After I wrote my critical articles about Civ5, I received a lot of feedback and responses from readers. Much of the feedback was positive, and I had several different people thank me specifically for saving them $50 by not purchasing the game. Of course I also had plenty of critics who disagreed with my sentiments on Civ5, which was all well and good. The largest complaint came from readers who claimed that I simply wanted Civ5 to be another version of Civ4, or that I was criticizing Civ5 for not being Civ4 version 2. From my own point of view, I don't think that those criticisms were valid; my beef with Civ5 was that the game had design flaws and wasn't fun to play, not that the game was different. After all, Civ3 was very different from Civ2, and Civ4 was very different from Civ3, and I eagerly embraced both of those titles for what they brought new to the series.
Nevertheless, I'd like to try and put those arguments to rest (at least as much as anyone can do on the Internet!) by showing how my vision for a future Civilization game would have some substantial changes from past games in the series. There was a thread at CivFanatics where posters were asked who should be the lead designer of Civ6, which included my name on the list! Believe me, I was highly flattered, but as a non-programmer with no coding skills it's not something that's likely to happen. Still, I thought it might be fun to indulge in a flight of fancy and go ahead and type up how I would do things if I were put in charge. Don't take this too seriously, but this is my vision for how I would create a new Civilization game. We'll call it "New Civ" to distinguish it from the actual Civ6 when it appears (eventually).
I'll start by talking about some of the design goals of New Civ. One of my biggest issues with Civ5 was the overall "small" feel of the game. Civ5 wanted to emphasize fewer units, smaller maps, fewer cities (although it fails it this), smaller tile yields, and so on. I often had the feeling that I was directing a group of city states rather than a mighty and powerful empire. I don't think that that was fun, or at least not as fun as it could be, and if I were put in charge I would do things differently. New Civ would embrace large and powerful civilizations as a design goal. Civilization is an empire-building game, and that's where the focus should be. I would put in place rewards for expanding, not penalties. It's an empire-building game, dummy! That's the whole idea. If they are at a comparable level in technology, a 20-city empire should beat a 3-city empire in the vast majority of circumstances. Big empires should normally beat small empires. I am unapologetic about this; I have often seen people write about how "we need to make small empires competitive with large empires", which I think is a silly statement and a backwards design goal. Give small empires a chance to win the game, absolutely (via Culture, or Diplomatic, or possibly Spaceship), but they certainly don't deserve some sort of equal standing. It should be hard to build a large empire, and if you do manage to achieve one, you should be rewarded for doing so. That will be one of the guiding principles for New Civ.
On a related note, New Civ will try to portray empire-building on a large scale. I've always thought that this was one of the biggest weaknesses of the Civilization series: you build "a knight" or you build "city walls". What if you could build an army that included hundreds of knights, or create city defenses as strong or weak as you liked? You could build very basic walls, or (if you were willing to spend enough production) you could build up city defenses strong enough to stop marauding armies in their tracks. I'm envisioning tactical battles that would include hundreds, and in the lategame thousands, of units on each side. That would be a lot more interesting of a combat model! The way to do this is not to go the "One Unit Per Tile" route and get the tiny armies/traffic jams of Civ5. Rather, it's to take the exact opposite approach and embrace stacking as a principle, portraying armies on a gigantic scale while at the same time streamlining combat so that battles can be resolved quickly. This would be more immersive and good for gameplay, eliminating one of the largest problems that has always plagued the Civ series (too many units in lategame, and too tedious to move them around).
Finally, and this is sort of an obvious design goal, New Civ will be based around offering meaningful decisions to the player, trying to get them to pick between different viable paths to victory. This is much easier said than done, of course! I think it needs to be stated at the outset though, just because it's such an important theme to keep in mind. Penalties for the player should be minimized as much as possible in the game's design. Unfun elements and tedious micromanagement should be avoided as much as possible. There should always be something going on, and very little downtime for the player. This keeps people playing the game and sticking with the One More Turn feeling!
Overall you could summarize my thoughts on New Civ with the phrase "Go Big or Go Home." New Civ will be about big empires, big armies, big production, and big research. You can still play a One City Challenge game, but it will a real variant, and it will be *HARD*. As it should be.
I'll start with this subject, because it's something I would change significantly if I were designing a game. The general sentiment about combat in Civ5 was that people liked the idea of tactical combat, but didn't think it was implemented correctly, or at least thought that the AI needed to manage it better. The problem with that system was the way in which tactical combat took place on the strategic map, which presented all sorts of difficulties and affected many other areas of the game's design. It's true that stacking units on top of one another isn't a good idea for tactical combat, but it was the wrong idea to force that to take place on the strategic map. New Civ will do things differently: units will stack together to form armies on the strategic map, and then the actual combat itself will occur on a separate tactical map. This has been done before in many other turn-based strategy games; in particular I'm thinking of the Master of Magic and the Civilization: Call to Power series. However, I need to go into a little bit more detail on how units would be built first before moving on. The most direct inspiration for this system of combat actually comes from the old classic Master of Orion:
One of the greatest strengths of Master of Orion is the scale on which everything is portrayed. You can build one ship at a time, or if you have the production for it, multiple ships at once. In the above picture, the planet Meklon is pouring all of its production into ship building, and the result is that six Laser fighters (cheap, early game ships) will be produced next turn. During the lategame it's possible to build thousands of little fighter craft on every turn! I've always thought that this same sense of scale would be usefully applied to the Civilization series. Instead of building one spearman, which represents some indeterminate number of soldiers, you would build dozens of spearmen and form them together into an army. One unit by itself would be pathetically weak - just like sending an individual out to fight a war by themselves. You would need to group up and build armies in order to get anything done, which again is both immersive and useful for gameplay purposes. With modern computer graphics, you could actually animate each soldier individually on a tactical map (think of the Total War series), creating cool effects which would wow the easy-to-please "official reviewers" online.
Well, this system sounds great, but how do you keep the player from being hopelessly overwhelmed by micromanagement in controlling hundreds of units? The solution is to mimic how it's done in Master of Orion, where you can move thousands of ships around with very minimal effort. In New Civ, all units of the same type will stack together when they are on the same tile. In other words, you don't have 100 individual spearmen in your army, you have one unit of 100 spears that fights and moves together. New Civ will have a "Lock" button for unit movement, which locks all of the units on the current tile together so that they move and fight as one. Essentially, you form armies and then they go out and engage in combat. The city screens will have a clear "set rally point" function, so that you can order all new units produced to move automatically to a set location. Together, this would minimize the micromangement to acceptable levels. The player wouldn't actually be moving very many units around, since they would be grouped together into armies.
Units would have four different stats in New Civ: combat strength, hit points, accuracy, and movement. Some units would also have a modifier or special ability, such as spears getting a combat strength bonus against horses or siege units getting a bonus against cities. Combat strength would determine how much damage the unit does while fighting; every time the unit gets a hit, it would do its strength as damage to the target. Hit points determine how much damage that unit can take before dying. Accuracy indicates the chance of that unit hitting in combat. Movement is obviously movement - I'm thinking as a general rule that most units would have double their "strategic" movement value on the "tactical" combat screen (melee units 1/2 moves, horses 2/3 or 2/4 moves, and so on). Modifiers would be added to the combat strength in battle, so if a siege unit normally does 5 damage, and it has +100% against cities, then it would deal 10 damage instead, and so on. All of this fighting takes place on a tactical combat screen, and *NOT* the strategic map, as in Master of Orion:
Let me provide a concrete example. I'm envisioning the warrior as a very weak early game unit, with stats something like 2 strength, 1 hit point, 30% accuracy, and 1 movement. Let's say I have 10 warriors and I'm attacking 6 enemy warriors in a battle (both of them are stacked together into one group, as per New Civ's combat system). The combat engine would check to see if the first warrior hit; if it did, then it would apply 2 damage to the enemy stack, killing two enemy warriors because they only have one hit point each. Rinse and repeat until all of the attackers have had their turn. Note that this is a simple binomial function, and a modern computer can run thousands of rounds, probably millions of rounds, of combat pretty much instantly. (If you had a two or three second animation to cover this, it would be more than enough time for all the calculations.) You can see that the one who initiates combat has a pretty big advantage here, getting in that initial "first strike", and so manuevering around on the tactical map would have some interesting consequences.
Nevertheless, the attacker wouldn't have all of the advantages. Getting attacked on defensive terrain would provide a combat bonus; I'm envisioning attackers taking a penalty to their accuracy if they attack into forests or hills or whatever. Notice that if a unit type's accuracy were to fall from 50% to 25%, thanks to a defensive bonus, that would cut the effectiveness of the attacker in half! That would mean that maneuvering on the strategic map would still hold lots of purpose, as the location where the tactical battle took place would be highly significant. You could camp out on defensive terrain with the smaller army and dare the attacker to come fight you there.
Cities would be a special location all their own. Here I'm once again going to borrow from Master of Orion, and even from Civ5 which had the right idea in allowing cities to defend themselves. In New Civ, you can place armies inside cities to help defend them (and you probably should), but cities can also defend themselves, depending on how much you invest in their defenses. Master of Orion has two defense mechanisms that protect planets from attack: shields/armor, which reduce the damage the the planet takes, and missile bases, which fire back against attackers. The brilliance in the game's design is that you can build one missile base, or five... or five hundred! It's entirely up to you how much production you want to invest in defending the location, and more missile bases can mean the difference between barely winning a battle with heavy casualties, or crushing the enemy decisively. New Civ will borrow these ideas and make use of them in a Civilization context. Instead of shields/armor, cities will have different levels of walls for defense, with new ones being unlocked as you progress in technology. Better walls will have to be constructed in the target city, and will provide extra hit points for the city, maybe something like 10 HP for the starting walls, then 20 HP, then 30 HP, and so on. Instead of missile bases, cities in New Civ will have "towers" for defense, a new concept to the series. You can build as many towers as you want to defend a city, and they will fire back and deal damage to attacking units. New tech will unlock more powerful defensive towers that do more damage to attackers, and you'll be able to upgrade to the new towers by spending several turns of production. If the defender has 10 towers in their city, each one with 20 HP due to second-tier walls, then the attacker will have to do 200 damage to the city, plus kill all of the defending units, in order to win the battle and capture the target. Thus, in order to capture your cities, attackers will have to break your tower/wall defenses, which will necessitate having siege weapons (which get a very big combat bonus against cities, like bombs in Master of Orion) or a truly gigantic army to overrun you. The player has to balance how many resources to spend on building up static defenses, versus a field army, versus infrastructure, and so on. Furthermore, city defenses will only work in a battle that takes place in the city itself, on that very tile. They will *NOT* protect your tile improvements from being pillaged into the stone age. I expect to see situations where an attacker can't break the defenses of a city, but the defender isn't strong enough to come out from behind their city walls, with the result being a siege and local devastation of the economy. That's an interesting situation for gameplay, and also pretty historically accurate.
Units themselves are going to be very cheap in New Civ. I'm thinking that a warrior should probably cost about 2-3 shields to produce; even a brand new city should be able to churn out about one per turn. Of course warriors are really weak units, and I'm thinking you'd probably need about 100 of them to break even the most basic of city defenses, but hopefully that gives you an idea of the sense of scale I'd like to see in New Civ. As technology progresses, new units should be substantially better than old units, without costing substantially more to build. For example, if the Classical era New Civ swordsman has stats of 6 strength, 4 HP, 50% accuracy, 5 shield cost; then the Medieval era New Civ longswordsman should have stats of something like 10 strength, 6 hp, 60% accuracy, 7.5 shield cost. This will allow empires with high production bases and a technology edge to beat their backwards rivals, which is how it should be. Upgrading units would be possible, although expensive; probably something like 5 gold per unit per upgrade. Since a large medieval army would likely have 300 or more swords in it, you would normally need to build new and more advanced armies rather than simply upgrading the same units as you went along. Under this system it would not be possible to win battles without taking some losses from attrition, and so you'd also constantly have to be replacing lost units while warring. This is another advantage of portraying things on a large scale; you can be fighting with 1000 units, win decisively, and still lose ~15% of your army, which will require diverting production into more units to replace losses.
In order to prevent the criticism of "biggest stack wins", New Civ would have various tactical elements in play. I've already mentioned how fighting on defensive terrain would give an accuracy penalty to one side, and advantage the defender in battle. Cities will be very tough to break, especially if defended by walls/towers along with a field army. Maneuvering to prevent a battle inside a defender's city would be key. There will be plenty of room to maneuver around inside the tactical battles themselves to get favorable matchups. New Civ will employ a rock-paper-scissors model where different units are effective against other units. Probably something like spears beat horses, horses beat siege and ranged/archery units, ranged/archery units beat spears but are glass cannons that have to be protected. Swords would be the "default" unit with no advantages or disadvantages in combat, and likely used as grunt troops on the front lines. Then some variation of this pattern would be repeated in each technological era, with another combat triangle of strengths and weaknesses. Here's some made-up sample stats for the Classical era; actual numbers would obviously have to be determined through testing:
Swordsman (default unit): 6 strength, 4 HP, 50% accuracy, 1 movement strategic map, 2 movement tactical map
Spearman (anti-horse unit): 5 strength, 3 HP, 50% accuracy, 1/2 movement, +100% against Mounted units
Horseman (fast-moving unit): 7 strength, 4 HP, 50% accuracy, 2/3 or 2/4 movement, +50% against Siege units
Archer (ranged unit): 6 strength, 2 HP, 65% accuracy, 1/2 movement, can fire at targets 2 tiles away on tactical map
Catapult (siege unit): 5 strength, 3 HP, 60% accuracy, 1/2 movement, can fire 2 tiles on tactical map, +100% against cities
Basic Tower (static defense): 8 strength, HP determined by city wall level (likely 10-20), 60% accuracy, immobile, infinite range on tactical map
Something like this. We'd figure it out as we went along.
Now that's all great, but what about the AI? Could it use this system? The answer is both yes and no. In terms of fighting tactical battles, we already know from past games that the AI stinks at this, and will take disproportionate losses to the player. This is simply a tradeoff that we would have to accept with New Civ. However, on high difficulty the AI would receive major production bonuses, and would compensate for its stupidity by creating simply gigantic armies. It would be able to brute force its way into conquering objectives and posing a very real threat; I'm thinking of the Civ3 AI that was all kinds of stupid but could still dump 100 immortals onto your doorstep in the BC years! So long as the AI could maneuver around and capture cities on the strategic map, I'd be prepared to accept some silliness and stupidity on the tactical combat screen.
But what about Multiplayer games? The biggest flaw of pulling away from the strategic map and going to a separate combat screen is that it doesn't really work in fast-pace MP ladder games. To deal with this issue, New Civ will have an option to auto-resolve combat; instead of going onto the tactical combat screen, New Civ will look at the strength and composition of the two forces and auto-resolve right there on the strategic map. This would be the default option for online MP games (although it could be turned off if players would rather fight things out on the tactical map). The key question would be writing the formula to determine that auto-resolve feature, which would have to be done right or it would completely break the whole thing. You'd have to get results pretty similar to what would happen if the battle were actually fought out on the tactical screen. I don't have answer for how to do this exactly; I think it would have to be a trial and error process worked out over time. Still, I do think it would be possible, and then you could keep running the same sort of online MP games we saw for Civ3/Civ4, only with larger and more interesting armies. (How do you build your stacks? How much to invest in static defense? Who controls the key terrain? Feint at one target, then send 400 knights to fork two cities that have only the minimal walls/towers for defense? Seems like there would be plenty of cool stuff to explore here.)
There would have to be some tradeoffs for this system to work. Because of the large scale and number of units involved, individual unit experience would have to be scrapped as a concept. No "veteran" units either as in earlier Civilization games; the idea is that every "knight" is exactly like every other knight, so that they can always be combined effortlessly together into stacks. (I'm thinking that barracks/armories would increase unit production in cities, say +25% production when building units with a barracks, rather than grant experience.) However, where experience/promotions could be kept would be with Great Generals, which appear rarely enough that they wouldn't be too micro-intensive. New Civ would have a system where each army (stack) of units could have a Great General attached to it. Whenever that army won battles, your General would gain experience and promotions over time, sort of like the Total War series, with promotions like +10% combat strength to all units on the same tile, or -10% accuracy for enemy units, or even the category-specific bonuses like +25% against Mounted units. This would still allow the fun of promoting a few key units over the course of the game, while taking out some of the tedium of microing so many units. For myself personally, I enjoy the promotions in Civ4/Civ5 when I have 5-10 units, not so much when I have 50-100 units. This would help correct that. One other note: workers and settlers would probably have to be handled in the same fashion as before, instead of being broken down into lots of smaller units. Although it might be amusing to have farms take 60 worker turns to build, and workers be as cheap as other units at something like 5 shield each, I think that would involve too much micromangement and would likely mess with the game's AI. We'll leave these two special units alone and make an exception.
Overall then, there would be three different options for combat. You'd have the Single Player centric tactical combat system, with players controlling their units on the tactical map. Secondly, you could still go to the tactical map, but then have the AI control your army there against the AI army, for someone who wants to be a little less hands-on. Finally, there would be the MP auto-resolve option where the action never leaves the strategic map at all. I think that would be a pretty decent compromise for different player types with different goals. You have stacking for ease and convenience of moving units, tactical battles for those who enjoyed that, and everything taking place on a very large scale that would make you feel like you were actually controlling an army. Hopefully, this would be very immersive and fun. Remember, you'd be completing some units every turn (due to the very cheap build costs) so there would be none of that dreary "dead time" a la Civ5. Watch your army growing and becoming more powerful all the time! And for those who would argue, "Well the biggest army is going to win most of the time!" my response would be, "Yeah, that's exactly the point."
One of the most important issues in creating a Civilization game is determining how the research system functions. A bad tech tree or a bad research system can ruin the game before it even launches. First of all, New Civ will be scrapping Civ5's "research = population" model and going back to the system of using sliders. Yes, it's an old system that's been used many times before, but that's because it works and it works well. Every turn your civilization receives X amount of commerce, and then it can be allocated in different ways depending on your slider settings. Normally most of it will go towards research, since technology has always been king in the Civ series. I've never seen this as being a major issue, and if I'm going to be in charge of New Civ, it's not something I'm going to change.
However, the rest of the New Civ technology system is going to look very different indeed. The biggest fault with the research system in the Civilization series is the tech tree itself. Whether the tech tree is well designed (Civ4) or poorly designed (Civ5), it remains static and never changes. Over time, the tree will inevitably grow rather boring, and players will figure out the optimal paths through the tree, whether that's a Rifling beeline in Civ5, or a Liberalism beeline in Civ4, or a Theory of Evolution -> Electronics slingshot in Civ3. Certain paths will end up being more powerful, and then good players will continue to follow them over and over again.
The solution to this dilemma is to create a tech tree that is not static, one that changes from game to game in random (but understandable) fashion. Master of Orion once again did this better than any other turn-based strategy game I've ever seen, so New Civ will shamelessly borrow from the classic space strategy game once more. For those who haven't played it, in Master of Orion there are six different tech fields that your empire researches individually. Propulsion makes your ships travel further and faster, Planetology improves the economy of your planets, Weapons gives you better guns to play around with, and so on. Each field has a set list of technologies in it, and if the game functioned like Civ, players would quickly figure out the best paths through each field and only research those. However, the brilliance in Master of Orion's design is that some of the techs are missing from each field in each game. In one game you might be lacking missile techs; in another game, maybe your ships will be pathetically slow because you can't get any engine upgrades. There will almost always be at least one field where you're lacking, and you'll have to scramble and plan around it. Maybe one of the other AI empires will have what you need, but you'll either need to make a very disadvantageous trade with them, or try to steal it from them, or conquer them and loot their technology. Many options there to fix your tech gaps. Every game is different, and every game requires different tactics depending on what techs you do and don't have. I've always felt that the same general model could be brought to the Civilization series and improve the gameplay. New Civ would be my attempt at doing exactly that.
New Civ won't have one tech tree, it will have five separate trees (Master of Orion's "fields" of research). Each tree is actually more like a ladder to climb than a branching tree, as I'll explain more in a minute. The five fields would be:
Units: units (duh)
Structures: all buildings that don't provide culture
Arts and Culture: wonders, religions, and the buildings that do produce culture
Government: New Civ's equivalent of civics/social policies
Landscape and Environment: tile improvements, resources, improved tile yields
Players would research one technology at a time, same as in past Civilization games. There won't be links between the five trees, so players could theoretically do nothing but research a single tree at a time. Then what's to stop someone from researching nothing but units and winning the game that way? Well, for one thing techs will scale up quickly with era, while overall benefits will be spread fairly evenly through all five trees, which will discourage players from making extreme beelines down a certain path. This already exists in past Civ games, by the way - you can get to Guilds/knights extremely fast in Civ4, for example, but you almost never see it happen in action because there are too many economic benefits elsewhere on the tree. I think simple self-interest would stop players from spending 25 turns on pumping a single unit tech when other trees have techs with research times of 3-4 turns. Secondly, even if a player is willing to research expensive techs from later eras, they're not likely to be too successful by only concentrating on one tree. You might have the Unit technology to build tanks, but if you don't have the Landscape tech to build oil wells, you're pretty screwed! Similarly, see how far your research gets without any of the libraries/universities in the Arts and Culture tree, or how fast you can build units without the growth-boosting (granaries) or production-boosting (forges/factories) stuff in the Structures tree. And I plan to make the Government techs (New Civ's civics/social policies) the game's primary means of fighting New Civ's corruption/maintenance system, so any would-be conquerer who ignored that tree would quickly find their empire collapsing from bankruptcy. If the game is designed correctly, you'll need techs from all five trees to be successful.
As in Master of Orion, the key to making this tech system work is that some of the techs are missing from your tech tree in each game. You won't know what you're missing in the next era until you actually reach it, of course. Here's a mockup of how this system might look, similar to what Stardock is doing with their game Elemental:
I'll limit this example to two trees instead of all five, and just list the benefit provided by each technology instead of coming up with a fancy name. ("Swordsman" instead of "Iron Working.") Technologies that you have researched already appear in gold. Techs that you can research appear in green. Techs that you cannot research because they are not in your tree appear in red; you can see what you're missing, in other words. Techs that may or many not be in your tree appear in gray. Players will always be able to see the full tech tree at all times (unlike Master of Orion), however the techs that are available and not available in future eras will not be colored in and revealed until you reach them. The beaker cost of each technology is listed next to it, showing how beaker cost scales up sharply with era. Note that New Civ does not have pre-requisites in the same sense as other Civ games; once you research one tech from each tree's era, you can immediately go on to the next era in that same tree. In the above picture, the player hasn't researched any techs in the Structures tree yet. Once they research the Granary tech *OR* the Barracks tech, they will be able to see the Classical techs in that tree and immediately move on to research any one of them if desired. You do not have to research Granary tech *AND* Barracks tech just because both are available... but you might want to do so, especially since both will be cheap technologies! Players will therefore have lots of options on what to research at all times, sometimes beelining forward for a particular benefit, sometimes going back to clean up old, cheaper stuff. It will also be very possible to have an empire that is "Industrial" in one area, but "Renassiance" or even "Medieval" in other areas of technology, which again seems very historically appropriate!
The overall tech tree for New Civ would have the aforementioned five fields of research, divided into the established six eras of the Civilization series: Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern. (I'm not exactly sure what benefit Future Tech would have; some kind of tree-specific bonus for each of the five fields? Could work something out.) Each tree would have up to five technologies for each era, with a theoretical maximum of 5 x 5 x 6 = 150 techs. In practice there won't be that many, because some of the trees won't have a tech in each slot in each era, as in the mockup pictured above. Keep in mind as well that roughly 33% of the tech tree will be missing for each player in each game, so out of the planned ~110 or so total techs, you'll find yourself researching roughly 80 of them over the course of the game, which is in line with past Civilization games. I think this would actually be a pretty easy tech tree to design, because you wouldn't have to come up with a million branching arrows and pre-requisites and such. You just have to slot the benefits of each field into the proper era, get appropriate tech costs, and that should pretty much do it. Here's the one crucial thing though: there has to be strong incentives to research all five trees. You can't have dud trees or techs that no one wants, or they'll just get ignored. I think that the division I have is pretty decent on first glance, and you'd need stuff from all of them, but I could be missing something. Hopefully the flaws in the system could be ironed out and buffed/nerfed accordingly in testing.
Now I think this is a really cool system, but what about the poor guy who gets screwed on Unit tech and just gets stomped in Multiplayer? That's bad mojo, and not very fun. So in order to solve this problem, New Civ will have an option called "All Techs Always Available", in which everything is available in the tech tree for every game. This will solve the problem of randomness for competitive MP, and also provide another option for those people in SP who would rather have a static tech tree that doesn't change. That's an easy fix and I think it would satisfy all groups. There are also certain techs that would be researchable in every game; you would always be guaranteed at least one tech in each era for each tree, at a bare minimum. Most or possibly all of the techs in the Landscape and Environment tree would likely fall into this category, because you can't really play New Civ without the ability to produce tile improvements or see/connect strategic resources! But the other trees would have a fair degree of randomness, and often you'd have to do without important stuff. If that bothered players, they could always turn the full tech tree on in the startup options menu.
I'm going to start at the macro level in this section with empire-wide economics and work down to the micro level of individual cities and individual tile yields. New Civ will return to the old slider system of large economic spending, with each civ pulling in X amount of commerce per turn and then dividing that between research, gold, culture, and so on. One minor thing that I'd like to try would be allowing players to set individual percentages on these sliders, instead of the somewhat hamhanded 10% chunks that past games have used. Maybe have the standard sliders on the main display screen, but then have a box on the Financial Advisor screen where players can type in exact amounts. New Civ will use non-integer math as in Civ5 and Civ4's expansions, so there's no real reason why someone shouldn't be allowed to run 84% science if that's the amount they want. It's a minor detail, but one I think worth implementing. (Also, while I know many people have suggested having individual adjustable slider settings for each city, that feels too micro-intensive and counter-productive to me. Remember, the design goal for New Civ is about large scale empires; this feels like it would run counter to that. Sorry.)
New Civ will borrow the economic model from Civ4 in which cities cost money when they are planted, incurring an initial investment cost, and then become productive and go "into the black" from a cost perspective as they grow and add infrastructure. Buildings inside cities will not have any costs, beyond the production required to build them. This is the best model that I have found in terms of creating a real economic tradeoff between vertical growth (building up) and horizontal growth (expansion), and I see no reason not to use it. This system pretty much slays Infinite City Sprawl (ICS) dead, and does so in a much more fun way than other alternatives that have been tried (corruption, global happiness, etc.)
Thus cities will incur maintenance costs when they are planted, as in Civ4. Now in Civ4, maintenance costs were further broken down into several categories: "distance from capital", "number of cities", and then in the expansions "overseas colonial costs" and "corporation costs." Out of these four groups, the colonial maintenance costs will be scrapped entirely; that was a stupid design decision in Beyond the Sword, and should never have been implemented. Penalizing players for having cities on another landmass is silly and not fun. Corporation cost we'll leave aside for the moment. Between the two basic maintenance sources, I'd like to keep the "distance from capital" one in play, while replacing "number of cities" maintenance with the new concept of "instability" maintenance. Stability is a concept that's been introduced in a number of mods for Civ3/Civ4, most famously in the Rhye's and Fall of Civ mod, wherein larger empires suffer from instability and are prone to internal revolts or cities defecting. My feeling is that the concept itself is a very good one, but the implementation in the Rhye's mod is very poorly documented and generally not much fun. (Slight tangent: "rebels spawning" as a game mechanic is inherently flawed, in my opinion. It's too random, it's immersive-breaking as units appear out of nowhere or your own units turn against you, and the overall design is too punitive, punishing the player. Not something I endorse.) Stability in New Civ will be an economic concept, not a political one involving defections/rebellions. At the start of the game, your government has high instability and this is reflected in high city maintenance costs when you settle new cities (the Palace will make capitals immune to these effects). Early cities will have to stay relatively close to the capital, as instability maintenance increases as you get further away from the capital, and you won't be able to plant too many cities overall. As you research new techs in the Government tree, your instability maintenance costs will decrease and allow you to settle more cities, and cities further and further away. In practice, this will function rather similarly to Civ4's "number of cities" maintenance for much of the game, but it will be moving in the opposite direction over time: cities will grow cheaper with more advanced tech, not more expensive from "number of cities" maintenance. This feels more natural to me as a concept.
If cities are going to be relatively cheap by the end of the game, then what's going to prevent income from spiralling out of control at the macro level? The answer to that will be unit maintenance and city defenses. You're going to need a fairly substantial army to keep yourself safe in New Civ, and those units will have to be maintained. City defenses won't be free either; unlike all other structures, building more towers will cost gold to maintain, just like units. These two will eat up much of the free income in the later stages of the game, and the rest will go into researching new technologies. There will also likely be some sort of inflation mechanic again to keep the system from spiralling out of control. Without working with real numbers it's hard to be more specific than this, but hopefully I can convey a little bit of how I would want the system to work.
There's one other empire-wide system that I'd like to
steal borrow from Master of Orion and add to New Civ's overall design: the Reserve fund. In Master of Orion, you can have your planets put their excess production into a Reserve fund, which allows that production to be spent elsewhere on other planets. This is the game's only version of "rush-buying" or "Slavery", a way to get things done faster. There are two major catches, however. First all production that goes into the Reserve carries a penalty: for every 2 units of production put into the Reserve, you can only spend 1 unit elsewhere. You waste half of all production that goes into the Reserve, so it carries a significant penalty. Secondly, no matter how much Reserve money you spend, you can only double a planet's natural production rate. (Any excess spent will go towards doubling production on the next turn.) In other words, no magic army out of the ether, no 1-turn wonders, no building up a big bank account and then purchasing whatever you need. If you can't spot threats ahead of time in Master of Orion, you will lose, because you can only double production at any one planet on any one turn.
The system is so brilliant that I would love to see it incorportated into the Civilization series too. New Civ will have the same Reserve system; you can choose to have any city put its production into the Imperial Reserve (again, at a 50% penalty to do so) and then spend it elsewhere, but at most you can only double the production of the city in question. This would be the only way of rushing things in New Civ, and it would be available from the very start of the game, but you'd have to be very careful about using it. Both Civ4 (Slavery/Nationhood draft) and Civ5 (cash-rushing) made it a little too easy to get a magic army into a threatened city. New Civ will limit this kind of last-moment production. Notice how it's pretty much impossible to insta-produce anything in a brand new size 1 city, which is a good thing both for gameplay and immersion.
Cities themselves will return to the health and happiness system employed in Civ4, wherein each city starts with X amount of happiness and health and then needs more to grow beyond a certain point. Too little health and the city stops growing; too little happiness and extra citizen population becomes unhappy and sits there uselessly sucking up food without working. As before, health and happiness will be increased through a variety of different areas, like resources, city infrastructure, religion, civ traits, certain civics/social policies, and so on. Resources will once again be shared on a civ-wide level, as that's the best way to make the happy/health model work, and there will be *WAY* too many units to tie them individually to resources. This also fits with the overall "large scale" design goals for New Civ. The game is also going to return to the traditional 21-tile "Fat Cross" for cities, which means a return to the non-hexagonal tile map. I have nothing against the hexes, but the third ring of tiles is clearly superfluous in Civ5 (cities almost never go above size 20) and only serves as an incentive to cram cities together closely. And two rings of hexes are only 18 tiles instead of 21, which feels too small to me, so we'll go back to the older system of straight lines, which was also much easier to manage on the city screen interface.
At the individual tile level, New Civ will emphasize high yields for improved tiles. This is critical: it's very important for improved tiles to be better, *MUCH* better, than unimproved tiles. This was achieved in Civ4 but not in Civ5, and was a major flaw in the latter game's design. For the most part, New Civ will try to keep the yields in place from Civ4 because of how well they worked, and I would like to see tile improvements such as the cottage, the watermill, the workshop, and so on return to the game. However, there will be a couple of new changes to improvements. First of all, the free shields from chopping forests need to go entirely from the game. It was never intended to be a key part of Civ4's design, and forest chopping is way too strong in Civ4/Civ5. (For those who don't know, the few people who play Civ5 MP competitively normally settle directly on resources and chop forests for production.) The game would just be better off without forest chopping providing those shields, so New Civ will ditch the concept. To make up for it, New Civ will mimic Civ5 in moving lumbermills much further up the tech tree into the Medieval era, rather than the late Renaissance, so players have something to do with those forests. In Civ4 lumbermills are actually pretty good, but they arrive so late on the tech tree that you might as well just chop those forests for the early boost instead. We'll fix that with New Civ.
Secondly, the whole idea of the cottage being an improvement that grows over time is one of the best things that's ever happened to the Civ series. Rather than get rid of it (a baffling Civ5 design decision), New Civ is going to embrace the cottage and spread the concept to other improvements too. We'll keep the cottage and its 10/20/40 pattern of growth into hamlet/village/town, then duplicate it with other improvements. I would like to have three tiers of mines (I have no idea what the names would be, for now I'll use basic mine, improved mine, and advanced mine) which would require 40/80 turns to improve. Work a basic mine for 40 turns and it turns into an improved mine with +1 production; work the same tile another 80 turns and it becomes an advanced mine with another +1 to production. This would be independent of lategame railroad boost, so you'd have a starting plains hill basic mine at 0 food/4 production, then it would become an improved mine at 0/5, then an advanced mine at 0/6, and finally with railroad it could eventually max out at 0/7. That's a lot of production from one tile! Lumbermills and workshops would follow the same pattern (adding +1 production at two stages), the windmill would add commerce like a cottage, and the watermill would add +1 production first, then +1 food at the top tier. Of course I'm leaving out the most basic improvement of all, the farm, and that's with good reason: food is the hardest and most crucial thing to balance in the Civ games. Mess it up and you break the game itself. (See: Maritime city states.) What I would tentatively like to do is remove the Civil Service/Biology/Fertilizer midgame food boost and simply have farm growth as the only incremental increase in food production. After 40 turns a normal farm becomes an improved farm with +1 food, and after 80 more turns it becomes an advanced farm with another +1 food. A basic grassland tile would therefore be 5 food/0 shields when fully improved under this system... but it would take 120 turns to get there, which is far from trivial. Note that this system would also apply to resources, so you could have a corn resource with 7 food or an iron mine with 9 production. Like the ones in the above picture, only even greater - big tile yields indeed!
Anyway, what's the logic behind all this? There are three goals here: first, create a major difference between improved and unimproved tiles. A big city working lots of improved tiles will absolutely annihilate a small city with no tile improvements, which is how it should be. Secondly, it will be critical to protect your tiles during warfare from being pillaged. I mentioned before how the combat system could often result in sieges forming, and even if a city has very strong wall/tower defenses, you'll need a field army to go out and protect your economy from being destroyed through pillaging. Lose those advanced farms and your cities will starve, losing those improved mines and your production will be set back for centuries, much like losing fully mature cottages in Civ4. Finally, the other goal is to reward players for steady investment over time. Working the same tile for a long time should carry rewards and growth; this advantages players who think out their city planning ahead of time and don't go around changing tile improvements constantly. It also rewards old cities and makes them desirable targets - capitals will have lots of "advanced" tiles and will be very juicy targets. The major change compared to past Civ games is that New Civ will have much, much more production available, especially in the lategame. However, this is balanced out by a couple of factors. Number one, there is no Slavery or insta-cash rushing anymore, only the Imperial Reserve (which works off of city production anyway), so players will need that increased production to get things finished. Number two, the main reason why Civ games have limited production in the past is to keep down army size. This was especially true in Civ5 with One Unit Per Tile, but it played a role in past games as well. You can't have hundreds of units in Civ4 because it will drown the player in tedious micromanagement. But in New Civ we can get around that limitation, because of the way units group up and fight together. There's essentially no stack limit in New Civ; Master of Orion limited you to 32,000 (2 ^ 15) ships of the same type, and I see no reason why New Civ couldn't have the same astronomical upper limit. It's literally not a problem if players are cranking out 100 rifles every single turn, because they're all going to be in armies fighting and moving together as essentially one unit. Therefore, let's crank up the production, reward those tile yields that were worked over time, get some giant and massively powerful cities, and then build some armies to go conquer the world!
I'm going to try and shorten these new few sections because I feel that I've written too much already for a fantasy project. Nevertheless, let me go into a little bit more detail about the government system in New Civ; these are the various things that would be researched under the Government tech tree. I already explained how cities would have a "stability" maintenance cost associated with them, which would decrease over time with techs researched under this field. The other techs in the Government tree would be the civics or social policies themselves; I'm still not sure which name to use for them (civic policies, perhaps? Heh.) While I liked the idea of tying culture to social policies in Civ5, I think that ultimately the whole system makes more sense to tie these things along with the regular tech tree, rather than splitting them off into a separate tree of their own. Therefore in New Civ you'll unlock new civic policies as you research techs in the Government tree, and you'll have the option of adopting them or not. Some of the civic policies would have an economic benefit, some of them would help civs prepare for war, some would be tied to religion or wonders, you get the idea. So far, pretty similar to past games.
Here's how I would shake things up just a little bit. First, I would agree with Civ5's design in eliminating the concept of Anarchy from New Civ. Yes, this is something that Civ5 got right; Anarchy was not a fun concept in past Civ games, and the series is better off without it. New Civ will not have any kind of Anarchy period when changing civic policies, although you would have to wait a certain amount of time after changing (10 turns, perhaps?) before you could change again. Secondly, the civic policies will work like Civ4 in the sense that you choose between different options, and can change into or out of them as you go along throughout the game. The Civ5 social policies are pretty good on the whole, but ultimately I feel the inability to ever change policies once taken is a bit too restrictive. Unlike Civ4, however, the civic policies in New Civ won't have set "categories" or "columns" to choose between; you can have any 5 civic policies in operation at once, without restriction. To use a Civ4 example, if you want to have Representation + Universal Suffrage + Hereditary Rule all active at once, go for it... but you can then only have two other civic policies in operation total from all the other categories. This is a step to move away from the original social engineering matrix used in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and adopt a more open-ended system.
Finally, I'd like to bring the same system of tiered benefits accruing over time used with the tile improvements to the civic policies system. Let's say that there's a civic policy like Civ4's Bureaucracy that grants +50% production and commerce in the capital city. I'd like to have a system where sticking with Bureaucracy for a long time will increase that benefit; say it increases to +70% if you've stuck with Bureaucracy for 50 turns, and then +100% if you stay with the civic policy for another 100 turns after that. This is then the antidote to constant swapping between different policies: players have to decide between sticking with a certain few for a long time (and getting the increased benefits) or flexibility to keep choosing back and forth. It also makes it tough to decide what to do when new tech comes in - do you swap over to a new and perhaps better policy, or stick with the one that you already have which has a major bonus from long use? I think those would be interesting choices, and an improvement on the system employed in the past couple of games. (Of course, it means most or all of the new civic policies have to be scalable over time, rather than just "allows the player to slave cities", and that could be a little tough... I think the theory itself is sound though!)
Great People would remain mostly unchanged in the New Civ design. I would like to keep the same four Great People from Civ5 (Artist, Engineer, Merchant, Scientist) which are tied to specialist production in cities and bring back the Priest/Great Prophet from Civ4, since religion will be back in the game again. They will each mostly keep their same functions: Artist claims cultural tiles in some fashion (culture bomb), Engineer completes production of some large city project, Merchant can be delivered to a foreign city for gold, the Scientist builds an Academy and/or researches techs. The Great Prophet will function a little bit differently in New Civ, although I'll explain that further in the religion section. All of the Great People can still be used to start a Golden Age, and they will each be able to research techs tied to their relative trees: Great General (Unit tree), Great Engineer (Structures), Great Artist (non-religious Arts/Culture tree), Great Prophet (religious Arts/Culture tree), and Great Merchant (Government tree; yeah it's a little bit of a stretch but whatever). Scientists will be able to lightbulb techs from any of these trees, or the Landscape/Environment tree, making them the most valuable for pure lightbulbing of techs. Unlike Civ5, all Great People will be limited in how many beakers they can produce from a lightbulb (as in Civ4), and you cannot lightbulb a tech in an era that hasn't already been unlocked. In other words, in order to research a Renaissance Structures tech with a Great Engineer, you must already have one Renaissance tech in the Structures tree. (You could then pick any tech you wanted to lightbulb within those restrictions, or go back to lightbulb an older Structures tech that you skipped earlier.) This will allow players to slingshot ahead a tech at the start of a new tech era, but will otherwise reign in Great Person lightbulbing from getting too crazy. One last point about lightbulbing: subject to the above restrictions (can't leap forward beyond your current era, limit on how mant beakers a Great Person can produce), Great People in New Civ will have the ability to lightbulb techs that are not available in your own tech tree! Have some kind of critical tech hole that you're dying to fill? Generate a Great Person of the appropriate type (or a Scientist) and plug that hole. But of course you'll have to spend a Great Person to do it... I think that would make for some really awesome tradeoffs and fun choices there, and it fits perfectly with the design of the random tech tree. Finally, Great People will also be available for merging into cities as super-specialists once again, which was a nice option to have in many circumstances.
Great Person production will follow the model used in Civ5, where Great Person points were separated by type, rather than being grouped together into one pool as in Civ4. Yes, this is indeed one thing that Civ5 did better than Civ4. And no, I'm not so blinded by tradition that I can't recognize a better gameplay system when it comes along. Eliminating dice rolls and random chance as far as what Great Person individual cities will produce can only be a good thing. As for the actual value of specialists themselves, their yields will be closer to Civ4 than to Civ5 (where most of the specialists are pretty bad!) A lot of the social civics (and wonders) will boost specialist yields, in order to make them competitive with New Civ's very high lategame tile yields. I would definitely like to bring over Civ5's "Freedom" policy where specialists only eat 1 food instead of 2; that was a great idea and makes specialists much more viable compared to working the land. New Civ will also want to bring back Civ4's "Caste System" civic in some form, to allow unfettered use of specialists. Anyway, I don't want to get into exact numbers or I'll be here forever designing an imaginary game. I think that there's lot of potential here to bring back the Specialist Economy (SE) which was so popular in Civ4, and allow it to be competitive with the Commerce Economy (CE) once again.
Religion was a very popular feature in Civ4, and it's something that I would like to bring back to the series for New Civ. Most of the religious mechanics work would in similar ways, such as using missionaries for religious spread, religion being tied to buildings like temples/monasteries/cathedrals, and so on. However, this being a new game, we could refine and improve upon some of the mechanics from Civ4. For one thing, the way in which religions were founded in that game was always a bit silly. The first one to research a religious tech founded the religion, which could have been done a lot better. In New Civ, you won't always have the techs for each religion in your tree, so the system needs to work a bit differently. I would rather do things the way that some of the Civ4 mods use religion, with the religious tech opening up a wonder that will found the religion when built. These would be relatively cheap wonders (think Stonehenge's cost in Civ4/Civ5) but would nevertheless represent a fairly big early game investment to construct. When completed the religion would be founed in the city that built the wonder, and would therefore become the Holy City. This would also solve the random selection of Holy Cities issue from Civ4, when sometimes you'd get a very undesirable spot as your religion's headquarters!
Founding the religion itself and owning the Holy City would provide some benefits, likely in the form of culture and happiness as in Civ4. However, players could then increase these benefits further by using a Great Prophet to build the appropriate shrine for that religion in the same Holy City, setting up the monk economy by further spreding the faith to other cities. I'm being a little bit vague because I would like to see New Civ again imitate some of the Civ4 mods by creating different benefits for each religion, distinguishing them in the same way that civs and leaders are distinguished from one another. Obviously this would have to be done carefully to avoid offending people, but I do think it would add to the gameplay and prevent all of the religions from being the same. The whole idea again is to mimic the tiered system of benefits we saw with tile yields earlier: just having a religion present in a city would give a small benefit, owning the Holy City would offer larger benefits, and owning Holy City + Shrine would convey some serious advantages. What would those be? Well maybe something like all religions give +1 culture/turn in the city in question (owner of the religion or not); if you own the Holy City and have adopted that faith then you get +1 happiness and +3 culture/turn; and if you own Holy City + Shrine then you get the aforementioned benefits along with +1 production and +1 gold each turn. These benefits would vary between religions, of course. Obviously this would all require a lot of balancing work to get right, but I think it's the sort of conceptual thing that would move the series forward and make religion not just an imitation of past games.
One last point on religion. Too often a bunch of the religions in Civ4 would end up being useless and never spread around. I actually think there were too many religions in Civ4, and the gameplay would have been better off with a couple less. For New Civ, I would like to try amalgamating Confucianism and Taoism together into a single religion (there's a lot of overlap between these two already in real life) and going with six religions: two tied to techs in the Ancient Age, two in the Classical Age, and two in the Medieval age. Then no further religions in the Renaissance, which makes sense because it's the start of rationalist/secularist thought. That's how I would do it, anyway.
Diplomacy was pretty much a failure in Civ5, and I would revamp it significantly for New Civ. First of all, New Civ will be working from a completely different design philosophy when it comes to interactions with the AI. New Civ will be based around transparency and providing as much information to the player as possible, rather than secrecy and trying to hide things from the player. Wrapping the AIs in mystery doesn't work because they all appear insane that way - even if there was a rationale for their actions, it won't make sense to players if they can't see what that is - and it's generally not much fun to play. This means bringing back the pluses (+) and minuses (-) to diplomatic modifiers so that players can see the results of their actions. New Civ will try to be even more transparent about this than Civ4; when an AI leader pops up with a request or demand, you'll be able to see the effects of your decision before making them. "Yes we agree to your demand" would have a little +2 modifier next to it, while "No we don't give in!" would have a little -3 next to it, or whatever the numbers will be. You will also get some kind of notification that trading with this leader will make another leader unhappy *BEFORE* you sign a deal, rather than finding out through trial and error that you've just incurred a "you traded with our worst enemies" penalty.
However, at the same time I know that the little numbers breaks immersion for some players and takes them out of the feeling that they're ruling a nation. For those individuals, New Civ will have an option to remove the modifiers completely and just work off of the "Gracious", "Cautious", or "Furious" moods that give a general indication of how the AI feels. I wouldn't expect this to be a particularly popular option, but I have read that there are players who genuinely do want this, and it should be pretty trivial to implement as an option. That feels like the best of both worlds to me, information there for those who want it, turn it off for those who don't. New Civ is also scrapping the "hidden modifiers" that weren't displayed on the diplo screen, because that was a terrible design decision in Civ4 and never should have existed. The diplo screen should never be lying to you about the real numbers!
I have heard many people defend Civ5 by claiming that all diplomacy in Civ4 was based around religious blocks, and that it was too easy to adopt someone's religion and become their best friend. I do not agree with this line of argumentation, and New Civ would definitely bring back significant diplomatic modifiers based around religion. You can appease one AI leader by swapping to their religion, but then all the AIs that don't practice that religion will hate you, and that feels like a real and interesting choice to me (unless there's only two of you on an island or something). I do agree though that it was too easy to make friends in Civ4; the system itself was good, but a little too easily gamed. New Civ would again have a relations point where the civ in question will never declare war on you, but it will be much tougher to achieve. In Civ4, most leaders would never declare war once you got them to +10 relations; the same point in New Civ would be about double that, around +20 on the relations scale. The diplomatic advisor would also let you know straight out when relations had improved to the point where a civ would not declare war on you, instead of making it a guessing game digging around in the XML code. Again, the system itself from Civ4 was a good one, we just need to make it tougher to reach the point of safety.
I think that Tech Trading needs to exist in New Civ as an option, although I would prefer that it default to being turned off. The random tech tree is based around the notion of having tech holes to work around, and trading would circumvent a lot of that design. Still, it should be an option that players can have on or off as they will it, rather than axeing the feature entirely as in Civ5. If tech trading were turned on, the AI would be programmed to be very stingy about giving up its tech, to prevent trading from ruling the gameplay. They would need an extremely favorable deal to give anything up, and they wouldn't trade much with one another either. As far as other diplomatic options, Open Borders and international trade routes definitely need to return to the gameplay, as that offered a major economic rationale for staying at peace with other civs. I also think that map trades should return, mostly because I see no real reason why civs shouldn't be able to exchange maps (not to mention, exploring every single tile on the map becomes tedious). Resource trades, gold trades, all the usual stuff would be around. However, only lump-sum trades for lump-sum goods, or per-turn trades for per-turn trades, as in Civ4. We don't need any of that Civ3/Civ5 garbage of trading all of your resources and gold per turn for a giant lump sum of money, then declare war and invalidate the trade instantly. That's terrible game design.
I should also explain that the AIs in New Civ are there to provide a challenge to the player, but they are not explicitly "playing to win" per se. You will not see your longtime Gracious ally suddenly stab you in the back at the last moment in an attempt to win. I don't think this is fun to play, and it makes a mockery of the diplomatic system if the AI will turn on you whenever it feels like it. Yes, the AI will vote for you in the United Nations if you've built up enough positive modifiers over the length of the game. If the AI will never vote for you diplomatically, then there's not really a point to diplomacy, is there? I absolutely hate games where the AI is programmed to gang up against the player just to prevent him/her from winning. That will not happen in New Civ, or at least it won't happen in an immersion-breaking way. (Now if you pissed them all off, they might gang up on you! But it won't happen just because you're about to win.)
Generally speaking, the victory conditions will scrap the Civ5 changes and return to the older systems of winning the game. Conquest should always mean killing every other civ on the planet in a brutal display of power. "Taking capital cities" leads to bad gameplay and is completely unrealistic, plus leads to other poor design decisions (like capital cities not being razeable, ugh!) Domination victory returns as a faster means of winning the game via aggression; I think that the land and population requirements should be slightly lower than in Civ3/Civ4, because the endgame of a Domination victory always seems to drag out into a slog. Spaceship would be the same as always, although without the stupid "waiting period" / "drive your spaceship parts to the capital city" micromanagement nonsense of Civ4's expansions and Civ5. Diplomatic victory eliminates city states and once again involves only the AI civilizations, as well as going back to the far superior population-based model of voting. I would like to see the United Nations have a much bigger role in the game overall, voting on a wide-ranging group of resolutions with real power. I like what the Apostolic Palance and UN were doing in Civ4 Beyond the Sword before the wonder was completely neutered in Civ5. The diplo victory should go back to that system and further expand on it.
Cultural victory has always been the most troubled of the victory conditions. The implementation in Civ5 wasn't a good one, because it completely ruled out large empires from winning by culture. The trick is to create a subsystem in which large and small civs compete on equal terms with one another, not create a victory condition that simply excludes large civs. I generally like the way that Civ4 did this, although with a few caveats. One thing I would like to change is the way in which you could have a bunch of cottages in Civ4, never focus especially much on culture, and then turn on the slider and pump culture for 50 turns, then win the game. That's silly. New Civ would try to put mechanics in place from stopping that, such as once you hit a certain amount of culture (5k or 10k, maybe?) you get diminishing returns on running the slider or using the "Build Culture" option. That way you could still use these things for their intended use, boosting new cities in their culture production, without turning the run to 50k into a cheese fest. I've played and won by culture in Civ4 without using the slider, and it was a much more fun experience, based around using specialists and building wonders/cathedrals. If we could get that kind of system into place for New Civ, it would probably work pretty well.
That's covered most of what I wanted to talk about in terms of additions to New Civ. Here are various game elements that I don't plan on incorportating, and the reasons why I would leave them out.
* Espionage: This is a subsystem that would work really well with the random tech trees, particularly allowing you to steal techs that aren't in your tree from rival civs, as in Master of Orion. However, it would require designing an entirely new espionage system from scratch, not trying to use the ones that existed in Civ3/Civ4, and I feel like this project is ambition enough already. Would make a great addition in an expanion for New Civ.
* Vassal States: I've never liked vassal states or understood their purpose. Would a human player willingly vassal themselves to an AI player, and give up on any chance of winning the game? Similarly, why would an AI player just give up and surrender, rather than continuing to fight and resist? In Civ4, vassal states and capitulation generally exist in a state where you beat on target X until they're willing to vassalize themselves, while hoping that they don't vassal to another power in the process (which drags you into war with them as well). I simply don't like this as a concept, and the mechanics of it can get byzantine to say the least. All of the entities in the game should be trying to win, not vassalizing themselves.
* City States: That ties into the same point for city states. Their whole concept goes against the design goals of New Civ: big empires, focus on expansion, powerful armies, and so on. The whole notion of AI entities that sit around and never expand doesn't make sense in an empire-building game. If the player wants more AIs to interact with, then simply add more AIs on the startup screen. Civ5's city states would be sitting ducks for the player to munch on and eat (like the minor races in Galactic Civ) except that they provide gigantic, game-breaking benefits from becoming their allies. This is even worse from a standpoint of game design... Anyway, there will be no city states in New Civ. This is a game for the big boys, not the small fries.
* Corporations: The issue with corporations isn't so much that they're bad, it's just that they're superfluous. They add another layer of micromanagement to a game that really doesn't need it. They are very much an "expansion feature", something that doesn't need to be part of game design but gets thrown in anyway as part of "more stuff" to drive purchases. New Civ will cut corporations as an extraneous, unneeded feature. Lategame tile yields will be significantly boosted anyway from working tiles over time, thus providing no real purpose for corporations.
* Friendship Pacts/Denunciations: These are also superfluous and gamey. You gain relations with an AI civ not by "declaring friendship" but through building up positive relations/modifiers over time. Denunciations operate the same way, but in reverse. I don't see what these things add to the gameplay, other than crowding the diplo screen with a lot of tedious text. Let the modifiers speak for themselves.
Well, I could keep going with this, but there's a limit to how much time even I'm willing to spend in typing up the design features of an imaginary game. In the fantasy scenario where I would be put in charge of designing a Civilization game, this is how I would do it. I've tried to incorporate the best features of the dozens of different turn-based strategy games I've played over the years, while staying true to the core features of what makes the Civ series great. I've tried to focus on designing game mechanics that would be fun and interesting to experience, and stay away from things that would penalize the player or be too tedious to manage. I believe very deeply that the Civilization games are about empire-building, and therefore should reward expansion, teching upwards, and building a large army. The civ that can do those things the best is the one that deserves to win the game.
Anyway, that's my piece on designing New Civ. I hope that's a sufficient answer to those who claimed I simply wanted another version of Civ4. Firaxis, I'll give these thoughts to you for free. If you want to hire me as a design consultant to turn New Civ into Civilization 6, you know where to reach me.