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Old 08-05-2008, 10:41 AM   #22
Poet in Residence
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Charleston, SC
I've been thinking about this issue of managing complexity while playing Civilization 4 again -- it and FOF are the only two games I consistently return to year after year. To my mind, though, Civ 4's major accomplish is in designing a gameplay experience that a) presents a vast array of different, interrelated data in an entertaining, informative, and non-overwhelming way while doing so by b) having a 'guided' set of actions before the player is able to exercise full control.

The genius of the 'guided set of actions' approach is that it creates the famous 'one more turn' effect -- my sense is that the way it is designed offers a useful philosophical model for text sims as well. When the player ends a turn, he watches certain plans resolve (e.g. a granary is built in city A, what do you want to build now?), and when control is given, sets things up again to resolve one or two (or as is generally the case, hours worth of gameplay more) more plans, or engage in combat, before ending the turn again. The guided actions give the player an overview of what is occuring, allows normal, general changes to be made, and then permits the player to change things further. Because of the various automated settings, a casual player is able to control a number of game decisions in a timely, guided manner. If a player wishes to have more (or less) control, the settings can be tweaked, but the immersive technical experience is remarkable effective in keeping a player playing, rather than consulting outside notes or updating spreadsheets.

It seems to me that FOF offers fertile ground for such an addition (to the current elements, such as the e-mail system), as guided elements would reduce a key concern while playing -- how long it can take to process the different general non-match tasks in comparison to playing the matches. Partly that's the point of the game, I suppose, but the experience could be made more enjoyable. Could it be as simple as having e-mails pop up, rather than have to remember to click on several different screens prior to each game?
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