Gaming for the Rest of Us: First look: Civilization VI

After about 50 hours of game play so far, I am ready to declare Civilization VI the most Civilization-like entry in the storied franchise, which means some of you will love it more than all the rest and some of you will hate it more than any of the others.

What do I mean?

Civilization VI embraces the one thing all the rest of the games in the series have wanted to be with gusto: being a grand strategy game. Let’s face it, in the end the first five games often degenerated into little more than turn-based combat games with heavy emphasis on tech research and building. Civilization VI retains those traits while also introducing a whole new level of planning that requires the player to be thinking about how to win the game starting with the first turn.

The way the game does so is by clever use of the victory conditions and city districts. The victory conditions are no longer simply matters of who accumulates the most points and can be contended from the start of the game.

More importantly, the game breaks the city out of a single tile, forcing the player to consider how to expand each city by placing districts on tiles the city controls. this fact forces the player to specialize cities from the beginning of the game.

While these elements add a whole new level of play to Civilization VI, the game is hardly perfect. The religious system is vague and brutish and makes the religious victory less enjoyable than it could be. The game is missing diplomatic and economic victories that would help balance the game play. As has been true with every version of Civilization, the diplomatic system is inscrutable and annoying. That said, keep in mind this is the vanilla version of the game, and previous versions of the game have benefited from their later expansions.

All in all, I really like what Firaxis and crew have done with Civilization VI. It’s a good game with the potential to be great, and I will stick with it to see what the future holds for it.

First look rating: 4/5

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Writing: My NaNoWriMo 2016 review

Or, so you wrote 50,000 words. Now what?

I am being honest when I say how easy NaNoWriMo was for me this year. Of course, saying it was easy is a relative claim, but the fact is that this latest 50,000 words came out with less struggle than I have ever experienced writing anything long or short. I suppose that means I have somehow matured as a writer, but the reality of that notion remains to be seen.

The reason I think that is because the endeavor this latest story represents only begins with the effort of NaNoWriMo. It turns out that, as a writer, I am far more like a painter adding layers to a painting than I am a sculptor carving away stone or clay. What this means is that the story I have now still needs a lot of work to be the kind of story you’d expect to see in a book.

What does that mean? Well, first, I’m going to let it just sit for a bit. That may mean several days or several weeks, but after having expended so much effort, I find that it is good to just let the story age some before I do anything else with it.

Second, I have to compile the writing I’ve done into a readable format. It turns out that I wrote the entire story as notes in Evernote. This is basically that modern equivalent of writing a story on note cards, and it gives me the advantage of being able to easily reorder scenes as I go through my first rewrite process.

Third, I will do my first edit/rewrite. I know a lot of authors like to print out and mark up copies of their rough draft, but as I’ve noted, I tend to write like a painter rather than a sculptor, so my rough draft tends to be a lot more like a very long outline than a true story. Once I’ve completed that rewrite, I will print the story out, read it through, then mark it up.

Fourth, I will take that marked draft and type the whole story back into a new document. Yes, that means I will write the entire story again, using my draft as the source. I know a lot of people wonder why I would expend that much effort, but what I have discovered is that typing the story again forces me to revisit and rethink every single word. It is the best editing tool I have ever encountered for the way I write. Depending on the story–this happens often with short fiction I write–I could end up repeating this process more than once.

Along the way, I may show my efforts to several people or groups of people to get comments on what they think about the story as it progresses. I find that it is good to get those views along the way because other people tend to notice the plot holes I’m ignoring or other issues the story might have for a reader.

Finally, once I’ve edited and rewritten, and tweaked enough, I will take the plunge to try to get the story published. I’ve never reached this step with any long fiction I’ve ever written, and that’s saying something given that I have at least four stories somewhere along the process I describe above.

So, there is a brief outline of what happens after NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, this year’s success will prove as easy to see all the way through as it was to write for the first time.

DLH

Read more at my Writing weblog...

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The least significant digit of democracy

Come November 8th, if all you’ve done is vote, you’ve done the least significant thing in democracy.

It turns out that democracy is a contact sport. Voting for someone to represent you, especially in the American system of voting, constitutes little more than an affirmation of choices a long list of other people made for you.

Let’s start with the process of voting itself. It is governed by a whole host of laws and regulations you likely had nothing to do with. Someone else determined where you vote, how you vote, and if your vote counts.

And then there’s the matter of what you’re voting for. By the time you punch that chad or push that touch screen, someone else determined who would run, whose runs would get funded, who became the front-runners, and if you didn’t vote in the primary, who is on the ballot.

So, then, how much does your vote count in the face of all that?

I am not saying voting does not matter at all, because it certainly does. Voting is a basic process of democracy. But just as watering a plant is not the only thing that keeps it alive–it needs good soil, enough sunlight, the right kind of nutrients, and a host of other things–so too voting is not the only thing that makes for a successful democracy.

I grant you that one person, by themselves, will have a hard time influencing the process, but that fact makes participation more important, not less. By participating, you can band together with like-minded people, and as your group grows, your influence grows.

And with that influence, voting day becomes far more significant, because you were part of the system that determines the outcome of all the things I have mentioned and so much more.

If, therefore, you want your vote to count the most, make November 8th a beginning rather than an end. Get out there and participate in the whole process instead of just the least significant part.

DLH

Posted in Nations, Political Freedoms, Politics, Quid Facis, United States, World Watch | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Random thoughts from a wandering mind: You’re so angry, you probably think this post is about you…

(With apologies to Carly Simon…)

So, here it goes: everybody is offended these days and it’s likely nobody who doesn’t already agree with you cares.

I’m guilty of it. So are you. So is almost everyone, especially if you are any kind of user of social media. We’re all angry and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Except, yes we are.

There’s a curious thing about offendedness in the current era. For the most part, people are angry and they’re doing things because of their anger. The problem is that most of the things they’re doing don’t end up doing anything about the things they’re angry about.

Instead, their efforts come down to various measures of passive-aggressive uses of force to compel others into doing things their way without making much attempt at all to convince those who may disagree of their point of view. These are, at best, hollow and Pyrrhic victories that sow the seeds of future discord and backlash.

And so we’ve entered an era of hurling insults, casting stones, passing laws, and generally brutalizing one another without any real effect.

Well, any real effect except one: the perception things are getting worse is a direct result of this nonsensical process.

This is not to say there are not real reasons to be concerned about the state of the world or to even be angry about that state. Rather, it is to call into question the way we are dealing with it. The preponderance of evidence is that the problems are real but that our responses to them are ineffective.

History shows us many things, and one of the things it shows us most is that anger and force rarely accomplish the things they set out to in the long run. What most effectively changes the course of events is dialog and compromise. What makes things better is the active attempt to make things better.

Until we set aside our angry offendedness and start looking at how we’re going to actually fix the things we find wrong with society and the world, all we are going to end up with is more angry offendedness.

The irony is that your choice of action will be defined by how you respond to this post, even if I never know what it is. Is this post about you?

DLH

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Taming a tangled wilderness

We’re unusually free with sharing our successes and failures here at Innisfree on the Stillwater, a fact that is intentional and purposeful rather than naive and dramatic. You see, our desire, along with giving people access to quality, sustainably grown food is also to help educate the vast majority of people who don’t understand what it takes to grow their food exactly what it takes to grow their food.

In addition to some thinking we’re arrogant for having such a goal, one of the classic responses we get, especially to failures, is that we don’t know what we’re doing. The irony, to a point, is that these critics are right, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

As it turns out, we don’t know what we’re doing because the knowledge of what we’re trying to do, in many cases, has been almost entirely lost, sometimes intentionally. Over the past several decades, there has been a radical revolution in agriculture almost unheard of since the invention of agriculture itself, and often not always for the better. This revolution has happened so quickly that the knowledge got lost before it got written down.

The result has been tragic, from loss of crop diversity so severe that entire annual crops are now entirely clones to animals so closely bred for specific genetics that they die from eating food they’re supposed to be able to eat, along with a population now so far removed from the realities of what it actually takes to feed them that this all seems normal to them.

We don’t know what we’re doing because we’re on the frontier trying to create a bulwark against the threats these kinds of changes represent. We understand we’re not going to overturn or replace those realities, but we also know some level of that knowledge must be salvaged or rediscovered or the potential for disaster is real and imminent.

So yes, we admit our ignorance, not as a condemnation of ourselves, but as a bellwether of the risks we all face. We do this because we desperately want to learn before it’s too late and for others to understand the risks we all face.

Perhaps that makes us arrogant, but the fact is that explorers and discoverers have always had to be to succeed at what they’re trying to do. We accept that aspersion and the challenge it represents because the task must be done.

DLH

Read more at my Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater weblog...

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