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Civ 6: 'It's Got To Be The Idea First' - Firaxis

Adam Barnes

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We chat to Firaxis' Dennis Shirk about how the company decides on future games - even a new Civilization game.

Published on Apr 17, 2013

Firaxis is one of the few developers able to consistently prove its capabilities and talent, and earns itself a devoted fanbase as a result.

Whether it's Civilization, last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown or even past classics such as Pirates, there's always a quality here few can match.

We sat down with Firaxis producer Dennis Shirk to talk about the future of the company.

"That is a big unknown," Shirk told us. "Only because Sid’s whole philosophy is if you make a prototype and it’s awesome then we make a game.

"There’s no telling what comes up, like Jake’s was XCOM; he made the most amazing prototype. Nobody thought that we were going to be an XCOM company.

"2K has been owning the IP for many years and Jake just decided to make a new prototype – ‘We can do this for console, it’ll be awesome, it’ll be for a modern age’ – so they pre-vised a movie, made a prototype, it was awesome and they just made it."

With that in mind, Shirk believes Firaxis isn't particularly future-thinking when it comes to the games it is working on.

"If it makes sense for the studio then that’s where it goes. I would say that Firaxis doesn’t ever have any super long-term goals. It’s always about what designs come to the surface that are new to some degree.

"If there ever was going to be a Civ 6 it’s because somebody came up with a great concept that says ‘this is why we need to make Civ 6, because this is awesome’. It’s not something we just have to schedule around and ask ‘what are we going to put in here?’. It’s got to be the idea first."

Much like with Civilization 5, where the introduction of a fairly radical overhaul - the hex-based, single units per tile combat structure - was the starting point for the new game.

We quizzed Dennis Shirk on how Firaxis would go about developing a new Civ 6 if it ever came to it.

"That’s a really broad question. It usually takes somebody on some gameplay team. Like on Civ 5 Jon Shafer was a scenario designer on Civ 4, he did Final Frontier and a lot of other gameplay work."

Jon Shafer - after his love for a one unit per tile World War II strategy game he played as a kid - became lead designer on Civ 5 thanks to his idea to pitch these new hex-based Civ.

"And it was him coming up with that idea," said Shirk, "and he sat down with one of the artists and he put together all these possible little movies and pre-vises and pitched to 2K and said let’s make Civ like this."

If Civ 6 does ever happen, then, expect there to be some major shift in design that fans might not expect, or even appreciate. But then there's always going to be naysayers on games like Civilization.

 

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