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By William Westwater
May 4, 1999

note: This is the Developer's Corner, a part of the C:CTP section of Apolyton, where members of the C:CTP development team express their views on ctp-related topics. Feel free to send your comments at civilization@activision.com or post on our forums.

As many players of Civilization: Call to Power have noted, a large number of low tech units can gang up and destroy a higher technology unit. Players have asked, how can guys with spears beat up guys in a tank? Is this a bug or are the designers crazy?

The short answer is: no, it is not a bug, and we hope we're not crazy (though after months spent hidden from sunlight we have questioned our sanity).

Here's the big reason we did what we did:

We tried to make Tanks obliterate lower technology units, but the first person to get a Tank won the game without a struggle. We wanted you to have a chance to comeback if you fell behind in tech and to feel challenged if you got ahead. If one Tank ended the game, you could never come from behind and never feel challenged once ahead.

Of course, Civilization 2 also faced this problem, but Call to Power differed in two key ways: a longer technology tree and stacked combat.

Consider the vast array of technology that you get in Call to Power. 4000 BC to 3000 AD. Warriors to Space Bombers. A third of our units come after Civilization 2's technology tree had already ended. This expands the fantasy, but also means we have a more streamlined group of past and present units.

Take one example. When you compare the Civilization 2 Armor to the Civilization: Call To Power Tank, you are comparing the best technology of Civilization 2 with an average technology of Civilization: Call To Power. In terms of their position on the technology tree, the Civilization: Call To Power Tank is the gameplay equivalent to the Civilization 2 Dragoon (an average technology unit).

You feel this in the game, and it made our balancing job much more difficult. The Musketeer and Machine Gunner represent 500 years difference in combat ability, but in game play terms, the Musketeer is a neighbor to the Machine Gunner.

We tried many different ways to make the Civilization: Call To Power Tank strong enough to obliterate Hoplites and Legions, but this made technology too powerful. The first person to get Tanks always won -- and the game was only half-over.

Does this mean that our Tanks are too weak?

Compared with Civilization 2, our Tanks are generally worse attackers. A lone Call To Power Tank can kill fewer enemy Musketeers than a lone Civilization 2 Armor. However, the Call To Power Tank is generally a much better defender. In Civilization 2, Cavalry could attack and kill Armor most of the time. In Call To Power, Cavalry can attack and injure a lone Tank, but the Tank wins almost every time.

And this is when looking at one-on-one combat. Stacked combat has its own game balance effects.

As all players know, Call to Power uses stacked combat. This system rewards numbers, which is a source of fun and, for some, of frustration. The fun lies (I think) in a faster game with more strategy. The frustration lies in the loss of a Tank to a bunch of Musketeers - a counter-intuitive outcome.

Stacking was critical in determining the cost of our units and their strength. For instance, a stack of nine Tanks kills nine Musketeers without taking a single loss. In such a battle, the high tech army loses 0 Production while the low-tech army loses over 4500 Production. Clearly, a high-tech victory!

On top of this, units heal. After the tanks fight the musketeers (in the above example), the Tanks are injured. However, this is seldom a problem. The Tank army can run quickly home to heal. (Tanks are quite fast). Healing costs the high-tech army 0 Production, and leaves nine fully armed Tanks ready to obliterate another Musketeer army.

With a limit of nine units per tile, the low-tech player cannot mass enough Musketeers to stop this sort of slaughter. He can only protect himself through higher technology. In a fully-manned modern army, a Tank is a bargain even at four times the cost of a Musketeer.

Bottom line, we wanted to make a fun, balanced game. Hopefully, in balancing the game, we didn't ruin the fantasy. No fantasy, no fun.

If it helps your fantasy, remember that technology isn't invulnerable - especially in small numbers. For instance, 10,000 Zulu warriors defeated 1,800 technologically superior British musketeers at the Battle of Isandhlwana in 1879. At the time, the British thought their army invulnerable to one armed with spears and shields, but numbers overcame technology.

I hope this helps you understand the gameplay balance we chose. For Call to Power 2, we'll keep looking for ways to improve the game's realism, but, first and foremost, we promise to focus on gameplay and game balance.

Of course, the beauty of Call To Power is that you can go into the text files and change them to suit your preference (which some people have already done and posted on the Internet). If you want more historical accuracy, it's out there for downloading. We'll even provide a twist of our own with our first enhancement pack.

Until then, don't let your soldiers go out alone. You can never tell when they might get mugged by a horde of Pikemen.

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