MULTIMEDIA REVIEW : Civilization II

PREPARED BY SEUNG-HOON LEE

Introduction

Civilization is one of the best-selling PC games of all time. Originally designed by Sid Meier and published by MicroProse in 1991, Civilization became immensely popular, and as a result, a network version was later released called CivNet. Also recently MicroProse released newer version, Civilization II. The content of this game is to take a tribe, settle them, and try to create a civilization. Along the way you develop new sciences, meet other tribes and visit new continents, all for the aim of trying is to get into space, and/or to be the dominant civilization. In short Civilization can be categorized in strategic simulation game.

I have played Civilization for several years, started from 1992 with original version. I am also the mania of strategic simulation game, and I have been always wondering about why simulation game has no fancy graphic or sound, but clumsy box or icon. Civilization II is a kind of solution if my thirst for the new version would be "multimedia" need. In this review I will focus on how trend of "multimedia" changed the nature of the game which typically concentrated on strategic thinking content, not on fancy sound and moving image and how these changes have impacted on users with heavier system requirements.

From Civilization To CivNet : Right direction or digress from multimedia

Civilization has two kinds of newer version as I already mentioned, CivNet and Civilization II. CivNet renovated Civilization with better platform, Windows and evidenced from the title of the game, the major upgrade from previous release is the addition of network play. It also introduces a few other features like the ability for a settler to things automatically by the computer, taking some of the tedium out of the game. But basic contents and structure of the game have not changed at all.

The most important and significant change in CivNet is network game concept. Users can play Civilization with another users through the network. It works over modem,, IPX, or IP. To help users to find others to play with, MicroProse is providing a list of email addresses of people interested in playing CivNet. Originally Civilization brought users into competition with ruthless, competent, but sometimes predictable computer opponents. Now CivNet allows users to compete against human players instead of computer-controlled opponents(artificial intelligence, or AI). The big thing here is that now opponents are living beings; they react in unique and sometimes incomprehensible ways, and most of the time they are different from AI players.

Another important addition is the option to play the game in real time, as opposed to the previous turn-based method. This is especially helpful in network games with lots of people and even so in a single player mode. This option adds a lot of urgency to the game making the play more dynamics.

To sum up, CivNet added the important strategic features to original version in that there are a lot of uncertainty, which is not uncommon in real world, regarding how your opponents or alliances will react to your strategy. Their behavior is sometimes hard to understand and seems somewhat unreasonable to your standard, and that adds reality to the strategic thinking oriented characteristics of this game.

At the time MicroProse released network version of Civilization, I think they are on the right track for the real strategic simulation game, mainly concentrating on widening uncertainty with limited system resources. However, after one year later they announced to introduce multimedia version, Civilization II.

Civilization II : Trial of multimedia strategic simulation game

What has been changed in content and format of the game with the new sequel of Civilization? A series of improvements were undertaken to re-look the entire game, so that it wouldn't suffer from comparisons with more recent titles. The 2D graphics were replaced with an 'a la mode' isometric view, the old sounds were removed for a soundtrack that now comes directly off the CD-ROM, and instead of using DOS, the game runs under Windows.

Despite the several changes that were brought over the original game, Civilization II remains the same when it comes to game structure and goals. Starting in 4,000 BC, you must conduct your civilization through six millenniums, and establish a colony outside Earth before the year 2020. To reach this level of technology, your civilization will have to evolve through scientific discoveries. The new technologies will serve to elaborate city improvements, implement better political regimes, enhance military units, improve agricultural techniques, etc.

Soon into the game, your troops will encounter new civilizations. It will be time to use your diplomatic skills, and start alliances to protect peace. In this matter, Civilization II introduces three diplomatic states: cease of fire, neutrality, and alliance. Another element of the diplomacy new to the sequel, is the reputation. Depending on how often you break the treaties you signed, your reputation will follow you, and will greatly influence your future relations with undiscovered nations. Many new units were added in Civilization II along with new technologies for your scientists to discover, which will avoid a certain monotony for Civilization fans.

Civilization II features 28 different wonders divided in four epochs: the Ancient World, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and the Modern World. Each wonder is accompanied by a video animation of about 35 seconds in length that appears upon its completion. This new feature of Civilization II, although not essential for the game, is another bonus made possible by the CD-ROM media, nearly nonexistent at the time of the original game. In the same way, the counselors won't be represented by a simple picture anymore, but with live video featuring five characters dressed accordingly for each epoch. The only reproach I could formulate is the use of 256 colors for the videos, which is slowly becoming obsolete with the new video cards capable of displaying thousands, even millions of colors simultaneously.

To extend the possibilities of gaming, MicroProse included a cheat mode and scenarios. Whenever you feel your worse adversary is going to take over, just activate the cheat mode and eliminate his civilization with a simple click. It sure spoils the game play, but it is so easy. Of course, there are other tricks less expeditious then wiping out an entire nation. If your technology isn't developed enough, or if you want to surpass your adversaries, you can bypass the long process of discoveries and get the new inventions instantly. In the same way, you can produce units and city improvements instantly, so that you can use them without waiting several turns for their completion. The two scenarios included in Civilization II are based on the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Word War II, but if you want to create a scenario, the cheat menu will let you save the current game situation as a scenario. These changes can be considered an advancement in terms of strategic simulation game.

New Civilization II seems to have both attributes at the same time. We can soak into the real fun of simulation game and at the same time can enjoy the fancy multimedia features. Is it possible to have both at the same time. This question would be the most critical question that MicroProse might think about.

System Requirement

Let's compare the required system configuration for three different versions of Civilization. As version went up, needed system requirement followed the technical trend by demanding more capacity and more speed. But nature of strategic game allow the user manipulate the playing environment. Therefore, even system requirement is getting higher, users do not match with new environment by disabling new functions.

Version
Civilization
CivNet
Civilization II
CPU speed
386 above
486DX2-66 above
486DX2-66 above
Operating system
DOS
MS Windows 3.1, Win95
MS Windows 3.1, Win95
Graphic capability
VGA 16 colors
SVGA graphic or VGA 256 colors
SVGA graphic or VGA 256 colors (800*600*256)
Required RAM
4MB
8MB
16MB
CD-ROM Drive
N/A
MSCDES 2.2 or higher
MSCDES 2.2 or higher
Sound Card
PC Speaker
Recommended
Required
Network Play
N/A
Modem/LAN/Cable connection
N/A
Hard Disk Space
3MB
16MB
40MB +CD

Comparison in multimedia stand point

Even though we can not show here, Civilization II can be called a real multimedia game. With splendid graphics and sound, not alone with moving images, Civilization II shows distinct difference from earlier versions. In terms of sound effect, we only had just several PC speaker sounds in Civilization and 13 wave files in CivNet. Now in Civilization II we can hear 78 different sounds which match with each military units' actual sounds. We should pay attention not only to the number but also to the average size of sound file in CivNet and Civilization 2. As shown in the following table civilization II has much bigger sound files(average 109KB) than those of CivNet(average 2.9KB).

In the era of Civilization, we did not have moving image. Several animation was applied to showing events and situation was not changed with network version. Civilization II now support moving image and equipped with 59 each 15-second-long video clips.

Version
Civilization
CivNet
Civilization II
SoundsBeeps13 sound files totaled with 398KB 78 sound files totaled with 8.47MB
Moving ImageN/A( only several animation) N/A( only several animation)59 video clips totaled with 315MB

What's to gain, What's to lose

Talking of computer games, it is often true that newer version of a game totally replaces its older one because newer one has features more attractive to users in all respects. This, however, is not the case with Civilization. The most important thing we have to note in this review is that three versions of this game coexist. In other words Civilization II couldn't totally replace original version. Enjoying new version, some users didn't throw away old Civilization. And why is that? That's because through CivNet to Civilization II, this game has not changed much especially in the goal and basic elements. In other words what's changed is not the concept but the appearance. This fact leaded some users to stick to the original version of the game, even though they of course welcome the new version. And even more important, in a certain point of view, original version can be more attractive to some users. Of course new Civilization II has improved compared to its original Civilization or CivNet. The graphics is vastly improved. Running under Windows, this game is a combination between graphic-windows and text-windows, or menus. The map is no longer viewed from above, but instead it's isometric 3D and with nice graphics. This is great improvement. The music is also better; this time as audio tracks on the CD. Movies have been added, giving the game the looser edge. Conclusion? Definitely better game in technical point. Technical improvement, however, does not always mean good thing to users, not in every respect. One of the biggest change in Civilization II is the introduction of moving image, and this, with high resolution graphics, slows down the speed of game to some degree. Theses moving images are surely quite a spectacle at first, but aren't all that necessary for game play itself. Some users can turn off the specific function to speed up the game progress.

Just like the comment from a game review, disregarding network function would be the most important defect for Civilization II and way to the multimedia game may change the nature of game. The try to build the real strategic simulation game with splendid multimedia function will need more time for technological advance, such as flash RAM, and available low price high power equipment.

Based on actual one week test, I recommend Civilization II both as a strategic simulation game and multimedia game, but surely under the system ; Pentium 100+ CPU, 32MB+ RAM, and 8X CD-ROM Driver, 32bit sound card to enjoy the multimedia feature. The reason I specify the recommended system configuration is I got to know that my thirsty for the new version of Civilization was not the multimedia needs. I am sure I also waited for the splendid graphic but if these new feature slow down my speed of making my own dynasty, I will not turn the game on anymore. Even with above configuration, new version can not give me similar performance than DOS based original version. Maybe following comment from one of the game review may well describe the final score of Civilization II.

" It is of no doubt that Civilization II will encounter the same success than its predecessor, but it won't be a consequence of its realization. There is nothing spectacular or memorable in the sequel, except for the graphics improvements and the audio soundtracks. New additions such as the scenarios and the map editor won't let you forget that there is no multi-player support in Civilization II, which undeniably is a step back compared to the actual trend in computer games."