Civ 5 gets modern game balance

I was heartened to read there is another large Civ 5 patch on the way.

From February Patch Notes:

We wanted to improve the effectiveness of buildings. We also wanted to improve how cities interact with the map. Adjustments to terrain have increased production, while buildings that modify production have been adjusted in tune with these changes.

The perennial balance problem in the Civilization series has the tension between “Tall” nations, which have a few big cities, and “Wide” nations, which have as many cities as they can fit.  The problem with enabling Wide nations comes when Wide goes to “Extra Wide”.  A 10 city civ doesn’t have many advantages over a 20 city civ.  Enabling Wide while discouraging Extra Wide is a problem that all previous version of Civ have punted on.  This massive patch directly addresses the lucrative incremental bonuses that city sprawl generates.

What’s clear now, beyond the specifics of ICS balance, is that this team gets modern game balance.  With rabid and intelligent fan discussion on the internet, balance problems are quickly identified and exploited.  Internal testing, before a game launches, lacks the scale, diversity, and especially the critical nature of the gaming community.  Patching has become commonplace in modern gaming, but fan communication is still an emerging art.

We’ll see how many companies can successfully adopt the ongoing development style made famous by Blizzard.  With Starcraft 2 and World of Warcraft, even small updates receive careful attention and long stints on “Public Test” servers.  They have also exemplified the benefit of ongoing development: sustained interest in the company and their products.  In the age of DLC, it is possible to monetize fan bases.  Civ 5 has released a few DLC packs that add new leaders and scenarios, and more.