Hexchat: Watch Civ: Beyond Earth’s Panel Discussion

Looking... 'hexy.' Wait, no, 'hexcellent.' How about 'hexciting?'

Perhaps I’m unfairly stereotyping Civilization fans, but I broadly imagine that they’re the type who’ll eagerly watch a panel of developers talk about the next game for half an hour, then perhaps rewatch it, wringing every last fact and morsel of information into their dry eyes. What I’m trying to say is, the panel discussion where Civilization: Beyond Earth was revealed is now online in talkie format, and I imagine you might like to watch it so I’m posting about it on Rock, Paper, Shotgun where you might see it.

Beyond Earth, if you missed the announcement is essentially a follow-up to the revered Alpha Centauri brought into the Civ brand. Firaxis don’t have the rights to AC, see? It blasts Civ-y 4X strategy off into deep space to discover mankind’s future, perhaps making peace with nature and playing about with our genes, going all cyborg and developing AI, or being a big space-baby and pretending everything was fine with how we were on Earth.

But look, who needs me to crudely summarise this when the developers are capable of speech?


  1. Jockie says:

    The first 30 seconds have put me off watching the rest of the video with a display of heartfelt enthusiasm and vigour that disgust my bitter soul.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You were not ready for the awesomeness!

      • Horg says:

        I was half expecting him to throw his chair into the crowd, Russel Crowe style, yelling ”ARE YOU NOT READY FOR THE AWESOMENESS?!”. I am now disappoint.

        • Jockie says:

          Yeah, I actually skipped ahead to 5 minutes in to see if he had calmed down and the same chap was screaming HOLY CRAP!

          Can they make a version of the video for a a reserved British audience where that guy is replaced with a normal person saying, ‘Well that was lovely stuff chaps, truly a delight’ or something.

        • Diatribe says:

      • pilouuuu says:

        I was expecting them to show some CGI scene with a guy throwing a helmet in the air and the crowd going crazy.

    • jonfitt says:

      He’s Firaxis’ Flavor Flav:
      link to en.wikipedia.org

    • int says:

      It was close, but not Balmerian.

    • GenBanks says:

      I started the video to find out what you were talking about.. I’m still cringeing.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It seemed pretty reserved compared to the Star Citizen HELMET HELMET footage.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I really hope that there will be an inventory screen in which all headgear is named some variant of Helmet Helmet. I want to upgrade to the Most Helmet Helmet Helmet in the game.

      • pilouuuu says:

        HELMET Face!

    • LionsPhil says:

      So, anyone want to give an executive summary of the video for those of us after a higher information density?

      Or, to put it another way: Angry Internet Men. Tell me what in this video made you angry. (There must be something, surely.)

      • vlonk says:

        • LionsPhil says:

          I mean contentwise, which is honestly being covered downthread, not just the whooping and hollering.

          • vlonk says:

            It’s probably a remake/reimagining of the theme so gameplay wise a completely different beast but they try to avoid to call it by that name to scoop up the nostalgia crowd. Also Sid Meier is maybe not directly involved in the gamedesign so the “SMAC successor” claim runs mighty thin.

          • Gap Gen says:

            The lead designer on SMAC was in fact Brian Reynolds, who left to make Rise of Nations and a Farmville sequel (apparently they think they can add some gravitas to mobile gaming, and I wish them the best of luck because they need it). The “Sid Meier’s” label came about largely as a marketing strategy to allow them to make completely different games (flight sim, pirate sim, sum total of history sim) while still maintaining some continuity and giving a kind of mark of quality to whatever they made. I don’t think it was even Sid that came up with it.

  2. Frank says:

    SMAC had like a dozen factions with different philosophies and visions of the future (or so I read on its wiki, since I couldn’t get into the game itself). This Civ game sounds like it has three paths, maybe each having a couple subpaths in the tech tree, which is rather disappointing.

    I suppose this approach allows them to make sharper gameplay-style differences, a la Starcraft. But, eh, I’d rather have philosophy; there are already TBS with different factions.

    • vlonk says:

      Mix up! Factions in Space-Civ are like nations in Earth-Civ and the Harmony/Supremacy/Purity wheel is probably a branching tech tree.

      In effect this probably (wild speculation!) means that each faction can lean into three different approaches in the science field.

      Some combinations will probably make more sense because of the strengths of a certain nation like some nations in Civ are leaning towards a certain strategy. It will probably not hinder you for trying the unusual combinations though.

    • Rincewind says:

      Although each faction had different philosophies and visions of the future, they all played fairly similarly. I mean, the Gaians could specialize in mind-worms, and the Spartans generally tended to be immediately militaristic, but generally speaking Alpha Centauri did not have different branches at all. All groups followed the same tech tree, all groups had the same ability to build troops, all groups could build the same buildings, the same wonders, etc… Generally speaking, it was a themed Civ game where each faction had a different personality, but not different gameplay (speaking on the large scale).

      Basically, Beyond Earth seems like it’s going to have a lot more gameplay variance than Alpha Centauri ever had. And from one of the earlier articles, it looks like there will indeed by different faction personalities.

      Sadly, they haven’t announced yet whether the other groups will be named and have backstories, like in Alpha Centauri. To this day, Academician Prokhor Zakharov, CEO Nwabudike Morgan, Lady Dierdre Skye, and all the other leaders are still the best-written strategy game characters ever.

      • vlonk says:

        I think you are on the spot but they did not want to say that outright. The possible BETRAYALLLLLL!!!! shouts from the hardcore crowd are a big danger (see X-COM before release) and are very easy slip ups on a live panel.
        Watching the video I got the feeling that there are 2 topics they did not want to tackle at all:
        a)Sid Meier is not directly involved with game design in this game. The man is a brand and stamp of approval, not a directly involved game mechanics designer.
        b) Beyond Earth will have completely different game systems compared to SMAC. Same genre, same vibe, completely different Civ5-esque gamedesign approach. Probably radical streamlining and accessability in favor of shrewd stuff. Also quests ?! As long as I can start those satellites and nuke the whole site from orbit this will be great fun I guess!

        • iridescence says:

          ” Earth will have completely different game systems compared to SMAC. Same genre, same vibe, completely different Civ5-esque gamedesign approach. Probably radical streamlining and accessability in favor of shrewd stuff. Also quests ?”

          This is what I expect and why I’m not excited at all about this game and probably won’t even play it. SMAC is so good that I think they could just copy the game with updated graphics and it would be awesome. Instead they are probably going to ruin it.

          • vlonk says:

            I see a good chance I actually would want both things. Less eye-cancer when I SMAC and more Civ Sci-Fi goodness in general. Brush up the graphics, update the UI, +/- shiny CGI Intro and done.

            Can also somebody please make an honest Master of Orion 1 AND a Master of Orion 2 remake?

        • Arglebargle says:

          Sid Meier wasn’t that involved in SMAC, if I remember correctly. He has really become a brand now. At a glance, it’s hard to say what he’s really doing. Not a big loss though, if AC is a good example….

      • Gap Gen says:

        I actually disagree; I thought’s SMAC’s greatest strength was how while yes, all the factions had access to the same techs, the play style differed radically depending on its social model – Morgan usually built a small cluster of very large cities and tended to have a late-game tech advantage; the Hive were a formidable expansionist foe while the Believers were basically impervious to hacking while suffering from having low-tech armies. There was a great deal of elegance in how behaviours both in your faction and in others’ emerged from a few simple, clear decisions.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          And Ulrik Svensgaard and his goddamn Nautilus Pirates in SMACX building ocean cities around the entire planet…

          • Gap Gen says:

            Oh yeah, fuck that guy. The Cybernetics were fun in that they presented a challenge late-game as their economy and tech was quite strong, although I never felt like the SMAX factions captured the purity of the SMAC ones.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            I feel pretty much the same way. They are kind of just more extreme and specialised sub-factions of the originals. Except the two manifold wildcards.

    • silgidorn says:

      In SMAC you had :
      The militarists,
      The Jesus Squad,
      The Industrials,
      The commies (they were blue, go figure),
      The Hippies,
      Kofi anan with a keffieh,
      the scientists

      • iridescence says:

        True but they were well enough written to be memorable despite pretty much falling into those caricatures.

      • Gap Gen says:

        The Hive were a bit more than that – SMAX (i.e. Alien Crossfire) introduced communists in the form of factory workers taking control of the means of production; the Hive were more like the ideal of humans as ants, individuals unimportant compared to the greater good of society as a whole.

    • Lemming says:

      watering it down (for better or worse) is what they did to X-COM, so why would it be surprising they’d do it to other beloved franchises?

      • Shadow says:

        Not this again…

        The original X-COM and XCOM:EU are essentially different games, and one’s not necessarily more complex than the other. I ultimately like the former better, but mainly because the fundamental focus seemed to change in the latter, to a strategy RPG as opposed to a strategy game with RPG bits.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yes, in many ways I like that they went in a new direction (and Xenonauts is almost out, I think, if you want a more classic X-COM experience). The one thing that limits my will to replay is that it doesn’t feel like you’re fighting an enemy so much as beating an algorithm – the enemy actions on the campaign map are all random events or scripted events that trigger when you decide to trigger them, while the enemy AI in the battles seem to be triggered by moving into your squad’s field of vision, rather than aggressively pre-empting your movements, leading to the crazy situation where you’re careful to inch forwards not just to give you a standoff distance on melee units but also to ensure you only “activate” one or two enemies at once.

        • LionsPhil says:

          To that extent, I’m quite glad they don’t have the rights to the AC name any more.

          This game can be a different spin, under its different name, on different standing. “I love SMAC” won’t become ambiguous over if you mean the classic, or this. It won’t make a mess of SMAC’s canon, which was one of its big strengths. I mean, yes, obviously we’re going to compare, but there’s a fairly clean inspired-by-not-remake-of break here.

          (Excited excited excited excited.)

          • Geebs says:

            I think “I love smack” will always be a pretty ambiguous thing to say…

      • Diatribe says:

        This attitude is really annoying. We get it, you like the classic games. Guess what? They’re fiddly, the UI’s usually are horrible, and they tend to have long tedious bits (e,g, equipping your guys in classic x-com before every mission, and trying to find that last F*&@ing alien). Try playing a cult classic 15-20 year old game that you have never played before – chances are, you’ll find large parts of it really annoying.

        So when developers re-imagine a series, they bring modern game design to it. Yes, that usually means taking out the fiddly boring time-wasting bits (“streamlining”). Frankly, when they do this the result is usually better than when they just update the graphics. Compare Nu-Sid Meier’s Pirates to Nu-Sid Meier’s Xcom. Pirates is basically a reskin of the old game, adding in dancing (blech) and an escape from jail sequence, while generally retaining almost everything from the original game with a few usability and graphical changes and it was a much less interesting game than Nu-Xcom.

        Like most games of its time, SMAC had boring fiddly bits. Designing every new unit. Civ 2 combat. Planet attacks that escalated as time went on, rather than subsiding. The endgame. If they can improve on those, this will be a great successor. Don’t flip out just because it’s not going to be a carbon copy with updated graphics.

        • razorramone says:

          The end game was the best part of AC! It turned into a huge dystopia – frequent wildlife attacks, nukes, ever-increasing global warming, chemical warfare. The ending was always very grim, unlike civ games that tend to feel static and ‘finished;.

  3. guygodbois00 says:

    They look so young, should Les Grognards be worried?

  4. Jooki says:

    You’d like to explore and populate whole 3dimensional planets in realtime? Then you might give our serious indie game Imagine Earth a try. There was an article about on RPS hours ago… we are doing crowdfunding at the moment and have a playable demo out there!

    • lordcooper says:

      I’m cancelling my pledge because of your spamming.

      • vlonk says:

        This is a developer who pores his lifeblood into his project. Advertising is always a grab for your attentation so, yes, it wants to intrude into your life. But come on have some heart for the man! I feel that this inobtrusive three-liner in a commentary thread to a very related product is very much acceptable. That is not a spambot at work who has a neighbors daughter wife that makes a gazillion dollar over the internet. I rather have him spread his vision and risk wasting my attention then miss out on genre-related similar game recommendations.

        Also, Mr. Developer, you are running a risky gambit here because metrics show time after time that game-demos actually decrease your sale figures. Handle with care.

      • Frank says:

        Surely, you jest.

        • vlonk says:

          I normally don’t jest, but when I do I do it in a very strange way. I see more text has to happen.

          Some ads are fine for me as long as this behaviour is in line with the RPS crews posting rules. A week ago we worshipped an add that promised a thousand things it cannot possibly fullfill as clever. Dishonest, irrational and breaking (at least german) advertisement law? Yes! Also oh so clever.

          Posting about your own game in related topics can very well be called a nuisance. Some people might see it as shameless even. Is it clever? I say: Yes, as long as you make more friends than enemies with it. In this case I condone it because it is actually just linking to another RPS post. In my opinion little harm done (as long as the RPS crew don’t oppose this in their TOS).

          Also in this short lived digital distribution age demos do hurt your revenue! No joke. There are sadly hard numbers backing this up. A better read than dry numbers is this: link to puppygames.net and this: link to gamasutra.com
          Short version: Since Indie games are a dime a dozen you should not give them away for free – even in little pieces – since you just give your customer what he wants for free.

          • KevinLew says:

            As a person that didn’t buy a game from Puppy Games after I tried the demo, let me explain why I didn’t. With a demo, people can have a better idea of what your game is and if they’ll like it. By removing the demo, then you’ll get game sales from fans that will simply buy it on faith alone, and later they won’t like it and won’t play it after an hour or so. There’s plenty of games that have released demos before I bought them and I still bought the game. For example, Plants vs. Zombies, Bastion, and Gunpoint.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yes, they say themselves that it’s partly the genre they’re making, and it’s not something that people will necessarily sink hundreds of hours into. Conversely, I’ve bought every Call of Duty game on PC that had a demo, and none that did not. Read into that anecdote what you will.

          • vlonk says:

            You are absolutely right. What the Dev in my example did WILL hurt his longterm success because his fanbase becomes unhappy. That is a bad result.

            But here we are talking about a Indie Dev who has no fanbase yet and needs to have a financial success or probably bury his independency.

            link to store.steampowered.com
            Play the demo. Tell me why you still need to buy this game afterwards. You already had your chainsaw moments.
            From the RPS WOT:
            “If you’ve played the demo – and you really should – it’s basically that stretched out over 10 hours, for both good and ill. I like it, and I kept playing through to the end for this write-up despite being pretty damned sure I’d already seen everything it had to offer, but I almost wish I hadn’t played it – and instead had preserved the giddy buzz the demo gave me.”

            Same problem with small creative games. Protect the hull-breach before the science is leaking out! Make a sale before you give your (complete) creativity away for free in a demo.

            If he creates a fanbase and cannot sustain his independency off the first game he will likely move on (as will the fans).

            A satisfied customer is reluctant to pay money and moves on. It’s entertainment , consumers often are in a carefree mood and might forget to show their gratitude to the Dev. Also in this fast lived world most people are content with playing the beginning of a game and will not see it through to the end.

  5. Naug says:

    There’s a cut towards the end of the clip. I presume they cut out a Q&A section. Anyone found a vid of that yet?

  6. GenBanks says:

    I haven’t watched the video so I’ll just assume this wasn’t an announced feature… but it would be amazing if there were a way to take your Civ V saves and have them influence your start in Beyond Earth (as with Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV).

    • Gap Gen says:

      The video explains it as you picking a sponsor nation on Earth that gives you certain bonuses – it’s set 250 years in the future and the example they gave was a sort of pan-Asian superstate. From that it sounds like they’re not allowing you to upload your Civ V factions, alas, but perhaps mods will hack in something of that after release?

      • Shadow says:

        The civs as they existed in Civ5 likely don’t exist as such anymore by the time of Beyond Earth. Not even the United States, which the panel implied had become something called the American Reclamation Corporatocracy (ARC). And gathering from the trailer, I think it’s safe to expect some sort of Brazil-led South American superpower as well.

        Counting the Pan-Asian superstate, however, that still leaves 5 factions unaccounted for. I can predict a future incarnation of the European Union, a futuristic Russia (Empire Earth’s Novaya Russia comes to mind) and likely a super Japan unless that’s part of the Pan-Asian faction. But that one seemed Chinese-dominated and I somehow doubt Japan would submit to that.

        Further possibilities are India and maybe an Egypt-led African faction, if the pyramids in the trailer foreshadow anything.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yes, the four modern-day nations shown in the first trailer are the US, Egypt, France and Brazil. You’re probably right that they’ll try to go for loosely continent-based superstates.

        • Leb says:

          Well if its anything like SMAC, the nations on earth won’t have too much to do with the factions on the new planet – as those factions split apart before landing on the new planet based off of ideologies

          • Shadow says:

            From what I gathered, your “faction” in Beyond Earth is the sum of your Earth sponsor (one of the aforementioned Terran powers), your supposedly customizable leader and some choices you make before the game starts, like apparently choosing what to fit your colony ship with.

            It’s different from SMAC, where you had a single large ship, the UNS Unity, containing all the colonizers, who as a group broke apart into several ideological factions when the vessel malfunctioned around the events that led to their arrival to Planet.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    I found the panel encouraging, and certainly even if it’s nothing like SMAC it should be a good game. My main worry is that a lot of what gave SMAC grounding was its understanding of culture and philosophy from across human history, and most of what they’ve cited are science fiction influences (someone even joked about throwing history books into the bin, although that was the panel host). Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great SF, but the best stuff is grounded in what has come before, and some of the best in terms of technical ideas are also the worst at portraying the human aspect of the setting and story. The strength of SMAC was that it got game writing, and the mixture of historical and invented quotes gave the sense that it was the continuation of human history, not some fantastical space saga with laser guns and pasty-headed aliens. The danger for me would be that the designers fail to get across this sense of how the humans on the planet are carrying mountains of cultural baggage with them even as they try to carve out something new. I guess we’ll see what happens once it comes out.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yes, this.

      • vlonk says:

        One of them made a very good prediction that after the Earthrise picture the next big thing to come will be a picture of the planet that is to be colonized by humanity (somewhere around minute 10 in the video). That was a very passionate speech. I would bet this will not be the next AssCreed “Press B to free the slaves” game.

        Then again the people in charge all seem very young and are probably more than 10 years younger than Sid Meier when he sat down for SMAC (age 45 when SMAC came out). SMAC had a pitch-perfect cohesion of all assets and the story. Tough to lead your team to such a success, even if you have a good blueprint to go by.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I think SMAC’s tone was set partly by Brian Reynold’s background in philosophy more than anything – then again, games are a team effort, and they can shape up in different ways. The designer is crucial in setting the tone and direction, but you still need good writers, voice actors, etc. Again, I’m hopeful, and even if it doesn’t touch SMAC on worldbuilding or narrative, I suspect that the game will still be good on its own merits. In a way it’s good that Firaxis has such a high turnover of lead designers; it allows the series to grow in new directions and for a fresh set of eyes to come to the project, rather than refining into a dead end.

          • vlonk says:

            Refine too much and they run off to build their own studio anyway.

  8. Sharongamer978 says:

    Looks great. I’ve always loved Sid games, especially Civilizations. Cant wait for this to come out.

  9. Chris says:

    Fuck, that panel was obnoxious.

  10. 2helix4u says:

    I’m sad that the tone has changed from “we wrecked earth and have to live somewhere else, is humanity fundamentally destructive?” to “the wacky asians blew eachother up and made earth cloudy, lets go on a heroic quest to colonise a new planet while crowds cheer!”

    I guess if its a continuation of Civ it’d be a (awesome) slap in the face to Civ fans if basically all Civ games ended in the destruction of planet earth and exodus of humanity.