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Civilization III: Developer Update: Editing Civ III

Civilization Multiplayer - A Fresh Approach


By Jeff Morris, Producer

When approaching Civilization III's multiplayer component, it was important to get a good grasp on what worked and what didn't in previous multiplayer systems for turn based strategy games. Even more important we needed to consider our customers and what they were asking for in terms of a Civilization multiplayer game. One of the first things we realized was that traditionally Civilization was a multiple play-session game. Unless you played on an extremely small map or were amazingly aggressive, it was difficult to finish a game in a single sitting. This proved to be one of the main challenges in opening up Civilization III multiplayer to a larger audience.

Multiplayer Screenshot

Further thought on the topic led us to the conclusion that while a multi-session game worked fine for LAN players, it was completely unacceptable for many Internet gamers. This stemmed from the fact that if you know the people you're playing with, scheduling multiple sessions isn't that tricky. This really played in favor of LAN gamers, who played at work, home or school. Where this proved more difficult to organize was on the Internet, where the use of match making services like GameSpy was necessary to locate opponents. As any Internet gamer can tell you, the quality of your opponents can be vast. Some are completely comfortable with a week long game, while others are not aware that they'll need to get together multiple times to finish a game. Some take joy in the entirety of the game, while others will quit at the first sign of losing. With Civilization III: Play the World we wanted to ensure that people who aren't interested in bringing the 10 plus hour game online, had a game mode tailored to suit their needs.

The primary reason for the game's sometimes long duration can be attributed to the victory conditions. Starting in the Stone Age and playing through to a Space Race victory really couldn't be compressed without taking great liberties in modifying the gameplay in Civilization III. So, we provided a few new victory conditions and redefined some old ones. These "meta-games" or short game modes allow players to compete using the vocabulary of Civilization III, without having to hunt down every single city, or accumulate tens of thousands of culture points. Elimination was an early victory condition we added, which is basically a variation on the conquest victory. The main difference is that instead of having to completely eradicate a player to claim victory, you need only take one of his cities. This leads to some extremely fun, quick games. Another "meta-game" is Regicide, where the loss of a single unit (in this case a civilization-specific 'King') leads to an immediate conquest victory. Quickly a favorite around the office, this permitted the leaders of a civilization to be pulled out of the diplomacy screen and actually "live and breathe" on the map. Hunting down Genghis Khan or Mahatma Gandhi is a very unique and thrilling experience in the game!

For the first time in a Civilization game, through the use of a "Turnless" game system, we can offer a much faster paced gaming mode. In Turnless, each unit and city has its own turn clock. These clocks progress independently from each other, meaning that a unit that has just moved, can't move again until its clock has reset. It is impossible for a single player to hold up the progress of the game (which happens sometimes in turn based games when played online). With Turnless, they're really only forfeiting their own moves. In addition we offer speed controls to the player, which determine how long each of these turn clocks take to reset. When combined with the dynamic scaling we apply, based on the number of units and cities each player possesses, the game allows players to configure the settings and determine their own pacing.

While these innovative features are geared to players interested in shorter games, we haven't left out those who simply want to take the total single player experience into the multiplayer arena. We've included all the classic game modes, such as Turn based and Simultaneous Moves. These keep the deliberate pacing of single player intact, but are also tweaked for multiplayer. Customizable turn clocks are included for these as well, so while each player might take their turns sequentially (in turn based for instance), they can still have a limit set on how long they can take. Beyond that, most game functionality is still available, even when it's not the player's turn (things like production, research goals, and diplomacy). We've also included Play by Email and Hotseat, which allow players to enjoy classic turn based games, either all gathered around a single computer or scattered around the world. A new Administrator password for PBEM allows the host to eliminate players or replace them with AI, regardless of whether they password protected their turns or not.

All in all, our main goal with Civ III: Play the World was to provide the ultimate Civilization multiplayer experience. This meant taking what worked from previous incarnations of the series, and mixing them with new and innovative features. We were committed to providing plenty of options for players who enjoyed multi-session games, as well as fun alternatives for gamers who are only able to commit to a 1 to 2 hour game. Between the short game modes like Regicide, the quick paced Turnless play style, and the robust menu of features offered across the board, Play the World is a packed multiplayer expansion. One that we hope satisfies our customers' desire to reach out and crush players around the world!

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