Thursday, October 27, 2005

Your head would look good at the end of a pole

I'll continue this later tonight. Right now, though, I don't want to leave you all with the impression that the game is perfect. My natural process for something new is to describe the good, then describe the bad, and then synthesize the two. I was interrupted halfway through the first part. Here, really quickly, are my gripes so far.
  • Most aggravating: the in-game help is horrible. The civilopedia itself is fine, but its integration with the rest of the game is pathetic. This is a major step backwards from Civ 2, which came out TEN YEARS AGO, and allowed you to pull up the full description from practically any game window. (e.g., when researching technology, just one click to find out exactly what a tech does). They've replaced this with an aggravating limited float-over system; hover your mouse over "Metallurgy," and it will tell you that it allows you to build a forge, but you can't find out what a forge does; it leads to Ironworking, but you don't know what benefits that tech gives; it allows you to build Phalanxes, but you can't figure out how much they cost or what strengths and abilities they have. This will become less annoying as I become more used to the game, but right now I need to choose between guessing at the right answer or flipping through my book to find out. Or you can make a choice and later change it (you can switch technology goals) after you've consulted the real Civilopedia, but it's just one more step to take.
  • I don't know whether I can blame this one on my graphics card, but the Yield View is messed up. It shows every single plot in the entire world providing 2 food and no trade or resources. This is, of course, patently false, and you need to mouse over every individual plot to find out what it DOES produce, which defeats the entire purpose of the Yield View.
  • As mentioned before, there's an audio stutter in my game. This is just shoddy programming; I'll bet you one hundred dollars that they haven't created a system-level thread to handle the sound, so it gets interrupted by extended graphics processing. Single-threaded programming has its advantages, but there's nothing to lose by spinning sound to a separate thread since it doesn't need to be immediately responsive to game actions.
  • In general diplomacy is awesome, but it's getting frustrating that absolutely nothing I do will get Alexander to open borders with me again. From a purely theoretical standpoint, capitulating and showing him with tech and gold should make him willing, but nothing doing. This is probably more realistic, but not as much fun.
  • Not exactly a gripe, but a TON has changed. The differences between III and IV are far greater than between any other two versions of the game, or arguably greater than between I and III. The mechanics have changed a lot, obviously, and even the technology names and units have been revamped so much that earlier players will have very little experience to fall back on.
  • Where's my palace? I want to improve my throne room!
  • They do that corny humor thing again. It's been fine so far, but I know it will get under my skin before too long. Imagine trading Code of Laws to Washington and having him tell you, "Did you ever know that you're my hero? You're everything I want to be."
All together, not a bad list, and the positives far outweigh them. Coming up tonight: a discussion of the civics system, wonders, and more.

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