Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Yesterday I went and downloaded a new set of mods for CiV.  Essentially these are player created changes to the game that hope to improve it or simply change it for interests sake.  The thing I found most interesting about these mods as I looked through the documentation is how much better they made the game and how much better the documentation was than the published product.  The first is somewhat understandable as it is really quite difficult to playtest a game as expertly as a huge community of fanatics will do.  A company simply isn't likely to pay a dozen people of immense skill and resourcefulness to play for 8 hours a day for a month to figure out what changes need to be made to improve game play.  They certainly have beta testers that try to perform this task but the sheer amount of time required is incredible.  So while I do understand that it is very hard for a company to produce a product that is up to the standards of the internet 'elite' I am pretty shocked at how much better the documentation was from the modders compared to the base game.

The official Civilopedia (Encyclopedia of the game, essentially) is extremely uninformative.  It has all kinds of spots where it says "Increases damage against mounted units" or somesuch without any *numbers*.  Sure, I like that pikemen do more damage against mounted, but whether that number is 3, 100% or (2+health remaining^3)/500 matters!  There are also lots of instances of things being left out or flat out wrong in the official documentation.  In the documentation for the mods things are complete and explicit.  It is well organized for ease of reading and contains all the relevant information, even including rationales for specific changes.  That a large company doesn't understand the ins and outs of games as well as a horde of geeks is understandable, even expected.  That that same company is worse at providing simple documentation on their game is embarrassing.  You have writers on staff!  You have people who are being paid to create documents, why oh why can't you provide documents as good as the random dude who is fixing your game in his spare time?

On a slightly different topic I notice a huge difference between the online communities of CiV and other games I have played.  In most games the forum crowd whine to the company about how their favourite class/spell/technique needs to be made better and tries to convince everyone that they are weak and need help.  CiV isn't that way at all, which I assume is because the game has different difficulty settings and mods.  You can simply decide to win the game any time you want by dialing the difficulty down or modding the game so that you cannot lose.  Given that people seem to spend more time yelling about how their favourite technique/unit/build is overpowered and the company needs to make it worse so they can feel good about doing other things!  It is a complete reversal where the players hope the company will nerf their thing instead of buff it, largely because they aren't playing with a fixed set of rules.  That ability to just win anytime you want seems to relieve the player of the urge to make themselves more powerful and imbues them with the urge to make the game more fun for themselves instead.

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