All hail our glorious leader, Hutama.
By Tim Colwill on July 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm
What does Australia look like in 250 years time? The task of imagining that — and the fate of other nations — fell upon the shoulders of Firaxis’ Will Miller and David McDonough in Civilization: Beyond Earth. Will and David are both sharing the role of lead designer, which is quite unusual for a game project, but both of them readily admit that they’re “relatively young designers”.
When it came time for these young guns to re-imagine a future Australia, they invented something new entirely: something that they call “Polystralia”. Polystralia is what happens when Australia and the other Pacific Rim nations pool their resources and strengths, creating a pan-national entity that, according to David, “fulfils a dominating role in the southern hemisphere”.
“They were affected by global warming pretty severely, so they lost a lot of land and had to come up with new and innovative ways of agriculture and aquaculture,” Will explains. “And they succeeded in a pretty spectacular way, and were actually able to feed the entire world after the Great Mistake — and in doing so became very wealthy.”
“Because they’re many nations cooperating as one nation they get along very well, which some of the other nations in our fiction do not — so they’re very good politicians. When you play a Polystralian civ, or when you play against one, you can expect an economy focused civ and a diplomacy focused civ as well.”
The leader of Polystralia is another young man, a man named Hutama (pictured above). Unlike the Civilization games of the past, Firaxis have had the chance to break away from the leaders of history — and for Polystralia they needed a character to represent “this nation of wealth, international trade and international cooperation”.
“He’s a young man with a lot of business savvy, a sort of tycoon politician who drafts himself into power in a very populist way,” says David. “Of all the leaders he’s closest to what you would call a true celebrity, he’s got broad popular appeal, a very international persona that makes him a household name not just in Polystralia but across the world.”
“He’s got a very casual air about him which makes him very approachable, and when you deal with him in the game, he’s probably one of the more extroverted or charismatic characters. He’s predisposed to be very friendly, very cooperative, if you’re playing against him you’re more likely to be friends and pool your resources. If you’re playing as Polystralia you get a lot more power to form alliances and cooperation with your neighbours.”
Will and David are keen to stress that this doesn’t lock Polystralian players into any specific playing style, and that Polystralia — like all the factions in the game — has been designed to be “perpendicular” to the player play style. Civilization: Beyond Earth has three “affinities”: Supremacy (heavy technology and eventual rejection of organic matter), Harmony (becoming one with the planet and adapting to meet it), and Purity (preservation of mankind at all costs, and destruction of aliens).
Players who want to approach the game from Supremacy standpoint as Polystralia would be looking at “a lot of heavy industry and fixed emplacements, heavily-built up territory that’s producing a lot of energy and a lot of resources,” says Will. “Producing a huge abundance of valuable goods that they can trade or barter or (depending on your perspective) extort their allies into needing and parlay that into victory.”
“By contrast, a Polystralian Harmony player would have a very broad territory, you would own a lot of land, move very freely around it, have open border agreements with everyone,” Will continues. “Your armies would be very nimble, your armies would be able to reach very far across the landscape. So you’d be kind of using and turning over the value that you found than you would be about heavy infrastructure and overdevelopment. But those are just two examples.”
I put it to Will and David that Alpha Centauri was a game that so old it had passed into the realm of nostalgia, and that everybody had forgotten what they hated about it. So do they feel a lot of pressure, living up to that rose-tinted legacy?
“Very astute analysis,” says Will, laughing. “We do feel that. Not only do we feel that but I think the entire Civ legacy is something we’re very conscious of. We approach this game with a lot of respect and humility. We have this amazing team we’re working with, and I mean Sid Meier himself is just down the hall.”
“I think as far as how we feel about Alpha Centauri – making an Alpha Centauri sequel would have been cool, but what we really wanted to make was our own version of Civilization in space. And that’s what this game is. It’s our take on what that game could be or what that game is. It draws some things from Alpha Centauri, a lot of the things that are in the game are there because they are also features of Alpha Centauri, like our take on unit customisation and things of that nature. But what we’re really drawing from more than that is the entire legacy of civilization, all the iterations that have been made up to this point. That’s our perspective. We’re very aware of it and we hope that we do right by our fans.”
“The Firaxis fans have been asking us to make Alpha Centauri again or make another Civ in space for quite a long time and it’s always been with regret that we’ve said ‘now isn’t the time’. But all of a sudden it was!” adds David excitedly. “All of a sudden. The moment arrived, the team was prepared, the window was prepared, we had the opportunity. It was too exciting, we couldn’t pass it up.”
“So to finally be able to say to the fans who played Alpha Centauri like we did and remember it well: we’re ready. We’re gonna go back there again. We’re going to make a new Civilization in space. Its been an unbelievable treat and honour.”
So what changed? David and Will weren’t able to tell me anything about Firaxis’ schedule, or even how long they’ve been working on the game — but Will offered one theory.
“Dave and I wanted to do this game for a really long time and we just sort of talked the right people’s ears off,” he laughed. “When there was a hole to fill in our release schedule and a team that was right to go, I think maybe our pestering brought the idea to the forefront of our director’s minds and that helped us out.
“But it was really lot of enthusiasm internally, and a lot of enthusiasm from the fan community that made this happen.”
Civilization: Beyond Earth launches in Australia on October 24.