Tuesday, June 13, 2017 01:22 PM

Guest-hosting Polycast episode 283

in Video Gaming by MegaBearsFan
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This past weekend, I was once again honored to be invited onto the Polycast podcast about the Civilization games. This was my third time on the show since the release of Civilization VI (back in November). Those two episodes were focused more about initial impressions of the game. This time, we got to have some more substantive discussions.

The 1-hour archive of the episode can be streamed from civcomm.civfanatics.com/polycast/polycast/season9/episode223.mp3:

This archived episode is edited down to 1 hour (from a 2-hour recording), so not all the following topics may be included in this particular episode. The remaining topics may be included in later episodes, so be sure to check back at Polycast.net if you want to hear it all!

The bulk of our discussions were focused around a handful of Civfanatics forum topics regarding criticisms and suggestions for enhancing the district mechanics. The first thread was about users' ideas for possible districts in any inevitable expansion for the game. This gave me an opportunity to link back to a previous blog that I had written about my own ideas for new districts (and other ways to make better use of the game's map). Ideas from other users ranged from new districts focused around diplomacy and envoy-generation, to railroad hub districts, a fortress / castle district, espionage district, and (of course) a canal district. Other users pitched the idea of stacking multiple districts into a single tile. This idea seemed unfavorable to the Polycast hosts (as well as myself), as it generally undercuts the fact that "unstacking" cities was a core design philosophy of Civ VI. However, it is worth pointing out that "unstacking" units was the core design philosophy of Civ V, but Civ VI added limited stacking back into the series. So back-pedaling on a philosophy of unstacking is not without precedent.

Civilization VI - Russian A.I. district placement
Russia is pretty much the only A.I. that places its districts well, due to its free extra border expansion.

The next topic was a thread about removing districts. The general consensus seemed to be that we were all in favor of having a city project to remove or relocate districts, if -- for nothing else -- but to relocate poorly-placed districts in captured A.I. cities. The last forum topic discussion was about user dunkleosteus' ideas about rethinking districts. I think we all agreed that the poster's ideas seemed to be far too complicated, but there are some ideas of merit in there. Having more options for further specializing districts and cities would be fine, and we'd all like to see more bonuses based on nearby districts and the map so that district placement doesn't feel quite so ... mechanical.

Opportunity for self-promotion

Because the conversation on these suggestion threads went so long, we didn't get to all of the topic on the list. Instead of going over strategies for Kongo, Japan, and Norway, we moved on to talking about my own frustrations regarding the design of the difficulty levels of the Civ games. After inviting me onto the show, DanQ had gone ahead and checked out my blog for any recent post about Civ, he found the mentioned blog post(s) about game difficulty, and decided to have a discussion on the topic.

It seemed that we were all in agreement that the barbarians are, indeed, too much of a problem, too soon in the game. We all agreed that the barbarian threat should probably be pushed back a little bit to allow the players a bit more breathing room right at the start.

We also had some lengthy discussions about the idea of using rubber-banding mechanics instead of turn-1 handicaps. This is, of course, a contentious topic, but we all agreed that mechanics based around diffusion are an acceptable way to handle such rubber-banding. Diffusion would be systems along the lines of using trade routes to leech culture, science, and so forth from civs with superior culture and science (respectively), or by gaining eurekas / inspirations from civs that already possess the respective tech(s) or civic(s) (and especially if they use those tech(s) or civic(s) against you). Nobody seemed to like the idea of arbitrarily buffing players who are performing poorly, or nerfing players who are performing well. While I'm personally open to such mechanics (depending on the specific implementation), I do agree that such rubber-banding is a far inferior alternative to having a more robust set of diffusion mechanics.

The biggest thing, however, is that we all agreed that simply improving the A.I. would go a long way towards making the game better and allowing players to better enjoy the game at more intermediate difficulties.

Civilization VI - Persia can't capture city without melee
The Persian A.I. seems to be ignorant to the fact that all its units are ranged,
and so it can't capture the city state without a melee unit.

As always, I hope to be back soon

The recording went on for roughly 2 hours, so it's likely that some of the conversation will be edited out of the archived episode and held for inclusion in a future clip show. Regardless, I'll put up a link to the archive of episode 283 as soon as I see it posted. I enjoyed the recording, and I hope to be back on again soon!

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