Elemental & Civilization 4

Published on Thursday, April 2, 2009 By Brad Wardell In Elemental Dev Journals

Those of you who know me and the GalCiv team (who are now all on Elemental) know we’re huuuuge Civilization IV fans. If you don’t have Civilization IV, I’m not saying you’re a bad person for not having it.  But I’m not saying you’re not a bad person either.  Though, wait until it shows up on Impulse next month before buying it if you haven’t already.

Anyway, at GDC, Soren Johnson (designer of Civ IV), myself, and Paul “Mormegil” Boyer) had a long lunch together and talked about the challenges we’ve been having in Elemental random map generation.

One of the big challenges we’ve been having has to do with rivers and roads – how do you make them look good in a randomly generated map?  Soren was nice enough to walk us through some of the algorithms they used in Civ IV since they ran into the exact same problem. It’s a real pain in the butt.

We also talked about the challenges of doing big maps.  This is where Civ and Elemental are fairly different largely because of the differences in the engine being used.

In Elemental, the strategic zoom feature lets us have much bigger maps since it’s very easy for people to manage much larger areas because the Elemental map turns into a cloth map where players can instruct units and cities and the like from afar.

Another advantage Elemental’s engine has is technology.  That is, the hardware is just a lot faster which means we can easily create a lot more “stuff” that players can automate without it slowing performance.

One result of that is world size.  In Civilization 4, the largest default map size “Huge” is 104x64 tiles. There are custom maps bigger (138x96 for instance).  But in Elemental, the map size is 224x160.  To give you an idea of that:


And that’s on the 32-bit version of the game.  Assuming Intel gets us a 64-bit Havoc, the 64-bit version of Elemental could be even bigger.

Of course, we also have map sizes that are ridiculously small too (one called “wee” even). 

Having a big map, of course, is pointless if you don’t have the UI and automation in to keep micromanagement from being a pain and of course, like I mentioned, you have to have hardware fast enough to be able to navigate quickly and seamlessly through such a map (A Civilization V would no doubt have maps on the same scale as Elemental for instance).