Former Civilization V Designer Says Gamers Need Limits to their Freedom

The strategy series benefited from movement restrictions

Gamers tend to frown upon video games that limit their ability to choose, but one leading developer believes that no quality titles can exist without placing a number of clear restrictions on what players are able to do inside the game.

Jon Shafer, who is best known for being the leading developer on Civilization V and is currently working at Stardock, has written on his own blog that, “It is possible to provide an immense amount of depth without catering to only the hardcore -- the key is proper pacing. Throwing a list of 40 possible quests at a new player within the first minute of gameplay is bad. Starting them with three quests, which then branch into nine, which then branch into 27 and so on is much more inviting.”

He added, “With regards to the strategy genre in particular, restrictions on unit movement is one of the best examples of how limitations can make a game better. The inability of land units to enter water is why ships are so valuable - and just plain cool. Gaining access to new units with unique "powers" is a major motivation for many players. Just like in economics, scarcity is what drives value - the fact that most units are unable to perform certain actions is what makes the few that can so much fun.”

Schafer goes on to offer a number of examples taken from the Civilization series, specifically its fourth and fifth installments, and demonstrates that subtle limitations were proven to enhance the experience of gamers.

At the moment, Firaxis is working on the first full expansion for Civilization V, called Gods & Kings, which is set to deliver more options when it comes to both religion and combat, while expanding the number of civilizations and units players can use.

Schafer is now working on the Fallen Enchantress expansion for Elemental: War of Magic at Stardock.

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