Thursday, November 25, 2010


I have been doing more modding in CiV and I have found a big blockade to being successful is being a little too enthusiastic.  I have this tremendous drive to make the game perfect so I carefully change every single number to match my vision.  Unfortunately for perfection I am attempting to make this set of changes in a way that other people will be happy and willing to use and which should be easy for them to understand.  It is therefore important that I not just make the numbers right but that I do it in a way that is minimally invasive.  It is vaguely like medicine I suppose in that there are certain things that need to happen but my goal is to change as few numbers as possible in order to get there, whereas a doctor needs to fix the patient's problem but also wants to be sure to do as little as possible while still achieving that end.  Don't do major surgery unless the patient absolutely needs it!

I actually didn't realize this myself, but in fact had to be reminded by another modder.  Thalassicus is a very well known modder who has created a whole suite of mods for CiV.  I took Thal's mods and ran with them, changing things and adding things all over the place.  I went through the list of buildings and changed nearly every cost, even making tiny tweaks such as making Temples cost 110 instead of 120 to build.  I was convinced that 110 was a better number, but Thal pointed out that it would be a lot better from the point of view of the users to just change a few small things, like the production available to build buildings, which achieves the same thing but leaves as much of the original game intact as possible.  This way the users can use their knowledge of the game effectively and won't have to relearn as much and presenting the changes in a compact form becomes much easier.  In this sort of thing presentation is important, as is ease of changing rulesets, so I need to step back a bit and find not just the changes that have to happen but also the best way to make them happen.

This turned out to be really good advice.  I managed to slice the size of many of my changes in half by simply increasing one number instead of decreasing many of them.  It isn't easy to figure out what exactly I should do in many cases because the game is so wide open - I can add new things in, change things that exist and even alter the fundamental rules.  I also have to keep in mind that these changes I make should be good for the game both for experts who play on the hardest difficulties and new folks who only have a few games under their belts but want to try something different.  Appealing to both slices of humanity can be tricky as often the pros want the game to be absurdly difficult and immune to cheesy solutions while the casual players often want things to look pretty and have good immersion and are less concerned about intricate balance questions.

I am having an absolute blast doing this though, not least because every time I come up with a new set of ideas the first thing I have to do is play a game of CiV and see just how they shake out!  Trying to break my own game is tremendous fun.

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