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9th Civ5 Community Podcast release: City States


  • 9th Civ5 Community Podcast release: City States

    In this new installment of the official Civilization 5 "Community Podcasts", Marketing Associate Pete Murray and Civ5 Lead Designer Jon Shafer (both from Firaxis Games) and Elizabeth Tobey (2K Games) talk about "a brand new element of Civilization V: City States" You can listen to the podcast right here or download it overhere. A transcript can be found at the official site or by clicking Read More.


    Elizabeth Tobey: Welcome to the ninth episode of the Civilization V podcast series. I’m Elizabeth Tobey, and today Pete Murray, Marketing Associate, and Jon Shafer, Lead Designer, join me to talk about a brand new element of Civilization V: City States.

    Pete Murray: City-states are NPC civilizations that are never gonna get bigger than a single city, they're not out to win the game. And they're there to give the major civilizations a chance to develop allies who are not gonna be competitors in trying to win. They're there so you can develop some, you know, peaceful political interactions to gain some advantages for your civilization. But they're there to make things happen between the major civs. They really cause a lot of things to happen in the game. So you can become friends with a city-state, you can get some advantages for that, but you have to decide, “am I gonna protect these if somebody else comes to take them over?” They can really make wars break out on this basis. If you're friends with somebody and your neighbor invades them and you go to liberate that city-state, you know, you're gonna run into conflict with a major civilization so it's exciting when you have these political interactions arise out of something as simple as a minor civilization in the game itself.

    Elizabeth Tobey: Single cities marooned in a sea of growing, power-hungry civilizations don’t appear, at face value, to be much of a challenge. If they aren’t out to win the game, after all, they should be easy to ignore or conquer without much thought. So what makes City States so crucial to ultimate success? And why should anyone care whether they conquer instead of placating and protecting them?

    Pete Murray: You can conquer a city-state and spare yourself having to build a settler but that'll have ramifications for your interaction with the other city-states in the game. They'll be more nervous about interacting with you if they see you've sacked one of their friends. You can liberate a city-state and, in which case, they're gonna love you very very much for a long time. But becoming friends with a city-state is good in the sense that it can give you advantages where you may not have a great deal of your own support. Say it's hard for you to find sources of food to feed your cities. A maritime city-state may give you a bonus to your food. A militaristic city-state may grant you military units from time to time if you're finding you're having difficulty with production. So if you're doing well in an aspect that can really, you know, put you into overdrive on that.

    Elizabeth Tobey: For those of you who are still thinking “that doesn’t sound like much of an obstacle for my master plans” let me tell you that City States are elusive and sneaky. I speak from personal experience when I say this – they are definitely able to mess with your entire strategy.

    Jon Shafer: There are a few different things that make city-states really interesting and unique in the game. First off, they can actually provide you bonuses that you can't get in other ways. So for example, if you're able to befriend them, they will gift you they're strategic and luxury resources. So that's something that you could get by conquering them but there are ramifications for fighting wars. Other players become more wary of you. If another major power is protecting that city-state then that will bring a new conflict. But if you're able to become allies with that city-state then they will give you things. Additionally they're also a source of competition both in terms of the military game and also the overall diplomatic game. There's only one player that can receive the resources from a particular city-state and you can only have one ally of a city-state at a time, so there's gonna be competition for that role. If two players are competing over one city-state only one of them will be the ally of that city-state. Obviously there's also the war angle. If somebody tries to conquer a city-state that you're friends with or you try to conquer a city-state somebody else is friends with that will have diplomatic repercussions and the major power might come up and tell you, “hey we don't like what you're doing,” or they might just outright go to war and try to take the city back and liberate them. So there's a number of different angles that city-states provide that are unique and really interesting we think.

    Elizabeth Tobey: As I said before – City States are not something to dismiss without careful consideration. Let me explain a little bit about what City States have done to me over the past few months: They have told me to do things (like wage war on Montezuma or another City State, like Geneva) and then attacked me based on the outcome of me trying to do them a favor. Agreeing to help them all won’t help you, either – too much aggression or deception, and they all won’t trust you. Even choosing to attack the wrong people will end up causing a massive war. Not keeping a City State happy can cause you to lose their friendship and any bonuses and perks they are giving you will disappear, possibly throwing your civilization into upheaval, leaving you weak and exposed to attack. And, on occasion, City States will take over other civilization’s cities while defending themselves – and if you aren’t careful, those cities could be your own.

    Jon Shafer: They definitely can suck you into a conflict. This is one of the things that we've found is really interesting about this system and it's something that Dennis has told me about in some of his games in particular where a city-state that he was trying to be friends with but he wasn't investing a lot in. Suddenly it was attacked by another player and that really changed the nature of his game. He's normally a very peaceful player and he doesn't like going to war aggressively. But suddenly he had a very good reason to try and fight this other player. And he did, and he enjoyed it, and he thought it was really interesting. And that's something that you wouldn't have seen in previous Civ games because you very rarely had any reason to protect another player. It was all about killing them or just finding ways to defeat them. So if they were losing then that was a good thing for you, this is something that's new. They can also, depending on their personality, they can get involved with players in other ways. So one example is that particularly hostile or militaristic city-states can actually request that you go and kill another neighboring city-state. So by doing that you gain a lot of friendship with the city-state that made that request but obviously that's an act of war so everybody else is gonna not like that as much, especially the city-state you went after and any players that are protecting that city-state. So there's a number of different interactions that are there can bring about interesting situations.

    Pete Murray: Maybe the coolest part is that these interactions arise out of situations specific to the game they're in. There's nothing contrived about this. There's nothing that happens in the game where we say when we're making the game, you know, “pre-load this staged scene involving these city-states.” I mean these requests that the city-states make, these resources that they can provide you really do arise out of the very specific layout of the continent, their, you know, relationship to their neighbors who settled near them. And so it emerges out of the game play and you get this depth, this unexpected depth and complexity just out of game play in the course of Civ V and that's one of the things that feels the coolest about the city-states.

    Elizabeth Tobey: Last episode, I think you got the picture that Gandhi and I aren’t always on the best of terms. Second to him, I think City States are my main nemeses in Civilization V. When I started playing, I thought that they were great – pockets of awesomesness in a game full of deceipt and double crossers. But don’t be fooled – City States are just as wily as full-fledged civilizations. They’ll burn you if you aren’t careful – and quite possibly, even if you are.

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