Before you begin, you need to understand how the Worldbuilder works in Civ IV – here’s the manual and a discussion of what’s what – note that you have to add the code ‘chipotle’ to “cheatcode = ” in the Civ IV ini file, to get the full worldbuilder experience.
Now. What do you want to model using this game? A particular war? a battle? a long period of cultural interchange between two peaceful peoples? Answer this question well, and be very clear what it is you hope to accomplish. Let’s say, for interest’s sake, you want to make a scenario focussed on Veii, and you want your student – the player – to understand the urban dynamics of central Italy during the protohistoric period (you’ll want to describe it much more snappily to your students, when the time comes). You’ll need a map then for the playing board. Here’s a google map centred on Veii. (Maybe you’ll want to zoom out a bit). Open it up in your graphics program, clean it up, and save it as a bmp. It doesn’t have to look like a Civ IV map yet; we use another program to do that.
To turn that map into a playing board for the game, use this bmp-to-wbs utility. This will allow you to make the map exactly as you want it, the placing of resources, etc etc. It comes with an excellent tutorial on mapmaking and scenario design. Alternatively, you can try this tool instead.
That’s all you need to get a good scenario up and running; other interesting tools and utilities are available here.
Things you should think about: Civ IV uses XML files to store lots of the information. To really get rolling, you need to delve into the XML and associate these files with your map – you might try this program here. For instance, in our hypothetical Veii scenario, you might alter the XML files so that you have some Etruscan named leaders, some Roman ones, some Sabine onces, etc. You can change the calendar, so that game turns go in days, or weeks, or months. You can limit how long the game will be played. You can add ancillary information to the opening screen or other pop-ups.
Say you don’t like the way the game imagines the progress of technology. You can use this tool here to tweak it to your heart’s content. You might want to make it so that certain technologies are never available to the player. You do this by altering the ‘cost’ of them in time (so that it becomes impossible for a player to get to, say, feudalism, within the confines of your scenario). You can use this tool for that.
The key things to remember always are ‘why am I building this? what teaching goal do I hope to achieve? how does playing this game – even with my neat-o scenario – make that possible?’ Remember, you can’t just leave your students to play the game and expect them to learn something. You have to be there while they play it, you have to talk it out with them. You make the anachronisms and emergence of the game work for you.
In fact, the best way you can make this game a part of your teaching is to get the students to design the scenarios/mods themselves. These tools I’ve collected here will help you enormously (and thanks again to Civfanatics and the great people there!)
ps, I’ll do a similar post for Caesar IV once I figure out how to make the game editor do what I want. One final note: lots of the graphics in both games come as dds files. You need a converter to put your artwork into the game if for instance you want to create an etruscan augur unit – try this program; you can also get similar programs from nVidia’s website
UPDATE Feb 28 2010: This continues to be the most popular post on this blog. Click around – there’s an awful lot more here than this! :) If you’re really interested in the nuts-and-bolts of modding all of the various games in the Civilization franchise, please see the Civilization Modding Wiki and this tutorial.