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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: How do you feel about becoming a gaming 'brand'? 'Sid Meier' is now in the name of most of your titles...

Meier: It's a weird thing, because it's almost another person or persona. I still enjoy writing games so I created a prototype for the Railroads game and I'm involved in writing code for a lot of the games that we do so it's not just a brand as I still enjoy the process of making a game. It does give us a little flexibility with the publisher, a little credibility in the industry so we can try new things and people give us the benefit of the doubt because it comes from 'Sid Meier'. That's what every games designer dreams of - the freedom to explore new ideas and try new things. You can talk to a developer about an idea that no-one has really done before and they're more likely to say 'okay' because we have the brand and the history and people kind of know the type of games that we do.

CVG: A lot of what you would consider to be traditional PC-only developers are now jumping on the console bandwagon. Are you interested in developing for the new consoles?

Meier: We are very interested in the new consoles. Last year we did a version of Pirates! for the Xbox which was a first real console development. That was a really positive experience for us, we enjoyed that. We play a lot of console games and we do see some evolution in the PC marketplace although a lot of the excitement is with the next-gen consoles. Whenever new hardware comes out it's exciting, so we're looking very closely at some possibilities to develop for next-gen consoles or consoles in general.

We'd like to see when Vista comes out what that will do for the Windows market because we like PC games as well. Hopefully they'll both continue to be strong and we can pick and choose which system is best suited to develop a game on. Pirates! was a good game to do on a console because it was originally for the Commodore 64 - it was a joystick kind of game - so it leant itself pretty well to the console controller. The significantly different control scheme from the PC to the console is something we are constantly dealing with, whether we can map the interface and screen resolution was a problem although with high-def things are becoming less of an issue.
The power of consoles is becoming equivalent to PCs as well, graphically etc. and PCs used to be strong in terms of online multiplayer compared to previous generations of consoles but that is changing as well. In terms of power and capability there is now a lot more overlap between the PC and consoles, so the consoles are something we are definitely taking a look at.

CVG: Where do you think the PC market is going? Do you think it's declining?

Meier: I think we're seeing a decline at the moment that is temporarily based on what's happening in the console marketplace and we're waiting for something new to come along hardware-wise so it's just a little easier to put a disc in a console and start playing. When I buy a new PC game I've got to install, and because we're programmed for instant gratification the consoles are more of an entertaining experience in many cases right now - I just stick my disc in and soon after I'm playing. The PC has a little catching up to do in terms of ease of playing and being as user-friendly as the consoles, but still the PC is a great platform for online play. For example MMOs are still very strong on PC, and if you're not a hardcore gamer you may not have a console in your home whereas most of us will have a PC. So there are still some advantages, but right now the excitement is with the consoles.

CVG: So what do you think of the London Underground?

Meier: (laughs) I've been on the London Underground a few times, I love the maps. It's a fine way to travel. I was actually on the New York City subway for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I think that probably the London Underground is a better underground.

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