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Civilization III - Conquests Developer Update: Age of Discovery



Design Diary - The Age of Discovery

 

By Ed Beach, BreakAway Games
and Michael Fetterman, Firaxis Games


Sid Meier's Civilization III: Conquests, Firaxis's second expansion pack for the mega-hit Civilization III, features nine professionally created scenarios that introduce concepts never before seen in any Civilization title. The fifth designer diary in this series provides a glimpse at the design process and decisions made during the development of the Age of Discovery conquest. This conquest was designed by Ed Beach, a Producer at Breakaway Games.

 

Age of Discovery:
Two of our previous designer diaries described the Middle Ages and Mesoamerica Conquests. Both of those scenarios conclude late in the 15th Century, setting the stage in both Europe and the Americas for the Conquest that follows … the Age of Discovery.

   
Henry the Navigator
       
Portugal Sets Sail
 
 

The late 15th and 16th Centuries were a dynamic time in the western world, when Europe awoke from its medieval slumber into the glory of the Renaissance. It was also during this time that European explorers emerged on the world stage and opened up new lands to European dominance and colonization. Our scenario opens in 1490, just prior to Columbus' discovery of the New World. This Age of Discovery conquest recognizes numerous key events of this period, including:

YearKey EventConquest Effect
1415Prince Henry of Portugal founds a school of navigation in Sagres, PortugalThe Navigation School is a small wonder that boosts ship movement by 2 and creates an Explorer every 10 turns
1488Bartolomeu Dias sails to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, opening the Indian Ocean and completing the first great voyageDias' Voyage (great wonder) gives the Portuguese a Golden Age to start the scenario, boosts ship movement by 1, and produces a Colonist every 8 turns.
1492Columbus discovers the New World in his first voyage to the CaribbeanSpanish Conquistador & Caravels start ready to sail west to the New World.
1517Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, starting the ReformationLuthers' Theses is a great wonder that provides two happy faces across a continent.
1519Ferdinand Magellan starts his voyage to circumnavigate the globeMagellan's Voyage is a great wonder that boosts shield production in the city and creates a Frigate every 5 turns
1521Hernándo Cortés finishes the conquest of the Aztecs in MexicoAztec, Inca, Maya and Iroquois nations are ready to battle European aggression
1540Ignatius Loyola founds the Jesuit order to strength the Catholic response to the ReformationJesuit Colleges are a city improvement that increase scientific output and create a Missionary every 5 turns
1577Sir Francis Drake, one of Elizabeth's "Sea Dogs", leaves on his voyage of piracy and circumnavigation.The English unique unit is the Elizabethan Sea Dog, a speedy naval unit with enslavement capability.
1588The Spanish Armada sets sail to attempt to conquer EnglandFrigates and Man-O-War are available in the latter portions of the tech tree.
 

Not Entirely Smooth Sailing
Although there was a wealth of historical material to draw on, this Conquest proved to be the trickiest to tune properly. It was the first Conquest started, and the last finished, with development progressing on and off for a full eight months. The earliest version of this scenario used a huge world map and included the exploration of eastern Africa and the east Indies (with appearances by the Mughal, Safavid, and Ming civilizations). Performance issues and an AI tendency to colonize Siberia and Africa in place of the New World sunk this version.

 

The next version trimmed Asia and Oceania off the edge of the earth, positioning the Ottoman Empire to the east as a grave threat to European nations such as Austria and the Papacy. Although we had some playtests where Suleiman's Ottoman army made some truly Magnificent marches across Europe, we were concerned that this version was overemphasizing land wars in Europe (at the expense of the colonization and exploitation of the New World).

 

It was then that we had a major design breakthrough: if we could use city improvements that required New World resources to periodically create flag (princess) units, these new "treasure" units could do a great job representing the flow of wealth from the New World back to Europe. We already had wonders creating units on a periodic basis; we just needed to move that code so it applied to all possible improvements and wonders. Over a few builds, we developed the following set of treasure-producing buildings that have to be constructed in a city that contains the specified resource within its city radius.

 

We then trimmed the map further to tighten the emphasis on New World colonization and added additional elements of Piracy and Naval Combat to the tech tree. Most of the elements of the current Conquest were in place; it was time to hand it over to our dedicated beta test team for balancing and further fine tuning.

   
Age of Exploration
       
Carrack
 
 

Difficult Choices
The revamped Age of Discovery tech tree provides three highly desirable paths right from the outset of the scenario. European powers can either research Gunpowder and Metallurgy (to improve their combat abilities and ability to defend in Europe), Printing Press, Banking, and Colonization (to produce colonists and increase their options for treasure-producing buildings) or Magnetism and Naval Ordnance (to boost the transport capability, speed, and firepower of their ships). The tech tree also offers the chance to switch to a Protestant government to improve worker efficiency and reduce corruption (or on the contrary, to remain Catholic so the Counter Reformation can avail you to Jesuit Colleges and Missionaries later in the game). These choices divide the game into four main phases. Initially, the player needs to head west and explore territory, uncovering the resources of the New World.

 

The second phase is the founding of cities to exploit these resources; the colonist unit (a cheap settler requiring only 1 population to build) is a key element in this part of the game. Next the player should escort treasures home, gaining victory points and gold from each unit returned. All of this oceanic activity does set the stage for the final phase; one of intense naval combat and piracy, especially in multiplayer games. Privateers and English Sea Dogs can use enslavement attacks to capture enemy cargo ships intact, handing the treasure over to the victorious pirates.

   
Sugar Plantation Improvement
       
Protestant Monarchy
 
 

The Finishing Touch
The plans for the scenario always called for the presence of Iroquois, Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations, but they were not to be playable civilizations. How could they possibly hope to compete with the European powers? In another flash of inspiration, we realized there was a way...

 

By merging elements of the Mesoamerica scenario tech tree into the game, and by boosting the cultural value of Mesoamerican cultural buildings in relation to European ones, we were able to set it up so that a well played Mesoamerica civilization can outpace a European civilization in single-city cultural value. By setting a low enough single-city cultural victory limit, a path to victory as a Mesoamerican civilization was created. But beware, playing as a native American civilization is not for the faint of heart. When those first European ships appear to the east, you know your eventual demise is at hand. Can you hold them off long enough to preserve your cultural heritage and still claim victory? It is possible, and just one of the many challenges awaiting Civilization players who enter the Age of Discovery.

- Ed Beach


Click here for the Fall of Rome Design Diary.


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