Sid Meier Talks Civ

Feature: Alone with the Godfather of strategy

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It sounds like a massive undertaking...

Meier: It's massive, but it's a game we love, and game we understand and know how to get the most out of. But there are a lot of cool features in the game.

Why is now the right time to move to consoles with Civilization?

Meier: A couple of things are happening. We're seeing the hardware evolve and become extremely capable, we can do all the things we talked about, the multiplayer infrastructure, the ability to do incredible 3D graphics and special effects - all the cool stuff that makes the game look cool.

I think also the console audience has evolved to where it's not just hand-eye action games that we're seeing, there's a much wider variety of game genres becoming interesting on the consoles.

We think turn-based strategy is one of those things that needs to be there for the console. The audience is ready to step up to strategy gaming.

We'll have a built-in tutorial, advisors, all that stuff to help you get comfortable with the game and then start to create you own strategy as you play.

How have you tackled the joypad problem with a strategy game?

Meier: We think the advantage of Civilization is that it's a turn-based game. When you make a decision, the computer gives you as much time as you need to make that decision. You can play at your own pace, so there's only ever one thing to do at one time - moving units, select a new technology, manage a city. You're never really rushed.

The difficulty with real-time is you always have to be at a different place and the mouse is often a more natural way to manage 20 different things going on at once. Whereas with Civilization, given that it's turn-based, it feels very natural on the console controller, and that's our advantage.

Is this the start of a new plan to favour console development at Firaxis?

Meier: We're very interested in continuing on both PC and console. We're seeing the possibility for some crossover in some game ideas that could be both PC and console.

For Civilization, right now we have a separate approach for console versus PC because the PC version's really a fourth generation, it's really evolved to be a game that serves the hardcore, fanatic Civilization fan base.

We're certainly not abandoning the PC, it's a very important part of our development thinking, but we also want to include consoles as part of that because it's an area where there's so much energy and innovation.

How has your development approach to Civilization changed since the first game came out?

Meier: Civ I, II, III and IV were evolutionary. Each one built on the previous one. The modding ability is continuously growing, it's a bigger and bigger part of Civilization on the PC. And really a community has been created around Civilization and the players and the fans are an integral part of that - we get a lot of feedback, they've contributed a lot to the game's development.

With Revolution on the console we're kind of back to Civ I, where we're introducing the idea. We are making the ideas as accessible and attractive as we can. We're really at the beginning of the Civilization story on console.

It's more difficult right now to create a community on console because we're not in the wide open internet, we're on the more tightly controlled Live and things like that. But I think we'll have to see how it evolves on the console.

Why exactly do you love this sort of genre?

Meier: The fact, to me, that every Civ game is different, is exhilarating. It's the reason we start a game with this not knowing what's going to happen, but knowing it's going to be such an epic challenge that hopefully you come out victorious on the end.

There's an anticipation about sitting down and seeing that first screen and wondering what the future is going to hold for this game. That's very compelling. That's the vision of Civ and creating it again with this great new technology on the console has been incredible.

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