Civilization V Q&A--First E3 Details

Get the lowdown on what's in store at E3 for this highly anticipated game exclusively here at GameSpot.

The Civilization strategy series has stood the test of time, debuting years ago on primitive home computers and engaging countless players with its deceptively addictive turn-based strategy gameplay. The Civilization formula, which puts you in control of one of Earth's sovereign nations as a legendary world leader (such as George Washington of the USA or Cleopatra of Egypt), tasks you with taking over the world by way of military might, finance, culture, diplomacy, or scientific research. The happy task of world domination was explored so thoroughly in the previous game, Civilization IV, that it seemed like the development team at Firaxis had done just about everything possible with Civ. That is, until Civ V was unveiled earlier this year with huge changes that will clearly alter the core gameplay of the series. We got in touch with lead designer and principal gameplay programmer Jon Shafer just ahead of E3 to get an exclusive glimpse of what will be on display at the show.

GameSpot: Give us an update on the game's development. What aspects of the game is the team working on now? What will be the focus at E3?

Jon Shafer: The art is nearly done, and we're finalizing the text that will be included in the game. Programmers are finishing up a few features, working on bugs, and improving performance.

At E3, we'll reveal the social policies system, a major new feature that we haven't talked much about before. As players accumulate culture over time, they're able to spend it to adopt social policies. There are 10 branches to select from, most of them requiring the player be in a particular era to utilize. Each branch is themed around a different aspect of the game. For example, the early-game "honor" branch provides bonuses to one's military, while the later "commerce" branch improves one's gold output.

With the policies system, we wanted to keep the feel of mixing and matching to construct one's government that was part of Civ IV, but we also wanted to instill a sense of forward momentum. Rather than having to switch out of one policy to adopt another, you build upon the policies already unlocked. The thought process we want to promote is "What cool new effect do I want?" rather than the feeling of needing to perform detailed analysis to determine if switching is a good idea.

The cultural victory is now tied to unlocking a certain amount of the policies tree. The policies give quite a bit of punch to the cultural side of the game, in addition to being a viable path to victory.

GS: We caught an early glimpse of the game at the Game Developers Conference, where the game's new, slimmer interface with lessons picked up from Civilization Revolution was first shown, along with the return of Civ III's advisors. Tell us about the new interface and the returning advisors. What will these changes add to the game?

JS: [One of our] major goals with Civ V is that the game be accessible to more people than the previous Civ games. The best way to address that is by improving the interface and providing players with new tools for learning the game.

Civ V has a newer, slimmer interface with advisors to help beginners figure out what to do next.

With the interface, we've tried to focus as much as possible on displaying only the information that's important at the time, instead of placing as much on the screen as possible. This makes it easier for new players to find what they need. We also have options to turn on more advanced user interface settings, so we're trying to be mindful that some people do want more on the screen.

The advisors in many ways serve as a tutorial for the game, without forcing everyone to go through pre-scripted missions. As you play the game, advisors will pop up and offer useful information. We recognize the fact that most people don't want to sit through an hour or more of lessons before getting the opportunity to actually have fun. The advisors should help make players more confident when just jumping into a game.

GS: We also understand that the notification system is being overhauled for the purpose of being less overwhelming to new players and to keep them more engaged in the game. How will the new notification system work?

JS: The notifications do a couple things for us. First, they let players determine when they want to make decisions. In previous games, pop-ups would often appear and force players to make a choice, perhaps before they were ready. Now the option exists to, say, choose production for one's cities at any point in the turn.

Secondly, the notifications shine a spotlight on important events. For example, if players find a barbarian encampment, a notification will appear. Mousing over the notification icon will provide more details. It's a handy way of organizing information and letting players dig deeper if they want. The game keeps a log of notifications and players can refer to it later in case they want to review what happened in previous turns.

The game will also have an enhanced notification system to help you focus on what's most important.

GS: We understand that modifications (mods) will play a larger role in Civ V and that a player's installed mod can be accessed much more quickly--and that a player can even search for mods in-game. Tell us how these systems work.

JS: We are really excited about how modding is being supported in Civ V and will reveal the details shortly.

GS: Let's switch gears and talk gameplay. We already know about Civ V's big, big change of going from square tiles to hexes. How will this change affect early-game exploration and territory expansion?

JS: The biggest difference with hexes is that they only share sides and do not have corners. This removes the distance distortion when it comes to movement or visibility. In previous Civ games, the squares (or isometric diamonds) would give players an advantage if they moved in certain directions. Things are now more "fair."

GS: We also saw big changes to the combat system--each hex can be occupied by only one unit at a time, and ranged units will truly be ranged and can fire on enemies that are multiple hexes away. What other changes and additions are planned for combat in Civ V?

Ranged combat is totally different in Civ V.

JS: Ranged attacks in general play a major role in Civ V. All warships are now ranged units with the ability to hit land targets, dramatically increasing their importance relative to previous games in the series. Siege units are very important to taking cities. They're more powerful than infantry-based ranged units like archers and crossbowmen, but as a trade-off, they must be set up prior to firing.

One other big thing we've done is add a zone-of-control effect to the game to prevent enemies from easily skirting around defensive positions. Unlike [the way things worked in] earlier Civ games, the effect only applies to units belonging to players you're at war with. We wanted to make sure it was an element of war tactics but not a source of frustration. It's not a hard effect though--some games with this feature prevent movement completely, but in Civ V, units can still move one tile within that unit's zone of control.

GS: We also understand that one of Civ's key pillars--diplomatic relations with other nations--is going to be updated for Civ V. Tell us about these changes. What new diplomacy features will be on display at E3?

JS: Enhancing diplomacy was one of our focuses with Civ V. Our goal was to make diplomacy feel more like interacting with other players or world leaders, rather than a system to be min-maxed. No longer are diplomatic modifiers shown since this used to give away pretty much everything your computer-controlled rival nations were thinking. That's one way of doing diplomacy in a strategy game, but we wanted there to be more mystery in the interaction. Some leaders will work behind your back, and showing the numbers would either give everything away or provide a misleading sense of security.

A big part of diplomacy in Civ V is discussion with other leaders. The artificial intelligence in Civ V is quite perceptive and will be able to determine when you're settling aggressively, when you're stationing units near its borders, and so on. Depending on their personality, they might raise the issue and demand a response from the player. Your decisions will have an impact immediately and may also have other effects down the road. The AI leaders will also ask players to work with or against other civs in the game--and in turn, players may ask the same of the AI nations.

Additionally, we're enhancing the diplomatic victory condition in Civ V. Like in the previous games, this requires winning the UN election. Every player in the game has one vote, including the city-states, making them vital to winning this way. Should a city-state be conquered, it can be liberated, and if this happens, that city-state is guaranteed to vote for the liberator in the UN election. The ability to provide "gifts" of gold to the city-states should result in some exciting finishes.

GS: Speaking of which, at GDC, we got a glimpse at city-states, another new feature in Civ V. What can you tell us about how these new communities work in-game? What will be shown at E3?

JS: City-states are another important component of the diplomatic side of the game. They exist to be befriended or conquered by the major powers. Players may offer to protect them, and inevitably conflict will ensue when a warmonger steps on the wrong toes.

There are three types of city-states in the game: maritime, cultured, and militaristic. Befriending one provides bonuses relating to their type. While city-states can be friends with any player, they can be allied to only one at a time. City-states grant all of their resources to their ally and will join that ally in war, which makes an allegiance with city-states a very handy thing to possess.

As the game progresses, city-states will make various requests of you. Some might request the major powers kill another neighboring city-state, while others might ask you to clear out some nearby barbarians.

GS: We understand that money will talk a lot more than it used to previously. For instance, players may even be able to use it to buy territory. Tell us about this and other uses for the almighty dollar in Civ V.

JS: Spending gold to expand one's territory is an important part of the game. Border growth now takes place one tile at a time instead of a bunch at a time in large rings. Players may choose which tiles are obtained with money, but the price will depend on how easy or hard it would be for the city to claim the tile normally. This gives players some element of control and provides a compelling reason to save up. If you need 200 gold [pieces] to get that iron tile, you're going to be much less likely to spend your money carelessly.

Gold also plays a large role in diplomacy. Providing gifts of gold to city-states improves your influence. Additionally, like in previous Civ games, gold may be used to purchase units, buildings, and other important properties. In addition, you can now even expand your borders by buying individual tiles around your cities. These are a few major roles for gold that should really make saving and spending quite a bit more interesting in Civ V.

GS: It was hinted at in March that Civ V will also make larger changes to the economic game, just like changes to combat. Tell us about these updates to the economic game.

In Civ V, money will truly make the world go 'round. Money, and artillery bombing.

JS: A big change that veterans will notice is that the age-old "slider," which required players to choose between focusing either on scientific research or on producing wealth--or some kind of middle ground between the two--has been eliminated. Gold and science have been completely split up and come from different sources now. We just didn't feel that the slider was adding a whole lot to the experience in Civ V. In previous games, the objective was nearly always to run with as much science as one could afford, making the occasional change to upgrade units or trade for a tech or something. The new system requires less turn-to-turn management and better rewards long-term planning. Most science now comes from your population, though specialist populations and unique tile improvements also contribute.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Civ V leading into E3?

JS: We're very excited to be showing off the game and look forward to getting it into everyone's hands soon.

GS: Thank you, Jon. Actually, E3 is just about to get started, so we'll see you soon enough.

Written By

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Discussion

63 comments
Zolorunnin
Zolorunnin

Hey gamespot, do a now playing for this game!

BornGamer
BornGamer

This looks sweet. Can't wait to get into multiple hundreds of hours of multiplayer. >

CaptainAhab13
CaptainAhab13

This game is gonna be so epic, it'll be mindblowing. I see my next strategy game marathon on the horizon.

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

Very in depth interview. Among the observations, it looks like the interface is the one big compromise to keep the depth for the hardcore fans while still attracting the casual players; solid feedback has always been a mainstay in this game. Also, without the stacks of doom, it seems like a board could get quite crowded. It also looks like this version will potentially rely more on individual city management and cultivating specialists. And it seems like culture could take a backseat to bribery! :P Beautiful graphics, btw. Oh and count me as someone who hopes V will have larger "huge" maps and cities being allowed to produce more than item. Anyway, Gamespot, you and Firaxis continue to whet my appetite!

BorgMercenary
BorgMercenary

I'll give it a shot, but the lack of unit stacking not only throws a monkey wrench into my battle tactics, it chucks in the entire toolbox. If nothing else, I really hope they've resized the maps. That was my main gripe with Civ IV; that the maps weren't big enough to accomodate my playing style. That, plus settlers and workers were so outrageously expensive, and there wasn't an accelerated production option like there was on Civ III. I have the feeling that Civ III will remain the best edition of the game at least until Civ VI is released.

Grallis
Grallis

Can't wait for this to come out! 4 was amazing, but lost its lustre after a while, and left me wanting some of what Civ III had back. This looks like many, large steps in the right direction. Excited!

heiki18
heiki18

It looks pretty cool and new but I lost my interest after the Civ IV because the game went to new and lost it's playing part. I will try Civ V if it comes out but i will never uninstall Civ III and Civ II. I hope the Civ V will run on my crappy pc to.

k_oldsoul
k_oldsoul

i don't if i am gone buy it ! but i will get it (u know what i mean..lol).
i think i got turn-based fever.

want sth like it on mobile .check :
revival 2

DuleDuleROFL
DuleDuleROFL

Wonder if you will be able to make stacks on cities.

BornGamer
BornGamer

I hope it's clunky and poorly optimized like Civ IV, with absurd system requirements for a turn-based strategy game. And please release it with only basic features, fleshing the game out over three expansions. In all seriousness though, I'm so glad Sid Meier isn't the only person making 4X games.

Stigmaticn
Stigmaticn

omg. Conflicted. I made a decision to never buy a game requiring Steam ever again, but I have been playing Civ since the beginning and really want this one. Steam... Protecting games from the people who paid full price for them since 2003. Much as I love Sid, if I have to log into steam to play this I think I might pass. D@mn you Sid! You're too smart for this!

fzd88
fzd88

wow! this looks amazing! If anyone from Firaxis is reading, just wanna thank you guys for providing us with so many years of fun. Your fan base here goes waaaay back! Anyone else used to use scotch tape/ruler on the CRT monitors to measure out a CIV1 citys' borders? lol....oh man so geeky but yet so fun.

tidus_ff
tidus_ff

Pre-ordered this as soon as it was announced. Can't wait!

JJMikhail
JJMikhail

Considering all past Civ games by Sid Meier and the group have been simply awesome I suppose this might be one that ruins it... NAH NOT A BLOODY CHANCE! THIS IS GOING TO BE EPIC!

Taffelost
Taffelost

Already pre-ordered. You just can't get dissapointed with a Civ title.

weaslerz
weaslerz

Looks fantastic! Civ series stay the best in strategy genre.

tOrchie
tOrchie

I think this could be the best one yet. I thought Civ4 was awesome, but I really like the changes they have in mind, specifically the new hex map and non-stacking units. I love the idea of battle fronts.

IgorSteinberg
IgorSteinberg

This Civ is going to be really good. The thing that pleases me the most is that the "stacks of doom" are gone- they really ruined Civ IV for me.

toyota22
toyota22

i am looking forward to this:)

Ceraby
Ceraby

whoops I meant to say : the last civ game I played.

DeathsHead419
DeathsHead419

Oh dear. I've very nervous about this one, I've been with the franchise since 1995 and these are the most drastic changes to date. I hope, I really hope they learned the one terrible flaw from Civilization IV: Too Damn Small. The map size should increase, but it felt like such a backwards step from III->IV. I really want to build huge globe spanning empires again, but the map displayed in the example video (yes, I paused it for a closer look) looked TINEY. I really want this game to be awsome, but they had better make it better and BIGGER.

sandplasma
sandplasma

Must buy for me :D Cant wait for those sleepless nights!

Sukharevskaya
Sukharevskaya

sounds like they put alot of effort into it--thats why they come out only every 5 yrs

Alexadecimal
Alexadecimal

Can't wait to play Civ5, the only thing that worries me is that religion has been taken out, which used to be a big part of my game. Although it seems like everything else is a step in the right direction and hey if Civ5 turns out to be awesome and they introduce religion in an expansion, I'm all for it.

Rabastu
Rabastu

I hope they have more varied civs, now....mexico, brazil, italy, sweden, Israel, Congo (or any other african country, for that matter...) etc. I also hope they start civs in areas that make racial sense, I would often get like Ethiopia next to Britain, which is next to China, which is next to Arabia... I bet at least one person will call me racist for that

Rabastu
Rabastu

Yes! Zone of control...I always got mad whenever i'd have a fort, and the enemy would just go around it.

Safor001
Safor001

Haha guys, Steam is the way to go. Problems, yes, but just as many as you experience with a disk. The real problem is idiots like Ubisoft packing limited activations and perm high speed internet to play. I can't wait to play this game! I'm most likely preordering...

shahroz47
shahroz47

@Faithbringer I know I know but well you can always include him as a downloadable character that way, only the DLC would be banned/not available in countries that can't stand him. A lot of the "great" leaders in the world have done horrible massacres yet Hitler's evil stands out cuz WWII wasn't so long ago, Ex-Nazis are still alive (hell the Pope's a Ex-Nazi), Jews are still emotionally scarred.

Maxor127
Maxor127

Hmmm... not sure about the city states and gold slider. In my experience, it's usually easier to just take over a civ than ally with them.

Faithbringer
Faithbringer

@shahroz47 The Reason that the producers don't include Hittler as a playable Leader is because the game most likely would get banned in some countries, and since they look for a bigger market they MOST LIKELY will not give this breach for protest and stuff. Yet I think that it's strange that Stalin, given the history background and violence presented during his regimen, is included...well let's see what's next on it. They could include an Brazilian Leader;)

endocrine
endocrine

If you really cared about exposing new playing to the system, you would not include the malware steamworks in to the game. Just look at what steamworks did for Sup Com2. Worked out great didn't it?

Arkady_16
Arkady_16

cant wait, Hoping for the Spanish to be in it of course :). Though personally I would be in heaven if Canada was a playable Civ to conquer the world with :).

dzimm
dzimm

I hope they go easy on the system requirements. I have an older system and I'd love to give this game a try. Besides, it's a turn-based game. It shouldn't need a monster computer to run it.

shahroz47
shahroz47

Give us Hiter goddamn it. I wanna play as him or against him.

Shardz7
Shardz7

My question is; will Civ V dump a ton of content to the system drive even if you install to a different drive? Civ IV hogged like over 2 gigs on C: with all the expansions and I found that to be unacceptable as I do not install games to my system drive. Also, use a container resource file for all the content instead of dumping 89,200 files onto my drive. These are things from the past that should be addressed to make this a much more polished production overall. Oh, and let's hope the game is good, too. :D

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

It looks like you can turn off the hex grid overlay -- thank goodness for that.

Tridus
Tridus

Religion in Civ 4 wasn't that well implemented anyway. Instead of having that make a reappearance, it's better to remove it and focus on systems that are better done. Maybe if they come up with a better way of doing religion it can go back in later. No sense in having a bad system just to tick the "we have religion" box.

stefanslavkovic
stefanslavkovic

wooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwww this is soooooo awsomeeee

Hellbishop
Hellbishop

Wow love how violent the visuals are now in combat and the animation segways look like classical paintings the way the original inspiring Civilization II were. Will definitely be picking this up.

DanGleeSack
DanGleeSack

looks great wasnt sure about it but i think im going to get it now I dont know why they would take out religion, its a part of human existance i guess they didnt want people to feel like they had to have a religion to get benifits for it or that there would be advantages to having them or one would be better then another i say just deal with it but w/e... i think that 2 units or an air unit and a grand unit at once should be allowed on a tile insted of just one

Vari3ty
Vari3ty

My next must buy! I'm almost looking forward to school starting again so I can get this game in September!

thestrateger
thestrateger

Inglixer'a enelxabot et invister'a! Coool! it looks really good, especially because the armies look bigger, however, i'm deeply sorry to hear what they have done to the religon in the game... :(