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A Clash in Civilization

By adrianhon in Internet
Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 05:58:10 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

It's a busy time in this nation's government. At the same time as chairing talks on the placement of new settlements along the disputed eastern border, the Minister of the Interior is trying to defend his share of this year's budget against the hawks in the Ministry of War. Diplomats from the Foreign Office are generating headaches throughout the government with their disturbing news of conflict in the south. While the political parties bicker over an official response, worried civil servants are hastily drawing up contingency plans for the nation's defence and negotiators dash from meeting to meeting in a Sisyphean effort to mediate peace between the foreign countries.

This could be a timeless description of politics anywhere in the world, except these politicians have never met face to face before and the worst harm that could come from war is bruised egos.

The year is 610BC, and it's just another turn for the nation of Apolyton to play in the first ever Intersite Democracy Game of Civilization 3, possibly the most cerebral, complex - and unknown - game on the Internet.

Just One More Turn...

Civilization is a turn-based strategy game with a lineage as distinguished as some royal families - at least in computer game terms. Unlike the Intersite Democracy Game (ISDG), it's well known to gamers around the world. In Civilization, players take control of a band of settlers in 4000BC and raise them into an advanced civilization while dealing with all the challenges history has to offer - wars, disasters, revolutions - the usual. Yet Civilization isn't just a war game; while you can win by conquering the world, you can also win by a cultural or diplomatic victory, among other ways. In this respect, Civilization 3, the latest version, is as far beyond other strategy games such as Age of Empires as they are from action games like Quake.

The attraction of Civilization for its millions of players lies in how every new game is unique, yet still poses the same challenges of striking a fine balance between expansion and consolidation, research and defence, and conquest or peaceful diplomacy. `Just one more turn' is the mantra of Civilization addicts, whose ranks include the author Iain Banks and economist Prof. Brad DeLong. Banks has based at least one of his books around Civilization and has spoken ruefully about physically destroying the game CD to end his addiction. One player has commented, "I can honestly say playing Civ has been the one single activity which I have done most in my life after sleeping."

In 1991, Civilization 1 was developed by Sid Meier at Microprose and received universal praise. Since then, the game remained under the supervision of Meier, who followed on with an even more successful sequel in 1996. Five years later, Civilization 3 was released in 2001 by Meier, now at Firaxis, following a legal tussle concerning the use of the lucrative `Civilization' name in other games. Each sequel has added refinements on to the original, such as the territory borders, culture, unit hit points and experience, but the core theme of the game has been left untouched.

Controversially, multiplayer capabilities have never been built into any Civilization game. This was reasonable enough twelve years ago, but its continued absence in Civilization 3 angered many players. Firaxis claimed this was because Civilization has always been intended as a single player experience, but a more cynical explanation may lie in the fact that multiplayer capabilities have always been made available after each games' release - for a price.

Despite this annoyance, there's a thriving online community of Civilization fans numbering almost one hundred thousand. These fans aren't your normal game players who might shrug when they encounter a rule that doesn't seem to make sense. Instead, Civilization fans would (and have) run exhaustive simulations within the game to determine the exact equation governing the rule, and then argue at length about its worth. However, the very complexity of Civilization and the unpredictability of the game's formidable AI mean that it's simply not possible to reverse engineer it and play the perfect game; there's always an element of intuition and luck, which suits the players just fine.

All Talk

With over three million posts among the fan sites, it almost seems like the players prefer talking about Civilization to actually playing it, and it's not without truth, either. While the game's play by email feature makes it easy for players to take part in not just one but several games concurrently, there's still a maximum of eight players per game, which isn't any more than what you might find in a typical board game. Handily, the Civilization Fanatics Center, one of the largest fan sites on the Internet, came up with a solution that satisfies fans' dual urges of playing the game and talking about it at the same time: They invented the democracy game.

A democracy game is just like a normal single player game of Civilization, except with over a hundred people sitting beside you arguing about what to do. Surprisingly enough, democracy games don't descend into a free for all; instead, detailed constitutions and an elected government have ensured that the games proceed smoothly and every player can contribute their opinion. Since 2002, democracy games have been successfully exported to other websites and strategy games, such as Alpha Centauri, a Civilization spin-off game.  

A progression of the original idea is the intrasite democracy game (also known as the Play the World democracy game, after the name of the multiplayer expansion pack), the first of which began last year at Apolyton. In intrasite games, instead of players assuming the role of just one civilization, eight teams of players control eight different civilizations, each with their own government. Apolyton's intrasite game has already become legendary owing to the incredibly heated and personal arguments that have risen between teams.

The Great Game, Online

The Intersite Democracy Game takes the concept one step further by involving eight website teams scattered across the globe. Over three hundred players are spread among the teams, many of whom have played Civilization for over ten years and possess an enormous and sometimes deeply worrying amount of knowledge about the game. Each team represents one civilization within the game - Apolyton, for example, has chosen Carthage. Since the game was only designed to be played by a maximum of eight individuals, only designated members in each team are allowed play the savegames (`turns') that are passed from team to team.

The ISDG revolves around savegames. It's when a savegame arrives that teams can get down to the serious business of actually moving units around and issuing orders instead of just talking about it. Teams wait for savegames in the same way that children wait for Christmas - with a great deal of anticipation and impatience. Any delay in their arrival, usually caused by email problems, or (as is suspected occasionally) nefarious behind the scenes diplomacy, is a source of immense distress and rampant speculation for players.

However, teams have plenty to do when they're not playing a savegame, which in any case only takes a few hours. In particular, diplomats continually engage in resource and technology trades with other civilizations and hammer out border and non-aggression treaties filled with enough stipulations and loopholes to make Microsoft's lawyers blanch. This healthy level of suspicion between teams results in a rather fluid style of online diplomacy that progresses from informal chats up to official IRC meetings, and then finally an exchange of signed documents until all the parties are satisfied.

Teams spend a lot of time in the run up to a savegame discussing exactly how to play it. A seemingly simple question, such as where the next city should be founded, can be subjected to a staggering amount of debate. In Apolyton, the regulars in the team's chat room will kick off with informal speculation and after a while will post a more detailed thread about it on the forums. Other members can then reply with their own thoughts and suggestions, and some might conduct a more in-depth analysis using simulations and fiendishly complicated spreadsheets, all of which will be posted to the thread along with maps and graphs. Based on the facts and opinions in the forums and polls, Apolyton's consul triumvirate will settle on a final decision and add it to the long list of things to do when the next savegame arrives.

When this finally happens, the consuls will post updated maps in the forums showing any changes from the last turn, along with the new game demographics which show the team's position in the game in population, land area, literacy and so on. Barring any serious surprises, the turn is played according to the task list made earlier; otherwise the team will go into overdrive trying to adapt to the new situation. With the turn played, the savegame is passed on to the next team and the wait begins again - typically an agonizing two or three days.

What a Tangled Web

You could be forgiven for thinking that Civilization fans are a happy family, united in their love of the game. The reality turns out to be depressingly familiar; if you drew a family tree of Civilization fan sites, you'd soon end up with a tangled web of relations that has ended up with some sites despising each other. On the positive side, all of this rivalry makes for a colourful game.

The two largest teams are the Apolyton Civilization Site and the Civilization Fanatics Center (CFC). Apolyton boasts an impressive total of 39,000 users and two million posts, and has the distinction of being the oldest Civilization website on the Internet. CFC is only slightly behind with 34,500 users and one million posts. With such sizeable communities, it's surprising that Apolyton's ISDG team only has 93 players and CFC's team has 72.

As the two most well known fan sites with past experience in democracy games, they have the dubious distinction of being seen by several sites as the teams to beat. As if that wasn't enough, they have a healthy, but not acrimonious, rivalry between themselves. Which site is better? Most agree that CFC has a superior grasp of Civilization 3 while Apolyton has a broader range of strategy expertise spread across a number of games. The only way to know for certain, though, is to pit the two websites against each other in a real game, so when the ISDG was first thought up, many envisaged a straight `CFC vs. Apolyton' match.

Both sites have spawned offshoots. The Civilization Gaming Network (800 users and 24 ISDG players) was founded by a group of Apolyton members who `moved on'. Jon Shafer, Apolyton's Minister of War, explains, "Many of the more outsiderly Apolytonians who didn't want to join our team joined theirs, because in a way CGN represents `Apolyton sucks,'" - but in a light-hearted way, he added. CGN today consists of a mixed community, most of which have never had anything to do with Apolyton.  

CFC's relative, the Creative Design Group, has a darker history. Many of the members of CDG were `modders' at CFC - they created custom graphics, animations and units to be used in Civilization. When they made a `Third Reich Team' that designed German units and gave themselves titles such as `Hauptman' and `Feldmarschall', other CFC members complained and the modders were told to change their ways. Godwin's law inexorably swung into effect, people said things they shouldn't have, and the modders left on an exodus to CDG. Kenton, CDG's team leader explains, "The two sites have serious long term issues, but in the ISDG we couldn't have been closer. It's because many of us at CDG are very good friends with many of the CFC people."

A dark horse in the ISDG, the Gamecatcher Alliance wasn't an original entry into the ISDG. "We sort of slipped into the ISDG when another team withdrew. The `alliance' refers to all the different factions existing in the [Gamecatcher] forum joining together to play as one site," says Oskar Grindemyr, a military advisor for the team. The Gamecatcher Alliance has one of the smallest teams in the game with only 22 players.

Unlike the five sites already mentioned, which are mostly based in America, two sites in the ISDG are essentially national teams. The German Webring Team, playing as Arabia, is a federation of German Civilization fan sites with 3900 registered users. Apolyton can claim part of the responsibility for the formation of the other `national' team, called the Grenouille (`the Frog'), which counts Belgium, Switzerland and France among its member countries.

Sébastien Wautelet, a member of Apolyton and the leader of the Grenouille explains, "I was taking part in the intrasite game on Apolyton, and had the idea to start a French-speaking team for the ISDG... A couple of other French-speaking Apolytoners who were already taking part in other democracy games joined me, and we easily gathered lots of other players on the 'Grenouille' French-speaking Civilization forum."

Being based outside America hasn't been a serious handicap to the Grenouille team. There are some minor inconveniences caused by the difference in time zones that affect diplomacy and the arrival of savegames, but on the whole they don't feel disadvantaged. "On the positive side, communication inside the team is probably easier as everyone speaks his native language; I think there are still quite a lot of non-English speakers in other teams. The fact that everyone is inside the same time zone also makes it easier for everyone to meet at the same time for IRC chats," says Wautelet.

The eighth team in the ISDG is none other than the game's developer itself, Firaxis. Officially, the team only includes three of its employees, making it the smallest team in the game, but one of them is Sören Johnson, creator of Civilization 3's formidable artificial intelligence system. Unfortunately for them, Firaxis stands out as a target in the ISDG; who wouldn't want to beat the developers at their own game? Rodrigo Aguilera, an Apolyton member put it eloquently, "I see no conceivable way why Firaxis would not get gang-banged eventually." When asked about this, Johnson replied with remarkable equanimity (or perhaps naivety), "We have been a target, but I don't think anyone aimed for us because we were the developers."

A Question of Government

In theory, since it is an Intersite Democracy Game, you would expect every team member to have an equal say in game play decisions for their civilization. In practice, things aren't quite so simple. The problem is that a democratic system of team government doesn't always produce the best quality of playing. Some members are more experienced than others, and even if everyone within a team was of equal ability, it just isn't possible to conduct a vote on each individual action within a turn. Not only would this take too long, but many issues cannot be resolved by polls.

"We poll subjects of game play whenever possible. If a clear majority of the [CFC] populace wants something, it is done. However, in a game as detailed as Civilization 3, it's almost impossible to go over every single detail and play the game in a timely manner," explains Jakob Thomeczek, leader of CFC's team. So despite the fact that even the largest team has less than one hundred members, direct democracy in the ideal sense is not workable.

Many teams have instead opted for a representative democracy, in which members elect government ministers, such as the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister, with executive authority in their respective spheres. These teams will often run polls to judge the feeling of all the members, although they differ widely in their power. The Grenouille team, for example, treats its polls as referendums, whereas polls in Apolyton's governments have absolutely no legal consequence. Apolyton has a few other quirks, as consul Simon Granville describes, "You could say we are in the process of establishing a system of elected, power-sharing Monarchs; an alternating, periodically elected Triumvirate, if you will." The consuls, not the members, elect government ministers for advisors.

The various systems of government used in the ISDG masks a deeper conflict about whether teams are playing just to have fun, or to establish their supremacy of the game. Each team realises that the reputation of their entire website - in some cases, numbering in the tens of thousands - rests on their quality of playing, which requires a certain discipline that precludes any messing about. "In my mind, the ISDG is less about the fun and more about the serious business of proving Apolyton the best in the business," believes Granville. This doesn't mean that playing the game is a chore, asserts Ken Freeman, a consul at Apolyton, who believes that the game is fun precisely because it is intellectually challenging.

Sid Meier Does Roll Dice

No matter how skilled you are Civilization, luck can still make or break your game. Luck acts in two ways; through the map, and through battles. Unless you use a custom designed map, the computer generates one randomly before each game based on a few user defined parameters such as size of continents and age of the planet. In an instructive demonstration of Jared Diamond's theory of geography determining history, the type of terrain that your civilization finds itself in at the start of a game hugely influences your future success; a civilization that starts in the middle of a sprawling jungle is unlikely to grow as quickly as one lying in fertile grasslands.

None of the teams in the ISDG will have seen the game's randomly generated map before. Needless to say, the types of starting point for the teams are highly diverse and will undoubtedly affect their chances of winning. Still, no team has publicly complained since they know that the starting points were also randomly assigned.

The outcome of battles in Civilization is also random. While a tank is likely to beat a group of cavalry in battle, based on their relative attack and defence strengths, there's still a small probability that the cavalry could emerge victorious, in effect by getting lucky and rolling two sixes. These probability `rolls' are governed by a random number generator (RNG). The RNG is in turn set by a `seed' that - in the ISDG - persists within every savegame as a security measure against cheating. The point behind this is that without a persistent seed, teams could theoretically keep on reloading and replaying their savegames until they had favourable, if highly unlikely, results for all their battles. With a persistent seed, the probabilities are always the same so that battles will always have the same outcome even if the savegame is reloaded.

All of this means that luck can curse a team with not only an awful starting position, but also a disastrous run of bad luck in battles. Sébastien Wautelet of the Grenouille team believes that the importance of luck in the ISDG can't be overstated. "Luck is already an important factor in Civilization, but I think it's even more amplified in the ISDG. As the decisions are made by groups of usually very experienced players, there will be very few errors, especially in micro-management, because everyone knows the rules pretty well and knows which decision is the best. There is no place for random little errors, and those kind of errors often allow a good player who had bad luck to catch up with a poor player who had good luck."

The result is that while no-one really believes that the team who wins the ISDG will actually be the best in the world (apart from perhaps themselves), teams that do manage to succeed despite bad luck will be much admired.

Trust me, I'm a gamer

With so much at stake in the ISDG, the prospect of cheating lurks ominously in each teams' mind. It's trivially easy to cheat in Civilization 3 - it's even possible to cheat accidentally. Persistent RNG seeds prevent one easy way of cheating, but there are several others that are essentially undetectable and can be used by a team to tilt the odds in their favour or reveal the entire map.

Imagine playing poker against someone who kept on getting full houses, hand after hand after hand; you'd be convinced the pack wasn't being dealt fairly, and you'd watch the dealer's hands very carefully from then on. Similarly, if a team defeated you in every single battle, even in the ones where it was hopelessly outmatched, it would result in a highly suspicious run of good luck that utterly defied the odds. Again, you might be certain they were cheating, but this time you can't watch the dealer's hands or cut the deck, because it's all happening on a computer in a room hundreds of miles away. There's no way you could prove that the other team cheated.

Is it possible that teams are already cheating within the ISDG? Tom Ogas, the Apolyton Minister of Foreign Affairs, thinks it may be, "but ultimately, it's a pointless issue.  If they do cheat, then what? We start the game over?" The other teams are equally sanguine and prefer to rely on the ISDG Pledge for assurance. The Pledge was signed by all eight teams before the start of the game and guarantees against any kind of cheating or alteration of the savegame; if a team breaks the Pledge, it would ruin their reputations.

It's generally believed that there's no way that an entire team would agree to cheat; someone would eventually let slip, plagued (hopefully) by a guilty conscience. This doesn't exclude the possibility of conspiracies within teams or unscrupulous players cheating without the knowledge of other members, but in the end, speculation is futile. "You either trust that no-one cheats, or you don't play the game," says Ogas.

A New Kind Of Game

`Diplomacy on crack' is one way to describe the ISDG, but otherwise the game is opaque to outsiders who aren't familiar with Civilization or democracy games - in other words, pretty much everyone. The combination of a highly complex strategy game with hundreds of players defies normal categorization into the normal genres of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games) or simulation games like Everquest or SimCity. Even experienced Civilization players find the concept of the ISDG alien, since the delay between turns adds such a bewildering array of negotiation, debate and power politics that aren't seen in normal games.

From a social standpoint, the ISDG is a fascinating microcosm of the real world, owing to the freedom the game provides for different strategies. It's possible for a team to win without starting a single battle, by building enough temples, cathedrals, Wonders and universities to convince the world's population that your culture is so magnificent that they all decide to join your civilization and desert their own. Accomplishing this would involve an exquisite grasp of domestic management, defence and diplomacy to ensure that no-one tried to destroy your lovely cathedrals, but for some teams it beats trying to crush the rest of the world militarily.

To win the ISDG, a team will have to perfectly balance conflict and co-operation, not only with other teams but between its own members. At Apolyton, the process of getting members to work together at all was difficult enough. "When the ISDG team first formed, there were already factions and rivalries in place that had formed in the [intrasite game], as well as the traditional democracy game crowd mixing with the strategy forum crowd who'd never played together before, and neither side really had much respect for the other. It took us a few weeks to gel in the beginning, but never really smoothed over until much later, perhaps a month or two into this game. All of our different rivalries and perspectives and competition in the [intrasite game] became a benefit once we learned to trust each other. We learned a great deal from playing against each other initially," recounts Tom Ogas.

It's interesting to step back from the details of the ISDG and observe just how different it is from other online games. There is no narrative in the ISDG other than what the players create themselves, from their own experiences and interactions. The skills players must have aren't a quick trigger finger or good eyesight; they're an aptitude for quick and incisive analysis, a shrewd mind and an ability for communication.

Even more so than single player Civilization, the ISDG has a long learning curve that demands an unusual amount of concentration and commitment from its players, rewarding their persistence with a dynamic and fine-grained world populated by other equally committed players. The game began in February 2003, and after six months about one hundred turns have been played; it's likely the game could take an entire year from start to finish. Participants in the ISDG aren't looking for quick thrills - they're in it for the long haul.

Perhaps this is why the ISDG has only attracted three hundred players, only a fraction of the hundred thousand in the greater Civilization community, and the millions that play games such as Everquest and Ultima Online. Yet the Civilization Intersite Democracy Game is unlikely to be the last of its kind, and the idea will surely be reproduced for similar strategy games. At least part of the reason for the ISDG's small player base is that games companies simply haven't thought of the idea yet, or alternatively haven't figured out how to make money out of it. Still, Sören Johnson believes that the creation of the ISDG was inevitable. "Before I began working on Civilization 3, I had never heard of the concept of a democracy game. Once I understood the idea, I expected that something like the ISDG would occur. Like most of the Net, if you can think of it, it probably exists."

Are democracy games destined to obscurity among the more popular online games that offer quick, visceral thrills or an adventure role playing experience? It's not really a question of whether people would be interested in playing it - given the success of Civilization itself and the diversification of the `gaming generation', they would be. More relevant is whether strategy democracy games can break out of the close-knit Civilization community into the wider world.

Democracy games have evolved an assortment of rules, traditions and accepted practices that won't easily be transplanted to a group of novice players; many fans still disagree about the rules that surround democracy games. "On the one hand, a highly complex ruleset does allow for interesting interactions between players. On the other, in can restrict gameplay," says Thomeczek. But as more games are played and more people are introduced to the concept, it's becoming easier to arrive at solutions that satisfy all the players and teams.

For all of this talk, the players in the ISDG aren't worried about whether strategy democracy games will sweep the globe or how they represent a new game genre. They're more concerned about making their cities as efficient as possible, keeping up with the world in scientific development and defending their nations against aggressors. After all, that's where the fun is.

Adrian Hon is a member of the Apolyton team and has resolutely refused to take an official post in the government in fear that it could consume his life. Thanks go to representatives from the Gamecatcher Alliance, the Grenouille team, Firaxis, the Creative Design Group, the Civilization Fanatics Center and most of all, the members of the Apolyton team.

Since this article was written in late 2003, three teams have been knocked out of the game: the Creative Design Group, the Grenouille team... and Firaxis.


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o democracy game
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o Alpha Centauri
o intrasite democracy game
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o Apolyton Civilization Site
o Civilizati on Gaming Network
o Creative Design Group
o Gamecatche r Alliance
o German Webring Team
o the Grenouille
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Display: Sort:
A Clash in Civilization | 74 comments (46 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
Any real-life applications? (none / 2) (#5)
by danharan on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 10:59:19 AM EST

Any chance people could get that excited about real-life diplomacy?

No chance whatsoever. (none / 0) (#11)
by alby on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 11:50:11 AM EST


If only we could somehow link gaming and IRL democracy ...

[ Parent ]

Gaming and Real Life (none / 2) (#24)
by eladamry on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 09:37:54 PM EST

Forget about democracy, I am still waiting for godmode to make the leap to real life... Though I would be satisfied if even a 15 second respawn on death was implemented.

[ Parent ]
One Reason Why Not (none / 0) (#52)
by Trevasel on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 02:48:43 PM EST

In real-life diplomacy, you have absolutely no control or ability to influence the situation in any conceivable way, you sniveling little peon.

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. But anyway, without any feeling of control you are just an observer, which is much less exciting that actual participation.
-- That which does not kill you only makes you stranger - Trevor Goodchild
[ Parent ]

dice? (none / 2) (#20)
by rmg on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 04:22:52 PM EST

sounds like gambling. maybe it would be better if you just moved one square at a time.

your daily shot of schadenfreude

dave dean

One big opportunity for cheating... (none / 2) (#21)
by skyknight on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 07:46:32 PM EST

that I would think was trivial and completely unpreventable would be that of double agents. What is to prevent someone from joining one team, seeing the map, and then leaking that information to the other team?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
It's possible (none / 2) (#22)
by adrianhon on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 08:20:27 PM EST

It's possible, and it can't be avoided if someone was determined. However, most teams are fairly diligent in checking up who joins their teams - I know that Apolyton won't let some complete newbie join up - and if word got out that someone was leaking information to a team, that team would doubtless be disqualified. I imagine that all the teams would be dead set against such cheating.

[ Parent ]
why? (none / 0) (#67)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 03:56:39 PM EST

What is exactly wrong with this type of double agent "spying"?

This type of "cheating" is fair game as far as I see it... I would be more concerned about the actual manipulation of the game in terms of "pre-playing" desicions etc.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Unmentioned cheating opportunities (3.00 / 6) (#23)
by eladamry on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 09:27:18 PM EST

IANADGP(I am not a Democracy Game player) but the poster missed two cheating opportunities. Both have to do with foreknowledge, albeit on a different time spans.

First, the most obvious is to circumvent the preserved random seed by playing a turn multiple times and picking your winnings. After all, you are receiving and sending out a savegame, no one knows what you did with it or how many times you played it in-between. Don't like the result of a battle? Then don't fight. Any short term decision can be capitalized and optimized upon with short term look ahead. Some might not even consider this cheating.

The second cheating opportunity is to play the saved game through completely in single player mode to explore the whole map. With a complete map in hand, a team can know exactly where to send their settlers and explorers and which locations will have critical resources in the late game. Navigating perilous seas with galleys won't be a hit or miss stumbling in the dark affair, but a deterministic process.

The saved game can be played to any point in between. Playing the saved game in single player mode for 10 turns can yield crucial intelligence in regards to troop locations and your position on the wonders cascade.

If the ISDG goes through without cheating, more power to them. They must have ethics of steel. Otherwise, collective guilt would be crushing.

Dunno about civ3 but ... (2.75 / 4) (#34)
by Ranieri on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 07:46:46 AM EST

In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (civ3's more complex space-age predecessor) the game is able to tell how often a PBEM multiplayer game was opened. Now since the information has to be saved either on the savegame or in the program data or both, it's nothign a backup and a fresh SMAC install can't fix. Still, it raises the bar considerably for "that didn't go too well let's do it again" cheating.

Then again, geeks are usually utterly undeterred by these inconveniences.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

RE: Dunno about civ3 but ... (none / 2) (#42)
by eladamry on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 04:43:33 PM EST

I don't know myself, but it is very possible that this kind of SMAC rudimentary protection is built into Civ3. Sid Meier worked on both games after all.

It would certainly make cheating more inconvenient. But they have multiple computers/player to play the saved game upon so... I would imagine that some DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection might have legitimate uses to prevent cheating in such games.

[ Parent ]
Eh... (none / 2) (#43)
by WhiteBandit on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 05:02:57 PM EST

The cheating issue has been raised a couple of times in this game. Namely, one team has had AMAZING luck in regards to certain battles.

We ran some numbers and the calculations for those results were astronomical, something like a 1 in 16 million chance to actually get that result. (Basically they have never lost a battle).

These dubious circumstances have raised a lot of questions. For the most part, this game is an "on your honor" type of thing, but there really is no way to prevent cheating.

Because of certain events, it's fairly probable that the team in question won't be invited to play in any future demo games.

[ Parent ]

Maybe the game could be made fair via hacking? (none / 0) (#73)
by irrevenant on Sun Jun 27, 2004 at 03:14:53 AM EST

If you can hack the random seed, and have the game pass through an unbiased third party, it can be modified in transit, then changed back on return so that people won't have the real results to base actions upon...

[ Parent ]
Civ3 (none / 2) (#25)
by mindstrm on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 10:11:03 PM EST

Am I to understand he's saying that Civ3 was not multiplayer?

How come I see several people in my office playing it with each other then?

Also says there was a multiplayer expansion (nt) (none / 1) (#27)
by jeremyn on Fri Jun 18, 2004 at 11:33:54 PM EST

[ Parent ]
As others have stated (none / 1) (#45)
by WhiteBandit on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 05:11:33 PM EST

The original version of Civ 3 did not ship with multiplayer. Two follow up expansion packs (which each sold for $30 USD when they were released) contained multiplayer code.

[ Parent ]
all i have to say with (2.40 / 5) (#28)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 01:18:07 AM EST

always play the aztecs

their jaguar warriors move 2 spaces, while everyone else's warriors move 1 space

this gives you an awesome exploratory lead in the beginning of the game- you know exactly where to put your cities, and you can defend them better with a rapid reaction force

and you can poach prime resource spots and land mass pinch spots... so you can prevent civs from encroaching upon your continent

aztecs, the only way to play civ 3

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

no, no (2.50 / 4) (#29)
by Meatbomb on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 03:48:05 AM EST

Always play Carthage. Your Curragh at beginning lets you meet all the other cultures, and quickly discover the overall geopolitical situation (ie, are you alone on an island, is it a pangea, etc). By knowing everyone while they are still "alone", you get to be the tech trading middleman.

Plus, your industrious workers build way way fast.


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]

i only played the first civ 3 (1.75 / 4) (#30)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 03:54:47 AM EST

i never got to the expansion pack ;-)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
No, no, no. (none / 2) (#31)
by Pyrion on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 05:41:19 AM EST

Maya > Aztecs. Agricultural + Industrial = major bonuses no civ can beat, plus an early-game unique unit with 2.2.1 PLUS enslave ability so all those damned barbarians turn into free workers for the rest of the game.
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
sorry, never got expansion pack ;-) (nt) (none / 1) (#35)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 08:04:36 AM EST

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I was always a big fan of the Persians... (2.50 / 4) (#32)
by skyknight on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 07:01:16 AM EST

The 4.2.1 Immortal just dominates other iron age units. The greater balance of the 3.3.1 Roman Legion is not without its charm in open terrain, but for rooting out fortified defenders the Immortal can't be beat.

The problem, though, is that the game's selection method for defenders when you have stacked units is stupid and pissed me off to no end. For the love of God, when I have a wounded Immortal stacked with a full powered Phalanx, why does the game select the Immortal to fight???

More generally, one of my biggest disappointments with civilization, reaching all the way back to the first, is the lame way it handles grouped units. The game ought to allow you to attack with arbitrary selections of units, as well as defend, and the types and number of units should be taken into account. A powerful defensive unit, fortified in a mountain city that has walls, no doubt should have a hefty defensive capacity, but if ten units attack it at the same time, it ought to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and fall easily. The way things are in Civ, however, the defender gets to easily defeat all of them one by one, as the attackers line up and take turns to get slaughtered. I'm sorry, but this is really stupid.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Sometimes (2.75 / 4) (#47)
by NoBeardPete on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 05:46:43 PM EST

Sometimes that's how battles work. Especially in mountainous terrain, it's often the case that a clever defended can arrange to deal with the attackers a few at a time.

The battle of Thermopylae is a good example. 300 Spartans and a medley of other Greeks were able to fight and army of a hundred thousand to a standstill for several days. They picked a good spot to make their stand, where the Persians could only come at them a dozen or so men at a time. When the Greeks were finally defeated, it was because the Persians found another way around the position, not because they had finally thrown enough men into the meat grinder.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Japanese... (none / 2) (#54)
by JahToasted on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 08:05:03 PM EST

The Samarai are a pretty awesome force in medeival times right on through the industrial age. That's usually where I do the most fighting.

I've always found that if I have a lot of units stacked, they usually do pretty good. I thought they did have an advantage. But maybe that's just my strange luck. Anyways, you can build armies to attack with.

Really my problem is that artillery always seems to be useless. But that could be because my tech always sucks in civ.
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Artillery are essential (none / 0) (#66)
by Wah on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 02:45:04 PM EST

for getting at the mechanized infantry.  Bombers works, but artillerry tear them apart, especially any unit in the open field.  Three shots and they are an easy mop up for any offensive unit.  Also, all bombarding units upgrade throughout the game, so you only have to build 8 or 10 once, and then keep them on the front lines.

If that final bar keeps annoying you, you need artillery.

[now back to the protracted land/nuclear war to stop the spaceship from taking off].
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]

In Conquest (2.25 / 4) (#48)
by Betcour on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 06:26:22 AM EST

...I found the Iroquois to be pretty good. The agricultural bonus + commercial traits allow for fast expansion and an efficient empire in later games. The Mounted Warrior (3.1.2), provided you find horses, allow for some fast conquests very early on (and if you can put them into an army, you are unstopable)

[ Parent ]
wow... (2.66 / 6) (#37)
by davros4269 on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 11:37:20 AM EST

If I wouldn't have found a mate and had offspring, I could get into something like this...the most gameplay I get these days is 13 minutes of the old Colony Wars on the PS1, every other day or so...

Seriously, as nerdy as it might sound, I'm jealous of these folks that so get into these multiplayer games and their communities...maybe when I'm in my 50's, I'll join a massively multiplayer virtual reality game...

Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.

Do it! (none / 3) (#44)
by WhiteBandit on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 05:08:43 PM EST

I recommend checking it out if you get a chance. It's definitely a fun experience. Both Apolyton and CFC have "single" player demo games that go on as well that you are free to check out. Basically, you start a single player game, but everyone is elected into certain positions to manage the game.

For some challenges, we bump the difficulty level all the way up. It's interesting to see if the collective knowledge of around 100 geeks can beat the game on it's most difficult setting. (Though admittedly, there are some sick individuals who can beat it on their own. :p)

[ Parent ]
self control (none / 2) (#51)
by davros4269 on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 02:38:48 PM EST

I have an issue with self control. Think of training a doberman pincher so that you can throw a steak at it's feet and it just sits there, content, until you allow it to eat.

That's NOT me ;) I have to keep the steak at a distance. If I start a game like this, I might easily get lost...

Thanks for the suggestion, however.

Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

This article makes no sense whatsoever (1.00 / 10) (#38)
by DominantParadigm on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 12:02:25 PM EST

You start by talking about how Civ 3 doesn't have multiplayer, then go on to talk about all the different ways of playing Civ 3 multiplayer. What . The. Fuck.

Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

Expansion pack includes multiplayer (none / 2) (#40)
by msoya on Sat Jun 19, 2004 at 01:36:44 PM EST

The article mentions an expansion pack which includes multiplayer.

[ Parent ]
Civlilization (2.25 / 4) (#49)
by Orion Blastar on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 09:16:16 AM EST

Your can buy Civilization II for $10USD in most bargain bins. Civilization III is a memory and CPU hog. Or for the cheap gamers try FreeCiv which has a more affordable price of free.

I got bored with Civ2 and Civ3, after taking over the world so many times by conquest or launching a starship, I just stopped playing it.

The game cheats anyway, Tremines sink too easily for the player, yet the computer can sail an Ocean with them and never sink. The computer has no cities near gunpower in CIV3, yet buids Musketmen. Many other cheats as well, apparently the AI cannot out-think a human so it cheats them.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***

That's how most AIs win. (none / 0) (#62)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 11:02:04 AM EST

It's extremely difficult to program a good AI, especially one that can learn. So instead you program one that's good enough and rely on giving the computer a bigger handicap for progressively harder difficulty levels. Think of Warcraft. War2 was one of my favorite games. A good one player challenge depended on good map design and as the levels got harder, the computer started with a bigger advantage. But play a 1on1 skirmish against the CPU starting with equal odds and you'll crush it every time. An AI just can't match human intelligence. So you need to add more computer players, or something to make it a challenge. Well Civ can't do that because part of the game is that everybody starts the same, so instead the game works in the CPUs handicap but cutting some of the rules. Everybody knows the Civ AI cheats, but if you don't like it, well I guess you shouldn't play single player.

[ Parent ]
Mmmmm, happy thoughts... (none / 1) (#53)
by MyrddinE on Sun Jun 20, 2004 at 03:12:28 PM EST

I did not know this kind of game existed. Happy bubbly thoughts are currently percolating through my mind. Mmmm.

Primarily, the possibility of a different game specifically designed to be played as a democratic game, with built in forums and chat centers, online play that prevents cheating, division of power between different portions of the 'government'. It would be fascinating to ACTUALLY start out as a despotism (with one player-despot who may or may not listen to the rest of the team, and can be deposed by a majority-vote-coup), graduate to a monarchy/parliment, then a republic, etc... and have the player organization alter similarly.

Ahh, but I don't think it will happen anytime soon. As this article points out, there are millions of Civilization fans out there, and democratic Civilization has perhaps a couple thousand players (counting the spinoff single player games etc). A market like that can't support a dedicated game type.

But in the future... who knows.


Civilization 3 vs Rise of Nations (none / 1) (#59)
by Bossk on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 03:35:17 AM EST

Pretty strange that I was coincidently assessing the worth of these two games today...deciding which would be good to buy.

I had settled on Rise of Nations because it seemed more more in-depth and fun, but I could have been biased by the Gamespot reviews and the official websites.

I'd prefer the game that was more historically accurate and explained some of the historical details in-game as an interesting excursion while playing.

I know the two games are slightly different in genre as well, turn-based RTS vs real-time RTS. I'm not sure what other differences exist.

I'm still deciding on which to buy.

Civ 3 vs RoN (none / 1) (#63)
by WhiteBandit on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 11:59:30 AM EST

I have always been a fan of Civilization so I have basically bought all the civs the moment they were released.

Rise of Nations intrigued me since it was designed by Brian Reynolds, who was a key contributor to many of the ideas of Civ 1 and 2. When you play Rise of Nations, there are many very obvious things that hail back to the Civilization days in it. However, this makes it a better game in my opinion.

Either game is still pretty fun. The average RoN game will last you just over an hour to play. Perfect for a quick game before you go out.

Civ 3 Conquests (Civ 3 by itself is trash in my opinion) has the good old "Just One More Turn" syndrome that many of us are familiar with in the old days. I've wasted many a night, deciding the play a game after dinner, only to realize it was four in the morning and I have to get up for work in 3 hours!

Interestingly enough, C3C comes with the second Civ3 Expansion, Play The World as well, so if you decide to go that route, just by Civ 3 + Civ 3 Conquests and you should be all set.

[ Parent ]

RE: Civilization 3 vs Rise of Nations (none / 0) (#74)
by fd on Thu Aug 12, 2004 at 12:31:59 PM EST

They're similar in some concepts but the gameplay is almost completely different.  RTS is a completely different style of play than TBS.  Civ3 is fun but very slow-paced.  Civ3 is much more in-depth than Rise of Nations could ever possibly be if for no other reason than the speed of play.  For example, Rise of Nations has a concept trade.  Trade caravans make gold.  In Civ3, you have to build outposts and roads, maintain the roads, upgrade the roads, etc. etc.  In Civ3, you get details like rioting citizens and police.  Rise of Nations is, like other RTS games, a mouse-clicking fest that lasts 30-60 minutes.  A Civ3 game can go for days.

Rise of Nations has a free demo you can download.  Try that first, it may help you make your decision.  I have them both and they're both great games.  I prefer Rise of Nations because I have more fun playing it, it is more action oriented, and the games are shorter.

[ Parent ]

Reenactment of getting the government we deserve (2.87 / 16) (#60)
by K5 ASCII reenactment players on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 07:11:25 AM EST

Earl, are you coming to the 
Town Meeting to protest about
the new toxic waste dump?            
               \               Dammit, Martha, I told you, I have to convince
                \              Nebuchadnezzar79 that the long term benefits of
                 \             building an aqueduct in New Babylon outweigh
                  \            the short term fiscal burden!
                   JO            O  _  [j00 4r t3h 1d110t!!!!]
                   <v>          |\=|_|
                   /_\          |L.---
                   /|           | || |

However, the thing is (none / 3) (#64)
by GenerationY on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 12:22:59 PM EST

having been to more than one town meeting in my time, its an open question whether it will be Martha or Earl who has the greatest impact upon the world around them. For once thing, Earl's communication is far more polite and constructive than what will get said at Martha's meeting.

An in case you were wondering, yeah I'm jaded and cynical.

[ Parent ]

Culture makes life hell... (none / 1) (#61)
by nostalgiphile on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 10:22:30 AM EST

Er, and one other thing you forgot to mention: Civ3 is hard as hell, relatively speaking, to play! The new Culture feature makes keeping cities a MUCH more difficult task...Either you impress the masses with your wonders, literacy, and achievements or they dump you and start turning Japanese.

PS: for those still pondering it, Rise of Nations simply isn't in the same league as Civilization. (RN is more akin to War/Starcraft than an actual RTS like Civ).

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
Wanted: Sid Meier (none / 2) (#65)
by mveloso on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 02:24:57 PM EST

Sid Meier has caused more lost productiity than almost any single individual in human history. Thounds of people have spent millions of hours playing his games, and they're still freaking fun after years.

I just pulled out a copy of Railroad Tycoon, and the game is still fun. And Railroad Tycoon 3 is better, which is truly amazing: the games get better as new releases come out.

Hats off to Sid!

Did he do Transport Tycoon too? (none / 0) (#70)
by D Jade on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 09:42:51 PM EST

Where you could have buses and planes as well as trains and boats too!

That game is still one of my favorites!

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 1) (#68)
by Armada on Mon Jun 21, 2004 at 06:53:07 PM EST

So I was thinking to myself, "Man, you're right, these guys are insane."

Then I realized that for you to know all this, you must be a member of one of these communities. So, you're insane too.

Don't listen to him: Civ3 gets boring EXTREMELY fast. There's nothing like playing a game for an entire night and then realizing you actually haven't really accomplished anything, not just in real life, but also in the game. "The Sims" has the same kind of lost appeal.

If you must play, I would suggest Alpha Centauri multiplayer(be sure to get the patches or it'll screw up).

Games are for pussies. (none / 0) (#69)
by HereticMessiah on Tue Jun 22, 2004 at 12:26:45 PM EST

The proper thing to do is collaborative constructed cultures. One good one that I'm involved with is Ill Bethisad.

Disagree with me? Post a reply.
Think my post's poor or trolling? Rate me down.
Civilization is over rated (none / 0) (#71)
by etherdeath on Wed Jun 23, 2004 at 02:54:32 AM EST

The game is good, but no significant improvements, other than graphics since the first Civilization came out.  I think the diplomacy model is one of its weakest points.

This form of gameplay... (none / 0) (#72)
by zeigenfus on Sat Jun 26, 2004 at 09:23:30 PM EST

was already done better years ago, by a non computer-based game called "en garde!". People play either in groups or by snail mail or email, though snail mail makes the game better because the delay offers more time to plot... One of the great things about en garde was that "cheating" was encouraged. You HAD to form underhanded alliances between the other players and work at backstabbing each other in order to do well... damn what I wouldn't go for a good mail game of en garde...

A Clash in Civilization | 74 comments (46 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
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