Spirit of the Age: Expansion systems

From the first turn of a Civilization game the humble Settler is available to produce. With the benefits another city provides, what counterbalancing mechanics keeps a player from doing nothing but build city after city? In Civilization 4 the escalating maintenance costs could tank your economy. In Civilization 5 increasing technology and social policy costs could make the city a net negative for your empire. And in Civilization 6 there is no reason to stop expanding!

In Spirit of the Age I have a radical mechanic to discourage infinite city sprawl — what if you couldn’t build Settlers?

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The scale dilemma in 4x games

How do you make managing one city interesting without making managing a dozen cities overwhelming? This dilemma is not unique to Civilization, the entire 4x genre has struggled with it. In a genre about starting small and growing large the quantity of decisions to make naturally grows. This can easily become overwhelming, but there are techniques designers can use to manage this tension. These techniques must be applied carefully because each has its own limitation and pitfalls.

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Three design lessons from five years of modding Civilization

Over the years I’ve released and refined mods for Civilization 5 (and its expansions), Beyond Earth, Rising Tide and most recently Civilization 6. Each project has taught me something new and given me a lesson I’ve carried forward and applied to the proceeding projects. These lessons influence the design, scope and schedule of my current and future projects.

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Virtues, Diplomatic Traits and Yield Balance

What is the difference between a Virtue and a Diplomatic Trait? At first blush this may look simple, one is acquired with Culture, the other with Diplomatic Capital, but the nuances of this question had many implications on the design of Virtues and Diplomatic Traits in the recent Echoes of Earth updates. If you’ve wondered why Virtues have broadly useful effects while Diplomatic Traits are more niche, read on.

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Echoes of Earth update: Wonders of the New World

The “Wonders of the New World” update has been released!  This large update changes all the Wonders in the game.  Wonders in Echoes of Earth have three core properties:

  1. Wonders provide unique local effects
  2. Wonders provide one-time Affinity points when built
  3. Wonders require Geothermal Resources to build

You can see pictures of all the new Wonders at the official guide.  In this post I want to describe the design problems I wanted to solve and the advantages this approach provided.

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Design Analysis: The role of Specialists in Civilization

In this article I will do a deep dive into the strategic trade offs created by Specialists in Civilization 4, 5, Beyond Earth and the Rising Tide mod Echoes of Earth.  While Specialists themselves may appear to be relatively similar across the games, other mechanics shifting around them have a decisive impact on the role of Specialists.  Understanding the evolution of Specialists underlines how game design requires a holistic perspective.

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Design Analysis: Diplomacy in Rising Tide

One of the big changes in Rising Tide was the replacement of the open ended trading between Civilizations with a much more constrained system involving a new resource called Diplomatic Capital.  Open ended trading has existed since Civilization 3.  While the trading system has changed over time (Technology Trading was replaced with Research Agreements in the move from Civilization 4 to Civilization 5) this represents a far more radical change.  Despite the new system being controversial I believe it is a significant improvement that will be carried through to future games in the Civilization franchise.

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