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Interview: 2K On Bringing Meier's  Civilization Revolution  To iPhone
Interview: 2K On Bringing Meier's Civilization Revolution To iPhone Exclusive
August 11, 2009 | By Chris Remo

August 11, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

This week, 2K Games stealthily released an iPhone version of Firaxis Games' Civilization Revolution, which last year hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo DS.

The most recent full version of the Civilization series of turn-based world-dominating strategy titles, Revolution was stripped down from its more complex recent PC counterparts, and franchise creator Sid Meier took the lead design role, aiming to create a more approachable game.

Like the other versions of the title, the iPhone game, which 2K has priced at $9.99 after an initial sale at $4.99, is based on the same underlying shared code base. Only the custom interface layer distinguish it from its console cousins.

As 2K's first foray into iPhone development, the publisher has grand plans for Civ Rev, hoping to add further downloadable features like multiplayer, Xbox 360-like achievements, and even Twitter support.

In advance of the game's launch, Gamasutra spoke with then-2K producer Jason Bergman (now employed at Bethesda Softworks) about the game's development and imminent future.

Is this the same game core as the other versions of Civilization Revolution?

Jason Bergman: Like back with the DS version, Sid wrote this game core that didn't care what platform it existed on, and we just wrote an interface layer. For 360, we wrote an interface layer; for PS3, we wrote an interface layer; for DS, we wrote an interface layer.

I don't know how many people actually believed us that it was literally the exact same game. So we wanted to prove it. Civ Rev for iPhone, again, is the same game core. Nothing's changed. We just took that game core, and we got it up and running on the iPhone hardware in like two weeks, and then we wrote a new interface.

We didn't take the DS version and port it. We didn't create a new mobile version of Civ that's some kind of watered-down crappy version. It is a hundred percent the same game. We've got all sixteen civs, we've got all pathways to win, we've got every difficulty level, we've got all the scenarios. The only thing that's been removed is multiplayer, and we do have a pretty long plan for updates.

It's really exciting to be able to get this level of gameplay on a mobile phone. We have hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay. Sixteen civilizations, ten playable scenarios, four ways to win, five difficulty levels, full tutorial. It's the greatest thing ever, no question.

You were saying earlier it's going for $10?

JB: Yes. On paper, it makes no sense whatever. It was 60 bucks on [Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3], 40 on [Nintendo DS], and then here it's $10. [EDITOR'S NOTE: the game's launch price was, at least initially, an even cheaper $5.] Common sense would tell us we could cut [the size of the game] in half and still get away with it.

There was discussion at one point about taking out some of the leaders and making them as DLC, but we're including all sixteen. We are still going to do DLC.

What kinds of things are you looking to offer as DLC?

JB: At launch, we are going to have all the core gameplay features. Everything that was in the DS version minus multiplayer will be on the iPhone version. Post launch, we're going to add in DLC. On 360 and PS3, we did additional scenarios and wonders, so we're going to work those into the iPhone version.

We're going to bring over the Xbox 360 achievements. We couldn't do that on PS3 even because there weren't trophies when we did Civ Rev. I'm really excited about that. We're going to do Twitter integration.

How does that work?

JB: We're doing it because we can. When you win a game, it will say, "Chris has won a game as Caesar in 2000 AD."

Why not? It's not a big deal, it's super easy with the iPhone platform. We're going to do that. And we have a long list of potential iPhone features. One feature that has never been on any version of Civ Rev that we're potentially talking about is hotseat, where I do a turn, I give you the phone, and you do a turn.

We're totally open to stuff. We're really looking to see how people react to it, how it does, what they think. If people really want online multiplayer, maybe we'll do that. We don't know. We have no idea.

This is such an insane project because we're putting out so much gameplay to a platform where we're being constantly told, "You don't need this much gameplay." It's really exciting, and it's really weird. We'll just have to see how it goes. It's a really dynamic platform, and you can just make changes.

It's weird. We can just make changes on the fly. If people decide that they want something and it's not a big deal to put it in, we just put it in. Why not?

It's constantly live. It's not a big deal to push updates through Apple. We'll just roll out updates as we come up with them. We'll be looking at the iTunes store reviews and the press reaction, seeing what people want.

The only thing we won't do is a new Civ, because that would require balancing the entire game. At that point, Sid would have to get deeply involved. But he's been involved, he's been supervising the whole project.

So this was developed within Firaxis?

JB: It's split development. The engineering work was done by 2K China. They're the ones who got the engine up and running. The new interface was designed by Firaxis. Some things in this version, like the button to switch between science and gold [production], were just not in the DS version because we couldn't find any space for them.

The DS version -- I'm very proud of it, and I think it's a really great game, but it's very dark and muddy, which is something we need to get away from for the iPhone. We wanted to make it as bright as possible. The city screen is where I think the biggest improvement has come. It's a lot of information to cram into a tiny screen.

You have a demo version as well.

JB: It's a "lite version." You don't do demos on the iPhone. Apple doesn't let you do demo version. It's a "lite version."

But creating a demo for a Civ game is a design challenge as much as anything else. A demo, by definition, is broken according to Civ, because a Civ game requires you go from Stone Age to Space Age. In a demo, you don't do that, and so therefore you're not playing Civ anymore.

You had a demo like that for the console versions, though.

JB: We did. We're doing something different for the iPhone. It's a custom scenario that is being designed specifically for the iPhone. The reason that Apple wants lite versions is they want it to be playable indefinitely.

And so we're going to do this free version of the game, which is going to be limited in gameplay but totally satisfying, and you will be able to play it as long as you want. It will always be free, and it will change. It will be random. The Xbox 360 demo was actually fixed, so it was always the same.

Do you worry that people who are not already aware of anything offered in Civilization won't feel a need to buy the full game?

JB: That's the other argument. Because this is our first iPhone project, we're not sure. We'll see. One of the things we know from talking to Apple is that games that have lite versions sell much, much better. I think EA is the exception -- The Sims 3 doesn't have a lite version as far as I know, and it's selling like gangbusters. But we're really curious to see how it goes.

So you said Sid was still involved with this.

JB: Yes. The AI is the same. It is Sid's code, one hundred percent. Sid's goal when designing Civ Rev was being able to play, start to finish, on a New York to Los Angeles flight.

Oh, really?

JB: That was his time constraint, and it totally works. Obviously, on [the] Deity [difficulty level], it would take you longer depending on how quickly you play, but generally speaking, you should be able to do it in that time frame. I've done it on DS, and I've done it on iPhone, and that's totally achievable.

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Samuel Fiunte Matarredona
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really, I don't get the new shitty videogame fashions...I know that they are there to try to get more casual players, but...there are REAL people interested in havind their Twitter updated with what they do on the game? (to begin with I don't get the whole twitter idea)

anyway if they sold more because of this than because the game is any it.

and in the whole interview there is not a word about the way they adapted the controls to the Iphone...suspiciously avoided or just a bad interview? I vote for "suspiciously avoided" as they managed to sneak out of the "is sid involved too?" with one of the worst answers Iīve ever read....Itīs like saying that in any new Mickey Mouse cartoon Walt disney is involved because it keeps the spirit of the original "steamboat willy" short........boooooooooooooooooh!

(but I wish you good sales!)

Chris Remo
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The controls are what you'd expect--you click on the buttons you'd otherwise click with a mouse, and you drag the screen around to move around the world map. There's a free demo so I didn't think it was that necessary to spend time in an interview discussing how it plays on that level.

The Twitter functionality is also something the team plans on implementing at some point because it's relatively simple, not a current feature that is likely to be selling the game as is.

Samuel Fiunte Matarredona
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Hiya Chris!

Sorry if my comment sound bad, but I didn't want to be disrespectful, what I said was just from my point of view. As a "non Ipod owner" I cannot download the demo but I'd like to learn from the interview how they fight with the Ipods difficulties and id they did something new, because as I see it one of the main problems to do games for Ipod is the controls (and also one of the more interesting points!!), and I worked in a mobile games developer where we developed Iphone games as well, so It not that I don't know a thing about that.

And about the twitter, I didn't complain about it, it's interesting, but I don't think it's gonna improve the game in any way, this is just an add on for the fashionable network of the moment (in the past it could have been for Myspace os second life or whatever was trendy), I do not criticize you or the team in any negative way, sorry if it sounded like that!!! I was just a little sarcastic about the way Jason Bergman answered you to the Sid Meier's involvement :)

Otherwise that was a nice interview, but I'd like to read more about the price difference between the Iphone products and the console versions...that's an interesting subject.

Tim Jordan
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What I'd like to know is does this game use the original AI or the AI from the v1.3 updates to the Big Boy versions (Xbox 360 and PS3)? I guess the biggest noticeable difference would be not only was the later IA a little more aggressive and strategic but it would actually FIGHT other AI players (the original AI rarely bothered with the other AI players).

Tim Jordan
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Does anyone actually BELIEVE they'll create all NEW content for the iPhone version? I guess it might be based on how well it does but this feeble attempt of 2K sounding like they're "listening to the pulse of the gamer's out there" sounds like a lot of marketing hooey. If we're lucky we'll see the same DLCs they released for the other versions and maybe even some MP stuff but I'm willing to bet cash money we'll never see any ALL NEW relics, wonders, scenarios, or maps not already released on the other systems.

Samuel Fiunte Matarredona
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well....time will deliver the answer, but I supopose it will depend on how well the game will sell...if it sell really good, and they think that creating new content is profitable in any way...why not? but if the game costs 10 material will cost like 1 or 2 dollars, so I don't know if that will cover the cost of developing it.