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Rob Zacny

Three Moves Ahead Episode 488: The Decade in Retrospect

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Three Moves Ahead 488:

Three Moves Ahead 488


The Decade in Retrospect
Rob, T.J., Rowan, and Fraser gather to consider the last ten years in strategy games. There is a stark division about what happened to the RTS, as well as how the concept of a game being "finished" mostly disappeared. Then Rob tries to wrap up the show and it goes for another hour as everyone tries to choose their favorite genre game from the last ten years.

 

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So it's the seventh year of Fraser harassment campaign already? Does the time fly.

 

On 4X vs grand strategy. I remember how in the middle of 2000's I was rather disappointed with strategy games. There were those twitchy RTS everywhere and everything tried to be multiplayer. I've worked in a Video game newspaper back then and I remember how we voted on games of the year 2004. With strategy games, everyone voted for Rome Total War. There was a madman among us, a DnD enthusiast who cried that we are all blind to the truth. That switch to 3D map does nothing for your Total War, he said. Crusader Kings is the real game. But dude - other told him - isn't that map painting game without actual combat just the same spreadsheet generator as those Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron of yours but with knights?.. No, he said, it's a new page of strategy gaming history.

 

Previously I've tried EU2 and didn't really get it. But CK1 I got. And then Victoria 1. Then I embraced story generator games and got interested in history in general. The only problem with those games is they are actually bad games. Half of the mechanics were about some mysteriously triggered events you had no way of knowing of till you play enough. There were bugs and illogical interactions. And naturally, AI couldn't play it so once you got hang of it you had to actively seek challenge on your own, "winning" was trivial.

 

Then I've tried Civilization 4 at some point. It already had an expansion or two, I think. At first I was disappointed with the portrayal of history: in my childhood memories Civ1 was a history simulator, but by that point, I was tainted by knowledge and the very concept of playing as, say, the united civilization of Germany, fighting 500 years war with Sumeria was ridiculous. It still kinda worked as a simulation but only if you look at it as a very high-level history and imagine a lot of things. But it wasn't important cause that game actually had gameplay and AI. It was a challenge and a fair one. Guides for CK1/Vic2 tell you of obviously superior options and possible triggered events; Civ4 guides talk about strategy, planning, reading the geopolitical map. Of course, it still had problems. There was always a promise of a late-game clash over victory, but usually, the game was decided early in the game and at the time you don't even realize that. So story generation part was flawed just like strategic part. For story generation, you could at least get some notorious mods, like fantasy Fall from Heaven.

 

Then there was CK2 which for me wasn't as important as for many people, cause it was an improvement over CK1, not a revolution. The revolution came from people working on that game making it work properly eventually and keeping it fresh. But it's still not a great strategy game even if it's a good story generator (it will become a great story generator when it gives me character history that was present in EU:Rome and other ways to distinguish thousands of those characters; hope CK3 will be better), just like Victoria 2. In those games your schemes exist to be destroyed by some random events, you feel the greatest joy in those games when Mongol Khan inherits Byzantine Empire, or Great Britain turns fascist, just like in Fall from Heaven some ancient evil awakens. What changed things for me was a later version of EU3. I suddenly discovered that this game is both a great storyteller and an interesting strategy game. And then EU4 reinforced that. It allowed you to see a complex web of alliances; have diplomatic relations where you know which strings you can pool; complex economic systems.

 

I've seen many people claim EU4 is not "deep" enough, its systems aren't intertwined enough. Maybe there is something to these cause this game suffered from the least successful Paradox DLC policy, I think, even if they're trying to fix it for the last year or so. I suspect those people value story generation much more than the strategic part of those games. And that is why it's unique: it beats most 4X on both playing fields. Endless Legend might have a set of interesting mechanics and stories, same for Age of Wonders, but you can't say that those games are better than what EU4 does. Now we have Imperator Rome that at least tried to do the same on release, now it seems to go for the uncontrollable chaos creating interesting situation approach too. So I'm worried that EU4 may be a blimp and in general, Paradox would produce games that are just for fun role-playing. Then maybe I'll have a place in my heart for overly padded Civilization games, but not now.

 

Sorry for the wall of text, I had a powerful urge to share. Very happy with this episode.

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Excellent episode!

And thanks for your great post, Ilitarist. It’s interesting to read about your gaming evolution. Compared to you, I took the reverse path: from EU to Civ. To be more precise, I stopped playing the Civ series when Europa Universalis I came out and slowly came back to Civ after EU4. Civ 1 and 2 are by far my favorite of the series, followed by Civ 4.

 

Quote

Then there was CK2 which for me wasn’t as important as for many people, cause it was an improvement over CK1, not a revolution.

I enjoyed CK2 a lot in my first play, but it lost a lot of its lustre in subsequent sessions. I never found it really revolutionary either: the base ingredients were in CK1, the KOEI games already handled character relationship since the eighties, albeit in a very crude fashion, and games like Rise of the West or Medieval Lords in the nineties (both based on or inspired by the Empires of Middle Ages boardgame) managed to be cool medieval story generators and fun strategy games without needing complex mechanics or interface.

 

 

You and video games during the decade

At the start of the decade, I was a big fan of Paradox games, RPGs and soccer management games. Now I play a lot less and my tastes lean towards retrogaming (ms-dos and Win3.X games mainly) and tabletop gaming, although I enjoy some fairly recent grognardy computer wargames with low performance requirements, like the Campaign Series and The Operational Art of War.

 

Favourite solo strategy gaming moment of the decade

An epic solo game of Medieval Lords: Soldier Kings of Europe (1991) with the kingdom of Georgia, from 1028 to around 1440. The small kingdom survived the Seldjoukids and Mongol invasions, then conquered most of the Byzantine empire and of Russia before slowly falling apart due to constant wars on multiple fronts, assassination of rulers, spread of plagues and heresies, noble revolts... Despite a good recovery at the beginning of the 15th century, it was too weakened to stand the might of the timuride armies.

 

Favourite multiplayer strategy gaming moment of the decade

Some great all-nighters with a old friend on Warlords 3 random maps.

 

Favourite strategy game made in this decade

Probably The Operational Art of War IV. It’s not a big improvement on the previous episode and it does have its share of quirks and flaws (command and control is poorly modelled for example), but it's still one of the most flexible computer wargames around. I'm not fond of the WW2 monster scenarios, but I enjoy most of the others I played, especially the Balkan wars scenarios.

 

Biggest disappointment of the decade

Europa Universalis 4 (EU4). It had a lot of great improvements over EU2 (rebellion, diplomacy, colonisation or religious conversion for example), but I wasn’t convinced by other mechanics like the ‘mana’ system and got tired of the state of flux of the game and the constant addition of mechanisms that didn’t always gel well with the rest. My PC was barely able to run it, which didn’t help. Finally, as I was starting to game a lot less, I also realised that EU2 gave me as much fun, if not more, while requiring much less computing power and time commitment. I still go back to EU2 (or more precisely For the Glory) once in a while, but I gave up on other Paradox titles.

 

Your thoughts on the evolution of the strategy games during the decade.

Nothing to say there, because I’m out of the loop.

 

 

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On 21/01/2020 at 7:57 AM, ilitarist said:

Then there was CK2 which for me wasn't as important as for many people, cause it was an improvement over CK1, not a revolution.

This is absolutely my feelings on it as well.
It probably doesn't help that in TJ Hafer's own words " Crusader Kings II is the game that launched a thousand DLCs, and pretty much spawned an unprecedented system of post-release expansions that could see a game supported even five or six years after the original launch."


Supported being a soothing euphemism for emptying people's wallets and, worse, encouraging other strategy games to follow the same model!

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After so many Winters of Wargaming titles like Command Ops 2 don't even get a mention :(

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1 hour ago, Kroem said:

Supported being a soothing euphemism for emptying people's wallets and, worse, encouraging other strategy games to follow the same model!

 

Yeah, I enjoyed much of the DLC for Crusader Kings 2, but I find it incredibly telling that they twice announced that they were done making DLC for the game... only to renege on that statement. I'm not nearly naive enough to think that they got sudden ideas for another two years' worth of DLC twice, and design choices driven by financial necessity always make me leery but especially when it comes to video games.

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Good episode! I was a bit surprised at the lack of a shout-out to games like Armored Brigade or Twilight Struggle and the focus on a number of main franchises/areas (Paradox, Firaxis, Total War, Roguelikes).

 

You and video games during the decade

2008 marked the first time I had a semi-modern gaming PC, and I upgraded to a GTX460 video card in 2010. Although I moved up to a new machine in 2015, I kept either the GTX460 or used onboard video until mid-2018, so my gaming was necessarily graphically un-intensive.

 

This decade, I spent a lot of time playing indie games, and I maintained a games consumption pattern similar to the 90's, where I would play select games intensely, but skip over large segments of the zeitgeist, even if the game was in my library. I also spent lots of time playing older games that have held up. Some of my most-played:

Battletech

FTL

Civ 5 (Mostly Brave New World, largely as Venice)

Kerbal Space Program

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

X-Com UFO Defense

Endless Sky

Door Kickers

Into the Breach

Atlantic Fleet

Flotilla

Atom Zombie Smasher

Gunpoint

Heat Signature

Twilight Struggle

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Sid Meier's Colonization

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Jagged Alliance 2

MissionForce Cyberstorm

Majesty

Sid Meier's Pirates

Star Wars Rebellion

Final Liberation: Warhammer Epic 40,000

Triple Town

Total Annihilation

Satellite Reign

Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

Dawn of War 2 / Chaos Rising

Company of Heroes

Close Combat - Gateway to Caen

Ironcast

Crypt of the NecroDancer

Mini Metro

Mutant Year Zero

Frozen Synapse

Chroma Squad

Massive Chalice

Qvadriga

Bionic Dues

Ace Patrol / Ace Patrol 2

 

Favourite solo strategy gaming moment of the decade

Defeating the 'impossible' boss of the FTL preview build on OnLive for Kickstarter backers.

Playing Iran-Iraq war as a Twilight Struggle headline card and finding out that the AI had played Iranian Hostage Crisis as its headline card

 

Favourite multiplayer strategy gaming moment of the decade

Nothing of note

 

Favourite strategy game made in this decade

Toss-up between FTL and Into The Breach. As a software developer, I'm in awe of not just their system design skills, but also their discipline in scope control and masterful UI/UX work on top of their marketing/business acumen.

 

Biggest disappointment of the decade

The trend for online retailers to pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap in general. Steam sales in particular.

 

Your thoughts on the evolution of the strategy games during the decade

The economics of game development continues to evolve. Games are pretty unique in terms of content that is produced, distributed, and consumed and I think it's an issue the industry is still grappling with.

 

1) The relationship between publishers and developers. In traditional game publisher model is similar to that of a book publisher - speculate on lots of prospects, with the expectation that most will fail, some will break even or succeed modestly, and the sheer weight of probability will mean that the one or two that become blockbusters will effectively subsidize the payments to the 99% that fade away. It's basically the insurance model in reverse. Many publishers though, seem to have moved towards backing a smaller number of very large projects with generally better odds of at least not failing terribly. That leaves the publishers and any internal studios vulnerable to a string of bad releases. On the other hand, indies that self-publish are almost like independent bands without a record label - a handful will succeed and profit enormously, and the majority will personify the starving artist stereotype without any profit-sharing mechanism.

 

2) As games in general mature as a medium, the back catalogues become increasingly important and adds to the market saturation. Consider that when Hitman 2 releases, it needs to compete with Hitman(2016) for my attention. Wargame: Red Dragon has to compete with Wargame: AirLand Battle. The long tail of a game that ages gracefully is actively diverting attention and potentially money from newer games that have yet to recoup their costs. Crying Suns is a perfectly fine game, but I would recommend FTL to someone before Crying Suns, even though it is 7-8 years older. In some ways, this is analogous to classic novels or films, but games often demand a larger time investment than either of those. 

 

3) Rise in cross-platform games. I'm not sure how much of this is thanks to the ubiquity of Unity and Unreal or the fact that this generation's console hardware converged heavily with the PC, but between that and increasingly powerful mobile hardware, we're seeing games being published across PC, PS4, XBox, and increasingly, Switch, iOS, and Android devices as well.

 

4) Change in the shape of the market - What games are popular in Chin? Korea? Japan? India? South America? Some of them are still the same blockbusters from North American/European studios, but I expect plenty of differences in taste and creations from teams specializing in those markets. We've seen lots of specialist grognard games (the kind with the 90's WinForm UIs and purchased via mail-order cheque) start showing up on general digital distribution platforms. The floor for a game's success (single developer breaking even) hasn't changed in decades, but the peak - both the cost and rewards of the most successful games like a GTA V or Witcher 3, or a League of Legends are almost unfathomable. Much like the ballooning size of tech giants relative to traditional industrial/resource/financial/telecom companies compared to just a decade ago.

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12 hours ago, Arasmo said:

Europa Universalis 4 (EU4). It had a lot of great improvements over EU2 (rebellion, diplomacy, colonisation or religious conversion for example), but I wasn’t convinced by other mechanics like the ‘mana’ system and got tired of the state of flux of the game and the constant addition of mechanisms that didn’t always gel well with the rest. My PC was barely able to run it, which didn’t help. Finally, as I was starting to game a lot less, I also realised that EU2 gave me as much fun, if not more, while requiring much less computing power and time commitment. I still go back to EU2 (or more precisely For the Glory) once in a while, but I gave up on other Paradox titles.

 

 

EU4 is probably my favourite strategy game but I can see people struggling with its bloatness. In general there's a tendency for strategy games to aim for infinite replayability with huge campaigns and bazillions of playable factions. This is partly why I think single player campaigns are dead, if you're making a campaign it should be 100 hours replayable systemic thing or something. Total War Warhammer felt fresh cause it limited itself in that regard but it was a temporary thing, now it's a humongous game.

 

If I can make a recommendation: recent Field of Glory Empires is a much more laconic strategy game reminding me of relative simplicity of EU2. But you'd probably need a PC capable of handling EU4 or even better even though it's turn-based.

 

Also about XCOM clones: Massive Chalice was my favorite one. Guys were right that XCOM1/2 is lying about Iron Man being the way to go. It doesn't make sense to have a ~50 battles campaign in Iron Man with so many chances to screw yourself. As Rob said it's not a grind like Battletech where you slowly lose, it's a chess play where one wrong move might mean checkmate. Lose powerful guy in a battle #10 and now those 20 later battles he could participate in are much harder and will probably add to the sacrifices. Massive Chalice evades the problem by making every character only fighting 3 or 4 battles and later retiring, passing their genes and training to later generations and so on. Losing a person can harm a bloodline or might even destroy one which makes a final battle harder but it won't trigger a domino fall, he'd only help in a couple more battles. Another approach is excellent Invisible Inc you've talked about - it is Iron Man and it is chess-like as in a single wrong move means death, but it includes a rewind mechanic that allows you to go back for a turn a couple of times per mission, and only the higher difficulty levels turn off this ability. Besides, it's just several hours long, like Into the Breach that has similar mechanic and length. And it's sad about XCOM being so schizophrenic about Iron Man cause it's obvious there are numerous mechanics designed to deal with stuff going wrong and player refusing to cowardly reload. But there are plenty of stuff that will quietly doom your campaign without telling you if you don't know it's there.

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If I can make a recommendation: recent Field of Glory Empires is a much more laconic strategy game reminding me of relative simplicity of EU2. But you'd probably need a PC capable of handling EU4 or even better even though it's turn-based.

Thanks for the recommendation, I tried it on a friend's computer and it looks like a good game, but my current desktop won't be able to run it : its processor, an Intel j3455, is actually slower than the Core 2 Duo I use to have and only has an integrated chipset ! I traded power for silence and energy efficiency. And nowadays, I only use my older PC only for some desktop publishing tasks with Indesign (I use Linux on my other computer). For ancient-era gaming, I'm more into boardgames, like Great Battles of History, Ancient Worlds Series by Berg, Republic of Rome or Imperium Romanum II.

 

 

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After so many Winters of Wargaming titles like Command Ops 2 don't even get a mention

It's a pity, because the game manages to be fairly simple to play (little micromanagement if you want to avoid it) while modelling command & control very well. I feel  Decisive Campaigns : Barbarossa also deserved a mention for going beyond mere "counter-pushing" and allowing you to roleplay a chief-of-staff on the Eastern Front. I would rank these two among the most interesting computer wargame designs of the decade.

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1) The relationship between publishers and developers. In traditional game publisher model is similar to that of a book publisher - speculate on lots of prospects, with the expectation that most will fail, some will break even or succeed modestly, and the sheer weight of probability will mean that the one or two that become blockbusters will effectively subsidize the payments to the 99% that fade away. It's basically the insurance model in reverse. Many publishers though, seem to have moved towards backing a smaller number of very large projects with generally better odds of at least not failing terribly. That leaves the publishers and any internal studios vulnerable to a string of bad releases. On the other hand, indies that self-publish are almost like independent bands without a record label - a handful will succeed and profit enormously, and the majority will personify the starving artist stereotype without any profit-sharing mechanism.

If I understand well, that means that you have AAA publishers that are more risk-adverse than ever, and a increasing amount of indy developpers hoping to "make it big" in a very competitive environment. Are the middle-size developper studios (staff of 25-50 people) making "AA" games generally facing harder times ?

 

Quote

2) As games in general mature as a medium, the back catalogues become increasingly important and adds to the market saturation. Consider that when Hitman 2 releases, it needs to compete with Hitman(2016) for my attention. Wargame: Red Dragon has to compete with Wargame: AirLand Battle. The long tail of a game that ages gracefully is actively diverting attention and potentially money from newer games that have yet to recoup their costs. Crying Suns is a perfectly fine game, but I would recommend FTL to someone before Crying Suns, even though it is 7-8 years older. In some ways, this is analogous to classic novels or films, but games often demand a larger time investment than either of those. 

That's a very good point : a lot of games made in 2010 do not feel antiquated compared to more recent games, which wasn't true in previous decades. For example, if you look at the Civ series, there is a big gulf between Civ1 (1991), Civ 3 (2001) and Civ 5(2010) in UI and especially graphics, while Civ5's UI and graphics are still pretty decent compared to Civ 6. It does make it harder for newer games to "brake in".

 

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15 hours ago, Arasmo said:

If I understand well, that means that you have AAA publishers that are more risk-adverse than ever, and a increasing amount of indy developpers hoping to "make it big" in a very competitive environment. Are the middle-size developper studios (staff of 25-50 people) making "AA" games generally facing harder times ?

Yes, exactly. Ubisoft, for instance, has Far Cry, Tom Clancy (Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon/The Division), and Assassin's Creed as their cornerstones with a handful of smaller titles (Trials, etc.) In a given year, you might see releases from 2-3 of their main franchises. If they all flop, then Ubisoft's financial situation for that year is going to be in very poor shape.

 

As for what happens to mid-sized developers, well... I think publishers do keep some mid-sized teams in-house to provide content - Microsoft has been on an acquisition spree of late. I think other ones may specialize in a particular niche - look at the specialist wargame products published by Slitherine or Matrix Games. I think what we'll see less of are independent mid-sized studios. They usually have enough payroll and support staff that they can't run as lean (or essentially go into hibernation) the way a solo developer or small team can (where they have little overhead costs, and can relegate game development to a hobby project if really necessary), but they don't have the ability to share resources or call in outside help the way a larger studio or or one that's part of a publisher can.

 

15 hours ago, Arasmo said:

That's a very good point : a lot of games made in 2010 do not feel antiquated compared to more recent games, which wasn't true in previous decades. For example, if you look at the Civ series, there is a big gulf between Civ1 (1991), Civ 3 (2001) and Civ 5(2010) in UI and especially graphics, while Civ5's UI and graphics are still pretty decent compared to Civ 6. It does make it harder for newer games to "brake in".

 

One other example that comes to mind are 2D platformer Mario games. Any new one is competing with all-time classics like Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.

 

I think we're also going to continue to see games that are living products/games as a service. It's the way the rest of the software industry has functioned for a long time, especially with enterprise software. Continued development or even just bugfixes/maintenance costs money. On the upside, a lot of games fall far short of their potential at release, but manage to really hit their stride after DLC or patches. The podcast calls out Crusader King 2 and Total Warhammer 1/2, but I'd argue this is also the case for Battletech.

 

Even after the release of the Flashpoint DLC, the randomly generated missions were extremely cookie cutter, and the difficulty scaled directly with your mercenary group's rating - an endgame mercenary company was only ever going to be offered the hardest missions (grinding out 2:1 odds against the heaviest opposition) and the main challenge was the limited number of missions available in each location before needing to burn weeks of travel time to try your luck in a new system (which could also be barren of any opportunities). This could be customized yourself by changing the game's configuration files, but HBS finally patched those much-needed changes in to the main game around the time the Urban Warfare DLC was released.

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I was surprised that Dominions wasn't mentioned even in passing. I know that its a niche game with a steep learning curve but I have grown so weary of the micromanagement that modern 4-X games revel in such as :

  • turn-based tactical combat
  • real-time combat
  • civ-style strategic unit-by-unit battles

Being able to design asymmetric strategies around your armies/units and pit them against opposing armies on a strategic layer is wonderfully liberating. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your armies you can get as much tactical detail about what happened and how the enemy behaved. The idea that no plan survives contact with the enemy is so true in this game but in a lovely and engrossing way.

 

I still think this is the way forward and that there are lessons other studios could learn from the Dominions series and improve upon.

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On 01/02/2020 at 4:10 PM, The Cull said:

I was surprised that Dominions wasn't mentioned even in passing. I know that its a niche game with a steep learning curve but I have grown so weary of the micromanagement that modern 4-X games revel in such as :

  • turn-based tactical combat
  • real-time combat
  • civ-style strategic unit-by-unit battles

Being able to design asymmetric strategies around your armies/units and pit them against opposing armies on a strategic layer is wonderfully liberating. If you want to learn how to get the most out of your armies you can get as much tactical detail about what happened and how the enemy behaved. The idea that no plan survives contact with the enemy is so true in this game but in a lovely and engrossing way.

 

I still think this is the way forward and that there are lessons other studios could learn from the Dominions series and improve upon.

 

The Dominions series is also great when it comes to emergent narratives. It is a great game for After Action Reports and Role playing (and may very well be the best 4X RPG series ever made) and allows for some crazy strategies and battle plans.

 

The series used to be discussed a lot on the earlier days of 3MA, but as time went and the core panel changed, Dominions fell to the wayside. Nowadays only Bruce, Troy and Hermes will bring it up once in a blue moon.

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The industry is oversaturated now. And they have forgotten about many games that were released just this year, like At the Gates. They've barely talked about huge remasters that were very important in RTS genre (Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, Homeworld), or most strategy JRPGs like Disgaea (they've only mentioned Valkyrie Chronicles), or revived tactical RPG genre with Pillars of Eternity and Pathfinder Kingmaker and Divinity Original Sin. Did they mention Galactic Civilization 3 or Elemental or Sorcerer King? Or the rise of digital board games like Armello? 

 

What I mean to say it's fine. They can't cover everything.

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Pretty sure they've mentioned At the Gates, maybe in the last episode?  But their comments were pretty disparaging.

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On 2/4/2020 at 12:15 AM, ilitarist said:

The industry is oversaturated now. And they have forgotten about many games that were released just this year, like At the Gates. They've barely talked about huge remasters that were very important in RTS genre (Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, Homeworld), or most strategy JRPGs like Disgaea (they've only mentioned Valkyrie Chronicles), or revived tactical RPG genre with Pillars of Eternity and Pathfinder Kingmaker and Divinity Original Sin. Did they mention Galactic Civilization 3 or Elemental or Sorcerer King? Or the rise of digital board games like Armello? 

 

What I mean to say it's fine. They can't cover everything.

 

I don't know if it's saturated so much as it's become fragmented, especially since older games may now see additional development (Age of Empires II being the obvious example) on top of a straight re-master. Even games that weren't originally meant to be living products can evolve to be that way through the efforts of a sufficiently-obsessed modding community (see the JA2 mods that eventually culminated in things like the v1.13 patch, or the stand-alone Wildfire mod and older mods like Deidranna Lives)

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Fraser's comment about how building the Pyramid in Pharaoh seemed like a monumental task is what I truly love about city builders. Another Sierra's game that did this pretty well was ZEUS: master of Olympus as you could build temples devoted to each of the major greek gods. Some temples were easier to build then others but all of them required lots of infrastructure before you could start building them and the Zeus Stronghold was both a monumental task and an incredible sight. Emperor: rise of the middle kingdom improved on this aspect allowing having more varied great works of architecture and engineering. 

 

And that's why I think the Anno games from the 2000's are some of the best city builders of all time. They all have great end-game "wonders" that take a heck of a lot of infrastructure and resources to set up. They are the pinnacle to building a well run and efficient city.

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