Talk:4X/Archive 4

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Archive 3 Archive 4 Archive 5

Next Phase

I've dealt with the more fundamental policy issues and the areas of common agreement in the Peer Review. The most recent thing was the clean up of the definition section, including the "Difficulties in definition" subsection. It could probably use a good copy-edit. But I shortened the main definition to make it more readable, and to keep it more accurate to what sources say (rather than our own original research and interpretation). I also tried to get through the "advanced definitions" more quickly: explain it, and then either confirm it or knock it down. A common complaint was undue weight on mobygames, and too much rambling. I think the new version has fixed those problems, even if it's not perfect.

So what's next? Most of the suggestions on the peer review have been taken care of. The only requests that haven't been taken care of are from Jappalang, who says we should go into more detail about Emrich as the originator of the definition, and a lot of detailed suggestions from AndonicO. I'll try to summarize, but you should take a look at the peer review page yourself.

These we can do with very little discussion, IMO:

  1. Add the research from the original 1993 Emrich article that I unpacked above. (from Jappalang. The rest of these are from AndonicO.)
  2. Shorten the opening sentence of "other typical features" which doesn't have to be so complicated. Get to the point.
  3. Clean-up the technology tree section, with too many short paragraphs. (IMO, we should migrate some of this to the tech tree article)
  4. The history section talks too much about RTSs. Keep the focus on 4X.
  5. Home of the Underdogs is considered an unreliable source. (IMO, I think we can probably cite the same info from another source.)
  6. Reduce the example cruft of "such and such game has this feature", and try to generalize more.

Things that will take more discussion, planning, and organization:

  1. AndonicO suggested that we shorten the "5X" section or deal with it in some other manner. This needs more discussion/ideas.
  2. Probably the biggest and most important: the "other typical features" section is divided into too many short sections. I know you and me prefer shorter lists with quick headings, but if you look at most recent featured articles they tend to use larger sections. This will probably take the most discussion and planning, but will be easy to do once we figure it out.

The last step will be fixing the lead, to summarize everything in the article. Let's not worry about the lead right now. Randomran (talk) 21:03, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

I've copyedited:
  • "Peaceful victory conditions" to make some of the language simpler. "Many" instead of "Multiple"; "awe-inspiring" instead of "paradigm-shifting" (4X is research-intensive, but is free from both the progressive and the shackling effects of paradigms); in fact the achievment need not be technological, e.g. in Master of Orion II one can win by destroying the Antarans, and there are some relatively low-tech ways to do that. The SE series is not unique in offering victory for keeping the galaxy at peace - see Ascendancy (video game) (1995).
  • "Difficulties in definition" - BTW it works well as 1 section, on the whole I like your revision a lot. In particular I changed the 1st instance of "game journalists and developers" to "game journalists, developers and enthusiasts" and the 2nd to the more generic "writers": (a) "game journalists and developers" was repeated twice in 2 sentences; (b) it sounds too much like the familiar ruled-based approach to WP:RS,which we both know is flawed (if an argument about this starts getting heavy, I'll start quoting examples from chess articles - it's an older, very well-documented strategy game, and mistakes and misrepresentations in primary, secondary and tertiary chess sources are also well-documented).
The place for more about Emrich is the Alan Emrich article - that's why I created it! The context in 4X even makes it unnecessary to say that he was a games journalist (intro) or design consultant for MOO 3 ("The fifth X: eXperience").
Re the start of "Other typical features", I'd be happy to see someone else provide the same amount of information in fewer or simpler words.
Re "Technology tree"
  • Each paragraph is a logically distinct topic. Combining them would simply make the section less easy to understand. Of course I could easily remove the "too many short paragraphs" by making each para longer - but that would also be detrimental to readers.
  • If the para about a few hi-tech units trashing a much larger number of low-tech units were moved to the Technology tree article, that would imply that this was true of a much wider range of games - which just isn't true, see the examples cited in 4X. Of course we could rescue the Technology tree article from this falsehood by pointing out that this is a feature of "4X" games - but then it should be in 4X.
  • The same argument applies to the paras about the length and exponential research costs of 4X tech trees.
  • And it applies to the paras "4X games vary widely in the mechanisms they use to provide resources for research ..." and "The structure of technology trees varies a lot from one 4X game to another ..." are specific to "4X" games. In the RTS games that have significant research, the mechanisms are mostly the same (all based on Warcraft II) and there's no tree, just increasing levels of various combat and economic upgrades.
Re "the history section talks too much about RTSs", I mainly agree. How do you like (for 2nd para of "Golden Age"):
Although several 4X titles were released in the late 1990s (see the list below), the real-time strategy genre outsold turn-based games from the mid-1990s onwards.[1] As RTS games surged in popularity, major 4X franchises fell into difficulties. In 2001, Civilization III encountered development problems followed by a rushed release.[2] And despite the excitement over Master of Orion III, its release in 2003 was regarded as an ambitious failure.[3] Game publishers eventually became risk-averse to building 4X games.[4]
"Reduce the example cruft of “such and such game has this feature”, and try to generalize more" is IMO a comment based on insufficient understanding of 4X games. Most of the examples are in "Other typical features of 4X games", each of which is in several but not all 4X games. Naming the games is relevant here.
We can shorten "The fifth X: eXperience" fairly painlessly by cutting the Emrich quote to its first 3 sentences. The last 2 paras of main text are relevant: Moo 3’s "management via bureaucracy" was unpopular; and the "5th X" was really not such a big novelty.
"The “Other typical features” section is divided into too many short sections" is as wrong as the similar comment about "Technology tree", and for the same reasons - combining sub-sections would be confusing, and it's a complaint about the care that was taken to express these points clearly and concisely.
PS If we implement something like my suggestion for the impact of RTS on turn-based games and we then get a complaint about the result being a short para, I'll go to war. Philcha (talk) 23:00, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

A few things.

  • Thanks a lot for the copy-edit. All in all a step forward, but one small problem: now that you've just talked about just "victory for an achievement", outside readers won't know anything about the staple inclusion of a "technology victory". I think it would be enough to say "an awe-inspiring achievement at the end of the research tree" or something to that effect.
I don't think so - the point is that the achievement does not have to be a tech, though it's easier if you do have good tech. Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I'll try to add a quick description of Emrich's article in one or two sentences, probably somewhere in the "Definition" section.
How can I get hold of the article =- I'd like to see what else it contains, besides bad jokes and other teases. Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I like your revision of the 4X fall / RTS rise paragraph, but I think it's important to mention that critics moved towards RTS games too, not just consumers and developers. The quote "This led critics to assert that more gamers prefer real-time action to turn-based gameplay" should be paraphrased and put in there in some way. Nothing too long. It can probably be shorter than that.
I don't understand your reasoning there, can you explain, please? IMO "This led critics to assert that more gamers prefer real-time action to turn-based gameplay" summarises what the ref says, and that ref does not say anything about critics’ preferences. OK, the top of the cited page waxes enthusiastic, but the bottom complains about stores being "bloated" with RTS, and the next page complains about "me too" RTS games. Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • If you want to try a similar attempt to clean-up the 5X section, I think the article would be better off for it. AndonicO thought this section shouldn't exist as a standalone, and should be put somewhere else. I'm not sure how the heck to do that. But maybe if the section were shorter, something might come to me. A clean-up never hurts.
I think it's notable that there was a much hyped attempt to create a new sub-genre, that it was unsuccessful, and that it wasn't that new. We could take out the quote altogther (I always did think it took too much space) and change the preceding sentence to something like "Alan Emrich announced that the fifth X would be the eXperience of delegating the ruler's authority to subordinates and having to let them control many activities." So the whole section would be something like:
In 2002, with the pending release of Master of Orion III, there were claims that this would be the first "5X game". Alan Emrich announced that the fifth X would be the eXperience of delegating the ruler's authority to subordinates and having to let them control many activities.[5] [6]
Master of Orion III received mixed comments from reviewers and players: a few liked delegating control to AI governors, while the majority found this lack of detailed control boring or frustrating.[3]
This new "experience" also included the threat of unrest or revolt if players did not meet the demands of their citizens.[5] However, unrest and revolt had already been seen in the 4X genre. Civilization II in 1996 included features such as civil unrest in unhappy cities, and the possibility of being over-ruled by the senate.[7] In Galactic Civilizations, the player's party can even be voted out of office.[8] Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I agree with you that some of the short paragraphs make sense. But I think AndonicO pointed out something important about most GA and FA articles: the sections aren't short. We do have a few stub sections like "Empire Setting" and "Less Emphasis on Graphics". Rather than just expanding those with unnecessary ranting about empires and graphics, I think it might be a good idea to start the section with some general information, but leave the better sections (like Peaceful Victory Conditions) alone.
I'm totally against combining paras / sections for what amounts to a print design aesthetic. One of the principles of writing for the web is "1 topic = 1 paragraph" (it follows from "users don't want to read, they want to scan"). GA / FA reviewers who make a big deal of their interpretations of the MOS don’t eat their own dogfood. Reviews, Talk pages, etc. are full of short paras, short sections, bullet lists, etc. - often with good reason, as some discussions get more complex than many articles.
"Empire Setting" in its present or earlier forms never did much for me, and I could live without it. I've thought about whether there might be a worthwhile point hidden in there somewhere, and I just can't fnd one.
"Less Emphasis on Graphics" is another point that is totally distinct form all the rest. Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I also think it might be a good idea to merge together the short-but-related sections about complexity, including: "Depth..." "Long playing times" "Micromanagement" and maybe even "Constraints..." I think this would improve organization, and make the article look more like other GA articles stylistically.
I agree that the content of "Long playing times" could fit quite well into "Depth of gameplay". But IMO "Micromanagement" should stay separate: 4X players are buying into "Depth of gameplay" and "Long playing times" when they launch the programs, but "Micromanagement" is a complaint. Philcha (talk) 18:09, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I'll try to come up with a new draft of the tech tree section, and we'll discuss the other points later. I basically agree on the other points, but might be able to come up with a way that we can satisfy outside criticisms as well.

We're reaching a big milestone here! Randomran (talk) 17:10, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

  • The only problem with the "victory conditions" section now is that there's no mention of one of the most common staples of the genre: a technology victory. I think the interdimensional portal thing from MOO2 should be mentioned separately, since so many games offer that "victory by reaching the end of the tech tree", whether it's Civ's spaceship, Galactic Civ's crazy tech, or MOM's crazy spell.
I see your point. I've edited to
"... awe-inspiring achievement, which often involves researching some very difficult technology."
and mentioned MOO II in the footnote. I chose that specific wording in an attempt to cover all the variations: 1 tech in MoM, 3 techs + production + good judgment of timing in Civ, military in MOO II. Philcha (talk) 08:32, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
  • You're right about the rise of RTS / fall of 4X paragraph: what you have is solid. Go ahead and replace the section with your copyedit.
IMO we now have to re-think the section title - mid-1990s were a "Golden Age", late 1990s and earliests 2000s a decline, the most recent years a modest revival. How about "Fluctuating fortunes" (if that doesn't sound too much like something Robin might exclaim to Batman!)? That would make it sensible to merge in the next section, "Recent history". Perspicacious Philcha the Persistent Prescient predicts (TM) that we will then have issues about multiple short paras. I'd be happy to combine the 2 paras that are currently sub-section "Recent history". I'm less sure about merging with another para the one beginning "Even in the new millennium, cross-fertilization between board games and computer games continued ..." as that's a distinct subject and I'd like it to be visible to readers that the board game influence continues and has become 2-way. Philcha (talk) 08:32, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Go ahead and copyedit the 5X section with what you have there.
Done. Philcha (talk) 08:32, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I agree with you that we shouldn't overdo the merges, so let's just do a few for now. I'll tie together long playing times, complexity, and constraints. I'll leave micromanagement out for now.
Complexity almost implies long playing times, so I'm happy about merging these. But I'm not so sure about constraints, and would leave it separate for now. Philcha (talk) 08:32, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Let me try to deal with the two stubs subsections: empire setting and graphics. I think we can tie it together by having an overview at the top of the section. I'll try to come up with a draft of this sometime this week.
  • Drop an email address that you don't mind getting spam from, and I'll send you the scans of the original XXXX article.
You can email me via the "Email this user" link in the "Toolbox" menu at my User page. I've received attachments from other Wikipedians, but see no attachments facility in "Email this user". As I've received attachments from other Wikipedians, I guess the procedure is that you PM me, I reply (normal email), then you use normal email to send the attachment.Philcha (talk) 08:32, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
Keep up the good work... Randomran (talk) 00:19, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Gameplay section

I created a "lead" for the "other common features" section, which is now called simply "Gameplay" (a section that most other game articles are required to have.) We don't really need the "some games have this and some games don't and some other strategy games have these too" statement anymore. We do a good job of qualifying each generalization with counter-examples, and we cover the truly unique 4X features in the "difficulties in definition" section. Let readers make up their own minds about the similarities/differences between 4X games and other strategy games. The lead combines the information from the most stub-like of the sections: gameplay over graphics, empire setting, and racial advantages. Randomran (talk) 05:14, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Sorry, I think you've taken it a bit too far:
  • The whole "Gameplay" lead para is just a mixed bag of unrelated sentences.
  • It has lost the point that race design is so important in some 4X games (extremely in Stars!, very in MOO II, significant in the SE series) that strategy guides devote significant space to it.
  • The revision has lost the point that the "beer-and-pretzels" sub-genre omits or reduces a lot of the features, and there's no mention of the most notable "beer-and-pretzels" game, Spaceward Ho!, despite the fact that the article still mentions MOO, the Civ series, SOASE, the SE series and the GalCiv series.
  • IMO the best home for "Depth of gameplay usually takes priority over polished graphics" would be in the section "Depth of gameplay".
  • "Players usually manage their empire on a tile-based game map, from either a top-down or isometric viewpoint" is IMO an inaccurate over-generalisation. Avoiding the inaccuracy would take a whole para, so I'd prefer to remove the sentence:
    • In the Civ series the main and city maps are tiled; there's no combat map (I haven't played any other "Earth"-based 4X games).
    • In the space-based 4X games that I've played (MOO, MOO II, SE III, Ascendancy, GalCiv, Spaceward Ho!, VGA Stars, SOTS, Starships Unlimited) only SE III uses a tiled main map. In the others there's no sign that ship movement is in tile-sized steps, it looks mathematically continuous. Among space-based 4X games that I've played and that offer hands-on tactical combat, only SOTS (real-time combat) and Ascendancy (turn-based combat in 3 dimensions) use mathematically continuous movement in combat; the others have turn-based combat on tiled maps.
  • "4X games are a subgenre of strategy game" is hardly worth saying, unless it's made part of a larger point. I suspect you only slotted it in so that the intro and the content would match.
  • You've omitted from the main text the point that most 4X games are TBS, the main exceptions being Starships Unlimited (not mentioned, although it was AFAIK the first "RT4X" game) and SOASE. Besides being fairly important, it's in the intro.
To be honest if I hadn't spent so much time working with you I'd simply revert it - the list of faults is about 4X the length of the intro para.

Philcha (talk) 08:03, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

You're right. I took another shot at it. Fixed/removed the errors and tried to improve the flow. Only two areas of disagreement. I didn't go into detail about races and how some games have a lot of race design, some only have a bit, and some in between. I don't really see the value in saying "X is fat, Y is skinny, Z is medium" -- we essentially make the same point by saying nothing at all. I think this is the same problem that the tech tree section gets into and something that could use some clean-up. The other area of disagreement is the value of mentioning "Spaceward Ho!" in the lead, because we already mention it as an exception to "long playing times". The exception will be even more clear when we tie together the section on long playing times with the stuff about complexity and depth. Does that make sense? Randomran (talk) 15:23, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
You compare the range of importance / complexity of race design with ""X is fat, Y is skinny, Z is medium". But that does not help the reader to understand how fat "fat" is (ginormous in the case of Stars!, huge in the case of MOO II)
The "beer n pretzels" sub-genre reduces a lot more than just playing times.
It might be a good idea to present section re-writes here first, as I have been doing recently. Philcha (talk) 17:09, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
BTW why did you put a "cleanup" tag on "Depth of gamplay"? Philcha (talk) 17:19, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough. I tried to sum up the range between "fat" and "skinny" in one sentence, but I'm open to suggestions as to make this point in a concise way. Is there really any reliable research for a "beer and pretzels subgenre"? I figured it was just a few games that are simpler than others. Also, sorry for not presenting a rewrite here sooner. I'm just getting antsy as we're almost finished going over AndonicO's peer review and I got carried away. (The clean-up of "depth of gameplay" was something AndonicO felt strongly about, and I've tagged it so I don't forget.) We'll hammer out this "gameplay lead" section with incremental edits, and any further changes I'll discuss here first. Randomran (talk) 17:56, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Beer and pretzels

I understand the removal of the ref to Moby Games' article on Spaceward Ho! But I've re-inserted "beer and pretzels" since: it's quite a common gaming term; it captures the feel of Spaceward Ho!; I've got a ref for it (never mind the fact that the cited review mis-categorizes Stars! as "beer and pretzels", despite the Ph.D. theses written about race design and "whole-game strategy" for Stars! Would I use this review as a source for anything else? - no, but that's because I have my own personal and demanding criteria for reliability. Am I gaming WP:RS? - yes, because the current bureaucratic interpretation of WP:RS positively asks for it) Philcha (talk) 21:46, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

Good find! This article is definitely reliable by wikipedia standards, and reinforces the statement well. I know not everything from gamespot is truth, but remember "reliable" is not the same as "infallible". As editors, we still have to use some discretion when it comes to what "reliable" sources report. (BTW: mobygames is actually considered reliable by the video games wikiproject. the problem was that the article you referenced didn't say anything about playing times or simplicity or anything of the sort. It may have gotten moved from somewhere or attached to the wrong statement.) Randomran (talk) 06:49, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
The gamespot article is "reliable by wikipedia standards". Hmmm. Does that mean that if someone wrote into an article "the earth is flat" (without qualifications such as "X says that ...") we'd just have to accept it? IMO WP:RS is a misnomer and "WP:favored sources" would be more accurate.
"mobygames is actually considered reliable by the video games wikiproject". The problem is Moby Games is mixed - the genre def page everyone made such a fuss about is editable only by the MG staff, but IIRC the pages on individual games are user-editable. Rather interesting. Philcha (talk) 10:54, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Even gamespot has a user-defined section and forums and stuff. That kind of thing isn't considered reliable. If gamespot wrote something wrong, someone might be able to report it, yeah... but there's always the judgment of the editors. Reliable doesn't mean infallible. It's more just a threshold to exclude the truly unreliable. Randomran (talk) 15:09, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
IMO reliability isn't as black-and-white as the policy wonks would like to believe. I gave an example from the history of chess above, where I know fairly well the limitations of various sources and types of sources. I hate to think what it's like in "real" history, where every sentence carries political baggage. Even in the sciences respectable sources have made serious mistakes, because every scientist has a POV, and these get embedded in power structures - see paradigm shift. Philcha (talk) 15:56, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Reliability isn't about what you include, but what you exclude. If it's not reliable, you always exclude it. But if it's from a reliable source, you don't always include it -- that's just the first threshold. The final judgment is always a consensus. And wikipedia doesn't care if a reliable source pushes a point of view: "Assert facts, including facts about opinions—but do not assert the opinions themselves." Randomran (talk) 16:15, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
I look at reliability from a completely different perspective and this could go on forever without getting anywhere. Let's concentrate on 4X. Philcha (talk) 08:29, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Philcha's copy edits 8 June 2008

Hi, I've copyedited a few sections to reduce ambiguity, reduce assumed prior knowledge and, in a couple of cases, tone down exaggerations. The edit comments explain (I hope!) Philcha (talk) 08:29, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Looks good! I'm gonna chip away at a few copyedits for now, too. There's still a few peer review comments that haven't been tackled, but we'll get around to them. (Even if it means we decide there's no smart way to address the comment, and we ignore it.) Randomran (talk) 16:06, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Points from Emrich's preview

  • I'm a little disappointed that we haven't managed to mention Spaceward Ho!, mentioned by Emrich 1993 and first published 1991. Other 4X fans may feel the same. My inclination would be to insert it in the early history.
  • Emrich retrospectively categorises some games he cites as "4X". In fact he writes as it was a recognised genre but without a label until he coined one - see at top of page 2 "as in every 4X classic". Philcha (talk) 22:48, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm all for giving due weight to games that really have defined the genre. While I don't want to add examples for the sake of creating some kind of exhaustive list, there's really a killer reference for the history section that validates what you're saying. See: this. There's a part at the end of VGA Planets that basically says "many 4X (space) games either followed in the footsteps of VGA planets or Spaceward Ho". I think this is worthy of a sentence or two. Leave the actual details of the games for their individual article pages. We can find a spot for this after we mention Civilization, and before we mention Master of Orion. Randomran (talk) 23:08, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
On second thoughts we might have to leave out Geryk's mentions of VGA Stars and Spaceward Ho! simply for reasons of space (no pun, honest!). Now if we were writing an article called "History of 4X games" ... Philcha (talk) 22:12, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I trust your judgment, and I try my best to err on the side of "less is more". But if you feel strongly enough about their mention, there's a way to do it. We only need one sentence to mention them as milestones in the genre without elaborating too much on how or why. If people want to read more, they can always go to Geryk's article itself. It's in the references. Randomran (talk) 22:15, 19 June 2008 (UTC)


I finally tightened up the depth of gameplay section. AndonicO felt it was kind of incoherent. I tried to improve the flow, while staying true to the references. We actually have better references for making generalizations now, so we didn't have to microreference the details as much. I like all your copy edits too. We're making big progress. The last things to discuss, before we do the lead...

  • How's the depth of gameplay section now? Is there anything really missing? A copy-edit couldn't hurt.
  • The technology tree section needs a cleanup. For example, the article kind of rants about size and complexity: "some are big, some are small. They're bigger than other strategy games, except that they're not." We can get right to the point, here. I also think we can move some of this to the tech tree article itself, where people might be more interested in variety.
  • AndonicO says that the 1-paragraph:1-section thing is stubby and unencyclopedic. A quick scan of the featured articles, unfortunately, reveals that he's right and we're wrong. I really do think we can compromise by combining the complexity, length, micromanagement, and constraints sections. If you take a look at the references for these sections, they talk about these things all simultaneously. They could actually flow into each other quite well, with just a touch of modification. I know you're hesitant, so I'll offer a draft and we can hash it out later.

Let me know anything else you're thinking about. Other thoughts before we get into the lead... maybe we need a "reception" section to talk about praise and criticism of the genre? Or do we kind of cover that as we go along? Thinking out loud... Randomran (talk) 23:02, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

In the intro to "Gameplay" I'd change 1 sentence: "Each player takes control of a different civilization or race, often with unique characteristics and strengths." The point is that the impact of racial traits varied in early 4x games, from major in Stars! and the Master of Orion series to negligible in the 1st 2 versions of Civ (although in the 1st 2 versions of Civ they showed differences in approach, e.g. the Zulus and Aztecs tended to be early game aggressors while the Americans tended to be unagressive, a litte too trusting but real tough nuts in the late game because of their high investment in tech).
The 1st para of "Depth of gameplay" doesn't feel right to me. How about:
4X games are known for their strategic depth[4][9][10] and complexity,[11][12] which usually take priority over polished graphics.[13] Whereas other strategy games focus on combat, 4X games also offer alternative routes to supremacy via diplomatic, cultural and technological means.[14][15] [16] This also challenges the player to manage several strategies simultaneously, and plan for the long-term.[17] In order for 4X games to offer this detailed control over a large empire, these games are often designed with a complex set of rules.[18]
I would not object to making "Long playing times" as the final para under "Depth of gameplay", as it seems to me to be a logical consequence.
"Micromanagement" should stay separate. If a game lacked all the other features, players would question whether it was a 4X game; but if it reduced micro as successfully as GalCiv or Soase, players would just say "Good!" To put it another way "Long playing times" are acceptable to the extent that they reflect the amount of thought required, but not if they are extended by flaws in a game's mechanics.
I would prefer not to fold the other paras into "Depth of gameplay" because I think it would make that section an indigestible mixture of themes.
I wouldn't fight over combining the 1st paras of "Technology tree and research", although I prefer them separate.
The 3rd para (size of tech tree) distinguishes 4X games from most other strategy games. If we don't note the multi-epoch games as an exception to this, we'll get "Yes, but what about ..." in the Talk page, and possibly over-the-top attempts to correct this omission.
The para in "Technology tree and research" about resources / buildings IMO states a genuine distinguishing feature of 4X, so I want it to stay separate. I wish we could say that it's a distinguishing feature of 4X, but the refs we have are not explicit enough for that.
Technology tree says something very similar to the para beginning "The structure of technology trees varies a lot from one 4X game to another," but does not have the refs; we need to transfer the refs if we consider removing the para from 4X.
Wikipedia:Manual of Style cites Style guide, which cites WEB STYLE GUIDE, 2nd edition. One section of that, Web Style : Online style, recommends "short segments of texts written in a clear, concise style and with ample use of editorial landmarks." That's entirely consistent with everything I've ever read about writing for the web, starting with How Users Read on the Web by Jakob Nielsen. The only part of WP:MOS I've found that says anything about para length is "The number of single-sentence paragraphs should be minimized, since these can inhibit the flow of the text. By the same token, paragraphs become hard to read once they exceed a certain length" [1]. It looks to me as if the aversion to single-topic paras is a caricature of that, caused by editors thinking "that article passed and its average paragraph length is x, so I'll be safe if my article's average paragraph length is x+1" and so average length creeps up. Note that WP:MOS itself follows the recommendations of Web Style : Online style.
I suspect it would be very hard to find good refs for a "reception" section about praise and criticism of the genre - in particular they would have to cover a time-span of over 15 years.Philcha (talk) 15:00, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for getting back to me...

  • I merged "depth of gameplay" with "long playing times" to just have a section about "complexity". They definitely flow together.
  • I'm okay with adding the qualifier "often" re: racial characteristics. Qualifiers always often improve accuracy.
  • I'm not sure I like combining the first two sentences of the "depth of gameplay" section. The shorter sentences are more readable.
I'm no fan of convoluted sentences, but in this case having short sentences together looks rough to me. Another common guideline for web writing (or any other) is to vary the lengths of sentences. For an example, look at your next comment, which alternates longer and shorter sentences. Philcha (talk) 09:44, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Your change to the third sentence in "depth of gameplay" makes it sounds like you're talking about victory conditions. That's not really what this section is about. The key sentences from the reference: "nearly all RTS games choose to simplify any or all of diplomacy, economics, and technology in favor of putting the focus on combat" and "we wanted to achieve a more even balance between combat and these other elements while still capturing the epic size and scale presented in 4X games." It's more about choice than it is about victory. I'm okay with rephrasing it, but don't want to change the meaning.
Where have I heard that before :-)   OK, you're right. Philcha (talk) 09:44, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I think you should reconsider merging in the "micromanagement" section as well. First, the references/section discuss micromanagement in the context of long playing times. Second, the references/section also see the relationship between micromanagement and large empires (and long playing times again). This "complexity" stuff really all fits together. Besides, having a section on micromanagement makes it sound like every single 4X game features micromanagement. By merging it in, we treat it more like something that some games have, and other games have fixed. If need be, we could rewrite the section to make it clear that this isn't a necessary part of 4X gameplay.
No, in fact I'll propose a re-ordering of sections (separate comment) in which "micromanagement" comes last. It's completely different from the other topics because it's a complaint about game mechanics, and one which developers have tried to address from very early in the genre's history: MOO (1993; original version) has a "locate" facility that works like rally points in e.g. Starcraft, Ascendancy (1995) and MOO II (1996) had options to automate colony build queues, and SE III (1997 ) had options to automate several other aspects as well, although these were not very successful and hardly ever used by players; later GalCiv, MOO 3 and Soase provided built-in automation of colny managment, with varying success. I'd be happy for us to reword the section to make that point clearer, and we could look for refs that uphold that trend.
  • The problem with the other subsections isn't the length of the paragraphs, but the lengths of the subsections themselves. See Andonic's peer review. Also see the four most recent feature VG article promotions: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Riven, Myst. I'm not sure what we can do about the short sections besides merging them. Expanding them seems like a bad idea, considering the limited research out there, and I think articles only get worse when they cloud the main point. Do you have any ideas?
I honestly don't see that the shortish sections are a problem. We merged the shortest, "Length ..", into "Complexity", because it's a good logical fit. I think the rest are consistent with Web Style : Online style and other online guides and with both the content and the presentation of WP:MOS. I actually think the previous review comments was incorect.
  • My main concern about the tech tree section is the convoluted paragraphs about length. I don't think the length of the tech tree really distinguishes the 4X genre at all. RTS games vary in size: from StarCraft to Age of Empires. 4X games vary in size too: isn't Spaceward Ho really simple? I think it's enough to say "4X game tech trees vary in size and complexity. A is an example of a large complex one, B is an example of a small simple one."
Re tech tree, I think games divide into clear groups, and that 4X have a distinctive set of characteristics. I'll write a separate commment below on this. Philcha (talk) 09:44, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

That's a lot to work with in the overarching gameplay section. If we can polish this section off, I think we only need a copyedit and a lead update to reach GA status. Randomran (talk) 17:13, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Re section order within "gameplay", I think "Complexity" should come first, because most of the other sub-sections are aspects of that complexity, and I think "Micromanagement" because it's not an aspect of complexity but a flaw in game mechanics which developers have tried to address. How do you like the following order:
  • Complexity
  • Peaceful victory conditions. I think it fits well here because it picks up on the mentions of diplomacy, tech, etc. in "Complexity"
  • Diplomacy with non-teammates. Follows up by explaining what is distinctive about 4X diplomacy.
  • Technology tree and research.
  • Reduced emphasis on combat. The flip-side of the previous features.
  • Constraints on growth and warfare. I think this goes well with "Reduced emphasis on combat". For example one of the designer/developer blogs said most RTS agames are really real-time production races - couldn't find it quickly but I'll do a serious search if you think it might be a useful point. PS found one, History of Real-Time "Strategy", which is more consie and explicit on this point than the Troy Goodfellow] article that it cites. Philcha (talk) 13:17, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Micromanagement. Emphasise that developers have tried to minimise it.
Re playing times, do you think it would be worth trying to work in Executing and Preventing Rushes's point that top RTS players try to win ladder games in under 15 minutes.? The only 4X game I know where such a fast win is possible is MOO II, and only if you use a "blitz" race (optimised for rushing) in a small galaxy with an "advanced" start (you get some free techs and ships). Philcha (talk) 09:44, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
Re the distinctive characteristics of 4X tech trees:
Some RTS have no research, you simply have to build up and protect your economy to the point where you can afford the high-tech units and defences - examples: the C&C / Red Alert series, Total Annihilation and successors. In StarCraft (original, I don't have the Brood Wars expansion) the 3 sides are very different but have a similar number of "techs" (just upgrades plus a few special abilities); for example the Protoss have 32 "techs" that between them require 8 different buildings to research them, and some of the buldings are also prerequisites for building certain units. The multi-epoch RTS games have more techs / upgrades because some can only be researched after you reach a specific epoch, but the number of types of buildings required is similar to Starcraft; I haven't tried counting for Empire Earth, which has a very large set of "techs", but I'd guess very aproximately 200 "techs". MOO II has one of the smallest tech trees in "full size" 4X games, with 10 levels in each of 8 subjects (not counting "hyper-advanced" research or the fact that "Creative" races get on average about 2 techs per level); SE III has one of the larger tech trees, with over 200 techs. Can't remember the details for Spaceward Ho!, I think 5 subjects with about 5 levels each ~= 25.
So we have 3 groups as far as "tech tree" size is concerned: RTS with no research; "beer n pretzels" 4X (~= 25) and single-epoch RTS (~=32); "full size" 4X and multi-epoch RTS (80 - over 200).
"Full size" 4X and multi-epoch RTS are also distinct from the rest in having non-military techs. Off the top of my head I don't think there's a pattern in the balance between military and non-military techs - I suspect that if anything the multi-epoch RTS games have a greater % of non-military techs.
4X games are distinctive in that the same types of resource can support all research, while in the RTS games that include research you need different buildings (not surprising, because they are all derivatives of Warcraft). Philcha (talk) 10:14, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

The problem is that no reliable references have made any generalization about 4X tech trees compared to tech trees in other games. And you know how hard we worked to find references about what distinguishes 4X games from other games! That's before you get into the problem of saying "there are really three different categories of 4X and RTS games". I know you mean well, but a lot of what you're saying is original research. Wikipedia just isn't meant for proposing new theories, categories, and observations. Besides, you kind of confirm that there is no consistent size of tech trees in strategy games, let alone in any particular subgenre. I propose we ditch the 3rd and 5th/last paragraphs entirely, and replace it with:

  • "Hence 4X games typically feature a technology tree. These trees vary in size and complexity. For example, Spaceward Ho offers a tree with 25 technologies, while Space Empires III offers a tree with more than 200."

Otherwise, I think the "gameplay" section is wrapping up. We do a good job of referencing the point about longer playing times, and don't really need the offtopic comment about rushing in RTSs. And I'm willing to stop pushing for merging sections until we actually encounter a good article review that says otherwise. (Okay, last one: don't you think the "constraints on growth and warfare" flows nicely from the comment about complex rules in the "complexity" section?) I'm okay with your reorder of the sections. After a quick clean-up of the tech tree section, I think it's time to rewrite the lead. Anything else? Randomran (talk) 15:46, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Oh ye of little faith! Joystiq interview: Ironclad talks 4X strategy with Sins of a Solar Empire: "The research tree in Sins approaches the size and quality of a 4X research tree and dwarfs pretty much any RTS game I can think of."
You may also like the same article's "How does Sins work in diplomacy and espionage, two elements that usually play a fundamental role in 4X titles?" I found it by Googling for "strategy game 4x tech technology tree". I've edited that para to remove the game-specific comparisons since we have such an explicit ref. Since that makes the 2nd and 3rd paras 1-2 sentences each, I've combined them - I also think thet fit together reasonably well, as the high cost of high-tech implies a need for intermediate productivity enhancers. What do you think?
Re the last para of "Tech tree", as I said, I'm happy to remove it provided the refs get transferred to Technology tree first. Done!
I've re-ordered the sub-sections as discussed above.
If you're happy with all that, intro and clean up are next! Philcha (talk) 18:13, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Wow! You're getting better with those references. Good job. I'm actually surprised at how quickly the tech tree section came together, and it looks a lot better now. (Good call on migrating the more detailed analysis and comparisons to the main technology tree article). The only comment I'd make before we do a more thorough intro and cleanup: I feel like the technology tree section should start with the tech tree instead of research more generally. Start with "4X games typically feature a technology tree, which is designed to ... (explain relationship between research and tech tree)". Then get into the other details about how research works, and how big the tree is. Do you know what I mean? (Let alone, do you agree?) Randomran (talk) 22:47, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

If you write the truth you can usually find refs :-)
I thought hard about the order of "Tech tree" when I first wrote it. The quickest way to win or lose a 4X game is if there's a significant military gap - even AI's with "diplomatic" personalities will attack if they think they can get away with it (this is not WP:OR, I had a similar debate in Master of Orion and I know the refs). That's reflected in the fact that most the 4X tech trees I've seen are around 75% military (perhaps the Civ series has the lowest military %). Experienced players will be aware of this, and "strategy game" will primarily suggest "military" to non-players, so I think starting with the military aspect will make sense to both groups. The size of the tech tree follows from the huge difference in effectiveness between low-tech and high-tech combat units, plus the need to build up the economy in order to research some of the top military techs in a reasonable time.
I think we need to re-think the section "Golden age", as its current content is more like "Golden age and partial eclipse". I also suggest moving its last para ("Even in the new millennium, cross-fertilization between board games and computer games continued ... ") into "Recent history".
From the timing of our discussions I guess you live on the West side of the Atlantic and I won't see your reply until tomorrow. Meanwhile I'll have a go at the intro, so you can have a look at that too. Philcha (talk) 08:43, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
Intro re-drafted. I've moved out of the intro and into the main text the definitions ("cite xxx | title=...") of all refs that are also used in the main text, as WP:MOS prefers no refs in the intro.
A few refs are used only in the intro, of which I think the most significant and least easy to replace is the one that compares Civ and GTA sales.
I've also removed from the intro the sentence about Emrich being a design consultant for MOO 3, as the article is not about Emrich. Philcha (talk) 09:50, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

The intro looks great! Good job. I think it does a good job of summarizing the whole article. But just in case I'm missing something, take a look at WP:LEAD and see if there are any lessons to draw from there. Re: the tech tree, I see your point about starting with small steps that outsiders can understand. I think my point is much simpler: when you write any kind of non-fiction, it's typical to begin each chapter/section/paragraph with a topic sentence. I think the tech tree section kind of jumps right into the content about military when it should really start with a basic sentence that sums up the whole section. Even the second paragraph, I feel like the topic sentence is buried in the middle: "hence 4X games have a tech tree". I think it's better to start with the main point and then build it up, rather than start building with small ideas and assert the main point in the middle. Do you know what I mean? Randomran (talk) 19:44, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

To me it's the difference between "There's a tech tree, how nice" and "Tech is powerrrrrr".
The tricky bit with leads is which points need citations. I think the keyword in WP:LEAD is "controversial". I'll add citations where I think there's potential for controversy. Philcha (talk) 21:20, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
Bad news: [2], our ref for "resurgence in 4X", has gone bad. Googling for "4x turn-based resurgence revival" got me zilch. Can you do better? Philcha (talk) 21:35, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
Good job on the lead. I still think the tech tree section out to start with some kind of summary sentence. I mean, we can find a way to summarize the whole thing, right? I think that will bring the forest into focus, rather than starting out in the thick of the trees. I really do think the section is a difficult read right now. The point isn't clear. As for the reference, we might just have to kill the comment about a "possible resurgence" since it came from a single source. I don't think that one little tidbit was really necessary anyway. There are lots of reviews that talk about Galactic Civilizations II as being "the new master of orion" and overcoming the disappointment of MOO3. I think it's even won some awards. While we lose the actual "resurgence" statement, I think we maintain the overall spirit of the point: things are picking up for 4X games (without explicitly injecting our POV into this). Randomran (talk) 22:10, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

Definition - 4X phases

Sorry, Randomran, your recent edit doesn't work for me at all. "Sometimes these four elements of gameplay are organized as distinct phases" reverses the previous emphasis, and IMO is incorrect: even without the tech hurdles of MOO and SE III the typical rhythm after contact has been made is a short war, then the winner colonises the disputed territory, etc. Also I don't see what part of the cited PC Retroview: Master of Orion II], and it's a source that already has serious factual errors in the part about MOO II races. The other statments in the para are now supported by reference to only 1 game. I don't know why you think these references are better than the ones for the previous version. Sirian (re MOO) is Bob Thomas, who has worked for Firaxis as a design consultant (BOB "SIRIAN" THOMAS; see also Civilization IV: Reference, Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Special Edition - and if you want total WP:RS on his role, p. 198 of the Civ IV manual credites him as both an AI & Design Consultant and a Beta Tester) - i.e as a source he's worth any 5 game journalists. Philcha (talk) 21:22, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

If someone worked on a game, they're an authority on the game they design. It doesn't mean that their personal website becomes a reliable source on games in general. I'm just trying to pre-empt any challenges we're likely to encounter in a good article nomination. The previous version would likely be challenged under the guideline against self-published resources and the guideline against original synthesis. Truthfully, I don't even think this part of the "definition" is necessary for the article. We already cover the differing constraints on growth and warfare in the "gameplay" section. If we can't improve the references, I'd be okay with just chopping these few sentences completely. I know that "reliable sources" are sometimes wrong, and "unreliable sources" are often right, but that doesn't matter for wikipedia. Randomran (talk) 22:52, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
We can deal with challenges if they happen - as you yourself have said previously. Meanwhile the previous version is more accurate and informative. Philcha (talk) 23:26, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
I think we're gonna have a tough enough time defending Tea Leaves, Tacticular Cancer, and Real Time Strategy Carnage's glossary. I'd rather save my gunpowder for those battles since they permeate through the whole article. This statement about the length of the phases just isn't pivotal to the article. I think the point is there, isn't it? In some games, exploration and expansion last longer. Not to mention that the point is already in the "constraints" section under "gameplay". But I admit that there is some nuance in the writing that might escape me. What is it that you think doesn't come across in the new version? Randomran (talk) 23:37, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
As I said, "Sometimes these four elements of gameplay are organized as distinct phases" is wrong for most 4X games because of the normal rhythm (see above), and more wrong in game sthat are designed ot extend colonisation. The use of "organized" comes perilously close to suggesting the division is in the rules, which it isn't. This sentence is then followed by mention of the tech obstacles to colonisation in GalCiv: Dread Lords, which implicitly contradicts the 1st sentence. The truth is the phases usually overlap, and features of some games enforce this. Philcha (talk) 06:52, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I made a small change based on your feedback. The source never really said anything about organization or distinctness anyway: just called them phases. The cited example describes how an expansion pack extended colonization. So I think the point about the phases varying in length depending on design comes across. Do you see any additional problems with what's there now? Randomran (talk) 07:08, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
It still misses the point they they overlap and in some cases are forced to overlap. I've been unable to find another ref for this. I reckon it's your turn to have a look. as I've found a replacement ref for resurgence (the old one went bad). If we can't agree on refs I'd rather remove the para, as IMO the current phrasing is still misleading. Philcha (talk) 07:19, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I already took a strong look around for articles that discuss the phases. Most articles only offer a token mention (e.g.: there are four phases). This guide offers a little more detail, but comes to the opposite conclusion: the phases happen in a fixed order, which I don't think is true, and the article is really just describing Civ 4 anyway. I don't think the paragraph is so important that we should break our backs trying to link it to the research, so let's just drop it if you think it's misleading. Randomran (talk) 07:27, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Excellent find! WP:RS and right on the money! - "Although the game has been simplified to four important concepts, almost every one of your turns will be some mix of at least two of the concepts. This is especially true of the middle-end game, when you'll more than likely be doing all four at once." We can reinstate the old para, add this ref for the "general" situation and then perhaps point out that some games enforce the overlap. I've just done this - what do you think? Philcha (talk) 07:46, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Would you believe I totally missed that quote? Good catch. A lot of my searching isn't just googling for new sources, but looking for quotes buried in existing sources. Can't believe I missed that. I liked your edits. I just re-added an "intro" sentence, and also tried to keep the comment to reliable sources. I think this part is in decent shape now! Randomran (talk) 16:15, 17 June 2008 (UTC)


Would you mind if I replaced the C-Evo pic, which is similar to the masthead Civ II pic, with a MOO or MOO II combat map - it would fit the context. Philcha (talk) 07:15, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

If you feel strongly enough about it, then go ahead. Although I have a few concerns about the images. One is the concern of overusing copyrighted images. I think a little more reliance on C-Evo, FreeOrion, and FreeCiv would save us some grief. My second concern is more just an aesthetic one. Right now, we have 3 images from the Civ series and 2 from the MOO series and you want to add one more. It might be nice to spread the wealth a little, to other 4X games. But these concerns are more in the "let's try" category, and not anything I feel strongly about. So just think about them as you update or add any new images. Randomran (talk) 07:22, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
File:C-Evo UI A thumb.png
C-Evo screen with sub-windows highlighted.
I take it back - the C-Evo pic shows multiple windows, which should make the point. What fooled me was that the low contrast colour scheme did not make this clear at thumbnail size (and my eyesight is lousy). I could edit the pic to make the child windows stand out more at this size (e.g gold "chrome"), and could post it here first so you can check it out - what do you think? Philcha (talk) 07:56, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Here's what I had in mind - would look terrible at full size, but makes the point as a thumbnail. Philcha (talk) 09:50, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Do you think marking up the image is necessary? I trust your judgment. Go ahead and change it over if you think it helps. Randomran (talk) 16:16, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

You know... do you have access to any 4X game that isn't Civilization or Master of Orion? I'd like to see the diplomacy screen replaced. Civ 1 isn't very pretty, and the screen doesn't really show how how diplomacy is intricate anyway. Randomran (talk) 16:30, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

You just ruled out 50% of 4X! I'll see if I can dig up something for SE IV, SE V or GalCiv (SE III ain't pretty, it uses basic Windows chrome). Philcha (talk) 16:40, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
No luck. Diplomacy may be a distinguishing feature of 4X, but everyone seems more interested in getting the techs and kicking butt - including me >-)
The other problem is that more recent games have prettier graphics, so the contents are harder to see when reduced to thumbs. A couple of GalCiv II diplomacy screenshots I saw on the web were pretty hard to make out.
The best suggestions I can come up with are:
  • Use the MOO (I) diplomacy screen. It's as cartoony as the Civ (I) screen, but the options may be legible at thumb size.
  • One of us downloads the SE IV demo and the other GalCiv demo (1st Windows version) and we play though until contact with other empires. I specifically suggest the older versions, in the hope that the details will scale down better to thumb size. Philcha (talk) 18:06, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I've downloaded the SE IV demo and played until contact made. The "Communicate" screen is illegible if the whole screen is shrunk to 250px wide, and its message details section is legible with a magnifying glass if shrunk to 250px. I've just checked MOO (I) and its diplomacy screen is barely legible at 250px. Any ideas?
In my limited opinion, it doesn't have to be all that legible in a thumbnail. It just has to have decent imagine quality, with the sense that there are some options and so on. If someone clicks on the image, they can see more detail. I think something like this would be decent, if it were brighter. Randomran (talk) 21:48, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I've just checked how it looks at thumb size, and I'm impressed. The SE IV image I got from playing the demo had so little contrast that it was hard to see the number of options. The MOO (I) image was an ugly mess at thumb size, as well as not meeting your requirements (besides, as usual I was at war with the b******s, so half the options were greyed out - a case of what I said about lip-service to diplomacy in 4X). I'll vote for your Gal Civ image.
In fact I've just tried the "enhance colors" option in IrfanView and it looks good. I've uploaded it, you can do the Fair Use Rationale. Philcha (talk) 23:28, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
I've moved the diplomacy image up, to avoid sandwiching text between 2 images. It now spans the "Peaceful VCs" and "Diplomacy" sections, which I think is fairly appropriate. That's allowed me to move the tech tree image to the right - as a reader I dislike left-floated images, as they make it hard to find the start of text lines. Is that OK? Philcha (talk) 21:06, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I wrote the fair use rationale. I invite you to sign it. Thanks for enhancing it! Randomran (talk) 02:54, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Didn't see that when I checked the FUR, so I copied it, edited the copy & signed it. Confuse a bot to-day! Philcha (talk) 21:06, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I don't think you should doctor the images. Fair use doesn't cover this. SharkD (talk) 17:29, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

It's a free image. Randomran (talk) 17:43, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
Ah, sorry. I didn't realize that the game was released into the public domain (the only quality game that I know of). I thought it was simply Freeware. SharkD (talk) 18:12, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
No problem. For all the great work that's been done on this article, I'm trying to remember concerns like this as we approach a GA nomination. A lot of articles get hit for copyright issues. Randomran (talk) 18:20, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Reduced emphasis on combat

I'm thinking we need to rethink this section entirely. The first half that compares 4X games to first person shooters looks like original research, first off. Plus I think we kind of cover this in the complexity section.

  • "Whereas other strategy games focus on combat, 4X games also offer more detailed control over diplomacy, economics, and research." -- The reference describes this not as a reduced emphasis on combat, but as an increased emphasis on diplomacy/economics/tech.
  • "Many 4X games have a separate screen for ... managing battles." Which is a more accurate way of making the same point about combat: some games have detailed control over combat, while others don't.

I think we might be able to kill the first paragraph about different combat systems. The final statement could be incorporated into the technology and research section, since it shows that technology is often decisive in battles. Another option is to summarize the first paragraph in a way that's more true to the research out there: some 4X games resolve combat with a simple dice roll, some 4X games have a tactical battle screen. Maybe the section would then evolve more towards describing combat in general. I'm thinking outloud, though. I see this as a problem in need of a solution, and there might be a better way forward. Randomran (talk) 17:29, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Combat in 4X is a moderately complex topic. Here are my thoughts, you might see a better way to structure them.
  • Combat is less central in 4X. I can find enough refs for phrases like "unit control" in RTS. I'm less sure about FPS as I don't play FPS, but I haven't seriously looked - but I'd be confident of finding some. I'd also check the refs we already have to see if they make any comprisons. Do you have any relevant prior knowledge?
  • In 4X the question of control over combat is rather divisive. The earth-based games I've seen (Civ I, Civ II; plus Battle for Wesnoth, although that's not really 4X) handle combat automatically when units' path cross. The space-based 4X games vary from totally automatic (Stars!, Gal Civ, Spaceward Ho!) to very tactical (MOO II, Space Empires series). Reviewers' and players' tastes vary as much - for example some like the relative lack of tactical factors in MOO (I) (e.g. Sirian and Tea Leaves), while other reviewers and players like MOO II's very tactical combat and complain about the lack of hands-on control in Gal Civ and the unusability of tactical control mechanisms in MOO 3. (PS I love it in MOO II when 1 of my battleships kills 4 enemy battleships - my personal best is 1 beats 6).
  • Nevertheless 4X does not offer / enforce tactical clickfests like those of StarCraft. Even in MOO II tech and ship design are the dominant factors. Philcha (talk) 18:28, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
From what I can remember, there were no comparisons between FPSs and 4Xs in the research. There are a few sources that compare RTSs and 4Xs, but we've been through them over and over to discuss the "difficulties in definition". The closest comment we have is about complexity: "nearly all RTS games choose to simplify any or all of diplomacy, economics, and technology in favor of putting the focus on combat". So it's not really about reduced emphasis on combat. It's more about increased emphasis on economics. I think we can scrap the opening sentence as WP:OR, and we don't really need to make the direct comparison. The other comments can be tweaked and cited: (1) many 4X games resolve combat with a simple dice roll, (adding a reference that almost hits the mark) (2) several 4X games resolve combat with a tactical battle screen, (already referenced) (3) technology and numbers usually trump tactics. (already referenced) Maybe when we've tightened up this section, we'll know whether to merge it or expand it. Randomran (talk) 21:28, 17 June 2008 (UTC) ... we already have two of these points referenced. I've found one that can reference the last remaining statement. Randomran (talk) 22:50, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Sources Peer review

I'm at a loss to see how the Eurogamer review of Armageddon Empires supports the statement, "The earliest 4X games borrowed ideas from board games and from 1970s text-based computer games." Sure, it says the game is a glorified board game. It even says this about most TBS games. However, it says nothing about the history of 4X games, or that early games borrowed ideas from them [edit: ie board games]. It's not an old game, so I find it rather odd that it's being used here.

I'll check through the rest of the sources as I look for stuff to clean up. SharkD (talk) 05:23, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

The source you replaced it with isn't any better. It merely says that Sid Meier "borrowed" the idea from Avalon Hill. It says nothing about the history of 4X games, nor, for the matter, text-based games. SharkD (talk) 03:13, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Read closer. Look for the part about Reach for the Stars. Randomran (talk) 03:21, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Ah, sorry. Missed that. Still, basing the statement on two games having been influenced by board games is kind of weak. Likewise, the second article only mentions Civilization as having been "begotten" by Empire. Finally, I find the logic of the statement a bit odd as well, as some of the early text-based empire-building games could, themselves, be considered 4X games in their own right (there must be a ref out there somewhere that says this!). SharkD (talk) 03:29, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Re "the early text-based empire-building games could, themselves, be considered 4X games in their own right, there are at least 2 issues here. Finding sources at all for game genres is very difficult, as Randomran can confirm. More importantly, when a genre is evolving / emerging, it's difficult to be precise about the point at which it becomes distinctive. So any sources we might find might duck the issue, or give different purely personal opinions. We should let this sleeping dog lie. Philcha (talk) 11:55, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

"This attempt to clarify the definition has some basis, since other definitions[21] and several reviewers of 4X games[24] suggest that diplomacy is a major feature of most 4X games." You can't use opinions as a basis of supporting fact. Facts are supported by things like scientific observation or testing [Edit: or by statements of fact]. This needs to be changed to emphasize (since the definition is already in contention) that the statements are only expressions of opinion. This can be easily fixed by changing "basis" to "support" and making the creators of the other definitions a subject of the latter clause instead of "definitions" being the subject. SharkD (talk) 03:51, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Changed to "has some support", but kept "since other definitions[21] and several reviewers ..." because there are 2 types of source. Philcha (talk) 11:55, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

"The first 4X games were turn-based, but game developers have created real-time 4X games, as well." This sentence exists in the intro and shouldn't be repeated verbatim. Reword it or merge it somehow with the points that follow it. SharkD (talk) 03:54, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"Most 4X games represent these racial differences with a collection of economic and military bonuses and sometimes also disadvantages; but in Sword of the Stars the races mainly differ in their space travel techniques, which has a large impact on how they play." Is SotS the only game that differs from the main of the genre? Is SotS notable enough to get special emphasis? This can be fixed with a simple change in style or tone. I'll do this myself, as well as fix some issues in the preceding paragraph. SharkD (talk) 03:58, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Update: I will get around to doing the copy edits some time tomorrow. SharkD (talk) 06:03, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"Game designers often organize empire management into different interface screens and modes.[32] Many 4X games have a separate screen for diplomacy,[35] for managing each colony,[36] or for managing battles.[36]" I haven't checked the references yet, but I highly doubt that the frequency of these mechanics as specified in the article are supported properly by such few sources. SharkD (talk) 04:02, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I checked the sources and only the first statement is supported by a reference. It would be better to leave the blanket statements unsourced (and hope they survive), and use the sources to supply examples, than to mis-apply references. SharkD (talk) 06:03, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
There's a para in the 1st ref Previews: Sins of a Solar Empire that would support all the types of screens in 4X:
Yes, colonies, and in fact all objects, are viewed and managed within the same interface as the battles and the entire galaxy view. In a typical 4X game you might interact with things in a variety of different modes. In one view you might have a star-map mode where you would manage your colonies and fleet movements, and then a battle mode where you control or watch a battle while the rest of the universe is on pause. In Sins there is only one seamless, real-time mode. If you want to see the star map, zoom out. If you want to control a battle around a planet, zoom in. Then zoom in again on another planet to watch your ally fight a simultaneous battle. Interacting with every object in Sins, from colonies to ships, is the exact same process and has the exact same user interface: select it and choose from the options on the action grid at the bottom of the screen. If you want to manage a colony, say adding a trade-port, first select the planet, then click the "build orbital structures" button, choose trade-port, and then pick a convenient location in the gravity well. Zoom in to and take a look at your new and improved colony -- you will see a tiny trade ship docked to a little trade port in orbit about a giant planet. There are some aspects of your empire that aren't objects in the galaxy and must be controlled with a different user-interface system. This would include things like the research tree, the commodities market and the diplomacy screen, which are brought up as window overlays.
Perhaps we should move that ref to the end of the list and scrap the other "multiple screen in 4X" refs. Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"However, most 4X games also offer peaceful victory conditions that involve no extermination.[3]" The MobyGames source doesn't establish "most". If the source article makes a generalization, it's safe to also make a generalization rather than being so specific. SharkD (talk) 04:09, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I think the problem may be that that 1st sentence is in a para of its own, so it looks like a separate point. The really big-name 4X series (Civ, MOO, Space Empires, Gal Civ) offer other routes to victory besides total conquest. The most notable exceptions IMO are the Spaceward Ho! series (1st version 1991, still going strong) and the recent Sword of the Stars and Sins of Solar Empire. The problem we've always had is how to summarise that. For a long time the article listed what non-conquest victory conditions the big series offered, and the only reference needed was to the game manuals. For example see [3]. How would you suggest presenting this information? Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"Diplomacy is considered a common feature in 4X games..." This sounds kind of stupid. I mean, why is it important that some people consider something else to be common? Either it is common and the sources support it, or express it in terms of people thinking something or other as key or important. SharkD (talk) 04:13, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I'd be happy with "Diplomacy is an element of gameplay that defines the genre" and tack all the refs at the end of that sentence. What do you think? Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"In many 4X games research is vital, because an advanced combat unit will usually beat a larger number of less advanced units that cost more in total to produce.[46]" I would change "usually" to "often", even if the source says it. One source isn't enough to support an opinion on playing style or generalization of this type. SharkD (talk) 04:15, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Now says "... battles are often won by superior military technology rather than by ingenious tactics or weight of numbers." Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"In some 4X games the research costs of the most advanced technologies are hundreds of times greater than those of the of the most basic technologies.[49]" Again, I would change "hundreds" to "many" and reduce the emphasis on the high number (unless it's particularly common). SharkD (talk) 04:17, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

In the games whose manuals or menus quantify research costs the top-end techs generally do cost hundreds of times more than the low-end techs - and that's not counting the cost of the intermediate techs you have to research first! The trouble with non-numeric examples is that they're vague, for example a reader could interpret "many times" as "10 x", and be out by a factor of 10 or more.
SE III looks like an apparent exception, but it has a greater number of intermediate levels and a much wider tech tree. Since the sentence you commented on one says "In some 4X games ..." it's accurate. Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

 Done" an extreme example Space Empires III has over 200 technologies." I would change "extreme" to "for instance", or something. I'm sure some other games come close, and the many "4x power", "5x power", etc. incremental upgrades don't serve as a very good example. SharkD (talk) 04:21, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"4X games vary widely in the mechanisms they use to provide resources for research: in some no buildings are needed, in others research can only be done when the right buildings are present." I would reduce the emphasis by replacing "vary widely" with something else. The examples you provide only offer a binary choice. I would hardly consider that as "varying widely". SharkD (talk) 04:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I think that sentence got over-simplified at some stage. It would be more accurate to say, "4X games vary in the mechanisms they use to provide resources for research: in some no buildings are needed at all, in some cases research productivity increases greatly if the right buildings are present, and in others research can only be done when the right buildings are present" (omitting "widely"). I've edited this in - see what you think.Philcha (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"But in the great majority of cases the same resources are used for all types of research." Again, I would reduce the emphasis. I highly doubt a source would support this given the lack of coverage of the genre in the press. SharkD (talk) 04:25, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

The manuals support this for the Spaceward Ho! series, Ascendancy, the Civ series, the MOO series, the SE series, the Gal Civ and SotS - this list includes all the big long-running series. The only exception I know of is the Imperium Galactica series, which was not particularly successful. Philcha (talk) 23:44, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"In several 4X games a player's actions are limited by economic, political, and technological obstacles as well as by their opponents' actions." Don't be as specific as "several" if you don't follow it immediately with examples. Use "some" or something instead. SharkD (talk) 04:26, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Now says, "4X games often limit a player's capabilities ...". The para includes examples from the big series that dominate the genre. Philcha (talk) 09:50, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

"The earliest 4X games were influenced by board games and text-based computer games from the 1970s." Once again, you're repeating yourself. Not a big deal, and can easily be fixed. SharkD (talk) 04:29, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

"Many writers claim that the first 4X video games were Andromeda Conquest and Reach for the Stars, both published in 1983.[69][70]" Can "many writers" be supported by just two sources? SharkD (talk) 04:30, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

How about "Writers on the history of the genre claim that ..."? Philcha (talk) 09:50, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

"By the early 1990s, the success of both Civilization and Master of Orion sparked a golden age for strategy games[76] (especially turn-based strategy).[77] Their respective authors produced other 4X games: Colonization (1994) was a spinoff of Civilization;[78] but Master of Magic (1993) used a totally different economic system from Master of Orion, and the new system was also used in Master of Orion II.[79][80]" This sounds a bit weird. The first sentence isn't really supported by the sentences that immediately follow it. I was excited to read about the golden age, but was presented with a list of only two games and a comparison of features with a third. Simple reorganization should do the trick. SharkD (talk) 04:33, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Overall the above section is a bit small. There's only a few sentences, and half of it is taken up by its "Decline" instead (which should be split into a new section). Both the "Peak" and potential "Decline" sections need to be expanded. SharkD (talk) 04:36, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Agree with 1st comment, and the text you quoted was not 100% accurate (the gameplay differed in significant respects). I've simplified it.
In the same para I've expanded the list of new entrants, and will add any other notable ones I find. I've also added a para about mid-1990s 4X games for platforms other than MS-DOS and Windows, incl notable games that started life on other platforms. Philcha (talk) 09:50, 20 June 2008 (UTC)


Overall, the article feels a bit scattered and amateurishly written. There are lots of style (and grammar, IMO) issues, and the facts aren't organized real well. I was taking notes, and of all the sections, only the "Peaceful victory conditions", "Reduced emphasis on combat", "Micromanagement", "Origin" (except for the first couple of sentences) and "Recent history" sections really stuck out in my mind as being problem free.

The big constraint is refs: (a) most articles in big-name sources are reviews of specific games, and only mention generic features in passing if at all; (b) the best information, both for comparisons and for what's really important in specific games, is in the top-end enthusiast sites, where fan-boy comments are quickly deleted by moderators, and contributors know the games much better than any reviewer - if we could use these, the problem would be controlling the size of the article! Philcha (talk) 09:50, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

However, I was impressed with the amount of information and the amount of research that was done. If the sources check out, I think the article needs only relatively simple changes in order to become a good article. I am really happy for the article! It's come a long distance. SharkD (talk) 04:44, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the advice. I tried to make changes to address the problems without causing too much upheaval. This is tough because the article is still just short of being pinned down, especially the gameplay section. But Philcha has been putting a lot of work on this too, and I'm optimistic that we'll be able to put our heads together and keep tuning this article up. Randomran (talk) 20:28, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I'll work on the article in a while. I'm currently busy with another article. SharkD (talk) 07:20, 21 June 2008 (UTC)


I think most of the issues have been settled, so let me just offer a few more quick comments on the peer review and copy-edit. (1) I'm not sure what the wikipedia policy is about repetition between the lead and the main article. I'm sure that it's safer to avoid repetition, but I do see the benefit of consistency for clarity's sake. If Philcha wants to switch it back, I invite him to do so. We'll just have to be ready to make the change of some GA reviewer says otherwise. (2) I'm comfortable with most of the other copy-edits made so far. (3) Sources are still a problem, but I the main information is sourced. If push comes to shove, I'd much rather have no information than information that will only hold this article back. There's enough well-referenced information to protect this article from being eviscerated. Randomran (talk) 17:23, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm really busy at the moment. I promise I'll review the article when I get the chance. SharkD (talk) 18:28, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

Tech tree

Importing from Tech tree the phrase "... an abstract hierarchical visual representation of the possible paths of research a player can take" was not a good move. Besides being far too grandiloquent, it's inaccurate. In the Civ series each tech above the basic level has 2 or more prequisites and the visual representation looks more like that of a DNA model; Ascendancy is very similar and has a colourful visual representation that looks very like a DNA model. In the MOO and Spaceward Ho! series there are several independent linear sequences of techs. The only 4X game I know where "hierarchical" is partly true is Space Empires, but there are a few points in the tech tree where an advance has more than 1 prereq. Calling a tech tree a "visual representation" is confusing the map with the territory, which is simply a series of prequisite techs. As for "abstract" ...! I've edited in a simpler description that's less likely to throw up exceptions. Philcha (talk) 23:36, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I like what you have now better. I was just trying to offer a little context to players who might not know what a tech tree is. To me, this is the last section we need to work on before we try for a GA review. (Aside from minor copy-edits. I've done a few. If you see something that could use a tweak, go ahead and do it to the point that we still reflect the research.) My main concern about this section is that it's borderline WP:OR, particularly WP:SYN and WP:PRIMARY. Is there anything we can do to improve the references, so we're not relying so much on primary sources? Randomran (talk) 23:52, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Not WP:OR as we cite sources. Strictly speaking the games' code, config files etc. are the primary sources (those are the items the developers wrote, just as Hamlet is what Shakespeare wrote), and manuals are therefore secondary sources, so I don't think we need to worry about WP:PRIMARY. Most of our generalizations use phrases like "some 4X" games, for which enumeration is sufficient evidence, so I'm not worried about WP:SYN. Philcha (talk) 12:05, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm willing to chance the manuals. You're right, we cover ourselves by saying "sometimes" and using these as examples. That's pretty unoriginal. I did, however, remove wikia because it's clearly unreliable (and also contradicted what a more reliable source said). I also tried to re-organize the section to offer more context at the beginning. I'm going to try to look for some more references to improve this section, but I won't make any changes if I don't find them. We'll wait to see what other editors say on the Good Article review. Randomran (talk) 17:43, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Fair point on the wikia, in fact it no longer has what was my key sentence.
But I don't like the re-structure. I think the older one was more coherent because it stated up front why tech is important. I'd like to integrate the "... or greater numbers" via the need for production techs, if the refs support it. Philcha (talk) 18:18, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
By no means is the current version perfect. But I think the biggest problem with the previous version was that it offered no context. We have to expect that people who read this don't know what a tech tree is, or how research improves things. Usually you have to explain what something is or what it does before you explain why that's important. I'll try to scour every reference I can find on 4X and research to fill in any other gaps, but as of this point I'm not optimistic we'll be able to add any new information. Randomran (talk) 18:37, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Great news! I scoured the references. There isn't a lot of research we haven't tapped. But there are some nuggets tucked in the research we've already found. The whole paragraph is now supported by pretty reliable sources. It might need a copy-edit, particularly the last paragraph in comparing the RTS-style building-dependencies to the more abstract 4X tech tree. (The reference I found was making a similar point about RTSs as to what you had said, but different phrasing / meaning... so the comparison needs to be clarified.) Randomran (talk) 22:39, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

"Golden age"

Some inaccuracies have been introduced. "Master of Magic (1993) inherited many features from Master of Orion" misinterprets "Master of Magic continued the trend of feature-rich turn-based strategy games established by its predecessor Master of Orion" in [4]. In fact MoM introduced a different economic and research model, which was then used MOO II; and MoM had an earth-based fantasy setting, not a space setting. [5] implies that Colonization was similar in concept to Civ, but with the addition of natives as "NPC"s; but it says nothing about the economic and research mechanisms. I'll rephrase the section. I'll also look for refs "for took advantage of the rapidly growing processing power and graphics capabilities of PCs". Philcha (talk) 23:59, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Spinoff is probably inaccurate, and we probably need a rephrase. But there's no need to really get into detail about the games themselves. It's enough to say, in some way, Civilization begat Colonization (and Civ 2), and MOO begat MOM (and MOO2). Randomran (talk) 00:23, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I've also inserted a para on mid-1990s releases for other platforms. Philcha (talk) 09:20, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Re "Eventually the Master of Orion and Civilization series were adapted to other platforms such as Mac and Super Nintendo":

  • Great find on the Nintendo! I searched to see if there were console versions, as I knew there were for Starcraft, but I got nothing.
  • MOO II for Mac was released under a year after the PC version, so "Eventually " is wrong and the previous text was better.
  • Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution Hands-On is dated Mar 11, 2008 is listed at [6] under "Previews", so I deduce that it was released in 2008. I'm also not sure which version of Civ it's based on. I'd guess based on Civ III because of the mention of "powerful bonuses ... each time your nation advances scientifically to a new age" - Civ II doesn't have ages (except in a purely cosmetic sense), and the Civ IV manual doesn't mention ages / epochs / whatever. But it's not a pure port: "In Revolution, unlike in the PC versions of Civ, you have much more freedom to choose different victory conditions and much more leeway to change the direction of your nation midstream." Best to say nothing about the version and port issues.
  • This preview also mentions an X-box version, for which there's a review dated Jun 13, 2008, so I conclude it was released 2008.
  • None of the sources mentions "series", only specific games.

The dates for the console Civs place them in "Recent History", so I'm moving them and reinstating the old wording for MOO II. Philcha (talk) 17:39, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure this is the best way to organize the information about "other platforms". A whole paragraph about platforms isn't really a historical event unless it really happened all at once, which it didn't. It also breaks up the flow of the "peak" subsection. I think it would probably be better to just mention platforms as we go through. Move Spaceward Ho! to the origin phase, particularly since it came out before the genre term was invented. Keep a note about GalCiv in the "Peak" phase, and mention briefly that MOO/Civ both got ported to other platforms. I think it's a good idea to put CivRev in the "recent history" section, too. Randomran (talk) 17:59, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

I agree we have a problem with platforms. I think I made the mistake of assuming unconsciously that Microsoft+PC is the default platform, because AFAIK it was from 1991 onwards (the exceptions being Ho! on Mac and Gal Civ on OS/2). But the history's mor ecomplex than that. The text is already dense with names dates and wikilinks, so I think simply adding the platform in parentheses would make a poor impression and be hard to read. I'm be tempted to use some kind of timeline for the platforms, with all members of a "lineage" on the same line. It would have be laid out landscape to get the names in, somewhat similar to [7]. What do you think? Philcha (talk) 19:13, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Truthfully, I think we should drop some of the developers and dates, let alone games. That's what List of strategy video games is for. Only a few games are truly important enough to mention. And of those games mentioned, only a few of them need to be attached to actual developers and dates. We should tell the history. Only a few games are vital to tell that story, and even fewer developers.
We can trim out that list (take out two or more of Space Empires Fragile Allegiance, Ascendency, and Stars!) and make room for a mention that Galactic Civilizations was released for OS2 in 199X. Then we can maybe mention the respective ports of MOO and Civ when we mention each franchise. (e.g.: "Sid Meier's team produced ...; Simtex followed up Master of Orion with ...; Both franchises were ported to Mac soon after.") Ultimately, we should be able to scatter the "platforms" paragraph throughout the rest of the history. I've already put Spaceward Ho with the other originators, since it came out in 1991 and a reliable resource has documented its influence. Randomran (talk) 20:21, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I like what you've done with "Origins".
Being more selective also sounds good, but would obscure a point that struck me, that in 1993-1997 it was raining 4x. I think we can get the best of both worlds by saying something like "between 1993 and 1997 there was a flurry of 4x games from other developers, although only Space Empires (1993; Maldafor) founded a long-running series" and a footnote lists the rest. Philcha (talk) 20:45, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't necessarily think we need to ghettoize the less notable games to a footnote, but just list a few good ones. To take a quick stab at it: "Between 1993 and 1997, other developers released a flurry of 4X games such as X, Y, and Z. (REF: use the Bruce Geryk history article from gamespot) The year 1993 also marked the beginning of the long-lived Space Empires series from Maldafor." Again, there's a middle ground between listing all of them and listing none of them. Randomran (talk) 20:59, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I've been going over this so much that this is my 2nd draft of this post. At first I thought it worth mentioning that there have been only a few enduring series. But that's just an example of the Pareto principle, Sturgeon’s Revelation, "many are called but few are chosen" and similar bits of conventional wisdom. I'm now inclined to leave the para as is, listing the games to make the "raining 4X" point. Philcha (talk) 01:19, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

One more point: do you think there's any value to mentioning that the first RTS for the PC was in 1993, before we get into RTSs surging in popularity? Do you understand the context that it would provide? Or do you think it seems painfully off topic? Randomran (talk) 20:45, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Not off-topic - we compare 4X to RTS under UI and tech tree. It had struck me a while back that Emrich's definition was obsolescent when he published it and that RTS was beginning to take off just as 4X was at its peak.
At first sight I liked your suggestion. Unfortunately the history's not so neat: The Ancient Art of War was published in 1984 and had a PC version (exact publication date of PC version might be hard to get, but I doubt later than 1985). I don't know whether Dune II (1992!) was a big seller; its significance may have been that it was [[Westwood Studios]' first pure RTS, and led them to develop Command & Conquer. I think it gets too complicated for a non-RTS article, and would leave the mentions of RTS as-is. Philcha (talk) 01:19, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

Back to platforms. The porting of Civ to consoles may be the most significant point: 4X was late getting onto consoles (Starcraft was ported to Nintendo 64 in 2000; the porting of Civ to consoles would fit well with Wardell's comment that 4X still has growth prospects, especially among non-hardcore gamers; technically it should be easier to port 4X because, although Starcraft had a light footprint, a lot of RTS since Total Anihilation have been resource hogs. I know what last point would be WP:OR if we come out and said it, but it would be fun to place the porting of Civ next toWardell;s optimism and see if developments allow us to claim credit for prescience. Philcha (talk) 01:19, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

I think you're right about RTSs: we're getting into OR there, and it's not entirely accurate, so let's just leave it as is. As for the porting, List of Super Nintendo Entertainment System games shows that Civ was ported in 1995 to Super Nintendo. So maybe we shouldn't get too wrapped up in porting and platforms. I added the statement about the flurry of 4X games, as discussed... but feel free to swap out a game if you think that I chose bad examples (I chose Gal Civ, Ascendency, and Stars! based on what I could read from Bruce Geryk's history article). Randomran (talk) 18:20, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

I still don't think the current version reflects the volume of 4X releases in the mid-1990s. The following is fairly concise but more comprehensive, and distinguishes between games with staying power and those without: Philcha (talk) 21:50, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

The success of Civilization and Master of Orion opened a golden age in the mid-1990s for strategy games, [19] especially turn-based strategy.[20] Sid Meier's team produced Colonization in 1994[21] and Civilization II in 1996.[22] Simtex followed up Master of Orion with Master of Magic in 1993 and Master of Orion II in 1996.[23][24] Other developers' offerings entered the field, including Space Empires (1993, 1995 and 1997),[25] Galactic Civilizations (for OS/2: 1994 and 1996),[26] Ascendancy (1995), Stars! (1995),[27] and Fragile Allegiance (1996).[28] The Civilization and Master of Orion franchises also expanded their market with versions for the Apple Macintosh.[29][30]
Hmmm. I'd prefer not to list every 4X game released in that time-span. I also don't think we need to attach a date to every game (people can click on the actual games to learn more about them). We only need dates to the degree that we convey a flow of history, not the minute details. Otherwise I'm okay with the sequence / rephrasing of statements if you think they are beneficial. Randomran (talk) 22:18, 22 June 2008 (UTC)
I've dropped the dates but included numbers of versions for long-running series.
I just checked and could not get release dates for Spaceward Ho! v2 and v3 - I'd expect at least 1 new version in the "Peak" period. Philcha (talk) 06:31, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
Looks good. I know I'm just nitpicking at this point, but I changed the language of "versions" to just sequels and got rid of the brackets. I'd actually prefer to cut out one or two games from the list for readability, but I think this flow is good enough. Randomran (talk) 07:02, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
 Done Philcha (talk) 07:27, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Board and other games

Just got around to noticing your request over at BTGProject for input on 4X board games. I'd say what you have currently is pretty good considering the reliable sources you have. Whether anyone reliable has come straight out and called an old game from before the origin of the term a '4X' game is a good question. I do note that Stellar Conquest is currently referred to as such over at BoardGameGeek, but that's not a professional judgment (a largely accurate one in my view, but hey...). Also, your current ref-7 mentions it explicitly as the inspiration for Reach for the Stars. Similarly, Francis Tresham's Civilization (board game) is generally given credit as the inspiration for Sid Meyer's game.

Other games to keep an eye out for references to would be strategic portions of the Starfire (board wargame) series, and the play-by-mail game Starweb. --Rindis (talk) 17:29, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

It looks like we covered the main ones. I definitely don't want to get into unreliable research and fansites. The only one we haven't mentioned is Starfire (board wargame). I found an interview with Aaron Hall saying it was an influence on him here [8], and I found another one that explains that here [9]. I haven't had a time to check the policy of either site to see if they're reliable, but it looks like manifestogames might have an editorial review policy and so that makes them reliable by wikipedia standards. Randomran (talk) 17:54, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, Rindis!
Stellar Conquest goes in based on the ref you read more thoroughly than we did!
Starweb looks more like RPG than 4X: "Six different types of players (Empire Builder, Merchant, Berserker, Apostle, Pirate, and Artifact Collector) gain points in different ways."
I can't find anything right now that ties in Starfire (board wargame), but Randomran and I seem to have complementary strengths (or weaknesses!) in Googling, so there's still hope. (I wrote this before Randomran beat me to the punch!) Philcha (talk) 17:57, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Actually, I did catch the influence of Stellar Conquest... but I just didn't name it because I thought it would break up the flow of the section. I think we should obviously name some influences by name, but not necessarily all of them. Just thinking about readability. Randomran (talk) 18:14, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough. Philcha (talk) 20:57, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
Starweb: No more an RPG than any other 4X could be considered as such. Think of the differing points as... 'racial flavor'. General idea - you start with one planet, 2 or 3 'keys' that allow fleets of ships to access an ancient jumpgate system. The homeworld has 30 industry (which allows you to build ships), but only 2 raw materials per turn, so you have to go find sources of raw materials to fuel your industry. The beginning of the game consists of exploring the local area and finding your neighbors. After that you start shuttling the RMs back home, and negotiating with the other players (you can send cards through the PBM service with your phone number or address for extensive contact). Typically after that alliances and wars form as everyone jockeys to pursue their goals towards the point limit that ends the game. The only thing that's really missing is the development aspects, and that's more covered by finding the resources for your homeworld and arranging the shipping for them. You can also build more industry, but it's expensive enough that it isn't often done. --Rindis (talk) 18:19, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
I see what you mean, after checking out the rules very briefly. And there can't be many games with a string of awards from 1984 to 2003. Philcha (talk) 20:57, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Finish Up?

This article has really improved a lot in the past few weeks. I'm just throwing out a few issues that we might want to take up. Many might be non-issues.

  • We'll definitely want to improve the formatting of all the references, with appropriate templates. I'll start chipping away at that over the next few days.
  • Which references are going to be challenged as unreliable? Let's replace the refs we can, and prepare to defend the others.
  • Do we still use too many examples? (That was a complaint by AndonicO)
  • Idea: let's move the "5th X" section to a subsection of the main "Definition" section. Just to take it out of the middle of nowhere, and improve organization. Yes? No? Maybe?
  • We should probably give it one more copy-edit, not that we haven't already.
  • Are there any sections that stand out as needing more copy-editing?
  • Is there anything missing from this article that should be here?

Let's polish this off and prepare for the flood of revisions we'll have to make when we go for GA. Randomran (talk) 16:42, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

I wanna help

Man I wish you guys would have mentioned this article earlier. I want to help get the article to GA, A, and then maybe FA. Just tell me where to help out and I'll do anything you need, from small edits, to whole rewrites, Im ready to help.Gears Of War 19:18, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks a lot for checking in! We're pretty close to being done, IMO. I think the most useful thing we can get from you is to figure out if there are any major omissions. Do you see anything that isn't in the article yet, but should be? If so, then we can try to research and add it. (But I should warn you that research has been the hardest part of making this a good quality article.) Also, if there are parts of the article that seem hard to read of confusing, we would definitely appreciate you pointing it out. Randomran (talk) 19:46, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
Right now Im just looking for tiny stuff. I'm gonna start by adding commas, fixing spelling and grammatical mistakes etc. Thanks.Gears Of War 19:49, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

WP:VG Assessment

  1. Lead:
    1. Does selling copies imply best known? Not precisely. Reword to indicate the only data available is that it sold well.
    2. "Mainstream reviewers ..." this implies that Computer Gaming World was/is not mainstream, a statement that would require a source. Find one or reword.
I'm not sure about the reasoning here. CGW is a mag, while "Mainstream reviewers ..." refers most naturally to people. Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
    1. The first few sentences do not flow well, use more linking words.
    2. The second paragraph needs to summarise the article rather than introduce unsourced statements. Watch out for weasel words. I recommend to completely rewrite this paragraph.
    3. "...Success of new 4x releases...". "New" is redundant, rm.
  1. Definition:
    1. The section starts very abrupt. Introduce a little bit, like "The term 4X originates from ..."
    2. There are too many footnotes to source #11 in this section One after the colon should be enough.
I agree, but someone objected to the fact that previously one footnote covered all the list items. How should we resolve cases like this, where comments contradict each other? Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
    1. Again, the prose doesn't flow in the second paragraph, connect the sentences.
    2. Remove the first reference to note 18, there's already a note a sentence later!
    3. If you read the mobygames source, the second paragraph of the difficulties subsection is fishy. While they do write "must have other victory conditions", I think it's better to write that games shouldn't exclusively focus on the extermination part. This is better than contradicting your own source in the next sentence.
The point is that it's extremely difficult to define "4X" rigorously - Moby Game sis being cited as an unsuccessful attempt. Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
  1. Gameplay
    1. I doubt the image license for Image:C-Evo UI A thumb.png. Is this a freely licensed game that the uploader coded all by himself? If so, kudos.
    2. Drop the quotes around "no additional screens" at the end of the second paragraph of the complexity subsection.
    3. I suggest to reorganise this section a bit, as it's a huge mess right now. Gather small paragraphs into larger ones (about double the size of the current first paragraph). Drop the "complexity" subsection header (just make that part fall under general Gameplay). Drop the "Diplomacy with non-teammates" subsection header, and rename "Peaceful victory conditions" to "Peaceful gameplay" or something similar to fit the inclusion of the diplomacy subsection. Merge the tech tree subsection, "Constraints on growth and warfare" and "Micromanagement" into a new subsection called "Empire building". Expand the combat section, there's more on that topic.
"Gather small paragraphs into larger ones" is totally wrong. The consensus of all guides on writing for the web or other media read mainly via screens is that a simple style is best - see for example Web Style Guide and the rather simple style used in WP:MOS. The fundamental reason is that web users don't want to read, they want to scan (Jakob Nielsen). Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
    1. The sentence in the diplomacy subsect. about defining the genre is misleading, remove it.
  1. The section about the "fifth X" is incomplete as at least CIV 4, to my knowledge, includes the AI managing your economy feature as well.
Does Civ IV claim to have a "5th X"? Note also that the point of citing other games was that the "5th X" was not so novel, and only ealier games are relevant to that point. Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
  1. History: there is more italic text, wikilinks, numbers and footnotes than prose in this section. Describe some instead of only stating, use some of the tips below, and drop a note at WP:VG/A.
The article consistenlty uses italics for game, book, magazine, etc. titles.
Wikilinks as per Wikipedia:Build the web, and they are all relevant. Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
  1. General:
    1. Source #8 ( doesn't seem reliable. As most statements that include a footnote to it have other notes as well, just removing would do.
    2. I see a lot of language like "Reviewers found X" and "Developers did X". This is an article about a genre, I encourage you to take the liberty and reword these statements to read like "The genre was found to be X" and "Games in the genre changed over time to incorporate X" .. etc.
Every guide to written English says "Avoid the passive voice wherever possible". There are knon exceptions, of which the most common (and often the only example given) is something like "The president weas shot by an unknown assassin" - but that is not relevant here. See also WP:Weasel Philcha (talk) 18:35, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
    1. When sources are cited only once and together with each other, put them in a single footnote. For example, sources 15 and 16 (Gal. Civ. II) could be reformatted this way.
    2. Said above a few times, the prose really reads like a cut up piece of text. Connect sentences, place commas, make it read.. nicer.
    3. Again mentioned a few times, and I don't like repeating myself too much, please do not cite the same source twice straight after one another. This relates to the above point as well. For example, instead of "WikiProject Video games is awesome.[24] Their assessors, though, have been found to be slightly arrogrant.[24]" write "WikiProject Video games is awesome, but their assessors were found to be slightly arrogant.[24]".
    4. You need Author, Date, Publisher and Accessdate (yes, all of the four) for a lot of sources.

Finally, a very big compliment to the authors of the article on finding most of the sources. I've checked a couple, and most of the things that you found are one or two sentences about the genre hidden in a game review. Good job! User:Krator (t c) 00:57, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks a lot for the very useful feedback. I tried to incorporate all of it, wherever possible. Let me point out a few exceptions, though:

  1. Lead: I tried to reference the lead for a few more of the critical statements. But everything that isn't referenced here is referenced in the rest of the article. Should the lead just use more references to avoid the aggravation?
  2. Definition: The mobygames definition has been tough to address. It's obviously wrong. But it's one of the few sources that states starkly and clearly what really distinguishes 4X games. I'd be comfortable cutting out the (wrong) part that talks about "without any other victory conditions", and replacing it with the other part of the reference that says "where primary gameplay focuses only on eXtermination". In fact, there's a source that validates this.[10]
  3. Gameplay: other peer reviewers have said that this section has too many "stubs" and "short paragraphs". Is the problem now the length of the paragraphs, the length of the sub-sections, or both? I'm trying to figure out where we need to merge and where we need to expand.
  4. 5th X: I tried to clarify what makes MOO3 distinct. Other 4X games have governors, but MOO3 kind of forces you to use them.
  5. History: We need a bit more guidance here. My temptation is just to remove a few of the games from the list. The more notable ones we go into detail about their contributions to the genre's development. But the others don't really add much. I feel like the "Origin" and "Recent History" subsections are pretty close to being good. Like I said, I need a bit more guidance.
  6. General/Prose: The part I'm good at is the part most people hate: research, references, accuracy, precision. Making that into interesting prose is what I stink at. I'm sure other people can fix this, but I'd really like to learn so I could be a better writer.

I tried to deal with the other general comments too. The reference stuff is a work in progress. I figure once the content of the article is more stable, we can clean up the redundant references, remove unreliable ones, bundle them together, etc... But that will be easier to do now that I've added more proper templates. Randomran (talk) 02:47, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

  • I see what you mean about gameplay now. Both the paragraphs and sections were too short. I'm willing to go with the encyclopedic format (even though I prefer the more web / guidebook format). But I think that different parts of the topic have been merged inappropriately. I'm going to try to restore a bit of order, without going back to short paragraphs / sections. Randomran (talk) 16:27, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

Most recent edit

It's looking much better than 12 hours ago! A few comments:

  • In the lead, "the broader game industry" is meaningless. "Mainstream commentators" would be better.
  • "The fifth X: eXperience" works really well as part of "Definition". Great idea!
  • But "experience of interacting with bureaucrats" is wrong. There's no visible interaction, the player is simply forced to delegate and put up with the resulting SNAFUs.
  • I still think "Research and technology" would have more punch if the military aspect came first. The logic would run: good military techs are essential for victory; good military techs are expensive; so one has to boost productivity in industry and research; hence thers' a big tech tree.
  • I think the point has to be made that in non-4X RTS the techs are mostly minor upgrades and that each type of building can research a limited number of these. In all 4X games I've heard of the only prequisite for researching a tech is knowledge of one or more earlier techs. How about:
Non-4X real-time strategy games allow players to improve their technology by building certain structures which enable more advanced structures and units. In most cases each type of building can provide a limited number of units, capabilities or upgrades.[36][38] On the other hand in 4X games the main prerequisite for researching a new technology is knowledge of one or more earlier technologies. Each 4X game also generally uses the same resources for all types of research, although methods of providing resources for research vary from one game to another: in some no buildings are needed at all, in some cases research productivity increases greatly if the right buildings are present, and in others research can only be done if research-oriented buildings are present.
  • In the "Combat" section, I think "For example, early game units may have limited operational ranges compared to more advanced units" is out of place. AFAIK this applies only to the Civ series (triremes risk being sunk by storms if they finish a turn away from a shore; all more advanced ships are free of this risk). In the other games I know well, either there's no limitation (Ascendancy) or the limitation can be mitigated by research for any type of spaceship. Philcha (talk) 23:34, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
Good ideas. I tried to incorporate all of them. Randomran (talk) 02:20, 25 June 2008 (UTC)