CELLivilization: Civilization implemented in Microsoft Excel

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/09/cellivilization-civilization.html

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For reference, there’s this (probably well known) game as well:

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I played prior art to Civilization on vt100 -VAX11/780 called Empire. It was eventally ported to pc.

Also, “Ive run out of rows in my excel!” If you remember “the website is down” video series.

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We all know that Excel is Turing-complete, which means that, if runtime and memory are not issues, you can implement anything that a computer can do, in Excel. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Excel is an abomination.

I’m not familiar with game development in particular, but I generally take a lot of issue with the sentiment, implicitly expressed here, that the hardest thing about developing software is learning the syntax of your language/development environment. That is the least hard part of developing software.

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That is not what is implied there. How on earth do you get “syntax” from “game development platforms”?

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A graphical game using excel spreadsheets as pixels is very cool and fun. But given how easily turn-based strategy/resource management tasks are actually legitimately suited to tracking in a spreadhseet, I would have been intrigued if it had used the native excel visuals more, with formulas in cells, and numbers all plainly present, with perhaps a rudimentary graphical map where a square sheet cell was a movement square.

Also, just a future-history predication: once someone makes minecraft in excel, the singularity will have arrived.

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Naah, the real challenge will be to write Excel in Excel.

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While I am aware that the pie charts contain rounding errors, it’s difficult to complain about Excel when Microsoft Word is sitting right there. Perhaps some spreadsheet genius would care to make a chapterized Word document with functioning page numbering and a non-broken Table of Contents? I’ve done it. I’ve also dived into an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with cash. It’s not for amateurs.

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Most game development environments have a lot of non-syntax issues. Huge sprawling libraries with hidden limits and bugs. Lots of things that need to be done in just the right one of 11 callbacks. A whole lot of effort spent on “fast fast fast” when doing an implementation of a turn based game really doesn’t need it (smooth animation is nice there though).

A non-3D non-realtime game is almost definitely not served well by unreal or unity…but people still get steered to them.

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Formatting can also suddenly incomprehensibly completely break down in the middle of a document, no where else, and can’t be fixed without deleting the mal-formatted content. Finding out what content is the source, your best guess.

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Well, while technically this seems to be made with Excel, it is only possible thanks to VisualBasic, which IS a programming language, and without which you can’t really have a chance to make a game.
I wouldn’t call it a “surprisingly accessible programming environment” either, otherwise more games (and more complex ones) would have been done already.
The exact same reason why this is surprising many people (OP too) is that Excel is not usually used this way, and that’s because it’s NOT a good programming environment, nor a good way to make games.

I’d love to see some beginner try to make a game with both Excel and with a real programming language, a Basic for example, and see where he/she have the most problems with. I’d bet my house it’ll be Excel.

Oh and btw, Excel has got VisualBasic scripting support for more than 20 years now, so this isn’t even something that has happened recently (unlike the article seems to suggest).

People, on those events (like the one this game was developed at), sometimes use “things” which are not usually used to make games or demos, just because it’s a challenge. I still remember an ASCII racing game made with the AmigaDOS, which was actually playable and fun, and had some really interesting and creative use of the console commands and features. Does that mean AmigaDOS is a “good programming environment”? Not really, just shows what dedication can lead to.

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Now we just need someone at Microsoft to get into the spirit of things by implementing Hexcel, the spreadsheet tiled in strategy hexagons rather than accounting squares.

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Unreal and Unity are good for what they’ve been designed for. If you want to noodle around in a 2D environment and make something cool that doesn’t need Nvidia RTX support (but might need per-pixel precision!) I always recommend the Godot engine:

https://godotengine.org/

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Thanks for posting Godot! I’m a flash/actionscript castaway, and have been looking for a new platform to get invested in and Godot seems to be just what I was…waiting for…

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