Yes, it is happening. The classic strategy game that you have played for decades now is getting the MMO treatment. We got the chance to sit down with Jake Song of XLGAMES (who is partnering up with Sid Meier to work on this project) and talk about his love for the Civilization franchise and also about the very different approach Civilization Online will bring to players. Civ Online is not what you think. It is not going to be nations waging an infinite war against each other on some massive online hex map. No the game is way more personal and more of an MMO than you might expect. It is being built on the CryEngine 3 to capture the feel of a true world. We’ll cover as many details as we can in this exclusive first preview of the very ambitious game.
In Civilization Online you will play as a humble citizen. You begin as just one person in the culture or faction you choose to join. You’ll be involved with all of the other players in your faction against the other three cultures in the game. So, from a gameplay aspect Civ Online is all about your single person in this great big world. Jake explained that you will be able to explore, craft, make discoveries, and yes, go to war against your fellow players. The entire game will be taking place in a massive real-time map. Because of this design, they wanted to drop the turn-based systems and go with an open, ever changing world.
Do not worry the game will be broken up into sessions (think of “Tales” in A Tale in the Desert, and you’ve got the right idea). There are various victory conditions set into the game which allow one of the cultures to win a session. When this happens, you will start over again in a new session. Players will have rewards and other features carried over with their characters from session to session. Jake said they are still working it out because it is still very early. One of the reasons for the sessions is that the team wants to see clear winners in the game, like you would in any multiplayer match of Civ. The other more important reason is the huge pillar of exploration in Civilization. Players love to unlock their maps, and Jake is giving them plenty of reasons to explore as the maps are procedurally generated.
There are several ways a culture can win the game. If you make it to the modern era and build a spaceship, you most likely have defeated the others. There are also ways to win through military battles which many players will enjoy because it is like PvP waging throughout the different historical eras. Your citizen can get involved on many levels. You can go to war and fight or even get some strategic perks to play as a commander. You can be a diplomat and actually lead your entire faction. The possibilities are endless with the game and Jake wanted to make sure there was more than one way to reach victory.
The project started a long time ago but Jake and his team felt very strongly about keeping the core pillars of Civilization as part of the game. Freedom of choice and the ability to express your play style were very important to the team. They also wanted to the game to be challenging. The biggest challenge is taking your faction through the timeline or era in the game. Each era represents a time in history. We have the Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern. All six of these represent various breakthroughs in technology that have been achieved by the human race. I immediately asked about an example of what happens when you unlock a certain technology. We used the cannon as an example. The cannon basically signaled the end of the Medieval era. Knights on horseback and castles could not withstand the power of gunpowder. This was a massive change in our world, Jake explained that once a player unlocks gunpowder as a technology, suddenly weapons like cannons and muskets will appear. This will take the faction into a new era say from Medieval to Renaissance. Once these weapons are available a player can go to the market and buy them. Couriers will spread the word throughout the map that a new invention has been made. This will then shift the faction into the new era and musketeers will go out to face knights on the battlefield.
Exploration is something the team is taking very seriously. Inventions like the galley ship will get you across an ocean and allow you to begin discovery of a new continent. The more you explore the more resources you discover. These can be used to make inventions and will boost technology and military aspects of your land. Don’t think you only explore an area once, the more technology you unlock will open up new resources on already explored lands. Remember though that all of the players in a faction are working towards winning the game so doing all sorts of research or combat individually will add to the overall goal.
Building is another major pillar of Civilization that the team wanted to include. Players will be able to create their own buildings. There are all kinds of buildings that you can make in the game. If you really want to shoot for the win, Jake said that buildings such as libraries or Wonders (such as the Pyramids) will take hundreds of players working together to finish. He explained the system almost like an epic raid for crafting.
For those more inclined to a military nature you will be able to wage war throughout the ages. Factions will all start on a neutral level. You can make the choices to declare war or form an alliance with the different cultures on the map. The game is launching with four cultures to start, others will be added over time. You do have to think of your politics though because declaring war will be considered a negative act. Still players will be able to go and do battle across the eras. I did ask about some player’s becoming generals or commanders and they said they are working on some strategic skills, but nothing has been set in stone yet.
From a social standpoint players will be able to move up in leadership. In later stages of the game players will go from leading their own city to leading the entire civilization. All of this content will be driven by users. If you are not online 24 hours a day to lead your city, you can delegate orders to other players and have them carried out.
There is no launch date set for Civilization Online, and it's currently only set for Korean release with XLGAMES looking for western publisher as we write this. However the game has been in development since 2010. 2K and XLGAMES are both working on making sure it captures the true fun of Civilization, brings it to the MMO level, and also works as a strong single player game for those who just want to lead their own lives in the world. It could wind up being the crafters dream game, but also one of the more enticing sandboxes we’ve yet seen. If all goes according to 2K and XL’s plan, Civilization Online could extend the “Just One More Turn” addiction into the MMO space, and we’ll all be glad it did.