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CTP1: Interview with Steve Mariotti

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  • CTP1: Interview with Steve Mariotti

    What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
    Lead programmer means I did the initial technical design and set standards for code quality. During actual production I oversee the programming effort, provide spiritual guidance, be vigilant over the code stability, compatibility, and so on. I also tend to take the programming tasks that are too banal for any of our experts.

    What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
    In college I played Sid Meier's Civilization for the first time, and was completely blown away. It was the first game that made 4 hours disappear without a trace. I'd be sitting there at 10pm, playing a game before I turned in for my 8am calculus class, and after "just a few more turns" it was already well after 2 in the morning. I was hooked, and when Civilization II came out, I went right out and picked it up.

    Civ 2 was such a well executed follow-up to Civ, that I was astounded to see that Sid was no longer involved with the project. I gained tremendous respect for Brian Reynolds as game designer who understood what Civ was all about. The opportunity to help carry that mighty torch is truly a great honor.

    On what other games have you worked on in the past?
    I was the lead programmer and Mac programmer for Close Combat 1, and Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far. Those were really the first computer games that I ever worked on. I was doing Close Combat 1 right after graduation from the University of Texas at Austin. During school, I contributed code and levels to my friend Ian Gilman's game Heaven and Earth, and wrote the Mac version copy protection for Buena Vista software. Once I graduated, I hooked up with Atomic Games inc Houston and eventually moved there to finish Close Combat and A Bridge Too Far.

    Which languages have been used in the development of C:CTP?
    We use C++ with a little x86 assembly.

    How open is the code? What will fans be able to change from a programming angle?
    We're offering a DLL API for those who think they're manly enough to write an AI for Civilization.

    What kind of knowledge while be required to play around with C:CTP dll's?
    C++ experience and a little knowledge of how COM works.

    Specifically, how easy will it be to alter the AI behavour?
    This can be done on a number of levels. On the first level, the data files that are used to determine AI behavior are totally 100% tweakable. This means that without any coding whatsoever, you can turn a militaristic, aggressive player into a peace-loving cow farmer with a gold fixation, or a totally insane diplomat who wants to be everyone's buddy and who gives away all of his stuff. A huge amount of control over AI behavior can be changed via text files that describe AI priorities, personalities, and how our fuzzy logic rules evaluate to game decisions.

    Speaking of AI, how hard does it play? And which are it's main characteristics?
    The AI system is huge. A great deal of time and effort has been put into devising an AI system that does the Civilization name proud. To that end, we have several systems working together in concert to provide both flexibility and power. One system I alluded to above is the fuzzy system, which is used for determining high-level behavior, running the computer's empire, and allocation of resources. Working with the fuzzy system is a powerful goal and resource matching system which is responsible for unit handling and behaviors.

    Will we see Adolf Hitler leading the Germans; similar behavour? How have you chosen each civilization's leader?
    No Hitler in our game, but you'll see AI leaders using vastly different play styles and exhibiting a very wide range of play behaviors.

    Can you give us any other examples of different AI behavour?
    One AI may play militaristally, one may be expansionist, one may emphasize non-conventional warfare such as enslaving enemy cities to increase its own civilization's population. There will be opponents who do a little of each. They vary in terms of how they run their economy, build their armies, stack their units, and strive for the various victory conditions.

    We know that the game engine supports 32 civilizations, but the game will ship with 8. Why is that?
    It came down to a choice between 8 really strong AI players who take full advantage of the game system, or 32 more simple-minded players who have limited capability. We found that the game was more fun with fewer, more interesting opponents. Perhaps next year, when the baseline system is a PII Katmai at 500Mhz that we can offer a greater number of really adept opponents.

    Is there a chance that we will see a future version of C:CTP with 32 civs?
    I dunno, does Intel have a .18 micron fabrication process for their processor cores yet?

    Will it be possible for someone to hack(in the good sense!) C:CTP to enable 32 civilizations?
    You might be surprised what people are capable of.

    How are the hits and the damages in combat calculated? And what happens in the combat of two stacks of units?
    Stacked combat is where Call to Power really diverges from previous Civilization games. Stack building is tactically significant. Stacks can be composed of non-military, ranged, and assault units. The combat resolution is done in rounds, with ranged-fire units given the opportunity to plink arrows, fire cannon shells, and artillery barrages from the back ranks, where assault units are protecting them from damage. A properly build stack enables the player to use ranged attack to maximum advantage. Once your tanks are gone, though, your poor little artillery pieces are probably no match for your opponent's machine guns.

    Any other improvements from the programming angle? The GoTo routine seemed to be troublesome in Civ2...
    There are a lot of subtle enhancements towards making play go more smoothly. We tried everywhere we could to remove a lot of the clerical busy work, and add "auto" functionality where we found we were doing a lot of unnecessary repetition. This applies most directly to the second half of the game where maintaining your civilization is fraught with micromanagement. We have features in place to allow you to essentially set up your cities and forget about them. These include build queues which can be loaded and saved at will, auto-go-to build options to pull multiple cities together to help build up big armies in a particular location, and improvements that let you put your cities into production for gold and building materials.

    Mark Lamia told us in a previous interview that there is a possiblity for a Macintosh, and even a Linux port. How easy will it be to transfer the graphics?
    The code base was designed with portability in mind. I'm an old Macintosh programmer, so you can be sure that the code is Mac-portable without too much difficulty. Joe Rumsey, our networking and game system guru, did a test-port to Linux to see how feasible it would be, and he was able to get it working pretty well in a few short weeks. We'll have top-notch Macintosh and Linux porting companies contracted to get those versions out there. We understand that there are Civ fans who aren't Windows users, and we want them to have the opportunity to play Call to Power as well.

    So, how far are we from the release?
    It'll be done when it's done. Is that expression getting a little hackneyed yet? Yeah, I guess it is. We're honing in on our ship date. I'm not allowed to give any details or people will drag me out of my office and beat me severely. We'll have a very bug-free product when we're done.

    What are the team's and yours plans after the release? My plans are to become the world's foremost authority on bicycle safety while working towards certification as a samurai pastry chef and part time cabinetmaker.
    Seriously, though, plans following Call to Power are currently being discussed, and what I hear makes me really excited. I can't divulge more than that, though. Stay tuned to this channel.

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    • CTP1: List of Interviews
      Martin Gühmann

      For your reading pleasure only , we have arranged a set of interviews with the C:CTP development team, to which we are grateful for this.

      13.Apr.1999
      John Heinecke, Assistant Product Manager
      John fields the most pressing questions from the gaming community during the immediate post-stages of CTP's release.

      8.Jan.1999
      Rick Glenn, Art Director
      Stunning visuals and realistic cinematic animations treat you to front row seats for a game mounting to be as sweet as molasses in January.

      24.Dec.1998
      Steve Mariotti, Lead Programmer
      Read along as Steve Mariotti guides us through the technical process which is helping make CTP just the way we want it.

      23.Nov.1998
      Mark Lamia, Producer
      Mark Lamia talks about the past, the present and future of CTP's production process.

      6.Oct.1998
      William Westwater, Lead Designer
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      25.Sep.1998
      Cecilia Barajas, Director
      We ask Cecilia Barajas about C:CTP, the new ideas that it brings, the development of the game and a bit about the future of C:CTP.

      ...
      April 25, 2012, 16:48
    • CTP1: Interview with William Westwater
      Martin Gühmann

      What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
      I am the Lead Designer of Civilization: Call to Power. It is my job to work with the Director to develop the creative vision of the game, and ensure that programmers and artists have a clear understanding of how to implement the design. The Lead Designer is also responsible for leading a team of designers, who are responsible for balancing the game.

      What is your personal history with Civilization?
      I am a huge fan of Civilization games. I remember getting Civ II and playing it for the first time. Two weeks later, I stripped it from my computer and erased all traces of it. Then I got up, showered, and started trying to figure out where my life had gone. That's how compelling I found the game.

      On what other games have you worked on in the past?
      My start was in QA, where I tested Mech2, and was the Lead Tester and a designer on Zork Nemesis. I also did design work for Dark Reign and an RTS called Xtinction, before setting my eyes on Civilization : Call to Power.

      ...
      April 24, 2012, 17:40
    • CTP1: Interview with Cicilia Barajas
      Martin Gühmann

      To start off, what is your involvement with the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
      I am the Director of the project - which means that I am in charge of the creative direction of the game.

      What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
      Other than the fact that I dropped out of life, stopped talking to friends and family, stopped eating, stopped sleeping, stopped working and never answered the phone every time I played Civ2, not much.

      I have always been a big fan of this style of game as well as strategy games in general. Along with Civilization, Warcraft2, Starcraft, and especially Heroes of Might & Magic, are big favorites of mine.

      On what other games have you worked on in the past?
      I Directed and Produced Zork Nemesis.

      ...
      April 24, 2012, 17:33
    • CTP1: Interview with Mark Lamia
      Martin Gühmann

      What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
      I'm the Producer. The Producer is in charge of team operations. It's my job to acquire the resources necessary to implement the vision, manage it and do whatever it takes to keep us moving forward according to plan.

      What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
      Civilization II is, in my opinion, the greatest computer game ever made. Producing a Civilization: Call to Power is literally a dream come true.

      On what other games have you worked on in the past?
      I have worked on a number of games in various production capacities , ranging from games in the MechWarrior II series, Zork series, Interstate '76, and Dark Reign amongst others.

      ...
      April 24, 2012, 17:23
    • CTP1: Interview with Steve Mariotti
      Martin Gühmann

      What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
      Lead programmer means I did the initial technical design and set standards for code quality. During actual production I oversee the programming effort, provide spiritual guidance, be vigilant over the code stability, compatibility, and so on. I also tend to take the programming tasks that are too banal for any of our experts.

      What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
      In college I played Sid Meier's Civilization for the first time, and was completely blown away. It was the first game that made 4 hours disappear without a trace. I'd be sitting there at 10pm, playing a game before I turned in for my 8am calculus class, and after "just a few more turns" it was already well after 2 in the morning. I was hooked, and when Civilization II came out, I went right out and picked it up.

      Civ 2 was such a well executed follow-up to Civ, that I was astounded to see that Sid was no longer involved with the project. I gained tremendous respect for Brian Reynolds as game designer who understood what Civ was all about. The opportunity to help carry that mighty torch is truly a great honor.

      ...
      April 24, 2012, 17:13
    • CTP1: Interview with Rick Glenn
      Martin Gühmann

      What is your involvement in the development of "Civilization: Call To Power"?
      I am the Art Director. I work with the director to develop the visual look and feel of the game.

      What is your personal history with Civilization-style games?
      I try to play a bit of everything; Warlords 3, Master of Orion 2, Heroes of Might/Magic but Civilization is the only one that I ever got 'hooked' into. I have played CivI and CivII quite a bit, and while researching for C:CTP played the original board game.

      On what other games have you worked on in the past?
      I was Art Director on Interstate 76, and Xtinction.

      ...
      April 24, 2012, 17:01
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