Jeff Briggs, President and CEO, Firaxis Games
1. You mentioned at E3, this game was a revision of past Civ games, combining the fun elements of Civ I and cutting down some of the more involved parts of Civ II. In what specific ways have you simplified the complexities of Civ II?
Jeff: We’ve kept the depth of Civ II but made it more fun and interactive through some really unique and creative gameplay systems. For instance, with the diplomacy system, we’ve kept the conversational interface from Civ II and added a "bargaining table" that can be used to conduct detailed negotiations with history’s great leaders (whose expressions change depending on the types of deals you try to broker with them!). Everything is available for trade including treaties, gold, goods, technologies, cities, units, world maps, communication with other civilizations, etc. Players will be able to mix-and-match deals without any restrictions.
2. Describe the role of Wonders in Civ III. Have you aimed to change their influence on play?
Jeff: We spent a substantial amount of time revisiting Wonders. The first thing we did was break up some major wonders into small wonders. These are wonders that can be built once per civ, instead of normal wonders which can be built once per world. The Manhattan Project is an example of this. Why should all civilizations be able to build nuclear weapons after YOUR civ did all the work. Now each civilization will need to make these kinds of breakthroughs themselves. The other huge impact is the culture points these structures produce. Now even obsolete wonders can have dramatic and lasting impacts on your nation’s future.
3. At E3, you describe a slimmed down interface with significantly less information screens to view. How has this changed Civ III? Is it inspire quicker or easier play? Will the stat buffs be satisfied?
Jeff: The interface has been streamlined to keep players immersed in the beautiful world we’ve created in the game and cut down on game interruptions - like the popups in previous Civs. We broke all popups into three categories. Those localized to an area, but require no user input, now appear on the map itself, near the area of focus. Those that were not localized to an area, but still didn't require user interaction became adviser messages. The last kind, those that require some user interaction (such as a picking a new advance to research), still stop the game. The boon of this system is that approximately 2/3rds of the game stopping information windows no longer stop the game. It'll be appreciated immediately by anyone familiar with the series.
4. Will the game continue beyond actual victory - can you live on Alpha Centauri? Are there plans to link Civ III with SMAC?
Jeff: This was explored but, linking games that are released 2 years apart is a big challenge, and one that we didn't eventually believe made that much sense.
5. Explain the different ways a player can be expansionist - apart from the obvious military sense. IS it possible to win by NOT being expansionist?
Jeff: Yes. The biggest method is through culture. Not only do cities of weak culture sometimes join neighboring strong culture civs, but you can literally flood their territory with yours, swallowing their cities whole. The penalty for this is the maintenance costs. It's a rare game where you can both culturally and military acquire new territory. An interesting element of this kind of peaceful expansion is nationality. Citizens of cities that are taken through war are slowly eliminated, but major cities can be captured unscathed through culture. However, while they are willing to join your nation, these citizens maintain their nationality of origin, causing all kinds of problems. For instance, espionage missions against cities of your nationality enjoy an increased chance of success. The cultural victory condition is the ultimate turtle player’s road to success. Get a city with a size 6 territory radius and you've done it (much, much, MUCH harder than it sounds).
6. Does Civ III accommodate a wide variety of strategies, such as pure military expansionism or peaceful diplomacy? To what extent will the game reflect real world political mechanics?
Jeff: Absolutely. For instance, trade forces players to stabilize continental arrangements that they come to rely on in all facets of gameplay. Unless you're very lucky, you must participate in cordial relationships with a few of your neighbors. Without this, you won't be able to do more than crawl through the eras. Playing a straight military game in this type of environment means alliances, which means some diplomatic finesse is required. Likewise, it's entirely possible to have another nation fight all of your wars for you. You have to be careful not to fall too far behind this kind of ally (they're often taking and keeping cities for instance), but if you've got the gold or goods, you can play a fairly sophisticated “puppet master” style game.
7. In the past, many found that the "best" way to play Civ games was in a purely military terms.> By integrating culture more in a territorial sense, was your goal to make infrastructure more relevant to combat, or to offer more various ways to win?
Jeff: In part. Continental stability is a situation where everyone benefits. When wars break out, infrastructure always takes a hit (necessary for trade), which leads to civil unrest. The interdependence of nations really changes the goals for a military focused civ. We've also included a number of ways to improve your defensive position that can make it very difficult for others to capture your cities.
8. What is your view on turn-based vs. real-time strategy? Have you made any effort in Civ III to blur the lines, as some other games have (specifically RPGs)?
Jeff: Civilization is proudly a turn based game. This gives players the ability to model systems (and open them up for experimentation) in greater detail. To be honest, I've always been kind of skeptical of the popular belief that turn based games aren't mass market. Almost every card game and board game in existence is turn based. I think there is something inherently clear and fun about turns.
9. Fundamentalism has been removed as a type of government. Are they any other changes in governments? Is ideology further integrated into Civ III in the way trade is?
Jeff: The biggest change is that the number of units you can support for free is based on your government type AND the number and types of your cities. Larger cities allow the free support units, but the exact number they allow is dictated by the government type.
10. Are the mechanics of trade (i.e. building caravans) entirely transparent? Discuss the difference between trade routes and territory for game purposes? Can one be attacked independent of the other?
Jeff: Sure. Trade routes are always utilizing existing infrastructure, so attacking those is how you interrupt the routes.
11. Is there a definite change in focus in Civ III, towards a more communal view of global relations? Can we still butt heads?
Jeff: It’s your world to rule…you can do it peacefully or militarily…and have loads of fun either way.