How much involvement did you have with ports of Civilization to other platforms like the Amiga or the Mac?
Sid: Not a whole lot. We would supply the source, the original code, but often that was contracted. I know there were some versions done on Japanese consoles that were very strange. We had some involvement, but it wasn't direct involvement.
I actually have a version of Civilization for the Super Nintendo. It's pretty decent. Have you ever played that one?
Sid: I remember a version where this angel character comes up at the beginning and explains like, "Long ago, far away, this and that."
Yes, that's it, I think.
Sid: That's it?
It's really Japanese‑ish.
Sid: Yeah, I was just, you know, blown away. [laughs] So I never went much further than that. But I'm happy to hear it was a good version.
Did you ever play the other versions, and did they ever disappoint you?
Sid: Not a whole lot. I didn't spend a whole lot of time with the other versions.
I guess you always had your definitive PC version.
Sid: Yeah, I thought of the PC version as the definitive version. I'd spent a year and a half, or whatever, with it, so I was probably ready to move on to something else.
When you were creating Civilization, how much research did you put into world history?
Sid: Not a whole lot. I did do a little bit of reading, and it's kind of where the idea of the city as one of the kind of core elements of the game came from. It just struck immediately: "4000 BC the first city was formed," and I thought, "Oh, that's a cool place to start the game." But basically, I tried to use fairly well‑known concepts, well‑known leaders, and well‑known technologies. I mean, it wasn't intended to be "bizarre facts about history." It's more like, "Here, we all know a little bit about history, but now you get to take control of it, invent gunpowder, and the wheel, electricity, all sorts of cool stuff." But you don't have to research to know what it is, you just know.
So you mostly based it off your personal knowledge and education?
Sid: Right, it was intended to be something that anybody could play. It didn't require a Ph.D. in history to be able to pick it up and play it.
Did you use any specific sources to check any of your information? Encyclopedias or certain books?
Sid: I had a couple of "timeline of history" type of books, so if I wondered when the printing press was invented, or whatever, or to check to make sure we weren't too far off or how to spell a particular leader's name. We had few references like that. But it was not, there wasn't a whole lot of...
So there was no intensive effort to make the game extremely accurate?
Sid: Right, because the idea of the game is that you can change history. So we're not trying to recreate history exactly. Now Bruce Shelley, who I worked with on the project, did some research in writing the Civilopedia and the manual. He did a lot of research to get the real facts in there. That was not part of the actual game design.
Bruce Shelley collaborated with you on Civilization. How big of a role did he play in the game's design?
Sid: He was very, very helpful. He was the guy who would play it and we'd talk about what was working and what was not working. And I'd change something, or try something new, and give it to him. He'd play it and say, "Oh, that works," or "That doesn't work." So he was a sounding board; an idea person. He served as a second opinion on everything. We were really collaborating on everything. We worked for months just playing it, and comparing ideas, and coming up with new stuff.
You said he worked on the Civilopedia...
Sid: He created the text for the Civilopedia and wrote the manual.
Would you say that those were his most important contributions to the game? Or just the play testing and feedback?
Sid: I'd say the play testing. The manual and the Civilopedia were done towards the end when we had pretty much firmed up what the game was like. I think the manual was great. In those days, MicroProse manuals were 200 pages, and I think they added a certain special quality to the games. You felt like they were substantial and worth playing.
But I think his contribution earlier on to the game design process was the most helpful: identifying things that were working well, or not, and pointing things out that weren't as much fun.
How did Bruce Shelley get involved in the project?
Sid: The way things worked at MicroProse...I was a programmer/designer, and then I'd work with what would probably be called a producer today -- I'm not sure it was called a "producer" in those days. So Bruce's job was to keep track of how things were going on the project, to be responsible for the manual, and to participate in the design process.
He had worked with me on Railroad Tycoon, which was a particular interest of his. He had actually done the conversion of Francis Tresham's 1829 railroad game and turned it into 1830 for Avalon Hill. He enjoyed railroads. We worked together on Railroad Tycoon, so when we moved on to Civilization, he had just finished a project and he was ready to go. We did Covert Action before. We tended to work together as programmer/designer and producer.
So he was a regular employee of MicroProse?
Sid: Yeah, I'm not sure exactly when he was hired, but he had been there for a couple years. We actually, at that time, had a couple people at MicroProse that had come from Avalon Hill who wanted to move from the board gaming world to the computer gaming world. So there were at least two or three people there that had worked at Avalon Hill, and that was where a lot of design and gaming ideas came from in those days.