Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we continue our Civilization III discussion with an interview with Soren Johnson, Civilization III designer and programmer and head of Mohawk Games. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Issues covered: surprises on the 200th episode, getting into games, mispronouncing a California city, computer science as a term, figuring out where to work, being into history, getting away from games in college, the troubled history of Civ III, preferring not to do sequels, bad choices at MicroProse, not thinking about walking away from IP, a rights battle, getting Sid Meier to make a Civ game, Brian Reynolds turning away from Civ games, brain drain, a golden opportunity, "the adults had disappeared," evolving into designer-programmer, the beginning of a franchise, switching away from adding proper nouns to the game, incorporating culture as a fountain to establish borders, design ideas that feel like they should have always been there, adding strategic and luxury resources, pushing trade and tension through resources, the advantages of particular historic civilizations and that not being a good fit for Civ, game play coming from map generation, lacking a single AI technique, starting the AI by starting at the beginning of the game, keeping hard-coded values out of the AI, making things data-driven, mod-ability, adapting the AI to changes and iteration in development, whether an AI is "cheating," being careful with how the AI interacts with the player, the intricacy of a naval invasion, how to choose a good city for your invasion and how players subvert that, making small decisions plausible, having no firewall between AI and game data, scaling for difficulty by bonuses and penalties, beating the opponent vs providing behaviors as a challenge, the inherent difficulty of diplomacy, AI as NPC, the negotiating table, AI career beginning when Civ III released, optimizing the fun out of the game, you don't give up anything to trade technologies, limiting what the AI is allowed to do, Civ is a game about math, giving up floating point math, balancing the numbers through Early Access now but patches in the past, being on the frontier of live games, holding the game together via time with the audience, discovering the perfect strategy for asymmetrical games via iteration, re-examining the 4X with his next game, automating as a poor solution, removing unnecessary vestigial stuff, taking away decision-free micromanagement, being afraid of changing mainstays, revisiting your prior design ideas, working like film and being out-of-order vs starting at the beginning, GDC postponement, Irene of Athens, Tim's love for Civ stories, manga and comics, the variety in the Japanese games market, the prevalence of handheld and mobile in the Japanese market, greater variety of games in smaller budgets, the value of common language, Tim's charity pledging.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: Mark Sean Garcia, EA, Knockout Kings, Firaxis, Maxis, Spore, Dragon Age Legends, Mohawk Games, Offworld Trading Company, Adam Saltsman, Designer Notes, Idle Thumbs, Commodore 64, Amiga, Black Isle Entertainment, Avalon Hill, Sid Meier, MicroProse, Brian Reynolds, Spectrum Holobyte, Sid Meier's Gettysburg, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Activision, Infogrammes, Hasbro Interactive, Sid Meier's Dinosaurs, Starcraft, Age of Empires: Age of Kings, Tim Train, Jason Coleman, David Inscore, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates, X-COM, Julian Gollop, Jake Solomon, Jeff Briggs, Bohnanza, Settlers of Catan, Guns Germs and Steel, Warcraft, Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, A Few Acres of Snow, Dominion, Ten Crowns, Empire, Beyond Earth, John Romero, SIGIL, DOOM (1993). Warren Linam-Church, Oedipus, Shakespeare, Johnny Grattan, Maus, PlayStation 2, Mr. Mosquito, Xbox (original), Prey (2017), Batman: Arkham Knight.
Playing to Lose, GDC 2008
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