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ARTICLE

Civilization V: Brave New World - Interview

At a recent event in London we caught up with Civilization V's producer, Dennis Shirk, and found out a bit more about how incoming expansion - Brave New World - is going to impact the iconic strategy game.

With just a couple of hours of game time under our belts, the new content coming in Brave New World was still very much a mystery to us. So we sat down with producer Dennis Shirk to discuss the expansion, and to try and make some sense of the changes coming to Civilization V.

First things first. How dramatic are the changes ushered in by Brave New World going to be to the gameplay in Civ V?

Depends what type of player you are. If you're a culture player it's going to be pretty dramatic. If you're constantly playing for culture victories there's definitely a shift for the better, as you've now got a much more engaging late-game. It's a lot more exciting to play, you feel like your actually involved in the world, rather than simply trying to shield yourself from it.

In terms of playing, as a feeling of culture, in the way that you can impact other nations and have everybody in awe of you, I think it's a much better play-style. I think the thing that's going to impact everybody, but definitely for the better, is going to be international trade, because that's going to be with you for the entire game, and it starts very simply, very cleanly, just a single route and you build one caravan and it kind of lets the player get into it slowly, it's not a shock.

I think the only system that's going to be totally new, not just an adaption of what's already there - like culture you can adapt into it, ideologies are a branch of the social policies: a lot of stuff there, but you can adapt to it - but the World Congress is definitely a brand new system, and so I think that'll be the one system that'll make players go: "Woah, what's happening here?" It's a whole new thing that's in the game. Definitely for the better, because the time that it's coming online, around the industrial era, is when things usually start to slow down, and we don't want things to slow down, we want things to ramp up as players get closer to victory.

Civilization V
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Will the trade routes that you mentioned be permanently fixed, or there for a set amount of turns?

It's a set amount of turns. It depends on your game speed. For instance, on the standard speed they're going to keep going back and forth for 30 turns. So they're kind of like civilian conveys going back and forth. Then they'll check back in with you after 30 turns and ask you: "Do you want to keep doing this? Do you want us to go somewhere else?" You can also rebase them, so if your done in one area you can send them over to the capital and have another route hook up from there. So every 30 turns they'll be checking in to see if you want to re-route them to somewhere else.

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How does the culture and tourism link in with the trade routes?

Every civilisation that you're trading with, if you're generating tourism you're getting a boost to that tourism by every trade route you have connected. It's just another avenue for the words of the glory of your nation to reach the people of other civilisations. So any connections like that - where there's trade routes, or open borders, a shared religion that talks back and forth a lot - tourism is going to travel along all those paths and give you a boost to your tourism output.

Civilization V

How will it impact on the city states, as opposed to the other civs?

Tourism doesn't have any real impact on city states. City states are a good fallback if you're in a war, you can always depend on a city state as a last measure for getting trade because you're still getting gold from it. I think the real benefit comes from trading with other civilisations, that's how we wanted it to be, we wanted you to go to the majors because you're going to get more gold from a major, you're going to have that potential trickle of science going back and forth, the potential trickle of religion and tourism. So that's where we really want the players to connect.

When you were considering what features to include in this DLC was it decided from the offset, when you were mapping the route for the game, to introduce these different aspects slowly over time, or are you reacting to the way people have engaged with the game so far, and the feedback you've received from the community?

I think it's more along the lines of a combination of feedback, and stuff the designer really wanted to put in the game later. It's extremely rare, and it certainly didn't happen with Civ V, that we know that the expansions are going to have religion and this, this, and this. It's more along the lines that we released Civ V, the designer's put out some DLC packs (Polynesia, Spain and the Inca). Then he starts to get a feel, he sees what's happening in the community, how they're playing the game, stuff that he's experiencing when he's playing the game, saying: "You know what would really work here... Let's put in religion and do it this way, let's put in espionage."

Brave New World came about the same way. We really weren't expecting necessarily to do a second expansion, but then Gods & Kings really fleshed out that early game well, the fan reaction to it was great. Universally we thought that the end game now paled a little bit because of everything we had done in the first half of the game. So we used that opportunity to do something cool with Brave New World and all these new systems. It's always been a problem with Civilization - that late game - and we're really trying to tackle that for the first time.

Civilization V

Will you be able to play Brave New World without Gods & Kings?

We've brought all the Gods & Kings systems into Brave New World. The only thing you don't get is the civilisations, the scenarios; you actually have to buy the expansion for that. But religion and espionage, all that stuff is included in Brave New World. We didn't want to have to balance two whole gameplay systems. We wanted to balance as a whole, we wanted it to be the complete version of the game.

So, I pretty much know what you're going to say, but beyond this are there any more refinements planned? Or are you going to start working on six?

No comment.

[Cue riotous laughter from all present]

There's never technically an end of stuff that you can do when you've got the whole of human civilisation to deal with, but there is always a line where you can say that this is full, that this is the game that we've made. If you try to jam anything else in here you're going to go over the cliff, so to speak. We want to be there with Brave New World, but until we get it into the hands of the millions of players who are playing Civ, and we start getting that feedback... you never know.

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There are many things, that just by looking at the map, you can see happening. You can see the trade routes taking shape, there's the archeologists and the World Congress. What's the most significant thing that's happening behind the scenes, that we might not be able to see?

Too much. You've got... Civ has hundreds of layered systems that are all cooperating with each other, when it's working well. We're right in the middle of development, so they're not all cooperating with each other now.

With the trade system, because there's so much going on with the AI, we did that first, just because we knew that to balance gold across the entire game we'd have to spend a lot of time playing it, so we put that system and working on the AI first. But just in terms of teaching the AI to say: "Should I be building a caravan? Should I be building a cargo ship? Who should I be connecting to? If I send it this way and a barbarian killed it, do I want to send it another way? If I'm at war with somebody, do I want to keep sending caravans to die on their territory?" Like early on they'd keep sending cargo ships when we were at war with them, they come down, you'd sink the cargo ship, they'd build another one and send it right back into the mouth of the wolf. All of those things, it's a ton of decisions for smart AI play. If an AI's city is about to collapse, seeing it start to construct caravans is just a bad idea. There's subroutines you've got to build for all this stuff. There's a lot of that going on under the hood, for all of these new systems, there's a lot to teach the AI.

So there's a tremendous amount going on under the hood, the key to making it good is the player shouldn't have to see any of that, and just from playing the game think: "Oh, that's a good decision. They did a decent job on the AI." That's what we want to see coming out the other end, regardless of what we actually do. That's the goal.

Civilization V

In the presentation you talked about four new civs; Brazil, Portugal, Poland and Zulu. How are you making sure that these new Civs are nuanced enough to differentiate them from what's come before?

Well we always try to pick new civilisations who's traits take advantage of the new systems when we're doing in an expansion. It's probably for two thirds of the civs that we're going to do that with: Portugal is a prime example, it's all focused around trade, so very unique and distinct from other civilisations.

In terms of someone like Zulu, who doesn't really have anything to do with the new game systems, but: big time fan request. It's number one on a lot of lists, they want to see Shaka Zulu in the game. Definitely not in the modern civ, it's not really going to help us teach him trade, or teach him culture, but what he does do extremely well is interrupt player's plans early in the game, and that's what he's really good at. Playing as Shaka, if you're a domination player, he's a really good fit for you. So you won't always have super unique civs, but what they do, and what they do well, if it fits in with their personalities and the civilisation they represent, that's key.

You've obviously made a lot of effort to liven up the end game, and that seems to be the emphasis of this whole expansion. Exploration is a big part of what makes the early game so exciting, exploring the map, pulling back the fog of war. How are you going to keep that spirit alive in the late game? When searching with the archeologists we'll be rediscovering things on the map. Is that going to be randomised? Is every barbarian camp going to be there to be excavated later in the game?

It tracks everything, but based on the map size it picks a random number of them to represent - there won't be every barbarian camp there. So it's going to pick a battle here, a ruin there. You might have had a pillaged resource at some point, so there's going to be an antiquity site there. So it definitely tracks everything, but it's not going to show everything. What we wanted to really accomplish with it is just the player not really knowing what happened there. They might have known at one point, and they're probably going to remember once it comes up. But that's what we found cool, especially in testing and in play-testing.

We didn't think archeology would be so popular, it was supposed to just be a support mechanic to the culture game, to get more artifacts into the museums. But we found that players were loving just going on out and saying "Oh my god, Bede's Barbarian camp, I remember that, it was a pain in the butt, they were burning my fields." And that whole psychological process of going out and remembering what happened earlier in the game was what resonated with the players who were play testing. That was actually kind of surprising because we had intended it for something slightly different than it was, and it had a different feeling as a result, which still went a long way to rekindling that whole discovery/exploration thread in people's minds. So that was a nice side effect.

After talking with Dennis we got hands-on with the new content for a short period of time. You can read our early impressions of Brave New World right here.

Civilization V
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