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How difficult was it to find people who could accurate speak languages from these extinct civilizations and historical figures?
DS: Obviously a lot of the European languages were very easy. They just sent us over many variances, and we chose somebody that kind of fit our particular characters. We did big character studies. We sent out concept art. We sent out what we expected these people to look like.
For instance, for [German Chancellor Otto von] Bismarck, we wrote it exactly how he's supposed to act in the game. He's a slightly bigger guy, a little overweight, with a deeper voice, that kind of thing.
The hardest one that we had to find was Montezuma of the Aztecs. That took the longest. It took until, literally, four months ago that we finally found an actor down in Mexico who actually spoke the language.
We had to have this remote recording session from Mexico to get that voice, and it was spot-on. We were really happy about it, because it's not only about finding somebody who can speak the language. It's about finding somebody who can speak the language with gusto.
When you're playing Montezuma, there's fire, and arm-waving -- he's got to be able to bring the character forward. One of the more interesting parts of the project is sitting in on those recording sessions, listening to them bring out these dead languages alongside the stuff that we already know.
How did you determine where to fall along the spectrum between the very serious and the tongue-in-cheek? Civilization, across the various games including Civ Rev, has been at different points on that line.
DS: Definitely. Obviously, with Civ Rev, we wanted to go much more tongue-in-cheek -- characters just push everybody else out of the way when they're coming to the screen. [For Civ V] we wanted a more somber, realistic approach.
We still have tongue-in-cheek material in some of the dialog -- sometimes, when a leader is picking on you or wants to declare war, it's fun to be a little snarky. But generally, we're going in a more somber direction, more so than even with Civilization IV. We want players to be in a believable, real world, so it's got to translate into diplomacy, as well. We want it to be a serious place.
Even though Civilization is a relatively complex game, it's always been fairly mainstream; unlike a lot of complex strategy games, it sells millions of units per game. The general mainstream game industry, right now, I would not say is conducive to a more somber or elegant tone -- dark or extreme are the touchstones, maybe. Has it been difficult showing that to your publisher and saying, "This is what we think people want"?
DS: Particularly with Jon coming from roots in the series' fan community, Civilization V as a whole is a big thank you to that community. For our hardcore PC community, Civilization Revolution wasn't necessarily up their alley. It was to an entirely different audience. It brought a lot of new players into the franchise.
But existing Civ players are hardcore players. They want that realism. If you've been on the fan sites, you hear about that, even to the point that if there's a [in-game] Civilopedia entry that's [historically] incorrect, they want to tell you how it's incorrect. Civilization V as a whole, with Jon designing it, is a big call to them, to say, "Thank you. This is what you've been asking for."
They've been asking for full-screen leader screens for a while. They want to be part of those moments. They want to be part of that realism. They want to believe that they're in the scene. That is definitely fan-driven.
You have a really elegant Art Deco art direction going on through your marketing materials, your website, and I assume the game UI. How did you end up with that?
DS: Our new UI designer's name is Russell Vaccaro. He did the UI in Civilization Revolution as well. We think he did an excellent job of boiling down the whole UI into something that's actually manageable for a game pad, and we wanted that same thing with Civ V, because there's a lot of UI in play in a Civilization game.
You want the Civ V UI to be workable with a game pad?
DS: No, no. Not playable with a pad. He just did a really good job of boiling down what people need to see at any given time. We can always have stuff that's under the hood for the hardcore players. That's all still there, but when he first went about designing the UI, he really wanted this forward-looking theme to it.
With the Art Deco, he wanted to evoke that prosperous time in the country, when everybody designed beautiful, forward-looking steel mammoths in cities. He did this whole layout scheme with lots of pre-renders for what scenes would look like.
What's killing him the most now, though, is that everybody in our office has been playing BioShock 2. He's still avoided playing BioShock 1 because he hasn't wanted to corrupt what he was doing, because they went with "Art Deco gone bad," so to speak, for the whole theme.
I was going to ask if BioShock was an influence at all, because you guys are part of the same publisher.
DS: He actually wanted to stay away from that. He wanted it to be a gleaming future, that beautiful outlook that the game allows.
So 2K Games didn't come to you and say, "Hey, everybody loved this in BioShock, so..."
DS: No. It's what he himself really wanted to convey in the feeling of the game.
Speaking of Civ Rev, do you expect there to be many people who played that as their first Civ game and now want to take the plunge into the full-scale experience?
DS: We really hope so. Obviously, Civ Rev did very, very well. There are a lot of people who played it and loved it. Some of our hardcore fans played it and loved it too, just because it was something where they could sit down for an hour instead of ten. We really hope that's our gateway drug, so to speak, into taking the plunge into the PC world. Hopefully, we will make it happen.