The Frighteningly Modern Age: Facebook Civ

By Alec Meer on October 22nd, 2009 at 4:47 pm.

Logo! Yes, a logo! Logoooooooooooooooooo!

Should we be covering more social network-based gaming? Oh, probably – it’s something of a gateway drug for folk who are traditionally non-gamers, which makes it fascinating. It’s also a big Woo! PC! battlecry, a grand statement of how even the most bottom-end machine is a gaming device with something to offer most anyone. No console will ever be that, because they’re always bought as a result of someone wanting a games console. In the PC’s case, people are accidentally becoming gamers as a result of something that’s already in their homes. It’s a big deal. Firaxis/2K have also spotted this.

So we’ll cover social network gaming in more depth eventually – I know I personally just need to get past my antipathy as a result of my Facebook feed being full of people’s tedious updates about what they’ve done in Mafia Wars or Farmville. Yes, well done on getting a bigger number – but does everyone have to know about it? Man, I am such a grump. But! I am quite excited about the prospect of Civilization Network, an official, Facebook-based rethink of the deathless strategy titan.

Here’s a message reportedly from Civ bossman/figurehead Sid Meier himself. But it might be Siid, Siiid or even Sivd, one of Meier’s three twisted and evil clones that he famously sends out to make personal appearances on his behalf. Siiid has a chin made of sharpened obsidian, if you look closely, while Siid is recognisable by the tiny eye on his right earlobe. Sivd is harder to spot, but if you meet him outdoors and look to the skies, you’ll see there are no birds visible within an eight mile radius. Whichever Sid it was on Facebook earlier, here are the words:

I wanted to let you know we’ll soon be looking for beta testers to help us develop a unique new way to play Civilization. Ever since we finished Civilization® Revolution™ last year, I’ve been looking at ways of expanding the Civ gameplay experience to include solo, competitive and cooperative play to take advantage of the uniqueness of social networks. We’re calling this project Civilization Network and the full game will be available next year on Facebook. Civilization Network will allow you to join together with your friends to create the world’s most powerful, richest, smartest, or just plain coolest civilization. You can coordinate your strategy to win great battles, share your technology to jump ahead of your rivals, lobby your family and friends to form your own government and win vital elections, manage and grow your cities to maximize production and happiness, spy on your enemies, and work with your friends to create the great Wonders of the World. The game will offer everything you enjoy in Civ in a fully persistent environment – you can play as much as you like, whenever you like, and it’ll be free to play.

We’ll offer a closed beta of the game soon, so stay tuned for details on how you can sign-up to participate. The full game will launch in 2010. For more information about Civilization Network, including development updates and behind-the-scenes posts from me and the Firaxis team, join our Facebook fanpage here.

Thanks and Stay Civilized!

In other words, it’s – whisper it- Civilization: The MMO. And it makes a frightening amount of sense. You and your Facebook chums vying for real-time control of the globe? I’m quite excited, so long as there is some way to get reasonably in-depth rather than just be stuck with a bunch of clicky text-boxes and collectable icons. It’s play by email, that former strategy uber-mode, elevated to something more modern, something that doesn’t require anyone to install anything. Going to be following this one closely…

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39 Comments »

  1. Heliocentric says:

    I can’t wait to get beaten to hell by my girlfriend on this because she has more facebook friends to trade tech with… Which is to say i dread it.

  2. Lack_26 says:

    All my new friends at Uni are wanting me to get Facebook, but being the socialnetworkingphobe I am I’m still resistant, I’d still communicate by carrier pigeon if I could.

    Perhaps things such as this would make it a bearable experience.

  3. cyrenic says:

    Does this mean I might actually have to install a facebook app? That’ll ruin my perfect record!

  4. Clovis says:

    I hope it doesn’t have that annoying play mechanic like Travian and so many other on-line games where you scour through lists of people to “attack”.

  5. Vinraith says:

    Someone call me when there’s a Facebook game whose primary mechanic isn’t “whoever pesters the most friends wins.”

  6. Okami says:

    Facebook + Civilization = Total economic meltdown. This will be the end of all office productivity everywhere.

  7. WilPal says:

    Play by email, ugh.
    I was pretty excited about this until i read that.

    • SteelMilquetoast says:

      I don’t think it’s actually play by email. I’m pretty sure Alec was just referencing how this is the natural evolution of play by email gaming.

  8. itchyeyes says:

    Christ, as if Civ wasn’t addictive enough as it is. I suppose I can kiss any free time I have left goodbye.

  9. Tei says:

    My sisters are adicted to webgames. One to FarmVille (that seems to have something like 15 million players), the other to more normal webgames like OGame and that one about a roman town.
    You think girls don’t play game, and then see this… Is somewhat amazing, methinks.

  10. rocketman71 says:

    MEH

    Uncle Sid doesn’t even try anymore.

  11. mrrobsa says:

    Alec might be aware already, but you can open the menu to the right of any BS update on Facebook and ‘Hide’ messages from that app. I’ve done this with all the main cuprits that pop up, but it’s an ongoing war with the torrent of new horrible quizzes and games to block them all. I do find it oddly satisfying though.
    On topic, more avenues to Civ will always be a good thing in my eyes, though I’ll still stick to Civ4 whenever I get the urge.

  12. Railick says:

    I was hooked on that stupid web game Castle Age for a long time then I realized (As I often due) that it was totally pointless and that I'd never "finish" playing it which is really the point. It is just a way to get you to keep looking at ads and if you're strange enough you'll even fork over cash for their special bonus points that allow you to upgrade your character faster. All the games are more or less the same exact thing with diffrent works and pictures (But exact same game play) for example Castle Age is the same thing as Mafia wars 100% They even released a fecking game called Age of Castles which is the same as Castle Age but with diffrent pictures O.o I hate face book, I can't wait for the day when it's community grows so large it implodes on itself and is never seen again.
    On a slightly related note I suggest we create a new Twitter game where we compete to see who can fit the most curse words into a twitter post with these following rules.
    1 # You can not use the same curse word twice
    2 # You must post in a grammatically correct sentence structure, no random curse word string it has to be a real sentence.
    Now the only question is, does Twitter auto censor? I've never actaully used it so I have no idea. If so I suggest we create a new Twitter service called T@#$@#$@ where there is no censoring

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

    • Flimgoblin says:

      Railick, take what you’ve said on Castle Age (sans ads) and apply it to Civilization, Whatever: Total WAR, Sim City…

      Just the revenue model is that you pay for it with micropayments and suffering the adverts, rather than a big wad of cash up front.

      The cynical would say that those lobbing a boxed game at you only need to make sure you think it’s worth playing right up to the point you buy it (and possibly a few weeks later so that you don’t badmouth it too much to your friends and stop them buying it). Those who get more revenue from you the longer you play have all the more impetus to make a game you want to keep playing and playing ;)
      (Thankfully things like brand/company loyalty/reviewers/etc. come into play so the boxed games have to be good too. Once bitten, twice shy etc.)

      My missus actually put some money into one of these facebook games – not out of any particular desire for the in-game credits she got – but because she felt she’d spent so much time on it she should give something back.

    • Flimgoblin says:

      Oh and the twitter game idea is ace :D (twitter doesn’t censor either)

  13. Sinnerman says:

    The only good thing I can think to say about this is that at least Firaxis are not letting the Evony people rip them off without any competition. Social networking, browser games, ugh, don’t waste too much time on making it, please.

  14. oceanclub says:

    I mailed Kieron about this a while ago. Here’s me, for years trying to get my wife into gaming without success, and now she’s addicted to that Cafe World game on Facebook. I’m wondering if there are any good lessons that traditional PC developers from the social network game developers? Or is it all just a horrible dumbing down we should avoid?

    P.

  15. Clovis says:

    As described by Railick, these games are often rubbish. They are addictive and waste time well, but are always rubbish. Please cover them on RPS. I’m not joking. Regardless of the rubbish-ness, they are very popular and are certainly having some affect on the industry as a whole. It should also possible to make something in this genre that is genuinely good, and I guess there is a chance that Firaxis will manage this. I don’t want to actually play too many of these to find out if there are good ones, so it be great if you’d do all the hard work and just tell us what to play. I’m sure I’d at least enjoy reading about you playing them (see Eve coverage).

    • DMJ says:

      I agree! More of this, RPS, if only because some of the most entertaining games journalism I’ve ever read has been about the mediocre and the poor.

      The destruction of the offending game in a storm of exquisitely barbed words reminds me of Roman gladiatorial combat.

  16. Flimgoblin says:

    Social gaming is the big new thing ™. I’m not completely addicted to Restaurant City, honest, but I will try and login every day to make sure my restaurant hasn’t fallen down around my poor staff’s ears. Plus being able to dress up my co-worker in a pink tutu and make him clean the bogs is satisfying in one kind of way…

  17. Patrick says:

    Facebook Alpha Centauri would get me to actually set up a Facebook account.

  18. SteelMilquetoast says:

    I personally look down on Facebook games and the like with a general air of disdain, but you cannot ignore their importance. My immediate dorm area became obsessed with Farmville to an almost frightening degree, which at first had me dismayed. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Farmville was preparing these people for actual gaming. When World of Goo’s birthday sale rolled around, I quickly sprung for a copy and introduced it to this gaggle of casual gamers. They loved it. Most of these people, who couldn’t tell Civilization from Starcraft, had their first introduction to indie gaming through their use of Farmville. I believe this is, as the kids say, some pretty nifty jive.

  19. dtgreen says:

    Take the Facebook out of this and replace it with an independent platform and I’m interested.

  20. JonFitt says:

    Hmm, a game of Civ where you need to leverage meatspace friends to win. I’m going to watch this closely. It could be really good or really bad.

    Are the early players going to stomp new player’s warriors with tanks?

    Chris has sent you a Phalanx click here to send him a legion
    Chris has sent you a Phalanx click here to send him a legion
    Chris has sent you a Phalanx click here to send him a legion
    Chris has sent you a Phalanx click here to send him a legion

    Ugh.

  21. JonFitt says:

    On a side note. I added Mafia Wars so the missus could have one more person to level her up. I have never played the “game”. I am level 12 :-)
    It’s like Eve, it plays itself!

  22. Kua says:

    Not sure how I feel about Facebook Civ but man do I feel like playing some BTS. I think it was just seeing the logo that did it.

  23. wm says:

    Firaxis keep making Civ games that aren’t Civ 5. I really wish they would stop.

  24. LionsPhil says:

    @Lack_26: You keep right on resisting.

    Thankfully, Civ IV got so much right that it’s hard to feel gypped. I can’t point to anything and say, “hey, Sid, stop mucking about with this week’s latest Internet fad and fix ${BLAH} for Civ V already”.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Vinraith: I have to say I agree somewhat with the PCG review of Civ IV, in that it was Alpha Centauri 2. It took the good lessons from it, and left the questionable.

      Ok, unit design didn’t make it. It was kind of a faff that never really paid off vs letting the AI manage it all, though, IMO—compare with, say, ship design in Stars!. (Aside: if the developers aren’t going to get anywhere with a sequel, I wish they’d at least open-source, or even just freeware, the original. It’s 14 years old, still excellent, but you can’t convince friends to buy the damn thing because nobody is even selling it any more.)

    • Vinraith says:

      I can see the argument, Civ 4 is certainly a superb iteration of the series and has held up extremely well. I don’t think we per se NEED a Civ 5 in light of it, which is not to say I’d turn one down. :)

      That said, while Civ 4 certainly learned from the mechanics of Alpha Centauri, it would be nice to see a new game using a unique sci fi setting with a narrative context in the way AC did and Civ 4 obviously does not.

    • Tei says:

      You can waste a hour in youtube just watching Alpha Centarury “Special Proyects”. Theres even one with Al Gore and “The Internet” :-), other amazing for “Self-aware colony”, “theory of everything” , “nanotechnology”….

      I doubt other game can achieve this eights again. Is downhill from here.

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