E3 2001 Hands-OnCivilization III
At E3, Firaxis showed off an early version of the latest game in the Civilization series. We've got all the details here.
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Civilization III is the next installment in Sid Meier's extremely well known empire-building simulation. Firaxis showed an early version of it behind closed doors at E3, and most of the core features appear to be functional already. Some of these features are new to the series.
One part of the game that appears to be mostly complete is trade. At various points in the game, you can either contact or be contacted by other civilizations in order to establish trade, and instead of the really basic system in Civilization II, Civilization III uses a dynamic system that creates a near-limitless number of trading combinations. So when you meet with an opposing civilization, a screen appears with the portrait of the opposing civilization's leader along with menus on both sides--each menu representing a civilization. On these menus are lists of technology, items, and other goods that you can combine and trade to the other civilization. As you're making different combinations, the facial expression of the leader changes depending on the leader's opinion of the trade. For example, if you trade elephants for iron working, writing, and other technologies or luxury items, the other civilization probably won't agree to the trade, and the facial expression of the leader changes from content to upset.
There's another interesting aspect about trade and diplomacy that hasn't been mentioned previously and that's ability to set up trade embargoes on other civilizations, preventing them from securing resources for making their civilians happy and for making specific units. If it appears that one civilization wants to build a strong military for the sole purpose of conquering surrounding civilizations, you can make contact with the other civilizations and set up treaties in which the other civilizations agree not to trade specific goods to the militaristic civilization. This may not be as helpful in early moments of the game since most of the military units simply require iron in order to be built, but for the more advanced units that require multiple resources, this strategy can quickly become useful. Of course, you can also use a less diplomatic approach and cut off trade by simply attacking trade routes, but then you run the risk of losing the trust of other civilizations, who'll be wary of your militant ways.
Trade agreements generally lead into mutual protection pacts with other civilizations, in which they agree to protect you in case of an attack, and in turn you agree to protect them. The risk in making a mutual protection pact is that one civilization may provoke a war, and if your civilization isn't quite ready to fight an extended war, then this can have some disastrous effects such as lowering the overall happiness of your civilians. In fact, the overall happiness of civilians decreases the longer a war lasts, so even if you have a solid military, it isn't necessarily a good idea to even engage in a war if it could potentially last for a long period of time.
We also had the opportunity to take a brief look at Civilization III's culture feature in action. In essence, culture presents you with an alternative method for conquering other civilizations. As you construct libraries, churches or any other structures that are generally linked to learning or religion, you gain culture points. When you start to have a high number of culture points, other civilizations will grow envious of you, making it much easier for you to encroach on them. However, you must be aware that individual citizens are given nationalities, so even if you manage to take over another city with culture, there's a strong possibility that a few citizens will start to revolt or head back to a city controlled by their own civilization.
It looks as though work on Civilization III is progressing at a steady pace. Though not necessarily impressive by the standards of other gaming genres, the game's visuals are a huge leap over previous installments in the series. Individual units are fully 3D rendered, and they animate on the map while waiting for your commands. The maps themselves also look much better, and have a much more natural look thanks to hard work of Firaxis' art team, which has created nearly 12,000 different tiles to give maps a lot of variety. Meanwhile, many of the new features, such as culture, add a whole new dimension of depth to the game. At the end of the demonstration, Firaxis also said it plans to ship a robust level editor with the game, which will give you much more freedom in the types of maps you can create. Infogrames and Firaxis are aiming for a winter release for Civilization III.