Civ 5 Battle Royale – Maths into Narratives

An example of a random, non-structural narrative based entirely in a video game played by computers.

Imagine if we played a game of chess and wrote a story about the black and white armies. Still with me? How about if we kept going, adding more narrative to the pieces, a back story, a setting, and even made those pieces characters. Say hello to the Civilization five Battle Royale. Ok, you seem a little lost so let’s back it up a little.


Civilization 5, or Civ 5 as it is more commonly known, is the fifth game in Sid Meier’s award winning video game franchise. The concept is simple, you control and manage a nation, it’s resources, it’s people, the technology it researches, and it’s foreign relations with other countries. You start with a single city and the game evolves from there as you either fight against other nations or try and out compete them economically or culturally. Though you play as one of the predefined nations, such as France or The United States, there is no story or plot within the game and neither does it follow history. Want to conquer Europe as the Aztecs or settle in Australia as the Chinese, go ahead.

“the actions within the story create the story itself”

But yet as anyone who has ever played a Civilization game will attest to you can spend hours and hours clicking the ‘next turn’ button until your eyes pop out. Instead of playing history, you create your own little piece of it as your actions and reactions to other nations move the ‘plot’ along. Which brings me back to my analogy of chess and why I chose to use it. Each move in chess is based on trying to fix the game, putting your pieces in a position that will eventually allow you to gain an advantage over the other player. But these moves have no real ‘meaning’ the pawn didn’t move to squares because he believes it’s it duty to represent the black nation. So if we try and create a story from a game of chess, you’re not creating a story and basing actions from it, the actions within the story create the story itself.

The Winter War heats up
The Winter War heats up
Enter the Civ 5 Battle Royale. All of the different possible civilizations/nations in the game starting in their historical geographical positions on earth battling against each other for the world. And all of those nations controlled by the game AI. That’s right, no one is playing this ‘game’ in fact it’s better defined as a simulation at this point on someone’s computer. But it has sparked a huge fan-dom, especially on the reddit subreddit with viewers taking sides and supporting various Civs fighting against each other in the game simulation. In fact as I am currently writing this the Winter War between the Inuit & Canadians are heating up as the Canadian Night’s Watch race northward to conquer the Inuit city of Kangiqtinq. If that didn’t make any sense to you what so ever then let explain.

“a guy watches a game play out then creates a story around how the AI has chosen to play the game.”

The Civ 5 Battle Royale was created by a player called TPangolin and the game runs off his computer. Every day he let’s the game play out as he watches and takes screenshots of each player’s moves. Then he writes a narrative based on those player’s moves, where they’re settling new cities, the position of their armies, who they’re trading with, and who they’re fighting against. That’s it. No seriously, that’s basically it, a guy watches a game play out then creates a story around how the AI has chosen to play the game. And yet this simple concept has managed to create a huge expansive narrative involving important events such as The Winter war, the Northern Gyre war, and the four Points war. Viewer wait in anticipation for the next installment for the narrative, the next part of the story.

“a better analogy would be creating a story based off maths equations.”

Maybe the analogy of the chess game isn’t sufficient to describe what the battle royale is, because at the end of the day a person is playing and has some degree of control over the actions in the game. But when there is no one playing and only computers are involved what then determines the actions or events within the game? Computers in their simplest definitions are just giant calculators so when an AI chooses to act in a certain way it based simple on an equation based on various factors. So I guess a better analogy would be creating a story based off maths equations.

Maybe in the future we’ll have a bunch of robot that interact and we’ll base a story off them, who knows. I for one welcome our new robot story tellers.

Check out the Civ 5 battle royale official post here –