It's not all recreations of former glories, as appreciated as they may be. You see, the venerable Civilzation series is getting a younger sibling. "Everyone has wondered when they're playing Civilization what exactly is going on in a certain city," states the illustrious Mr Meier as our conversation moves on to his exciting collaboration with Brit outfit Firefly - many of whom were of Caesar series stock before moving onto Stronghold. "But in Civ, we can't just stop the game and let you become really involved with it - after all, you've got an entire empire to manage!"
Let's hear a big Salve! then for CivCity, as before we all 'omnes exeunt', you'll be as excited about it as a starry-eyed vestal virgin on a nightboat to Sparta (or something - is my public school education showing?). "At the end of the day it's about the atomic level elements of Civilization," explains Simon Bradbury of Firefly when I call him for a quick chat a week later.
"CivCity takes that atomic element and puts it under the microscope. It's like taking one of those Google maps where you zoom in and explore it in more detail - and it uses a lot of the Civilization ideas, like city happiness, culture and religions."
To start off with, you only have a scrubby settlement - a few huts scrabbling around the Tiber with roaming lions who are no doubt relatively miffed at your dreams of expansion. As the game goes on, these houses grow in stature from the humble hut to the mighty palace - and as the house gets posher and the game progresses, its occupant will move up the social ranks: getting a wife, having kids, buying slaves to take on family tasks - all the way up to some of them becoming a Patrician.
Essentially, CivCity takes the sliding bars that govern the cities of Civilization and looks at them on the macro level - whole resource chains of production, mining, food and polytheistic religion will have to be dealt with, as well as, of course, research.
"Civilization has this somewhat horizontal bar of research from left to right - but doesn't have quite as much depth to it in each particular age," explains Bradbury. "Now, because we're focusing on one particular age, it becomes much more of a vertical bar, and we've got about 75 things you can research." This wider, more in-depth technology tree will help you streamline your city - perhaps say, speeding up the rate of blessing in a temple - and have an obvious effect on your cityscape. Not to forget, of course, the carried-over concept of City Wonders - which will obviously cover ground like the Circus Maximus and Coliseum.
But what about the sex? What about rulers kissing their sisters and marrying horses? "If we were being run by Rockstar, it would probably be all that, wouldn't it?" laughs Bradbury. "I was touring America and pretty much half the people asked me, 'Is there going to be a vomitorium?' and I had to disappoint them." We shouldn't expect the privates on parade of the Rome TV series then? "No! We delve into the way they lived their lives, but we've left out all the grand sweep of the military side that Rome: Total War deals with. We're more about the humdrum - how they lived and the fact that they had a toilet in their kitchens..." And they call that a civilisation?