What if you could rule the world with tourism? Or overcome a bitter enemy with a song? Sid Meier’s Civilization V is a series high point in a lot of ways, but many agree that the available options in the later portions of the game are too limiting. Cultural and diplomatic victories are bound by a limited set of tools. The game as a whole doesn’t suffer in any significant way, but the team at Firaxis hopes to fill out the experience more completely when the Brave New World expansion arrives on July 9, 2013.
Winning a cultural victory in Civ V is similar to the way it worked in previous Civ games. You focus on building structures and supporting policies that generate culture, occasionally deploying a Great Artist’s “Culture Bomb” to expand the boundaries of your territory and push your cultural influence into neighboring territories. The idea is fundamentally the same in Brave New World, only you’ve got more tools to work with.
“You need to spread your culture across the world almost like it’s a military campaign, to get your culture out and dominate other players in the game,” lead programmer Ed Beach explains in a chat with Digital Trends. Part of that is very much status quo. You’ll still build theaters and embrace culture-generating policies, and you’ll still drop your Culture Bombs. Those are largely defensive tactics, however. A well-formed cultural offense relies on a key new feature: Tourism.
“You’re going to be creating some signature great pieces of art or music or writing and those items are going to shine a beacon on your civilization,” Beach explains. “We call then Great Works, [and they] start producing a new type of culture that we call Tourism. That’s the outward, offensive culture that is showing how attractive your culture is to the rest of the world.”
“Our ideologies are Autocracy, Freedom, and Order. Those three are pitted in the diplomatic battle, the political battle, at the end of the game throughout the 20th century just like they were in our own world.”
Archaeological finds operate in the same way that Great Works do. People want to see them, and people will come from all over the world and all of the many different civilizations to do just that. Even civs that might otherwise be at odds with your own. The cultural pressure exerted by tourism coming into your territory leads to additional influence on the world stage, and this is absolutely vital in the late game.
“[When] you get to the 20th century, everyone is forced to pick one of three ideologies,” Beach says. “Our ideologies are Autocracy, Freedom, and Order. Those three are pitted in the diplomatic battle, the political battle, at the end of the game throughout the 20th century just like they were in our own world. If your culture is strong enough, you can put pressure on by capturing the hearts and minds of the citizens of the other civilizations of the world… so they’re going to have to consider switching to your ideology.”
This is all part of what Firaxis senior producer Dennis Shirk describes as a push to empower the “peaceful builders” in Civilization V. Military might can take you far in the game, so equipping players with an arsenal of cultural weapons levels the field. Grab enough power peacefully and you’ll be in a position to tip the balance and make life difficult for those with differing ideologies. The principal tool for doing so is Brave New World‘s U.N. precursor, the World Congress.
“The World Congress comes online the first time anybody researches Printing Press and has also met everybody else in the world,” Shirk explains. “It asks you to go ahead and propose your first resolutions. The resolutions vary greatly. You have resolutions that you can use on offense, like you can tax somebody’s large standing army to make it really expensive to have a large standing army. You can do trade embargoes to keep them from trading. You can ban trading with city-states.”
The World Congress effectively creates an opportunity for players to engage in peaceful aggression, but that’s not the extent of it. Putting a competing civ in the poor house with heavy taxes on large armies is effective, but no more so that flexing your cultural dominance in service to all of humankind. World Congress resolutions can also govern global construction efforts, for things like a World’s Fair or an International Space Station. The top three civs supporting these projects enjoy unique benefits.
Diplomacy plays an important role in this new gameplay thread, hence the addition of a new diplomat unit in Brave New World.”After you put up your resolution, if you want people to vote for [it], you can actually send diplomats to their capital and try to bribe them or trade for their votes,” Shirk says. “So it’s this whole different meta-game going on of kind of lining up other civilization to vote the way you need them to vote.”
“We really think the mod community… can actually create some amazing scenarios of their own once they understand how it works.”
“We like that gameplay, but there just wasn’t enough of it. It didn’t come online early enough in the game. So what we’ve done now is extend it, so probably 100-150 turns earlier in the game you can start working on building up those coalitions and having real interesting gameplay effects come out of that.”
Brave New World doesn’t forget about the modding community. The new late-game military units from the XCOM universe are merely a modern world evolution of the paratrooper units, but fan programmers are free to, say, create a late-game barbarian unit comprised of Sectoids and other extra-terrestrials.
“We didn’t want to completely go over the cliff in terms of taking away the historical foundations of Civ V,” Shirk says. “[The XCOM units] were put in to kind of brush up against the edge of it and give the modders something fun to play with while still keeping it in our realm of reality.”
Two new scenarios – one set on the U.S. East Coast during the Civil War and the other set during the age of imperialism in Africa – serve largely the same purpose. There’s an element of demonstrating Brave New World‘s new features in both of these engineered scenarios, but they exist just as much to spark creative thinking in the modding community.
“We like to… provide really detailed examples for the mod community [in our scenarios] on how they can take our game engine and warp it in different directions to get interesting, new, innovative gameplay out of it,” Beach says. “When we shipped Gods & Kings we had a big scenario called ‘Into the Renaissance’ where we provided lots of examples of where the new religion system could be taken with modders and used to different effect.”
The “Scramble for Africa” scenario in Brave New World is a good example. Zulu and Portugal, two of the DLC’s new civs, are among those featured. The new Archaeology rules play an important role as well. The scenario gives newcomers a sense of some of the expansion’s important new bits. Then, in addition, it also showcases one of the big new “under the hood” changes in Brave New World that the modding community will want to take advantage of.
“We actually scripted the map so that the outline of Africa is always a hard edge, but every time you play, as soon as you start breaking into the fog on inner Africa, you’re going to have completely new terrain every single time you explore it. So it’s infinitely replayable, which I love,” Shirk reveals.
“That was something we did with our map building technology as something to throw out to the mod community” Beach adds. “This ability to, in our map editor, be able to create a fixed portion of your map and then you basically mark another part of your map with a terrain type that you’re not using and then replace it in a randomly generated fashion.”
“We really think the mod community… can actually create some amazing scenarios of their own once they understand how it works. You can imagine, like, westward expansion [in the U.S.]; you start and maybe the Mississippi river and Saint Louis are fixed, but once you go west, out toward the Rocky Mountains, that’s all randomly generated. There are all sorts of great uses for that kind of approach to building a map for a game like this.”
Development on Civilization V doesn’t end with the release of Brave New World, but Firaxis sees the expansion as the last missing piece that the core game really needed. Updates geared toward game balance and breaking exploits will be released in time, but it certainly sounds like this is the last major update for Civ V.
“We really approached Brave New World as the gift-wrapping on the package,” Shirk says. “We really wanted to have this wrap up all the loose edges and make it a complete game. That said, there’s no telling what the future holds or what else we might see online or what else we might experience ourselves that we might want to do. But that’s how we approached this.”