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Civilization: Beyond Earth - Where Will You Take Humanity?

Greg Tito | 21 Jul 2014 12:00
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I didn't get the chance to play with favors too much, or at least to see the long term effects. In the first few turns, other factions did indeed ask for gifts like 100 gold in exchange for a favor. I accepted, but I didn't get to see how the power of holding that favor impacted the rest of the game or if I could cash it in when the faction had grown a little more. There's also the danger of the faction getting conquered by another, losing everything you'd invested in protecting that faction. Even worse, going to war with the faction that owes you favors clears the slate, so you're incentivized to keep them happy with you. Still, I'm interested to see how favors change the political landscape to make it seem more real.

"That's one of the cool things about Civilization is that little changes like that in the machinery create these really dramatic changes in the whole game experience," said Miller. "It's a big machine but it's made out of very simple parts that all work together and overlap in interesting ways. So, small changes can result in big differences. That's a strategy game."

A Rocktopuss Emerges

Another feature that I've only scratched the surface with is the orbital layer. You'll have satellites you can launch into the atmosphere of the new planet in Beyond Earth which will provide bonuses to your units, or improve yields on the tiles in your territory for resources like science. The one I found as a random reward for finding a supply pod on the surface was a solar collector, and launching it improved the energy output of the tiles around my capital for a short while.

"The orbital layer is actually pretty straightforward to code, I was surprised," Strenger said. "It breaks a lot of the rules of how units work, cause they kind of stack in a way. They float above units on the ground, units on the ground can coexist on the same tile. They have wide range of different effects. Some are military, others are more economic or peaceful focused."

There's one orbital unit I can't wait to get my hands on using in Beyond Earth - the Rocktopuss. "Yeah, it's called the rocktopuss," Strenger said.

"There's a story there," Pete Murray said, who was sitting in on my interview with Strenger.

"What's the story?" I said.

Anton Strenger took a deep breath.

We wanted a flying, harmony alien-inspired unit and we were thinking dragons or something but we ended up deciding to do something different. We had the idea that we have float stone [resource] in the game. What if there's this alien life that floats above the ground using this float stone. It kind of latches on the float stone and floats around almost like a jellyfish. And I was like "What if could float up so high that it actually becomes an orbital unit temporarily?" It can rain down acidic ooze death on its enemies and then float back down and reposition itself. Normally orbital units can't do that. That was a really compelling concept. As for the name, we're just like, well yeah, it's got the float stones and it kinda looks like an octopus, has a lot of tendrils and stuff so I think it was Will or Dave had said, "Rocktopuss" and I was said, "Yeah, that's really cool." As time went on, I was like, "We're not really calling it the rocktopuss, are we guys?" But everyone was like, "Yeah, we are." It's like, "Okay." I realized I was taking it way too seriously. It's called the rocktopuss and it's amazing. There's actually a fun fact too. The technology that unlocks it is called Designer Life-forms. Which is like, yeah they're curating the genes and whatever, but it's also kind of a joke because it's the life-form that we, as designers, were like, "yeah, this will be really cool."

Murray added: "Designer's life-forms.

"It's our 'pet' project," Strenger said.

--

Civilization: Beyond Earth is definitely not a Alpha Centauri remake or even a spiritual successor, really. The changes, additions and life that's being fed into this "Civ in Space" has a very different character than the game Brian Reynolds made 15 years ago. The team certainly rejects direct comparisons to Alpha Centauri. They wanted to make their own mark on the world with this game. "I think we're sort of selfish designers," Miller said. "We wanted to come up with those new characters instead of using old ones. And that's an opportunity that we didn't want to miss."

The visible leaders of this project are all relatively young - Miller, MacDonough, Brenk and Strenger all appear to be under forty, if not under 30 years old. These designers are taking Civilization beyond human history to new worlds. Part of the fun will be in discovering the mysteries of the new planet. What is the green gas that covers certain tiles? What affinity will you pursue to deal with adversity and attacks from a hostile native lifeforms? Will the massive siege worms take out my capital? Will that alien kraken unit I saw move away from me on that alien ocean be as big as an iceberg? Guided by the veteran voices of Shirk and Meier, these designers are making their mark with Civilization: Beyond Earth. I can't wait to spend more time with the systems to see how deep that mark becomes.

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