A Q&A with Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide Lead Producer, Andrew Frederiksen

Andrew Frederiksen, the Lead Producer on Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide, is one of the more fresh faces at Firaxis Games. He’s been at the House Strategy Built for less than a year and is in charge of getting Rising Tide out the door this fall. In an effort to learn more about him and introduce him to the Civilization community-at-large, we decided to ask him a few questions. Surprisingly, he chose to answer them!

Hi Andrew! Thanks in advance for taking the time to chat with us. First, we’d love to hear about your gaming background and how you decide to pursue a career in the games industry. Can you elaborate?

Sure, I’d be happy to. So I was one of those kids who grew up in the heyday of all the Gamepro, EGM and Nintendo Power magazines, so I had all of the articles about how to get a job in video games. I remember reading those and thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ll never be be able to do a;; that, but this is really interesting stuff.’ And of course life moves on. Cut to when I was in college, and I was a waiter for several years and was just ready for something new, so I decided to become a substitute teacher. Oddly enough, I was legally qualified for that even though it wasn’t what I studied in college. Eventually I became a full-time teacher and taught for about a year and a half before I realized this isn’t what I want to do. I guess there was a reason I didn’t go after this in school. It was a great job, but it just wasn’t for me.

So I thought, ‘I love video games, why not try that?’ I had grown in the same county that I taught in. I went through everything from pre-school to college in Fairfax County, Virginia. I knew I needed to break out, so I decided to go for it. I basically took a few of my belongings, put them in my car and drove out to California. I slept on couches for a few weeks and then spent the last of my money on an apartment, hoping I would find a job. At the 11th hour, I got a job as a tester for Sony. From there, I was in the industry and kept working my way up. I was a cert tester at Sony, then a test lead at THQ, then a QA supervisor at Volition, then finally became a producer at Big Huge Games. I had bounced around the country and then, oddly enough, ended up close to where I started.

Then I slowly worked my way north on I-83 in Maryland. I worked at Big Huge, came on fairly early on Reckoning, and worked there up until it closed. After the closure, I took an offer from Zenimax Online, where I served as a producer on Elder Scrolls Online. After that, I interviewed for this position at Firaxis Games and got the job.

The funny thing is I previously worked with Will Miller and Dave McDonough at Big Huge Games. So when I came in for the interview, it was kind of like, ‘Hey guys, how have you been?’ I did some math when I started here, and my first day at Firaxis I already knew like 14% of the company. And my carpool buddy when I worked at Zenimax actually works here with me now.

Wow, what a story! At least you got to see some of the country before coming back to the east coast, right? Shifting gears – can you tell me about your earliest memory of the Civilization franchise?

It’s funny, because Civilization is something I’ve been aware of forever because of all of the game magazines from back in the day. Shamefully, I must admit that nobody in my family played any video games, so I grew up very much a console person as that is what I could hook-up to the small TV in my room. My first experience playing a Civ game was Civilization V. I didn’t even know hexagons were new to the franchise!

I had bought Civilization V when it was on sale with XCOM in a combo pack, and very quickly it became our go-to game for lunch breaks. All of the time. For a good long time. Many, many hours. We got to the point where we could beat some pretty difficult AI. So I had a lot of fun teaming up with a friend and taking on the really tough AI.

So now that you’ve played a healthy amount of Civilization, I must to ask: Have you fallen victim to One More Turn?

One More Turn is something I’m super guilty of. I played a lot of JRPGs on those console, so it’s always ‘one more thing’ and ‘seven more fights and I’ll level up’ and ‘1,000 more gold and I can buy that thing.’ The great thing is Civ does it in perfectly sliced little bites, it’s more than anything else like a pie. You look at that pie and you say “Well, I couldn’t eat the whole thing, I couldn’t eat a slice, but maybe just a nibble. Just a nibble.” It’s never a huge bite; it’s just a nibble.

What’s your favorite part about working on Civilization: Beyond Earth?

Having played Civilization V and coming into Beyond Earth, I really like that there’s more room for us to break some of those traditional boundaries. We’re not tied by history. In Civilization V, you can’t really do something that doesn’t exist. I think in Beyond Earth, the way Will and Dave approach the game, it’s the same ideas but there is no limit; there is no place we can start as long as it's fun. The boundaries exist where we put them. This is a team that’s excited about those opportunities.

What is a typical day at Firaxis? Is there even a typical day?

I think there absolutely is a rythm to the day, but it’s not quite as typical as one might think. We're able to let people keep a schedule that works for them, so you have some people who arrive early, some later, but the mornings are nice – we ease into the morning here. The nice thing is that all of our teams here have adopted Scrum. So every morning, once everyone is here, different subsections of the team have a stand-up meeting to share what they’re doing, say what they need and it sort of opens the conversation for the day. From there, I’d hate to say there’s a typical day, there’s more like a typical set of things that could happen on any given day. It’s really kind of a menu of typical things, but the nice thing is that Firaxis is a place where everyone is open and ready to talk, but also respectful of when people are trying to work. It’s playful without being silly, serious without being stuffy.

Do you go Tall or wide? Are you a domination or diplomacy player?

Let me put it to you this way. When I started at Firaxis, they gave me a t-shirt that has the word “diplomacy” on it as part of the design. The first day I wore it into work, a coworker laughed at me because she had been watching me play and knew I’m a total domination player; I’m the warmonger. The new diplomacy system in Rising Tide has made me more diplomatic, but I’m still just playing people until I’m ready to come and wipe them out.

What is your favorite unit in any Civilization game?

It’s probably bombers that can attack twice on a single turn. Get a few of those ready and bam, your city’s mine!