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Building Civilization V


August 11, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

Every Civ game is called "Sid Meier's Civilization," but they've always had a different lead designer. What is your working relationship with Sid? And how does that work when it's billed as Sid Meier's thing, but on a practical level it's more your game?

JS: Ultimately, Civilization is a game that Sid designed up front, and as much as the games have changed over the years, they're still very similar to the original one. With Civ V, people will focus on the changes, of course. That's more interesting than saying, "Hey! This part is the same! And this part is the same!"

But if you play the game, it's definitely recognizable as a Civ game. It's similar to Civ IV, and it's similar to Civ I. In that sense, it is still very much Sid Meier's Civilization. It's not real-time or anything. It's not a completely different game. It is what it is.

In terms of our working relationship, we have regular meetings where we go over topics, and he's the creative director for the studio. So, he has his hand in everything we work on. Even if he's not directly involved day-to-day, he's still very much part of what's going on, and he's aware of the changes that we're making.

Does it seem anachronistic, or maybe a privilege, or a challenge to be working on a game in 2010 that's so out of line with most triple-A games? Civ feels like state rooms, globes, and hard-bound books. Mostly, the game industry is not evocative of those things these days.

JS: Yeah. I don't know. For me, these are the kinds of games I enjoy. I got into Civilization a while ago, and the reason why I'm here now is I loved the earlier games.

I try not to think too much about the rest of the industry, really. They're going to do what they're going to do, and ultimately, we're working on Civilization, which is really exciting. I'm really happy to be working on the game. Because, as you know, it is kind of a rarity these days to have games like this with its production quality and the time we can spend.

It's not something I think about a lot, but ultimately, it is a really good opportunity, and it's exciting to be that involved with something that is still holding that banner up.

One of the reasons I ask is because it looks like Civ V is pushing even further in that direction. It's very elegant and clean, with forward-looking Art Deco themes, in contrast to 2K's own BioShock, which is almost an ironic treatment of Art Deco. Civ V is very earnest -- it's the gleaming future.

JS: Yeah. Early on the lead artist, Dorian Newcomb, myself, and [UI designer] Russell [Vaccaro] had conversations about the direction we wanted to take with it. That was something Dorian and Russ worked out together, and they were excited with that theme.

I was definitely on board, because they were so excited. With all of Civilization, we want to give the impression that you're building something. This is the bright side of human history. This is the good stuff. This isn't all the dirty laundry. And the art style really reflects that sense of a new tomorrow, new beginnings. It's clean, you know? It's something they worked out early and I was definitely agreeable to it. It fit with the whole theme that we wanted to take.

Did that affect design in any way, or were you already on a particular track?

JS: I wouldn't say it so much affected design directly, but the philosophy of Civilization is about building. It's about good things. That permeates everything, so that central philosophy comes through with the design. It comes through with the interface, and with the art, as well.

For example, one conversation I had with our effects artist is that we have fog of war that appears in unrevealed areas. Instead of just a black darkness, it's now made up of clouds. I've gone to him and said, "Okay, lighten it up. Lighten it up. Lighten it up. We don't want these to look like storm clouds. We want these to look like something that is positive in this world. You're revealing good things out there. It's not something scary."

Are you bringing back John Adams' music for the modern period of history?

JS: We are not.

Argh.

JS: [laughs]

I always thought that was a really inspired inclusion, setting the modern metropolises against modern minimalist art music.

JS: Yeah. In Civ IV, the music was based on era, so as you would progress through the game, the music would change. But it was all Western-based. So, if you were playing China, you got John Adams, just the same as if you were playing United States.

Something that we've done this time around instead is to have a different musical collection for each region. We have four regions: the Middle East and Africa, Asia, Europe, and Mesoamerica. Each of those regions has a different musical score for peace and for war.

So, we don't have modern age music, but we do think this is pretty cool, especially when you go to war and it gets all dark and moody and the drums start beating. I think it pulls you in a lot more than if you have, you know, John Adams as you're nuking people.


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