PC Interview

Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

Sam probes Firaxis

Sam Gibson wants answers concerning Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, addressing Alex Mantzaris, Lead Designer and Programmer at Firaxis Games on the new expansion.

How will the new expansion tie in with Warlords and will it include any of the code from that expansion?

Beyond the Sword will include some of the code from Warlords - specifically the stuff that impacts the core game functionality. The assets and code from the scenarios in Warlords will not be included. Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

The introduction of religion was one of the most splendid features of Civ IV. Corporation sounds equally intriguing. Can you elaborate on how this will function and what benefits (and drawbacks) this will entail for players?

Corporations represent commercial entities, each consuming specific resources in order to provide benefits to their city. The more instances of resources they consume, the more food, production, commerce, or resources they supply. The downside is that any city hosting a corporation has to pay a maintenance fee for its services. It really pays to have the headquarters of a corporation, since the founding city gets royalty income for each city in the world hosting a branch of that corporation. Players can block foreign corporations from operating in their cities by adopting the Mercantilism civic, and they block all corporations (even their own) by adopting the State Property civic.

Will there be any new commodities or resources in the expansion and will the trade screen be getting any attention to make it more informative and user friendly?

Actually, there will not be any new resources in Beyond the Sword, because by the industrial era there is already an abundance of health and happiness in the game without adding new sources. However, the aforementioned corporation game mechanics make it advantageous to control as many instances of certain resources as possible, something that was not important in previous versions of Civilization. Therefore, securing resources, one of the most fun elements from the early-game, is now extended into the late-game. Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

The foreign advisor screen, which is where all foreign trades and possible deals are listed, is indeed getting an overhaul.

It's good to see espionage getting some love as I felt this was an aspect of Civ IV that did not have the same scope as previous incarnations. What sort of fun can players now expect to have with their shady units?

You now have the ability to divert part of your income towards espionage activities against other civilizations. Once you have reached certain levels of espionage investment, you gain some automatic intelligence benefits over rival civilizations, like visibility into their cities, access to their demographics and power graphs, or knowledge of their current research efforts. You may also take a more aggressive approach to espionage, sending your agents into foreign territory to perform various destructive missions, like blowing up terrain improvements and buildings, poisoning water supplies, or stealing gold. Spies can also influence foreign affairs by spreading propaganda into their target city, and even by coercing their target leader to switch civics or state religions!

What can you tell us about the new wonders in the game? Any information on the new units, buildings and technologies would also go down very well. The released images of the new buildings hint at some very high tech additions; does this mean that the final date for the end of the game has been pushed back further into the future? Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

The final date is still 2050 AD, although we did add considerable content to the modern era. For example, there are new buildings to support your espionage strategy, like the Security Bureau that makes it harder for foreign spies to perform missions in your cities, or the Intelligence Agency that enhances your espionage spending. Other buildings include Public Transportation, Industrial Parks, and Levees. There are new modern technologies like Laser, Superconductor, and Stealth. New modern units include the Mobile SAM, Mobile Artillery, Tactical Nuke, Attack Submarine, Missile Cruiser, and Stealth Destroyer. Finally, the Cristo Redentor Wonder allows you to switch civics without Anarchy.

What changes have been made to the way the AI conducts its campaign?

The changes are too numerous to list, but the result is that the AI plays more like an experienced human player would play, and therefore needs fewer bonuses in order to compete at a higher difficulty level. The AI has gotten considerably better at its previous major weakness, which was conducting military operations, especially naval invasions. It is even stronger at managing its economy, and of course, it also knows how to use all the new features we are adding.

What changes have been made to the Space Race Victory and will there be new espionage options to help players in their struggle against wannabe-NASA AI players? And will players be able to name their spaceship, maybe choose a colour scheme for their thrust into the stars? Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

Space victory is not achieved until the spaceship actually arrives, not when it's launched, so you may pull out a victory even if you launch late by building a faster spaceship and overtaking your opponent on the way to Alpha Centauri. Espionage is, therefore, essential in knowing what type of spaceship your opponent is building and its estimated date of arrival. Of course, once your spies gather intelligence on what your opponent is building and where, they can also go sabotage its production.

As for eye-candy, there is an all-new spaceship screen, where you can customize the visual appearance of your 3D spaceship.

Following on from the previous question and a query long on the tongues of Civ fanatics - when is Alpha Centauri II coming out and when it does will there be an option to carry over a Civ IV civilisation to the stars? Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword with Alex Mantzaris

I'm afraid that none of this will happen any time soon. Firaxis does not own the rights to Alpha Centauri.

As a player piped to the post too many times by the AI ganging up on me around a virtual round table I'm most curious as to whether there will there be an option to remove UN victories while retaining all the other effects of the building?

There were no plans to do this, and I've never heard this request before, but since you ask so nicely, we may consider it.

Can you flesh out the details on the kinds of events that players can expect to encounter and how they will affect the gameplay?

Some events simply ask the player how to deal with a situation that has arisen, while other events are quite intricate, sending the player on quests in order to receive some reward, for example. The effects on gameplay are not dramatic, but the effects on replayability, historical flavor, and therefore, immersion are significant.

Although personally I'm not a fan of the scenarios can you describe some of the new additions to more interested readers? For example, the Aftermath scenario that was touched upon in the first developer diary suggest some quite radical additions to gameplay which, in combination with the mention of X-Com, make me eager to play a scenario for the first time.

"Afterworld" is an impressive scenario that displays the awesome modding potential of Civilization 4. You are right that it has certain gameplay similarities to X-Com. "Final Frontier" is another scenario, set in space, which makes you want to double-check whether you actually launched the Civ 4 executable, or a totally new game. Some scenarios have a fantasy setting, and others have a heavily-researched historical setting. And not only do we have our own brilliant game designers working on these scenarios, but we have also recruited the most creative minds of our fan community to design a couple of scenarios especially for this expansion pack.

Some of the scenarios have been created by fans not working directly for Firaxis. How much input have fans had in the new expansion and have any of them been drafted in to work on the game mechanics as well as in scenario creation?

The fans have had an enormous impact. I may be listed as lead designer for this title, but in reality it is the fans who have designed this expansion pack. Thanks to them, we knew exactly what we needed to focus on in BTS. We have dozens of loyal fans that were willing to sacrifice hundreds of hours of their personal time to help us make this the ultimate Civilization game. Many of them have been playing Beyond the Sword for almost a year now, happily shooting down some of our silly design ideas and helping us come up with even cooler ones.

Will there be any new options when players start a game, from new world-types to terrain balancing?

Yes, there will be new world-types, but even more importantly there will be some new game options. For example, you will have the option to play as any leader-civilization combination, therefore allowing you to explore some intriguing "what-if" possibilities. Many players will appreciate the option to trade away a technology only if you have researched it yourself. Also, there is an option to actually choose the religion you found when you discover a technology, so that you don't always have the same dominant religions in every game.

Will there be any graphical enhancements, say the option to utilise some of Direct X 10's feature set?

The graphics in Beyond the Sword are more polished, and the new features have some impressive graphical representations, but our graphics engine is basically still the same, and hence does not take advantage of DX 10.

Are there any new multiplayer options and will it be fixed so that in Hotseat games all players get to see any movement in your turf at the start of your go, rather than just player one?

A feature that may revitalize the traditional sequential turn play mode (as opposed to simultaneous turns, which seems to be more popular in multiplayer) is the fact that now all players on the same team take their turns simultaneously. That way you can combine fast online play with traditional game mechanics.

In Hotseat, you see the movement of any AI players that take their turn between the last human player and you. Therefore, you can always make it fair by spreading out the human players in the turn order so that there are an equal number of AI players between humans.

And finally, have you guys come across some new tech which will allow for the stated July release to come quicker than a three month wait?

Yes, of course. We'll trade it to you for your World Map and the tech that makes "one more turn" last all night.

Thanks.

On a personal note I would like to offer my thanks for creating my favourite game series and cause of the 'mystery illnesses' which once necessitated weeks off of school. Then I would like to thank you very much for taking the time out to answer our questions and wish the best of goodwill in creating yet another masterpiece of gaming goodness.

Glad to hear you're a great Civ fan! Thanks for the interview!

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