Small bits of movement have been going on over here. I don't have much to say about it other than I am slowly, steadily moving toward a story that might be good for people to read, but as before, that time is probably not now. I mean I took out a half chapter chunk and haven't filled it back in yet. Not the sort of thing that makes for enjoyable reading. Anyway if you choose to follow that link, you do it with my warning.
Best Games - Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution DS
Sometimes constraints can drive the best designs. Necessity being the mother of invention or whatever. I am here today to argue that not only is Civ Rev on the Nintendo DS a good port of the game, I’m going to say that it is one of the best Civ games in the series.
Ridiculous? Blasphemous? Not a real Gamer™? Maybe, but just hear me out. If you can get ahold of Civ Rev for DS, just play it. You’ll thank me in a day or two when you finally blink.
I’ll admit, I haven’t played every game in the Civ series, but I have put in the hours with a lot of them to know how the games tick. More than that, a few years ago I tried to examine what made the core loop of the Civilizations games so addictive. In other words, what made them good.
You might think that the magnetic effect of the Civilization series is the simulation of a world spanning fanciful take on human history. A ludic examination of everything that it took to get us to where we are. That ain’t it. Civ games are slot machines that payout tiny rewards continuously for five hours. Microscopic prizes at a metronomic pace. Everytime you press a button in a Civ game something happens, and often it is something you knew would happen, but you didn’t know when. You press a button and a city spawns a new settler. You press a button and discover a friendly village. You press a button and a wonder you had forgotten you were building springs into existence. You press a button and you conquer France.
Of course you are rewarded for planning ahead and strategically micromanaging your many towns and peoples. There is an element of skill to the game. You can make too many poor choices and end up with revolts and invasions decimating everything you have spent centuries building. But that isn’t what makes anyone play one more turn at 3:45 in the morning. It’s that casino game ‘Ka-ching’ of pressing a button and having a brand new rifleman appear in one of your cities.
Since every Civ game works this way, you might be wondering what makes the DS version so special. What would elevate that particular version to the rank of best games. Typically, as a game marches down the technological ladder they get worse not better.
Civ games are packed right full of all sorts of stuff. There is a technology tree spanning millennia, there is a civilopedia that includes actual historical information along with what amounts to the games manual. There are a variety of units, both military and civilian, you can use to explore, settle, defend, and conquer the world. All cool, but none of that makes the game a better game.
When they crunched all of Civilization down into Civ Rev for the DS they condensed everything. The pace, the scope, the complexity, the reward cycle. There is a possible version of Civ Rev DS where the reward cycle is exploitative, where playing the game takes a backseat to flashing lights and binging alarms. That isn’t what happened at all. Civ Rev is every bit a Civ game only smaller. Tighter. Quicker. More nimble. It takes the best parts of Civ and squashes them down into a bite sized package.
Is Civ Rev DS the best game in the series. No, probably not. But it is one of the best games on the DS platform, and it succeeds in ways no one would expect of a ‘down port’. No concessions, no exceptions, it’s just a great game.
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution is one of the best games.
Very early on in this blog, like 2013 early, I wrote about wanting to switch from Maya to Blender. It was a long and frustrating process. For quite a few years I suffered from a sort of software phantom limb syndrome where I would continually hit the wrong hotkeys or search for tools using the wrong names. While it ain’t busting rocks, there was a certain amount of psychological pain associated with the transition.
Now, barely a day goes by when I don’t fire up Blender to do something. I have my own custom keymap that I blindly jab at and really only remember in the tips of my fingers. From time to time I will even write tiny, simple python scripts to automate some tasks. Before Blender I had never even wanted to venture into the python language. I follow several news sources and development blogs to pick up information about the newest versions. I may or may not have fallen asleep to the soothing voice of Pablo from the Blender Today youtube channel. Okay I definitely did. A couple of times. I’m completely in the bag for Blender.
It’s not just me. To the outside observer, the latest version of Blender, 2.8, is pretty much indistinguishable from the polished and user focussed commercial software that it competes with. I’ll understand if you don’t take my word for that, since I am admittedly in the bag for Blender. Epic Games and Ubisoft have recently backed Blender as one of their go to art creation tools. They are only the most high profile of the companies backing or using Blender on a day to day basis. There are many others across the games, video production, advertising, and special effects industries. 3D printing and prop making is another pool that I have a toe in, and they are Blender day in and day out over there.
I don’t think that Blender will ever fully replace Maya or Max or Cinema 4D or whatever it is people use. I don’t even think that it should. Some folks are very comfortable with the tools that they use and they really have no incentive to change. There are some tools like ZBrush and Houdini that are invaluable for some people for specific tasks. I think that’s great. I also know that for what I do, I have yet to hit any walls with Blender.
If nothing else they now have a proper object organizations structure that works better than any other I have ever seen. They went from having an obscure unlabeled layer model that was one of the dumbest things I have ever had the misfortune to use, to a nesting ‘collections’ system that works so elegantly, within days of using it, I changed my own workflow habits to better fit their system and could never imagine going back.
If you are like me, and you tried Blender in the past only to bounce off of it, I think that version 2.8 might be what you were waiting for.