A Brief Personal History of Civilization

My first contact with the Civilization franchise was in the lower elementary school. Our teacher would put a transparency full of text on the overhead projector and then disappear behind the computer on his desk for the rest of the lecture while we copied the contents of the transparency to our notebooks. During the recess we sneaked to see what was so interesting. Turns out it was a game called Civilization (1991). We didn't know any English back then and couldn't understand anything, but obviously it was a great game. I tried to acquire a demo, but only got some slide-set like non-playable introduction thing. Back then there was no "World Wide Web" to download games from.

Fast forward a few years to 1996, and Civilization II was published. It had these great isometric kind-of-3D graphics, compared to the flat graphics of the original game, it ran on Windows, and it received great reviews on the magazines (remember, still no online reviews!). So, I probably got the game for a Christmas present or something and learned to play it. Being from Finland, I remember Vikings being my favorite civilization. (Even if in Civilization II the civilizations were no different from each other besides the color and the leader appearance.) Paratroopers and Alpine Troops were my favorite units, for the former one could do surprise attacks several tiles away and the latter would ignore the regular movement cost of terrain.

Civilization III was released again after five years from the previous installation and took the series to new heights. It introduced a plethora of new mechanics: instead of having static borders around the cities, your empire would now have dynamic borders affected by the amount of culture your civ generated; each civ now had a leader whose properties made it unique from the rest; unique units that could only be built by a certain civ were introduced; support for mods; etc. Needless to say, I spent countless of hours with Civ3 and its expansion packs too.

Civilization IV was released in 2005, added more mechanics again and was, again, responsible for many long nights in front of the PC. Civilization V (2010) introduced the hex grid but had removed features compared to Civilization IV. Gone were the corporations and religion from Civ4.. but those were quickly forgotten, thanks to the one more turn -effect so familiar to everyone who has ever played the games. And some of the mechanics were also restored and new mechanics were introduced in the two great expansion packs, Gods & Kings (2012) and Brave New World (2013).

Look Into the Future

Currently the fans of the franchise are waiting in anticipation for Civilization: Beyond Earth, to be released on October 24, 2014. The game will be a "spiritual successor" to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (also known as SMAC; released in 1999) in which the player leads a civilization when it colonizes a planet orbiting the Alpha Centauri star.

Lots of details have already been published about the game and I'm very excited to be able to try it in the Firaxicon event in only a couple of weeks. Beyond Earth will feature three different affinities, all-encompassing ideologies defining the direction of your civilization: Purity, Harmony and Supremacy. Followers of the Purity affinity will try to preserve the mankind as it used to be on Earth. Supremacists believe in the power of technology and augmenting the humans to be better than they ever were. Finally, Harmony players will try their best to adapt to the circumstances of their new home planet.

Your ideology will be defined by the affinity points you acquire, for example by researching certain technologies. The previous installations of the franchise have always had a technology tree, where, for example, inventing Masonry would lead to Construction which would lead to Engineering which would lead to Machinery, etc. In Beyond Earth, however, there's a technology web instead, and you can stop on any node of the web to research a couple of additional techs as well.

In the past I've tried to pursue technological supremacy for my civilizations: put a lot of effort into researching new techs, eclipse the other civs and then just pick your victory type of choice. It'll be really interesting to see how this will work now that the technology tracks aren't that well defined and apparently not all techs can be researched in a single game. It looks like the web and the affinities will definitely add a lot of replay value (on top of everything else).

The concept of a "civilization" has also been rethought in a refreshing way. Beyond Earth is set some 600 years into the future from now, after an unspecified event just known as "The Great Mistake". The nation states as we know them have lost most of their meaning or have been reorganized for good. Thus it didn't make sense to add civs like "France" and "Germany" into the game to conquer the planet. Instead, you define your own civilization when you start the game! You do this by making some choices what was put into the colonization ship when it left the Earth. You select a "sponsor" who enabled most of the trip -- these are your closest equivalent of today's nation states. Then you pick the type of colonists, spacecraft and spacecraft cargo, and the game starts when you land your colonization ship on the new planet and start developing that new civilization of yours. I'm looking forward to playing with Franco-Iberia as my sponsor, for they get a free technology for every ten virtues, which effectively means that you get science for developing your culture. Suits me!

I'd like to end this post with a quote from Buzz Lightyear: to infinity and beyond!