Civilization is known for its addictiveness: it's commonly called the "one more turn" phenomenon, as I'm sure you know. Do you know where the phrase "one more turn" originated?
Sid: I would guess from a magazine review. But I don't specifically remember when I first heard that term, or where it came from. Civilization did have that special quality of giving you something to look forward to. There's always one or two things you're looking forward to, like when that building is done, or when I get that new unit, or finish that technology. So there was never really a good place to stop playing.
Have you ever become addicted to playing Civilization yourself?
Sid: [laughs] I've often found myself playing and then realized I'm late for a meeting, or forgot this or that. So yeah, I've been exposed to the phenomenon myself.
Could you put into your own words why Civilization has incredible replay value and long-term appeal?
Sid: There are a lot of elements of the game that lend themselves to replayability, like the sixteen different civilizations, the different starting places, or the fact that the map is random each time. Every game is going to be different. The different paths to victory. The decisions you have to make along the way. You often have to choose between, "Do I build a new unit, or do I make this building?" There are all sorts of reasons to come back and say, "Well I want to try this other path the next time." The fact that there are so many different ways to play, and that they all seem interesting and fun, leads you to want to play again after you finish the game. I think that leads to the long-term replay value.
Civilization III improved upon Civilization II with more units and new ways to win. And Civilization IV seems to have expanded on that even more. Do you think you can keep improving Civilization sequels without making them unplayably complicated?
Sid: That's something that we are aware of. With Civilization IV, we tried to take something out with every new thing we put in. We felt we where bumping up against the limit of complexity for Civilization game players. We have new ideas, but we take the general approach that for every new thing we put in, or more complicated thing we put in, we either simplify or take out something that was in there before. It's a very rich topic; we could put so much stuff in there that we could overwhelm the player. We are sensitive to that.
If you could change one thing about the original Civilization, what would it be?
Sid: Zones of control, I'll say. There were a number of ideas there that I thought were necessarily but added more complexity than play value. Some ideas like zones of control and maintenance cost, and things like that. Looking at it today, I might try to streamline the game a little bit more and make the rules not quite as detailed or obscure than some of them were in the original game. Overall, I'm very happy with the original design, but there's always a few things you would do.
Do you play the original game anymore?
Sid: It's been a long time since I played the original game, but I have fond memories of it. I remember playing when I was developing it, and I remember it being a lot of fun to play.
Do you ever feel that the success of Civilization has overshadowed your other games?
Sid: Well, no. Frankly, Civilization has, in many ways, allowed me to do my other games. So I have no complaints at all about Civilization. I think that if somebody likes Civilization, they may be more likely to consider Pirates, or another kind of game that I've done.
Especially when your name is written on them. That helps.
Sid: Right. And if Civilization is the best known game I make, then I'm perfectly happy. It's a game that I'm really proud of.
Which game are you more proud of: Civilization or Pirates?
Sid: Oh...that's like asking, "Which of your children do you like the best?" [laughs]
I think Civilization was maybe a more complete game, but there are a lot of cool things about Pirates as well. Civilization, I'd have to say, is probably still the game that has the most cool ideas in it.
It's your landmark game.
Sid: Yeah, I think it just struck a chord with game players. We made some good decisions and it came out at a good time. We do still get a lot of people who remember it, who still play it and enjoy it.
Have you heard of the open source clone of Civilization called FreeCiv?
Sid: I have heard of it. I don't know much about it at all.
You've never played it?
Sid: I have not played it, no.
Do you purposely avoid it, just because...
Sid: No. There are so many good games out there, and I've played the original Civilization plenty, and I still like Civilization in general. I still have ideas, and we're still working with new stuff, but the first game was a while ago, and we're looking more forward than back.
Do you find it flattering or more annoying that they cloned it?
Sid: No, I find it flattering. To see the forums, Apolyton, places like that. To see people doing stuff with it: keeping it alive and really putting their energy into playing it, maintaining it, coming out with mods; all the stuff out there. I think that's great. The whole community aspect of it really keeps it alive. The community can do so much more than we can on our own. We try to plant the seed and provide the tools and let people do great things with it.