Sunday, March 12, 2006

Civilization IV mods

Civilization IV (Civ IV) is a turn based strategy game where the player's goal is to build a civilization. Players start with a single settler in 4000 BC, and then build up their civilization over time by settling more cities, acquiring resources, researching new technologies, building military units, and improving their towns by building buildings (e.g., a university, coliseum, aqueduct, temple) or modifying the land around their towns (e.g., building a farm or mine). The game is designed to allow players to think strategically, and so (unlike many current games) there's nothing rushing the player to complete each turn; a single game often lasts 10 to 30 hours. The game is addictive.

One of the neat things about Civilization IV is how flexible the game is. Even how a player wins the game is up to them; players can win by using military might to conquer the other civilizations in the world, by out-performing their competitors scientifically, by having the most cultured civilization, or by playing politics just right and winning a diplomatic victory. [As a side note, I generally try to play so that I don't win militarily, and am proud to say that this afternoon I finally won a cultural victory.]

To make the game even more flexible, the game is coded so that fans can easily modify the game's mechanics. This is called modding, and even though the game has only been released for a few months, sites like CivFanatics have dozens of fan-created mods already available (see the pages on them here). These mods can do everything from changing the way the clock displays to changing the game so that it models WWII.

Since the game is attempting (to some extent) to model history, discussions that occur in the modding forums can often be historically interesting; take, for instance, this discussion on how to better model military technological development in the middle ages. The discussions can also be exceptionally geeky, as with the discussion surrounding a mod that allows players to play as various Star Wars civilizations. The Civ IV Hall of Fame even has its own set of mods approved for use in games players want to submit to the Hall of Fame.

I haven't used any of the mods yet (I'm still thoroughly enjoying the "basic" game), but two that have caught my eye are the logging mod (which allows players to take notes on their games) and the alerts mod (which sends the player messages when important events are happening in each of their cities).

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