Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Strategy game specs are going mad

I just saw the recommended system reqs for Civilisation V.

  • Operating System: Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Video: 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 series or better
  • What?


    512MB video cards and quad core, for a turn-based strategy game? The min specs…

  • Operating System: Windows® XP SP3/ Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
  • Processor: Dual Core CPU
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video: 256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
  • That’s still crazy. We are talking MINIMUM specs here, for a geeky turn-based game. GSB has high specs (for me) because of the real-time battle playback shinyness, but I’d still think they are lower than this.

    I like games like CIV, but ultimately these games are not about the graphics. I just cannot imagine where the processing power is going. This trend to make the campaign maps of strategy game run at 10 FPS just boggles my mind.  What about all the strategy geeks with old PCs or laptops and no interest in buying new ones? Don’t people want their money?

    Someone with the min spec above, tell me how GSB runs for you. Please tell me it runs fine or I’ll look a right dork :D

    22 thoughts on Strategy game specs are going mad

    1. GSB runs rather neat for me, gets a touch choppy at everything over 2x speeds and starts to clog up with the largest/highest budget maps, but nothing that spoils enjoyment. Looking forward to any refinements to the multiplayer/challenge side that you might be working on. Would love to see “replays” and/or the ability to watch responses live. Would also like to be able to zoom out further.

      CPU: Athlon 64 XP 3200
      GPU/GFX: Nvidia 9800GT 512mb (so big it means I can only have 3 hard disks!)
      RAM: 2GB DDR2

      Thanks Cliff for your awesome development and community ethic, looking forward to buying your games in future.

    2. At this point, Civ5 is starting to look more and more like a turn-based Dwarf Fortress. And you know how much power that game sucks down, so i suppose it’s reasonable :)

    3. Short answer: no, they don’t want their money.

      Long answer: Well, they *want* their money, but they don’t believe that that market segment (those who hold on to old working hardware) are interested in full price games. After all, reasons the executive, aren’t these the people driving the $5 steam feeding frenzies for 3-5 year old games?

      So when it comes time to decide between time spent optimizing the code and time spent adding bling, bling wins, because in the mind of a executive the hardware impoverished are a market they will pick up in the Gold/Platinum/Hits/GotY version down the road.

    4. GSB works fine for me Cliff…

      Core2Duo E6600 (OC to 3.0)
      4G DDR2 Dual Line
      GF9600 512MB
      Run all settings high at 1920*1200

      PS: I own your game (and all expansions) on both Steam and Impulse… represent ;-) haha

    5. I imagine every little bit of every icon on screen is animated. Even though it’s job is just to sit in hex 001 and represent a section of the great wall it’s going to have sentries marching up and down it and the wall will pulse or bulge at every step just because it can. It’s eye-candy that costs system specs and no one really notices if the game is not any better than civ 4.

      I know when they released Railroads, Sid’s sequel to Railroad Tycoon, he ignored all the good work done by the guys at PopTop and spent far more time on eye-candy and getting the game time down to under 30 minutes.

      Firaxis has constantly disappointed. They sure do make pretty turn-based games but they haven’t made them any better.

    6. I’m running the Mac version:

      2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo

      1 GB RAM

      128 MB RadeonX1600

      In many, many hours of gameplay (I’ve had it less than a week) it’s only stuttered once. There are some graphical bugs, but I assume that’s because it’s only recently been ported.

    7. You are late to the party! Didn’t you get the memo that games must be as pretty as possible while having game-play depth that was considered shallow ten years ago? Now you also know where 90% of all budgets go: Graphics. And 9.5% on marketing. And the rest would be plot, writing and gameplay. Booh.

    8. I was really looking forward to Civ5 until I read a preview on Eurogamer.
      The reviewer seemed to think that the game was really good, but he then mentioned some of the things that had been removed… REMOVED!?!
      Generally when you play a sequal you expect it to include more, not less.
      One of the things that he said had been removed was the ability to rename cities. Now, I don’t generally rename cities in Civ4, but I do sometimes rename units. If they’ve removed city naming you can be sure they’ve removed unit naming.
      They’ve also removed religion, which is one of the features I really liked about Civ4.
      My view is if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it, but they seem to have decided to remove some of the things that made Civ4, 3 and 2 great games.
      Ah well, I’ll see what the reviews are like when it comes out.

    9. i too was disappointed by religion, it was my favourite new addition to civ4, but why i love firaxis is they aren’t afraid to make lots of these changes to mix up the game.

      I don’t subscribe to t’if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ in game development, I certainly don’t want the exact same civ4 but with graphical tweaks, give me a new game with a new set of rules any day.

      As for civ5 hitting the high end, there’s no reason to believe that the graphics have been the focus of the game. I think John hit the nail on the head with why the graphics are as advanced as they are, certainly more than they need to be, but we have no indication that the game was altered to suit the graphics.

    10. GSB runs great on my laptop and it’s not exactly captain speedy.
      Dual core 1.9Ghz
      2GB RAM
      Geforce 8200M

    11. As RCIX said, Dwarf Fortress is probably the game that really brings most PCs to their knees, or a least one of the cores to its knees.

      Space Empires 5, by the end game, has turns that can take hours to process, but that was just plain bad design on Aaron Hall’s part.

      Those min specs are considerably more than something like Sins of a Solar Empire which isn’t cutting edge but it certainly isn’t an ugly game. Stardock has the right idea.

    12. I don’t know, Cliff…I mean – there’s the argument to be made for sloppy development that it requires minimum specs like that in the first place, and there’s certainly an argument to be made there.

      But I really doubt this will effect sales of the game. As you said, this is a geeky turn based game. Generally, those who will seek this game out and lap it up are gamers or technically minded people. Those minimum specs cover almost any computer sold in the last 3 or 4 years with the exception of netbooks and the ultra low end. The type who will be buying Civ5 in droves are not going to have any difficulty in playing the game.

      Pre-release reviews that I have read have all been positive and I trust Firaxis to make changes that are worth changing. They have never gone backwards with any release of Civ so far, so I’m willing to take their word that certain elements have been changed. Removing something isn’t always a step backwards if it was holding up other elements of the game or breaking improvements in other areas. :)

    13. What would be interesting to me is to almost look at it in reverse. For the min and recommended spec, look to see at what point in time were those specs considered ‘Average’ of a new machine. And then ask what’s reasonable to support for min and recommended? Should min spec be more than 5 years old? Should it be less than 3 years old? Where should you draw the line? The complaint seems to be that the numbers seem high, higher than a game from Nov of last year would support, but you are looking at it from the point of view of specs from a year ago. I’m not sure that there’s a single right answer for what is reasonable for min/recommended specs, I just wish that we could assign a calendar date to them to better discuss it.

    14. My attitude to it is more a case of ‘what do I need to do in this game, visually and CPU wise’ and then ‘how efficiently can this be done?’ rather than thinking I have a minimum spec to play with, and can use it as I see fit.
      I like the idea that you could have some background apps, maybe some streaming to another PC, some downloading, or whatever, going on in the background, and still be able to play GSB, because it would make very few demands.
      Minimum specs assume the whole PC’s resources are entirely at your disposal for the duration of the game :D I’m just an efficiency geek.

    15. @CountVlad – didn’t you notice that they already took a load of stuff out of Civ 3 in the transition to Civ 4?

      @Cliffski – Civ 4 was a fun game but it’s quite obvious they spent a lot of time on the look and feel, including the animations, the zooming on the map, and so on. All this alongside the simplification of some of the rules from Civ 3. I’m not saying that simpler necessarily means worse in the realms of strategy games but when you combine that with an extensive graphical overhaul then it’s probably fair to say they’re trying to break clear of the hardcore strategy market. Personally, I think this is fine, because it probably makes more space in the market for indies who want to make deep strategy games but who aren’t so concerned about graphics.

    16. Cliff, did you ever play CIV4? Did you ever get stuck in the year 1900+ because the game needed 100hours to calculate 1 turn? Either way the guys at firaxis can’t programm or you NEED a hardcore cpu for a swift gameplay…
      Concerning the videocard, beats me ;)

    17. I’m a huge fan of Civ 4, but while it might not have been much of a CPU hog, it was a massive memory hog. 4 gigs of RAM on Windows XP, and I’d still get a crash because it ran out of memory on the really huge maps.

      One of the things a dual core allows is for threading the application. If they’ve optimized Civ 5 to run on multiple cores, they could feel that running it on a single CPU would be too much of a hit to performance. One thing the extra core can do is handle a lot of the AI work. Theoretically, the more cycles the game can spend on the AI, the better it will perform. I’m hoping that some of the “end-of-turn” calculations the AI does got offloaded to the 2nd core for processing during the player’s turn.

      Another aspect is the marketing one. Since the days of the 486, the min specs for games have always been far overstated. The min specs have always meant “the minimum needed to make the game run perfectly”. Cut the specs in half, and it’s still playable. I grew up playing games on underpowered hardware, and most of the time it was still very playable.

      I recall a developer saying the min specs are the way they are because that is what they feel the minimum is needed to play the game at a level the developers feel is the full experience. They don’t want to spend months developing a graphical feature only to have you turn it off because you don’t have enough power for it.

      The marketing aspect also means that players want to buy games that feel new. If the min specs are too low, distributors might feel it will hurt the sales because it will sound like the game is from a previous generation. They don’t want people thinking that Civ 5 is just Civ 4 with a new number but the same engine, they want people to realize “Hey, this isn’t Civ 4. This is totally NEW. Come buy it”, and one way to do that is to seriously ramp up the reported minimum requirements.

      As for removing features, one of my favourite aspects of the original Civ that got dropped was the customized palace. I still miss it, but it didn’t stop Civ 4 from becoming my all-time favourite game.

    18. GSB runs beautifully on my notebook:
      Intel Core2 Duo @ 2.13Ghz
      2gB RAM
      NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (shares system memory)
      Windows 7

      Never had anything remotely like a performance problem, I run with all the gratuitous options turned on.

    19. I’ve got you all beat!

      I’ve got a I-don’t-know-how-old Dell appliance box I bought from the surplus auction at work for $10. It’s got less than a gig of RAM and a Geforce 6600 (NON-PCIE cause the computer doesn’t have it) I bought used off Ebay.

      GSB runs just fine- nice and shiny at 1600×1024 with time accelerated all the way up.

      I know what a microprocessor is- what are cores? ;)

    20. Civ 4 required a ton of processing for the later years in gameplay. I assume Civ 5 has the same needs but also has better looking graphics. The ai decisions being made in the background do number in the 1000’s by the end of the game so the lack of a fast processor could certainly slow things down.

    21. Just saw this today, the “minimum” machine for Civ V so happens to be the exact specs of the virtual machine into which I have installed Windows 7. As a replacement for an old laptop, I figured it would run GSB insanely well, which it fact does.

      I don’t think these game companies really want my money. Doesn’t matter what the spec of a new good computer is, what matters if you’re developing for Windows is what the typical $500 machine (90% of all sales are these budget machines) can do. I have a good use for my relatively high end Mac which has enough juice to spare for a reasonable-spec Windows machine running inside it. I can’t imagine purchasing an even more expensive machine just so the VM inside it could run Civ V and I certainly can’t imagine spending more than $500 on a Windows computer. (Of course, I don’t develop games for Windows these days.)

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