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You Never Move Your Settler! - Opening Strategy Splits Civ V Studio

Greg Tito | 27 Feb 2014 22:00
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While comparing the three test cases certainly shows it is better to move, the truth is that a suitable location just may not exist on the procedurally generated map you're playing on. "There is a huge risk if you spend the first turn scouting," Beach admitted. "You're pretty sure over that hill there's a better location, but there could be a desert too. It's risky, but we've proved that in right circumstances it definitely will pay off [to move your settler]."

Civilization 5

"Moving your settler isn't the only poor decision you can make in the first turns," designer Pete Murray added. "If you get beat to building a wonder [like the Great Library], you can get hosed pretty badly."

It's easy to fixate on that one failure - not getting the wonder built - but it just emphasizes Sid Meier's philosophy even more. Every decision point in Civilization is an important and potentially interesting one, and these tests proved that even more than just this specific hypothesis. "Not only does moving your settler not hurt you in some cases, but there are many other decisions that could hurt you much worse and it was cool to see one of those illustrated so starkly," Murray said.

Beach decided to have a very focused test, but there could certainly have been more hard data to account for a larger number of permutations. How does the hypothesis of moving your settler hold up with the barbarians on, for example, or if you have a city state close by? Or if you're playing an archipelago as opposed to continents or Pangaea? How do the simulations hold up after a hundred playthoughs, a thousand? Well, that kind of experimentation might be beyond the scope of what Firaxis can accomplish.

"I can't let them keep testing this out, because we have to keep making games," the producer Shirk grumbled, cracking the whip.

"Civ fans are nothing if not full of their own theories on best strategies and we think this is something they are going to run with," added Murray. "We hope this is something our players will take up and continue to define."

So if any of the data sounds off to you, or you can't fathom how moving your settler would do any good, consider this a call to arms. Firaxis and I are interested in seeing your tests and your data. Does the hypothesis hold up after more extensive testing? It's time for some peer review.

I was tickled to hear about a long discussion on a comparably silly and specific topic like moving your settler which derailed all work for the day at the Firaxis offices. The makers of the most widely adored strategy franchise in the industry clearly had an emotional reaction, and that speaks to the excellent foundation laid by Sid Meier. When you talk about tactics or common moves with the crew making Civilization, it's gratifying to see such strong reactions. It's akin to chess masters discussing Fischer v. Kasparov, or baseball managers talking about the intentional walk. And while the specifics of why the Firaxis team got a little heated that day is a little "inside baseball" - pun intended - it illustrates why Civilization is such an important game in the industry. Players debate about Civ strategies on forums like Civfanatics and Apolyton all the time, but the fact that even the current designers care deeply about the details of the game means the Civ series will continue to be successful for a very long time.

If they can stop arguing in meetings and get something done, that is.

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