interviewed by David Brake
Mindjack’s David Brake sat down with Civilization series creator Sid Meier in London to discuss games, history, artificial intelligence, and the future of the Civ series.
Published: May 08, 2002
You started, I think, in board games?
I played a lot of board games when I was young – I never designed any but a lot of the early inspiration from computer games came from board games. They inspired me because we could do them so much better on the computer. With board games it took so long to set them up and you had to worry about the rules – on a computer you just turn it on and it is ready to go.
Computer Bismarck was an early example – what that showed us was that it is easy to hide things using the computer. On a board game you had to use very complicated mechanics like dummy counters.
Did you have a formal background in history?
I studied computers in college – the game part came mostly from my childhood. I was interested in history – airplanes, submarines, pirates… I think that is part of what I try to put into my computer games now – some of the excitement that you get from turning the pages and seeing a new fun thing on each page. We try not to create games that have too much technical information or too many obscure facts. We want people to be able to play the game and understand it as quickly as possible.
In a game like Civilization many of the ideas there are important but they are ones that the players are already familiar with. As you start to play you start to run into “do you want to invent the wheel or do you want to work on currency” – everyone knows those ideas so they feel they understand the decision. We do some historical research but it is not the starting point for a game. We want people to be able to start the game already knowing enough to play. After they play for a while we might introduce a new idea and they might be interested in learning more about that but we want people to feel they are immediately making progress and they are at home in the new world.