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Sid Meier Talks Civ

Feature: Alone with the Godfather of strategy

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How did you come up with the original core ideas and formula for Civilization?

Meier: There were a couple of influences. Sim City had come out maybe a year or two before the original Civilization and established this building type of game - most games then were about blowing things up and destroying thing - and Sim City said "It might be fun to build something" as opposed to all that.

I played the game Risk as a kid, conquering the world, which is a concept that became part of Civilization. There was another game called Empire on the PC that had exploring the world. So we took some basic ideas that were floating around and really using this idea of world history to have it all make sense, hang together and feel important and feel real.

Everyone knows a little bit about the world, they realise that inventing the wheel might be a good idea, or gunpowder. And then it might be cool to have Napoleon or Caesar. Having these very familiar ideas in the game, but now having you being equal to these people or being possible inventors of these things, I think was part of the appeal of the original game.

It's like, here's all this history I've read about, but now I'm in charge of it.

Was the historical narrative something you wanted right at the start, or has that developed over time?

Meier: It was what we added to the previous ideas. We took a little bit of Sim City, a little bit of Risk, a little bit of other things, but we added the 'let's hang it on the frame of history'.

And that's really I think what pulled it all together. That levered the technology tree that creates this whole idea the game is easy to start playing, but more and more ideas gradually get added to it, so it's always fresh, there's always new possibilities.

Again, the great leaders, all that kind of stuff, made it accessible.

At which point did you decide to leave Microprose and form Firaxis?

Meier: Basically, I'm a game designer and I want to work in an environment work where I can work with great people and make great games. For whatever reason, the situation changed at Microprose and that was becoming more and more difficult.

We decided to start Firaxis as a game home, only game developers and not worrying about the publicity side, and work with some of the great publishers.

Companies need to meet financial quarters and have ups and downs and that can be very distracting when you're trying to work on a game... At the time it was necessary to be able to continue to be creative. We're very proud of the work we did at Microprose, and we're very proud of what we've done at Firaxis.

You must be very happy having been inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Science's Hall of Fame...

Meier: I couldn't ask for a better job, I couldn't imagine anything I'd enjoy doing more.

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