Let's start from the beginning, with what went wrong with the testing. First, there wasn't a whole lot of input from Epics players (just Sulla, really) during the design and beta process.
Sulla had a deep impact. One strong and wise voice, if heeded, if valued, is all that is necessary. The last word I heard from Sulla about troubled issues was that some things were decided and changed wholly apart from the testing process -- after the tests or apart from them. He didn't get the chance to weigh in on some of the vital issues because they weren't tested at all.
tournaments like the Epics are an afterthought if they're on Firaxis' radar at all.
I disagree. Certainly Firaxis is not going to prioritize our interests at the expense of their wider concerns, but these are rarely in conflict. We're certainly far from the only point of view they heed, but to say an afterthought at best? That's not the way I see it. I know how many of my lobbying efforts from the early days made it into the game -- some quickly, at the time, some later, after extended evaluation seems to have brought them to the same conclusions I had reached earlier.
We have all the influence anybody has a right to expect from our position, and then some. We don't dictate anything, but they DO listen and they do pay attention to our issues. There's ample evidence of that.
Therefore, for you to say this or that is off the table, why bother complaining... I'll tell you why. It wouldn't be the first time something that was off the table got put back on. If we raise points that were not considered, they might choose to rethink some of their choices. Probably not, but no harm in making the case. Right? Fortune favors the bold.
The new Scientific Great Leaders are a headliner feature of the new game.
And I'm all for them. I want them in the game. I think there ought to be a pressure on the player to consider doing research, even at the risk (as Charis points out) of handing out bonuses to those who need them the least. But too much of an "incentive" is worse than none at all. We don't want Papa Bear's porridge or Mama Bear's. Baby Bear's is the right stuff. Is there any reason why we can't have a reasonable effect? A moderate bonus? It should be large enough to matter, but not so large as to dictate and dominate.
Most everyone realized that positive-sum warfare, getting a 400-shield wonder from a 20-shield unit, was ultimately not really good for the game balance. But casual players, and even most of the not-so-casual community, would be up in arms if there was suddenly no way to rush wonders at all.
Many are up in arms about the changes to the FP. If Firaxis can take a little heat on that one, to do what is best for the game balance, to correct an imbalance that has always been there, even this late in the development, they could do the same for leaders if they wanted to. They are made of stern stuff, sterner than you are crediting them with this remark.
Perhaps it was a process of throwing a bone to those who did not want the MGL to be toned down. Perhaps they did have the best of intentions. But it was possible to work around the MGL's, to design scenarios and variants that were insulated from their intrusive, unbalancing impact. There's nothing that can be done about the SGL's except to lobotomize them. Blah. Would it have killed the designers to open this up in the editor and let us have access to all the options? They have done that with all the other game rules. Why must this one be dictated to us?
The only reason we weren't up in arms about the MGL's from before was because the idea hadn't occurred to us to take ONLY the great wonders off the table. Now that we know that's possible, and the possibility is brought to our attention every time we think about an MGL, or indeed any leader... Pandora's Box was opened, and they won't close it again just by wishing it closed. There's no reason now to force this on us except pure stubbornness. If they're willing to let us turn them off together, why not let us have them behave akin to what the MGL has become? That's LESS drastic of a solution. Then their work to make the SGL a feature would not be wasted on us.
The saving aspect of the scientific GL is ultimately its low chance.
No no no. That's precisely what makes it a disaster!
As my last Always War game proved, it's possible even with dozens upon dozens of elite victories to lose out on the leader lottery. Why? The extremely low odds.
Low odds are the death of probability management. The result skews off into the flat part of the bell curve, out past the margin of error. A game of backgammon is manageable because the odds of rolling a three when you need one are close to one in three. 30% chance or thereabouts. The same odds apply to baseball. When the average hitter hits safely in about one in five at-bats, or one in four for good players, one in three for superstars... and the odds shift a little with the right management... pitching history, contact history, ten thousand and one stats to factor in to the strategy... The odds of success are high enough to make it interesting, to make it compelling.
It's precisely BECAUSE of the low odds that we have a lottery on our hands. Blackjack, you can play. There's skill to it. Mostly luck, but enough skill and you can put yourself into position to win enough times to make it worth your time, if you enjoy the game.
With a lottery, you buy your ticket and then you sit there on your ass and DO NOTHING. It's all done for you. There's no talent to it, no system, no way to influence or choose anything. The wheel of fortune spins, and a few get very lucky. This hardly even qualifies as gambling, the odds are so bad.
I would rather see a small but certain reward, or a moderate but decently tilted random chance, that the player could manage in SOME capacity, ANY capacity. Instead we have a lottery. Perhaps you're one of those folks who plays the lottery from time to time in real life. In case you haven't guessed... I'm not.
With SGLs, even one free ancient wonder is pretty rare
Again missing the point. As somebody else noted, the first time somebody loses the UN to one of these jobbers, and actually LOSES the game based on the way the lottery breaks... "It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye." Sure, we can laugh and take note that they had the game won, and the stupid effects of the lottery breaking in to intrude on this can be ignored. But... if the effects of the lottery are stupid to begin with, why is it in the game???
I lost Suffrage in my game to this effect. Any other game, no big deal. But this was a one of a kind variant. One shot at this, and never going to play it again. I was aiming for domination. I specifically decided to try to get there from democracy. I bent my entire game plan to this goal. I had dozens of jav tossers sitting around dragging on my economy, waiting for the chance to carry out my plans. I made all the right moves to be in position to have a chance to reach my goal. It wasn't easy, took a lot of work. Since I only get one shot at this, can anybody tell me why I should be HAPPY to have it steamrolled by a crazy instance of the lottery breaking against me at the perfect moment? Of all the wonders I had built, this was the one that mattered the most to my plans.
It was, as I have said several times now... It was stupid. Senseless. I invested a chunk of my life into this variant game. What is the point of this feature? The odds on this thing are so low, you can't ever plan on it. You can't rely on it, strategize for it. All you can do is try to ignore it and hope it doesn't show up at a crazy time and wreck your game balance, for or against you. All you can do is pray that it DOES NOT show up at all. Ooh, great feature that is.
One of your criticisms of Civ 3, Sirian, was and is how predictable and manipulable certain game aspects are.
Wow, what a twist you've spun onto that.
I have indeed lamented how predictable the results of the game are. Why? Because of predictability from the AI. The AI ALWAYS buys. The AI always trades if it can. The AI never met a buyer it didn't like or a deal it couldn't pass up. The AI always prioritizes wonders, even in situations where it's the worst possible move to be making. The AI always commits its entire offensive force, only keeps defenders in reserve, never looks out for the exposure of its units, etc etc.
I have NEVER called for unpredictability IN THE GAME RULES. Quite to the contrary, I've lamented it long and loudly at every opportunity.
I thought this distinction was obvious. Perhaps I misjudged. I hope this clarifies my position.
Indeed, you've said that one major factor in drawing you into continuing play on GalCiv was that there's much less predestiny as compared to Civ.
The GalCiv AI's sometimes ignore wonders and trade goods. Sometimes. This gives you a chance to go after them, but of course, if they don't ignore them and you go after them, you might well waste your effort. You CAN manage this to some degree, though. It's not a lottery. That's the important point. There's variance in the AI behavior in GalCiv that is genuinely unpredictable, and that's a good thing. GalCiv gets a lot of things right, but let's not get off the subject here. We're talking about C3C.
ultimately the game as a whole is richer if, sometimes, the player has to deal with a wonder unexpectedly being taken off the table
If the wonder were taken off the table at the start of the game, then that I might welcome. I always loved the aspect of Master of Orion's tech tree where the available techs for each game differed. That's manageable. However, it would have stunk like a ten day old dead fish if all the techs APPEARED to be on the table, but while you were two-thirds of the way done researching one of them, it would suddenly become unavailable. Or worse, you were suddenly handed a free high level tech out of the blue. A free cheap tech, maybe, or other modest bonus, but nothing uber. The uber stuff should have to be earned, if it's even in the game at all.
What's the difference? Varying the scenario in advance forces you to adapt your game plan and deal with new situations. Varying the scenario while the game is in progress is a silly game of "gotcha". In Master of Orion, you had to defeat the mighty guardian to get to the two or three ubertechs stored at Orion. You could never do that with a dice roll. If those kind of goodies were handed out at random, like they WERE with Master of Magic, I would not have enjoyed the game.
Sirian, do you flatly refuse to run any Epics with SGL wonder rushing on the table?
I will not sponsor any such Epic. I don't believe it would be wise to run Epics under this condition, but according to Charis, this is not the only major issue hanging over the game. I'm in no position to judge the readiness of the current patch. I have no intention of dedicating any significant chunk of my time to voluntary analysis efforts. I've spent much of today on this topic, but I'm about done for now. I will go back to waiting, from a position of lowered expectations, hopes and interest levels.
I don't like leaving the Epics in limbo. We've never sat idle for this long. I worry that the game is growing apart from the tournament, or that I'm growing apart from both. Charis offered a laundry list of four or five major issues, any one of which poses a serious concern for Epics management.
I have long advised that research and tech trading be equalized, that the advantage given to buying tech be removed. HOWEVER, along with that I also advised that the AI's be enhanced to decide when not to buy, when not to sell, and of course, my suggestion was made so long ago, it was BEFORE they added the double-cost monopoly buying penalty. I never factored that into my recommendations, and indeed, it may be incompatible with equality between research and tech purchase. One or the other may have to go, if the combination is cementing the lead civ into an unbreakable monopoly on endless tech whoring and an unshakeable lead.
It looks like this expansion has a way to go yet on several key issues -- bugs, features, design decisions perhaps. I'm a believer in "buyer beware", though. If there is demand for Epics, despite the restless state of the game, and there are willing sponsors... Griselda can manage the details, and I will help her as appropriate. Otherwise, though, I will stay out of it, pending the arrival of the long-awaited "playable version" I still hope to find eventually.