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Sid Meier: A chat with a videogame legend

The legendary game designer chats about the development of his flagship ”Civilization” title for Xbox 360, PS3, and DS

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In the world of PC gaming, Sid Meier has created a brand name as recognized (and admired) as Mercedes or Apple. He’s been crafting best-selling titles for the mouse-and-keyboard crowd since the early ’80s — and they know his name above the title guarantees a satisfying and intellectually challenging experience. His strategy-simulation series Civilization is one of the industry’s most successful franchises. Now he’s bringing its ”one more turn” addictiveness to console gamers with his latest creation: Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution. We sat down with the recent Guinness Book honoree to talk about a wide range of topics, naturally beginning with…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe Civilization for those unfamiliar with the series?
SID MEIER:
Civilization is a game that lets you create your own unique history of the world. You start with just a small band of settlers at the dawn of civilization, and you found cities, build armies, negotiate with leaders, discover cool technologies — as we say: you basically lead your people from the Stone Age to the Space Age. Along the way, you explore the world and create great wonders. Famous people may come to live in your city: maybe Albert Einstein will come to your city. And you’re competing in this world against four other civilizations led by great leaders like Napoleon, Gandhi, Caesar, Genghis Khan. There are four different ways to win the game — wielding power militarily, economically, with technology (by building a spaceship) or culture. You’re in a race to be the world’s greatest civilization. It takes anywhere from two to four hours to play a game, and you can play either single player or multiplayer (supported through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network). The latest version is designed specifically for the consoles, and really takes advantage of their graphic capabilities, like in animation or special effects. It’s a lot of fun to lead your people through thousands of years of history.

So, as in previous versions of your game, players can witness and alter major events from history?
History is kind of a scary word; it conjures up thick textbooks. You lead your people through real-world challenges: you make all the decisions about what you build, where you explore, how you interact with other leaders. And you can do it in a fun, easy way, but you do feel as though you’ve created a story that’s unique to you — based on your decision-making, your leadership.

Of course, it’s amazing to go from the Stone Age to the Space Age in a single gaming session…
Yes, you start in 4000 B.C. and experience thousands of years of history in just a few hours. In that time, you’ll build armies starting with phalanxes and legions, all the way up to rifleman, tanks, and even nuclear weapons. Throughout, you’ll be constantly uncovering new things, all of which will provide you with new technology, new units, and new things to build. And because it’s a turn-based game, you can take as much time as you want to think about what you’re doing. It’s an epic game, but the gameplay is very manageable.

Civilization has always been a PC title. What was your motivation for bringing it to consoles?
This new generation of consoles can do amazing things, especially in regard to graphics, connectivity, and multiplayer modes. We’re also seeing that consoles are being played by a wide range of ages: it’s not just for kids anymore. Plus, it just seemed like the right time to introduce something a little bit different for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

NEXT PAGE: ”I saw Revolution as an opportunity to introduce Civ to a new audience, and correct some of the mistakes I made in the original.”