With "Sid Meier's Pirates!" out now across Europe, and reviewed elsewhere on the site today, we tracked down the Firaxis chief and asked him what to expect, what happened to "Dinosaurs!", what's going on in the PC strategy genre right now and how he accounts for Firaxis's success in an increasingly tough market.
Eurogamer: You very publicly canned the development of Dinosaurs!. Is this a game you'd be looking to resurrect now Pirates! is coming to market, or do you have your eye on pastures new?
Sid Meier: Dinosaurs was a cool idea, but we just couldn't find a way to make it really fun. We've got a bunch of great game ideas that we want to bring to life over the next several years. Right now we're working on finishing up Pirates! for the Xbox, we're developing Civilization IV and we've got a couple other games in development that we'll tell you about soon.
Eurogamer: For those that haven't followed the development of Pirates! at all, can you give us a broad overview of the game and tell us how you've built on the previous Pirates! title?
Sid Meier: In Pirates! players take on the role of a swashbuckling pirate captain in the gorgeous 17th century Caribbean where they embark on a great adventure to become the most revered or feared pirate on the Spanish Main. Our goal has been to stay true to what people most love about the original Pirates! while upgrading, enhancing, and in some cases, re-inventing the game to make it a great experience for today's gamers. With the 3D engine we've created a gorgeous world full of interesting places to visit and characters to meet. We've added new story elements and quests, upgraded duelling, land battles and ship battles to give the player more options and control, and added new action sequences like dancing and sneaking in and out of towns. Our hope is to deliver an incredibly fun and compelling game that will give the fans more than what they've been waiting for, and show a whole new generation of gamers how much fun it is to live the life of a pirate!
Eurogamer: Is Pirates! an evolutionary strategy game, and if so in what context? How do you think you've brought the genre forward with the project?
Sid Meier: The original Pirates! was a groundbreaking hit because it was the first to offer action, adventure, strategy and role-playing all in one game. The new Pirates! builds on that legacy delivering an even more powerful and fun experience to players... and is still unmatched in offering a blend of genres in one great game.
Eurogamer: How do you view recent developments in the PC strategy market? Obviously, games such as Rome: Total War have thrust RTS into the limelight, but much of the turn-based market appears to have worked its way to consoles in games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea and Phantom Brave. How would you account for this?
Sid Meier: Our approach to making games is to find the fun first and then use the technology to enhance the fun. Ultimately, our goal is to offer our games on as many different platforms as possible, as long as we can deliver a great gameplay experience on each platform. It may be that other developers are finding that their games play better on one platform over the other, so they're choosing to migrate to that platform.
Eurogamer: Firaxis has been a consistently successful developer through some pretty tough times. Do you attribute this to the quality of your product, singularity of vision, or pinning your fortunes to one genre in your games? Or a combination of the three?
Sid Meier: Well, we've developed games across many different genres, so that's not the answer. We do strive to make sure our games deliver the best gameplay experience possible. We use an iterative prototyping process in making games in which we first create a fun playable prototype and then play and improve, play and improve the game throughout the entire production cycle. That way, we know that the game is fun from the very beginning and can make design decisions based on whether or not a feature adds to the fun. And, by constantly playing the game over the two to three year development cycle, we can be sure that the code is solid and the gameplay is smooth before we release it to market. Our singular over-arching goal for all of our games is to deliver a fun experience to players around the world.
Eurogamer: Finally, as Pirates! is released, what pleases you most about the product and how are you feeling right now?
Sid Meier: All of us at Firaxis are very pleased with and proud of Pirates! We've taken a game that people have loved for over 17 years and made it an even better experience. Our hope is to deliver an incredibly fun and compelling game that will give the fans more than what they've been waiting for, and show a whole new generation of gamers how much fun it is to live the life of a pirate! Please encourage your readers to let us know what they think of the game once they've had a chance to play... we're really looking forward to hearing from them!
You heard the man. Let rip in the comments. And thanks very much to Sid Meier for taking the time to answer our questions. "Sid Meier's Pirates!" is out now in Europe for PC and reviewed elsewhere on the site.