“People can assume that a game is going to be fun and what it needs for success are more cinematics or monetisation or whatever,” says legendary game designer Sid Meier. “But if the core just is not there with good gameplay, then it won’t work.”
Meier has been talking to the BBC (opens in new tab) for the 30th anniversary of Civilization’s release. Today, he still oversees Civ, as well as games like XCOM and Marvel’s Midnight Suns, as a key figure at Firaxis.
“The real challenge and the real opportunity is keeping our focus on gameplay,” Meier goes on. “That is what is unique, special and appealing about games as a form of entertainment. When we forget that, and decide it’s monetisation or other things that are not gameplay-focused, when we start to forget about making great games and start thinking about games as a vehicle or an opportunity for something else, that’s when we stray a little bit further from the path.”
The backdrop to Meier’s comments, of course, are the rise of NFTs and other metaverse-related concepts that excite investors but have so far failed to connect with gamers at large. It’s notable that over Meier’s long career, he and his companies have been largely unswayed by industry trends – either for in-game mechanics, or the mechanisms of release and money-making.
“I think the way the internet works, once a shift starts to happen, then everybody runs to that side of the ship,” he says. “I think we need to be sure that our games continue to be high quality and fun to play – there are so many forms of entertainment out there now. We’re in a good position… but we need to be sure we realise how critical gameplay is – and how that is the engine that really keeps players happy, engaged and having fun.”
I recently talked to XCOM designer Jake Solomon for Edge magazine’s career retrospective segment, Collected Works. His continued reverence for Meier was palpable, and confirmed that the Civ creator very much puts his principles into practice at Firaxis, the studio at which they work together.
Civ still features in our list of the best strategy games you can play today.