Civilization (video game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the complete series of games, see Civilization (series).
Civilization box art
Developer(s) MPS Labs
Publisher(s) MicroProse
Producer(s) Sid Meier
Designer(s) Sid Meier
Bruce Shelley
Programmer(s) Sid Meier
Writer(s) B. C. Milligan
Jeffery L. Briggs
Bruce Campbell Shelley
Composer(s) Jeffery L. Briggs
Series Civilization
Platform(s) DOS
Atari ST
Sega Saturn
Super NES
Release date(s) September, 1991[1][2]
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single-player

Sid Meier's Civilization is a turn-based "4X"-type strategy video game created by Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley for MicroProse in 1991.[3][4] The game's objective is to "Build an empire to stand the test of time": it begins in 4000 BC and the players attempt to expand and develop their empires through the ages from the ancient era until modern and near-future times. It is also known simply as Civilization, Civilization I, or abbreviated to Civ or Civ I.

Civilization was originally developed for DOS running on a PC. It has undergone numerous revisions for various platforms (including Windows, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, PlayStation, N-Gage and Super NES) and now exists in several versions. A multiplayer remake, Sid Meier's CivNet was released for the PC in 1995. The N-Gage version was the last game released for the system in North America.


A world map screenshot from the Amiga version of Civilization

Civilization is a turn-based single- or multiplayer strategy game. The player takes on the role of the ruler of a civilization, starting with one (or occasionally two) settler units, and attempts to build an empire in competition with two to six other civilizations. The game requires a fair amount of micromanagement (although less than any of the simulation games).[5] Along with the larger tasks of exploration, warfare and diplomacy, the player has to make decisions about where to build new cities, which improvements or units to build in each city, which advances in knowledge should be sought (and at what rate), and how to transform the land surrounding the cities for maximum benefit. From time to time the player's towns may be harassed by barbarians, units with no specific nationality and no named leader. These threats only come from unclaimed land or sea, so that over time there are fewer and fewer places from which barbarians will emanate.

Before the game begins, the player chooses which historical or current civilization to play. In contrast to later games in the Civilization series, this is largely a cosmetic choice, affecting titles, city names, musical heralds, and color. The choice does affect their starting position on the "Play on Earth" map, and thus different resources in one's initial cities, but has no effect on starting position when starting a random world game or a customized world game. The player's choice of civilization also prevents the computer from being able to play as that civilization or the other civilization of the same color, and since computer-controlled opponents display certain traits of their civilizations this affects gameplay as well. The Aztecs are both fiercely expansionist and generally extremely wealthy, for example. Other civilizations include the Americans, the Mongols, and Romans. Each civilization is led by a famous historical figure, such as Mohandas K. Gandhi for India.

The scope of Civilization is larger than most other games. The game begins in 4000 BC, before the Bronze Age, and can last through to AD 2100 (on the easiest setting) with Space Age and "future technologies". At the start of the game there are no cities anywhere in the world: the player controls one or two settler units, which can be used to found new cities in appropriate sites (and those cities may build other settler units, which can go out and found new cities, thus expanding the empire). Settlers can also alter terrain, build improvements such as mines and irrigation, build roads to connect cities, and later in the game they can construct railroads which offer unlimited movement.

As time advances, new technologies are developed; these technologies are the primary way in which the game changes and grows. At the start, players choose from advances such as pottery, the wheel, and the alphabet to, near the end of the game, nuclear fission and spaceflight. Players can gain a large advantage if their civilization is the first to learn a particular technology (the secrets of flight, for example) and put it to use in a military or other context. Most advances give access to new units, city improvements or derivative technologies: for example, the chariot unit becomes available after the wheel is developed, and the granary building becomes available to build after pottery is developed. The whole system of advancements from beginning to end is called the technology tree, or simply the Tech tree; this concept has been adopted in many other strategy games. Since only one tech may be "researched" at any given time, the order in which technologies are chosen makes a considerable difference in the outcome of the game and generally reflects the player's preferred style of gameplay.

Players can also build Wonders of the World in each of the epochs of the game, subject only to obtaining the prerequisite knowledge. These wonders are important achievements of society, science, culture and defense, ranging from the Pyramids and the Great Wall in the Ancient age, to Copernicus' Observatory and Magellan's Expedition in the middle period, up to the Apollo program, the United Nations, and the Manhattan Project in the modern era. Each wonder can only be built once in the world, and requires a lot of resources to build, far more than most other city buildings or units. Wonders provide unique benefits to the controlling civilization. For example, Magellan's Expedition increases the movement rate of naval units. Wonders typically affect either the city in which they are built (for example, the Colossus), every city on the continent (for example, J.S. Bach's Cathedral), or the civilization as a whole (for example, Darwin's Voyage). Some wonders are made obsolete by new technologies.

The game can be won by conquering all other civilizations or by winning the space race by reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri.

Gandhi - nuclear bug[edit]

While Gandhi was originally programmed into the game as one of the most peaceful civilizations (emulating his real world persona), there was a bug in Civilization that caused him to become one of the most aggressive opponents in the late game. This has become a popular meme. Gandhi was given an "aggresive" score of 1 by the developers; however the adoption of Democracy gives a civilization a -2 bonus to opponent aggression levels. This meant Gandhi's level wrapped back around to 255, "and thus, the infamous warmonger Gandhi was born".[6] While later games fixed this bug, as an homage they will often have him be peaceful throughout most of the game, then become a nuclear warmonger once nuclear weapons become unlocked in the Modern Age.[6]


Meier admitted to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from the board game Civilization, published in the United Kingdom in 1980 by Hartland Trefoil (later by Gibson Games), and in the United States in 1981 by Avalon Hill.[7][not in citation given][8] The early versions of the game even included a flier of information and ordering materials for the board game.[citation needed] There is also a board game based on Sid Meier's computer game version of Civilization that was published in 2002.[9]

Meier was the third major designer to plan a computer version of Civilization, but the first to actually carry out that plan. Danielle Bunten Berry planned to start work on the game after completing M.U.L.E. in 1983, and again in 1985, after completing The Seven Cities of Gold at Electronic Arts. In 1983 Bunten and producer Joe Ybarra opted to first do Seven Cities of Gold. The success of Seven Cities in 1985 in turn led to a sequel, Heart of Africa. Bunten never returned to the idea of Civilization.[10] Meier's designs of Pirates! and Colonization both contain elements of Bunten's The Seven Cities of Gold. Don Daglow, designer of Utopia, the first simulation game, began work programming a version of Civilization in 1987. He dropped the project, however, when he was offered an executive position at Brøderbund, and never returned to the game.[11]

Civilization originally started off as a real-time game, but Meier found it too similar to other real-time strategy games such as SimCity, instead opting for a system where each turn takes a predetermined amount of time, and will automatically execute. This plan was widely disliked and was abandoned.[12] Meier began developing it as a "heavy", textbook-like game, but did not find it "fun". He returned to the game after Railroad Tycoon and increased its emphasis on entertainment. Meier chose to, for example, not simulate a fall of civilization despite its historical accuracy because he did not want the game to regularly destroy the player's country. He reduced the size of the game world to avoid repetitive gameplay, but also reduced automated city management to keep players busy. Meier incorporated warfare because, he said, "The game really isn't about being civilized. The competition is what makes the game fun and the players play their best. At times, you have to make the player uncomfortable for the good of the player".[13]

Meier omitted multiplayer alliances because the computer used them too effectively, causing players to think that it was cheating. He said that by contrast, minefields and minesweepers caused the computer to do "stupid things ... If you've got a feature that makes the AI look stupid, take it out. It's more important not to have stupid AI than to have good AI". Meier also omitted jets and helicopters because he thought players would not find obtaining new technologies in the endgame useful, and online multiplayer support because of the small number of online players ("if you had friends, you wouldn't need to play computer games"); he also did not believe that online play worked well with turn-based play.[13]

When the first version of Civilization was being developed, it was designed to run on a PC, which at the time was transitioning from 16 color EGA to VGA, which could use 256 different colors. The decision to limit the number of different civilizations to 16 was made to make Civilization compatible with both display standards: 16 civilizations for the 16 colors available to EGA.[7] In the end only 8 colours were used: White, Yellow, Cyan, Blue, Green, Grey, Magenta for the 7 pairs of Civilizations and Red (for the Barbarians).


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 5/5 stars[14]
Game Informer 8.5/10 (SNES)[15]

Civilization has been called one of the most important strategy games of all time,[16] and has a loyal following of fans. This high level of interest has led to the creation of a number of free and open source versions and inspired similar games by other commercial developers.

The game was reviewed in 1992 in Dragon #183 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. They commented: "Civilization is one of the highest dollar-to-play-ratio entertainments we've enjoyed. The scope is enormous, the strategies border on being limitless, the excitement is genuinely high, and the experience is worth every dime of the game's purchase price."[17]

Civilization won the Origins Award in the category Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1991.[18] A 1992 Computer Gaming World survey of wargames with modern settings gave the game five stars out of five, describing it as "more addictive than crack ... so rich and textured that the documentation is incomplete".[19] In 1992 the magazine named it the Overall Game of the Year,[20] in 1993 added the game to its Hall of Fame,[21] and in 1996 chose Civilization as the best game of all time:[22]

While some games might be equally addictive, none have sustained quite the level of rich, satisfying gameplay quite like Sid Meier's magnum opus. The blend of exploration, economics, conquest and diplomacy is augmented by the quintessential research and development model, as you struggle to erect the Pyramids, discover gunpowder, and launch a colonization spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. For its day, Civilization had the toughest computer opponents around - even taking into account the "cheats", that in most instances added rather than detracted from the game. Just when you think the game might bog down, you discover a new land, a new technology, another tough foe - and you tell yourself, "just one more turn", even as the first rays of the new sun creep into your room... the most acute case of game-lock we've ever felt.

In 2000, GameSpot rated Civilization as the seventh most influential video game of all time.[23] It was also ranked at fourth place on IGN's 2000 list of the top PC games of all time.[24] In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted it as the 29th top retro game.[25] In 2007, it was named one of the 16 most influential games in history at a German technology and games trade show Telespiele.[26] In Poland, it was included in the retrospective lists of the best Amiga games by Wirtualna Polska (ranked ninth)[27] and CHIP (ranked fifth).[28] In 2012, Time named it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time.[29]

On March 12, 2007, The New York Times reported on a list of the ten most important video games of all time, the so-called game canon, which included Civilization.[30][31]

By the release of Civilization II, the game had sold over 850,000 copies.[32]

Sid Meier's CivNet[edit]

Sid Meier's CivNet is a remake of the original game with added multiplayer, improved graphics and sound, and Windows 3.1/95 support. Gameplay is almost identical to the original game. There are several methods of multiplayer, including LAN, primitive Internet play, hotseat, modem, and direct serial link.


There have been several sequels to Civilization, including Civilization II (1996), Civilization III (2001), Civilization IV (2005), Civilization Revolution (2008), Civilization V (2010), and Civilization VI in 2016. In 1994, Meier produced a similar game titled Colonization.[33]

The 1999 game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri was also created by Meier and is in the same genre, but with a futuristic/space theme; many of the interface and gameplay innovations in this game eventually made their way into Civilization III and IV. Alpha Centauri is not actually a sequel to Civilization, despite beginning with the same event that ends Civilization and Civilization II: a manned spacecraft from Earth arrives in the Alpha Centauri star system. Firaxis' 2014 game Civilization: Beyond Earth, although bearing the name of the main series, is a reimagining of Alpha Centauri running on the engine of Civilization V.

In 1994, MicroProse published Master of Magic, a similar game but embedded in a medieval-fantasy setting where instead of technologies the player (a powerful wizard) develops spells, among other things. The game also shared many things with the popular fantasy card-trading game Magic: The Gathering. In 1999, Activision released Civilization: Call to Power, a sequel of sorts to Civilization II but created by a completely different design team. Call to Power spawned a sequel in 2000, but by then Activision had lost the rights to the Civilization name and could only call it Call to Power II.

An open source clone of Civilization has been developed under the name of Freeciv, with the slogan "'Cause civilization should be free" This game can be configured to match the rules of either Civilization or Civilization II. Another game that partially clones Civilization is a public domain game called C-evo.


  1. ^ "Civilization". Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "Features - The History of Civilization". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  3. ^ "Civilization 1 Fanatics' Site". January 26, 2007. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Interview with Bruce Shelley". October 24, 2006. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Civilization manual at Civ Fanatics". Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "What caused Gandhi's insatiable bloodlust in Civilization | Games |". @geekdotcom. Retrieved 2016-08-05. 
  7. ^ a b Benj Edwards (2007). "The History of Civilization". Gamasutra. pp. 2, 6. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Civilization Rules of Play" (PDF). Avalon Hill. 1981. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame". 
  10. ^ "Game Trivia for Sid Meier's Civilization". Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  11. ^ Alistair Wallis (October 19, 2006). "Column: 'Playing Catch Up: Stormfront Studios' Don Daglow'". Gamasutra. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  12. ^ Civilization Chronicles. p33: 2K Games. 
  13. ^ a b "The 7th International Computer Game Developers Conference". Computer Gaming World. July 1993. p. 34. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  14. ^ Knight, Kyle (October 3, 2010). "Sid Meier's Civilization - Review for PC". Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  15. ^ Sid Meier's Civilization - SNES, October 1995 Issue, (archived)
  16. ^ "The 52 Most Important Video Games". GamePro. Archived from the original on September 13, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008. 
  17. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia & Lesser, Kirk (July 1992). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (183): 57–62. 
  18. ^ "Origin Awards 1991". Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2007. 
  19. ^ Brooks, M. Evan (June 1992). "The Modern Games: 1950 - 2000". Computer Gaming World. p. 120. Retrieved November 24, 2013. 
  20. ^ "CGW Salutes The Games of the Year". Computer Gaming World. November 1992. p. 110. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame". Computer Gaming World. August 1993. p. 141. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  22. ^ "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ "The Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. July 24, 2000. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  25. ^ Retro Gamer 9, page 55.
  26. ^ Plunkett, Luke (August 27, 2007). "German Journos Pick Their Most Important Games Of All Time". Kotaku. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  27. ^ 9. Civilization - 30 najlepszych gier na Amigę - Imperium gier, WP.PL (Polish)
  28. ^ (Polish) Michał Wierzbicki, Dziesięć najlepszych gier na Amigę,, February 23, 2010
  29. ^ "All-TIME 100 Video Games". Time. Time Inc. November 15, 2012. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  30. ^ CHAPLIN, HEATHER (March 12, 2007). "Is That Just Some Game? No, It's a Cultural Artifact". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  31. ^ Ransom-Wiley, James. "10 most important video games of all time, as judged by 2 designers, 2 academics, and 1 lowly blogger". Joystiq. 
  32. ^ "'Sid Meier's Civilization II Back Cover'". Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Sid Meier's Colonization". Gameology. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 


  • The Official Guide to Sid Meier's Civilization, Keith Ferrell, Edmund Ferrell, Compute Books, 1992, ISBN 0-87455-259-1

External links[edit]