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“Mr. Nimoy has a very sonorous and elegant voice,” remarks Barry Caudill, executive producer for Civilization IV. “He’s also instantly recognizable after all these years. Besides, if you’re going to have someone read tech quotes, who better than the best-known science officer in the whole fleet?”

The narrative continues, taking us through millions of years of the Earth’s development. A map takes shape under Nimoy’s direction, laid out before us with an array of geographical features. He reaches the end of his speech, telling us: “Now, we require but one more ingredient: a great leader. To unite the quarreling tribes. To harness the power of the land. To build a legacy that would stand the test of time. Civilization.”

That’s where you come in.

Portrait of Montezuma.

Montezuma’s Revenge. One of the 26 different civilization leaders in the game.

Tackling a Hot-Button Issue

A pair of settlers and a group of explorers stand on the map, the seeds of what we hope will become a mighty empire. The settlers found this fledgling civilization’s first city, calling it London, and the explorers begin poking around the surrounding area, looking for the best sites to create more cities.

Long-time Civilization players are familiar with what happens next — build more cities, research new technologies, develop economic and military units, and nurture a civilization that can defeat its adversaries with brawn or with brains — but they’ll be pleasantly surprised by new wrinkles added to the process. For example, you can now use religion to your advantage, spreading it from city to city and building structures related to it. You can also make religion a major part of your rule or ignore it if you choose.

“We want to put fun in the hands of the player by providing simple systems that interact to generate complex results.”

- Barry Caudill, executive producer
Keypad overlay on territory.

Make Your Move. Keep in mind the fact that units move at different speeds across various types of terrain.

“We had always shied away from religion because it is a potential hot-button issue,” acknowledges Caudill. “But our lead designer, Soren Johnson, decided he wanted to take a run at adding religion, so we started looking at it seriously for the first time ever. One of the keys to integrating religion into the game successfully was that we treated all religions equally, without giving any impression of one being better or worse than another.”

He adds: “Another key was finding a way to simplify the system so that it felt natural and fun, without being overly complex. We finally settled on the current system that has a passive spread of religion coupled with the player’s ability to ‘push’ religion with the use of missionaries.”

Knights repel an archer.

Take That! Puny archers are no match for your overpowering knights.

Balancing the Gameplay

Back in the game, London is growing and its worker units are improving the surrounding area. Caudill notes, “One of the lessons we constantly learn while developing Civilization games is that we want to put fun in the hands of the player by providing simple systems that interact to generate complex results.”

That basic mantra also directed other changes in the fourth iteration of the series, such as implementing an easier to understand combat system and improving the open border rules found in Civilization III, so that players have more diplomacy options.

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“Fun trumps realism every time.”

- Caudill
Universal Binary

And, thanks to the completely overhauled 3D graphics engine now driving the game, you’ll experience more expressive interactions with other civilization leaders, in addition to the ability to zoom in close on your cities and units and see them in greater detail than ever before.

Caudill’s team also strived to make Civilization IV more accessible to new players than previous entries, with a revamped interface, a new tutorial, advisor pop-ups and Sid’s Tips, unit action recommendations, and other changes designed to make newcomers feel more at home. He notes: “We try to find a good balance of giving the hardcore fans more of what they love — because they’re the foundation of our success — while making sure we don’t intimidate folks who’d like to try Civ for the first time.”

Begin With the Multiplayer Side

A focus on the multiplayer side of the game also drove development, as Caudill and his designers realized that “it’s very difficult to take a single-player product and build really good multiplayer functionality into it. To remedy that, we made Civ IV multiplayer from the ground up. This helped us test new systems and gameplay mechanics without having to constantly rewrite the AI for every change.”

Plane make a bombing run.

Bombs Away! Later in the game, you gain access to modern weaponry.

Once the gameplay was on solid ground, Caudill’s team could focus on improving the AI. “Most people think the goal with AI is to make it play just like a human player,” he explains. “That is more important for a game like chess than it is for Civ. For Civ, we strive to provide a challenge and the correct feel. It’s human nature to provide order, so players actually provide the crucial last step as they fill in any personality blanks that we can’t.”

In the end, Caudill says, “fun trumps realism every time. Obviously, realism has its place, but we would never add some realistic aspect to the game that would take away from players enjoying themselves. After all, if ‘real’ was always fun, we wouldn’t have to play games.”

City under siege by artillery.

Border War. Keep an eye on the outlying areas of your civilization or you may find a rival's city encroaching on it.

He laughs at the thought. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has built England into a formidable civilization, but its borders now bump into her neighbors, some of whom aren’t happy with the cultural influence of her outlying cities over their citizens. She could be angling for a cultural victory, but Genghis Khan is well into the process of constructing the spaceship he needs for a space race victory, and Roosevelt has just come very close to winning a diplomatic victory at the United Nations during the last turn. With so much going on, Caudill and I sit back and watch what promises to be a very entertaining outcome.

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Choose Wisely…

With 18 civilizations to choose from, you might have a tough time deciding who to invest your time in. Our sidebar breaks things down for you.

Folded scrolls.
 
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