Sep 28, 2010

Followup comment on Civ V

Hey again!

At the time of writing this, I've had a couple more evenings to spend on Civ V after my review'ish post about it a few days ago.

The reason I'm following it up is because I have a few adjustments to give the game overall after a bit more time with it, taking into consideration some things I missed during play before my first evaluation of the game.

What has become more glaringly apparent after a bit more play time is some serious, and I mean pretty bad flaws with the coding for AI behaviour which are all related to their military strength from what I've seen so far.

A couple examples:

The A.I thinks reasonably well for land based warfare (they understand using ranged units and artillery and tries to place infantry up front), but if they decide they want to take a city or city state that has tiles surrounded by water, they fail. I don't mean just they're doing a bit worse, I mean they fail really bad. On an "Earth" map I held a city near Mexico that had only two land tiles next to it, and I was able to hold it without using any defenders at all, just city retaliation and bombardment during my own turns. This was against a Japan AI who already has a strong military advantage and the opponent controlled at the time all of North America having a vast city advantage over me who had about half of South America. He had a big army advantage as well as I had placed most my effort into maintaining civ happiness and getting my tiles worked instead of army strength. In the end my Japan AI opponent lost 25-30 Samurai and silimilar strength units against my undefended coast city before I had units out to answer the call to war.

Next example:
In the very same game, and in the next 10 turns following my massive victory against the japanese invasion, when I had my military units out (which were at least 1-2 tiers below Japan in tech), I was able to take one of his coast cities with great help from 4 frigates I had bombarding, to which the AI had no answer other than using city attacks. On the very next turn Japan approaches me and begs for peace. He wants peace so badly he offers me control of all his cities except his capital.

Wait, what !? You read right, I took one city from him which was pretty small size and although it had difficult access by land it had no great value, and Japan pretty much threw in the towel. Of course I accepted his request and in one single turn I had taken North America..

Thats pretty messed up if you ask me. Even if I were to outsmart my AI opponent, I had no idea something like that would happen, I was rather expecting a gruelling trench war for territory that would most likely last the rest of the game. Instead he just gave me ALL his cities (around 20 cities) except his capital.

If thats not enough he then displaying very amusing diplomacy. For the first few turns he was very careful and hailed me as a great conqueror, then a couple turns later he threatened with war if I continued expanding on his borders (he gave me all the cities surrounding his capital, there was nowhere to settle really even if I had wanted to), and then about 10 turns after that, he declared war on me and of course got snuffed out within a couple turns.

Ergh.. The computer opponent behaviour of this game has some pretty serious issues. I've learned through other articles about Civ V that the game in fact only had two programmers working on the entire AI programming. And about 30-40 graphics artists.

Seriously, SHAME ON YOU FIRAXIS. I really hope the AI gets some love in a shortly released patch, otherwise I don't see this game having very lasting appeal.

Another major gripe I have at the moment is how poor the multiplayer apparently is. According to Zeitgeist at (good game review site btw!), the multiplayer part of the game has severe performance issues for just basic play. Believe it or not there is also no way to save your multiplayer games it seems, which is a pretty big turn off far as I'm concerned. I don't think most people if any would sit with for a multiplayer session of Civ V and finish the entire game in one sitting. SHAME ON YOU FIRAXIS.

There's also reports of graphic anomalies during multiplayer, including players having all their unit animations turned off.. Whats the deal with that ?

The "good news" is, none of these issues are really game breaking to the effect they cant be fixed with some patching effort from Firaxis. The real question is though, will they bother, now that the game has already been out a few days, gotten rave reviews and is selling like candy?

Edit! On a gaming forum I mentioned how the AI gave away almost all its cities, someone asked if I had downloaded the patch to adjust the AI so it no longer is so desperate for peace it will give you anything and everything. There IS a patch on Steam I noticed but it makes no mention of adjusting AI behaviour. Gonna look around and see if there's some secret patch somewhere I should be getting.

Edit #2! Multiplayer games still autosave, I'm now told. So continued multiplayer sessions should indeed be possible. :)

Sep 26, 2010

Civilization V review'ish

So, being a junkie for Civ IV:Beyond the Sword and its wonderful mods and modmods such as Fall From Heaven 2 and Rise from Erebus, there was never any question if I was going to get this game or not. I would have bought it even if all game reviews butchered it completely. If you're reading this and felt the same way about Civ IV as me, then don't bother reading further, go download the 100 turn demo on Steam and get a feel for it yourself.

If however you haven't played Civ in a while or you're completely new to these turn based games of conquest, read on.

I'll try to keep this somewhat short and to the points, covering the principles of the game and the most noteworthy changes from previous titles in the series.

As the game opens you take control of one of many upstarting tribes in an unexplored world, and its your job to make sure your people dont get gobbled up by barbarians or other civs while advancing in technology (or falling way behind) from just finding out what a wheel is, to how you can eradicate nations with nuclear missiles. True for any version of these games there is never a shortage of challenges, whether you're a warlord bent on conquering the world, talking and trading your way to domination through diplomacy or just trying to keep the barbarians out of your cities, and Civ V is no different.

If you like this kind of thing, you are guaranteed to have fun with this game and lose precious hours of night time sleep. I thought I had it bad with Civ IV, but this is even worse. When I started playing this game a couple days ago, I was playing from 6 pm and got so sucked into it I was VERY surprised when I threw a glance at the watch and saw it was suddenly 4 am in the morning. One.. more... turn... Its kinda scary really, this game should really come with some kind of warning.

If this hasn't scared you away yet, I'm just going to list the biggest changes to the game from Civ IV:

  • As shown in the photo above, the world is now hex based instead of squared. Game is more tactical and also feels a bit more like a traditional table game aka Axis and Allies, Risk etc.
  • No more than one military unit per tile. HUGE change forcing drastic rethinking of how to use your army. No more stacks of doom! You normally have very few army units compared to previous Civ games and micromanaging them is key.
  • Ranged units have more than one tile range. Positioned correctly your cannons can fire from behind your front line units without retaliation.
  • Religion and espionage mechanics from Civ IV are gone. There are still some religion based civics and buildings in the game but it doesn't affect relations with other civs like in the other games.
  • Civ happiness affects your entire civ instead of each city, and dipping too far into unhappiness causes big penalties to production, growth and army efficiency.
  • City States. These are basically mini-civs that are limited to their own starting city and don't compete to win the game, but they can still play a large role. They give missions, can be conquered or if they like you enough give you bonuses in form of free units or extra food or culture.
  • With the basic research in place all units can take to sea without need for making ships. All your units can embark water tiles and move around and make landfall on islands and other continents, but they can not fight ships and are vulnerable to attack without escort.
  • Cities can be tough to conquer. They can only have one defender garrisoned, but even without defence it can take many attacks to break them, and they also fire back at attackers and can launch ranged attacks on enemies in range during their turns.
  • Civilizations are more specialized with special abilities. Some of these are currently a bit too strong I feel and could use some balancing. Japan's military units for example always fight as though they are full health essentially making each of their units very deadly even if they have just a sliver of health.
There's of course a lot more changes in the game but from my own time playing it so far these are the biggest differences from previous games. 

Given that you enjoy strategy games and can get your head around all the differences from Civ IV and before, I can guarantee you are going to have very many hours of fun and frustration with this game. There are also a lot of mods already released and more to come, promising even more ways to play Civ V through mods if and when you get tired of the original game. My impressions are based solely on single player experience, I haven't tried MP yet but even disregarding that part of the game completely I can still easily recommend this game for any strategy game enthusiast.

Edit! A bit more play time with the game has reveales some issues with the game I found worthy of writing about, please read this as well before taking the final dive into the wallet for this game.

Sep 24, 2010

The disaster

I learned some time ago that Curse got their hands on guild sites, and a week ago wowstead made the move to curse. It has been a total disaster from start until present. For starters the database transfer itself took for reasons I can't understand several days to finish. Our guild site and all others went down without warning and didnt come back up for close to three days. And it gets "better". All site customization got wiped, all widgets and plugins gone or simply don't work at all, noone except our gm and I think now some officers can actually view our forums. The new site is also slooow. And for the last couple days its been a gamble if it would even load.

This should be a valuable lesson to community hosting sites like wowstead how NOT to do a site move. Its a complete joke and by the looks of it our guild has pretty much decided we're closing up shop on wowstead. I don't have any exact numbers on how many wow players relied on wowstead hosted guild sites, but I doubt I exaggerate when I say tens of thousands of players are currently screwed over. Its been a week since the move and still nothing except the shoutboxes seem to be working on the new sites.

What a joke.

Taking it down a notch

Since moving back to my old server with what is now known as The Orphans, I've had a drastic change of play style.

On Bloodscale I was expected to have close to 100% attendance to 3-4 days of raiding per week, and performance during raids was very closely watched by raid admins and class leaders. There were social aspects there as well, but much more "clique" than what I'm used to. The members there were also mostly quite young of age, with the typical "excitement" (read: rage and drama) that often comes with it.

Back on Defias, I'm pretty much a casual now. In a sense.. I play more than most casuals probably, and when I do join a raid, I try to take that seriously and pull my weight. It has been a couple rocky months for our guild to stabilize a bit after the original Orphans Grim was destroyed where it was difficult to host raids, but that's coming to a change.

For the last month or so now, we've actually had roughly 3 raids per week scheduled, but there's a catch. Due to peoples playtimes varying greatly since we're mostly older people with varying RL commitments, the raids are quite short. So one raid can be as short as 1 1/2 hours, letting us just get the weekly raid quest done, take a wing in Naxxramas, or some of the smaller raids like Onyxia and Obsidian Sanctum.

Initially I was not a big fan of the short short raid times set, but its admittedly growing on me. As I told our raidleader one evening, it feels like I barely have time to get my "raid groove" on before we're done for the night. However I've discovered it can be pretty nice to not have to dedicate the whole evening to a raid, and as a bonus the guild is laid back enough that there is no required attendance percentages required. If people don't feel like doing a raid one night they're free to say so and if we find out we're too few to go somewhere, we usually find some extras out of guild or cancel it to try another night. No biggie, no drama. And I'm pretty much loving that. :)

I'm also blessed with "working with" others in our raids that don't freak out if a mistake is made which is in my book pretty awesome. There's a lot of players out there who don't raid at all, for fear of getting cussed out something fierce if they make a tiny mistake, and this is a total non-issue on our runs. I think we got a few this might sound familiar to among our members and I'm happy they can come raid and see a lot of cool fights which they normally wouldn't dare to go to otherwise.

My only gripe right now is how we effective we spend our 1-2 hours of raid time. Something that is unavoidable with barely having the raider base to host runs is that we're forced to spend some time often to get something going. Its not that uncommon we have to spend close to an our past invite time still poking people to join. I don't really see what we can do about that without destroying the laid back style we do these runs, which I at least would like to keep that way.

Another thing is that we're typically with one or more who have never been to the raid we're doing before, so a lot of time is spent before each boss explaining things. Thats also hard to avoid, I hope its something that will fix itself as we hopefully get more returning raiders, I'd love if everyone would have spent 10 mins on wowwiki reading up on the encounters, but it seems bit too harsh considering sometimes more than half the raid hadn't even signed up to join in advance and join spontaneously when we're forming it.

We're also spending more time than necessary from killing a boss, to moving on with next trash groups or boss. Loot distribution can typically take a while as our raiders are too darn polite and very hesitant to call out on drops that can be used as upgrades. We're currently using Master Looter, and I'm thinking it might save us a lot of time if we just go with Group Loot. A simple need for mainspecs, greed for offspecs, pass otherwise and an enchanter grabs and shards the loot might save us 10-15 minutes of mucking around before we move on after a kill.

Ok, that was actually a lot of typing over whats just a minor gripe. I'm just thinking of ways to let our bite sized raids get as much as possible done in our sessions.

If you have other ideas for how one might optimize our efficiency without turning the whole thing too hardcore, feel free to let it out in the comments section. :)


Comments re-enabled.

Just a short post to notify that blog comments are enabled again, not sure why exactly they were turned off, but hey.. Anyone can leave comments at this point but if the section gets flooded with spam and ads it will get switched to registered users only.

Sep 22, 2010

Life signs detected

Hello again!

I just remembered I have a blog, wow. Well, thats not entirely honest, it has been in the back of my head for a good while suffering neglect. No more, at least for now. We'll see what happens. Was shocked to see its a good year since my last update! So much has happened.

Quickest possible recap:
1. Moved Warrior and Priest to another server to play with some friends in new guild. Good times were had.
2. New guild ravaged by drama, mostly raiding related.
3. Fed up. Break.
4. Heard old guild was taken down, lots of fuss, many friends wondering what was going on.
5. Moved Warrior back to old realm and also resumed playing older characters there with remnants still around after old guild got nuked. New guild launched for those left who still wanted to stick around.
6. Damage control. Raid oriented members of old guild quickly leaving new guild as we didn't have organized raiding going yet.
7. Rebuilding. A few months later, the massive leaks from new guild have stopped, we are recruiting again and growing, and are blessed with a new member who is doing a great job organizing some raids again on our own.
8. Good times are had!

I am hoping to find the time to write more here in the coming times with World of Warcraft: Cataclysm about to hit us hard. I've been following Totalbiscuit's updates from his betatesting of Cataclysm closely and made myself a lot of thoughts about it. Too much to go into right now as I'm planning to keep this post short, but so far? Cautiously optimistic about it, it could turn out pretty darn cool. But yes, more to come.

Until next time!