Thursday, March 25, 2010

Comparing History and Games in contexts of Civilization

After finishing a book on Ancient Empires before Alexander the Great and short nostalgia of Civilization I'm recounting my lessons.

It is possible to run a Empire Building Campaign. Having researched several empires, from the earliest and most basic to the most successful and recent, there is a strong pattern apparent from an the point of view of several sciences namely: game theory, management, psychology, and game design.

Complex Bureaucracies are Easy. 3rd Dynasty Ur at 2nd millennium BC pointed that out. It was the best example of Overcontrol and Micromanaging rigidity. A lot of cultures came by the same Bureaucratic innovations in the course of a couple of generations. What really changes Bureaucracy is Philosophy, with out the higher levels of education and problem solving they become mindless and pointless. This underlies that organization is merely a tool and people who forget it are doomed to be consumed by it.

Theocracies are the first form of multi-ethnic leadership. Who else can legitimise being strongest in a way challengers don't get in the way of getting things done? Secularization of leaderships came about when the Administration and Religious Affairs became more complex and elaborate. Son of god was a very common term used by near eastern civilizations.

Religious Office is a money generator. It was basically setting up a super mall. People come to buy peace of mind regarding their future. Temples were the banks, centralizing the storage of the most valuable tradable goods. It also legitimizes the Authority of King who is also the
Chief Priest.

The Characters of history were all Renaissance men. They were Theologists, Statesmen, Managers/Administrators, Generals, Judges, Masterminds, Diplomats, Courtiers, Linguists, Engineers and the best Warriors of their time. It makes sense because of how absolute the office tends to be and how limited the accumulated body of knowledge they had then. I mean, any modern man is capable of being a king in those days because of socialized education, opportunities, and technology. You take anyone who makes the basic requirements of a soldier in terms of fitness and train him or her in all the skills mentioned easily in this age. Then, coming up with pure genius ideas when no one else had the skills to generate it was more remarkable feat. In our age, there is no excuse not to come up with a brilliant idea.

Population of Bronze to Iron age followed a simple pattern. 20 people per sq km and 40 people per sq km at its most fertile, respectively for Bronze and Iron age. Triple population density at for flood plains. Cities didn't exactly work the same way as MDME, as it completely dependent on Geography, more specifically arable land and fresh water source. This pattern cannot be more complicated since technology prevented this. Unlike in Civ the game, irrigation through the use of water wheels and underground canals, are bronze age tech.

Metals were the contested resources of the Bronze and Iron Age. Since metals determined food production through their mechanical efficiency in labor and the over all effect in cost efficiency. If you have an appreciation of the manufacturing business, wear and tear is what makes hard metal goods consumable. Scale that according to the scarcity of the resource, skilled labor and capital needed for production and you have the magnitude of demand that reaches mystification of its value.

Martial arts are evolve as quickly as Bureaucracy. There is two parallel aspect with martial arts and bureaucracy: the affect of technology and how easy it is to test the innovations. In fact, the most important innovations of the technique is how recently its effectiveness was demonstrated. If a technique is old but un-adopted by other cultures, by game theory, it probably is not as efficient as the current equilibrium.

Metal armor really stops blows. People don't really break through breast plates, but kill by blows to unarmored vitals. I don't know when did people start hearing about shearing off armor except in legends. The factor of weigh alone severely limited the coverage of armors.

Weather Sense is a Necessary Skill. It may not be as good as meteorological technology now, but it can be pretty accurate when you consider the power of human intuition. Every hiker or traveller, back then paid more attention to their surrounding for clues of danger, time, and circumstance than we do (staring at this screen). Its only in Eastern Texts do I read about Mastery of Weather prediction being so laudably praised.

As for PC-game development: You can break down organization into program organism that can grow, retard, get sick, be healthy etc. I mean these history books and discussions with history experts are a Civilization-style game developers gold mine. We are at a point where embryonic theory allows us to build a dna like program that instructs how an individual component reacts to stimulus to create highly effective structures and patterns (like a flight of starlings). When am I ever going to see that kind of Civ-like game, or will anyone put me in the game design team?


Unknown said...

Couple of days ago I red Farm, Forge and Steam. It was a nice book about farming, development of civilization etc. take a look

justin aquino said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll try to get it.