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Why The Civilization Series Remains A Modern Classic


Why The Civilization Series Remains A Modern Classic


Civilization VI, Civ 6

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall is now available for purchase. It is the first expansion pack for the turn-based strategy game Civilization VI, the most recent mainline version of the legendary 4X series. Rise and Fall features new nations, leaders, and systems, expanding on an already extraordinary base experience.

The series’ longevity is a fantastic achievement. The first Civilization was released for a bevy of systems in 1991, when a ‘loot box’ was something that a pirate character might say in a movie, a ‘microtransaction’ was merely a purchase of something really tiny, and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ was the hip new franchise. And yet the series continues to truck along with Rise and Fall, an expansion for a game two years old, as a big deal among the gaming community.

How does Sid Meier and developer Firaxis Games continue to do it?

In a world in which everything becomes a franchise, sequels abound like tribbles from the Starship Enterprise, and persistent universes are the rule rather than an exception, each Civilization game is a remarkably authentic experience. There are only a handful of spin-offs of the Civilization franchise, and they are infrequent. Even so, they are based on the bones of the mainline games: Civilization IV: Colonization was built atop the Civilization IV engine, and Civilization: Beyond Earth was built atop the Civilization V engine. While there have been a few forays into mobile gaming with the franchise (and hey, it’s 2018, even Nintendo does that now), for the most part when you see Civilization it’s Civilization.

After a few decades of honing the 4X genre that the eponymous Civilization created, where you as the player are to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate, Firaxis knows what works and what doesn’t. Despite that, Meier is committed to healthy innovation, which translates to creating sequels with a purpose. In a 2010 Gamasutra interview, producer Dennis Shirk outlined the company’s philosophy regarding innovation:

A lot of it comes down to one of Sid’s cornerstones. When you’re actually going through and designing an entirely new game, he came up with his 33/33/33 rule. It’s 33 percent new, 33 percent improved, and 33 percent what everybody already expects to be there.

To put it another way, Firaxis knows what makes the Civ games good, and constantly strives to improve what’s already there in addition to taking risks with new content and mechanics. Another way that Firaxis puts Civilization in a position to succeed is its refusal to water down the experience for consoles. Civilization is a keyboard-and-mouse game, and to be itself it can only be a PC game. While there are many good ports of PC games to the console experience, and vice versa, some games are almost impossible to port to console while retaining its core design integrity. Firaxis knows that a console port of Civilization wouldn’t quite be the same, and their restraint in porting the series to console is admirable and shows a realistic and grounded approach to their franchise.

This post was originally written by Matthew LaMar.

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