Freeciv 2.1.0-beta3, with the SDL client
|Developer(s)||The Freeciv project|
|Publisher(s)||The Freeciv project|
|Release date(s)||January 5, 1996 (1.0)
February 16, 2013 (2.3.4)
September 14, 2013 (2.4.0)
Freeciv is a single, and multiplayer, turn-based strategy game for workstations and personal computers inspired by the commercial proprietary Sid Meier's Civilization series. It is available for most desktop computer operating systems. Released under the GNU General Public License, Freeciv is free and open source software. The game's default settings are closest to Civilization II, in both gameplay and graphics (including the units and the isometric grid).
Players take the role of tribal leaders in 4000 B.C. who must guide their peoples through the centuries. Over time, new technologies are discovered, which allow the construction of new city buildings and the deployment of new units. Players can wage war on one another or form diplomatic relationships.
The game ends when one civilization has eradicated all others or accomplished the goal of space colonization, or at a given deadline. If more than one civilization remains at the deadline, the player with the highest score wins. Points are awarded for the size of a civilization, its wealth, and cultural and scientific advances.
At the Computer Science department at Aarhus University, three students, avid players of XPilot and of Sid Meier's Civilization, which was a stand-alone PC game for DOS, decided to find out whether the two could be fused into an X-based multiplayer Civilization-like strategy game. The students—Peter Unold, Claus Leth Gregersen and Allan Ove Kjeldbjerg—started development in November 1995; the first playable version was released in January, 1996, with bugfixing and small enhancements until April. The rules of the game were close to Civilization, while the client/server architecture was basically that of XPilot.
For the developers, Freeciv 1.0 was a successful proof of concept, but a rather boring game, so they went back to XPilot. But Freeciv was already playable and addictive enough to pick up other students as players, bugfixers and feature extenders. It was useful enough to be picked up by popular Linux distributions, e.g. Debian. Designed to be portable, it was ported to many platforms, which helped its survival. Freeciv playing and development continues to the present day, although the spells with little development activity have grown longer and more frequent over time. The development history is strictly incremental: while there have been many serious improvements, the basic design and architecture have not changed since the early versions.
Over the following years before the release of version 2.x in 2005, the game remained largely unchanged. As many regular players reached excellent gaming skills, diplomacy became essential, so team games slowly started to replace free-for-all games from around 2002. The release of version 2.x in 2005 changed the game significantly, new tweaked rules favoured large cities with full trade routes as well as wars with more advanced technologies, necessitating a distinct phase of rapturing which required relatively peaceful conditions; so games were almost always played in teams and typically took longer to finish compared to 1.x games.
Freeciv is very configurable, down to the specific rules, so it can be played in Freeciv (default) mode, Civilization mode, Civilization II mode, or a custom mode. One or several players act as game administrators and can configure the game rules. Typically modified rules are:
- Number of players required before the game can be started. The maximum number of players is 126 in the latest version of Freeciv.
- Speed of technological development
- Whether there should be computer controlled players
- Whether (computer controlled) barbarians should invade player settlements
- How close cities can be built to one another
- How continents and islands are generated and distributed over the map
- The map size, where the maximum map size is 128,000 map tiles.
- Map topology (rectangular or hexagonal tiling; whether it wraps horizontally and/or vertically)
In order to play a game of Freeciv, a user must start up a Freeciv client and connect it to a Freeciv server. Initially, the server is in pre-game phase; in this phase, clients can connect and game configuration parameters can be changed. At some point, the server may be ordered to start a game; in response, it creates game players (nations) and the game map, and assigns every player to either a Freeciv client or a computer player, as specified by the configuration. From that point on, the game will run until it ends or is terminated; the server can never get back into pre-game state.
The user can also start a game directly from the client: this automatically starts a Freeciv server, connects to it and starts the game.
Freeciv's graphics system is configurable: originally, map display was always in overhead mode (like in Civ I), which many players found rather crude; isometric mode (like in Civ II) and optionally hexagonal tiling (like in Civ V) were added later. In both modes, look can be further customized by switching to an alternative set of graphics (called a tileset). The sounds can be replaced as well.
Freeciv supports human-to-human multiplayer gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) computer players. While the game is turn based, human players move simultaneously. The AI players move separately, partly at the start of a turn, partly at the end.
In releases before 2.0, AI players could not engage in diplomatic relationships with human players. Under the current release, AI players will engage in a very predictable, rules-based diplomacy.
Freeciv version 2.2.0 includes a map editor, termed Civworld. It can create new scenarios, as well as edit the map currently being played. Basic scripting is available with Freeciv, but is not available in Civworld.
Version 2.3 increases the limit of players from 30 to 126.
Version 1.0 was released 5 January 1996
Version 1.6 was released 1 June 1998
Version 2.4 was released 14 September 2013
Originally developed on IRIX, Freeciv has been ported to many different operating systems: it is distributed with many Linux distributions, offers installers for Microsoft Windows, and has been known to run on Mac OS X, MorphOS, Solaris, Ultrix, QNX, OS/2, Cygwin, AmigaOS, AROS, RISC OS, Maemo, ZETA, SkyOS, various BSDs, and smartphones and tablets running Android.
Freeciv-web is a version of Freeciv playable online in any modern web browser; it was available from the Chrome Web Store. The game is a fork of the Freeciv project, with the goal of redesigning the desktop game into a version which can be played online. The game's default settings are closest to Civilization II, both in gameplay and graphics (including the units and the isometric grid). The proposal to create a web-version of Freeciv was made 6 April 2007 on the Freeciv mailing lists, and documented on the Freeciv.org wiki.
Freeciv-web is free and open source software. The Freeciv C server is released under the GNU General Public License, while the Freeciv.net web client is released under the GNU Affero General Public License. Freeciv-web supports human-to-human multiplayer gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) computer players. Its features are similar to the Freeciv C client, although not all of the user-interface has been ported from the C client yet.
Freeciv can be played online at play.freeciv.org.  All the features required to play a full game of Freeciv are in place, including rendering of an isometric map, technology research, and many dialogs for managing cities, units and other players. The game also supports scenario-games, and includes maps of the world, North America, France, Italy, Japan and the Iberian peninsula. While the game is turn based, human players move simultaneously. The AI players move separately, partly at the start of a turn, partly at the end.
Freeciv-web can be played in any web browser which supports the HTML5 standards. In particular, the game uses the Canvas element and WebSocket which are part of the HTML 5 standard. Unlike many other browser-based online games, it does not depend on the proprietary Flash plug-in. Freeciv.net is supported by Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer. The canvas support in Freeciv.net has been used to benchmark HTML5 canvas performance.
- "Freeciv:In the Beginning". Freeciv.wikia.com. 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
- Freeciv 1.0a source code (1996); see DESIGN
- Freeciv 1.0k source code (1996); see CHANGES
- "''Building Freeciv: An Open Source Strategy Game'', by Howard Wen, on linuxdevcenter.com, Nov 21, 2001". Linuxdevcenter.com. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
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- "Play.freeciv.org". Freeciv.org. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
- "Freeciv.net on canvasdemos.com". canvasdemos.com. 2010-01-19.
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