Civilization VI: The State of Automation

“In Civilization VI, we want players to engage more with the world around them.”

Lead designer Ed Beach and his team at Firaxis Games are trying to get you to be more active players in Civilization VI. With some very purposeful changes to core mechanics such as Unstacking Cities and, more to the purpose of this blog post, automation, the team is aiming to emphasize player interaction in Civilization VI.

What is automation?

Automation is a mechanic where Civilization players could let the game take over for a particular unit, thus submitting all choice and interaction with that unit to the game’s AI. In Civilization V, you can automate scouts to explore the map for you or automate your workers to improve your city’s tiles all on their own. While this feature is fine for some players, one of the chief concerns is that it puts players in a state of autopilot, eroding away the immersion and investment of the Civilization experience.

That all changes in Civilization VI, which has eliminated almost all aspects of automation.

“Because the world is unique each time you play the game, we want to really emphasize the players’ interactions with it,” Ed Beach, lead designer of Civilization VI, tells us. “This means having players make very deliberate choices, rather than setting important parts of their game on autopilot.”

Builders, which replace Civilization V’s Worker units, provide an excellent example of how the “autopilot” mentality of automation has been addressed in Civilization VI. “In previous Civilization games you had Workers, which took their time going around the map, taking a number of turns to make each improvement. Automation was a way for players to get a benefit out of their Workers without manually controlling them each turn, which was often difficult because you would forget what it was you had planned when it came time for your Worker to move on to a new project.” By replacing them with Builders, who construct improvements instantly and have a set number of charges before they are all used up, the player is now presented with more immediate decisions requiring full participation.

“Now there’s a whole series of critical decisions to make about when you construct a Builder and when you put an improvement down, and all of those decisions play out quickly and directly. It’s a simple change, but a dynamic one in terms of how players are interacting with improvements and planning.  And it’s critical to control all these placements with our new unstacked cities.”

Beach doesn’t discount automation as a viable tool in some situations, though - specifically when exploring oceans and coastlines. “In those cases you’re mostly interested in gaining information about what lies out there in the world, and so specific turn-to-turn control might not be an interesting decision for players.” And so auto-exploring with land and sea units will remain in Civilization VI, but in a more limited capacity. “When an exploring land unit finds a goody hut, we break his movement to let you pop that reward yourself. We found that Civilization V players would get a bonus from a goody hut and not realize where this bonus was coming from. Similarly we break out of auto-exploring when an enemy comes in sight.”

Ultimately, new players who have never experienced these systems will go unaffected in Civilization VI, while the developers hope longtime Civilization players will find familiar choices presented in more meaningful ways. “The changes we’ve made for Civilization VI have been done based on how we’ve seen people play previous Civilization games,” Beach shares. “When there are optimal choices or rote strategies within the game, we have looked carefully at those and tried to see if there are things we can do to shake up peoples' habits. We want players to understand the consequences of their choices and how that’s affecting their game, and sometimes automation takes critical decisions out of a player’s hands.”

That’s it for this update! Join the Civilization VI conversation on social media by using the hashtag #OneMoreTurn, and be sure to follow the Civilization franchise on social media to keep up to date with the latest news and information on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI.