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Sid’s Rules

May 2nd, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Blogs, Crispy Gamer, Design, Media

Sid Meier is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Even when he’s talking about other people’s games and how much fun he is having, I get the sense that he is appreciating them on more levels than I can imagine.

Soren Johnson, his former colleague at Firaxis, has just posted “Sid’s Rules”, another of Soren’s columns lifted from Game Developer magazine. On the idea that what is fun for the designer is not fun for the player:

For example, during the development of Civilization 4, we experimented with government types that gave significant productivity bonuses but also took away the player’s ability to pick which technologies were researched, what buildings were constructed, and which units were trained, relying instead on a hidden, internal model to simulate what the county’s people would choose on their own. The algorithms were, of course, very fun to construct and interesting to discuss outside of the game. The players, however, felt left behind – the computer was having all the fun – so we cut the feature.

I bet there is a hardcore group of Civ players tjat would have loved this.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Kynes

    I enjoyed the automated research approach in Alpha Centauri, which seems similar to this concept to a lesser extent. The way this concept is laid out sounds interesting, but I don’t really like the way it probably would have turned Civ into a more combat focused experience; I found that as I automated more things in Alpha Centauri I would end up concentrating more on the combat. Granted, you probably could just as easily shift focus to the diplomatic and expansionist side of things, but those seem like smaller parts of the overall Civ experience than the base management and combat.

  • Neil

    It’s actually a great idea for a complex and diverse game like Civ, not because it necessarily adds fun to the game, but because it could remove stuff that isn’t fun.

    Almost all Civ players automate some aspect of management, or at the very least don’t enjoy certain types of decision-making within the game. For example, I usually don’t like to assign citizens once I’m out of the early stages of the game. I also don’t like looking for new resources to trade for unless I need them for something specific.

    Employing multiple categories of forced automation that cover many different aspects of decision-making and micromanagement, not just tech research, would allow a large percentage of players to focus on what they enjoy doing most. You just pick the automation category that covers stuff you don’t want to control anyway, and you get a bonus.

    This arrangement would make the game more enjoyable for players, since they don’t have to fiddle with mechanics they don’t enjoy in order to optimize outcomes or because the game forces them to. The bonus for automation would also give novices a leg up in the game while they concentrate on learning the other non-automated systems and mechanics.

  • Justin Fletcher

    Since there are different choices for government types, why not implement the feature so that gamers who dug the idea could take of advantage of it and the others could ignore it?

  • Dave

    I’m with Soren on this one, please don’t tie the micromanagement/automation preference to a strategy decision. The ideal game for me is one in which nothing feels like micromanagement because playing as efficiently as possible is fast, smooth, and has interesting decisions. If a good strategy requires boring micromanagement, then that forces me to choose between playing well and having fun. I hate making that choice, please don’t intentionally put it in your game.

  • Neil

    In Civ, good strategy doesn’t require boring micromanagement, but good execution does. I’d like it better if I didn’t have to crunch numbers for optimal execution.

  • Cautiously Pessimistic

    Ah, Covert Action. I loved that game. I don’t know that either side (action/plot) had enough gameplay meat to be on its own. If it were tried, I’d be more interested in the plot side, since the action side is represented in numerous forms in a plethora of games.

  • Michael

    an idea for the latest mod, perhaps?