Civilization VI: Q&A with Sarah Darney, Associate Producer

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CIV Sarah Darney

Civ VI is releasing tomorrow (21 October) and we can’t wait! To give you more of an insight into the game before you decide to buy and play it, we’ve interviewed Sarah Darney, Associate Producer at Firaxis Games about her work on the game, the pressure of making the next iteration and how Civ VI is different!

What is the mood in the team like now that the game is finished?

Sarah Darney: Everyone is just very excited right now. We just want people to play it. We are stoked. This is a great game and we are very proud of it. There’s a lot of anticipation, I think, of: ‘People are going to have this in their hands soon and start playing. What are they going to think?’ We are very proud of it, and we just want to see what their gameplay stories will be.

Civilization V has been out for years and has been updated multiple times… it is a huge game. Does that create unrealistic expectations around Civilization VI, considering you’re effectively starting again.

It is definitely very tough to start the next iteration in the franchise, because people are used to Civilization V plus expansion packs. But we have taken almost all of the systems that people were used to. We have religion and espionage in Civilization VI. This is a big game. It is very, very big. I can’t stress that enough. There are so many different systems in it. People will be quite happy with how much game there is here. But it is a little scary for us going to the next iteration.

How do you even approach making a sequel to a game like Civilization?

It is tough. The way that we approach that is we have the rule of thirds. One third is from the last game, it’s the stuff we love and is the foundations that we are not changing. One third is parts of the last game that we liked that we want to tweak and change up. And then it is one third of totally brand new stuff. That process creates that foundation which everyone knows of Civilization, and then it builds upon that to create the next iteration. It is definitely a balancing act, but this formula has been very successful for us in the past and it did a great job on this new game, too.

The big difference this time is with unstacking the cities. What makes that such a radical change?

The map is very important. It always has been, but now it’s even more important. Every tile holds so much more weight and you will be making all kinds of grand decisions with each space around your city centre. It isn’t just a case of setting a worker to automate and build some farms and mines around my city. You need to create districts – that’s how you’ll succeed in this game, and these districts have adjacency bonuses. You’ll also need to leave rooms for wonders and improvements, and mountains and unimproved woods. And because the map changes every game… it is very important. It creates an extra layer of strategy.

Could this make the game overwhelming for those not so familiar with the series?

Civilization is the sort of game you can learn in layers. We have a ton of systems, including the big, broad, high-view systems, and then the very minute systems. Being able to play the game at different levels and slowly, as you become more comfortable with it, and adding more to it, I think that makes it approachable. It is how everyone starts playing Civ. People start with the domination victory, they’re just clicking through stuff and perhaps not thinking about the long-term and how those decisions impact things.

It’s not just the process for new people to Civilization. There are a lot of new systems in this game, it is the next iteration – people are going to have to learn all over again.

Your new art-style is far more simplistic and colourful. Why choose this style?

All of our art decisions were made with gameplay in mind. We have a very big game and there are a lot of systems that we need to support with the visuals. Making it so that you can see your progress, as well as other people’s progress, was very important. Everything is right there. Every time you improve a building, you can see if it is being worked on by a citizen, because there will be people outside it, or a donkey walking around it, or if it’s a pasture, the sheep will be in the pasture. Being able to see your civilisation in an at-a-glance way helps make decisions because you don’t need to go through reams of spreadsheets.

Could this new art style also make it appeal more broadly? It has a certain Clash of Clans feel to the graphics.

I don’t know. Everyone has a different visual look that they like. If this brings in more people and makes it approachable to a different audience, then good because I want more people to play this phenomenal game.

The cool thing about Civilization is that you can play it in so many different ways. There are many types of gamers in the world, and I am sure they can all find something they will like about the Civilization franchise.

How has Civilization endured?

I think it is because it has such a broad appeal. There are different ways to play, and like I mentioned, there are different gamers out there that play different games from one another. And having these different ways to play definitely helps appeal to lots of folk.

Is Sid Meier the answer?

Yes! Sid’s vision – he is the magic element.