 11:08 pm

I'm sorry, but I have to ask this... Morphles, are you sure that Civilization is the right game for you?
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby marioxcc » Sat May 03, 2014 12:46 am

Hello.

Thanks for posting your thoughts on this. I agree, definitely Freeciv and similar games are not a simulation, I haven't seen than that's the official posture anyway. They're games loosely based on reality. It could be said than Chess and Go represent in a very abstract way reality as well. Freeciv isn't that different from this. It takes some aspects of reality and puts a lot of abstraction in order to create a game. By abstraction I mean for instance, the idea of having cities assigned a handful of parameters than completely describe them, but absolutely not with the detail than it is in reality. For instance, citizens are assigned to work tiles around the city, and they get 3 kinds of resources, namely, food,
production and trade; yet this level of detail is enough to roughly replicate some aspects of reality, as city development and growth, war, etc... and mainly, enough to be fun and hence accomplish its goal as a game. That being said, though, there are some aspects than could be improved. For instance, rather than the current model of having players move concurrently we could have players give instructions concurrently, and those instructions are carried at the end of the turn simultaneously. Some combinations of actions which are conflicting (Can't both be accomplished without a special provision) would be treated especially, like enemy factions moving units into the same tile.

Something than I like of Freeciv is the luck factor, because it almost eliminates the precomputed plays as there are standard openings in chests and standard responses to them. There games where the result of actions is known for sure (There is no luck and the complete state of the game is known) like Chess, Go and my favorite of this class, Hex. In general, there are 2 approaches to playing these games, one is the formalist approach which sees no intrinsic meaning in them (There's no concept of "territory" or other abstractions not explicitly stated on the game unless they follow from the rules and are completely equivalent, like Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics would be to Newton mechanics) which tries to achieve victory by a combinatorial approach. And there's the heuristic approach in which concepts than don't exist intrinsically in the game (As far as can be deducted from pure logic starting with the rules) are made and become the basis for the strategy; for instance, the concept of territory and momentum in Chess and Go. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. The first has typically taken as more suitable for computers since it's best suited to computers (More specifically, to the human way of programming them, computers are intrinsically general purpose and don't by themselves favor this approach). The second approach is typical of humans. By introducing luck in the game, or otherwise making the tree of possible branches of play so vast than it can't be exhaustively examined with minimal heuristics (Reasoning as described in the second kind of approach to strategy) we're forced to use this heuristic approach.

If the rules of Freeciv were so simple (As in small branching factor) there would be predefined known outcomes, for instance, if there was the rule than the strongest units always win and gets hurt by X health points (Based on the defender's strength) then there would be things like "You're guaranteed to win against a walled city with 3 or less warriors with 1 catapult and 3 horsemen) and the success of the good player would consist mostly in memorizing and applying this kind of mechanical play. Introducing luck in Freeciv makes this approach intractable and reinforces the importance of heuristics.

By the way, I don't like your idea of a succession of leaders. Like you said, Freeciv is not a simulation of reality. At least I would find it very annoying than I would have to accomplish a predefined goal if I think than I can do better for my civilization doing something else, and having to receive the civilization in a state according to the preferences of somebody else and the predefined goals would not be nice, because it would not necessarily fit my way of playing and I would be hard pressed to continue playing that way.

Regards and thanks.
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby morphles » Sat May 03, 2014 9:31 am

@marioxcc
Not too bad post, I like that you mention and like Hex. But your arguments have some problems.

Well first non problem, I kinda agree with what you said about complexity and how it affects simulation status. But that is just very obvious thing, and very common, also done in science when modeling something, you simplify stuff. Thus I do not see it as particularly strong point in refuting statement "civ simulates empire/nation/whatever". While I think my points are deeper in certain way, a bit philosophical even. But thats minor nitpicking, only because I feel that this a bit more simplistic argument a bit "derails" points I made in first post.

Anyways onto "instructions", I call that "order model" of TBS. I only know one game that works that way, and it is sickly great game, despite being very old - "Stars!". The problem (if you played Stars! you would start to see it) is that it is not applicable to civ games due to discreet notion of space. It might be possible to make it work, but I would guess that it would be kinda complex mess and also probably not very nice/pleasing to play.

Now your points about luck factor are definitely off. Having non deterministic outcomes in game does not preclude from using math and finding optimal strategies. Some study of game theory would show you that. Nor does having only deterministic results for your actions mean that you have any practical means to find best strategy, as per your examples Go and Hex (for sufficient board size) have such high branching factor that it is incredibly difficult to fully anticipate implication of your moves, at least for the start-mid game; ending of course often has significantly reduced possibilities.

Hex and havannah for example have very simple rules, yet very deep game play. I would argue that likely in certain sense it is deeper than something like civ, simple because having more rules does not mean that much, a lot of them can be quite irrelevant in a bigger picture. Also having deterministic combat would not make battles that much simpler, you do not know how many forces enemy has in city, and about his possibilities to bring in reinforcements or organize counter attacks. Actually the feature that makes civ and other computer games different to chess,go,hex and the like is - incomplete information. You do not know situation of whole game world, and that has much more impact than combat having some luck factor.

As for succession games, well the beauty of my offer is that it's optional, there is running succession game, if you do not like it you do not apply to wait for available leader slot ;). However considering what you have written I will try to convince you that you are dismissing succession games way to easily.

First of, yes as I said civ is not a simulation, but some people are kinda keen on idea that it is or maybe should be. So such succession games would increase the realism (with regards to points I made in first post). As for predefined goal, that just being stupid. You already have predefined goal in any game, so that does not constitute any difference. The fact that we create game in a game and one can not distance himself from original game is mostly personal problem (does not mean that it must be solved, don't like don't play it). Now you talked how something like chess has tons of memorization of opening and stuff, indeed thats true, but it is also kinda true for any strategy games. And introducing new games or subgames allows one to break out such conventions and have new game with different dynamic, whole new "gamespace" to explore, new challenges etc. You just gota think like megalomaniac leader with limited lifespan ;) You want that monument before you die and all else be damned!

Only serious problems with such games are: someone needs to work to assign goals and evaluate there completion; and all of that should be at least somewhat balanced.
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby XYZ » Sat May 03, 2014 11:30 am

I meant you constantly repeating that you don't like scenarios. It is simply annoying at one point.

But to come to your thoughts:

I really liked it! It was exploring every aspect of the game without boundaries if it would be possible or not. I mostly liked the concept of generations and I liked the idea of passing the torch. Maybe something like a team game where after certain amount of time one player of the team gives the nation to the next team player. The goal could be written by your antecestor instead of a team organizer. The life expactancy could be randomly, time adapted due to medical advances, but determined before the game by the game organiser. Creating a new player that simply gives the password to the next player (or the son :D ) would lower the technical barriers.
The concept of a not foreseeable tech tree is also cool but of course more complicated.

If this kind of game is ever being played count on me!
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby monamipierrot » Mon May 05, 2014 9:18 pm

I found these kinds of discussion very interesting.
However, I have to ask - pardon - beg Morphles (as well as other contributors) to be more clear and put ideas and text in a more rational, structured shape. Please use tags to create sections and subsections, lists (numbered or unnumbered), use bold or underlined or italic to give some shape to the text. I know I'm not the right example :roll: to look at, but believe me I will try to do this as well.
I would also beg everyone not to go off-topic, but I am a specialist in this sport (as this post exemplify :halo: ) so I will shut up.
Thanks everyone! :ugeek:
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby Corbeau » Tue May 06, 2014 11:00 am

Apart from not agreeing that Civ is not a simulation (because every game is a simulation on some level, even chess, but some are played because people enjoy the feel of the "real" stuff (in Civ it "feels" like you are leading a nation), while some enjoy the mechanics and the logic of it (again, chess)), this is an interesting idea. There is also a board game on similar principles (played it once or twice, don't remember the name), although much more wicked: the setting is WWI, but, while controlling armies in the field, you can also buy and sell stocks of a given country so that ownership changes; so, the goal is not to make "your" county win, but to have the most money in the end. As a result, you can manipulate the events at the front and make one of the countries you currently control lose the war so that you can make profit off it.

Now, to the topic. It would be an interesting experiment, for reasons already stated. But also, it would force people to get out of their boxes and try to act differently; maybe you woulnd't want to smash your neighbour because you may be getting him next.

As for goals, I'd put general goals - increase your population by a percentage, increase the number of your cities by a perceentage, conquer some cities, destroy some units - but also specific goals, depending on the nation. So, for example:
- Mongols would get extra points for killing units and conquest,
- Greeks would get extra points for building libraries
- English would get extra points for building cities on different continents and for more naval units
etc.
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Re: Other issue with civ/4x (or why civ is NOT a simulation)

Postby monamipierrot » Tue May 06, 2014 2:31 pm

Corbeau wrote:Apart from not agreeing that Civ is not a simulation

I also find annoying this claim. It looks like "simulation" has become a bad word, for Morphles as well for C-Evo developer and other players.
Well, actually it is, because it doesn't mean anything. What is a simulation and what is not? It looks like "simulation" is
  • (1) somehow opposed to "abstract game"
  • and also (2) opposed to "strategy game"
  • (3) Sometimes "simulation" or its deceiptful variant "sim-city crap" is also connected with those longturn play styles which avoid war and concentrate in economy, growing and so on.
While I somehow agree with the 1st statement, I can't agree with the second, and even less with the 3rd. Actually I see Civilization type of games as "strategy simulation" games.
If simulation is the (more or less detailed) mimic of reality, then we must distinguish between simulations aimed at "living" reality or "training" for it (such as old good flight simulators) and simulations which use reality as a shared bag of experience on which to build a game, e.g. a strategy game. This is the typical case of Civilization and 4x games.
Then, it can be a matter of tastes: do you prefere more or less "realism"? It is a matter of fine trimming.
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