E3 '07: Sid Meier fomenting Revolution

We sit down with the designer of the Civilization series to discuss Firaxis' new Civilization game for consoles as well as the studio's future plans.

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--Walking the beaches of sunny Santa Monica is one way to spend your summer; attending one of the biggest video game press events this year is another. As part of our E3 2007 agenda, we had a chance to sit down with Firaxis' now-creative director Sid Meier, whose credits include Civilization, Pirates!, and many other much-loved computer game classics.

We began our conversation by asking the developer directly, "Why bring Civilization to consoles?" Meier replied, "I think we got past the reasons not to do it," explaining that the team had been working on a control scheme to work well with console controller; that console games seem to have matured to the point where many offer strategic depth; and, most importantly, that the team finally felt they had a game design that would work well and be entertaining on the console platforms.

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Meier suggested that because the console game is being built from the ground up, Revolution offered an "opportunity to start from scratch with game design." Among other issues, the new game will simplify several game systems from the PC series that have become rather complex over the years. Said the game designer, "it's also fun to make combat really exciting," referring to the fully animated combat in Revolution, which will see soldiers (wearing different garb depending on their nation of origin) hacking, slashing, circling, and flanking their enemies with varied battle animations that are much different than the simple animations that were featured in Civilization IV.

Meier suggested that in order to make the Civ experience work on a console, the team is looking to cram all the excitement of a Civilization session into a two- to three-hour game session, rather than the sometimes-epic sessions the PC versions can stretch into. In addition, much of the game is being streamlined for easier use and accessibility on consoles, such as the technology tree of various scientific upgrades players can research. The tech tree won't be as big as that of Civ IV, but it will have "all the essentials," including everything players need to win the space race.

The designer suggested that the space race, as well as economic, military, and culture victories, will all be "equally viable" in the game, all the way up to the very last turn, since the streamlined research model will be more open-ended and let players switch "tracks" midstream from focusing on military might to economic power. Some of the later-game strategy may instead involve trying to interfere with your opponents' progress by discovering certain wonders of the world or technologies to beat them to the punch. The game will have a status bar that will show the progress of all players along each path to victory, and since the game will support up to four players in multiplayer (either in one-on-one, two-versus-two, or four-player free for all), you can keep up on your enemies' research and try to head them off at the pass.

Meier also explained that the console game will have a highly streamlined interface that's being "layered in," while emphasizing visual cues to give quick information, such as the way veteran units will look tougher and stronger at a glance. However, the game should offer many of the core elements that players have come to expect from the Civ series, including the turn-based pacing; the combination of exploration, building, diplomacy, economics, and research; and the "unique aspects of each civ," since, like in the PC games, each of the 16 nations in the game will have unique abilities. Meier suggests that the biggest challenge that Firaxis will have in getting console players addicted to the series' "one more turn" gameplay will simply be getting new players to pick up the game; once they do, they'll hopefully be pulled into the various features and events in the game, such as the seven hidden relics, like the Seven Cities of Gold, located on the game's maps.

When asked whether Firaxis was considering shifting its focus more toward consoles and away from the PC, Meier replied that Firaxis "still intend[s] to be a PC developer, but we see no reason to deprive console players of these experiences. PC game players are our most loyal fans and we appreciate their support, but we're not ruling anything out at this point, whether that's PC games, console games, or crossover games that appear on the PC and on consoles." And when gently reminded about the stable of classic Microprose properties Meier reacquired some years ago, the designer proposed that because Firaxis is getting its feet wet with consoles, that it's possible we might see some of those older games return in some form or another at some point, and on some platform. "In other words, there's no shortage of cool games we need to make," the designer concluded with a chuckle.

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83 comments
wii_sean_wii
wii_sean_wii

im more of a console gamer and the civ series are about the only games ive played on PC. so i should be delighted about it coming to consoles?, but this civ seems more of a begginers version, im still going to get it but im not going to expect as much as civ 5 on PC ( whenever that happens)

xarianuniverse
xarianuniverse

Will there be any particularities for the Wii version? Since Wii + Civilization could = Extraordinary game

GoldenRamoth
GoldenRamoth

sounds okay.. i guess. It might turn out fun. i dunno. they should just make it the full version and give it some save files for games. Anyways, they need to bring more RTS games to consoles, like age of empires.

Ploppola
Ploppola

I don't want to dismiss this game out of hand but, that said, my expectations aren't high. I saw nothing in that demo other than a bunch of soldiers running around and fighting... and this is a turn-based game? The point of a turn-based strategy game is that you have the time to conceive complex strategies and tactics... this is something that previous Civ games have capitalised on with great success. Although a simpler Civ may seem appealing to many I would urge the developers caution - when you take the complexity out of a turn-based game it can only devolve into a repetitive clickfest with nothing of the excitement and action of an RTS. The two sub-genres have existed separately for so long because they work. You can't make a turn-based game that is both quick and satisfying - save that for the RTS genre and focus on finding new ways to make the classic complex gameplay even more absorbing and satisfying.

naylor182
naylor182

Hmmm sounds like a dumbed-down version of Civ IV... Basically making Civ more marketable. The combat isn't the main feature of Civ, and the fact that they're marketing it with the "new more exciting" combat system clearly shows that this is not Civ as we know it... but not in a good way. Spose it'll be good if you want to give your brain a break in a Civ environment. But will it be worth the £40 price tag? Hmmm, I'll probably stick with the more strategic (and thus satisfying) Civ IV.

Vipsd1
Vipsd1

I really trust Sid, I am civ addicted since the first one, we used to play civ2 continuously on our university lab and I am curious about the new civ, even more, I am crazy about it as I gave up from gamming on PC. The game being short really bothers me, but I bet thats just the default option and you would be able do change that if you like. But if that turns to be shallow and short game I will be the first one to light a torch and flame Sid.

TooCool
TooCool

I'd have to agree with Predator_Spear. Looking at the stage demo, and hearing him talk about how they've shrunk the land size so that a person can just have a "quick" game... definately sounds dumbed down to me.

Daeman_Uhr
Daeman_Uhr

So he's gonna dumb down the game for console folk and fill it with pretty pictures......yeah, not a great move Sid. Make Civ 5 for PC instead.

duxup
duxup

Where Sid leads I will follow. The man and his people make good games.

southy787
southy787

This is interesting news. I really enjoyed the previous Civilization games, I wonder how much further forward they can take the series.

desolation00
desolation00

Zetler, its less about them understanding the complexity, more that they want a good game with alot of gratification in it. Gratification all too often meaning someone getting his head chopped off with a sword, or 100 bullet wounds to the neck. Simple, intuitive controls are hard to come by in the first few iterations of a type of game on consoles, and are my main concern with this game. Quick twitch games like FPS's have the advantage over a RTS or Turn Based game on consoles for the sheer quickness you can get the gratification. How many open-ended games like Civ 4 have you seen on consoles, by comparison. Console gamers may take a sequel and some good marketing to see what Civ is all about. And don't expect this to be a party game console gamers. : )

krypto74
krypto74

Buncha whiners. I have never been burned by A Firaxis game. Now that I am no longer a Games for Borg player I have seen the light and moved to consoles. Games should be fun, not so dang hard I need a degree to play (Galactic Civs anyone) If the instructions are bigger than your average young adult book, I don't wanna play it. That said, I'm excited to see what Sid can do with the DS or Wii, and those old microprose games are a veritable gold mine. Silent Service was an awesome game in the 80's, and the new version of Pirates! on the Wii, well, the dancing bit would be a lot more involved that'd be sure.

Zetler
Zetler

Unless this title is budget priced its gonna be a huge ripoff considering the loss of features and scale. To think that the nextgen consoles are some how incapable of handling Civ in all glory is absurd and that console gamers are incapable of grasping the basic concepts of the Civ series is insulting as Canis suggested. Clearly a prime example of style over substance. But its probably good news for all the six years old out there who can now enjoy Civ in a more digestable form.

canis_rah
canis_rah

Looks like a simplistic, cartoony, 99% fat free, intellectually light, Civ experience for the kiddies. If I were a console owner, I would be insulted.

TheElusiveJedi
TheElusiveJedi

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TheoleDominion1
TheoleDominion1

Great point Ktseymour, unfortunately some of your more"elitist thinking" PC gamers feel if your nose isn't in a manual for 45min. to an hour BEFORE you start playing then the game isn't worth playing.

ktseymour
ktseymour

AAARRrrrhhh, why couldn't they have done this years ago on the PC, this it what gaming is about simple and fun. Now when I say simple and fun I mean the game should be easy to pick up and play ,not overly simplified. I still love Civ II on the PC because it's just that,simple and fun, not overly simple.

TheoleDominion1
TheoleDominion1

Zetler" Apparently you are missing the point, this game is obviously made for the "console audience" NOT the "PC folks". With the positive response from the console community on the games of this nature( Lord of the Rings, C&C 3..etc) they realize console players really enjoy these type of games. And for gamers who play strictly on consoles your "dumbing down" remark is a mute point. How will they know if the never play the PC version? The most IMPORTANT factor is that it is FUN to play, NOT if it's as complex as the PC version. ( only PC people think that way) Besides comparing consoles to PC is just plain to stupid, they are NOT the same just like a microwave is NOT the same as an oven, but you still use both,don't you? Anyway they want to expand their market to console users too, nothing wrong with that. But I don't blame you for your remarks, most "narrow minded" PC players think the way you do...typical.

icytower
icytower

Looks very simple and dumbed down as zetler said.

Zetler
Zetler

How can any Civ fans be looking forward to this game? It looks like an extremely dumbed down version of the PC game, which is bad because complexity and scale is exactly what made Civ great in the first place. Another thing that made Civ a good game is the epic length of the play sessions. If I can take a civ from the stone age to the space age in two hours then I wouldn't feel like I nutured a tribe to greatness at all and the hook of playing *one more turn* would essentially be gone.

GabrielN
GabrielN

SimUser : "Smaller Tech Tree? Moving away from PCs, boy they like to burn their loyal fans huh?" Reeding comprihenshun rox! They're not moving away from the PC, they're expanding to consoles. Incidentally, the pruned tech tree is just for this console version. Personally, I want to see Alpha Centauri 2. I also want it ported to the Wii, without significant changes besides the controls. :)

SimuLord
SimuLord

Firaxis could release Sid Meier's Tiddly-Winks! and I'd at least give the demo a try. I've never been disappointed with a Meier design.

Lord_Artix
Lord_Artix

I cannot wait for next Spring, Civ on my DS and that fall I'll have it for my Wii. Life is good. :)

SimUser
SimUser

Smaller Tech Tree? Moving away from PCs, boy they like to burn their loyal fans huh?

TNT_Slug
TNT_Slug

Sid Meier is out to possess all our souls once again. He can have mine. I couldn't be happier about it.

shinian
shinian

CIVs are one of the best strategy games out there on the market. I hope that Sid won't let us down this time.

JustWiicredible
JustWiicredible

Nice i'll take one of those for starters. Treytakahashi- who's the hottie in your avatar?. Crazy

treytakahashi
treytakahashi

Hhhh. Man this game looks great, If you all where watching the preview it was awome! I cant wait for it. It looks like a great new Civ game!

arronizmiguel
arronizmiguel

Great Firaxis is doing this Console Civi... Sure it`s going to be a blast! ... but... first things first... Where's ... "The Greatest remake of all time"... where????, When??? (hey!, I'm talking about X-com Ufo defence)... See you! :) .

cluelesspunk
cluelesspunk

Hopefully the Wii version can be a little more like the PC games.

jab692
jab692

It doesn't sound that dumbed down. I doubt it'll be that much worse than Civ 4, and I'm looking forward to it.

FraserAlexander
FraserAlexander

I wish games weren't 'dumbed down' for consoles. It's my only gaming platform so it would be nice o see all the civ games come out in their entirety as well as age of empires and flight simulators even. The consoles are powerful enough to handle it, and apparently the average gamer is 33 years old, so I would think the demand is there too.

RorshachV
RorshachV

You can tell this is going to be a disaster--I mean, a dumbed down version of Civ? What levels are they stooping to? Also, an X-Com sequel would be beyond amazing

LordGek
LordGek

Enh, some of the changes do sound interesting but, if Cleopatra's "model" is any example, will all females in the game be portrayed as inflated air bag pole dancers? While at one level its just some tacky art...but to me I think it actually indicates more to me about where they are taking the game. It kind of feels like they're taking the Chess Club's Civ game and, with a shiny new paint job, trying to make it into something the jocks will go crazy over. No reason for Civ to just be relegated to geeks, but everytime I hear of aspects being "streamlined" I can't help but think its code for dumbed down.

Rhudaurean
Rhudaurean

I am not a huge fan of Civ games, but I like to play them on occasion. Maybe I'll play the console version more, but I hope I do not end up like some people I know who are addicted to Civ games.

maxxorz
maxxorz

I love Sid, Civ, and everything he does :) I own every single Civ game and the expansions and this one will be no exception!

DouglasBuffone
DouglasBuffone

I am an absolute fan of this series, although I have been more of a console gamer. I can't wait for this game to come out!

spierdalaj666
spierdalaj666

"I'm a PC player mostly, but as Sid said why wouldn't console players experience this games? In my opinion any game should be playable on PC and any console..." Yes and no, many games can be played on multiple platforms but in all honesty, i think that it would be impossible to effectively translate civ4 to a controller-based platform and have it work well. There are simply too many options and shortcut keys, and a controller is limited by the number of buttons that is has.

motherk
motherk

this will be awesome for multiplayer. a real pc civ game is just too long to be practical for online gaming for most of us. 3-4 hours is perfect.

biancoceleste
biancoceleste

Hmm happy to see this kind of game coming to the 360 but why does it have to be dumbed down again? Not every console gamer is a hyperactive 15 year old kid who just wants to shoot things.

talshiarr
talshiarr

Quote - "Among other issues, the new game will simplify several game systems from the PC series that have become rather complex over the years." What it means - "Console gamers tend to be dumber and complex things turn them off, but by god there's tens of millions of them versus a couple million PC buyers. Sayonara innovation and depth, hello to eye-candy battle graphics".

liveson777
liveson777

Im still playing Civ IV Warlords soon to be beyond the sword ... im so happy to see that this is cominfg out for PS3 its kinda hard to find people to play with on PC

net_mugger
net_mugger

I'm a PC player mostly, but as Sid said why wouldn't console players experience this games? In my opinion any game should be playable on PC and any console...