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Civilization III: Developer Update: Editing Civ III

Creating the Civ III Game Editor: A Behind The Scenes Account


By Mike Breitkreutz
Programmer, Firaxis Games

Creating the editor for Civilization III was a challenging task that involved making a variety of interesting and complex decisions. The ultimate goal was to provide Civilization III fans with an intuitive, easy-to-use game construction kit so that they could modify the game to create any setting imaginable. In order to fulfill this goal one of our first and most important decisions was to move the editor to an external application.

Civ3Edit Screenshot

We chose to use the Microsoft Foundation Class Library so that we could build the editor to function like a standard Windows application. While this decision had a lot of benefits, there were some challenges to overcome. The fact that the editor has many similarities to the game created one of the biggest challenges in that we needed to take many of our drawing routines and make them work in the editor as well. Also, whole systems like the world builder needed to be used within the editor. In order to integrate all of these things into the editor, we physically shared the code for them. This gave us an added benefit of synchronizing changes, so whenever something was updated for the game, it was automatically updated for the editor.

After the initial editor application was implemented, we started working on the editing tools themselves. The first thing we implemented was the rules editor. This may not, at first, seem like the most logical choice. However, in order for the world builder to function, it needed to know the rules for the terrain, the resources, etc. It didn't really make sense to just hard-code the rules so we searched the game engine code and extracted as many rules as possible. Once this was done, we were able to implement the map editor, which completed the overall package and made the game editor quite fun. At this point the game was complete yet there were still a number of things we wanted to do to create a fully loaded editing suite. Rather than hold up the release of the game we shipped it with a functional editor and continued to work on adding the features that would set this editor apart.

As we continued to work on the editor after the release of Civilization III we faced the added challenge, of making sure the functionality of the game didn't change when we made changes to the editor. Some features that still needed implementing were a mini-map, the ability to place units, cities, colonies, starting locations, and some method to customize players. Implementing these features required some parts of the game to be retrofitted to work for scenarios. The most challenging aspect of the entire editor was getting the concept of a "player" into the editor. Note that this is different than the concept of a "civilization." Scenario-editing required the two concepts to be separated so that a scenario could (a) allow players to choose their civilizations when the game starts (i.e., the scenario consists of objects placed for several players regardless of the civilization chosen by the player) or (b) force players to play using specified civilizations and objects (i.e., a World War II scenario where players are assigned to specific civilizations like the Germans or the Americans). Because the concepts had to be separated, we had to make the code generic enough to handle both cases and this proved to be enormously challenging. Once this hurdle was overcome, the ability to place objects and assign them to either players or civilizations followed quickly.

Once the major features were implemented, we turned to the fans for input. We searched forums on various fan websites for things they wanted to be able to do with the editor. The fans also helped immensely by way of the beta testing team, which voiced numerous suggestions. This code update showcases the largest number of new features to date, almost all suggested by our fans, as well as the most robust iteration of the code. This editor update, in addition to some new features and unit sets that will ship in CivIII: Play the World, will continue to support and encourage the amazing creativity displayed by Civ fans around the world.

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