Q&A: Meier on revolutionizing Colonization

Firaxis' oft-honored game designer discusses the surprise revival of his New World conquest sim, Civilization: Revolution going gold, and PS3 keyboard support.

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This week, PC gamers got a surprise treat when 2K Games made a surprise announcement it would release Civilization IV: Colonization this fall. The unexpected news pleased fans of the 1995 original, which put players in charge of a European power vying for control of the Americas during the colonial era. It also assuaged some fears that game designer Sid Meier, the mind behind Civilization and Colonization, had not forsaken the PC platform for the current crop of consoles.

Sid Meier.

The reason behind many PC gamers' trepidation can be summed up in two words: Civilization Revolution. Having already gone gold for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo DS, the game will bring Meier's celebrated "god game" turn-based strategy to consoles the first time since Civilization II shipped for the original PlayStation in 1998.

However, the game has raised eyebrows among the keyboard-and-mouse set ever since Meier began touting it as being designed from the ground up for use with a console controller. Civ Rev will also allegedly have a much shorter playing time than its home-computer-based counterparts, which boasted gameplay so lengthy and addicting that it prompted the creation of tongue-in-cheek support group Civilization Anonymous. (The organization's Web site is now a viral marketing tool for the game.)

With the Civilization IV: Colonization announcement still in the air and Civilization Revolution's July 8 launch less than a month away, GameSpot caught up with Meier to ask him about the Colonization redux, the status of the on-hold Wii edition of Civilization Revolution, and how one gets in the Guinness World Records for winning the most game awards.

GS: So, Colonization... Hardly anyone saw that coming. What inspired you to take that on next?

SM: We've received lots of fan requests over the years to bring back Colonization. It's actually one of our most requested games. The opportunity to build a new Colonization using the Civilization IV engine was really exciting, so we decided now was the right time to make the game.

GS: Why did you decided to release Colonization as a stand-alone game, not a Civ IV expansion?

SM: Colonization is in the Civ IV family of games because it's a total conversion of the Civ IV engine and we wanted Civ IV fans to know that this is a game they'd really enjoy. Civ expansions have always required the core game in order to be able to play them, and they have always included significant improvements and additions to the core game. The dev team felt that Beyond the Sword (the second expansion pack for Civ IV) delivered so many improvements and additions to the core game that we had arrived at the ultimate Civ IV experience.

We decided to focus all of our efforts on creating a new Colonization experience that would build on the Civ IV engine and deliver the addictive "just-one-more-turn" gameplay our fans enjoy. We made it a stand-alone game because there are no core game additions to Civ IV included and it doesn't rely on any Civ IV game assets, so there was no reason to require the core game to play.

GS: What improvements over Civ IV are you introducing in the game?

SM: The biggest upgrades are the major enhancements to the interface and the graphics. We're completely redesigning the in-game interfaces from the city screen to the main screen, which will result in a completely new look and improved functionality. We've also increased game performance by removing some code from the Civ IV engine that wasn't being used, since Colonization is a very different game than Civilization. Colonization delivers completely new graphics, along with enhanced water, new unit shadows, updated terrain and city buildings, and a higher resolution on all assets to give them a more crisp and defined look. In fact, we're making so many enhancements to the graphics that the game will require video cards that support Shader 1.1.

GS: Are there any plans to continue the Colonization franchise after this release?

SM: No plans yet, but if the fans want more...

GS: So how did you find out that you were going to be in the Book of World Records?

SM: I found out when I read it in the news! It's really cool--never dreamed I'd be in the Guinness Book of World Records!

GS: I noticed the announcement did not mention exactly how many awards you have won. So, how many awards have you won?

SM: I have no idea. The awards all mean a lot to me, but I've never sat down to add them up.

GS: Have you ever turned an honor down?

SM: There have been a few times when folks have offered me an award under the condition that I come to a trade show or event to accept it. When I'm in the thick of a development cycle it's not always possible to leave for a few days to go to an awards show. I'm still honored that they wanted to give me the award, but understand if they renege because I can't be there to accept it.

GS: Since games are a collaborative effort, do you think it's unfair that a single person to be recognized for a product many have contributed to?

SM: Making a game is certainly a team effort and I feel strongly that any award I receive is something to be shared with the great teams I've worked with over the years. As the designer of the game I guess I'm designated as the point person and selected as the person to accept the award.

GS: Now when Civilization Revolution was announced, many PC gamers called it borderline heresy to create a "console-optimized" Civ game. How do you respond to accusations that this is "dumbed-down Civ?"

SM: It's not a "dumbed-down" Civ. I say that as the designer and lead programmer knowing that our goal was to bring the full experience of Civ to consoles and feeling very confident that we've done that successfully. I also say that with confidence based on the feedback we've received from longtime Civ PC fans who've spent time playing Civ Revolution and declared that it's really fun, addictive, and not at all dumbed down.

GS: How does the console-optimized version of Civilization Revolution differ from the PC versions?

SM: The term "console-optimized" doesn't really do this game justice. We started from scratch with Civilization Revolution and built the game from the ground up for the Xbox 360, PS3, and DS. It gave us a great opportunity to take all of the elements that have made Civ on the PC so successful and build that experience specifically for the consoles and DS, taking advantage of the many cool things those platforms offer.

Anyone familiar with Civ on the PC will immediately feel at home with Civ Revolution. The core game is the same on all three platforms--we adjusted the presentation and controls to fit each machine. So, the main differences between Civ PC and Civ Revolution lie in the presentation (the graphics are up-close, highly detailed and fully animated on the consoles, and custom made for the DS) and the controls (we found that the commands are a natural fit on the console controllers and DS gamepad and stylus).

GS: What was the biggest change in gameplay you made to adapt this game to consoles?

SM: The biggest gameplay change is speed. Civ PC games can take multiple hours to complete, but games of Civilization Revolution will be finished in a few hours or less. You'll still experience all of the goodness that is Civ and the whole sweep of time from the Stone Age to the Space Age, but you can complete a game in an evening--and then have time to play again!

We feel very confident that Civ Revolution is the answer to strategy on consoles and think the design approach we've taken with the game will deliver a compelling new experience to console and DS players that they'll really enjoy.

We've also built the most competitive multiplayer experience ever delivered in a Civ game, lots of extra content that will be available on XBL and PSN after the game ships, and we're offering the "Game of the Week" in which we'll provide a new game each week for people to play and then post their best scores online so we can declare "The World's Best Civ Player"!

GS: What was the biggest challenge in brining a keyboard-centric game to consoles?

SM: Actually, we discovered that mapping the game commands to a controller was easier than we anticipated. Since Civilization is a turn-based game we didn't have to sacrifice any of the depth--the game will wait for you to make your decisions, so we can still offer lots of interesting choices to players on every turn. As always, the depth comes from the way all of the individual decisions add up to create something epic.

GS: Will the PS3 version feature keyboard support? If not, why not, since the console supports USB keyboard input?

SM: I suppose it will, but to tell you the truth, I haven't tried that. We feel that the best experience for players will come from using the native controllers for each platform--that's how we designed the game to be played.

GS: How will the PS3 and 360 versions differ from the DS version?

SM: All three versions of Civ Revolution have the same core gameplay. The differences lie in the controls and graphics (the graphics are 2D on the DS to fit the platform specs).

GS: Does the DS have enough power to bring the full civilization experience, complete with technology trees, military conflict, and infrastructure construction? How much more limited will it be compared to the console editions?

SM: The DS version of Civ Revolution is the same game as the console versions, with 2D graphics. The only thing we couldn't include on the DS is the in-game Civilopedia, due to space limitations. We've heard from some Civ PC fans that a mobile version of Civ is a dream come true--and could possibly ruin their lives.

GS: How is the game coming along?

SM: We're finished with development and waiting for the game to hit the store shelves.

GS: So what is the status of the Wii version of Civilization Revolution?

SM: We're still in the process of making decisions on that and will keep you posted.

GS: Have you decided on your next project after Civ Rev?

SM: Yes, and that's all I'm allowed to say right now.

GS: I think the biggest question people have is whether or not you will return to the PC Civilization games after Civ Rev. Will you?

SM: We intend to continue to develop games for the PC as well as consoles and handhelds. We want our games played on whatever platforms will deliver a fun experience for players--and the PC is definitely one of those platforms.

Discussion

89 comments
badlands27
badlands27

Lovin' Civ Rev on the PS3...can't wait for the next one to come out!

Caer_Death
Caer_Death

The DS version is cool (portable Civ gameplay ^.^), but... it doesn't really have any music. Lame, and only, complaint, but after playing that, there's no way I could resist the thought of picking up Colonization on the PC! Who knows, there might even be a Colonization Revolution someday!

kayne2000
kayne2000

colonization 2 after 14 years really has me excited and it came out in 1994 not 1995 at least im pretty sure it did lol

sc_ajk29
sc_ajk29

I hope the next project is Civ5...

hsedai
hsedai

very nice interview. After playing a few of the civilization games, I've wondered what was the impetus of his building technique. Sid is certainly one of the original masters of his trade.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

Civ looked really boring, but it's super addicting and fun!

21kid
21kid

I loved Civilization II and I'm not a PC gamer, but, why would I want a game that could be beaten in a couple of hours? I played the demo and almost beat it in the short amount of time they give you. Not a good idea in my book. I'm very dissapointed.

Pablo620
Pablo620

Its a fun game but like speed racer all im capable of doing, all i seem to ever think about is MGS4

mickwounds
mickwounds

Civ Rev is out here in Australia and ive been playing in heaps on 360. I'm loving it. Whats good is you can build one city and finish a game in around an hour or you can take your time, build multiple cities and games will last 3 or more hours. As soon as i finish a game i start again with a diff Civ and try to finish it a different way. Its very addictive. The core gameplay is all there and it reminds me of Civ 2 in a lot of ways. Of course its not as deep as Civ 4 but thats what they were going for.

thorsen-ink
thorsen-ink

grayoldwolf How about a new Alpha Centauri, Sid? That would make you even more pimptacular than you already are. ____ EA owns the AC license, so no dice there.

ganon546
ganon546

I played the demo for this on XBL and it was so freaking fun lol! It was sad to see the demo end though after a certain amount of turns :(

ShadoweaverCode
ShadoweaverCode

"Will the PS3 version feature keyboard support? If not, why not, since the console supports USB keyboard input? " Umm, Tor, why is this question focused around the PS3? You do know that the 360 can also use USB keyboards right? Although I don't think we will need the keyboard support, developers have been doing a fantastic job using the 360 controller for other RTS games so I imagine this wouldn't be any different.

ocdog45
ocdog45

ps3 version will be better d2 the keyboard support

Thornorway
Thornorway

Yes, you are the best gamedeveloper in history Sid, not only cause of your excellent civilisation games but also the spinoff Alpha Centauri and other classic games like pirates and such. I would definately get CIV V when it comes out

Sins-of-Mosin
Sins-of-Mosin

If the DS version is as good as the demo I played on the 360, I might never actually do work at work ever again!

Underdog01032
Underdog01032

I completely agree with a new Alpha Centauri, I played that game all the time but can't get it to run anymore.That would be epic.

thk123
thk123

First off, I would love a new SMAC, that remains one of my fav games. Also, I may not be a die hard Civ fan, (Civ 4 was my first) but that is largely due to my age. However, I think Civ Rev is fantastic. Yes it is simplified, but it is a great stepping stone. Although, whoever came up with those advisors should be shot. So annoying! :P

djtim_3000
djtim_3000

@andante79 "If I was to decide how CIV V would be..." Judging by your incredibly misinformed post, I'm extremely happy you have no say in how Civ5 is going to turn out. Are you sure you've even played Civ4 more than once? (And you call yourself a Civ fan).

grayoldwolf
grayoldwolf

How about a new Alpha Centauri, Sid? That would make you even more pimptacular than you already are.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

Next project? Hopefully an updated Alpha Centauri. As for Civ Rev, I'll be picking this up definitely for PS3... and maybe DS too.

darobinson67
darobinson67

ive been playing the demo and i really like this game, i havent really played any of these games before this, and im think i am going to buy it.

alcoholhamster
alcoholhamster

@senjutsu- He said they removed some code for Civ IV Colonization... not for Revolution.

senjutsu
senjutsu

Weird, they said they removed some PC civ code since it was now useless, but they also said it's made from scratch, lol. Anyway, I tryed the demo and found it fun. I think it's not done really well for the characters since they often have a hand of something on the text, wich can be a pain in the... neck? But the game is well done with controllers, it's like playing with PC's shortcuts and macros. The only thing I really hated is that I had ninjas with the Roman Empire... wich is weird. I think it would have been cooler with the right kind of units. Still, the game looks fun and I might buy it! :D

Nater2010
Nater2010

Yay!! Colonization is one of my favorite games of all time. I am so pleased that Sid is bringing it to us!!! I can't wait for Civ Revolution. Been playing the demo a lot, and my girlfriend is playing it as i type!!!

AlecHP234
AlecHP234

Flat_Line: "he is learning about history along the way and doen't even notice because he is having so much fun" lol. ya. I was surprised by how much history I learned in Rome Total War.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Being a Civ fan since #1(1990), I think CivRev was actually decent. The only thing I didn't really like is how everything was automated, and those lame advisors that flail about and spout gibberish. Other than that, It seems to live up to the Civ name. Oh, and it's a great example of why the only strategy games on consoles should be turn-based.

toyota22
toyota22

yessss! Colonization is back:-) I have wated for this for many years:-) Thank you sid maier:)) Im so glad!!

americahellyeah
americahellyeah

Played the demo alot, loved it.. Day 1 purchase for me.

Kez1984
Kez1984

"very bad game please save you money for something desent (eg) Halo Wars, C&C, or anything eles you think looks good" By pc standards halo wars looks pretty sub-par. You can probably pick up much cheaper, superior rts games like homeworld for for 1/5 the price, that's a saving. Also the examples you gave were real time, not turn based, you obviously are clueless.

Kez1984
Kez1984

I've never really been into Civ but have been contemplating getting CIv iV off of steam, think I will give it a try.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

the same will be said of this version as was said of the first: "Too like Colonization, but less content. If you have Civilization II (at the time), then no need for this. Should have been an expansion." This was said over 10 years ago. Watch as it is said again this time round - not by the media, who will adore it of course, but by gamers with hard earned money to be careful with regards spending!

kono11
kono11

Oh, that's okay if the DS version has no Civilopedia. I hope the PSP version (if there is) has it.

KinkInDaLink
KinkInDaLink

I went out and bought civ rev yesterday. im a long time civ player, playing from the days of civ 2. At first i was slightly bummed out with the lack of customization options, like map size, map type and such, but then when i got into it, i found this game extremely fun. its an intense, condensed version of civ, but still quite nuanced underneath. i highly recommend. Thank god for the early EU release.

jknight5422
jknight5422

This is just bizarre...a Civ game you can complete in an evening? The mind boggles. On a side note did anyone see those zits growing on Sid's face? He needs to lay off the chocolate.

tiagombp
tiagombp

Colonization Redux, it's like a dream come true.. I play Civ since the first one, back in the early 90's. "Colonization" was the very first game I bought. I had entirely lost my hopes of witnessing Colonization 2 (there was a "FreeCol" project, aiming to become Col 2, but their last update dates back to 2006..). Colonization was a great, great game, all it needed was some fine tuning. But then Master Sid shows up with this great news! And they'll use Civ IV engine! This was the best "Gamespot Updates" email ever!

grigjd3
grigjd3

Oh, man, I hated CTP, both one and two. They just never compared to civ II. I played the demo for this though and it looks and feels great. I can't wait till July 8th.

andante79
andante79

I've been a CIV-fan since CIV I and played them'all.. colonization etc. The best version i think was Call to Power II made by licence as I liked everything it introduced. The move towards console and the move towards a broader audience has reduced and stupified the game and core-gamers are left to watch one of the greatest titles ever being stupified. There is basically no evolution from CIV I to CIV IV except some 3D details and other minor details. There is no reason to zoom all the way in a strategy game, and the graphics are poor and units are boardlike compared to AOE, WoC, Cossacks, Total War. If I was to decide how CIV V would be, I would make it an RTS with elements from AOE, Total War (strategy-part, not micro-management of soldiers) and graphics like World of Conflict. The CIV IV engine was outdated even before it was made, with now fancy graphics. CIV is to me quite linear, and often jumps from bronze to iron without and era of major battles. The epic game could last much longer allowing you to build your legionairs in the thousands instead of just rapidly gain new technology. There should also be ten times as much technologies and minor details that make a mutitude of different routes to goal, reflecting the real world. I also hate the function of legionarries only being built by Romans, and Panzers by Germans. If you have the technology to build a certain type of weapon, armor etc.. they your nationality shoulden matter. You might copy your neigbor. Basically, I want CIV to be a game that allows the original feeling from CIV I (poor graphics wheren a problem then) that you played in an realtistic world evolving through history. Photorealism and historical multitudes.

mark_unix
mark_unix

Shader 1.1 had me laughing there. because in truth he says the previous games were sorta stuck in 1998 and now it's going to be in the year 2000.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

the games are long and fun. not always exciting but its like chess and its fun until your kingdom is burned to the ground lol. great memories from Civ 3 for me

TaintedSaint666
TaintedSaint666

I got Revolution today, blown away by it, the controller feels really natural for the game, just as good as a mouse and keyboard!

AlecHP234
AlecHP234

living_wind, have you played the Civ Rev demo? Most people complaining about Civ Rev haven't even played it yet. I've tried the demo, and the controller feels completely natural. It's not an RTS, it's turn-based, so you don't need a mouse. you can take your time, and the controller works really well with the game. For these types of games a controller and a mouse are equals. A mouse is superior to a controller in an RTS like Age of Empires, obiviously. But for a turn-based strategy a controller works just as well as a mouse.

maverick_76
maverick_76

I would liked to have seen a PSP version, but that is no biggie. I find I only play it when I am away from home or not at work, which is almost never. I need to check out the demo to see how this stacks up. I am a huge fan of Alpha Centauri, and I hope this does translate well. Maybe we will see an Alpha Centauri remake....or perhaps a Civil War as well!

Longman27
Longman27

LOVE The demo of this game. Pretty easy to figure out what to do(the little helper guy is great) but theres sooo much room to get better. I can not wait for this game to come out, in fact I went out and pre-ordered it today. This is what imo all RTS games should be.

living_wmd_888
living_wmd_888

Civ Rev needs a mouse. It's harder than hell to play with a controller. I wonder if Sid Meier could revive Silent Service?

mysterylobster
mysterylobster

"I also say that with confidence based on the feedback we've received from longtime Civ PC fans who've spent time playing Civ Revolution and declared that it's really fun, addictive, and not at all dumbed down." This seems to me like marketing talk, and is severely divorced from reality. There's no way that you can remove most of the strategic, micromanagement features from Civ and not call it dumbed down.

Flat_Line_____
Flat_Line_____

I could not believe that my 8yr old son has become addicted to this game, He has played the demo OVER and OVER again since it came out. I think it's great though, if there were any game that I would WANT him to play on a regular basis it would be something like this. Not only does it help stimulate his problem solving skills, but he is learning about history along the way and doen't even notice because he is having so much fun. I'm glad to hear it's coming out on DS too, cause if it weren't for that, I may have had to get another 360 so I can play from time to time heh. Can't wait for this game though.

Awful_Cleric
Awful_Cleric

Cannot wait for this game! Sometimes they lose a little of the experience when they acclimatize certain tiles to be on other systems. But since they have taken the time to redo the main game from the ground up this should be a real treat. I still play Pirates! on my 360 and that is a game that lost some of the translation, But still shines...Go SID!