A rifle amongst the oily rags, Toblerone wrappers and bat skulls that litter the floor of the RPS engine room reveals we’ve never posted about open source Civilization clone FreeCiv before. By turn, that means we’ve never written about its newish browser-based offshot FreeCiv.net either. This is exactly the kind of site that should be telling you it’s possible to play one of the most important names in PC gaming history in your browser, for free. Unfortunately, we’ve been washing our hair since December 13th, so we didn’t. Now we all look like Jennifer Aniston circa 1995 (Jim looks especially glamorous), we have time to tell you.
In fact, now’s a much better time to be writing about it, as it’s been tweaked and honed to buggery during the last month and a half. Plus, with over 10,000 registered players, you’ve got a much better chance of finding a multiplayer game. If you can’t, rest assured there is a full singleplayer mode too. I’ve had a quick nose at it, and while it’s obviously not a graphical powerhouse (it’s in a browser! It’s open source! It’s free!) and the interface feels a little sluggish to me – begorrah, it’s Civ! In a browser! Pretty much everything you know from Civ and Civ II is in there, albeit in some cases with copyright-avoiding namechanges, and it even supports savegames. Key to note is that no plugins or extra software is required – all that it requires is a browser with HTML 5 support.
Obviously, this is very early days and the presentation needs a fair bit of work (which I’m quite sure it’ll get), but it’s one of those moments that something at the back of my mind becomes absolutely convinced that the day when operating systems are subsumed and replaced by browsers can’t be that far off anymore. And, and you can even play the thing on your iPhone. Free Civ, anywhere, anywhen – this is quite possibly the pinnacle of all human accomplishment. Until browser X-COM, anyway. Will be keeping a close eye on this one.
Oh, and if you’re a browser gonk, you’ll be interested in this comparison of FreeCiv.net’s significantly differing performance on Firefox, IE and Chrome. Short answer: Chrome wins, IE’s horrible and the comments thread is full of people whining that it doesn’t work on Opera. As will ours, probably. You do know it’s possible to have more than one browser installed at once, right? (They are casting about for a way to make it play nice with Opera, mind).