Civilization (computer game)

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Civilization is a computer game created by Sid Meier for Microprose in 1991. The game's objective is to develop a great empire from the ground up. The game begins in ancient times and the player attempts to expand and develop their empire through the ages until modern and near-future times. It is generally acknowledged to be a pioneer in the genre of turn-based strategy games.



Civilization is a single-player game (although there was a separate multiplayer version called CivNet and both Civilization II and III have multi-player versions). The player takes on the role of the ruler of a civilization starting with nothing but a single Settler unit (sometimes two of them). The player attempts to build an empire in competition with a number of other civilizations (from 1 to 7 and up to 31 in latest versions). The game is rigidly turn-based and requires a fair amount of micromanagement (although less than any of the Sim games).

Along with the larger tasks of exploration, war and diplomacy, the player has to make decisions about which improvements or units to build in each city, where to build new cities, 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 or leader. These threats disappear later in the game when no unclaimed land is available for the marauding barbarians to settle.

Before the game begins, the player chooses which historical civilization to play. As opponents, certain traits of specific civilizations do come through. The Aztecs are fiercely expansionistic, for example. Other possible civilizations include the Americans, the Mongols, and the Romans. Each civilization is led by a historical figure, such as Mahatma Gandhi (Indians) and Stalin (Russians).

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The scope of the game is huge—larger than most other computer games. When the game begins, the player controls one or two Settler units, which can found new cities and also alter terrain and build improvements such as mines and roads and, later, railroads. The time at the beginning is 4000 BC, and, if you manage to last so long, the game forces you to retire in the 21st century.

As time advances, new technologies are developed; these technologies are the primary way in which the game changes and grows. Players choose from, at the beginning, advances such as Pottery, the Wheel, and the Alphabet to, at the close of the game, Nuclear fission and Space flight. Players gain a large advantage if their civilization is the first to learn a particular technology, the secrets of flight, for example. Most advances give access to new units, city improvements or derivative technologies: for example, the Chariot unit becomes available after the Wheel development, and the Granary building becomes available for building after the Pottery development. The whole system of advancements from beginning to end is called the Technology tree, or simply the Tech tree, a concept adopted in many other strategy games. Since only one tech may be "researched" at any given time, the order in which technologies is 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 all the epochs of the game, subject only to possession of the necessary knowledge. These wonders are often important human achievements of society, science, and culture in human history, 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 of these wonders can only be built by one civilization and takes up a lot of resources to build (far more than most other city upgrades or units). However, each of these wonders provides unique benefits that can be gained by no other methods. Wonders can also be made obsolete by technological advances. See also List of Wonders in Civilization

The game can be won either by destroying all other civilizations or by becoming the first civilization to succeed at space colonization, in this case reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri. In the latest installment of the series, Civ3, other ways to win have been added, including cultural victory (buildings like Temples and Libraries add culture points to a civilization) and diplomatic victory (being elected United Nations Secretary-General).


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In this game of Civilization III, only a small portion of the game world has been discovered by the player, as can be seen by the much larger black, unexplored area in the map in the lower left corner of the screen.

This game has been one of the most popular strategy games of all time, and has a loyal following of fans. The degree of popularity may be discerned from the observation that in an industry where the lifespan of a product typically averages 6 months or less, this game, (by means of all its versions and updates), has endured for over a decade and a half, with product being offered for sale the entire time in retail stores. This high level of interest has spawned a number of free versions, such as Freeciv and C-evo, and inspired similar games by other commercial developers, as well.

Civilization II was released in 1996 and eventually spawned two expansion packs. A Multiplayer Gold Edition was released in 1999. The original version was designed by Brian Reynolds.

Civilization III was released in 2001, along with two expansion packs of its own which add multiplayer capability. The original version was designed by Jeff Briggs and Soren Johnson.

Civilization IV is being produced by the company, Firaxis, and is scheduled for release in late 2005. The lead designer is Soren Johnson.

In 1992, Civilization won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1991.


Meier admits to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from a board game also called 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). The early versions of the game even included a flier of information and ordering materials for the board game. In an ironic twist, there is now a board game based on the computer game version of Civilization.

IP wars

Between Civilization II and III, Activision released a similar game Civilization: Call To Power. They acquired the rights to the name for a time and took advantage of it by releasing the game using the property in its title.

As of late 2004, Atari, the latest publisher of a Civilization game sold the intellectual property of the Civilization brand to Take 2 Interactive Software, who will distribute Civilization games under the 2K Games label. Take 2 went public with news of the sale on January 26 2005.

Similar games

In 1994 Meier produced a similar game called Colonization.

The game Alpha Centauri is also 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.

Civilization's introduction

An introduction movie shows when a new game is started in Civilization I. The movie was added to give players something to look at while the game world was being created. Later editions of Civilization no longer include such an introduction, presumably because world creation can be done almost instantaneously.


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Civilization on the Amiga took advantage of the computer's superior graphics abilities.

Civilization was originally developed for DOS running on a PC. It has undergone numerous revisions for various platforms (including Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, Amiga and Super Nintendo) and now exists in several versions. Beginning with Civilization III, the game has been developed by Firaxis Games and published by Infogrames (now Atari). The upcoming Civilization IV will be published by Take-Two Interactive Software Inc..

External links

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