Posts Tagged ‘Sid Meier’s Civilization IV’

Jon Shafer on designing Civilization 5, joining Paradox and making strategy games better

Jon Shafer was 21 years old when he became lead designer of Civilization V. Now working at Paradox on an unannounced project and on his own historical strategy game At The Gates in his spare time, he says he’s learning from the likes of Spelunky along with the more obvious strategic influences. We spoke about how the second half of every Civ sucks, the part the series played in his life, the perils of boredom in strategy design, how much we love maps, and what the future holds for both Shafer and Paradox.

I began by asking how he ended up sitting at the Paradox Convention, in Stockholm, the city that has now been his home for two weeks: “It’s quite a long story, actually.”

That story begins in Denver, around 2003.

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How historical games integrate or ignore slavery

Video games always come with an expectation that the player will suspend disbelief to some extent. Genetically engineered super-soldier clones don’t exist, radiation has never and will never work like that, and overweight Italian plumbers could never make that jump. In most cases, if we are unwilling or unable to suspend our disbelief, we may well struggle to enjoy the game and our questioning of the basics of its ‘reality’ would probably make us insufferable to be around.

There are some games however, where the realities of our world are key to enjoying the game. These are the builders like City Skylines, simulators and sports games like Prison Architect and FIFA, and even crime games like Grand Theft Auto. One genre has a particular problem when it comes to maintaining a foot in the real world yet still creating a setting where one can have fun without becoming mired in morally questionable events and choices: historically based games. And among historical games, few subjects are as complex to represent as slavery. Many have tried, from Europa Universalis IV and Victoria II to Civilization and Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, and in this article I’ll investigate the portrayal and use of slavery in these games and more to explore what they get right, what they get wrong, and how games could do better in future.

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Civilization VI: Four Hours Of Wars And Wonders

Last month I spent four hours playing Civilization VI on a very hot day in central London. I came away wishing I could play for another four hundred hours, and also wishing that I had an ice cream. Mint and choc chip preferably.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what Civ VI is doing and how its many systems create a brilliant competitive race through history while also producing some weird tensions around the idea of what a civilization actually is in the context of the game. Are cultures defined by the choices they make, by their surroundings, their neighbours, by determination or by chance? Whatever the answer might be, one thing is sure: Cleopatra hates me.

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Former Civ IV Lead On Strategy’s Future, Making Another Civ

Once upon a time, Soren Johnson was the main brain behind Civilization IV. Now he has a mohawk. An indie mohawk. Also, he’s making a game about managing a crazy intricate (yet disarmingly accessible) economy on Mars. Last time around we talked about how a Mars economy simulator even works, boardgames, and the current state of strategy gaming, and today we continue that discussion with the future of strategy (and its alleged “death”), MOBAs, the advantages and disadvantages of working at a company like Firaxis, whether or not Johnson will ever make a game on the scale of Civilization ever again, and why Johnson is *glad* that big publishers aren’t paying attention to strategy games. It’s all below. 

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Former Civilization IV Lead On Mars Game, Revitalizing RTS

Mohawk Games is an excellent name for a company. And so it is that former Civilization IV lead designer and Spore man Soren Johnson approaches me sporting the company haircut. It’s a recent trim job for the old headshrub, he tells me, but he wears it well. However, the brain beneath the mohawk – the mind behind some of strategy gaming’s greatest greats – is the real main attraction here. Johnson’s goal is to design “core strategy games” in conjunction with Civ V art director Dorian Newcomb and in partnership with Galactic Civilizations (no relation) developer Stardock.

First on the docket? A still unnamed Mars economy RTS with no units and 13 different resource types. Is it madness? Probably, but it’s the good kind, the kind that drives a man to shave off most of his hair before a business conference, the kind that sounds wicked fun when people exchange fireside tales of their favorite matches.

Go below for a discussion with both men about how the game works, boardgame influences, how videogames might be able to replicate boardgaming’s face-to-face appeal, designing strategy that’s extremely complex but also accessible, release plans, and heaps more.

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Yikes: GameSpy Shutdown Will Affect A Lot Of Games

I always did enjoy how poorly drawn the GameSpy mascot was - Xs for eyes or not.

GameSpy, a relic from times long before the modern Internet – or indeed, games and spies – existed is closing down. This on its own is not surprising as the multiplayer service is, by modern standards, buggy and kind of a joke, but it leaves a startling number of games with their e-wings clipped and their online-heaving hams strung in its wake. How many, you ask? Well, Reddit’s /r/Games board compiled a massive list, and the results aren’t pretty.

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A Game And A Chat: RPS BFF GDC Ultra Force Go, Day Two

The GDC War Train of Impossible Enrichment trundles on, and RPS is on the scene with gusto, aplomb, and a stuffed lion. Each day this week, I’ll be gathering impromptu panels of colossal brains inside frail (but very handsome) human bodies to dissect the show piece-by-piece. Yesterday, John, Cara, Hayden, and I did so by crawling into bed and talking about our socks. Also games. But day two was different. John fell to exhaustion, and Cara was carried away by a throng of adoring fans, presumably to be worshipped and then made into soup. Fortunately I was able to drag Gunpoint creator Tom Francis, writer and camera whisperer Nika Harper, and Incredipede creator Colin Northway over forests, woods, hills, and plains to fill their not-shoes.
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Soren Song: Civ IV Designer Founds Mohawk Games

Soren Johnson named it after his hair.

Soren Johnson is a clever man. He was a programmer on Civilization 3, the lead designer on Civilization IV, and then he moved over to Maxis to work on Spore. Now he’s building himself a new home by founding Mohawk Games, a studio dedicated to creating “core strategy games”. Read the rest of this entry »

Civ IV Accidentally Wins A Grammy

Fellow writers of RPS: you have betrayed me. And on this, the day of love? You wound me, sirs, you wound me. The title track from Civilization – aka The Greatest Gaming Moment of 2005 – won a Grammy at the weekend. It is the first piece of music originally recorded for a videogame to ever scoop a Grammy win. We should have celebrated this. We should have posted three, four, five times about it. Yet no, you did not post it during my absence today. HAVE YOU NO LOVE IN YOUR HEARTS, SIRS?*

It is the song of union, the song of peace, the song of harmony. Come, let us reforge this bond between us! Let us sing it together.
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Fall From Heaven Standalone Falls

This is a sad one. We reported that the minds behind the Civ ultramod Fall From Heaven were working on a standalone commercial game in the same universe. Well, no longer. Kael reports that the game – “Fall From Heaven Tactics” – is being put on ice due to the funding falling through. I’ve republished the short Q&A below…
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A Dozen Or So Hours With: Civilization V

A publisher mandate will of course demand that Elizabeth be changed to Bertie

‘Art Deco’ is basically the only school of design I’m at all familiar with. My own approach to design in any regard doesn’t go any further than “make most of the colours the same.” So when I see something that’s Art Deco, I become slightly excited. I recognised a thing that I know! I can sound very vaguely learned! So has it been with Civilization V, a beta build of which I’ve cuddled up to over the last few weeks. “The menus are Art Deco,” I say whenever anyone asks me what the game is like. Then I nod wisely. Then they ask me about hexagons, and I punch them in the teeth.
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Fall From Heaven Climbs To Heaven

In the grand tradition of mods gone pro, such as Counter-Strike, Killling Floor and that unplayable Doom 2 level with 354 Cacodemons I made back in 1995, fantasy-themed Civilization IV uber-total conversion Fall From Heaven is going standalone.

How so? We don’t know. With what engine? We don’t know. With which publisher? We don’t know. WE DON’T KNOW. We know only that it is, in theory, enormously good news – Fall From Heaven has accrued the kind of status that a good 50% of people you mention Civ 4 to will immediately name-check it, so it’s not really a surprise that this is happening. There are any number of specialist strategy PC publishers who would be insane not to pick it up. Trailer of the still-existent mod version below, trailer fans.
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Colonization II!

I do love the Dutch. And in the game.

Woohooheeheehahah. First Beyond Good & Evil 2 and now this. It’s been quite a month for shock returns.

Yes, my favourite Civilization game that isn’t a Civilization game is returning: as a Civilization game. Civ IV: Colonization is to be a standalone expansion for, clearly, Civ IV. Once again, the aim is the turn-based establishment of the New World, and freedom from the money-grabbing motherland, by conquest, trade or diplomacy and… well, pretty much no more details so far. Well, except for one more screenshot, a release date and a typically chipper Sid Meier quote, which are all beneath the cut.

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