Interviews// Braving Civilization V's New World

Posted 16 May 2013 16:30 by
Civilization V might well have changed the classic formula a bit when it launched back in 2010, but it ultimately still retained that compulsive gameplay that's so integral to the series' success. Firaxis has fine-tuned the experience further over the years, and plans to continue doing so with upcoming expansion Brave New World.

You can read all about the new expansion and what it does in our special preview feature. Give it a once-over, and when you're done continue on here to learn more from the developer. Lead Designer Ed Beach speaks on the Zulu, game balancing and the future of turn-based strategy games.

SPOnG: First, could we get a little background information on yourself? What interested you about working on video games and how did you get into the industry?

Ed Beach: Prior to working in the videogame industry, I was a software developer for NASA, after that I went to work for BreakAway Games here in Maryland in 1999. In my spare time, I designed board games, probably the best-known of which is ?Here I Stand,? where players control one of the great European powers during the Protestant Reformation.

I came to Firaxis in 2008 to help work on Civilization, a series I was already very familiar with having led the development of the 2003 expansion pack Civ III: Conquests (jointly developed by BreakAway and Firaxis).

Ed Beach
Ed Beach
SPOnG: The new features added in Brave New World focus on the end game. Do you feel that development of the original Civilization V perhaps missed this side of the experience?

Ed Beach: There were a lot of innovations in Civ V ? the move to hexes and away from stacks of armies, is one example ? and we concentrated on getting those major systems right in the initial release. However, during the initial development, we were constantly saying to ourselves: ?You know, there?s more we could do here,? or ?We should totally go back and revisit X at some point.?

Civilization is a game that lends itself very well to expansion on the base game, and so we?ve been looking at ways to make all the parts of the game as compelling and interesting as possible. Gods & Kings added religion and espionage to the early and mid-game, and now we?re focusing on additional detailed systems (Trade, Culture, Archaeology, World Congress, Ideologies), some of which impact late and end gameplay.

SPOnG: How much of the content here is in response to fan demand? You must be aware of online comments about Portugal's inclusion, for instance.

Ed Beach: We are definitely aware of what our fans are saying. We read fan forums regularly, and we know that there are certain Civs that people have been asking for years. Portugal, Korea, and Poland were definitely Civs that we added as a result of people?s enthusiasm for seeing them in the game.

SPOnG: Can you explain how 'theming' a city works, and why it is important for a cultural victory?

Ed Beach: Combining Great Works of a similar type in the same building gives you a significant boost to the Tourism and Culture output of those Great Works. Tourism is the degree to which your culture influences the rest of the world. It?s sort of an offensive stat, where your Culture is more of a defensive stat. If you?re shooting to win the game through a Culture Victory by becoming influential over the rest of the Civilizations, then you?ll definitely want to optimize your Tourism levels, and theming is important for that.

SPOnG: The Zulu have returned as an antagonistic empire, but was it difficult to ensure that this force didn't become the new Barbarians?

Ed Beach: The Barbarians are merely an obstacle to overcome during the early part of the game, while you?re expanding into the world. The Zulu are definitely a Civ with a powerful military that shines during the early game and that can threaten to win at any time. They?re maybe most analogous to the Aztecs, so if you start a game and the first person you run into in the Ancient Era is Shaka, you?ll probably want to prioritize Bronze Working tech for the spearmen. Defenses will be in order!

SPOnG: Do you feel that the PC gaming landscape, particularly in the sim and RTS genres, is undergoing a bit of a paradigm shift to embrace online technologies? What is your opinion of requiring a persistent internet connections, and the problems that can arise from implementing such a requirement?

Ed Beach: Because Civ is a turn-based game, and the preponderance of the game is played single-player, we don?t have the same sorts of concerns that you see in the RTS genre, or any game where there?s a shared world time between players.

SPOnG: Firaxis had a good stab at taking Civilization to consoles with Civ Revolution. Do you have plans to revisit console development for the series?

Ed Beach: Civilization Revolution has also been adapted to iOS and is popular on these devices, so I think it?s demonstrated the strength of the Civ series. We may revisit the idea at some point in the future, but right now our focus is on making Civilization V the best experience we can.

SPOnG: Is Brave New World the final expansion to come for Civ V, or is there more to come in the future?

Ed Beach: With Brave New World, we?ve been able to take a detailed second pass back through all the periods represented in Civ V, so we do look at it as a pretty comprehensive Civ V experience. But we?ve got plenty of ideas to keep enhancing it, so if time and interest allows, Civ V could see some future additions.

SPOnG: What innovations do you see taking hold in the RTS genre in the future?

Ed Beach: I?m not sure about RTS games per se, but for turn-based strategy games there?s definitely lots of interest. XCOM: Enemy Unknown did a great job of raising awareness of the genre for people who didn?t traditionally consider themselves strategy fans.

We?re seeing more gaming on portable devices like tablets and mobile, and those games are becoming more sophisticated and covering a wider range of genres. I think it?s a great time to be making strategy games!

Many thanks to Ed for his time.

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