'cause civilization should be free
Freeciv 2.1.0-beta3, with the SDL client
|Developer(s)||The Freeciv project|
|Initial release||5 January 1996|
|Stable release||2.5.4 / 14 May 2016|
|Written in||C, Lua|
|Operating system||Unix-like, Windows, more|
|Available in||33 languages (some incomplete)|
|Type||Turn-based strategy video games|
Freeciv is a single, and multiplayer, turn-based strategy game for workstations and personal computers inspired by the proprietary Sid Meier's Civilization series. It is available for most desktop computer operating systems and available in an online browser based version. 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 MS-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.
In 1998, computer players were added that could soon beat newcomers to the game with ease, using only minor forms of cheating. The game grew in popularity. A public server was installed that hosted games permanently, archiving them and publishing a post-game analysis webpage including per-player statistics and an animated map replay.
Subsequent 1.x releases improved the GUI, improved the gameplay, and added many small features, without causing a major change to how the game was best played. Incessant city building turned out to be a critical success factor; developing larger cities did not appear worthwhile. 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.
Version 2.0, released in 2005, changed the game significantly: by modifying various costs and benefits and adding some new game elements it made it worthwhile for players to develop only a few large cities, full trade routes, and advanced technologies. This necessitated a distinct phase of rapturing under relatively peaceful conditions; hence, games were almost always played in teams and typically took longer to finish when compared to 1.x games.
Freeciv is described as an example in The Art of Unix Programming. Some studies and courses use Freeciv as a platform for experimenting with the design and programming of intelligent agents.
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 2,048,000 map tiles (128,000 before 2.4.0)
- 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), 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 releases, AI players will engage in a very predictable, rules-based diplomacy.
Version 2.2.0 included 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 increased the limit of players from 30 to 126.
Ports and variants
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. 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. Freeciv-web introduced several new features, such as play-by-email support freely available to anyone online, and support for playing the game on any real-world map location by choosing a map using Mapbox, which is not available in commercial games in the genre. 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 was originally created by Andreas Røsdal, but is now maintained by several Freeciv developers on Github.
Freeciv-web is free and open source software. The Freeciv C server is released under the GNU General Public License, while the Freeciv-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-web can be played online at play.freeciv.org. It was previously known and available at Freeciv.net. 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-web is supported by Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer. The canvas support in Freeciv-web has been used to benchmark HTML5 canvas performance.
Longturn and Greatturn
Freeciv Longturn and Greatturn are specialized extensions of Freeciv featuring daylong game turns with large amounts of human opponents per map, allowing for optimal timing to build up strategic plans and readapt them to the circumstances of each turn. Matches can last anytime from a few weeks to months, and commonly involve 20 to 30 players in each one.
Longturn's first game, now called LT0, started around 2004 on the Polish Civilization fanpage civ.org.pl. It was decided that the game is a bit too slow paced, so a new "3X movement" ruleset was devised – basically, all units had their movement points and vision radius tripled. As of September 2014, the latest game was LT33. Greatturn's first game, GT00, started in January 2013. As of September 2014, the most recent game was GT11 and the Greatturn community generally uses "2X movement." Around 1 July 2014, the Greatturn website and servers were taken offline by its administrator. The website and game data were acquired from the previous administrator and the website was restored around 10 September 2014.
Longturn and Greatturn are strongly focused on online communication. For example, Greatturn provides a website where each player can create and manage a personal private forum and select the membership allowed to access it for reading or writing messages. This infrastructure paves the ground for maximal cooperation between players allowing the arrangement of complex tactics and diplomacy.
Contrarily to the classic Freeciv, the settings of each match are not determined from within the server hosting the match. Rather, in Greatturn any parameter definition or other proposition is published to the website via the Greatturn voting system for public consideration and approbation; this allows everybody to participate in decisions and doesn't force polls to conclude in a rush. In Longturn, although a polls system was previously used, changes to settings or rulesets are now discussed in the Longturn forum.
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