Jake Song Delves Into Civilization Online's Gameplay
2K and XL Games announced CryEngine 3 MMO Civilization Online early this month and we learned from the announcement that the game will be a sandbox MMO with RTS and RPG elements. What are the differences between Civilization Online and previous Civilization games? How does a sandbox Civilization MMO work? We teamed up with 17173.com and sat down with XL Games' boss Jake Song and put forward the questions to him. See what he had to say.
In other MMOs, you need to pick up a faction, and in Civilization Online, you will have to choose a civilization
There are 4 starting civilizations, China, Rome, Egypt and Aztec. Each civilization controls three cities at the beginning which serve as starting areas for new players and they cannot be occupied by others. Additional cities can be built by players when there's enough resource. The first step to build a new city, according to Song, is to construct the tall hall, and then it's up to players what other buildings to build. We were told that a player can't build a city by his own power.
While XL Games tries to balance these civilizations, they have to make sure that each civilization is recognizable. In the single-player version of Civilization games, for example, China has archers, and Jake Song wants the civilizations in the MMO also have such cultural characteristics. The biggest difference between the Civilization Online and its predecessors is that the MMO sets in a persistent open world — it's a sandbox. It's not easy to make a Civilization game into MMO because of the IP's turn-based nature, Jake Song admitted, it's hard to apply the turn-based mechanics in a MMO but it didn't mean Civilization Online won't be fun. What you are going to see in the MMO is players will cooperate to develop their culture and deal with other cultures controlled by real players, and that would be interesting experience you can't get in other Civilization games, Jake Song said.
There are many roles you can play in the game
You jump into the game as nobody but as you play the game, you can choose to undertake soldier, farmer, miner, engineer and many other careers. Changing career is possible in the game but Jake Song mentioned there will be certain risk to do that. Depending on the career you choose, you will have to develop your skills (horizontal progression) and advance your character to high level (vertical progression). Similar to other MMORPG, your character gain XP and level up by doing certain activities and accomplish certain goals. For instance, a farmer will do farming to level up while an engineer will probably spend more time on constructing to progress, but in Civilization Online, the leveling will be faster than that in other MMOs. Besides, the advancement of civilization will allow your character to advance to new level. There could be some sort of offline progression for your character, according to Song, but it's still to be decided.
Technology is developed in real time and based on players' behaviors. If the majority of players in the civilization do farming, related technology will develop faster than the others. Civilization Online is not just about developing a culture in peaceful and safe environment, and you can expect the "killing mob" stuff in this game. Song said there will be NPC enemies, such as barbarians, who randomly spawn around your cities and might attack your farm, so if you have a friend who is a soldier, he might come and help you vanquish the intruders, and in return, you could give your friend some benefits. The victory will bring players item rewards as well as XP rewards and it's also an example of how players cooperate in this game. You can be more aggressive, Song noted, you can captured the barbarians' footholds before they come to attack you.
Player versus player or civilization versus civilization is where most of the battles take place. In medieval age, the war may mostly be the siege battles, while in the modern era, you will probably see tanks roaring into enemy territories and take control of the city hall. All battles will proceed in the world map and you won't go into a specific map to play the battles. You can expect to use some abilities in the battles but there won't be magic, because it's a Civilization game, Jake Song said, and you can use axes, swords and bows, but no magic. What if a much more advanced civilization using tanks to invade a civilization that's still in medieval age? Jake Song said it's possible but it won't last long because there are some mechanics to reduce the gap between civilizations.
There's also 1 vs 1 battle, but you can't attack players in the same civilization, Song explained, and when you duel with a player in another civilization, it's usually seen as fight between two individual players. However, the game will remember these behaviors and it could eventually bring two civilizations into war.
The social part
Outstanding, popular or enthusiastic players would emerge from the citizens and become leader of a city and even higher roles. That comes to an interesting feature of the game — how does a leader be selected? Song said at the beginning the leader could be NPC character, and by completing quests given by the AI controlled leader, you and other players can gradually take the position. Leader could also be selected through player election or other ways to choose a leader, Song added.
What powers does a leader have? Song said most of this part is still in discussion. Basically, a leader should be able to direct or influence the path the civilization goes. He/she may be able to decide where to put the resource into, what buildings to build, whether to wage war against other civilizations and he can also give missions to other players.
Unlike other MMOs, Civilization Online is designed to have an end, or a winner. There are several winning conditions, and Jake Song mentioned launching a space ship or conquer other Civilizations through war will lead to the end of the session. When the winner is decided, a new session will begin and civilizations start from stone age again. What will be brought to the new session are the rewards players get from last session.
We were told that Civilization has already had an early demo but the developer was not ready to show it to the public. The game will first release in Korea and then in other areas.
Civilization Online is MMO title in development by 2K, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, and XLGAMES. More information about the title can be found at Civilization official franchise site and Civilization Online global brand site.