Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is one of the many announced games about which I am very excited. The promise of the new space/science-fiction theme, new units and “civs”, and new mechanics (orbital layer, anyone?) have me really curious. The recent op-ed at Space.com written by Will Miller and David McDonough, lead designers for Beyond Earth, has only heightened the hype for me.
In it, they talk about how science has influenced their game design for Civilization: Beyond Earth, discussing their excitement for this “opportunity to explore ideas about the future — technology, progress and culture — and think about how settling on a new planet could be the next stage for humanity’s progress.”
Working on “Beyond Earth” has been an amazing opportunity to continue to learn about current directions in research and engineering. Every time we’ve come up with a gameplay idea, and we’ve thought: “If only there were some sort of science we could hang this on,” we’ve found a real and promising current direction being explored. When we were building one of our victory conditions (making contact with a sentient alien species), we wanted to know more about communications over the vast distances of space, which, in turn, led us to reading about quantum entanglement being used in communications. It’s been exciting to learn that no matter how strange our ideas are, reality is often stranger, and the future feels a lot closer for realizing those ideas.
So, buried through the game are bits of what we’ve learned about thorium reactors or transgenic medicine or climate engineering. As designers, our main goal is for people to enjoy playing “Beyond Earth,” but if our players run across something in the game, and they’re curious enough to look into it a bit more, then we’ll be ecstatic to have done our part to raise a little more love for space and science. Maybe that player will go on to bring us a little closer to the next chapter for humanity.
I have a tremendous appreciate for the effort Miller, McDonough, and their team appear to be putting in to Civilization: Beyond Earth to make it entertaining, as well as plausible enough for one to immerse themselves in the game world. Civilization: Beyond Earth is set to release in October 2014, and I for one cannot wait.