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CN: So, did you design for appointment play in any aspect, in terms of making players have to come back periodically?
SM: We tried to avoid that to a large extent, the idea of having to be there at the same as another player, by putting in chat features, messaging features. There are a number of ways that the game kind of allows you to almost automatically communicate with other players. One example is the way you build a Wonder in CivWorld is to fill a couple of slots with great people.
So, for example, to build the pyramids, it might require three great people. But a single player can only put in one person, so it requires three people to cooperate to get that Wonder.
But you might put in your person in the morning, and somebody else will come back and check the screen, and say, "Oh, Chris wants us to build a pyramid. I see he's added a person there. So, I'm going to add my person, and then a couple hours later, somebody else might come along and put their person in there."
Even though they were not playing at the same time, they were not online at the same time, they still kind of knew what was going on, knew what other people were doing, and were able to work together to accomplish something.
So, we look for opportunities like that to allow people to work together even though they might not be playing at exactly the same time. Now there are events, battles for example, where it's a good idea to kind of be there when the battle takes place because there's a lot that goes on there.
So, it's a combination of a few appointment-type events, but in general the gameplay is what we call asynchronous. It doesn't require everyone to be playing at the same time.
Kris Graft: I think a lot of other "regular" Civilization players like being able to basically go head-to-head with other players, to outwit them. How is CivWorld going to accommodate players that want to be in more direct competition? And also, do you think that kind of competition would be a turn-off for Facebook gamers?
SM: I think we definitely talked about that quite a bit. What's the balance of competitive versus cooperative gameplay that we're looking for? I think we want to provide both of those and kind of let the player gravitate toward what type of play style they prefer.
There are a couple of ways that that happens. You can join a large civilization. Just to kind of back up a second, there are somewhere close to 200 players in each game world, and those players form individual civilizations. A civilization can have anywhere from a couple people up to 30 to 40 people together. So, if you're looking for kind of more cooperative gameplay, you would probably join a larger civilization where you're working together with more people.
If you're more of a competitive kind of individualist, you might start your own civilization or join a small civilization with just a couple people. Even if you joined a large civilization, there are ranks and positions within that civ.
For example, there's one king. There's a defense minister, a political advisor. There are positions of honor that you can compete with your other civ members to achieve. There's a whole range of both competitive and cooperative ways of playing.
If you're looking for the classic "I'm the king; I'm going to conquer the world experience," that's not what this game is about. But you can compare the level of your achievements, your fame points, versus other players. There are many ways to be competitive. It's kind of a balance between competitive gameplay, where you can kind of advance yourself, but in many ways, the best way to advance yourself is to advance your civilization and cooperate with other players. There are a lot of kind of trade-offs. A lot of trade-offs are going on there if you're both the competitive and cooperative player.
KG: At GDC last year, you actually described the relationship between the gamer and the designer as an "unholy alliance."
Sid Meier: [laughs]
KG: So, I'm wondering, since this obviously isn't a single-player game, the gamer doesn't exactly have in their head "Me versus whoever made this game," or an A.I. There's just much more collaboration with your friends. How do you adjust to that as a designer? Do you feel like maybe your role is a bit more transparent or that you're a bit more off the hook or free to do different things?
SM: I think in some ways, that's true. The more players that are involved in the game, the more that you're kind of handing over the making of the experience to your players. If you've got 200 players, for example, in one of these worlds, a lot of what's going to happen is kind of out of your control. It really depends on the dynamic of the players and how they interact, what they decide to do.
So, you're handing over a fair amount more control to your players, as opposed to a single-player game... The player is still guiding the game, but you're kind of right there beside them at almost every step as a designer. It's still an alliance between the player and the designer.
But there's a difference. Group dynamics are kind of different from single-player dynamics, and you really have to start thinking about group dynamics and how do you encourage communication, how do you find ways for people to work together. Griefing and exploits are more of an issue in this kind of world. So, there's definitely some new things for the designer to think about in this kind of things.