Civilization 5 E3 2010 Interview [Updated]

[Update - 6/25/10] Added clarification about multiplayer modes available at and after launch.

At E3 2010, I had a chance to have a quick chat with Civilization V producer Dennis Shirk following a demo of the impending strategy sequel. You can read my preview of the demo or just jump right into the interview below.

nope In the interview, Dennis and I discuss the social policy system new to Civilization V, unique units, puppet states, and early game rushes.

Shack: Policies - what is this new system and what does it bring to the table?

Dennis Shirk: If you've played Civ IV before, you're familiar with the Culture Victory. You build up culture by building cultural buildings and at the end of the game, if you have the three biggest culture generating cities over a certain threshold, you win a Culture Victory. It didn't have a whole lot of effect on other aspects of the game.

Jon Shafer, our lead designer, really wanted to integrate [culture] with all the systems of the game. So now culture is used almost as a currency. In Civ IV, you had a civics system and it allowed you some flexibility with how you wanted your civilization to grow, but Jon took that to the Nth degree with the 'Social Policy' screen.

There are 10 different branches ike 'Liberty', 'Tradition', 'Honor' and things like that. Each has a series of policies underneath them that reflect on the type of branch that it is. Honor is for military stuff. Piety might be for happiness or culture. You use culture to buy these policies. They are powerful bonuses. Under Tradition, there's 'Aristocracy' which is a +33% bonus to Wonder production.

If you get six full branches, it unlocks the world wonder called 'Utopia Project' and building that unmolested by other civs: you win the game.

If you're not playing that culture game, for example, a diplomatic, science, or military game, culture being used as a currency to purchase bonuses that drive those other aspects of the game is huge. Now culture matters. You can't just completely ignore it.

BOOM video 5511

Shack: Will any of these policies or choices you make impact diplomatic relations?

Dennis Shirk: Diplomatic relations, not so much. That's the one place that it doesn't touch for major [civs]. For city-states, yes, there are policies that can really dictate the relationships and yields you might get from city-states. For the diplomacy game, this actually has an impact, because city-states have a diplomacy vote [in the United Nations] at the end of the game.

Shack: We won't be seeing policy choices make diplomatic relationships impossible with major civilizations, like we had with religion in Civ IV?

Dennis Shirk: For Jon, he didn't want that simple, straight-up number based system for dealing with the majors: 'I'm this religion, you're that religion, therefore I don't like you.' With the city-state layer in between, it didn't make sense to have that in between as well.

Shack: What about unique units. Are these just pallete swaps with some bonuses?

Dennis Shirk: Each unique unit in the game has its own unique abilities too.

Shack: Are these - for lack of a better term - spells to be cast or are they passive bonuses?

Dennis Shirk: Not just passive bonuses. The Roman Legion, for instance, can build roads and forts, things previously just given to the worker [unit]. As the Romans, your legions are going across the landscape and paving their own roads at the same time. There are a lot of unique units like this. They don't just look different; they do different things.

nope Shack: When you capture a city now, you have three options: raze, install a new governor, and install a puppet. What is this puppet system?

Dennis Shirk: There's puppet states, now. You can annex a city [like in previous Civ games]. If you annex a city during your conquest, you get a lot of unhappiness. Obviously, the people don't want you there. You can do some things to reduce this unhappiness - build a courthouse, for example - but it's huge. If your civ falls into unhappiness, it's going to affect everything.

We have an option now to create a puppet state - install a governor and leave him behind - you let the people do what they want, but they aren't nearly as unhappy. There is still some unhappiness, but not as much.

A puppet state is going to give you some yields - gold, culture, science, resources - but you cannot make anything. They choose what they are going to do. You can't build any buildings. You don't get to make that decision.

Shack: Do they fall in line if you're waging a war? Will they help you with war production or will they do what is good for their city?

Dennis Shirk: They're within your borders, but they are only doing what's good for their city.

BOOM video 5567

Shack: A lot of the early game in Civ IV ended up being a rush to specific tech or research: founding religions was particularly powerful. Is there any of that in Civ V?

Dennis Shirk: We have one or two rushes in place, but not on the level [of founding religions in Civ IV]. In the early game, we still want to have some minigames going on, but nothing that is going to alter the landscape of the planet. With religion, it was really fun, but extremely powerful. If you didn't go for it right away, you were out of the race.

There are little races going on. There are some natural wonders in the game now placed on the map like a mysterious crater or volcano here or there - that kind of thing. If you discover those, it will increase happiness within your civ. If you found cities next to them it's a huge boon in gold and other odds and ends. There's going to be a rush to find [natural wonders] and ruins because they give multiple benefits, but nothing that's going to be earth-shatteringly game-altering.

Shack: What multiplayer options will be available?

[Updated Response]

Dennis Shirk: We are going to have basic multiplayer options at release, and then are going to be adding a number of new modes in the weeks thereafter. We haven't hammered down exactly what will release when, but when everything is finalized, we'll be making a big announcement, because we're really excited about all the options Civ players are going to have.

Shack: Since you're using Steamworks, will you be including any matchmaking?

Dennis Shirk: We're not going to be shipping with matchmaking, but it's something that everybody started asking for. That is something we're going to be looking to include with our package in the future.

Developed by Firaxis and coming to PC, Civilization V will be released on September 21, 2010 in North America and then September 24, 2010 in Europe.

[Watch the Shacknews E3 2010 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.]