I dug up my old copy of CIV III the other day and managed to install it on Windows 7. After the beating that I have given CIV V recently, I wanted to go back and have a look at what had gone before to see whether or not I was being fair. I don’t recollect railing against CIV III when it came out, but mind you I didn’t have a blog at the time either.

I played three games through to modern times and can say without a shadow of a doubt that it was tragically awful in its awfulness. I just don’t remember it being this bad. The game amounts to a settler rush; make as many cities as you can. Spread out across the world like the plague itself. The only way to win is to mercilessly crush your enemies. If you yourself don’t make a bad ass army you can bet your Great Library that the Egyptians are going to come across your borders in a rush, armies stacked on top of each other 40 deep. Gee, isn’t it fun watching all of those enemy units move … and move … and shoot me now.

So it’s pretty much rubbish as far as games go. Yet here I am ranting and raving against the forces of darkness for ruining a great game. Is this what they ruined? It doesn’t seem so great to me now. I suppose all of those other gamers are equally incorrect as they rail against the forces of Blizzard for ruining their game. Surely WoW back in Vanilla or TBC has also been tainted by the curse of the rose coloured glasses. We should all simply bow our heads and realise that the problem is not the games, it is us.

Which would be a fallacy. The fact is that when CIV III was released it was a good game, for its time. It was a natural progression from CIV II, (although the point can certainly be argued that CIV II was the better of the games. This however is not the point of this post). It got some things right, it got some wrong. But it was a logical progression in the right direction. When hard core fans see that progression then they are content. Even if the game for them is flawed they will have patience and faith in the developer’s vision. That vision holds to their own. And in fact, CIV IV was a very good game that improved upon many of the weaknesses of its predecessors, with Beyond the Sword being the pinnacle of its development.

The great problem with CIV V is not just the game itself. It is that the hard core fans feel that the developers no longer share their vision. Perhaps the developers think that their hard core fans are not that important any more. When one looks at the numbers that games like Farmville dredged up in a very short time it can be easy to understand the attraction to change your game to appeal to a much broader market. Except that the large market has no loyalty. They are game consumers, not game lovers. Hard core CIV fans have followed the game for 20 years. Try even paying someone to do that. Make no mistake about it; nerds are loyal.

Loyal as long as the vision is shared and understood. It is not for previous incarnations of games that players look back at with rose coloured glasses. It is for a time when players and developers shared the same vision. Play around with that vision by attempting to appeal to and please every market group and all you will do is lose your loyal fans while creating a game that ultimately satisfies nobody. I don’t want to play CIV III again, as much as I don’t want to play TBC WoW. I just want to know that the game designers and I are on the same page.