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Remaking Civilization In Your Own Image

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the moddin'-cities dept.

Programming 36

Gamecloud has a piece on the moddability of Civilization IV. The article goes into detail about the numerous levels at which content creators can change the game of Civilization. From the article: "The next level offers Python and XML support, letting modders with more experience manipulate the game world and everything in it. XML (eXtensible Markup Language) files can be edited in standard text editors or in special XML file editors that have ease-of-use features like a grid view. Editing these files will allow players to tweak simple game rules and change or add content. For instance, they can add new unit or building types, change the cost of wonders, or add new civilizations." This is a more detailed look at a topic we've discussed before. Gamespot has a preview of the upcoming title, as well.

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36 comments

PC console (3, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 7 years ago | (#13634074)

DIY content is why The Sims is so incredibly popular, and it's why the PC is such a great platform for gaming. Sid has obviously done his homework. With the game, mod implementation, mod development, and access to the community all on the same box, Civ 4 will undoubtedly be the most popular iteration of the series.

Re:PC console (4, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#13634291)

DIY content is why The Sims is so incredibly popular

I doubt it, most people who play the Sims don't know about mods, or even care. What made it so popular was how it appealed to a wide audience
NWN and Total Annihilation were very mod friendly, but didn't have the same level of popularity.

NWN (1)

hsoft (742011) | more than 8 years ago | (#13637201)

The fact that NWN was mentioned here forces me to say: *sigh*, NWN would have been SOOO much better if it was using Python instead of NWScript. *sigh* Their NWScript thing kinda suck (even if, on the other side, it is very good because few games have this level of customization). For a non-developer or a C developer, I guess it's kind of ok, but for someone who is used to the greatness of Python, it's hard to bear.

I can't wait for Civ 4 (That's funny, I was saying the same thing about NWN back in the days...).

It's actually a feedback loop (2, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 8 years ago | (#13649338)

You are mostly right, but actually both extremes are over-simplified IMHO.

For starters, let me assure you that probably most people who play The Sims know about those mods, since they're linked to right on the game's web site and Maxis itself offered one of its own each week. They might not think about it as "mods" or give them as much thought as, say, CS or TeamFortress get, but virtually everyone has downloaded at least one recoloured bed or dress for their The Sims game.

It can also be pointed out that at least the first two expansion packs were little more than collections of such little mods. Unlike the later ones which did offer new areas and whatnot, "Livin' Large" and "House Party" were nothing more than getting a ton of new objects and skins on a CD. So I'd say it's inaccurate to say that most people don't care about mods, since a helluva lot of us even paid money to EA for just that.

EA also seems to think it's enough of an advantage to at least look moddable, since (A) they released _some_ modding tools for The Sims on the game's site and on the Deluxe and Super-Deluxe releases, (B) one of the hyped things about The Sims 2 was the Body Shop program.

I can tell you that everyone I know that played The Sims 2 has at least colour-swapped a t-shirt or skirt for their Sims. (I don't even have much artistic skills myself, yet I must have recoloured a hundred or so with the Gimp so far. Not works of art by any definition, mind you. But simple stuff like giving the hue an 120 degree twist to make a green formal dress for my elvish family out of the red one, or recolouring the blonde mohawk to a neon blue one for a punk teenager sim, that's simple enough even for a purely coding nerd like yours truly.) And whoever didn't, got pointed at someone or some site that could do it for them.

But as I've said, I still think you're _mostly_ right.

I think it's more like a feeback loop. You're right that the game has to be good to start with, to get enough people bothering with modding it, as opposed to just uninstalling it. (So, yes, there are a ton of mods for Half Life, but none for Daikatana.) But from there it does serve to help the game further.

E.g., HalfLife was a good game and all, but CS did help sell it to even more people.

E.g., in The Sims's case, the mods also helped keep a bunch of us still interested in the game until the next official expansion pack came along. And then helped sell more expansion packs, because some items required a certain expansion pack to work. So you'd go to some site with items for download and see some cool hack, like a gadget that keeps your robot active all the time, sorta like a permanent buttler. And maybe think "cool, this should save my sims a bunch of time." Except it needs the robot from Livin Large, since the hack just keeps reactivating that one. So a lot of people then went and bought that expansion pack.

Re:PC console (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13651494)

I for one am very excited. I had been working on building a game engine that used XML and Python for modifying the game code on the fly. I'm glad that a mainstream player is using this same concept. I have since abandoned python and I'm working on using Javascript... maybe I should do both.

Standardization Makes Things Nice (4, Informative)

MiceHead (723398) | more than 7 years ago | (#13634136)

Games have been moddable for some time, but the industry's recent adoption of general-purpose languages such as Python, Ruby, and Lua should make it easier for modders to pick up and play with a new game. Being a Python fan, I'd like to know more of the details about how they're implementing and exposing things. One interesting thing is that they're using Boost.Python [boost.org] . From the Civ IV Fanatics' website:

The game will be written entirely from scratch using flexible XML data files, as well as the Python scripting language. Boost.Python (this allows for seamless interoperability between C++ and the Python programming language) will be used as the interface layer between the C++ game code and Python. Python is used in the game for map generation, interface screens, game events, tools, tutorials, etc. If you want to see how this will affect customization of the game (or any other aspect relating to customization).. The new 3D engine will also allow for greater possibilities.
The open-source Vega Strike [sourceforge.net] also uses Boost.Python.
_______________
www.dejobaan.com - Making games one game at a time.

Not that simple (2, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 8 years ago | (#13649564)

_Some_ games have been moddable to _some_ extent, yes, but not all and typically not by much.

The gaming world doesn't start and end with the HalfLife and NWN engine, you know. Yeah, there the only "problem" was that you needed a C compiler or to learn Bioware's script respectively. But in other games you didn't even get that.

E.g., I was one of the people who whined at the authors of "Die Gilde" ("Europa 1400: The Guild" in America) to let us mod the damn thing at all. They never released any tools or specs at all, and all you were left with were a bunch of binary files that noone had any idea how to edit. I would have loved to build my own cities for it, or, add a new profession, but really, noone knew where to even start with it.

E.g., for all the praise The Sims got for being moddable, it happened mostly in spite of EA. To get any scripting at all, some people had to basically reverse engineer it and figure out Maxis's byte codes. Heck, even to figure which part of an object's file are the bytecodes for the script at all.

And in The Sims 2, while EA will cheerfully let you recolour pants and skirts... well, let's just say that not only they still don't offer any support for scripters, but the latest expansion pack ("Nightlife") flags any downloaded script mods as potential problems, and by default disables them all. Now I'll admit that, what with TS2 scripting being mostly a hack, and based on an unstable ever-changing API (each expansion pack changes it), some of those downloads do cause problems. But it would have been damn nice of EA to actually offer proper scripting support and a stable API in the first place, instead of telling the users to not run those hacks.

E.g., even Civ III was only moddable in that you could change the values for the existing units, but not much else. You couldn't actually change the rules, nor script anything, nor even just add a new unit type. I tried it. The game crashed when loading the mod if you did add a unit.

And so on and so forth. Basically "Games have been moddable for some time" is quite the extrapolation. Most devs were happier to let you stumble on your own with a binary file than to help you at all, and some seemed actually pretty opposed (and occasionally even hostile) to our modifying their game. Moving to XML and Python won't just make things easier, it might just make things possible at all for a change.

Don't forget FreeCiv (comes with SuSE 9' Pro), etc (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13634188)

Open Source FreeCiv

  Oh, there are -also- folks running Civilisation
  as [ great, big ] DIY board games.

      http://www.civproject.net/ [civproject.net]

  Total control, if via "appropriate" paper
  technology.

  Hey, I'm going to a professional develop-
  ment seminar today (for teachers) on how
  to use the paper-version to help students
  better understand History & related sub-
  jects.

Re:Don't forget FreeCiv (comes with SuSE 9' Pro), (3, Informative)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 8 years ago | (#13642387)

For the record (in case anyone gets confused) Advanced Civilisation is not Civilisation. They are entirely different games.

Freeciv is (for the most part) a Free Software clone of Civilisation 2. It can be found at http://www.freeciv.org/ [freeciv.org] .

From my own experience, games like these are an excellent way to learn history and geography.

this.... (3)

B3AST! (916930) | more than 7 years ago | (#13634294)

will hopefully change a lot of peoples views on gaming... instead of just sitting there for days on end, it can be used as a learning tool and actually encourage creativity a step in the right direction to bring a nice light on gaming, what with all the bad press GTA and MMORPGS bring along (not that they're bad in my eyes, but they do get a lot of bad press)

Re:this.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13648698)

Weird that you got modded down for this, I'm sorry to see it.

The only worthwhile source on Civ4 modding... (5, Interesting)

Random Guru 42 (687672) | more than 7 years ago | (#13634379)

Would be the August 2005 issue of Game Developer Magazine. While it's not the most in-depth article, it does describe in better detail the modding features of Civ4, how they work, and a bit on why. There's also some sidebars on city layout and making the planet round. I don't know if the article has made it to Gamasutra, but if it has, it's much more worthy of anyone's time than that Gamecloud article.

Fluff (5, Interesting)

great throwdini (118430) | more than 8 years ago | (#13635554)

As in, the article is a complete puff piece.

I have two hopes for Civ IV: (1) That they contemplate an OS X port and don't treat it like the red-headed stepchild it will likely be, if at all; and (2) That the game is put together more cleanly than the string of Civ II-Alpha Centauri-Civ III titles, each of which were plagued with bugs and, in some cases, unbelievable sloppiness that eventually saw clean-up in patch after patch (but never fully). Love the series, more or less, but the games have never been standouts in stability, balance, or efficiency out of the gates.

I halfway fear that the ballyhoo surrounding the player modification system(s) is nother more than another "oh, shiny!" meant to distract from yet another patchfest for the game's core.

Ah, but who am I kidding? I'll probably buy it regardless.

Re:Fluff (1)

Maserati (8679) | more than 8 years ago | (#13635834)

Yeah, I have hopes for IV. If it keeps the same kind of Go-like strategy that III had with Culture and Resources, then I'm for it. Otherwise, I'll stick with III when I wanted to get buzzed and veg out to a game.

Civ 4,,, My next crack hit (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 8 years ago | (#13635884)

Yep, SimCity 1,2,3k, and 4... Civ 1, 2, 3...

And now 4 will be my next additiction without question. Weeks of free time spent civ'ing! I can hardly wait.

Re:Civ 4,,, My next crack hit (1)

ecumenical_40oz (914889) | more than 8 years ago | (#13640353)

Yep... pretty much. Nothing is quite as beautiful as watching the sun rise from my computer desk, usually at about the year 1900.

Re:Civ 4,,, My next crack hit (1)

Reignking (832642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13648131)

It sounds like you need Civilization Anonymous [civanon.com] . No more turns.

Classic Civ (4, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 8 years ago | (#13636307)

Is it so moddable that we can get classic civ from it?

I mean Civ 1,3, or 3 but with the new graphics, better multi player and huge maps.

that is what I hope for, since it seams they are going for a shallower more assasable CIV (which will be great most of the time, but some 3-day weekends call for 60 hours of Civ). The changes sound fun, but I imagine I will want a large complex tech tree and hundreds of different units sometimes.

More offtopic. My favorite mod of all time was a Piracy mod for Civ 2 that was real elaborate with canons and ships and stuff. It was great, but only ran on the first expansion pack, I could never get it to run on fantastic worlds (Macro Error).

Really I think the dev team themself should offer classic Civ modes that exactly replicate the previous games as a proof of conept of the modding and to make people obsessed with Civ 2 happy (there are lots of them).

Huh? (4, Funny)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 8 years ago | (#13636645)

Hey, I didn't know Al Gore invented [gamespot.com] the Internet. And then they say games can't teach you anything...

Alpha Centauri (2, Interesting)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 8 years ago | (#13637807)

The 'new game' that I'm hoping to get out of this modability is a remake of Alpha Centauri, a futuristic version of Civilization (both created by Firaxis).

There are quite a few people over at Apolyton.net that are hoping to be able to accomplish this. In general, it's a subject that's been actively dreamed about for months (over a year perhaps).

Re:Alpha Centauri (1)

easychord (671421) | more than 8 years ago | (#13637849)

Why would they need to remake Alpha Centauri? I mean, what's wrong with it that it needs to be remade.

Re:Alpha Centauri (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 8 years ago | (#13637953)

Almost nothing, admittedly. There are of course a few bugs, but the main thing that people want with a new version is more modability of it. And too, people complain about the graphics, they want those to be better too. (I like them fine , personally)

Re:Alpha Centauri (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 8 years ago | (#13638507)

You know where you are, right? I don't think you need to tell everybody what Alpha Centauri is. We all know.

Re:Alpha Centauri (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 8 years ago | (#13640709)

Guess my school is really deficient in nerds.

Say goodbye to play balancing (3, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 8 years ago | (#13637892)

While this idea might sound great at first glance, I think it speaks volumes about what kind of play balancing we can expect from this title. I played CIV III and always felt that while the historical permutations were pretty cool, the play balancing was quirky at best. The end result is that the CIV series has started to feel like a MAXIS "Sim" title, and less of an actual game. Or rather, the title is a "toy" and not a "game".

Its funny how a promise of "open source" and "modding culture" early on in a title so often means -- "We're not going to spend much time on play balancing". Morrowind was another perfect example of openness vs. gameplay. In Morrowind the emphasis on open-endedness, freedom and expandability ultimately translated into a disastrous in-game economy, weapon imbalances, impossibly overpowered characters and ultimately a play experience that depended on story-line (which was actually excellent) rather than the aspects of the game itself.

I think I'll wait before breaking out my wallet [jfold.com] on this one.

Finally, MoM 2 can be made by somebody... (2, Interesting)

Shipwack (684009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13638357)

Master of Magic is a game I still fire up under DOS occasionally. While a Civ 4 mod (probably?) won't have the tactical combat portion of the game, the rest can be be done.

Re:Finally, MoM 2 can be made by somebody... (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13650486)

MoM is by far the greatest 4X game ever made. I _strongly_ urge any geeks who enjoyed the Civ, MOO, etc. games to seek it out. Takes the whole genre in a completely different direction and does it spectacularly.

Re:Finally, MoM 2 can be made by somebody... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13651217)

MoM is by far the greatest 4X game ever made. I _strongly_ urge any geeks who enjoyed the Civ, MOO, etc. games to seek it out. Takes the whole genre in a completely different direction and does it spectacularly.

Actually... strictly speaking it's crap. The game balance is so dire. There are so many completely game-breaking strategies that it's only a question of just how munchkin you can possibly be. Ultra-Elite Adamantium Halfling Slingers with Flame Blade, Giant Strength and added blessings from an accompanying Archangel and Torin the Chosen One, anybody? Or how about taking thirteen Death books and summoning Wraiths from the word go? Or taking Runemaster and Artificer and getting more mana from breaking artefacts than it costs to make them? I remember once I was raiding the Myrran nodes with an Invisible Flying Warrax the Chaos Warrior, equipped of course with artefacts of extreme unfairness (phantasmal attacks, big pluses to hit, bonus movement, pathfinder, the usual stuff) and managed to find a retort of Divine Power and another one of Infernal Power. They're supposed to be mutually exclusive. I was getting bonus power from both sets of gods ;-)

But then, that's why we love it. It presses every single geek button, and lets you do all the things that would make any sane dungeon master scream in horror and ban you from the group for life :-)

Re:Finally, MoM 2 can be made by somebody... (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13651289)

All the early 4X games had serious play balance issues. Anybody here play the first MOO? Fleets of 32767 ships anyone? The game was still a work of genius for it's time, and still is way more fun to play than anything newer - it just needed a helluvalot of tweaks.

Re:Finally, MoM 2 can be made by somebody... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13665629)

Anybody here play the first MOO?

No, but I played MOO2 to an unhealthy extent.

There was a delightful bit of rules-abuse you could do with a Phasing Cloak and a Timewarp Facilitator, if I recall aright. Decloak, fire, recloak, all before the enemy had a chance to even move.

Some things just work better in 2D. (2, Informative)

Elad Alon (835764) | more than 8 years ago | (#13638870)

Some things just work better in 2D. Think chess. Think Baldur's Gate, and soon Fallout. Unfortunately, I believe Civ will soon prove itself worth of making this list. Going 3D will only complicate issuing the same orders, not to mention bump the hardware requirements. And it's just not pretty. Hopefully the game would have enough redeeming qualities (AI that doesn't build as big a fleet when you're playing in a Pangaea-like world, less tedious and more effective bombardment units, the new religion scheme) to merit the purchase. And also, hopefully Civ5 will return to its 2D roots.

Re:Some things just work better in 2D. (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13638991)

I agree completely. I played a civ3 game for a few(8) hours last night and it took so damned long for each turn by the time the 1900's rolled around that I had to turn on a movie and I lost the sense of immersion out of the game.

Re:Some things just work better in 2D. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13648738)

It looks to me(from looking at many, many screenshots) like you may be able to keep the camera pointing down at the surface or nearly so, and if that's true, that's how I'd play unless I wanted to show towns and units off in screenshots or to a friend.

Re:Some things just work better in 2D. (1)

Elad Alon (835764) | more than 8 years ago | (#13652582)

In the screenshots I have seen, the units didn't display as well when you were looking top-down at them, not to mention the terrain, which wasn't engineered to be seen from that one angle the way it has in the previous games.

Not what's needed (5, Insightful)

jkmartin (816458) | more than 8 years ago | (#13639590)

Did anyone notice that the article references early 2006 as the release date? The Civ4 site still says winter 2005. Anyway, the problem with content creation for Civilization has never been in the type of units or gameplay rules. Look at Conquests. The content creation problem has been in the art department...something which doesn't add anything to gameplay but is difficult for individuals or small teams to do with high quality. Is Civ4 going to ship with 3D modelling tools? Frankly the screenshots I've seen look awful. Full 3D is a mistake for this series. Even the unit animations in Civ3 are probably taking it too far. I'd much rather see changes to the glaring problems with gameplay - airpower, unit stacking, combining units, civilization size, civilization attributes, better resource and luxury usage, and production orders to name a few. From the previews I've read some of these are being worked on. It's funny some have mentioned rebuilding SMAC with the Civ4 engine. I think Civ4 would benefit by trying to be more like SMAC, especially with the unit editor.

Civ IV Rules (1)

militiaMan (672558) | more than 8 years ago | (#13649968)

CTP II, Civ I,II, and III are my favorites of all time.

My Hope for Civ IV:

Multiplayer Improvements:

Less Buggy - Stop synch error

Security control of players - keep yahoos from changing their name to keep people from quitting games.

Make the process work better like skipping the lobby.

Allow a game server to be a non player so the game is not lost is a player leave.

What I look forward to:

Easier and Faster Game Customization with Python also less buggy
Better Graphics
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