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Feature Video

Beyond Earth Takes Civilization to the Stars

But the future refused to change.

Humanity’s childhood has ended, the cradle of Earth abandoned so that we can find ourselves among the stars. As its name suggests, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth leaves behind our collective past--which this long-running strategy series has so thoroughly documented--and turns its gaze skyward towards our future. Cast upon some unknown world, you will encounter alien life, push the limits of humanity, and inevitably come to blows with your fellow man over whose vision of the future is "correct." For fans of the 1999 classic Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, this game has been a long time coming, and for the Civilization development team, it’s a liberating experience to finally be free from the constraints of history.

"You could see the enthusiasm in the team when they heard about this project," said Lena Brenk, one of Beyond Earth’s lead producers. "It is a very liberating thing, as all the gameplay systems we designed for Civilization are done so with an eye towards, 'Does it fit with the history of humanity?' [Beyond Earth] has been a huge opportunity to go ahead and do things that would not be possible in a historic setting." I recently spoke to Brenk, along with other members of the development team, about the many changes this game brings to the Civilization formula, and how a game of Beyond Earth compares to a game of Sid Meier's Civilization V.

Earth is dying. Humanity must now find a new future for itself among the stars.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth begins at the end. Due to some sort of global catastrophe, which the developers only referred to as "The Great Mistake," Earth is experiencing a mass exodus. The various factions of humanity are piling aboard starships and setting forth in search of a new home for their species. With each new game of Beyond Earth, you play the role of one of these desperate expeditions.

In Beyond Earth, not only do you choose your faction, but also which spacecraft to take, what cargo to carry, who to bring, and the type of planet you want to inhabit. Each choice will greatly impact the start of your game.

Before you land on a new planet and start shaping humanity’s destiny, you must first equip your expedition. Referred to as "the seeding," this is an expanded version of your civilization selection in previous games. In Beyond Earth, not only do you choose which faction (read: civilization) to play, but also which spacecraft to take, what cargo to carry, who to bring, and the type of planet you want to inhabit. Each selection you make will greatly impact the start of your game: you could carry high-quality cargo that grants additional funds up-front, for instance, or hard-working, production-oriented colonists who build structures faster. The Civilization series has always been about defining a strategy early on, and then adapting that strategy to accommodate whatever curveballs the game throws your way. These choices should give you greater control over how you define your opening gambit.

After the seeding, you make planetfall and establish your first human colony. It is also the only human colony. The next human player won’t arrive until much later. In the beginning, you are completely alone amid the wilderness. "What’s neat about it is the feeling you get from coming into this new place," said lead producer Dennis Shirk. "It’s not the same as in other Civilization games where you already know you’re on Earth, the only threat is the occasional barbarian, and you’re going to run into other civilizations--and if one of those is Genghis Khan or Montezuma you know what your game is going to be like! With Beyond Earth, it’s basically you versus the environment in the beginning."

And by "environment," Shirk of course means alien lifeforms. Depending on the planet, these lifeforms may be indifferent to your arrival, or hostile. You must decide how to deal with them, and in doing so the development team hopes the experience will feel more isolated, more alien, than in previous games. You are setting forth into the unknown reaches of space, after all. It could be 20 turns or more before you see another player make planetfall and introduce themselves, and another 15 turns after that until the next. And if you think these newcomers are going to be easy pickings just because they were late to the party, think again. Those who arrive after you receive an extra boost to help them catch up to your civilization.

After making planetfall, you are the only human colony. The next humans won’t arrive until much later. You're on your own against the wilderness.

When other players start showing up, it will most likely result in open warfare. It was at this point in the interview that I asked whether Beyond Earth would bring back unit stacking, or continue using the one-unit-per-hex rule introduced in Civilization V. According to lead designer David McDonough, Beyond Earth will not have military unit stacking. "I am a big fan of the way warfare was designed in Civilization V," McDonough added. "I thought it was very elegant and would make a good fit for this game as well considering we’ve added these alternate game layers--such as the orbital layer--which sort of let you break that rule by launching units into space and having them effect units on the ground without being stacked on top of them."

The orbital layer is the realm of satellites. These satellites can grant your civilization an economic, espionage, or military benefit, but their orbit will degrade over time.

The orbital layer is the realm of satellites. These can grant your faction an economic, espionage, or military benefit depending on the type of satellite launched. Satellites also project coverage across the orbital layer, and this coverage doesn't overlap with other satellites. Securing coverage works on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’ll need to move fast. However, once you have a satellite in the air it is by no means permanent. Its orbit will degrade over time, and it will eventually crash on the planet below, sometimes leaving behind recoverable salvage. Satellites can also be pulled out of orbit (read: crashed) manually or shot down by other players.

The orbital layer may let players skirt around the one-military-unit-per-tile rule, but it doesn't solve a lingering problem this rule created in Civilization V and its expansions: the AI. While this rule did create some interesting new strategies for players, the game’s AI had trouble executing those same strategies with any consistency. As an example, I often saw the AI push its archers to the front line, ahead of their sword-wielding brothers in arms, only to get slaughtered. When asked about this, McDonough explained, "We've had the opportunity to do a great deal of work and learn from the successes that Civilization V had with its AI to make AI suited for [Beyond Earth]. We’re confident it’s going to do a great job. We’re working hard on it and the war simulations we’re running in our test games are already pretty crazy and fun."

That’s good to hear, since the battles in Beyond Earth aim to provide even more variety than in the series’ past. This is thanks in part to the game’s new affinity system, an overarching belief structure which impacts every aspect of your civilization. There are three different affinities in the game: purity, harmony, and supremacy. Harmony, for example, focuses on understanding and adapting to your alien planet’s ecosystem.

Taken to the extreme, this affinity will drive your people towards rewriting the human genome so that they can fully integrate themselves as an indigenous species of that world. You scientific research will focus on the alien sciences, geology, and genetic engineering, and your military units will become faster, heal quicker, and take on a Predator-esque appearance.

There are three different affinities--purity, harmony, and supremacy--which impact every aspect of your game, including wildlife hostility.

You strengthen your affinity by doing quests or finding objects from expedition sites or by researching certain technologies--affinity works on a global level from the very first turn to the very last. Everything you do in the game feeds into the affinity system, and that system in turn feeds back into the very makeup of your civilization.

The team at Firaxis has a new, non-linear technology tree for Beyond Earth. In fact, it’s not so much a tree as it is a web.

Because this system can take humanity in some wildly different directions, chances are you won’t need to be researching all the same technologies as the other players. Therefore, the team at Firaxis has a new, non-linear technology tree for Beyond Earth. In fact, it’s not so much a tree as it is a web. As McDonough described it, this web was one of the team’s "first, favorite, and most fundamental redesigns." Each player starts surrounded by a web of technologies, with the technologies closest to you being something recognizable in today’s world, like engineering. From there you move outward in any direction towards more exotic--but still plausible--technologies.

"We call these major technologies 'branch' technologies," he added. "Each branch technology has a number of leaf technologies underneath it, representing specific specializations of the main branch. These leaves are also associated with one of the three affinities. Gaining allegiance to an affinity begins the path towards a technology victory specific to that affinity. At no time are you ever locked out of researching any technology, but it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to research everything in the game. By the end of the game, you will have a set of technologies that tells a story of who you are, and who you were."

As McDonough mentioned, the game’s three affinities are closely tied to three of the five possible victory conditions. Of course, if you’re not willing to take your affinity to its conclusion, there are two other options available that are affinity-neutral. The five victory conditions are:

Harmony: awaken a semi-sentient super organism within the planet and reach a new level of consciousness
Purity: terraform the alien planet into a mirror of Earth and relocate Earth’s populace to this new Eden
Supremacy: embrace cybernetic augmentation, then return to Earth and "free" the people from their bodies
Contact: discover evidence of intelligent life and construct a means to establish first contact
Domination: actually, domination is the same as in every other Civilization

Three of the game's five victory conditions are tied to the three affinities. The other two are affinity neutral.

Since most of these victory conditions involve several steps, the developers have designed a new quest system to help guide players along. The quests are also where Beyond Earth delivers the bulk of its narrative. "Because we’re going into the future, it’s not as clear where humanity will end up," explained Brenk. "Players don’t know anything about it intuitively, so being able to give this narrative framework for the player to tell their story is really important to us. When the game is released, we want to go on the forums and read those awesome stories fans post about their game. We love that stuff."

Affinities. Non-linear research. Satellites. Armed with these new features and others, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is much more than "Civilization in space" or "Alpha Centauri 2." "While Alpha Centauri is in our DNA," explained Shirk, "we also made those games many years ago. They’re games we love, and that our fans love, but we wanted to approach [Beyond Earth] in a completely fresh fashion. Both games share some similarities--they’re both sim games about sending humanity into space--but in terms of being a strategy game, they don’t have much in common. We set out to create a completely new game, and we think a lot of the comparisons between this game and Alpha Centauri will be left behind as people see all the thing that are coming into play that makes this a completely new experience."

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Discussion

198 comments
expeditopaz2008
expeditopaz2008

I'm really looking forward to this game. Thinking about a pre-order...

shnull
shnull

Did i hear someone mention a new game by sid meyer ??????

Whats it gonna be , crossover between civ and smac ???

must have ... must have ... must .... have ....

ShinobiMedic
ShinobiMedic

It seems that alot of people are making assumptions, especially people who played earlier Civ games. Me, personally. Have only played Civ5 and I quite liked it, I also have both the expansions and I still have a ton of fun with it really, although it does have a few flaws.

From what I've heard and seen about this new Civ game, is that it is a new thing which is based on previous Civ games, but is an entirely different side due to the lack of restrictions and influence from this Alpha Centauri game.

As for Civ 4 and previous games, unit stacking and the lack of hexagons sound terribly outdated. Squares do not belong in future games, due to the huge decrease in tactical decisions and movement that the simplistic movement field presents. As for it "being an issue" that it ain't in this new game, is simply an assumption. Units will be unique, benefit eachother in specific ways and use specific upgrades. Maybe, just maybe; you should consider the possibility of combat mechanics being completely new.

I am looking forward to this game atleast, because sci-fi is awesome and civilization is too. Simple as that.

DAOWAce
DAOWAce

The last thing I want is Civ 5 in space.


I hate the gameplay of Civ 5.  Yes, I have all the expansions and most of the DLC and I've played through 20+ hour games twice, but god, I hate it.


Civ 3 was the best Civ in my opinion, and Alpha Centauri alongside it.


Please, please, get away from the awful system of Civ 5 and make another one like Civ 3, or even something different.  I can't stand the games coming out mimicking Civ 5's gameplay mechanics.

Abberon
Abberon

I stopped reading when they said there wouldn't be unit stacking.  Unless the maps and the number of hexes are increased exponentially, I'm not even close to interested.  Civ V was easily the worst in the series (aside from the spin-offs) and the only one I didn't play for 100's of hours.  I love how these game devs can't see how unhappy their audiences are with the changes they make, and then insist on shoving them down our throats in subsequent games.  


Essentially the reason they're not changing the unit stacking (and pretending it was anything less than shitty) is that they already have the game engine ready to go and don't want to have to retool or redo it.  


I hope people take a pass on this pile-of-crap-to-be, despite the cool setting and Alpha Centauri nostalgia.  



robertotomas
robertotomas

hey Gamespot! Your video player is broken... when you try to set quality, the top two options are not selectable because the selection panel closes. You can right-click trick it ... if you accidentally clicked "high" ... well, you can't change it back to "auto". Problem in windows 8.1 in both IE and Chrome

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

This sounds pretty freakin' cool.

I'm terrible at RTS games and have never actually played a Civilization. On a scale of 1 to 10, how difficult are these games in relation to other RTS games?

HuSSaR83
HuSSaR83

I hope once i encounter an alien it will yell in my speakers "Indigenous Life form!" and when I want to leave "Please don't go the drones need you, they look up to you" :P

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

Awesome, I always wanted a Sci-fi version on Civ.

innominatus2
innominatus2

It all sounds very Alpha Centaurish, which is good, for I simply love that game.

I hope they will manage to recreate that feel of being on ALIEN planet. And i hope there will be quotes from philosophers. The've addedso much to Alpha Centauri.

vadagar1
vadagar1

now come to think of it... humanity should NOT travel to other worlds... cause we will bring our crazy mental BS with us.


and frankly if ET is real I hope they have a death star ready for when we do start FTL travel, earth should be destroyed ASAP, hell I'm human and I would destroy us to save the galaxy from our insanity

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

Hmmm, looks like a good time to start playing Civilisation.

Bheema
Bheema

Loved Alpha Centauri (more with Alien Crossfire expansion). Also love Civ games. Super excited for this game, but will keep my expectations in check, just in case ;)

vadagar1
vadagar1

hmmm can we play as the aliens and kill all the human scum?!

jemoedr
jemoedr

A good game like this was also Enemy Nations, damn, i'd love to see a new version of that game.

jemoedr
jemoedr

Awesome, although it would be great if you could start from scratch on earth, build your way up to future tech, and then if you chose for "just one more turn...." continue doing this.

Siddha19
Siddha19

Someone for God's sake please find a way to bridge the stories between this and the Mass Effect universes!

Robboninja
Robboninja

TAKE MY MONEY! TAKE IT GOD DAMN YOU!

xKrNMBoYx
xKrNMBoYx

Reminds me of when I first played the original starcrraft

Oloryn
Oloryn

Reading about this brings back not just memories of Alpha Centauri, but oddly, memories of when I first read about StarCraft in development after I'd been digging into WarCraft all those years ago. For me, that's a good thing, and this is now at the top of my most wanted list for the year.

Sozialminister
Sozialminister

Awesome! Alpha Centauri is still my favourite Sid Meier game. Even better than all Civ games.

Afterthought_bt
Afterthought_bt

"I am a big fan of the way warfare was designed in Civilization V," McDonough added.


Bah. Way to shoot down my enthusiasm. Looks like I'm not getting this game then.


Sigh.

concuagia
concuagia

Why did they leave the button "Skip ad" but didn't let us to click on it? >"<

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

This made my week! But how has this game stayed hidden for so long?  I loved Alpha Centauri much more than the predictable Civilization games that inspired it.  I always wondered why they never followed up with a modern game.  This is about 10 years late but I still can't wait to dive in.  No telling what mind-blowing stuff they came up with.  Imagine the mods people will develop too.  WOO HOO!

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Looks interesting, I'll definitely be following its development.  I just hope it doesn't play too much like Civ 5, been playing a lot of that since it was available with a Humble Bundle (with all expansions!).

astryc
astryc

Please don't go. The drones need you. They look up to you.

expeditopaz2008
expeditopaz2008

@PlatinumPaladin well... first of all, Civilization games are not real-time, but turn-based strategy (you do all your moves, so the AI does its moves until you click to next turn). My tip is to get Civ V. There are a lot of tutorials and easy levels for you learn the game on your own pace. I myself play Civ 5 on "5" difficulty, out of ten.

Maverick6585
Maverick6585

@PlatinumPaladin  I'm bad at/ don't play RTS games, but I tried Civ V and it didn't feel very difficult. Don't remember what difficulty I had it set to, or if the game even had a difficulty settings. So no, not hard, just time consuming, and I don't have patience for games like that.

amfenar
amfenar

@innominatus2  true about philosophers and atmosphere of hostility of the planet. Along with the truly philosophic depth of scientific victory that game was really special in many senses.

gherkinisgreat
gherkinisgreat

@innominatus2  Unfortunately the developer did say that they wanted to move away from Alpha Centauri, it could end up being a very different game.

Bheema
Bheema

@Sozialminister  Mine too - I still play it. GoG selling it with the expansion.


However, AC was Brian Reynold's design. I wish he were collaborating in this game too.

Siddha19
Siddha19

@LesserAngel @Siddha19  Granted...  two good games do not make a great game.  And people trying to combine things in the past often come up with egg on their faces.  (See milk and orange juice...)  

But with this latest step that Firaxis is taking, they are pushing very close to the first contact story of ME.  For sure, the gameplay would not/could not co-incide, but either an RTS ME along the lines of C&C (remember how awesome that Yuri expansion was?) with their tech would be great.  


Or even if you slow it down a step and make it turn based like CIV, the tech trees are there, the races are there, the stories all but coincide.  

Afterthought_bt
Afterthought_bt

@linkdarkside


If Civ V were a tactical warfare game, you might have a point. (Ignoring the fact that Civ V was unplayably bad, to no small extent down to it's one unit per square dynamics. Only Civ game I've only ever played once.)


It isn't, and therefore you don't.


(And that's not even mentioning the absurdity of only allowing (say) one group of archers in a thousand square miles of terrain.)

Sruppert
Sruppert

@Siddha19 @LesserAngel  Mabe with mod support, a mass effect theme can be adopted. Sidenote: I love the "affinities" system. Unlike ME 3's "Best" ending, "Purity" maintains the human condition while "Harmony" connects with "ecosystem" like Jake Sully in the avatar  movie; and "Supremacy" endeavors to become a race like the "borg" from StarTrek and "assimilate" the lesser masses back on earth. That last one's my favorite! I wonder if thease Ideologies replace or cover the "Social Policies" system in all civilization games.

Siddha19
Siddha19

@LesserAngel @Siddha19  True...  I was thinking along the lines of they would travel to the new planet, discover the mass effect tech and then this would trigger the first contact wars...  bam, RTS.  

Guess it wouldn't work so well as a turn based thing after thinking about it.  Just saw the tech and graphical layout and got to thinking about all those wonderful hours (and terrible minutes) with ME1-3.  

Maybe it's just I'm pining for a next ME...  lol

LesserAngel
LesserAngel

@Siddha19 @LesserAngel Eh, I don't quite see it, the concepts seem quite different to me. You're colonizing a world in Beyond Earth, while with Mass Effect it was stumbling upon an advanced alien species by accident and triggering war.