Friday, December 24, 2010

A few less posts, perhaps.

Today I am beginning my Christmas meanderings.  Wendy, Elli and I will be heading off to my parents place for a week of family celebrations, dodgeball, thick snow, cold, and Christmas doings.  My posts over the holiday will likely be sporadic but I intend to try to put a few things up.  Regular schedule should resume on Jan 1.

I have finally finished my CiV mod.  I have a very good feeling about it at this point, though now I recognize that I will never run out of things I want to tweak.  As soon as I hit the Submit button to publish I began to have even more ideas on how to make things even better.  One of the greatest challenges I have is fighting with the choice between cool and balanced.  In particular I had a challenge with Great People at the end that I finally resolved by going with balanced instead of cool.  Here is the trick:

You get several kinds of Great People (GP) throughout the game.  Each of these GP can be used to generate resources for your civilization and the type of resources varies with the GP.  Merchants produce Gold, Engineers produce production, Scientists produce Science.  When they first become available they produce Gold, Science and Production roughly in the 500 ballpark.  At that point they are reasonably comparable to one another, but the trouble is how things change as the game goes to the end.  By endgame Merchants and Engineers have improved such that they are producing ~1000 Production or Gold but Scientists are now producing 6000 Science.  This basically means that if the GP are balanced in the early going (which they seem to be) then Scientists are completely overpowered at the end.  This wouldn't necessarily be an issue except that you get GP from the same resource pool.  I can choose which GP I want to create so once the game goes on a bit I would have to be an idiot to make anything but Scientist.

I ended up simply removing the Scientist's ability to make Science.  The Scientist retains other abilities that make him very useful to build anyway but his signature ability is no longer available.  This was a bit of a struggle because the Scientist gave you Science by simply researching a new technology instantly.  Being able to just pick a new technology and tell Albert Einstein to get busy and learn that *right now* is a lot of fun.  The GP have randomly selected names, so it is entirely possible to order Albert Einstein to research Chivalry, for example; I am probably more amused by this than is really reasonable.  The trouble is that this fun is largely fun because it is stupendously powerful.  I would love to keep some of the fun of the ability but tone down the stupendously powerful part but I just can't do both of those things.

This debate between fun and balanced plays itself out in other ways.  In the latest patch Firaxis removed the ability to store up Social Policies and forces the player to take them right away.  Many people complained that now they have less options which makes the game worse.  They were of course whining because their favourite *cough* overpowered *cough* strategy involved doing this.  What they fail to notice is that if you have 5 options and 4 of them are utterly rubbish then you don't really have 5 options, you have 1.  If you remove that singular powerful option you can often then have 4 real choices where the optimal decision changes based on game state, style and other factors.  This means that although you only have 4 strict choices to make you have a lot more variety and strategy in gameplay.  My thoughts went along the same path in that removing the instant Science ability from Scientists means that you have 4 different GP to build instead of 1 and when you do build them they have 2-3 different things they could do instead of 1.  Realistically I think now you have 10 different things you want your GP to do instead of 1 thing, which surely creates greater depth of strategy rather than less.

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