Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Build an Empire

I enjoy Empire Building. Not the slaughter that goes with it, mind you, just the building.

That's why I enjoy games such as Civilization, in all its incarnations. I like the competition aspect of it, which is why I don't play in an empty world, but come to think of it, I have played games of earlier versions where I played against one or two computer opponents and my goal was more to see how glorious a civilization I could build rather than worry about having to fight for land and other things with other civilizations.

The most recent version of the game, Civilization IV, with all of its expansions, has fixed the AI to the point where I don't feel the need to play in an empty world to do that. (Mostly by not just having all nations want to go to war with you all the time). There are still aggressive nations, but it is something that can be dealt with (mostly) with diplomacy and some strategy.

I have expressed similar building impulses with Real Time Strategy Games (RTSs) like Total Annhiliation. I was the classic "turtle" in that game. I'd spend a great deal of time building the ultimate base/fortress, with walls and defensive weapons and all of that. It was hard sometimes, especially if you were attacked early, but there was a certain beauty if you could pull it off. The only downside was that RTS games tend to be offense-heavy, so no base is truly impregnable, but I'd try my best.

I expressed my empire building even before computer games, when I was a child on the beach. I was in a sand-castle building contest. I built a castle. I didn't win. But then, after the contest was over, I went around to all the other kids on the beach in the contest and got them excited about a new project: connecting all of the various castles on the beach together into one big super-castle. That was a great deal of fun. I was "happy as a pig in shit" as I like to say sometimes. That simple, pure joy that is sometimes difficult to replicate after reaching adulthood, though I think I get it now through playing with my children. Or playing RPGs or computer games.

At times when playing games such as Civ or TA, I'd forget there was even a game with victory conditions and such. I would just want to keep building and have it never end. Or rather, the games would end long before I'd reached the pinacle of the empire I envisioned.

I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be an architect. I'd love to design and build a cool building. A building for me. The problem is, not being rich, I probably never will be able to build my ultimate building. I did help design the house I live in now, and that was fun, and I really love our house, but there was much we couldn't do because of budget. And I was a stickler for that - from the time of the estimate to the final product, we kept within 0.5% of our initial budget. Basically, we went over the initial contract price by $1,100, and that was all for the cost of making our deck larger than we had originally planned. Yes, I'm ruthless when it comes to sticking to budget.

If anyone needs someone to design an Empire to build, I'm available, and my price is very reasonable!

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