Kevin Ohannessian: I have played previous Civ games and am curious how CivWorld will capitalize on the social experience of Facebook.
Sid Meier: That was the appeal of doing Civ for Facebook, uncover a new dimension of Civilization. How do you take these basic game concepts that made the single-player game fun and translate those over to the social gaming world. We really weren’t sure when we started whether we can do that. But those were the first things we experimented with. How do you make a game when not everyone is playing at the same time: some are playing in the morning, some in the afternoon, some are playing for 15 minutes, some are playing for an hour or two. How do you pull that all together?
We decided early on that we have to make the change from in single player everybody getting their own civilization, to working with other people to form a civilization. How do you make it fun, even if you’re not the king? It really gave us a chance to focus on the cooperative aspects of gameplay. Those became some of the fundamental ideas we were working with in this social space. We found it is fun to work teams, and built on that foundation.
Did the game have to lose any of Civilization‘s usual complexity? The branching developments, the dozens of units?
You trade one kind of complexity for another kind of interest. Each player has their own city, something that is your own–do you focus on science or culture, gold or food production? You have those fundamental Civ elements. But then you combine with other cities to form civilizations, so a new element comes into play. The game really rewards teamwork–I’ll focus on Science and you’ll focus on Production. I’ll discover a new technology, and you can use that to build new units. The teamwork adds a new dimension that takes the place of all the detail of a past Civ game.
We’re trying to find a nice place where everyone is comfortable playing. There is plenty of depth and strategy for people who want to explore that. There’s also some fun things to do for people who are more casual players.
Each world consists of 200 players, and within that world there can be anywhere from 10 to 20 civilizations. Your civ will probably have from 5 to 25 people. That’s seems like a manageable group. You can get to know the people in your civilization. You can communication with them, plan with them.
Unlike most Facebook games, this game has a beginning and an end. You go through history, discovering technologies and things, get better and better buildings and units. The timescale for one game is 2 to 4 weeks. Once you played one game, we’re hoping you’ll comeback and play another one. There are many different ways to play, many different strategies, so there is a lot of replayability built into the system.
The history goes to the present time. We’ve always had that question with Civ. Where do you draw the line, where do you stop? Once you go past the present, there really is no place to stop. Once you get into laser beam weapons, well what if you have super ultra lasers? What we know today is a reasonable stopping point, because a lot of what is cool about Civ is that you are dealing with familiar concepts. You are developing gun power or electricity–those are concrete things that you understand and know intuitively what they will be good for. Once you get into the future, you have to figure out what’s Civ‘s version of the future. So we figure the present is a good stopping point.
Why did you create Civ World now? Why not create a new PC or console game, say another Civil War title?
We just recently released Civ 5 and we’re doing expansions for that — we’re in a good spot in terms of PC and console Civs. Two years ago we released Civ Revolution for consoles–we had a lot of fun developing that. Clearly Facebook has become a significant gaming platform in the last couple of years. It was very intriguing to see if we could bring Civ over to that platform, because of the many differences it had from single-player PC gaming. The new things it brought: the friends idea, the multiplayer/cooperative gaming, social aspect–these interesting things to play with, to add to Civ.
Did the concept of a Civ game on Facebook come from you or was this part of a larger initiative from your publisher 2K to create social games? It’s hard to ignore the success of Farmville and Cityville.
It was actually my idea. We started this a year and a half ago, so it was in the pretty early days of Facebook gaming. It was something that I wanted to do. Addressing these new elements was a lot of fun for me. The idea of a more massively-multiplayer Civ has been floating around for a long time. Facebook brought that missing piece, the infrastructure to connect with your friends. There is a big difference between signing on to a matchmaking site and getting paired up with 8 random people or jumping into a game where your friends are there to play along with you. Facebook brought that piece of the puzzle.
Looking at the growth of Facebook games and other social games, do you think traditional games from PC or consoles will need to emulate them?
We’ve been seeing a move in that direction. It’s become almost mandatory for there to be some kind of multiplayer component in PC games, where 10 years ago that wasn’t the case. I think we are seeing community becoming a mandatory feature, forums and place where you can go to share, whether it is scenarios or maps or whatever. I think that social and multiplatform, 24/7 game connectivity that you can check-in with your phone or you can check-in from your console or PC–that things are a little more connected, whatever device you have, you can get involved in whatever game you are playing–it’s one of those things on the horizon that’s just going to happen.
It has been 20 years since the original Civilization. Did you ever imagine that the series would last this long and evolve over the years in the way it has?
I did not imagine when we did the first Civ that it would be going strong 20 years later. I really have to thank the community, the players who have kept up the enthusiasm and kept sending us ideas-all the players sharing mods and scenarios and things like that. It’s incredibly gratifying to look back over 20 years and see that Civ has prospered and really grown up. It’s also interesting to see how Civ has changed in all the different iteration, all the different people who’ve had their impact on it. I’m really thankful. It’s an idea that we keep finding new and interesting ways to build on it.
We hope Civ World is just another chapter in the Civ story. In our mind it has been a success, to really explore a new space and try some new things. Now it’s up to the players to see what they like, what ideas they have. The fun thing about Facebook games is that they can evolve, the can grow, even once there are in wide release. A large part of the game development takes place even once the game the game is out there. We look forward to adding new things to it and make it even better.