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Feature:'The History of Civilization'

Feature:'The History of Civilization'

July 18, 2007 | By Jason Dobson

July 18, 2007 | By Jason Dobson
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Gamasutra is partnering with the IGDA's Preservation SIG to present in-depth histories of the first ten games voted into the Digital Game Canon, this time providing a comprehensive overview of Sid Meier's influential turn-based strategy opus Civilization, including an interview with Meier himself.

Originally released for the PC in 1991, Sid Meiers Civilization laid the groundwork for countless strategy games to follow, and is for many players the definitive turn-based strategy game, as described in the following excerpt:

Few games are as addictively fun and as infinitely re-playable as Civilization, a turn-based historical strategy game where a player single-handedly guides the development of a civilization over the course of millennia, from the stone age to the space age. The game feels uncannily accurate, as if it actually represents the way the world could have unfolded if the course of history were nudged over just a bit. Civilization's designer, Sid Meier, somehow distilled, condensed, and codified the rules of humanity's post-agriculture development into a three-megabyte IBM PC computer game, with shockingly good results. For that achievement, many critics recognize Sid Meier as one of the greatest software designers in history.

But where did the idea for Civilization come from? Meier comments on this as well:

I think a couple of things led to the original idea for Civilization. The game I had done before Civilization was Railroad Tycoon. It was the first game that I had done that was more of what now falls into the "god game" genre -- less about flying an airplane, or a tank, or submarine, and more creative: you know, create something and take a map and make something of your own. So that was part of the inspiration.

That was a fun game to make and I was looking for an even more interesting topic to do a "god" type of game. I had played quite a bit of SimCity at the time. And again, it was a really good example of how it was fun to build something. I think the board game, Risk, that I played when I was a kid was a little bit of an inspiration there. You know, conquering the world.


He later adds:

So those things stirred together. There was actually a board game, a Civilization board game, but I hadn't really played that. It had a different approach. [My Civilization] was kind of like Risk brought to life on the computer. That was the original idea. And then when we added the technology and the whole sense of history to it. Putting all that together was the inspiration for Civilization.

You can now read the complete feature, which includes a more detailed overview of the road to Civilization, include a rare look back on the game through the eye of Meier himself (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).


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