Fried's civ multiplayer past is a bit short. He's only been an admin of the Civ3Players and Civ4Players MP ladder communities, a consultant to Firaxis on Civ3:Conquests and Civ4 and he has something to do with the Official Civ4 Strategy Guide. But just that.
With the arrival of CIV, much of what has been true in the world of C3C is gone forever. Many things have been changed, and it's true that some of these things will not please everyone. Overall, though, the game is vastly improved, and its playability for Multiplayer is much better than it was. An honest review of Civ4 Multiplayer by Friedrich Psitalon
Connectivity & Balance
Let's start with the bane of C3C: Connectivity and everything surrounding it.
Connectivity in CIV
I fully realize that even as I say this, people are going to raise a very high eyebrow, but I'll say it anyhow - you're going to be amazed. Gamespy NAT negotiation allows people behind routers, firewalls, etc, to play with no trouble at all - no opening or closing of ports, zones, etc. If needed, Direct IP still exists, and WOULD require playing with ports, but the only port you need to open is 2056, or whichever port you specify in your INI file. The days of "X can't connect with Y ever for some weird reason" are over.
Out of Synch
How does "gone" strike you? If someone has a different version than you (meaning modded files of any type) you'll see the OOS return - otherwise, never again. The game has even shown the ability to "resynch" itself if a genuine problem arises temporarily (hotjoining players sometimes cause a 1 or 2 second OOS.)
The Need to Reload vs. Hotjoins
Reloads? Oh yeah.. I remember those. The only time you'll be reloading a multiplayer game now is if everyone decides to take a break. Hotjoining allows a player to jump right back into the action if they drop. In the meantime, every other player in the game votes to decide between continuing with an AI taking over for that player, waiting in the vote menu, or saving and quitting.
Aditionally, players can set up games that start with an AI player, and a human can join in and take over for the AI at any time. Substitutes? Sure - just tell your sub the password you used to secure your Civ at the start of the game and you're golden. No imposters here!
No longer an issue. Everyone has a specific nick when they log into CIV. If you're letting people into your game via direct IP, that might be an issue - anyone can choose any name that way - but just be sure who you're giving that info to, and you're set.
So believe it or not, the biggest hurdles of C3C are GONE - completely, totally gone. We can spend our time concentrating on the game now, rather than concentrating on getting the game to work. Let's talk briefly about the leaders themselves.
They're all quite strong in CIV. Since all of them can be leveraged into points in some manner, it's tough to say which is the weakest or strongest. They can all rule or stink, depending on how you use them. Personally, I consider Organized to be a little bit of a long-game trait, and Spiritual I find restricts my play choices a bit much, but others will definitely feel differently. Some people will find my favorites - Industrial and Financial - to be quite flimsy, and indeed, on certain maps they are.
Are they all equal? No. Are they all playable in MP? Yes! Every trait combination has an angle which can work in some way in MP (except maybe Frederick...) and even America, the land of no-Unique-Units-until-the-modern is quite competitive, if its traits are leveraged properly. One thing's for certain - the days of "the same eight civs" are definitely gone. A few favorite may emerge, sure, but there are at least a dozen potential players. Rome? Definitely. Inca? Sure. Aztec? Yep. India? ABSOLUTELY. China? Qin's in. Egypt? Chariots still abound. America? Washington is the new Lincoln trait-monger. Greece? Flexible and Phalanxes! Mali? Choker's delight! France? Fear the little General - or the Castling Louis! Mongolia? I prefer Genghis, but either is quite potent for MP. I'm not much a fan of Elizbaeth, Tokugawa, or Victoria, but I've seen fans of all three. Want a novelty that you might make work? Try my favorite: Catherine! Choices abound!