Elemental & Civilization 4

By on April 2, 2009 4:43:53 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Those of you who know me and the GalCiv team (who are now all on Elemental) know we’re huuuuge Civilization IV fans. If you don’t have Civilization IV, I’m not saying you’re a bad person for not having it.  But I’m not saying you’re not a bad person either.  Though, wait until it shows up on Impulse next month before buying it if you haven’t already.

Anyway, at GDC, Soren Johnson (designer of Civ IV), myself, and Paul “Mormegil” Boyer) had a long lunch together and talked about the challenges we’ve been having in Elemental random map generation.

One of the big challenges we’ve been having has to do with rivers and roads – how do you make them look good in a randomly generated map?  Soren was nice enough to walk us through some of the algorithms they used in Civ IV since they ran into the exact same problem. It’s a real pain in the butt.

We also talked about the challenges of doing big maps.  This is where Civ and Elemental are fairly different largely because of the differences in the engine being used.

In Elemental, the strategic zoom feature lets us have much bigger maps since it’s very easy for people to manage much larger areas because the Elemental map turns into a cloth map where players can instruct units and cities and the like from afar.

Another advantage Elemental’s engine has is technology.  That is, the hardware is just a lot faster which means we can easily create a lot more “stuff” that players can automate without it slowing performance.

One result of that is world size.  In Civilization 4, the largest default map size “Huge” is 104x64 tiles. There are custom maps bigger (138x96 for instance).  But in Elemental, the map size is 224x160.  To give you an idea of that:

CivToEle_HugeMapComparison

And that’s on the 32-bit version of the game.  Assuming Intel gets us a 64-bit Havoc, the 64-bit version of Elemental could be even bigger.

Of course, we also have map sizes that are ridiculously small too (one called “wee” even). 

Having a big map, of course, is pointless if you don’t have the UI and automation in to keep micromanagement from being a pain and of course, like I mentioned, you have to have hardware fast enough to be able to navigate quickly and seamlessly through such a map (A Civilization V would no doubt have maps on the same scale as Elemental for instance).

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Fade2White
April 3, 2009 1:31:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Will players be able to create maps with external tools and import them into Elemental ?

You'll be able to create maps with INTERNAL tools and upload them to the central library for everyone to enjoy 

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April 3, 2009 1:50:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Randomly generated... ROADS?  I wonder what that is all about...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Please, please, please consider the CivRev approach to road building.  Pay a fixed amount of money at a city to build a road to another nearby city.  I love Civ4, but even I admit that worker move/worker road gets old fast.

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April 3, 2009 2:13:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would place a $10,000 gambling bet you are using 32bit OS.

 

Careful, if you'd bet that on me you'd have lost -- laptop is 64 bit vista

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April 3, 2009 2:29:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Simplicity123,
I love Civ4, but even I admit that worker move/worker road gets old fast.

I don't understand, you can select a worker, type Alt-R, select a tile, and it will automate building a (rail)road to that spot. It's even more flexible than what you describe because you can build between any two tiles, allowing a more flexible road network

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April 3, 2009 2:33:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ron Lugge,

I would place a $10,000 gambling bet you are using 32bit OS.

Careful, if you'd bet that on me you'd have lost -- laptop is 64 bit vista

   You wouldn't  have asked the same question  he asked.  

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April 3, 2009 3:13:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting BoogieBac,


You'll be able to create maps with INTERNAL tools and upload them to the central library for everyone to enjoy 

I assume these internal tools will allowed for everybody to use   How easy do you plan to have things like event triggers be to create?

In HoMM 2 and 3 (didn't much play with HoMM4's editor, and 5's editor didn't ship with the game so I already played the crap out of it by the time the editor came out.  I feel like it was harder than in 2 and 3 though.  I should go back and look)   you could create events on tiles like having a dialogue box appear and say'

"you find a rotting old sign.  It reads, 'beware those who travel forth!   Danger awaits you" "    or possible, " you are approched by a crippled old man.   He tells you he once was a mighty palidan before a deamon infected his leg and arm, preventing him from fighting.  Now he gives you the magic sword he cannot use." *event gives hero magic sword*

In other games, even turn based ones like Civilization and Galactic Civilization, putting in simple text dialogue boxes like that really isn't as easy.  Its likely possible that a number of GalCiv fans here (not to mention the devolpers) could tell me how to do it, but that isn't the point.  It isn't as easy as HoMM, which I had a very easy to find 'add event' button that was pretty self explaining.   I was able to figure it out as a child no problem.  As a kid I created story quests in HoMM designed for single player, most were based off of my D&D adventures and were very poorly written (I was like 11 at the time, so its excused I think).  

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April 3, 2009 3:57:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with landisaurus...  Stardock  please  take a look at the editor within fantasy TBS  HoMM_3 (Heroes_3).   This editor was not only easy to use, but it provided many many options.  

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April 3, 2009 4:14:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

  There is always a trade between ease of use and power.  The HOMM events were very easy to create, but limited in scope.  You could pick from their preselected actions for what you wanted to happen.

  Civ4 erred on the side of power.  It was more difficult to setup the events but they could do anything.  They could give a magic sword to the unit, cause nearby mountains to explode into volcanoes, spawn a new civlization that declared war on you, etc.  Anything the designer wanted to create was available.  But since the developer couldn't give check boxes for all of those options the map creator had to code the option themselves.

  This is the problem with check boxes.  They are great if what you want to do is included in the list of options, but they limit you in doing anything else.  Simple checkbox modding allows a lot of people to create fairly generic maps (granted the text is unique but after we play a few we figure out all the options).

  With more complex tools (source code access being the holy grail) less people are able to mod but its amazing what those that can use it can do.

  Neither system is perfect and we all want the system thats as powerful as possible but that we can understand (making the "sweet spot" different for each person).  The question becomes Stardocks.  Do you want more mods but have them be less impressive?  Or do you want less mods but have them be more ambiticous?

  I'll close by saying that many people will want ot answer that both extremes should be offered.  Thats always a tendancy when more than one option is considered.  But its rarely viable in a world with limited production resources.  Although a lot can be done to cater to modding on either end, and to help modders (either adding options to make "simple" modding more powerful, or providing tools/documentation to make "complex" modding easier to get into) at some pont stardock will have to decide what sort of modder they want to appeal to, then get that to be as good as possible.

 

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April 3, 2009 4:32:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting piderman,

I don't understand, you can select a worker, type Alt-R, select a tile, and it will automate building a (rail)road to that spot. It's even more flexible than what you describe because you can build between any two tiles, allowing a more flexible road network

 

There was a button on the UI to do it too.  That's almost always how I built roads, building them one square at a time is pretty silly.

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April 3, 2009 6:38:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey! I love the workers in Civilization, and having to hide them when enemies attack. It's not too much micro management at all. And I don't want those CivRev ideas ruining a diamond of a game.

It's fun actually, making a workforce, and having to balance that vs city growth etc. in the beginning of the game! Having to prioritize every turn what your limited workforce should do.

I'm glad Frogboy is a Civ fan, promises well for Elemental. I've been a Civ player since 1991, and Civilization is the only game I play almost every week.

 

NB! Would be nice to play some Civ4 online, and beat the Stardock team. I'm the best civ-player on this planet. Look for Luckystrike77 in the multiplayer lobby......

 

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April 3, 2009 11:01:48 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Though, wait until it shows up on Impulse next month before buying it if you haven’t already.

 Civ IV on Impulse?!?! W00t!!!! I was wondering why that damn game wasn't available on digital distribution yet!

Waitaminute... Is it worldwide and complete? Hmmm...

And Elemental? I mean, you use Civ4 to compare it with even bigger maps?! I suddenly got all interested on it!

What devious mind types this sort of shameless information...

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April 4, 2009 1:36:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If Civ IV will be available for european customers then I will certainly get it. I need sth to occupy me until the Elemental beta is here...

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April 4, 2009 4:39:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

HAhah, Civ IV random map generation, my pet peeve.

I ask again, will it be possible in Elemental to write map scripts like in Civ IV? I worte the Tectonics map script that's been included in the last Civ IV patch, and there are a few others who produced interesting map scripts, some of us rewriting the land mass generation totally...

So, can we definitely SCRIPT them? I don't want graphic stuff, I want to code the map generator, and use it from the in-game like Civ IV does.

Brad, if you are interested in rivers generation, you must look at PerfectWorld.py and PerfectWorld2.py code. PerfectWorld has some of the best river basin generation I saw. The second version is not as polished as the first yet but still gives nice results.

One big thing which makes Civ IV river generation hard is that the rivers flow BETWEEN plots. It makes it a pain to maintain a heightmap, because rivers won't look good if you pretend a between-plot's height is the averge height of the plots around.

One thing that I tried to do in my own script was generate the rivers not top-down (flow from mountain) but bottom-up (from sea to the inside). It avoids some long snakey rivers as you can sometimes see generated in Civ IV. Howwever Civ IV tends to add rivers near a player's starting position, and these tend to do weird stuff like running straight to the border of the map, then running eastwards through 5 mountain ranges before reaching the sea.

Road networks seem easier: You'd only link places, so there aren't hundreds of plots with location worth building a road to (whereas there are hundreds of river plots).

 

Regarding scales, I think Elemental would probably be very well suited to an hybrod map generation, where you create macro features with an algorithm (tectonics simulation giving plates, seas, mountain ranges), and a micro feature algorithm (at this level a fractal makes sense) to detail the heightmaps. If the level of the map goes down enough, it would hopefully be possible to code some erosion  routines to have rivers carve valleys into the land.

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April 4, 2009 5:05:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

...

Regarding scales, I think Elemental would probably be very well suited to an hybrod map generation, where you create macro features with an algorithm (tectonics simulation giving plates, seas, mountain ranges), and a micro feature algorithm (at this level a fractal makes sense) to detail the heightmaps. If the level of the map goes down enough, it would hopefully be possible to code some erosion routines to have rivers carve valleys into the land.

Wow... I am speechless. I really hope, that Elemental could take advantage of those scripts. It would be awesome...

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April 4, 2009 9:14:21 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I would like the tools to provide both options. Civ4 made some of the real simple stuff hard(tedious) to do and really scared me off. Unlike in Civ2, I had a much easier time putting in events and terrainshifts etc.

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April 4, 2009 12:02:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good question Cesare. I like generating random maps more than searching for custom ones to download. Thanks again for creating that nice Civ IV script.

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April 4, 2009 12:34:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Having not played any Civ games, what is the approximate size of one of those 'tiles' you are talking about... Is it like 1 km? 10? 100?

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April 4, 2009 1:02:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Having not played any Civ games, what is the approximate size of one of those 'tiles' you are talking about... Is it like 1 km? 10? 100?

Well, a city fits on one tile, but units can routinely travel over several tiles in a turn... except that a turn varies from a few months to a decade depending on which speed setting you are using... and if you did it mathematically assuming that a huge map is the size of the real Earth you come up with around 76633 km2, which makes no sense whatsoever considering the size of the islands (EDIT: did I say continents? I meant islands!)...

I think we can safely say that the devs weren't thinking realistically when they made these maps. Ifg each tile was a realisic size (say 5km), you wouold need 10201440 of them to make a realistic Earth!

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April 5, 2009 7:57:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't want to come out as a jerk, but back in the good old days of 2D graphics world size like this would impress no one. Here's the world map from Ultima 5:

http://members.fortunecity.com/cartographics/big.gif

No, I have no idea what the dimensions are (in tiles). I googled for half an hour and couldn't find anything about dimensions.

I wonder if someone admits the elephant in the room. 3D graphics struggle with many limitations nonexistant in simple 2D approach. I guess 2D just scales better...

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April 5, 2009 10:46:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ummmmm...... the link takes you to the fortunecity logo, as opposed to a map.

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April 5, 2009 11:38:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting b0rsuk,
...I wonder if someone admits the elephant in the room. 3D graphics struggle with many limitations nonexistant in simple 2D approach. I guess 2D just scales better...

I haven't played that many different titles since MoO3 nearly broke my gaming heart, but I'd have to say that 3D graphics have never added serious fun for me and have many times seemed like a good scapegoat for complaining about non-visual weaknesses in a game ("We'd have a better UI if they hadn't had to spend so much dev time working out this eye candy.").

At the very least, the love of 3D graphics among devs and gaming opinion leaders is definitely one of the 'pusher' factors behind the hardware-as-crack mentality that has people buying new rigs so often. (I should admit that I depend on the workplace PC refresh cycle for my living, but I have a terrible tendency to bite the hand that feeds me.)

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April 5, 2009 11:43:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

b0rsuk: We're comparing apples-to-apples here. I'm sure yo can find lots of other games with 'larger' game worlds. 

Also, I'd argue that the 'elephant in the room' is the footprint of 'land-based' maps in a tbs setting. Civ4 was originally going to be a 2d sprite based game for this reason. GalCiv2:Twilight of the Arnor (a 3d space-based tbs game) had 'Immense' maps that were 384x384 tiles...that Ultima 5 map (http://www.geocities.com/xenerkes/MapPics/U5/U5tileb4.gif) comes in at 256x256 by my calculations (every 4 pixels seems to be a 'tile').

But yeah, if we could get away with a 2d world in this day and age (reviewers would burnus alive) we probably would.

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April 5, 2009 11:59:35 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

But yeah, if we could get away with a 2d world in this day and age (reviewers would burnus alive) we probably would.

Depends on how you define 2D world.  Without strategic zoom, these games would be a micro-management nightmare.  I can't imagine making a strategy game without strategic zoom.

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April 5, 2009 12:10:23 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I can't imagine making a strategy game without strategic zoom.

 

Too bad the rest of the industry doesn't agree with you there!

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April 5, 2009 12:58:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
... Depends on how you define 2D world.  Without strategic zoom, these games would be a micro-management nightmare.  I can't imagine making a strategy game without strategic zoom.

I agree, but I don't see any necessity for the zoomed-in level to be 3D (other than Scott's point, which I admit is a trump card). The tradeoff thing I was vaguely complaining about is that when you need to put resources into a 3D interface, it necessarily means you might have fewer resources to put into something like greater icon variety for the zoomed-out/cloth map view.

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