Firaxis rolled out some publicity for their upcoming Brave New World expansion for Civilization V. Among the gaggle of interviews, Lead Designer Ed Beach spoke to PC Gamer and took a moment to address Jon Shafer’s recent criticism of his own work in designing the base Civ V game.
“He was a little harsh on it,” said Beach. “And I won’t try to guess as to exactly what his frame of mind was, where he’s coming from.”
“Unit stacking can be a problem in Civ V, and I definitely think we’ve been acknowledging that for a while,” continued Beach. “In Gods & Kings we made a change so that embarked land units could stack with naval units, because there was a lot of congestion out in the seas. So, there were definitely issues, but I’m still a big fan of one unit per tile. I think it improves the combat in so many ways, there’s so much more tactical maneuvering and positioning.”
Jon Shafer had posted an essay of lessons learned in making Civ V, and the one unit per tile (1UPT) design in his Kickstarter for At the Gates in which he stated that although he found the combat in Civ V better than previous Civilization games that allowed unit stacking, he admitted that there were problems. Shafer wrote that designing good 1UPT AI was a challenge and that the maps had too many bottlenecks to allow for proper maneuvers.
Speculation aside, the reality was that the congestion caused by 1UPT also impacted other parts of the game. In every prior Civ title it was no problem to have ten, fifty or even a thousand units under your control. Sure, larger numbers meant more to manage, but hotkeys and UI conveniences could alleviate much of the problem. But in Civ 5, every unit needed its own tile, and that meant the map filled up pretty quickly.
To address this, I slowed the rate of production, which in turn led to more waiting around for buckets to fill up. For pacing reasons, in the early game I might have wanted players to be training new units every 4 turns. But this was impossible, because the map would have then become covered in Warriors by the end of the classical era. And once the map fills up too much, even warfare stops being fun.