Sunday, November 20, 2005

I like guys who got five deferments, never went to war, criticizing us who've been there

Time for another Civ IV update.

I've been playing as Louis XIV recently. (I always rename him - one game was William III of The Netherlands, another Hugh Capet of France). His attribues are Creative and Industrious, which fits well with my playing style; Creative gives me an early boost to culture which lets my borders start expanding immediately, while Industrious lets me build wonders more quickly.

One thing I really need to get better at is building up my military. I always have other priorities when not at war, and when war does come the enemy is always ready and I'm not able to ramp up in time. I usually am far enough ahead technologically that I can build more advanced units than my opponent, but the new combat system in Civ IV really flattens this advantage (as mentioned in a previous post), so producing, say, a Machine Gunner will not be able to stand against four Horse Archers. In my current game, I was stunned when Caesar (who has a +6 disposition towards me and shares my religion) abruptly declared war on me and advanced on an undefended island city of mine. I was only saved because I happened to have a galleon nearby and was able to sink his galleys before they reached me.

So, yeah. In the past I've been able to defer building up a military for a long time, then rush-build a few high-powered defenders when needed. That's just not viable any more (you can't even rush-build until late in the game), and I really need to break this habit if I'm going to get through a game without constantly re-loading.

I think I've found the world style that agrees best with me. I'm playing my Hugh Capet on a Large Archipelago map, which provides the perfect rhythm to the game. Every civ starts on an island by itself or with one neighbor, so you're able to pursue your goals early on without worrying about land-hungry neighbors beating you to crucial resources. Once you discover Sailing, which can come pretty early on, you will be able to reach nearby islands and most likely discover one or two other civs. By now you're each somewhat established and it's nice to deal with mature civs; you can trade techs without worrying that they'll immediately turn against you. Once you hit the Rennaissance, you'll discover Optics/Navigation and cross the ocean, finally meeting everyone else. Anyways, this gives the game a really nice pace that allows you to plan ahead instead of constantly reacting to whatever your neighbors are doing.

Firaxis is publishing a patch sometime next week that should fix the technical issues people have been facing; I hope this will finally remove the stuttering from my wonder videos. They also will lower the volume on the "pillage" sound effect, which will help lessen my irritation somewhat at that annoying maneuver. (I've recently heard that pillaging gives the pillager some gold, which makes me a little more understanding of why the AI does it, though I still don't plan to join them.)

What else... I need to get better at balancing my cities. My William III game was pretty good in this respect, where my capital was good at research, another city was a big naval center, another could churn out military units, etc. Now, my Hugh Capet game is a lot like my first Frederick game, where the capital is the best at everything. I've been planning to try for a cultural victory, but my next two largest cities are so far behind in production that it'll be extremely hard to raise them to Legendary status. My current plan is to have my capital produce Great Engineers, which I will use to rush cultural wonders in these cities, and Great Artists, which will directly boost culture. Hopefully it'll work, but I might end up shooting for the Spaceship Victory. If so, I can practically guarantee that every single part will be manufactured in Paris.

Oh, and in other video-game news, I finally beat Katamari Damacy last night, six months after I started it. It isn't hard, I just kept getting distracted. In the last level, you create the Moon by rolling up what seems like all of Japan, and are treated by a reward video that's even more colorful, cheerful and bizarre than the introductory video. It was a lot of fun, and I'll probably pick up We Love Katamari sometime.

AND, just to avoid creating yet another post, GTA: Liberty City Stories is really amazing. The game is really tight and entertaining, definitely better than GTA3. The programmer in me is stunned that they were able to cram all this stuff into a tiny 2GB disc. I really like the protagonist, he's not as charismatic as CJ from San Andreas, but is probably the second-best character from the series. You do a series of missions where you try to gain your mother's approval (by killing Triads and taking lewd photographs and turning one guy into sausage), but she thinks you aren't tough enough and sends waves of hitmen after you. Utterly delightful, and about as far from Katamari Damacy as you can get.

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