Many of us have played Civilization/Civilization II for a long time. However, I think most Civers don't know much about Sid Meier. There are just too few articles about Sid on the internet...
I was absolutely thrilled when I stumbled upon this long and detailed article titled "The Sid Meier Legacy" last night. It is about 20 pages in length if you print it out and was written by GameSpot in 1998, before Alpha Centauri was released. Even better, it included a big interview! It's odd that I missed this article and didn't see any civ site mention the article back in 1998.
~ Thunderfall, 9/29/2000.
Sid Meier isn't the most talented programmer the world has ever seen. He doesn't lie awake nights striving for the most exquisitely optimized 3D engine, and you don't have to own the latest state-of-the-art computer to play his games either - an oddity in an industry obsessed with pushing the envelope almost until it shreds.
But it's the rare gamer indeed who doesn't own one - or more likely several - of Sid Meier's games. The body of Sid's work can be seen as a microcosm of the industry's journey from the early Apple and Commodore 64 games to today's hi-tech PCs, and for that alone it has historical significance. But the reason Sid Meier stands apart from other designers is that many of his older games stand as much more than museum pieces, even in today's graphics-intensive market: Not only are EGA/VGA titles like Railroad Tycoon and Pirates! still on the shelves, Civilization II is also selling quite well, more than two years after its initial release.
The Sid Meier philosophy has always been to keep the pace of the game moving, and to keep it fun. Throughout his career, Sid has managed, much in the same manner as a good film director or novelist, to cut to the essence of whatever secret he's letting us in on. As a result, every Sid Meier game is worthwhile, even to those only marginally interested in the subject matter. At a time in his career when most designers would be happy to retire, legacy intact, Sid continues to look for new challenges - like this past year's Gettysburg and the upcoming Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. As long as Sid keeps his passion about crafting games that he wants to play, it's a good bet that gamers everywhere will share his enthusiasm.
Join us for a tour of Sid Meier's games, from the early obscure titles to the well-known classics. We'll even peek into some corners that Sid himself would probably wish would stay hidden, but that's half the fun, especially when we hear it from Sid himself.
The legend of Sid Meier begins, appropriately enough, with a tall tale. Sid Meier and Bill Stealey were playing an arcade flight combat game, and Bill - a former military pilot - was amazed that Sid could consistently rack up higher scores.
After humbling Bill (and Stealey being humble about anything is your first clue that this is a fairy tale), Sid pointed out that the AI of the enemy arcade pilot was so predictable that he could easily figure out what it was going to do. Moreover, Sid said he could design a better one, so the story goes, in two weeks. Bill took Sid up on the bet by giving the engineer a job, the two men formed MicroProse, and their vision led them to fame and fortune.
Certainly this makes for a great story, and like most tall tales, it has a kernel of truth at its center. But it's been more than a little embellished over the years, and it leaves out some critical facts. Sid and Bill kept their day jobs for the first several months, making MicroProse one of many "garage operations" to appear in the budding computer industry in the '80s. It would be some time before the "Bill and Sid show" became the corporate giant known as MicroProse (and even longer before financial troubles forced MicroProse's merger with Spectrum HoloByte - but that's another story).
Needless to say, Sid needed more than a couple of weeks to design the game. Looking back on it, Solo Flight seems primitive, but it was a step up from the pitiful AI common in arcade machines of the era. In that respect, Sid achieved his goal, and the lessons he learned here would serve him in good stead when he moved on to Hellcat Ace (another 1984 release) and later to real flight sims like 1988's F-19 Stealth Fighter.
Bill Stealey and I were working for General Instrument Corporation. Bill was in business development and I was a systems analyst. I had finally gotten a personal computer - which was the Atari 800 - probably six months before. I had really held off on getting a personal computer because they were all very hardware oriented. But the Atari 800 came out, and it was finally a computer that didn't have switches and paper tape - you could actually program it - so I got into making some games on it.
I ran into Bill Stealey who is always telling his Air Force stories, so he started telling them. I said, "Well you know, I like computer games and I'm working on one with airplanes in it," and he said, "Oh? Let's start a business." And I said, "Well, that's an interesting idea."
We wandered around - this was in Las Vegas - and we dropped by this arcade which had a game called Red Baron, a World War I airplane game. Bill sat down and played it, and he shot down a couple planes, and then he kind of got wasted. Then I sat down and played it, and I shot down a lot more planes. He said, "How did you do that? I'm a hotshot Air Force fighter jockey. You can't be shooting down more planes than me." And I said, "Well, I noticed just watching the game that the key is you don't want to let them get behind you. When they get behind you, there's no way you can ever shoot them down." So he said, "Hey, that's pretty clever."
There was a bond made there. I think Bill respected the fact that there was maybe more to these computer games, but he was interested in the sales and marketing side, and he had kind of the drive and the personality, and I was interested in the creative side and how these games were put together and what made them tick and what the strategies were and things like that.
So we kind of shortly after that decided to form MicroProse, and it started off very small. The irony is we thought we were behind the curve, that the industry had already peaked, and we were just trying to catch up. This was like 1981, 1982. In hindsight, it was a great time, the timing was excellent. It was still a time when a couple guys in a basement could duplicate their own disks, put them in plastic baggies with a four-page photocopied manual, and actually sell a product like that. It was a great learning experience. I think a lot of what makes me kind of able to keep doing games is the fact that I was there at the beginning and that I don't have to play catch-up all the time. It's kind of like I've been there since the start, so I've seen the evolution and have a bit of a sense of history and perspective.
If a game such as Silent Service tried to pass itself off as a simulation in today's realism-and-detail-are-everything market, it would be torpedoed almost before it left port. In 1985, however, action-oriented sims were only a couple of notches more realistic than arcade games, and Silent Service fit the bill quite nicely, becoming MicroProse's (and Sid Meier's) first big hit.
The WWII missions were interesting but featured neither the defining campaign of Sid's later Gunship nor the gritty realism of Red Storm Rising. The sequel, Silent Service II, improved on a lot of Meier's concepts and added much-improved graphics and sound. But it would be a mistake to simply dismiss the original. Silent Service is a perfect example of Sid's philosophy of "when fun and realism clash, fun wins."
Submarine games were all the rage in 1985, and while most of them are now forgotten, gamers remember Silent Service fondly. With this game, Sid began to emerge as a designer who could bring a fresh approach to any genre, a talent that would serve him well for the rest of his career: a good example would be 1997's Sid Meier's Gettysburg.
MicroProse was a pretty linear evolution. We expanded by a factor of about three [employees] every year for quite a while. We started off with basically me writing the games, and I had a couple of my friends doing conversions (we all had day jobs; this was kind of our hobby). In those days, I was doing the Atari [conversion], but we also had to convert to Commodore, Apple, Sinclair; there was a whole bunch of machines running around. We gradually hired people. I think Andy Hollis, who now works at Origin, was the first programmer that came on board. We hired a salesperson. It was a pretty linear growth.
For the first year or so, we weren't sure where things were going, so we tried to use part-time people, but after that, we hired full-time people. MicroProse was one of the first companies to go to Europe and set up its own sales and marketing organization and start to build the European market. It helped MicroProse a lot. They were actually distributing products from other companies. But the early years were a pretty steady growth, reflecting what the PC industry was doing.
One thing that I remember from those days is that the console business was fluctuating wildly. The Atari 2600 was there, and all of a sudden it was gone, and the Mattel, and Intelevision. These consoles would come and go. It was an incredible boom and bust cycle in consoles, whereas, over in PCs, we were kind of gradually, steadily growing a little bit every year. So [the growth of] MicroProse reflected the PC orientation as opposed to riding the roller coaster of console stuff.
It was the era of complicated board wargames, where phone books passed for rules, and every time fun and realism clashed, realism took center stage. The knock on computer wargames at this time was their relative lack of sophistication. So, never one to shirk from a challenge, Sid decided that he could re-create the board game experience on a computer.
Theoretically, with the computer handling all of the tedious bookkeeping chores, NATO should have been much simpler than a board game to play. It wasn't. Rather than formulating a strategy to keep the Warsaw Pact from overrunning Europe, most players spent time fighting the steep learning curve. Reviewers at the time evidently loved the game, but I suspect most of them were intimidated.
What NATO taught Sid was that complexity is never a substitute for depth. Later, Sid wargames would either be much simpler - and more fun - or (as with Civilization) would make their complexity more digestible with easily understood subsystems.
I played a lot of those kinds of games when I was a kid - the hexes and counters games - and I wanted to do one on the computer. I did NATO Commander. I probably learned that that was not a real fruitful direction to go. I think that style of game is OK on the computer, but you lose almost as much as you gain by putting it on the computer. You lose the scope of the map, the ability to take in everything at once. It's fun to have an opponent there all the time that the computer gives you, but I'm not sure those games are dramatically more fun on a computer than they are on paper. Whereas a game like Pirates or a game like F-15 or a game like Civilization are games that really are only as much fun as they are on the computer.
So the lessons from NATO Commander are probably more negative ones than positive. I thought it was a cool game, but it wasn't a direction where there was a lot more for me to do there.
Vietnam is a sensitive subject for Americans, even now, which makes it all the more surprising in retrospect that MicroProse would do a game on the subject. Truth is, if the game had been designed by anyone other than Sid Meier, MicroProse wouldn't have even considered it.
Conflict in Vietnam was designed in the early stage of Sid's career, which is best characterized as a relentless search for identity. Sid's enthusiasm, so evident in games such as Sid Meier's Pirates or Silent Service (both of which he would design in the next two years), was severely dampened here - mainly because everyone associated with the project wanted to treat the subject seriously.
On the other hand, Conflict in Vietnam was more accessible than NATO Division Commander, another high-complexity wargame designed by Sid during this period. It isn't as accurate a treatment as Nick Karp's old Vietnam board game (ironically designed about the same time and of similar complexity - you can still find copies in auctions at summer game conventions like GenCon or Origins).
If you're dying for a campaign-style Sid game, you're much better off playing the lighter affairs of Crusade in Europe or Decision in the Desert (provided you can find a Commodore 64 emulator). Or better yet, play some of the excellent scenario packs for Civilization II.
I think there are different styles of gamers. I like some element of competition. I don't need a game that has a score permanently displayed, which winds up as you do better. I like the idea that I can play once and play again and then be able to compare the two times and say, "I'm going to go for a better score or whatever." So there's a kind of middle ground of gamers that like some competition, some idea of being able to make progress. There are other gamers that don't need that to play a game. [In games] like SimCity or Flight Simulator, the model is basically the reward. You're not being scored, and there's not a real sense of competition. Then there are gamers on the other side who play games where scoring is the only thing - a Mario Brothers or something - where basically you're just going for the next score, the next level, the next whatever. I don't think there's a right or wrong way. It's just that there's a spectrum, and I like games that have some of both.
Crusade in Europe and Decision in the Desert marked Sid's departure from his more complex designs such as NATO Division Commander. Despite the fact that the manuals are too long (everyone knows that real gamers demand thorough manuals, then don't read them), these two titles are actually beer-and-pretzels games that have aged nicely. Problem is, if you don't have access to a Commodore 64 emulator, you can't play them (assuming you could stomach the ancient, cartoonish graphics).
The games offered World War II conflict on an easily accessible scale, with minimal worries about logistics and other nonentertaining items. Basically, you accepted your role as Eisenhower or Montgomery and cut to the chase. The interfaces wouldn't stand up to the Warcraft IIs of today, but they were fairly clean for the time. The campaigns were interesting, and the computer opponents of both games put up a good fight (especially when you take into account the limitations of coding AI in 64K memory).
Both games sold pretty well, but neither was a breakout hit.
Overall, Decision in the Desert was more realistic (mainly because the North African campaign was fairly limited in scope), and Crusade in Europe was more sheer fun. Sid seems reticent about doing this kind of campaign-style game again, but given the recent success of similar games such as Panzer General, you never know.
My approach to game design in general is that I will find a topic, like pirates or the Civil War or civilization, and say, OK, what's cool about this topic? What are the cool payoffs, and what's the fun that I want to have? And then I decide what's the genre that it falls into; what's the system that will do that.
A good example is Civilization. I knew I wanted a game [of Civilization] to start small, then build into this big, kind of Risk/Empire conquer-the-world kind of game.
My first approach was to take the SimCity real-time genre and say I'll do it in this genre. But after I played for a while, I decided this doesn't work. I need a different system to get the effect that I want. I went back to more of an Empire kind of approach.
I don't go about writing games to fit into a genre, make the topic fit the genre. It's more find the topic and figure out what style of gaming, what genre, is going to make it fun. That was certainly true of Pirates!, that I knew I wanted all the key scenes of a pirate movie: the ship battle, the sword fighting, all the characters. But I realized that it doesn't all fit into one genre. We needed some adventure, we needed to travel, we needed action scenes, we needed all these different things. So I did it as a hybrid basically because that was the only way to get all the cool things that I thought needed to be in the game into the game.
It debuted on the Commodore 64 and soon became one of the most popular games ever on the Macintosh. Sid Meier's Pirates! reached its creative peak, however, on the Amiga, where its sumptuous graphics and full stereo soundtrack - featuring a marvelous pirate soundtrack by Jeff Briggs - weren't surpassed on the PC for almost a decade.
Ostensibly, it's an adventure/role-playing game, where you attempt to carve out a nefarious reputation for your pirate captain before retiring or meeting with an untimely end. But at times, Pirates! is also a fast-action game, where you engage in sword fights (with your choice of refined rapier, basic longsword, or bloody cutlass) and exchange broadsides between vessels on the high seas. There is a definite strategy element, as you explore the Caribbean, traveling from one port to another in search of gold to plunder and enemies to overcome. Pirates! is even a real-time wargame - several years before these surged in popularity - as you maneuver your scurvy dogs over grassland, hills, and even swamps to approach walled towns, fighting everyone from townspeople armed with farm implements to elite Spanish pikemen and cavalry.
To this day, Pirates! is unique in offering the right balance of real-time and turn-based gaming. If you are into resource management, you can handle your ship's inventories and pore over virtual charts at leisure before leaving port, but once the anchor is raised, the game keeps moving as you meet one adventure after another.
And as with any great Sid Meier game, there is always plenty to do. Buying pieces of obscure maps may lead you to your long-lost sister or even buried treasure. After meeting with the colony governor to negotiate a Letter of Marque, you can converse with his beautiful daughters, flirting or even proposing marriage via a multiple choice menu.
It's hard to imagine a game more steeped in enjoyable period flavor - both historical and Hollywood - than Sid Meier's Pirates! It's unquestionably the best hybrid game ever designed for any platform, offering something for everyone, regardless of what gaming genre they usually prefer. Unless you're one of the few remaining Amiga faithful, pick up the Pirates! Gold version for the PC - just make sure to get the patch.
Pirates! just struck a chord with a lot of people. It was pretty unexpected, but I still get people who talk to me about Pirates! and say "When are you going to do another version of Pirates!?" or "That game was a lot of fun." Pirates! was basically my reaction to the adventure/RPG games that I'd played, and being frustrated with the games that were all about hit points and charisma points and pick up the stick.
For me, that was frustrating. I didn't want to spend three hours building up my hit points so I could challenge the next opponent. The idea of telling a story was kind of cool. The method it was being done in was very hackneyed. I don't know whether it came from paper gaming. It seemed to really not be computer-oriented - not what computers could do with adventures. So I did Pirates!. I thought, "This is the way I would like to see an adventure game done." Forget the points, the mathematics - just have an adventure. Go do things and wander around this world.
It was also a reaction against what I call the pick-up-the-stick games. You know, go in a room, look at the lamp, look at the drawer, open the drawer, close the door, turn on the light. Pirates! was a menu game; you had four options. You didn't have to worry about exhaustively investigating your environment for an hour before you had any fun. The idea was that there were three reasonable things you could do - pick one and move on. So it was kind of an adventure game for people who didn't like adventure games in a way, who weren't really into that technology of adventure gaming. A lot of people seemed to respond to that.
Before Tom Clancy became a weapons expert, political analyst, TV mogul, and a veritable network unto himself, he was just a storyteller - one talented enough to transform the arcane sensibilities of modern warfare into something fascinating for the average Joe. And while Clancy never became a hard-core gamer, Tom liked games; in particular, he liked the idea of turning his novels into games, for which the combat-rich Red Storm Rising novel was perfectly suited.
In Red Storm Rising, you portray a submarine captain, but all of the cozy arcade accouterments from Sid's earlier Silent Service are replaced by a gritty techno-realistic look. The game is played over a series of multiple sonar arrays, together with torpedo tracking and threat displays - enough grids to make you swear off graph paper forever - but it also offers plenty of eye candy, in the form of sinking ships and missile launches, to keep you coming back for more. The missions are the most varied of all Sid Meier sims: You stalk Soviet ICBM subs under the Arctic ice cap; stop your enemy from landing commando forces in Iceland; slip just offshore of the Karelian peninsula and level a land base with Tomahawk missiles; even get into "knife fights" with hunter-killer submarines.
Tom Clancy is so expensive now as to render the question of a Red Storm Rising II moot, which is a real shame. More recent submarine simulations, such as SSI's Silent Hunter, may offer more photo-realistic instrument displays, but nothing can quite capture the feel of involvement and psychological realism found in Red Storm Rising.
Each time Red Storm Rising was ported to another platform, it was tweaked to take advantage of each platform's strengths. If you use headphones when playing the Amiga version, for example, the sound quality is such that you learn to identify enemy vessels by their unique propeller noises - you feel almost like a real sonar operator! And as you win or lose missions, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. A bit melodramatic? Perhaps, but it's a wonderful way to design a game.
Red Storm Rising was the only license I've done. We wanted to do a modern submarine simulation, especially after Silent Service had been pretty successful. When I read the book Red Storm Rising, I really enjoyed it. I was really leery of doing licenses, but Bill (Stealey) kind of convinced me. It was actually not as complicated as we thought, but we had to kind of be approved by Tom Clancey. So we went one day to Tom Clancey's house, having no idea what to expect. He was a very friendly guy. Bill of course went into fighter pilot mode and told him all his war stories, and basically Tom just wanted to make sure we were OK guys and would do an OK job with this product.
Tom had written Red Storm Rising with Larry Bond, who was kind of the hard-core, harpoon, really knew the nuts and bolts of submarines and things like that. So he was the guy I basically dealt with most. It was a productive and a good relationship, but I did get a sense [for the first time] that I really prefer to work on my own and make the final decisions. We had a good relationship with Red Storm Rising, but I could see how with a license, things would get to a point where you as a designer want to do one thing for gameplay purposes, but the licensee would have other ideas. So I've stayed away from licenses since Red Storm Rising.
Red Storm Rising amazed me in that it went too far in the sim obscurity direction. You have a screen with some dots running around and some numbers flashed up and people bought that as.... I mean, I knew what was happening, but the fact that with fairly rudimentary graphics you could convince people that they were in a submarine, and missiles were dropping in the water and circling around searching for them. I gave people a lot of credit for getting it, because I think the actual presentation is on the fuzzy edge of being a little too obscure. But again, if you were into the topic, you really liked it, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy that game. I wouldn't put it on my top ten list of my games, but I think it was... it took the topic seriously and did the best it could with a pretty obscure topic.
A minority of vocal hard-core flight sim fanatics will try to convince you that anything prior to Falcon 3.0 is closer to a jazzed-up arcade experience than a true simulation. How ironic it is, then, that MicroProse's later F-117A flight sim hasn't held up nearly as well as F-19 Stealth Fighter, which was published before the government's announcement of the real-life F-117 stealth fighter. As with his later Red Storm Rising, Sid Meier showed in F-19 Stealth Fighter that he could make a simulation - using declassified data augmented with a
sound physics model and some shrewd guesswork - that was accurate enough to please the enthusiast and a great enough game to make flight sim fans out of everyone else.
F-19 Stealth Fighter hearkens to an earlier age when a 1MB PC (notably the Amiga) was the hottest gaming machine on the market, and though its gloss is somewhat faded now when compared with more recent Gouraud-shaded simulators, F-19 Stealth Fighter still offers one thrilling ride.
Without the multifunction joysticks and throttles of today, pilots of the mythical F-19 had to manage with keyboard overlays and hot keys; yet the game still provided challenges unique to flight simulations of the day.
Although the F-19 was adequately armed (free-fall and guided bombs, Vulcan 20mm cannon, and over a half-dozen missile types for land, sea, and/or air), the electronic profile and stealth elements were so well done that it was often more fun to avoid a dogfight than to engage in one.
So, even considering the holes in the simulation - keep in mind that the real stealth fighter wasn't yet built - the game took on the nature of a "thinking man's sim," a real departure from the reflex-heavy simulators of the time. The missions in particular were especially well-designed, as they involved sneaking around through a variety of enemy defenses. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the game was how surprisingly similar it was to actual Desert Storm sorties years later.
I thought Stealth Fighter was a great game. There were times playing that game where I was totally into it. I remember one time floating over Baghdad and going as slow as possible, and I totally believed that I just had to do this or else they were going to pick me up on their radar. It was one of the first games that gave me that Doom feeling of playing on the edge of your seat. It was called Stealth Fighter, so we had to add the stealth effect, but it was really refreshing to me to have a game that wasn't about destroying 70 planes in one mission. That was an element of flight simulators that had gotten out of hand to me, so this added another dimension.
It was pretty leading edge in terms of 3D technology. It was a time when we were making really neat strides in 3D, and they really had a payoff - they were not only better looking, but gave you more gameplay than you had before. I think these days, 3D's getting better, in that it looks better, but I'm not sure that it adds a whole lot to gameplay. Which is not to say it's bad, but I think that in those days, the increases in 3D technology and the better 3D action gave you a better game to play.
The tracking cam was something I'm still proud of. The problem with flight simulators had been that you are basically fighting a dot out there on the screen, but you would read these books about fighter combat, and it's about all these cool split-S maneuvers and things like that. In a flight simulator, you couldn't do that, because you couldn't tell what the other plane was doing. It was either a dot, or for a split second, it was a big plane, and then it would be behind you or whatever. Since we were doing a hi-tech plane, we invented this tracking camera, which, in the corner (of the screen), gave you a view of what the other plane was doing. So, for once, you could tell what the other plane was doing - it's a dot out there, but I can tell it's going to the left, so I'm going to anticipate. You'd start to get into actually doing real fighter plane types of maneuvers.
Once we had that, we added all the different camera views. I think we were the first to do a game where you could actually pick among seven or eight different cameras: the camera that rode on your missile, the camera that always kept you and the other airplane in the same shot, the reverse view. We found that just being in the cockpit all the time was not enough information. Those ideas came out of gameplay, but I think they became part of the technology of flight simulators.
In the late '80sand early '90s, flight simulators were where most of the ground-breaking work was being done in computer games - a fact reflected in the sales figures. MicroProse thus built its early empire by becoming the undisputed champion of flight sims, and it was games like Gunship that got them there. The dream design team combined the talents of Sid Meier and veteran strategy/simulation designer Arnold Hendrick with newcomer Andy Hollis (now the head of Jane's Combat Simulations for Electronic Arts) to produce the first chopper product on the computer to be both a reasonable simulation and an enjoyable game - a feat that seems beyond most of today's sim designers.
The polygon-filled graphics moved quickly - especially when you consider that Gunship debuted on the 8-bit Commodore 64. It's rare that you see a sim today largely controlled via keyboard, but Gunship's keyboard overlay worked brilliantly, offering an easy enough learning curve that the design team didn't have to skimp on the helicopter feel (can you imagine trying to fit one of these overlays over today's ergonomic keyboards?). Flight sim veterans and casual gamers alike found the relatively sluggish controls of the AH-64A Apache a refreshing change compared to the reflex-demanding jet simulations of the day.
Obviously, newer simulations have passed Gunship by graphically, but few of them modeled more hi-tech toys - inertial navigation systems, anti-torque tail rotors, 30mm chain guns, flare decoys, radar jammers, and a treasure trove of rockets and missiles, among others - or presented them in such a nonthreatening manner to the would-be chopper pilot.
Gunship was the first sim to offer character continuity through a linked series of missions, with such nice touches as R&R for fatigued pilots and the option to pass on hazardous missions by taking sick leave. Although Gunship spawned a host of imitators, it's significant that it took Andy Hollis years to finally surpass the original with Jane's Longbow and Longbow 2, games that match the excitement of Gunship with the increased realism and performance available with today's PC technology.
It was fun doing a helicopter game after doing all those airplane games; a whole different flight model was a fun thing to do. I think of Gunship as something where we did a lot of 3D work. I remember sitting with Andy (Hollis) and trying to get this frame rate to come up on a 4.77 IBM PC. We did a calculation and we figured we'd only draw the screen physically three times a second. We really put a lot of work into 3D speed in that game. I remember sitting with Andy and him saying, "Sid, I need one more optimization run. I know you can come up with one more idea." We'd brainstorm about how we were going to get some speed out of this 3D stuff or how could we simplify the equation and how could we simplify the drawing. We really pulled our hair out to get a kind of a frame rate that we were satisfied with. In the interest of gameplay, it had to move at a certain speed. We were going to rip stuff out if it didn't speed up.
Before real-time strategy became synonymous with fast-action-building Clone & Conquer games, it offered a deeper, more cerebral type of fun (still evident to a lesser degree in, say, Warcraft II). Sid Meier was taking a holiday in Europe, after finishing Gunship, to recharge his creative batteries, and he was musing over how much he had enjoyed Will Wright's SimCity. Sid, however,
thought that for him to feel comfortable doing something similar, the end product would have to be more of a game and less of a "software toy" that had no real ending.
Sid's life-long love of trains inspired him to come up with a real-time strategy game where would-be railroad tycoons could test their skills on multiple levels. Like Harpoon, you can speed up and slow down the pace of play in Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon to keep things hopping or to spend a little time micromanaging when necessary. Since you can pause the game at virtually any time, even hard-core turn-based gamers need feel no fear.
Basically, you start out with tiled topographical and natural resource maps of North America or Europe, not all that different from Civilization. After examining the possible routes and cargoes, you can build an infrastructure of rail lines, rolling stock, support services, and ancillary businesses to exploit the terrain where you are building your system. You don't have to worry about antitrust laws - this is, after all, the Age of Robber Barons - and the only catch is that your network of interdependent businesses must be profitable, or the computer-played stockholders will lose interest.
The balance of building, investment, and railroad operations makes for an exciting game - hardly surprising, since codesigner Bruce Shelley was the genius behind Avalon Hill's 1830 board game (later made into an interesting PC game in its own right). But what lures us back again and again to Railroad Tycoon are the AI opponents, representing such historical figures as Cornelius Vanderbilt; crafty and ruthless, they are still some of the toughest computer competition ever designed and almost enough to make up for the lack of multiplayer options.
Railroad Tycoon was a neat idea. It basically paved the way for Civilization, in that I got the idea of taking multiple simple systems and having them work together to create an interesting complexity. There was operating the railroad, playing the stock market, building track. It was like different things that individually are pretty simple and easy to understand and easy to get into, that when they interact, create an interesting kind of complexity.
We definitely played a lot of 1830 before we wrote Railroad Tycoon. I'd say we were halfway through the development, maybe two-thirds, before we added other railroads [to compete against]. We did a great deal of development just with the idea of you running the railroad more in a kind of SimCity sense; kind of like you've got something you're building and nothing else is really going on. But we found halfway through that if we added other competing railroads, it would really give this kind of edge to the game that it didn't have. Right now, you're kind of taking your time building a railroad - that old track over here, running trains - which was fun; it was fun in the model railroading sense. But adding that little element of competition makes every decision a little more interesting.
So it was a long time before we added the idea of other railroads. You can kind of see in Railroad Tycoon, they're implemented in a very haphazard fashion. They don't follow the same rules as you do, and they're verging on the afterthought, but I think they have their effect, which is to add another dimension to all your railroad decisions, and then they introduce the stock market and the competition, which is a fun part of the game. I'm not sure exactly where the idea of the personalities [of the computer opponents] came from, but it's one that we've certainly used whenever, in Gettysburg and in other games. When you have an opponent, an AI, it's always fun to give them different personalities, especially if you can attach a face and a name to them. It's kind of one of those things that's not too hard to do, and it adds a lot of value to the game.
Railroad Tycoon was also the first game I worked on with Bruce Shelley (Age of Empires). He was a great person to work with. What I found is that the good working relationships are with people that kind of fill in the holes - not two people that do the same thing and have the same skills, but two people that do complementary things. Bruce was a great guy to bounce off ideas. He had a lot of ideas. He was really interested in railroads and was very happy playing the game and giving me feedback and digging up facts and writing the manual. Really, all the things that I didn't do very well, he did well. So we kind of made a powerful team in that sense.
If Sid Meier could ever meet with Alfred Hitchcock, they'd have a lot of stories to share. When you mention Hitchcock, most people immediately think of Psycho, or perhaps The Birds, as though those two thrillers could encapsulate the famed director's style and technique over more than a half-century of films.
In much the same way, Sid Meier has become associated with Civilization and Civilization II, to the point where he's been typecast as a "turn-based" game designer, despite his work in real-time sims and even action games. Civilization, like Will Wright's SimCity, was one of the first "serious" computer games to break into the mainstream. Though I can only point to anecdotal evidence, I'd guess that more hours have been invested in conquering the worlds of Civilization than in any other computer game in the hobby's history.
Civilization is not merely Sid Meier's magnum opus, it's also the quintessential world exploration/conquest game. Sid somehow manages to mix a lot of elements - economics, military actions, the nuts and bolts of government, long-range planning, and diplomacy - and combine them into a satisfying, addictive whole that captures the flow of human innovation and cultural expansion.
As your citizens become more literate and enjoy greater contact with other civilizations, for example, they demand a higher standard of living. How well you manage to build an economy while keeping your populace happy and productive on a city-by-city basis is a key to ultimate success in Civilization.
Meanwhile, you must travel the twin paths of global exploration and the unending search for knowledge, as you discover the wheel, learn to navigate the treacherous seas, and uncover the mysteries of flight. Along the way, you build Wonders of the World such as the Pyramids, Bach's Cathedral, and the Great Library. Unlike games such as the recent Age of Empires, the Wonders in Civilization are not an end unto themselves, but provide economic, happiness, military, or other benefits to your civilization. And as one of the many nice touches in Civilization, most of the Wonders' effects expire as the game goes on.
The secret to Civilization is that every time you think the game might possibly start to get dull, you discover some cool technology, you have to make another decision that significantly affects gameplay, and the cycle begins anew. Sid Meier has long been associated with gamelock - where you find yourself playing "just one more turn" for endless hours - but Civilization still holds up as many gamers' worst gaming affliction ever, even after all these years.
SimCity inspired Civilization in a way. The first prototype of Civilization that I did was a real-time game like SimCity, in that you placed cities and moved things around, but cities grew without you. You basically seeded the world in a kind of SimCity-esque way. Instead of zoning, you seeded things, and you said I want a city over there, and why don't you do some farming over here. What I didn't like in that version of Civilization is that you did a lot more watching than you did playing. So SimCity, Empire, Railroad Tycoon, and the Civilization board game were the different ingredients that we stirred together to get to Civilization.
Civilization was a fantastic experience. Some games are a struggle to get together, and once we turned the corner and got away from the real-time SimCity-style game and made it turn-based, it really came together. It was fun from the beginning, and it just got more and more fun. I think in hindsight, it really drew on probably more of me than any other game. I played a lot of board games when I was a kid; I'd read a lot of history - I just found out I could put more and more stuff in that game. It was a big vessel that could hold the Romans, and it could hold riflemen, and it could hold airplanes, but the problem was I didn't know where to stop. It was great that all the stuff I thought was cool when I was a kid - in going back in history to World War II and the Roman Empire and then Napoleon and the Civil War - could be put it in this game. The original game actually went further into the future. It had paratroopers and aegis cruisers, but the problem was there was never a good stopping point. You could always invent some new technology, and I finally said all right, we're going to cut it off at World War II.
The original game was twice as big. Another rule I call the "Civilization Rule": Don't make the map too big. The concept of Civilization was the history of the world, so you have to have a big map. The original map was twice the size, and the game just bogged down. Part of the pacing of a game is this relentless progress. We finally turned it around to where the map was smaller, time progressed more quickly, and the game felt epic, even though it moved pretty quickly. So that was another rule: More is not necessarily better.
One of the most neglected subgenres in all of gaming is that of espionage. Now that technology has progressed to allow similar "special effects" to those found in movies, we can enjoy action thrillers like GoldenEye and fulfill our James Bond fantasies - at least on console platforms (and eventually on PCs, if we're lucky).
In the early '90s, however, there was little available, other than insipid arcade rehashes of car chases and the occasional badly drawn polygonal spy lamely looking for clues in tired old adventure game style. Sid Meier thought he could change all that and bring the fun and mystery of techno-spies to the PC, much as he did in Pirates!
Unlike most of Sid's games, however, the initial great idea didn't pan out into classic, addictive gameplay. Sid Meier's Covert Action couldn't decide whether it wanted to be Mata Hari or James Bond:
The sleuthing was interesting, and at times the action was good, but the dichotomy between the two styles meant that you often forgot where you were in the game. This was a problem Sid would later have with his Civil War game, which he solved by limiting the focus to a single battle.
There were other problems, most notably the use of rubber bullets by your spies. Whatever happened to "license to kill?" The villains weren't particularly memorable, either. Still, there are enough good ideas in Covert Action that it would be nice to see Sid take another crack at it - especially since the game's most intriguing question has yet to be answered: Was supersleuth Max Remington the dapper male or the sexy female on the box's cover?
Covert Action - also probably not on my top ten list. I actually stopped it. I started Covert Action and stopped it to do Railroad Tycoon. I started it up again, and, if I'm not mistaken, I stopped it to do Civilization.
The enduring memory I have from Covert Action is what I call the "Covert Action Rule," which is: It's better to have one good game than two great games. The mistake I think I made in Covert Action is actually having two games in there kind of competing with each other. There was kind of an action game where you break into a building and do all sorts of picking up clues and things like that, and then there was the story which involved a plot where you had to figure out who the mastermind was and the different roles and what cities they were in, and it was a kind of an involved mystery-type plot.
I think, individually, those each could have been good games. Together, they fought with each other. You would have this mystery that you were trying to solve, then you would be facing this action sequence, and you'd do this cool action thing, and you'd get on the building, and you'd say, "What was the mystery I was trying to solve?" Covert Action integrated a story and action poorly, because the action was actually too intense. In Pirates!, you would do a sword fight or a ship battle, and a minute or two later, you were kind of back on your way. In Covert Action, you'd spend ten minutes or so of real time in a mission, and by the time you got out of [the mission], you had no idea of what was going on in the world.
So I call it the Covert Action Rule. Don't try to do too many games in one package. And that's actually done me a lot of good. You can look at the games I've done since Civilization, and there's always opportunities to throw in more stuff. When two units get together in Civilization and have a battle, why don't we drop out to a wargame and spend ten minutes or so in duking out this battle? Well, the Covert Action Rule. Focus on what the game is.
Have you ever wanted your own music composer, one that only lived to create new tunes for you? Well, Sid Meier did, too. And possessing skills that mere mortals lack, he set out to create one.
CPU Bach is not a game by any means, nor is it just a software toy.
There are many reasons why Sid's brainchild didn't get the accolades that it deserved. The first is philosophical: No matter how much we enjoy being seduced by the rapid march of technology, we still feel uncomfortable when machines encroach on our preconceived notions of what constitutes art. Having a computer program crafting quality pieces of music is as upsetting to most people as a computer defeating Garry Kasparov in a chess match (though the latter admittedly had a bit more press).
Philosophical concerns aside, the main reason that CPU Bach never penetrated into the mainstream is that it was only available on the 3DO, a promising platform in 1993, but now clearly defunct. Why the 3DO? Sid, a passionate music lover and occasional composer, was uncomfortable with the PC sound standard, which by this time had defaulted to the lowest common denominator Sound Blaster. Sid wasn't willing to put in the time on the project with the probability that most people would hear the music in 8-bit mono. The Macintosh entertainment market was still miniscule (remember, this was in the pre-Myst era), and the Amiga was already beginning its death throes, so that left only the 3DO (which MicroProse looked to as a new potential source of revenue in any case).
With Sid now at Firaxis, it's unlikely that MicroProse (or anyone else) will ever do a PC version of CPU Bach with 3D sound, or even 16-bit stereo, which is a real shame, because this is potentially one of the great programs to hook the mainstream into computers: Just imagine what would happen if Sid did a CPU Duke Ellington....
I like Bach's music; I enjoy Bach's music. Bach had a bunch of sons, and one of them was not as responsible as the others, and he lost about a third of Bach's music. That's always been an incredible frustration (for me). If only someone could find this music, or if we only had the 7th Brandenburg Concerto, or we had more music from Bach.... So my motivation was to find a way to get more Bach music.
The other thing was really a response to Civilization. Civilization had been so successful, it had created this big wave of pressure of "what's Sid going to do next?" I really sensed a danger that I didn't want to get into this "topping myself every time" phenomenon. I saw mental illness down that road. I said I am not going to get in the business of topping Civilization and then trying to top what comes after Civilization. There lies madness.
This was something I had kind of wanted to play with for a while. Nobody's going to compare it to Civilization and say, well, it's a little more fun or it should have done this or whatever. So it was kind of a mental relaxation thing doing CPU Bach. It was a great, fun experience - definitely off the beaten track. Somewhat of an indulgence on my part, but it kind of got my brain back in shape again.
If the failure of the French at Waterloo can be seen as a day when "Napoleon was not being Napoleon," Colonization can likewise be remembered as the "Sid Meier game that wasn't." By all accounts, Sid's main contributions to the project came in the early concept stage and included some polishing just prior to the game being shipped. Most of the design work was done by the relatively unknown Brian Reynolds (who would later achieve fame for his work on Sid Meier's Civilization II) and Jeff Briggs. Most computer gamers know Briggs as a fine composer of game soundtracks (notably Pirates! and Civilization II), but Jeff also had extensive design and development experience from his days at West End Games (board games and paper role-playing games).
The idea was sound: to produce a Sid Meier's Civilization-style game on the early days of America, leading up to the American Revolution. As with Civilization, the game's mechanics (combat, movement, exploration, and so forth) are in and of themselves fairly simple, so that Colonization is never quite overwhelming. Unlike Sid's best games, however, you reach a point where you are waiting for something to happen; you don't get that rush of new technology, so crucial in Civilization, to keep you riveted for another turn in Colonization.
The game isn't a wash by any means. There are a lot of nice touches, such as building your cabinet, where you can choose Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and even Pocahontas as advisors. Colonization is also the first game where Reynolds introduced the concept of editable text files: If you don't like a game rule or a victory condition, you can simply change it, without any programming skill required!
Colonization (still widely available in bargain bins) is interesting in a historical sense, mainly for collectors who want to see Brian Reynolds' early development before he emerged as a top-flight game designer. Still, you can't help but feel that Sid Meier's Colonization could only have been helped by Sid's active participation throughout the project, rather than his good name being tapped for marketing considerations, just because Sid sells games. With Sid, Brian, and Jeff gone to Firaxis, it's doubtful that we'll see a Colonization II, and that's fine by me.
Colonization was designed primarily by Brian Reynolds, but it has a fair amount of my input as far as playing it and suggesting things. It was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things.
I thought it was really impressive the way Brian stepped into this genre. He had done some graphic adventures before that, and he had just enjoyed playing Civilization and brought his own ideas. I think that was really impressive the way Brian stepped up to the plate and put the whole game together.
One thing that stands out in my mind is that two weeks before we shipped it, we made a major change in the gameplay. The original version had the city radius being twice the size that it was in the final game. We found that for gameplay purposes, all the cities tended to get kind of maxed out. And two weeks before we shipped it, we said, "You know, this game would be really more interesting if your cities specialize. So let's cut the city radius, really change the nature of the gameplay."
The lesson I learned is that it's never too late to fix the game, to fundamentally change the gameplay, because it can happen, even if you're two weeks away from shipping. Keep making it better; keep fixing it.
There are more varied opinions among gamers concerning CivNet than any other Sid Meier game. Some reveled in the chance to finally enjoy their favorite strategy game multiplayer, while others considered CivNet an abomination - most likely because, in all-too-typical mid-'90s MicroProse fashion, it took three patches before the bugs were sufficiently squashed to properly play the game.
Worse, MicroProse tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the fans of its most storied franchise by releasing CivNet a mere four months before Sid Meier's Civilization II, without letting anyone know of the latter game's impending release until after the sales curve of CivNet had flattened. The controversy deepened when Civilization II shipped with no multiplayer options, but with some evidence of multiplayer hooks buried in the code.
Even if you ignore all the controversy, CivNet is a mixed bag. It's still Sid Meier's Civilization at the core, but Civilization was really outdated graphically by 1995 (Operation Crusader and Panzer General led the way to SVGA graphics for strategy games in 1994, a year earlier). The Macintosh-like interface didn't endear itself to PC strategists much, either. At one time, MicroProse was so out of touch with its audience that it actually considered making CivNet real time, but Sid himself evidently stepped in and squelched that idea.
With none of the scenarios or accelerated start options found just months later in Sid Meier's Civilization II, it took an eternity to play a game of CivNet to a reasonable conclusion. And whatever small steps CivNet took towards simultaneous turn-based play, it has been surpassed by such games as Warlords III. The irony is that it's taken MicroProse nearly three years to come up with what it should have done in the first place: a multiplayer version of Civilization II. If MicroProse takes the time to finish Ultimate Civ II Multiplayer, then CivNet can slip quietly into the dustbins of history.
The true sequel to Sid Meier's Civilization is marred only by its lack of multiplayer options (which will evidently be addressed this summer by MicroProse's upcoming Ultimate Civilization II). Everything wonderful in the original Civilization is here - only more so. The expanded diplomacy options are nowhere near as involved as those in, say, Master of Orion II, but they add a lot to the richness of play with hardly any additional complexity. Likewise, the new subsystem for advanced trading of commodities becomes almost a game in itself; this is exactly what Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization wanted to do, but was unable to implement.
The new Wonders of the World - Leonardo's Workshop, Marco Polo's Embassy, et al. - help to round out the balance of military and political strategies in this incredibly deep game. The combat system has been overhauled, and in general, this classic game has been slightly streamlined and yet made more challenging at the same time. Even the multimedia enhancements - a brilliant soundtrack, well-produced video clips for Wonders, audiovisual advisors - help to ease the new and veteran player alike into the atmosphere.
The irony is that Brian Reynolds (who came up with most of the new design elements while working on his own from Europe) has been a good game designer for years, but most gamers think that his career began with Civilization II. Brian has said that he's so proud of the game that he doesn't mind. So, while you're anxiously waiting for the upcoming Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - the next collaboration between Sid and Brian - consider turning a friend on to Civilization II, arguably the greatest game ever designed.
Civilization had been successful. It had never, even initially, been a technological marvel. The feeling was that we could do a significantly better job with presentation. We also had gotten so much play out of Civ. People had come up with new ideas. We had come up with ideas. So between better graphics and adding some of these gameplay things that people had come up with and we had come up with, there was really a need for a new game.
So Brian (Reynolds) had really sunk his teeth into that style of game. He essentially went to England for a year and put [Civ II] together. We would correspond and play variants and give him our feedback and ideas, ship him art every now and then, but it was amazing. He just did it on his own.
I think that the look of Civ II is certainly an improvement. My skin is thick, and people can tell me, "Sid, it looks like an EGA game" as much as they want - I accept that criticism. But we tackled that with Civ II. A lot of the new gameplay things polished and built on some of the ideas that we didn't have a chance to follow through on in Civ. I think the diplomacy system in the original Civ was a little weak and the economic system - caravans and things - was cool, but I know that we added those towards the end. We didn't totally exhaust what we could've done with them. Those systems were flushed out a little bit. Most of the games I've done have been somewhat new stuff, so what you're getting is some new ideas, but not all of them are totally polished or finished. Civ II was a chance to go back to Civ and polish and finish up a lot of things.
Few games have captured the attention of the mainstream more than the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. Magic is to the '90s what Dungeons & Dragons was to the '70s and Trivial Pursuit was to the '80s. In short, Magic seemed an obvious choice for a computer conversion, and MicroProse snared the coveted contract.
Unlike the early D&D computer games, however, the development of Magic for the PC was so troubled that it would make for lively daytime drama. More than a year into the game's development, no one could agree on the high concept. Arnold Hendrick, who had codesigned some of Sid's finest games (Pirates! among them), wanted to emphasize multiplayer play - which, if you've ever been at GenCon and seen as many as 400 games of Magic going simultaneously in the open gaming area, seems in retrospect to be the right approach.
Sid was worried that an emphasis on multiplay would result in a poor AI. While this was a reasonable position to take, it might have had more to do with the fact that at this time Sid still wasn't sold on multiplayer games (he hadn't yet fallen in love with Warcraft II).
So, Magic took a different path from Arnold's original concept, because whatever Sid wanted at this point in his MicroProse career, he basically got. The computer game added an adventure game shell - which got MicroProse into trouble with Acclaim, who had the adventure game rights to Magic - but this was less than enticing to veteran Magic players. Worse, the game's AI suffered curious lapses, and thus, like most MicroProse products lately, it required a patch.
The final indignity is that there was no multiplayer option in Magic - the quintessential multiplayer collectible card game - until Manalink came out a year after the game's initial release. To this day, Gilman Louie (head of MicroProse) insists that Sid Meier saved this product - and it is a decent game, although it is a bit strange that Sid's career at MicroProse would end with such a dull thud rather than going out with, say, Civilization II.
You have to believe that if Sid got a second crack at Magic, he would design it as multiplayer from the ground up (for proof, look at the elegant multiplay in 1997's Gettysburg) and would also add the AI for which Sid's games are rightly famous.
Sid had always wanted to do a game on the American Civil War and had originally planned to do a turn-based strategic game with individual battles played out in real time. Problem was, you'd get so involved in the battles that you'd forget where you were in the overall picture. So, years later, when Sid moved to Firaxis, he decided to focus in detail on the most famous of all Civil War battles - Gettysburg.
Now, Sid's view of 19th-century combat might not be as painstakingly accurate as TalonSoft's Battleground games, but it delivers a potent Civil War punch. In Gettysburg, you really do feel as if you're in the shoes of Robert E. Lee or George Meade because you are faced with the same challenges. Unlike most real-time games, for example, you can't simply erect a base and start cranking out thousands of Rebels from Devil's Den. Once your precious troops are gone, they're gone, which puts events such as Pickett's fateful charge into perspective.
Everything contributes to the period flavor, from the strains of martial music to the panoramic sweep of the formations, as they move toward famous objectives such as Little Round Top. You even find yourself listening for trumpet calls to give a clue concerning enemy maneuvers. The tutorials are among the best you'll find in any genre, and the random maps and multiplayer options ensure that this is one game that really will play until Johnny comes marching home. The AI (always a Sid strength) can perform complex maneuvers - such as attacking enemy flanks - in ways that are beyond the capabilities of other real-time strategy games. Gettysburg was Sid's first C++ coded game, and it also sported improved graphics compared with other Sid designs. Suffice it to say that Gettysburg is proof that the old master can still teach the industry new tricks.
I'm really happy with the Gettysburg game. I used to look at Civil War pictures when I was a kid, dreaming about this game and wanting a game to look like this and play like that. From that point of view, the game really turned out the way that I wanted it to. I see the images, and what's happening on the screen is what I want to happen on the screen.
I'm not even sure how it happened, but the AI works. And that is neat these days, because a lot of games are tending to put one big effort in the multiplayer camp and slight the single-player play. I don't think it's quite time to do that yet. So I'm glad there's a strong single-player game in Gettysburg, even though this is really the first multiplayer game that I've programmed. And the multiplayer is a great deal of fun. My eyes were opened to a great extent by how much fun the multiplayer stuff is and how much that added to the game.
I think it captures what I think of as the Civil War. I've played a lot of Civil War games, but this is, in my imagination, what the Civil War is like. The cool part of the Civil War is the battlefield, the excitement, the action, the surprise seeing those guys coming out of the woods and seeing if I have time to get in a formal [formation] line. It's neat to know that you're actually playing the game five minutes ahead most of the time, that you're actually projecting where you are going to be, where they are going to be a couple minutes from now, and responding to that vision as opposed to what's actually happening on the screen. Which is so different from all the real-time games. When I play most real-time games, I'm ten seconds behind. I'm trying to grab all these guys and go over that way.... It's like I'm always behind the eight ball, because I've got to do ten more clicks just to carry out what I wanted to do, not to mention what I'm going to do next.
In Gettysburg, I think I'm playing ahead - I'm anticipating. I have this feeling that I'm in control. So it's a whole thing that's happening in my mind as opposed to most of the clicking games where I'm just trying to keep up with what's going on, on the screen. That may be my personal feeling, but I like Gettysburg because it's kind of where I would like to see real-time games go in a certain sense, too. A little more depth, a little less clicking, a little more having this whole thing playing out in your mind.
"I kind of miss the days when games were judged on their game-playing merit alone. I'm a little concerned about how far we (the game industry) are into the licensed four-page-ad marketing blitz era these days, which may be a natural evolution of the industry. But I'm always worried when we put more emphasis on glitz and production values than on the game. That's a trend that looks good for a while until you realize there's no game industry any more. If we don't have gameplay, we can't really compete with other forms of entertainment because we can't do graphics as good as the movie industry and we can't make sounds as well as the recording industry. All we can do that's special to us is be interactive. So we have to hang on to that and make sure we do a good job.
"There's a key difference between games and movies. In a game, the more attention that's focused on the player, the more successful it is. In a movie, you're really watching somebody else's story, so the better the story or the better the actor, the more interested you are in the movie. In a game, the more interesting you are as a player, the more successful the game is. So, in a way, things that work in movies are designed to impress you with what somebody else is doing. A good game impresses you with what you're doing. I think that's a fundamental difference that I as a game designer need to recede in the background. The more the player is thinking about the design or the designer, the less successful I've been, because I want the player to forget somebody designed this game, forget that this is a game, and believe that this is an experience that the player is having. Whereas in a movie, the more you're aware of the director or the stars, the more you're impressed with them - that helps the movie to be successful. In a way, trying to impress people with design or personality or whatever works to promote movies doesn't work with games because it takes the focus off the player who is supposed to be the star. The more the player is the star, the better a game you have.
"There are certain similarities in terms of subject matter, marketing, getting people excited about experiences, and things like that, but I think the idea of the focus on the player is something we have that is very different from other forms of entertainment."
Check out more about Sid Meier's games here on GameSpot. Just click on the links below.
Sid Meier's Gettysburg! GameSpot Review
GameSpot reviewer Michael E. Ryan says, "Gettysburg! may be the first release from newcomer Firaxis Games, but it has all the polish and appeal of a Meier classic."
Sid Meier's Civilization II GameSpot Review
Check out Trent Ward's review of the sequel to this Sid Meier classic.
Civ II: Fantastic Worlds GameSpot Review
Get more game from Civilization II with this add-on, but read the GameSpot review before you buy.
The Ultima Legacy
GameSpot reveals the long history and promising future of Ultima, one of the longest running computer game series of all time. Includes behind-the-scenes commentary by creator Richard Garriott, a.k.a. Lord British, himself