[Prototype] Minciv (Newb-friendlier, plus AI !)

edited in Projects
Right. So recently, I've been on a bit of a Civilization binge that's included one epically long PBEM game with a couple of community members (whoever's turn it is right now, by the way: YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD).

As much as I'd like to avoid being typecast as "that guy who applies hardcore reductionism to X game", I really wanted to just see if I could DesktopDungeon-ify what has to be one of the most complex and rewarding game experiences ever ever (also, my PBEM is taking waaaay too long). And thus, MinCiv:


I present this as-is: a single-screen take on empire building that can support up to four human or AI players, via either local hotseat multiplayer (carefully placing a black screen between player moves) or play-by-email remote multiplayer (an appropriately-named file is saved at the end of every turn in the game folder).

Wanna try it out? Here's the game: https://www.box.com/s/vz9luymc3w09abze25rs

- Use the left mouse button to click on abilities and drag them to applicable areas on the map
- Use the right mouse button to click on abilities and get a helluva verbose description
- Use arrow keys to scroll the map (not strictly vital, but the map wraps around on itself and it'll help you orient yourself)

The goal is to have the most score after X number of turns. Aaaaand go!
Thanked by 1fyrewolfe


  • edited
    (NOTE: some of the information in this post is out of date. But it should still give you a good general idea. Check the readme in the latest zip for current info)

    And as much as it embarrasses me to do this (as I believe that any decent game prototype should be at least reasonably self-explanatory), here's another post to go over the basics so that you're not completely, 100% lost if you're actually brave enough to try this out. Anyone who wants to try a PBEM with me is welcome, I live for this shit. So some things:

    - First of all, this game is heavily inspired by Civilization. Understanding that game will help you understand the basics of this one.

    - Secondly: even in this simple demo, there are a great variety of rules, interactions and abilities that you're gonna have to learn and wrap your head around. Please do yourself a favour -- when in doubt about an ability's effects, right click on its button. I've tried to provide an exhaustive account of each one's impact.

    The map screen


    The MinCiv map fits onto a single screen and wraps around itself (use the arrow keys to scroll through it). There are no "corners" in this game and you'll have a view of the entire playspace no matter which X/Y offset you use. Most abilities involve targeting a revealed map square for some amazing and profound effect (like building an upgrade or deploying a unit). Each player has their own sight range on the map, and much like DD there is no actual "fog of war" reconcealing tiles after they've been revealed.



    A typical MinCiv empire revolves around one or more cities, which serve as hubs for resource gathering, unit production and land control. The tinted lands around any city represent that city's "influence range" -- any tile under a player's influence can be improved and harvested from, while a tile not in influence cannot. Simple! When there's more than one city owned by the same player, tile influence goes to the closest one.

    Abilities / techs


    As you gain resources (tallied at the end of every turn), you'll steadily unlock new abilities. You get to play a limited number of abilities per turn (shown by "moves left" at the top), and may only play each ability once. Some abilities are dependent on others, but as a general rule of thumb there's no "tech tree": a warmongering civilisation is just characterised by heavy emphasis on unlocking several types of war tech, as they'll have more unique "warlike" moves to choose from in a turn. Et cetera et cetera. Techs represent your flexibility, and researching new ones adds to your score. Almost all of them target a specific tile, just click and drag the tech towards an applicable target.

    Misc info


    Every turn, the excess income from your empire will be contributed towards the "next tech" counter (which progresses steadily towards zero). Once it is zero or less, you unlock a new tech. Simple! Your tech progress will always be at least 1. Destroying an enemy city will also give you a significant tech boost. Additionally, each game has a fixed number of total turns. While it's technically possible to wipe a player out entirely, I envision this to be remarkably difficult, so it's more a matter of doing as well as possible and hitting that score total.


    I think I did at least an okay-ish job, though I have indeed learned two things through this process:

    (1) Holy crap, making a satisfying Civ redux game is HARD. Not only does one not simply say "lol, I'll make a lite Civ" and hope to get away with it, but the complexity of building, simulating and balancing even a simple economy blows me outta the water. It took me two damn weeks just to get to this point.

    (2) Holy crap, developing a multiplayer-dependent game is HARD. Sure, testing against oneself is an option, but it's not a great playtest metric by any means and it's actually kinda boring (and I firmly believe that if you're bored during development, it hurts the final product massively). I could have tried coding an AI, but seriously? Whole new can of worms there. Over it.

    I don't know how far I'd take this prototype but it was a fun exercise and mebbe some of you will enjoy playing it. If you're looking for a play-by-email partner, I'm happy to oblige, and maybe we can get some larger games going among community members.
  • Quick post Nandrew you are my hero. I like civ but I really want it in bite sizes, so I shall continue reading this thread, but I just had to share my love of this idea.
  • Nandrew I broke your game :<

    ERROR in
    action number 1
    of Step Event
    for object EndTurn:

    In script CalcEmpireCurrency:
    Error in code at line 44:
    if (c.age==ageCount)


    and as soon as I can beat myself I will send you a mail.
    647 x 483 - 49K
  • edited
    WOW :O

    Will give this a try sometime, I think bite size civ is ingenious!! :O\


    Played it a bit, testing against myself hurts my brain. Also the pretty unconventional (from the perspective of conventional 4x games) mechanics are cool to learn but difficult to internalise. It plays like a board game with action cards :) I love that the world wraps around, I was wondering how a small map worked at first with both players being at the centre of their world, really nice touch :)

    And I broke the game too - bug report: Was trying to build a 5th farm. Oh I see Karuji had the same error.

    ERROR in
    action number 1
    of Step Event
    for object EndTurn:

    In script CalcEmpireCurrency:
    Error in code at line 44:
    if (c.age==ageCount)

    at position 21: Unknown variable ageCount

    ANNNND another error, this time I was trying to explorer boat an area not in my influence: Wait, it's the same, just twice now. I guess it comes back if ignored.

    ERROR in
    action number 1
    of Step Event
    for object EndTurn:

    In script CalcEmpireCurrency:
    Error in code at line 44:
    if (c.age==ageCount)

    at position 21: Unknown variable ageCount

    ERROR in
    action number 1
    of Step Event
    for object EndTurn:

    In script CalcEmpireCurrency:
    Error in code at line 44:
    if (c.age==ageCount)

    at position 21: Unknown variable ageCount
  • Haha, thanks guys, I'll have a look at that ASAP.

    Always appreciate how clear and precise GM errors are, actually ...
  • Always appreciate how clear and precise GM errors are, actually ...
    NOOOO I can't remember how many times I've fought that error that doesn't tell you where it is, but it's about a variable or a list or something that was there but isn't anymore, or something like that. Can't remember what it's called but it happens to me all the time and it murders kittens every time it comes up.
  • Aaaand done! Thanks again.

    I've incremented the version number because I've also included a minor mechanics tweak (cities take longer to grow, but city food now sometimes carries over between population increases instead of being reset to a flat zero).

    An interesting little note related to the bug you guys found ... you're both expanding quite quickly and your economy is suffering as a result. If either of you have units deployed on the field, you'll find them mysteriously disappearing next turn because you cannot afford their maintenance ... and that one ISN'T a bug, I'm afraid. :P

    If you copy Minciv_002 into your games directory, you can fire up your games from your last saved turn, so don't worry about the version change wiping your progress. :)
  • edited
    @Tuism duuuude, man, after the hell we've been having recently on Desktop Dungeons bug fixes, this is a walk in the park. :P Diagnostics, fixing and reversioning all took like, 2 minutes tops :D

    Also, man, working with a tiny project again is soooo much easier on maintenance. Newfound appreciation for prototyping random crap.
  • I must say I'm getting no visual cue that tells me how the maintenance and food and coins works, I see the coins and the bread and the farms, but my city's mysteriously at 0 food all the time. So.....

    I basically was just running blind building as many things as I could.

    Maybe I'm just a Civ noob @_@
  • Haha, no, chilled, there's a rather finite amount of feedback at the moment and this would need to be worked on next. Calculations are behind-the-scenes and your best bet right now is mousing over a city and manually counting up quantities (more information is available if you right-click on the "build farm" and "build trader" abilities, even if you haven't unlocked them yet).

    Of course, I'm happy to provide info in this thread as the queries come up, so ...

    Your cities right now are at "0" food most of the time because (a) there's often enough food for early cities to grow in a single turn and (b) your food counter was reset to zero every time you had a population growth. This should no longer apply with Minciv002, as extra food carries over instead (though I think cities are still limited to 1 pop growth per turn regardless of stores).

    Cities will gather the total food value of ALL tiles in their influence. Cities will gather the total currency value of the most X valuable tiles in their range, where X is the city's population size.
  • Cooool, maybe in that case, as your turn starts, a little summary overlay/popup/something would make it clearer for noobs like me :)

    City names can be random...

    grew 1 population
    has 3 food left over
    made 3 dollars

    grew fuck all.
    People are starving
    and broke

  • LOL, that would be great! I'd also like to include a "realtime" update of your projected empire income that players can see at any point (even if it's just a +X or -X beside the "next tech" indicator).

    Also, to build a strong economy, bear in mind the following maintenance costs:

    - Cities are the biggest maintenance hogs that decrease your income per turn. Your first city costs 1, but the next will cost 2. The one after that will cost 3. Etc etc. It starts mounting up hectically. A rapid expansion (REX) strategy is actually extremely dangerous in Minciv, moreso because it's very easy to slip into. I'm actually considering making the "build new city" ability an unlockable tech instead of a default available one.

    - Every mobile unit you have deployed will cost 1 currency per turn in maintenance, and if you're too poor to afford this cost, those units will be removed

    - After all currency calculations are taken into account, you'll earn a minimum of 1 per turn towards your next tech, so you're never completely stuck

    Some helpful tools that will work to your advantage:

    - One of your early techs should be either FISHING or TRADING POST. Both of these directly increase the currency output of tiles and help your empire *not* keel over.

    - Once you have a couple of cities, grab ROADS. They knock a *huge* cost off city maintenance if you can keep everything connected, and are one of the most vital supporting techs for aggressive empires that want to field large armies.
  • I'm thinking that a couple of context-related animations would be really useful there, specifically around the city food and money harvesting, plus when units have maintenance costs go off... Actually, question about that: If you don't have enough cash to pay a unit's maintenance cost, is there any control over which units don't get maintained, or do they just die in LIFO order? Could be a useful thing to offer people the choice.
  • Units actually die in order of city age. So your earliest city (usually the capital) will have the most stable unit maintenance.
  • edited

    Good news, everyone!

    Minciv now sports a dumb-as-bricks AI opponent option to help you feel a sense of achievement in the event that you weren't terribly thrilled by playing with yourself.

    There's also been some tweaks and improvements to info feedback: a couple of changed descriptions, a per-city harvest estimate and an up-to-the-moment tally of anticipated tech income so that you're slightly less likely to screw over your economy.

    Somewhat less important are numerous bugfixes and gameplay balance tweaks that wouldn't really have been noticed from the last version anyway, so I won't go into them too much here -- though a couple of the changes *may* make the early game a bit easier for new players, as damaging REX strategies aren't necessarily the most intuitive option anymore.

    This may be the version of the game to get into if you weren't really into the whole idea of trying a lonely, confusing first draft proto of a rather complex game. I personally think that real opponents (even stupid ones) have made all the difference.

    TL;DR First post look at the goddamn first post major shit is going down there you'll find the files you seek and hit baddies who fight back.
  • edited
    I've played the latest version a couple times now (against AI which beat me initially as I was playing at a level dumber than bricks).

    I did manage to make it crash and stuff. But that's not important now as far as the questions this prototype raises.

    Namely: Does this prototype represent a promise worthy of investing large amounts of time into which could culminate in a profit of some nature?

    And I say this baring in mind that (from my perspective) Nandrew does seem to be spewing out alternately really promising and really interesting prototypes quite regularly.

    Also: Civilisation 2 was easily my favourite game at its time and quite possibly the game that I've spent the most hours in ever. (That or the original UFO enemy unknown).

    The thing about MiniCiv: It does capture that feeling of building an empire. That wonderful feeling of ownership of a system that produces the dominance over my enemies. I really like this game, and can imagine myself liking a bigger better version of it more than I like Desktop Dungeons (once again: I am more of a fan of Civilization than of Roguelikes so I do have clear bias here).

    But there things that I think are holding this game back, and might be tricky/impossible to solve.

    1) Civilization for me is a solitaire game. I have enjoyed it multiplayer, and indeed a more bitesize version would be EVEN better multiplayer than the original game, which is slow and ponderous, but I imagine that for there to be commercial hope for this game it must have a strong single player.

    2) Desktop Dungeons from the outset hooked players into playing it over and over again because it was A ) repeatedly challenging and had B ) more content that would be unlocked. If the core loop of Min-Civ is playing lunchtime length games (that are either won or lost), like the loop in DD, the player should be unlocking things (I think).

    3) Min-Civ might not lend itself as well to unlockables. Unlocking the "French" and choosing the class "Barbarian" might not work as well as "Dwarven Fighter"... But then again I like the idea of being "German Anarchists" or a "Zulu Monarchy"... And I like the idea of there being more discoverable things on the map (like sacrificial altars or wandering nomads or mercenaries or shiny gems or fancy diseases or commandments from god or wealthy investors or natural wonders) that get unlocked and make the game more complex, or just plain unlocking more options for technology loadouts in the meta-game.

    4) Getting the challenge right in a single player mini civilization game could be super super hard. Setting up the difficulty in Desktop Dungeons seemed to be relatively straight forward as the dangers were static and deterministic (if that makes sense)... but in Mini-Civ the single player challenge is beating a competing AI... which means loads of loopholes and strange exploits and possible dominant strategies and wars of attrition and is all subject to the chaos effect (although I do think the right path is been taken here with fairly clear indications of the enemy's progress vs your own).

    5) The military control in the current game feels inelegant. Some more feedback as to what direction the troops were moving in and what they were doing each turn would help. But the control of the armies seems a little too abstracted... I think... I certainly don't want absolute manually-move-every-unit control like in Civilization... but I feel that as supreme commander I should be able to alter troop commands based on new information (maybe) rather than send troops out and hope (which I think is how it currently works). I'd also like to be able to mass troops and block enemy paths (which I don't think happens at the moment except with forts, which I'd like to be able to occupy). I might even suggest something like paying for armies to move... so that they don't disappear when you can't afford them they just stop... But I guess I'm just saying I see the army control as a problem to overcome, and it's hard for me to really judge because at the moment the lack of feedback makes it hard to evaluate what in fact is going on with the armies. The current solution might be working fine, or not, but without the feedback it's frustrating to master the system.

    6) Again. How do you design different single player challenges that don't feel contrived (the way campaigns in Civilization always felt to me). I like the rogue-like aspects of Civilization. I like starting from the beginning on a random map and using the system to overtake and crush my enemies. I wouldn't want to play static levels that have arbitrary start conditions and win conditions (like the setpiece campaigns in Civilization).

    7) The end game in Min-Civ doesn't really work. I started playing with the turn limit set to 100... and was convincingly winning at turn 30 or so... but wiping my opponents out completely was more difficult than it should have been. I found myself in wars of expand-influence (which might be a bit too effective I guess). I think because of the power of some of the commands that you can use every turn, and because these commands aren't all dependent on the state of your civilization, and that defense is quite effective, the slippery slope isn't as steep as I would desire for a single player game. For me the only worthy goal is clearing the map and taking over all rival civilizations, and Min-Civ at the moment seems to be balanced to keep losing players in the game (which might be great in multiplayer where a comeback in 3 player vs would be awesome... but weird in single player where the end-game drags on until the turn limit is up and doesn't result in satisfying world dominance, but rather in a luke-warm-endorsement win on score).

    8 ) Maybe my advice on commercial viability of Mini-Civ is terrible. I assume if the game plays like a Desktop Dungeons-ified version of Civilization you could entice a large segment of your player-base from Desktop Dungeons into playing it. This seems like a good path to take, and one which benefits from your experience to date. It also seems like an appealing game to me... a bite sized Civilization game with progression through winning increasingly complex levels.

    9) But then again, a good bite-sized Civilization game may have other design opportunities. You seem to be keen on the multiplayer aspect which seems to fill a void in your own game playing space. And this does seem like a good path to take... though a more difficult and confusing one to realize commercially without a strong single player experience (according to my brain).

    10) The fact that it will have an appealing multiplayer does open doors later on with respect to spreading the game and keeping experienced players playing... though I suspect the polish required and the multiplayer infrastructure will be sorely time-consuming to develop. Also I imagine that in anything competitive (like competitive multiplayer Mini Civ) all the edges have to be smoothed out as what in single player may be minor annoyances are tear-inducing tooth-pulling flaws in multiplayer.

    11) In the current prototype of Mini Civ the Civilization theme might be a bit light. I really enjoy progressing from stone age to computer age, it feeds into real-world values that have worth for me. Even if this is just fluff in Mini-Civ (like at 2 techs you hit Iron Age and the interface changes its visuals) I think it needs to be there. That flavour is part of the feeling of achievement in a Civilization game for me. On the other hand the progression from Age to Age in Civilization was feedback for the escalation of technology, an escalation which made for a very slippery slope which enabled total crushing of less civilized opponents, which, as I've stated already, I feel is important to the experience.

    12) That said... part of the beauty of Civilization is that the theme is so accessible. That's one of the main reasons why I think a bite-sized Civilization game would be so cool (in the intellectually interesting sense, not the vapid sloganeering sense). Conquering the world over a lunch break has undeniable awesomeness and is an experience sorely missing from the world.

    Also: 13) Sorry about taking so long to reply. I hope you haven't given up in the meantime and whatever encouragement I'm attempting at giving falls of thoroughly jaded ears being covered by your firmly pressed hands and the sound of "nahnanahnanah I'm not listening because this game is hard to develop and I'm jaded etc".

    13 again) Also "Minciv" is not a particularly appealing name, it's like a lesser version of a good game being abbreviated into two syllables presumably for people who have very short lunch breaks and don't want to waste any time not playing "Minciv" whilst pronouncing superfluous sounds, and from experience I've seen that after a certain point you'll be stuck with whatever name you've chosen regardless of platform specificity. @Aequitas is good at naming things. I'd suggest that most things sound better if you preface them with a "Super" and followup with a "Force" and/or include some kind of meat product in the name and/or the word "Desktop" to ensure consistency, if not logic.

    14) Because 13 is a bad number. In short. Yes it seems very promising.
    Thanked by 1Nandrew
  • To be clear: The name I am suggesting is: Super Desktop Bacon Civilization Force.
    Thanked by 2Tuism Nandrew
  • Beautiful name, will strongly consider it.

    That's an awesome chunk of feedback and I have sooooo many things to say about it ... but I've already spent too much time on MGSA during work hours this week, so to alleviate my own guilt I'll decline commentary until DD's build is out. :)

    And if you have the time/sanity, we should totally grab a beer this weekend or something. I can give you my thoughts on Minciv while we hang out.
  • That'd be cool!

    Another thought about the name (that might be slightly more actionable)... I really like the name "Incredipede"... So I've been trying all morning to figure out if "ilization" can be conjoined to some kind of hyperbolic that would convey the concept of this game. Of course this is all assuming the name should be changed... which is something I raised and may not be in line with the creator's interests at all.
  • Civilipede feels like an incredipede in a tophat and monocle.
  • image

    Thanked by 1Nandrew
  • Should it not be "MiniCiv"? Why not mini? Why min? Where's MaxCiv?
  • edited
    "MiniCiv" was an inefficient use of the letter i, and thus scrapped.

    And due to budget constraints, I only allowed myself the use of one capital letter.
  • CivVille.
    Thanked by 1Tuism
  • We could put that game into some sort of social framework, call it the CivVille Service.
  • Right, so @BlackShipsFilltheSky was subjected to some of my ramblings in-person a little earlier so he knows what's potting. But a few overarching thoughts on the feedback:

    - I do reckon that the game as it stands currently has a foot in two different worlds (multiplayer and single player). At least, it was built first and foremost as a multiplayer game to scratch a personal itch, and looks increasingly like it needs a strong single player element to realise its potential. I believe that this needs to be refocused semi-radically for single player. A lot of multiplayer-centric considerations would have to be dropped if the game is to be solid enough, but the upsides of what could be added (including a more sophisticated diplomacy / influence system) would almost certainly outweigh this. Explicit diplomatic states such as war, peace, trade and culture would immediately have way more meaning. Could do a lot with this.

    - The comeback / rubberbanding element is, as you guessed, a result of the competitive multiplayer approach. I think I'd be far more willing to give players more, uh, "crushing momentum" in a single player game. It would also open itself to the possibility of deliciously unfair AI behaviour as a game session progresses (a tendency to band together / ally against the player in late game when the human is clearly starting to win). Also, somewhat asymmetrical game dynamics to reduce the challenge of making a convincing AI, focusing on a more rewarding -- rather than strictly equivalent -- game experience.

    - Interesting that you mention unlocks and such, the original idea for this game was somewhat more fantasy-oriented and I wanted to call it something along the lines of "God-Kings of Minciv" (passing off Minciv as the name of the in-game world, or something). The idea being that you could choose one of various leaders for your civ who would each have a unique ability in their tech trees available from the start. Thus, while most of the civ skills would be shared amongst everyone, only Taurog the Stomper would possess the equivalent of the current game's Warfare skill (everyone else would have to use the equivalent of Mercenary or something, and conduct war more slowly).

    - Making it single-player only would allow for more specific victory conditions rather than just a score attack (which I felt was the easiest overall goal to balance in multiplayer, but less satisfying overall). This again ties in with the "different civ types" approach as various victory conditions -- diplomacy, conquest, culture, etc -- would all be available in each session (and yeah, to hell with bottled campaigns, I never went for those either).

    - Internal empire troubles, random "acts of god" and special events could definitely be the bread and butter of a fully-developed game, and would make an excellent base for unlocking.

    Thanks for the helpful framing and idea-swinging. I've been pondering the idea of a Civ-redux game ever since trying out a DD-inspired game called Nieuwe Aarde (http://playthisthing.com/nieuwe-aarde) several years ago, and I really think the general play area is quite fertile (and most "tiny civ" games seem to be regrettably action-oriented).

    From here, I'll looking at either revising this project or pursuing a new game prototype (which will be posted on the frumz soon). I think there's potential for fun here, but I'm going to weigh it up against another offering which may be quite fun right off the bat (and such protos are always better avenues to go down, IMO). Would at that point like to ask for comparative feedback from people who have already tried a bit of Minciv. :)
  • Actually, that suggests an amusing interface for the game: Everything is paperwork. Want to establish a city? Fill out an Urban Zoning 71b form. Want to build a military unit? Petition parliament for deployment options using an Executive Powers Martial Intervention Notice 5 (Part K).

    Randomly generate form names for epic win.
  • edited
    I'd play any game called "God-Kings of Blah". Being God-King is my number 1 dream.
  • Wanna literally make a game named "God-Kings of Blah" now.
  • It would be a debate-based game, you would try to sway the new souls of the recently dead to your particular underworld for all eternity.
  • God King of Phoenix Wrong
  • I want to download this when I have Internet! And play my Civ4 PBEM turn :S
    Thanked by 1Nandrew
Sign In or Register to comment.