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Civilization III - Conquests Developer Update: MesoAmerica



Design Diary - MesoAmerica

 

By Robert Waters, BreakAway Games
and Michael Fetterman, Firaxis Games


Sid Meier's Civilization III: Conquests, Firaxis' second expansion pack for the mega-hit Civilization III, features nine professionally created scenarios that introduce concepts never before seen in any Civilization title. The second designer diary in this series provides a glimpse at the design process and decisions made during the development of the Mesoamerica Conquest. Mesoamerica was designed by Robert E. Waters of Breakaway Games.

 

The Battle for Central and South America
It was decided early in the development of Civilization III: Conquests to add both the Mayan and Incan civilizations to the "random map" historical game. The next logical step was to design a conquest showcasing these new civilizations. The Mesoamerica scenario in Civilization III: Conquests allows players to play as the Aztecs, the Incans or the Mayans in a quest to forge an empire across Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Central America, and equatorial South America. Players will not only be forced to pit their empire-building talents against the aforementioned civilizations, but they will also need to combat the Olmecs, Toltecs, and Moche who have been included as AI opponents.

 

The Land of the Jaguar
During the early development this conquest there was much debate as to exactly how much Mesoamerican territory would be included. We contemplated going as far north as Arizona and New Mexico - and adding a Pueblo tribe such as the Anasazi, but that notion was quickly discarded to ensure the focus was on Mexico, Central America and South America. The next big hurdle was to determine whether or not the Amazon River basin would be traversable. Though the Inca tried on a number of occasions to penetrate the Amazon, all of their efforts proved to be fruitless. Thus, all forests located east of the Andes Mountains were made impassible, and a line of snow-capped mountains denotes the line between passable and impassable terrain. The end result of this decision was a more historically accurate expansion of the Incans and their northern neighbors, the Moche.

 
Mesoamerican Mini-Map
 
 

Further analysis of the Mesoamerican topography revealed that a number of unique resources were indigenous to the South American region which were not included in Civilization III. In order to ensure that this Conquest had the proper atmosphere, resources such as Cacao Plants, Salt, Stone Quarries, Exotic Birds, Jade, Llamas, Rubber, Tobacco, and Maize had to be included.

   
Incan Leader
       
Mayan Leader
 
 

We will drink chicha from your skull,
From your teeth we'll make a necklace,
From your bones, flutes,
From your skin we'll make a drum,
And then... we will dance!

  - Incan Battle Cry
 

From Your Teeth, We Will Make a Necklace!
When it came time to decide the types of units to include in this conquest, we quickly settled upon a low-tech approach. It is an unfortunate historical reality that all of the great Mesoamerican empires suffered an unpleasant conclusion through internal, external, or ecological forces. By the tenth century AD, the great Mayan civilization had begun a slow and steady decline, leaving their mighty cities vacant and choked with jungle vines. The Incan empire fell to Francisco Pizarro and his Conquistador host, while the Aztecs met a similar fate under the treachery of Hernando Cortez. For these reasons and for various environmental realities, the early Mesoamerican and South American empires never developed highly sophisticated weaponry. No horses. No wheels. No gunpowder. Therefore, the militaries of these cultures used primitive arms at best: maces, spears, clubs, bows, slings, etc. Primitive, however, does not mean weak. The Incan army, in particular, was quite powerful on the attack and reigned supreme for over a hundred years. The armies in this conquest comprise infantry units (warriors, spearmen, archers, etc.) with moderate offensive and defensive ratings.

   
Ball Court
       
Tambo
 
 

To reflect the Mesoamerican cultural propensity for enemy enslavement and ritual sacrifice we have decided to implement several new game features. Each Mesoamerican civilization's Unique Unit now has the ability to enslave enemy units that they defeat in combat. If an enemy unit is enslaved it is converted into a worker-unit for the victor and may function as a normal worker, or may be sacrificed for Culture Points.

 

The Rise of the Blood Cult
The Mesoamericans were isolated, and this isolation created a unique cultural identity. Technologies such as Craftsmanship, Storytelling, Stone Carving, Ball Games, Pacal's Laws, Terrace Farming, Pack Animals, Mummification, and Body Ornamentation were added to the tech tree, enriching the gaming experience. These technologies also introduce a variety of new city improvements, such as the Stela, Ball Court (the Maya loved their ball games!), Codex, and Tambo. Additionally, various architectural wonders are also scattered throughout the tech tree. Structures such as the Temple of the Moon, Temple of the Sun, Temple of Kukulcan (called "El Castillo" these days), Palace of the Masks, and the Palace of the Inca offer players an opportunity to build their way towards cultural dominance.

 
Sacrifice
 
 

But the greatest one-two-three punch on the tech tree comes with Enslavement, Ritual Sacrifice, and a late-game government called Blood Cult. The combination of Ritual Sacrifice and Enslavement will allow players to capture enemy units and then deliver them to their cities for blood sacrifice. Each sacrifice to the gods immediately increases a civilization's total Culture points, plus increases the Culture points of the city in which the sacrifice was made. Add to this the government of Blood Cult, which will allow players to shift their economies to the production of weapons of war, and you're on your way to great happiness!

 

Testing of this conquest has proven, without doubt, humanity's bloodthirsty nature. What joy I've had enslaving my enemies and sending them, in long haggard lines, into the Mayan capital of Chichen Itza to slake the thirsts of Itzamna (the creator of man), Ah Much (the lord of death), and the great god-king Kukulcan (or Quetzalcoatl, as the Aztecs called him). And if you're really interested in exploiting the ritual sacrifice aspects of this conquest, you can add Sacrificial Altars to your temples as city improvements, which will double the value of each sacrifice. Yes, warmongers and cultural denizens alike will find more than enough play variety in this scenario.

 

I Will Shake the Earth!
In the mid 15th Century, a man by the name of Pachacuti ascended to the Incan throne. He was not the first Incan king, but he was different. He possessed that intangible "renaissance" quality, like Europe's Leonardo da Vinci or Egypt's Imhotep. An architect, a scholar, a philosopher, a great statesman and military leader, Pachacuti vowed to shake the earth… and so he did. His reign began a hundred year expansion of the Incan empire, and when he and his descendants were through, the Americas would never be the same.

When I began this journey to develop a conquest featuring the great Mesoamerican cultures, in my mind I walked the Imperial road systems of the Andes Mountains like the Sapa-Incas before me. I traveled north into the highlands of Peru and Ecuador, and shared in wondrous archeological treasures below the musty folds of the tombs of the Moche kings. Ever onward, I traveled into Central America and stood beside Mayan priests atop the Caracol Observatory, looked heavenward and augured the future. Then I made my way into the city of Tenochtitlán and argued legal precedent with the Aztec king Netzahualcoyotl. In short, I immersed myself into the cultures and tried to find those traits that best reflected the "spirit" of the Mesoamerican peoples. No one scenario can do it all. There's just too much to cover in a 175-turn conquest. But we hope that, in some small way, we've done justice to a group of civilizations whose contributions to this world are still being discovered. We hope that, by playing this conquest, you gain an appreciation and understanding of the Land of the Jaguar, and we further hope that, like Pachacuti, you can shake the earth… if only for a short time.

- Robert Waters


Click here for the Mesopotamian Design Diary.


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