Screwing Civilization IV

After massaging values in this game’s XML files to simulate some sort of collapse between 2000 and 2016, the most notable effect was on my workers. More by conquest than anything else, I had many and it was getting harder to find productive stuff for them to do. Since they now cost upkeep, I started disbanding those that couldn’t pay their way. Doesn’t that have echoes of austerity? Of course in the real world they’d spend most of their time merely maintaining the vast infrastructure of empire.

I continued to rack up values mentioned in previous posts. Every eight years was beginning to look like a better sort of interval for turning the screw.

Apart from just raising the costs of civics, I promoted one or two from medium to high expenditure. Representation was first of these: my God, the amount of useless money that must flow as powermongers try to buy favour; not to mention the sheer waste inherent in cronyism. Bureaucracy took the same hit too; as did the caste system, which we have in spades now (except we don’t call it that).

In the Misc folder I also found the route infos file, which holds percentage values for movement costs. Roads today are shit with traffic lights and queues everywhere, so I reduced their benefit. This didn’t affect me much: my most important routes were already railways.

Will 2016 see the descent from peak oil? Whaddya mean all this new shale oil has postponed that? For a start it is hardly new: Deffeyes mentions it in his 2005 book and anyone who travels between Edinburgh and Glasgow can see 19th-century workings along the way. The USA’s fracking industry was thus always on the cards once the price of crude was sufficiently high. Their efforts have merely kept us on the plateau. The best guess from reputable observers is that the drilling bubble will burst some time in the next couple of years. In fact the latest market moves could shorten that.

In the game workers are again key. I stopped ‘em from building wells. Now it became even more important to target existing installations in wars and spies could sabotage other rivals’ oil capacity. I applied the same concept to work boats and oil platforms.

I’d already used workers to model the collapse of fish stocks and round about 2016 peak soil will also become a concern. One way to simulate this would be to increase consumption. There is just such a figure in the global file but raising it 50% to three per population seemed way too dramatic. Maybe next time, eh?

What I hadn’t previously found in the buildings file were the projects – yes, those pipe dreams of space travel that are ever more joining the realms of science fantasy. Having tracked them down, they were fair game and their costs went up.

I also wanted to find a way of reducing the culture of a city so that its territory would shrink. I made a start with jails, which sound a reasonable anti-culture institution.

So, roll on 2024.

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  • Wryneck, New Passage


    Wryneck, Israel © Marcel Holyoak

    The day after Frampton’s marsh sandpiper, Twitter was abuzz with news of this relative of the woodpeckers. Knowing from experience that the species doesn’t hang around, I rescheduled my Sunday and motored up to New Passage. My previous dips cautioned against optimism but just 100 yards on from parking the car, a knot of watchers got the pulse racing.

    An alert little long-tailed shape on a lawn had to be the bird and my binoculars confirmed it. If the shape was distinctive, the markings were more…

    Marsh Sandpiper, Frampton

    My 298th UK species but not a lifer thanks to birds at Cairns and Albany in Australia. Does this imply that marsh sandpiper is some sort of mega? Certainly there was a consistent posse of watchers for this corner of Gloucestershire, from various points of the country. My Collins notes that the bird breeds in southern Russia and winters in Africa, so this one was not too far off course.

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    Civilization for Anarchists

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    Sid Meier's Civilization IV

    Sid Meier’s Civilization IV

    A propos of nothing at all to do with this blog, here’s my version of the computer game, Civilization IV. I’ve subverted its goal though: not to build the “best” empire, but to be as uncivilised or anarchic as possible. This may suggest how to survive the worst aspects of empire, such as power, slavery, poverty, disease and so on. Of course this is just a game and its rules don’t reflect the real world, or even this society’s interpretation of it, so the exercise is simplistic.

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    After a few attempts yellow-legged gull finally made its way onto the year list. Herriotts at Chew Valley Lake a fortnight ago was again the venue. The bird wasn’t obvious at first so I went for coffee at the nearby and walkable Stable Tea Rooms. Over the last five years this place has grown from a one little café into a full-fledged restaurant and farm shop. Someone’s still doing well!

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    My Brother’s Chooks

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    I scurried for my binoculars in a vain hope of maybe picking the bird out of the trees round about. It kept calling but was hard to locate until I noticed more…

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    The year list stalled at 180 two weeks ago with a rare English sighting of this grebe. It joined two other records, at Cheddar and Slapton Ley, but was more remarkable for being in full breeding plumage. That meant I finally got to see the red neck that gives the species its name.

    Frodsham is in Cheshire, right by a power station and ex-ICI’s Runcorn works. In the vicinity snakes industrial navigation with the rivers Weaver, Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal; not far south runs the M56. It’s not a pretty spot. This does more…

    Bridled Tern, Farne Islands

    Arctic Tern, Farne Islands

    Not Bridled but Arctic Tern

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    There, excellent pints of Allendale’s Golden Plover cost a mere £1.45 and prompted a theory: Wetherspoon prices are a barometer of regional prosperity. For I was supping at more…

    Mull of Galloway

    Mull of Galloway

    Mull of Galloway, Scotland

    Nine years have elapsed since my last visit – time enough to erase any memory of what this headland is like. A rather fine lighthouse and walled garden preside over a vista of deep blue seas and dark green grass. Between the latter climb 80-metre high cliffs. The scene is about the last unspoilt section of the Galloway coast.

    Seabirds abound. Continuing the theme of surprises, I was unprepared for more…