2K recently held a preview for Civilization VI at the British Museum in London and Gamereactor spoke to the game's Associate Producer Sarah Darney who was in attendance, focusing on the leaders that will be in the upcoming game. Here is the interview:
GR: What is your thought process and what goes in to choosing the leaders for the game?
SD: There's a lot of different elements that go into it. So first of all we want to make sure we have good representation. Civilization is a global game, you are presenting the world, so you need a wide net to cast, so you have all these different faces and these different cultures represented because it can make things feel very much more alive. Additionally we want someone, especially for Civilization VI, we want someone who has a very big character, someone with a story to tell, someone who, if they were alive today playing Civilization, might have a particular playstyle, so that also went into the leader's agendas. And of course we wanted to bring back some old favourites, some people who hadn't been in a Civilization game before or it's been a while.
GR: It seems like you've focused the civilizations on affecting your game when you're not playing as them, would you say that's correct? The other civilizations affect your game with their ideology?
SD: So, yeah, because every leader has an agenda and the way that they're playing the game, you're going to need to react to them. Having this living, changing world, you are not playing in a bubble, you're playing against these other leaders, so yes it's going to affect you.
GR: How does that affect your design choice as well in terms of visually and how they look?
SD: I love our leader portraits, like they have so much character in their faces and their expressions. The animation team left me breathless many times. Cleopatra's one of my favourites, visually I love the way that she moves, it's very cool. But because they all have a character, who they are and we want to represent them and the way they're going to play, they need to visually represent that, they need to look like who you're about to play against. If I'm playing against Gandhi I know he is peaceful so he should be peaceful. If I'm playing against Tomyris, she's a warrior queen, I shouldn't look at her and think this is a weak leader who I can probably stomp over. She should intimidate me a little bit. So having all these things in mind as the concept artists are designing these leaders, as well as the history and who they were, there's a lot of research that goes into this and creating these characters.
GR: Do different leaders, different civilizations, have strengths in early game, mid-game and late game?
SD: Yeah, yeah. So Cleopatra, she is great in getting started quite quickly in the early game, Gilgamesh is another one I think, he's quite good in the early game. But yeah, that's going to create balance, having some that are very good in the early game or maybe they're off to a slower start but then they excel in the mid-game. It creates a balance and a challenge and it keeps the world very dynamic and alive and it creates this environment that you have to react to and it gives you more decisions to make. So yes, that's absolutely a consideration. If everyone was off to a running start in the beginning it wouldn't feel right.
GR: How much historical research goes into designing these leaders and the civilizations?
SD: Ah, tons. You should see the libraries that we have in the office and the historical books. I have a very unique perspective on this, I think, as the producer, because I get to see all of the different people that are going in to create a single leader and to see what goes into it from each of those perspectives. So the artists, who [are] creating this character, they also need to keep in mind what was the historical garb that this leader wore, if we have paintings, pictures, what were they known for, did they have a great beard (many do, spoiler alert). So from that perspective, the visuals, yes, a lot went into it. The jewellery, you know, things that might not come right to mind but create this character, this living, believable person. We have the person who writes the script who is going to not only throw in some historical references and pepper that with living historical realness, but they need to know who this character is in the game. So yes, tons of research and the agendas are based on who these characters are or were in history and the way that they lived their lives.
GR: And does that apply to the units and the buildings for the civilizations as well?
SD: Yeah, there's lots of research in every aspect of it. It was very impressive to me, you know, I come from QA so when I came into the producer position I was able to see more of the departments I never worked with, concept artists I never worked with when I was in QA, and realising that concept artists, a good portion of their job is research and learning and just seeing like 'okay how can we take what we know about this thing and put it into this game?'. That blew my mind and it was very impressive.
GR: And with different civilizations having different strengths and weaknesses, how difficult is the job of balancing them?
SD: Very. I mean we've got a lot of leaders, we've got a lot of civilizations in this game and you don't want someone to be overpowered, but I do think that every one of these leaders has something that they are overpowered in. It was very funny to us, I think it was Kongo, yeah, the Kongo unique unit, QA came back to us many times like 'this guy can just run through trees and he's immune against arrows, what is this, he's really OP'. We're like okay, is he OP all of the time? [We were] just working with the QA department. But if they come back twice and they have this single leader or unit or whatever they're calling out as OP, then we're going to know that might actually be OP. But if that person that they're calling OP changes every week, then we're doing it right, because the game is ever-changing and so yes, some people are going to excel at certain times."
GR: Lastly, what is your favourite civilization/leader and why?
SD: So my favourite is the horse warrior queen Tomyris of Scythia. First of all, I did not know Scythia was a thing, and apparently neither did a lot of people because when we announced her the Google searches for Scythia spiked [...] Playing with her, she's my favourite for religious victory, and everything about her is just so cool. She's just really badass.
Civilization is out on October 21 for PC, but if you can't wait then check out our preview of the game.