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Old May 21, 2002, 17:35   #61
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The #1 problem with the SMAC AI is terraforming. AI terraforming in CIV3 is near-perfect. You can conquer AI territory and not have to improve a thing. You can automate terraforming without losing anything. Try that in SMAC!
I can't resist commenting... the reason why the AI /automation can terraform properly is essentially there is NO variety in terraforming, your pretty much right whatever you terraform. This doesn't really allow different strategies in this area. (SMAC for example has Forest n' forget, Clean Mineral, Specialist...). While some may consider this a strength for Civ3, I consider it a major weakness in Civ3's gameplay. Another example of reducing options to let the AI compete, in Civ3 they took it so far that very little variety remained.

The terraforming aspect wouldn't bother me so much but for two reasons, firstly the terraforming AI in SMAC could be improved dramatically without much effort, Firaxis just never got around to it. Tis a shame, really. (that's not Civ3's fault tho, but if they wanted a more interesting terraforming in Civ3 they could have done it.)

Secondly, altough I said you can't screw up the terraforming in Civ3, the AI still manages to find sub-optimal solutions, for example mines+railroad in tundra instead of forest. (well, they are both equivilant actually, but the mines version is more expensive and ugly).

Ofcourse terraforming is my second favourite past time in SMAC (after commiting atrocities) so it should come as no suprise that I despise the Civ3 terraforming.
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Old May 22, 2002, 04:03   #62
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I think there are two broad reasons why we prefer SMAC to Civ 3. The first reason is easy to define, even though it is immense in scope. Fireaxis got cheap. From releasing a buggy game the likes of which I haven't seen from a quality company in a long time, to the Mr. Potato Head art and animations, to the obvious lack of development in playtesting and playbalancing, to the lack of environmental goodies like wonder movies, or a good interface, these elements were missing, or poorly implemented. There is really no excuse for this. I can forgive a graphicly spartan game if it has elegant play, or confounding strategic opportunities. But add up all the elements of the game that were missing, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that Civ 3 went out the door at a fraction of the cost of SMAC.

The other reason that Civ 3 sucked is more reasonable, though it nonetheless begs the question, "Did they playtest this game at all before they locked their design decisions in concrete?" This factor was a response to the avalanch of calls to improve the AI. As I pointed out a couple of years ago on an AI thread here on Apolyton, there is no way that AI can appreciably improve without these games being radically simplified for the AI. I suggested keeping things interested by letting the player play a game within a game, where managing his empire was a significant challenge all its own, and a challenge which the AI could forego in lieu of spending all of its energy trying to give the player a run for his money strategically.

Fireaxis just made the game linear in order to eliminate the complexity for the AI. They succeeded, the game is a little harder than it's predecessor. But the cost of that success is that it is unbearably dull. I played for about a week before I was finished with the game and uninstalled it. To compare, I am still trying new strategies and methods in SMAC several years after my first game, and I have read hundreds of posts from other enthusiasts. Fireaxis stripped the engine down to the nuts and bolts, but they forgot to create an angle for the human player to maintain his interest. The game is really only a race from objective to objective. There are very few decisions to make which will seperate one player from another, whether they are humans or AI. This reduces the likelihood that the human player will develop a trick maneuver which will always fool the AI (or at least one that is important enough to be a game breaker), but thinking about the game at all is really not much fun, because there are not many really important choices to make, and the few that exist tend to be binary rather than complex.

I wonder why Fireaxis decided to go the route that they did? Obviously they were constrained by their budget and original design biases, and sought to put out a product within these original limits. Perhaps Brian et al's departure damaged the project to some extent, and the 'money people' insisted upon going forward rather than a redesign into something that the entire team (including the new guys) was happy and confident about. Whatever the reason, I think the game breaks down because of the dogged determination to retain so many of the legacies from previous games in the series. By having the AI play the same game as the human, you are setting yourself up for failure in a big way. Not only do you have to contend with the AI never learning new tricks, or learning new enemy tactics and developing coutermeasures, but you also have to contend with discussion boards like this one, where even new players can be informed of cutting edge strategies and tactics.

The retention of the original Civ's emphasis of playing a tactical and strategic game simultaneosly on the same map hurts realism by forcing different arms to operate independently over huge areas, when many of these arms never operated independently at all. With this system we have the horrifically unrealistic movement limitations which make recreating even ancient warfare impossible, and modern warfare becomes absurd. World War 2 would take a century to recreate in Civ. The I move and shoot all of my troops, then you move and shoot all of yours is similarly ridiculous on a strategic scale, not to mention gives the offensive an advantage that it has never enjoyed historically. Civ is thus both unrealistic to an incredible degree as a tactical game while it is as bad a wargame as I can imagine. This is not that much of a problem where there is an economic game that is rich with potential like SMAC, and one can avoid playing the wargame in large measure and instead concentrate on the much more intersting economic / tech game. But when that game is made at best binary and at worst completely linear (like Civ 3), you are left with what amounts to a bad wargame the likes of which I haven't seen in boardgames since the 1950s.

Civ 3 would have been much better off creating a kingdom management module that absorbed the human player's intellect solving problems that historically leaders throughout the ages spent most of their time dealing with. Rival factions within states, religious controversies, rebellions, economic issues, class conflicts etc. were often more important factors in warfare than battles, and these issues dominated peacetime much more than directed research decisions etc. By having the human player facing a more realistic set of challenges just trying to remain in power and field an army, the AI's inevitibly thin resources could be husbanded to give the human a final challenge in the form of a decent strategic level challenge when the human player dared to challenge it. Perhaps MOO3 will successfully bring this model into being, from what I have heard of the project at least they can say that they have tried to do so.
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Old May 22, 2002, 07:43   #63
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Or have a look at EU2. The economic and scientific parts really need a lot of improvement IMO, but the basics of the game are better. It's RTS with a pause mode, which makes combat much more realistic.
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Old May 22, 2002, 21:41   #64
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Very well expounded upon Blake and Sikander, my hat goes off to your tireless defence of SMAC. Despite my long-term affiliation with the Civ series, from the original game, to the sequel, then to SMAC (and never looking back), I have yet tp play Civ III. I've been warded off by various player feedback; while the official gaming review sites were busy waxing their grandiloquent about the magnanimity of the franchise the hard-core Civvies screamed their contempt for the game in tirades about how atrocious and unbalanced it was: corruption, governments, war-weariness, culture, freak battle outcomes, ham-fisted linearity, mid-game prolixity, inevitable AI issues, and the dubious honor of "buggiest game of 2001." So many fans felt betrayed that I couldn't justify watching a $50-dollar bill go up in smoke, so I've detered. A scant six months after the game's release the Civ III boards already feel jaded, belligerent and burnt out, but SMAC's community feels as lively and friendly as ever. A testiment to its evolutionary greatness as a game, I think.
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Old May 23, 2002, 09:12   #65
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I don't play CivIII anymore, but I don't think I will be loading up SMAX again either- its had its time with me, and I have moved onto other games.

Still one of the greatest TBS ever!
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Old May 24, 2002, 15:01   #66
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sikander! after reading your post I have decided to erect a small shrine in your name beside my computer screen!

you said it all very well. the bottom line is that CIV3 is simply a BAD game that I also uninstalled within a week.

Personally Ireally like the idea of civ being more of a political, social and religious model rather than a war-game because it is true that as war-game models go the civ one is a pretty bad one. (Yes, even for SMAC, it doesn't work very well. I believe that for war to be realistic it HAS to happen in real time.

I am looking forward to RoN for that.

However, I am not really a "linear war" kinda guy. I prefer subversive stuff. I was really hoping for a more intellectual game in which political, social, cultural and religious factors come into play for more "advanced" warfare. SMAC is the closest thing to it. CIVctp has some interesting elements, but CIV3 has nothing.

Not even what they were actually TRYING to do works well...or it's stolen! yes : read:

One interesting point re: strategic ressources. GREAT INVENTION right? not so.

check out this link for a game called Trade Empires

(it's from frog city software..carried via Eidos..yes's true..the mooks of the gaming world are coming out of their all war and destruction phase I guess)

although to be fair frog city already made imperialism which seems pretty good (if anyone has it out there tell me what you think)

Anyway, Trade Empires has been around for over a year and it will be my next purchase for sure! (well first I have to find CIV ctp2(I never got around to buying it)

The demo of trade empires is really fun. Mind boggling actually. it is SOOO engrossing. But most interestingly, it seems that they invented the whole strategic and luxury ressource thing (the graphics even look eerily similar to CIV3)
eg: until you discover jade carving you don't see the jade mine on your map and then poof! there it then you have to build a trading post near it to harvest it.

one cool thing: you do not control the country. You merely run a trading family. Some products are independent so you have to buy it from someone else. you don't decide what the government is you simply have to provide the people and the governments with what they need or want. eg; if the country goes to war then you have to sell them weapons. etc...

so not even the whole realistic ressources "invention" in CIV3 was original.

I scream from the rooftops: PLAGORISM AT FIRAXIS!!!


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