Civilization V

Civilization V is different. Even from pressing play now on the Steam games list, you see something new. The game now supports DirectX 10 and 11 graphical goodness. The opening movie is different: instead of some music and a walk through different era in CG animation, we instead get a short movie of an elderly leader and his next in line to inherit the kingdom. In almost all ways Civ V is different, except that it is still a Civilization game.

Starting out each game, you get a short paragraph telling you some background history of your chosen Civilization and leader. This short text is also nicely narrated and it’s actually happening as it is loading the game, so you are not wasting any time in reading this text blurb. Once loaded, we see a different yet familiar sight. The menus are all different, and so are all the UI. What stays the same is your starting units, a settler and a warrior.

Speaking of the menu system, much has changed from earlier games. Everything is very much streamlined and simplified. Instead of a whole different interface on the City screens, it’s just an overlay on top of your map with extra menus on the sides and top. Even the stats of the cities are streamlined. Much of the needed information is condensed into a small info bar up on the top. It all feels very intuitive to me, as most of time you are only going in that screen to build your next thing. On the right side of the menu are collapsible panels about your citizens, buildings and wonders. Certain buildings can also be worked on by citizens, like tiles are. On the left side are collapsible panels of what you can build: units, buildings, wonders, extras (like gold or science).

All of the UI and graphics have been totally revamped of course. They do this every year, but it feels extremely concise this time. The icons and UI elements feel a bit huge at times now actually, luckily there is an option to shrink it down.

Speaking to other leaders is not much different from previous versions, although I must say the CG models look superb this time. They speak what seems like the real language of their culture too, which is a nice touch (if I’m not wrong that is). The conversation choices are pretty explanatory and is pretty much what you get in the past iterations. There are some new options, however, such as the new Pact of Secrecy. You can form a secret alliance against another civilization, which does not actually make you declare war on them. When it comes time to call in that favor to attack the agreed upon target, you have the choice to tell the other civ that you need 10 turns to prepare for the attack, cancel it, or declare war immediately.

Another new addition is city-states. These act sort of like a mini-civ. They only have one city from what I can tell, though they do expand their borders. If you ally with them, they will help you out when you are in a war. You have limited choices about what you can do with them: give gold for influence (which can deplete with each turn), give them a unit (a secret way of supporting them if they get attacked, also gains influence), or declare war on them. Each also has different temperaments and tendencies. For example there is a militaristic city-state which you also have to option to tell them to stop producing units if you ally with them. When I talk about allying with them, there’s actually no dialog option to do so, you must gain enough influence for them to consider you an ally. Other than gold and unit giving, there are actually many ways of gaining influence. If they are attacked you can help them out. If they hate some other city-state, you can help wipe them out. If they are threatened by a barbarian tribe, you can help eradicate them. Sometimes they just want a certain resource or a road to your capital.

Resources are not much different from what I can tell. Much like iterations past, you can trade extra resources to other civs. They are needed for certain units also. City-states can give you their resources when you ally with them, and they continue to do so until your influence drops below that threshold.

There are still many more things to talk about this game, but this should give you a good overview of some big changes for the latest iteration of this epic game.

PubSubHubbub – instant blogging?

So for anyone that have used Friendfeed knows, they have this ultra-fast real-time stream. It’s quite cool and it works with feedburner too. Which I have set up as the RSS feed for this blog. So as a test I will post this and see if Friendfeed will do show it immediately.

Source: PubSubHubbub + WordPress + Feedburner + FriendFeed = Realtime Awesomeness

reCAPTCHA: Stop Spam, Read Books

reCAPTCHA We’ve all seen CAPTCHA before on the net, those little distorted words used to confirm that we’re in fact human. reCAPTCHA takes this idea and adds the usefulness by making everyone read old books one word at a time. Intrigued? Here’s why it&#8217s being done and how it works:

In order for the internet to truly be the “information superhighway” several projects are currently actively digitizing text written before the digital age. Pages of text are scanned into the computer and a computer program using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR) figures out what the letters are. The problem with OCR is that computers can’t read text as well as humans can, so the resulting words are typo-prone.

reCAPTCHA makes humans do the work that only humans can do, read distorted but readable text. Instead of just a random arbitrary distorted word to confirm we’re human, we are given a word that computers can’t read and one word that some other human have already read. Each reCAPTCHA we do helps take another step to fully digitizing these books. You can find more information on the reCAPTCHA home page.

Link: reCAPTCHA

Winamp Bento

Recently Winamp unveiled a new beta version that includes a brand new skin. This new skin incorporates everything that Winamp has and also album artwork too. I gave it a try today and while I think it is an improvement, they still have a long way to go.

A cropped picture of the new Winamp Bento skin.
Above: The new Bento skin incorporates all aspects of Winamp into one neat package. (click to see entire picture)

Maybe I’m just used to the stable betas of Google’s Gmail and various other software, but almost everything I did with this new Winamp crashed it. Playing a song with the Now Playing tab on crashed it. Clicking on a song in the Media Library crashed it. I’ll wait until it comes out of beta before I will do more testing on it. Right now I just can’t stand it.