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Welcome

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

– Leonardo DaVinchi

Civ V: Communitas is a community-made expansion pack for Civilization V.

Communitas is a collaboration of work from dozens of authors, plus an incredible community of forumgoers on CivFanatics.com. Click “Install” at right to try it out.

Projects are never perfect, and I wish I’d been able to do more, but I feel we put our best effort into it as a community. Great job everyone!

It’s been a thrilling four years working on this. Steam says I’ve worked over 5,000 hours on Communitas, which is wild to think about, and I feel that was time well spent. It’s provided invaluable lessons for my game design career. The most important part for me was the community we built. So many game developers distance themselves from their audience through community reps and press releases. I feel direct conversations between designers and players helps build a better game, like we did here.

I don’t have much free time to mod games anymore, sadly. This is likely farewell. I’m spending most of my time working on indie game development now. I might end up making a small Beyond Earth mod anyway. What can I say, I just can’t help myself. It’s so much fun!

Click to read my Beyond Earth review, or scroll down to see more thoughts about the game.

Thank you, everyone who’s helped and played Communitas over the years. I’m grateful!

~ Thalassicus

Civ 6 First Impressions

I watched the trailer for Civ 6 a long while back, but avoided reading anything about the game after that so I can form unbiased first-hand impressions. These are my thoughts.

Good

This has lots of features for a vanilla release of a new Civ game. I see most major parts of Civ 5 in here. In contrast, vanilla Civ 3-4-5 each felt like two steps forward, one step back — especially compared to all the innovations of Alpha Centauri.

  • I’m reminded once again of the fantastic art and sound team at Firaxis. The art style is beautiful, and characters have a lot of visual personality. I actually enjoy listening to the music in their games, while most other developers have minimal, often repetitive soundtracks.
  • The overall look and feel of the game is very classy. I like the map theme for the art.
  • Specific AI agendas. This was something I liked in Stellaris. It makes them feel more lifelike than the old preferences system.
  • I like how easy it is to swap out policies. It allows the player to experiment and learn what policies work best for the current situation.
  • I like the little improvements here and there, such as completed techs stating they “just finished” instead of “0 turns remaining.”
  • Traders form roads, like how roads appeared historically.
  • Land value is now a thing. It makes sense people don’t want to live in a swamp.
  • Boosts make research more complex than simply queuing up 10 items. It encourages you to adapt to the circumstances of your enviornment.
  • Individual workers and improvements feel more important now, since they’re less common.
  • Wonder-building animations returned! Woohoo! I loved that in Civ 4.
  • Landlocked cities can build ships from a Harbor on the coast.

Neutral

  • Sean Bean ironically can’t die because he’s the immortal narrator.
  • Moving onto a tile now requires the full movement cost for units. This is a dramatic change for the Civ series. We can’t spend our last 0.5 move points to enter a 3-cost forested hill, for example. Rivers feel particularly difficult to cross now compared to the past.
  • Cities appear to automatically provide a bridge over adjacent rivers.
  • Every new Civ game has a new approach to great people. It’ll be interesting to see how this one affects things.
  • Splitting physical and social techs is a fascinating idea. I’m unsure what ramifications this will have.
  • I think they move the minimap around the screen with each new version of civ.
  • I was surprised when my friendly neighbor China declared war and defeated me in my first game on King difficulty. This never happened in a past Civ game. I clearly need to change my opening strategy to deal with the higher AI aggressiveness.

Bad

There’s numerous problems with the interface. In particular, tooltips are sparse or non-existent, making detailed information frustratingly difficult to find. This really stands out after playing Stellaris, which has a great interface and plentiful tooltips.

  • It took me half an hour to figure out the red tent icon on my capital means it grows slower and produces less yields. I never got a tutorial popup about amenities, the “low amenities” notification did not appear on the right, and neither the on-map city bar nor bottom-right city panel has a tooltip explaining the concept.
  • The dark, irregularly textured background of the Civilopedia makes lengthy articles difficult to read. It may look pretty, but there’s a reason most text in the world is high-contrast black-on-white or vice versa.
  • I can’t find ingame information about the chance for missionaries or apostles to fail to spread religion.
  • Can’t figure out how to form an alliance with friends after getting Civil Service. I looked all over the Diplomacy window, including deal options, and could not find an alliance button. I also tried giving my friends absurdly nice gifts, but it didn’t increase their opinion of me further or unlock an alliance. (Update: it appears my friend was at war, which blocked the alliance without announcing this fact anywhere.)
  • No hotkey information on tooltips. Several commands are missing a hotkey entirely, like “heal until fortified” or “toggle yield display.”
  • If I’m looking at the Civics Tree and press T to switch to the Tech Tree, it still shows Civics, with Techs hidden behind it.

Cities: Skylines

If you like city-building games, I highly recommend Cities: Skylines. I maintain a collection of my favorite mods and assets here: Thal’s Picks

Starships and Raising Hell

I had the opportunity to watch Sid’s Starships demo at PAX South last weekend, which was fun!

It’s tempting to compare the game to XCOM’s turn-based tactical movement, but Starships looks different enough to be a unique new game, particularly the story and galactic strategic view. I love how it continues Beyond Earth’s storyline, something I really enjoyed once I delved into the Civilopedia backstory for BE units, buildings, and techs. Starships reminds me more of a turn-based Sword of the Stars, another cool game I enjoyed. I have a Starships poster on my wall now, and I’m looking forward to it!

I was at the convention with an indie game team I founded with some new friends last year. We had a table at the Texas Indie Showcase booth featuring our first game, Raising Hell! As an exhibitor, you gotta be enthusiastic and outgoing for hours with thousands of strangers, which was both exciting and exhausting!

In the game, Hell’s freezing over and a devil named Damian has to escape. Various angels and demonic creatures try to stop you. It’s a challenging touchscreen platformer where you rapidly teleport to move. We progressed from creation to release of the game in just half a year, which is very quick, for those of you who know how indie development normally goes.

I’m currently the lead designer/producer. I set out to make a more difficult and mature experience than most touchscreen games, with a fun, collaborative team culture at our office.

The free demo’s available on all app stores for phones and tablets – just search for “Raising Hell”, and tell your friends to spread the word!

mishmashmachine.com/raising-hell

We’re currently investigating a few Unity and memory-loading issues on Android phones running v4.4 KitKat, so try out the free Lite version to see if your phone can play the game. We’re hoping to have those issues solved this weekend.

Civ:BE – Biomes and Multiplayer

I discovered something interesting today. Every biome has unique music!

There’s 8-9 soundtracks for each biome, and another 15 that can play on any biome. I’m really happy with the music in this game. It’s more variety in sights and sounds than I got in Civ 5. I tended to play one or two civs most of the time, so I heard just their soundtracks, and all the Civ 5 “continent” terrain sets looked more similar than Beyond Earth biomes.

Multiplayer’s a lot of fun!

I’m playing 2-person coop with a friend vs bots. It’s interesting how trade between teammates counts as internal trade. I also like how the game scales tech costs to keep us from outpacing our opponents (like Civ 5).  I noticed an odd tendency to start near teammates in coop. I wonder if that placement is intended, or just random good luck?

Beyond Earth Mods

I recommend trying the Colorful Tech Web mod. It helps identify things on the tech tree at a quick glance, much more easily than the subtle variation of icon borders between different types of items.

I recommend avoiding the temptation to install an “unlimited experience” mod. It sounds cool, but when 200xp units fight enemies with only 1 promotion, it makes the game super easy, which I find boring. I like a challenge. The experience cap keeps things on a more even playing field.

There’s also a “Beyond Balance” mod that looks promising. The goal is to make the game more fun and balanced like we did with Civ V: Communitas, while staying close to the core vanilla game. It’s a community-driven mod with a strong focus on responding to feedback, so if you don’t like a change, talk about it.

Beyond Earth – Harmony

My first three games started next to lots of xenomass, so I’ve given quite a lot of thought to the harmony path.

I realized harmony is subtly different from the preservation-focused philosophy of the Gaians in Alpha Centauri. The affinities are more like….

  • Purity – Turn our new world into Earth.
  • Harmony – Adapt to the new world.
  • Supremacy – Ignore the biological worlds to become cybernetic.

Harmony uses resources native to our new planet. Consider the Alien Domestication tech. The essence of this is similar to what happened on earth. We turned hostile wolves into dogs, aurochs into cows, and so on. The pre-transformation species have very little presence on Earth (or none with Aurochs). We adapted the native wildlife to suit our purposes. It makes sense we’d do the same on a new world, as human nature doesn’t change much over time.

Harmony does something similar. We might fight the wild animals because they’re a threat for us, but also domesticate them into creatures useful for our purposes. It’s more complex than a philosophy of pure preservation. I like the depth of this story.