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Interviews

Sid Meier

One of the biggest names in the development business discusses his new title Railroads, the state of gaming on PC and next-gen console and his appreciation of Guitar Hero

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CVG: The empire-building aspect looks interesting - could you tell us a bit more about that?

Meier: The economy of supply and demand - the whole reason to be a railroad is to carry things from where they are made to where people want them. There's a variety of twelve to sixteen commodities that can be transported and the more efficiently you can do that - you can use a train to make sure it is carrying something in both directions or use a freight engine that can carry more cargo than a freight train or faster you get rewarded with passengers for carrying them more quickly.

A track costs money so if you can use one route for multiple trains, then that's efficient, so there's operational efficiency. Then you have the stock aspect. If you think you're going to make a profit that year you can buy stock before your stock price goes up, or you can buy the stock of competing companies and buy them out. The value of the commodities that you carry also go up and down based on news events, so if nobody's carrying coal then the price goes up so you might want to get into that business. So there are quite a few operational and financial aspects available if you want to play it at that level to maximise your profit and your efficiency.

If you just want to build a train there's a table-hop mode where you just build whatever you want and run it. So I think within the community there are people who will focus on different areas, the building or some like the managing and you will find each of those things in the game.

CVG: The multiplayer and online modes sound like they could really be fun. Could you tell us about some of the more interesting gameplay scenarios that crop up?

Meier: The multiplayer mode is the most competitive mode of playing. You have the relaxed table-top mode where you can take your time or there's the single-player where you're building your railroad and there's some competition but it's not close, direct competition, and then in multiplayer is where you will be competing in a fairly confined space. There's not a lot of room on the map so it's a race to get to the key locations first to run your railroad efficiently to make money so you can buy shares in the other companies.

One of the most exciting parts is buying out one of your competitors. You can buy your own stock and protect yourself or buy the stock of competitors and try and take them over. You can bid for patents to improve the efficiency of your railroad - you have to outbid other players to secure these options. The scenarios are of a reasonable length as most players will only be able to hang together for a certain amount of time so they're designed to be playable in an hour or two. It's the same game but tweaked in certain areas to take advantage of the multiplayer aspect to create more competitive gameplay.

CVG: Why did you decide to ditch the 'Tycoon' name?

Meier: There have been so many 'Tycoon' games that it's almost become a cliché. Railroad Tycoon was the first 'Tycoon' game and we clearly made mistakes trying to patent it! If you're not familiar with the original, then the 'Tycoon' name is attached to a lot of games, some better than others. We don't see this game as fitting into this genre. There is an aspect of management and an aspect of running the railroad but there's also the important aspect of creating the railroad, creating the trains - the building part of it. We thought the name 'Railroads' encompasses all aspects of it as it's not just a business game or tycoon game, it's also about the building and running of trains. We just went with a nice, general name and put an exclamation mark on it and hopefully people will like what they see.

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