Work in Progress


Great leaders of history speak in latest version of Sid Meier's video game

October 28, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,sun reporter

Nearly 20 years ago, video game designer Sid Meier created the PC strategy game Civilization.

It was a hit, spawning several sequels and establishing Meier as one of the country's leading game innovators and designers. In 1996, Meir co-founded gaming design studio Firaxis, based in Hunt Valley.

Now, Meier is working on the latest installment in the franchise: Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution. The game, which should hit shelves next year, will be the franchise's first version for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and other video game consoles.

IN THE BEGINNING --[Civilization] was very different than the kind of games that were out there at the time. A strategy game was kind of a new idea. Most of the games at that time were action-oriented. Or, if there were strategy games, they were very complicated and detailed and rules-oriented. Civilization was one of the first strategy games you could just pick up and play. But the more you got into it, the more depth there was, the more things you discovered.

HOW IT'S PLAYED --You start in 4000 B.C. with a small band of settlers and you build your first city. The game goes through all of history. You invent new technology: electricity, gunpowder, religion, different forms of government. It ends in the present time. You can win the game either by having the greatest technology, you build a spaceship and fly off to another planet, you can conquer the world - that's another way to win, economically or culturally. There are a variety of ways to win. Basically, you lead your people through 6,000 years of history.

THE COMMUNITY --A lot of Civilization players like the game but [say], `Here's what I would change, and here's what I would add.' That's really been a part of the life of the product over the last 15 years - taking the best of our ideas but also the best of the community's ideas. That's why there's been a Civilization II, III, IV and now we have Civilization Revolution. It's been very rewarding being part of the design and part of the growth of it, but also being a part of the community of players. A love of playing games and an interest in strategy and being able to talk to people around the world that share that interest has been a fun part of the whole experience.

THE NEW CIVILIZATION --We're taking a really fun approach to the game, using all the graphics capabilities of the new hardware, really bringing the world to life, allowing you to interact with all of the great leaders of history. They're fully animated, and they pop up on your screen and talk to you. There are animated advisers to give you some tips and pointers on playing. The game looks great on the console. We're using the multi-player ability on the console to allow you to not only play a single player game but allow you to get together with your friends and play the game.

THE APPEAL OF STRATEGY GAMES --It's a style of gaming that lets people step out of their regular lives and into a very interesting role. Probably in real life you're never going to get to lead an entire civilization. Here you get the chance.

To me it's more interesting to build something - whether it's a city or civilization or railroad. There's a satisfaction in that kind of constructive element that is part of a lot of our games. ... There's conflict, certainly. It adds to the tension, adds to the urgency of the game. But it's not the exclusive focus of the games we do.

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