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Interview: How  Civilization World  Goes Social On Facebook
Interview: How Civilization World Goes Social On Facebook
May 12, 2011 | By Christian Nutt




With its closed beta set to begin shortly, Civ World's associate producer Tiffany Nagano spoke to Gamasutra about what the Facebook game -- which is "through and through" Sid Meier's project -- brings to the table.

"Yes, Sid [Meier]'s doing all the gameplay code, similar to how he did Civ Rev, so this is his game through and through," Nagano told Gamasutra at a recent demo and Q&A session in San Francisco.

"This is Civilization for Facebook. So we're taking the Civ game, the franchise and all the gameplay that you know and love, and bringing it to a new platform. And it's really about gameplay, and getting that addictive, 'one more turn' type feel, but making it free and accessible to millions of players."

What Civ On Facebook Means

Of course, just making the game free and web-hosted isn't enough; it has to be social, too, or it won't draw in an audience that has likely recently found Civ-like fun in other companies' Facebook hits.

"Really the heart of the game is collaborative strategy, so it's really about players working together to reach common goals, competing with each other," said Nagano. "This is really about collaborative strategy, working together and making strategic decisions together, and working towards common goals."

Each game of Civ World will feature approximately 200 players and run for about two weeks, in a "persistent game world" where players can team up to form their own Civs with strangers and friends -- and then battle other players' Civs.

Unlike many social game developers, which launch with limited features up front and then build upon them in response to players' requests and metrics, Civ World will be very robust by the time it hits the public, says Nagano.

"What you're seeing here is a complete game, and you can play a game from start to finish. We're simply trying to test out more of the finer details of that balance, game length, etc," with metrics and user feedback. "So, really, yes -- it is about providing that sort of core Civ experience."

Many gamers will, of course, already be familiar with the series from its incarnations as a boxed product. Nagano hopes the game will appeal to both new and familiar audiences.

"I think it's accessible enough for people who are maybe not familiar with Civ, and probably [have] some of the components that they might be looking for in a game they might be playing on Facebook.

"But for Civ fans who are coming from a love of the franchise, and have played past Civ titles, and they love the strategy, the gameplay is really, really deep. And it really comes down to using the same types of gameplay that they've grown to love, and that's really the heart of it."

Said Nagano, "We do want to present a balanced game and a complete experience."

Making Civ Multiplayer Social

So, it's Civ as we know it -- more or less. Where the big creative win for Civ on Facebook rests, then, is in offering a social, multiplayer experience for the franchise, Nagano told Gamasutra.

"It pushes the evolution of... the kinds of gameplay that you've seen on social networks. Other past games on Facebook have more of a parallel structure. It's people working in this sort of same single player experience, just in parallel, in their own timeline. Whereas this is really about collaboration; it's really about playing with people together in a really gameplay meaningful way."

Meier is currently tuning the multiplayer experience to make it engaging, Nagano said. "It's about coordinating... And then, again, competition. Competition really happens between Civs, so when you are in a battle, if you are invading another Civilization, if you win you'll get their technology -- either half or all their technology, Sid's balancing it right now. You'll get their technologies and their wonders as well."

Being Civilization, the game will offer layers of complexity. "There's this interplay between individual play, group collaboration, and then competition between groups -- also competition between individuals."

And the developers are also concerned with balancing the game to be enjoyable by players with different skill sets. "Even if you aren't necessarily the most social, you can still contribute to the group. There are [also] options -- you don't have to join a Civ if you don't want to, but it does mean that you won't get the benefits of working with other people. So the really advanced players end up taking on leadership roles, helping out people who are either new to the game or whose play style's a little more casual."

In addition to in-game help, a user-contributed wiki will also rest on the game's Facebook page directly below the play window, for easy access during play.

Nagano acknowledges that Facebook competitors have borrowed from Civilization, but isn't so worried about them. "We really focus on is bringing what makes Civ, Civ, and bringing it to a new platform, rather than having what some people will think is a typical Facebook game, and just throwing Civ-like elements onto it. We're really taking the heart of Civ."

Monetization...

As far as monetization goes, the team is pursuing a system by which players purchase additional harvests to get access to play the game more. "The idea is when you lay out your city, you've got a bunch of citizens; they're all doing different things. What you do is you'll use a harvest to gather all of those resources. The harvests are the primary way of gathering the resources, which of course drives the rest of the game," explained Nagano.

While players can wait for harvests to regenerate, they can also spend a "Civ Buck" -- the in-game currency -- to get more harvests. Players can also spend Civ Bucks to boost gold gains and get more turns to solve puzzles in the game (which in turn increase their resources in other ways.)

"If you're out of harvests, your next harvest will probably be in about five, 10 minutes or so," says Nagano. This interval is not just important for selling Civ Bucks, but also for making the game fit the play pattern of a Facebook title -- a different pattern than Civ fans might be used to. "You could conceivably leave this up, spend a couple harvests, do a couple of these moves, go back to Outlook and your Excel spreadsheet, come back in the next 10 minutes."

According to Nagano, many players of the alpha have been very successful at building strong Civilizations in the game without spending a single Civ Buck.

...And Balance

Gameplay balance is crucially important for rewarding strategy and engaging multiplayer play. The team is making sure to pay attention to this. "There are some gameplay-affecting actions you can do with Civ Bucks," said Nagano, "but the interesting thing to note about them is that there's actually a limit to the number of Civ Bucks you can use in any given day for gameplay-affecting actions."

"[Meier] wanted to make sure that we could still balance the game while having the Civ Bucks... this premium currency. So the idea is to allow players the flexibility of utilizing the resources they have available to them, but also not having players feel like someone's buying their way to victory. "

Said Nagano, "There's only so much that the Civ Bucks will have an impact on the game... there's only so much of an advantage that [spending them] really gives you. So the idea is that really the gameplay strategy decisions drive the game, and that's really what carries the day."

The team is being careful to not make an exploitable system, either. Buying resources directly would "really upset the balance" and moreover, Nagano said, "we wouldn't want gold farmers in Civ World." While players can buy resources from an in-game marketplace using the game's non-premium currency, these resources are generated by other players in their game.

Civilization World will soon enter its closed beta phase, according to representatives from its publisher, 2K Games.


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