Civilization VI: Meet the Developers
Civilization VI, the latest entry in the distinguished strategy series, reunites renowned developers behind the Gods & Kings and Brave New World expansion packs for Civilization V.
Lead Designer Ed Beach and Lead Producer Dennis Shirk, along with Art Director Brian Busatti, collectively have over 30 years of experience at Firaxis Games and have been crucial in helping Civilization V achieve its current standing as the most-played strategy game on Steam. Now, led by these seasoned veterans, the team at Firaxis is poised to create the most comprehensive Civilization experience to date in Civilization VI.
Civilization VI will cater to both established fans and newcomers alike, incorporating the strong strategic decision-making that is the hallmark of the Civilization series, along with new systems that allow players to more actively drive their civilization’s progress through time.
Ed Beach – Lead Designer, Civilization VI
Ed has been at Firaxis for over seven years now. He previously led the design team on both of Civilization V’s expansion, Gods & Kings and Brave New World.
Q: Many would argue that your expansions made Civilization V the ultimate strategy experience. How do you build on that with Civilization VI?
A: By the time we finished Civilization V and its expansions, we had directions we wanted to explore that required some fundamental changes to the core game. There were a lot of places within the game where it felt like there was an optimal series of things to do, and anything outside of that was less helpful. So we knew we wanted to make changes that required players to adapt to unique situations in every game. We were able to achieve that goal in Civilization VI by changing mechanics to get players to play their specific map, rather than just playing for optimal build orders and tech research paths.
Q: How does this game fall into the Firaxis “rule of third” idea? How did you decide what needed to stay, what needed to go, and what needed to be brand new to Civilization VI players?
Civilization is a game that has been around long enough that it’s hard to divide the changes neatly into thirds (one-third new, one-third changed, one-third the same) because of how the different parts interact with each other. We’ve still got cities, just like the previous Civilization games, but now these cities have districts that you can build and the Wonders you construct within them all have to be built on separate spaces on the map. That’s a change, but it also affects everything from combat to trade to Great People, so those systems undergo changes as well. I’d say our approach has been to ask: “Where can we make changes to give players more meaningful and interesting choices?” And we especially like it if you have to think through those options differently in every game.
Q: What are you most proud of in Civilization VI, from a design perspective?
A: I’m really happy with how the map has come to shake up how people play Civilization VI. I like how cities are spread out in the world now, and I’m already convinced that will do as much to change the game as unstacking combat units changed up Civilization V. The new research system means that players can do more to drive the development of their Civ, which feels a lot more active. There are some other changes that help emphasize how important it is to understand the world you’re playing on. They all feel like they’re fitting well together and helping set Civilization VI apart from Civilization V.
Q: What are you most anxious to see players react to?
A: I’ll be curious to see how people respond to the leaders and Civs we’ve chosen this time around. There’s always a lot of excitement from players about how different cultures get represented in Civilization. We’ve brought some familiar faces back, but there are some new Civs and leaders that I think people will be anxious to get some time with. With each leader now having a historical diplomatic agenda and with the Civs possessing more unique bonuses than in previous games, players will want to try them all out.
Brian Busatti – Art Director, Civilization VI
Brian has been at Firaxis Games for 13 years, and has worked across multiple Civilization titles. He was lead unit and terrain artist on Civilization IV, as well as lead character artist on Civilization V and contributed to Civilization: Beyond Earth.
Q: Civilization VI has a very stylized and pronounced look. How did you go about accomplishing this and was this the look you always strived for?
A: Civilization has always had something of a lighthearted approach to history, and we wanted to blend that with a style that made the things in our world more readable to the player. The new look and feel allows us to deliver valuable game information to the player without them having to dig too deeply into the UI. Units in the game now have unique and interesting silhouettes that are quite readable from a distance. Colors show a district's function and resource contribution. The leaders have a lot more personality and it's much easier to read their emotions. Our very talented animation team is having a blast bringing the leaders to life. The addition of districts has allowed us to focus on a much more natural look for our cities. The end result is a game whose look balances nicely with the new game design.
Q: What are you most proud of in Civilization VI, from an artistic perspective?
A: I am most proud of our team. We have a lot of talented artists whose passion is shown deeply in Civilization VI. There are a bunch of little practical changes to the units that I’m proud of, like the culturally-flavored armor and weapons for the unit types, but I really like how inviting the world looks overall. I think the artists on the team did a great job creating a cohesive and visually stunning game.
Q: Cartography is a big theme with Civilization VI. How did you guys settle upon this? It feels like a natural fit for the experience the series has offered.
A: It's such a great fit for Civilization VI, especially with the importance of exploration. The design changes were all about making the world map more important than before. When you talk about maps it’s natural to look at historical maps as the basis for your interface design and your overall visual wrapper. Within that context, we looked at the way maps were created during the age of exploration, and all the artwork that was put into them, and we thought, “That’s how we should make our game look, too.” You can see the influence of navigational tools and cartography in the UI as well as the game world, especially in the fog of war.
Dennis Shirk – Lead Producer, Civilization VI
Dennis has been at Firaxis for 11 years, with the majority of his time spent as lead producer on Civilization V and its two expansions, Gods & Kings and Brave New World. After those, he moved directly onto Civilization VI.
Q: As Lead Producer, what is your chief responsibility on Civilization VI?
A: The producer is the person on the team who’s responsible for organizing the project, keeping it on schedule, and ultimately making sure the team has everything they need. There are a ton of major and minor responsibilities within that, from keeping the budget to planning the production milestones to ordering dinner for the team and cooking waffles for them in the event everyone has to come in early on a weekend.
Q: The Civilization series has been around for 25 years. How do you balance catering to longtime fans while offering something fresh to potential newcomers and established players alike?
A: We have an amazing community of Civilization fans, and we definitely want to make sure we’ve made a Civilization game that they’re going to enjoy and spend hundreds and hundreds of hours playing. At the same time, we know there are things we can do to introduce new people to the game so that they can be part of this community. We think that if we’ve got a game that has all the incredible decisions and strategy that’s a hallmark of Civilization, and we can ease new players into these systems without overwhelming them, then we can accomplish that goal. Of course, the easiest way to make a Civilization fan is to just get someone to play the game.
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing with Civilization VI?
A: I’m really proud of the way the team has kept the game beautiful and interesting, and fully playable throughout development, even from the first prototypes with the new engine. We’ve approached Civilization VI a bit differently than we have in the past, which is a day-to-day goal of zero progression blockers. As soon as these are found, they’re resolved, so everyone keeps playing, testing, and iterating. We’ve been able to implement the designers’ ideas and test them out almost from the first day, which has given us a ton of insight into what we can do to make this the kind of engrossing game our players want. It takes a lot of work on everyone’s part – design, engineering, sound, and art – but I think it’s paid off with the game we’re working on now.
Q: What are you most excited for players to experience in Civilization VI?
A: I’m a huge culture player and builder, so the way this has changed in Civilization VI has some of the biggest impact for me. I love how the Wonders and Districts take up their own tiles (Theater Square FTW!), and I love how the entire civics system is driven more directly by culture. It feels so much more active than it has before. For builder players like me, they’re going to love this change.
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