27 December 2012

#2LR - Retrospective of "Civilization" -- Civ I.

For Christmas, I received the expansion pack for Civilization V, "Gods and Kings".  I am still going through it, and I am sure that I will have some comments about it when I get to that point.  It made me realize, though, that the Civilization series has been a large part of my computer-gaming life ever since the first one popped up in the early-90s.  So, I thought that I would go through the series with some reminisces and whether or not the game holds up.

Firstly, my memories of the series are inextricably tied to Windows.  The first computer that I cut my teeth on was an old Apple II+.  It ran on floppy disk, and it was a big flipping deal when my dad got a chip that expanded the Apple II+ to... 64.  Dang, I can't even remember what.  Good ol' Wikipedia tells me that it was 64KB of RAM.  Wow.  Anyway, the floppy disks -- 5.25 inchers that were really floppy -- all had games on them, and I learned how to program in BASIC on the Apple.  I had friends that had an IBM, with the 3.5 "floppy" disks that were really hard, and the graphics were just as bad... and the games just as texty.

In middle school, my parents bought our first IBM-type PC, and we had Windows 3.1 installed on it.  It was wild, having to use this new "mouse".  I knew of Sim City from disks at school that we would install on our brand-new Macintosh computers (1992 FTW!)  As a result, Sim City was one of the first games I played that had actual graphics.  Game #2 was "Darklands"... and that thing was WELL ahead of its time.  That will get its own blog post at some point, I'm sure.

With all that intro though, I wanted to make it extremely clear that when I played the Windows version of Civilization... I was floored.  This was the perfect thing for a budding anti-social nerd in the 90s, a board game that you didn't have to ask someone else to play!  And it had actual graphics.  The DOS version has... well, DOS graphics, but the Windows version was a clean version that worked well at the time.

This was a game that took a learning curve.  You had different units, like the settler to build new cities, the soldiers, the boats, and the planes.  Technology trees filled with advances to help your army and new buildings for your cities.  All of the esoteric concepts like corruption, government styles, Zones of Control... it was a lot to absorb, but if you have the time it's possible.

I spent many hours starting and sometimes finishing games of Civilization in my teens.  There were quite a few concepts in the original Civilization that lasted many years through the series, including boat bombardment and the treatment of airplanes (fly out one turn to attack, must return in the next turn to refuel).  Cities, to this day, still develop the land around them and each person you have in your city works one square of land.

But there are so many things that have changed about the series for the better that it is just so difficult to go backward.  Civilization treated every single soldier as a travesty, if the soldier was away from his home city the home city would get mad, and you had to provide entertainment for the city.  In order to get away from this issue, there was a fun and extremely amusing strategy.  I would get one of my port cities to spit out two or three battleships, worth a ton of attack power.  Another town would spit out transport boats and settlers. You could bombard the cities with the battleships, typically taking out really weak units -- the equivalent to men holding spears and shields.  Once you finished defeating all those spear-and-shield guys with your advanced battleship, you could land a settler unit into the town, and voila!  Instant takeover.  The way that the maps were back in the day, it wasn't very hard to get a majority of cities on the water.

To be honest, I wouldn't play a game of Civilization I except for nostalgia's sake nowadays.  But I wanted to at least show my affection for a game that I played through many a weekend, which encouraged me to make small, local decisions with an eye on the bigger picture.  The game was revolutionary, being made and balanced so well so early.   The tweaks and changes that various programmers and companies have made the game so much better with each successive sequel, as well as all of the advanced hardware, but they all had something gigantic to stand on.  While its newer changes have made Civ I obsolete, it was absolutely a 4 out of 4 game for so many years in the 90s.

I wanted to share memories of the other Civ games, as well as pointing out two sequels that get almost zero love nowadays that I still drag out and play more than a decade later.  Please keep an eye on this space for the articles, as I hope to publish at least once a week going forward.

I know that this is coming late, but Megane 6.7 and I would like to wish everyone a warm and festive holiday season, whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Day, or the Emperor's Birthday that is being celebrated.  Have a safe and happy holiday, and I hope to have better news for myself waiting for everyone when the New Year arrives.

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