Sid Meier bestrides the strategy genre like a colossus. A cardigan-wearing colossus it's true, but a colossus nonetheless. Never mind that he's designed some of the greatest games of all time in a huge variety of genres, (who can forget those old Microprose classics like F19, or Pirates!) but Sid's lasting gift to the gaming world is undoubtedly Civilization, the strangely spelt (to us UK types anyway) but fantastically enduring series, which makes a classic game out of the sum total of human history.
The latest incarnation Civ IV has just erupted onto the gaming scene and Zone's Steve Hill recently caught with Sid to hear his thoughts on the latest version of the best turn-based strategy game and series of all time.
Are you happy with the way Civ IV multiplayer shaped up?
Sid Meier: Yeah. Multiplayer has always been a feature of Civ that's kind of lagged behind a little bit, so that was something we started working on from the beginning and it shows in the smoothness of the play. We finally figured out simultaneous turns and stuff like that. Multiplayer adds a whole new dimension to the game and I think it's a lot of fun.
What's the part of Civ IV that you're most pleased with, the one that's going to give 'wow' factor? ?
Sid Meier: Making the transition to 3D certainly gives the game a really cool, fresh new look, plus the new interface is nice and clean. Everything's right there on the screen, with a lot of RTS conventions that people will feel a lot more comfortable with. So I think the interface and the 3D are some real improvements in the new version.
What's your favourite civilisation and why?
Sid Meier: I'm still partial to the Romans, going back to the first Civ. That was the first civilisation we put in the game and it kind of represents the idea that you do everything - you build, you fight, you use diplomacy, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the Romans.
I was playing Civ IV with your son earlier. He seems to know what he's doing - a budding game designer in the making?
Sid Meier: Certainly possible. He enjoys games, we play a lot together. For a teenager, being able to hang out at Firaxis and play a game that's in development is great, and he gets into the different strategies and things like that. If he's interested in doing it and has a talent for it, we wouldn't discourage it.
So the Meier name could carry on in some kind of dynasty?
Sid Meier: (Laughs) It could go on for another 50 years. That would be great, but I don't want to put that kind of pressure on anybody. We'll see what happens, but he's enjoying himself right now and that's what's important. We'll see how it turns out.
There's another game coming up this year that you might be aware of, Age Of Empires. How do you think your game will compare with that?
Sid Meier: I love Age Of Empires. I played Age Of Empires 1 & 2, Age Of Kings and Age Of Mythology. I think it's a different style, it's a different take on a similar topic. If I'm in the mood for a real time strategy game, I'll play Age Of Empires. If I'm in the mood for a 'conquer the world' experience, I'll play Civ. I think they complement each other in a lot of ways. Our game is a little more strategic.
Is there an archetypal civilisation fanatic? Do they bombard the company with suggestions?
Sid Meier: Sure, we get lots of ideas. That's the great thing about Civ, everybody gets right into it and starts thinking about 'what would I do differently, what would be a cool thing to add to this?'. Plus, there are numerous websites where the fans get together, so it's great that they can enjoy the game to that extent.