Sid Meier is the latest game industry veteran to embrace the burgeoning mobile gaming space. The man behind Civilization--a classic PC game that successfully made the transition to tablet--has launched his first mobile game.
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol for iPhone and iPad puts gamers inside the cockpits of World War I fighter planes for a game of strategy and combat. Meier, who developed the game at his Firaxis studio, chatted with us about why the mobile gaming space is so important.
Game On: What's it been like for you to explore the world of mobile games?
Sid Meier: I've really enjoyed exploring mobile games. Games have infiltrated just about every aspect of our lives and since mobile devices are now a big part of what we do every day, it's a logical place to see games appear.
We've been enjoying bringing the kind of game we're famous for at Firaxis to mobile platforms.
Is the mobile industry today similar as a new frontier to what the PC industry was like when you started?
Meier: There are quite a few similarities between mobile development and the way we used to do development years ago--smaller teams, tighter focus on the gameplay, and quicker iteration.. It's been a joy to come back and be hands-on the game as the lead gameplay programmer and designer.
What creative freedom did you find in developing this new game?
We're lucky that we have a publisher in 2K Games who is willing to let us ask interesting questions and explore the different types of games we can make for mobile. They've given us the time to work on an idea and make it the best we can, and we think that has paid off in the quality of the mobile games we've produced.
What impact has the huge potential audience in the mobile sector had on how you created this title?
I think the prospect of reaching new people is one we always strive for. Lots of people play games--the market is maturing, and people are always asking, "what's next? What's new?"
We'd love to continue to be part of that conversation.
What impact do you feel Kickstarter will have on the game industry?
That's certainly a new opportunity to add to the App stores, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and all those places where the more reasonably sized games can find an outlet. If you can pull it off, then that's a great opportunity.
What are your thoughts on how far the game industry has grown since you entered the business?
I always felt that there was a great opportunity for growth as we figured out how to make games better, and we're seeing a larger audience today than ever--social and mobile gaming and really just the gamification of everything. It's something that I actually thought would happen over time: we would start off with our core audience and strategy gaming, but as we figured out how to make games more accessible and reach a wider audience, it would grow.
The challenge with this kind of growth is to keep these new gamers interested in games and sustain this momentum. We need to keep them coming back to new games and fresh ideas. Time will tell whether this growth is one cycle in the industry or if it is something that is permanent.
What keeps you excited about coming to work every day at Firaxis?
I really enjoy making games; it's just fun. It's like taking a lumpy piece of clay and turning it into something very cool. Every day is part of that process. Not knowing exactly where we are going and figuring it out step by step is just a challenge.
It's almost like the "one more turn" phenomenon in Civilization. It's looking to that next thing we are going to add to the game and seeing how we can just make it better. The fun for me is really not knowing from week to week what cool thing we are going to add, getting a chance to play with everything and tweak everything and just getting to see a game grow before your eyes.
Where do you see the game industry five years from now?
I imagine we'll have different technologies, another cycle where they're brand new and you're experimenting with a lot of different ways of using this technology. That happened with the CD-Rom, with multiplayer on the Internet, and it's now happening in the early stages with social gaming and mobile gaming. In five years we'll have social gaming figured out with different genres. We'll have different kinds of social games and everyone will understand the rules and the interface. Mobile is probably a technology we haven't gotten the most out of.
Where do you see opportunities for mobile games?
Mobile games now are five minute quick gaming fixes. When you look at all the technology in a smartphone, the connectivity, the GPS, the camera, there are all sorts of things that could be integrated into a gaming experience that we haven't thought of yet. I have a feeling that we will start to explore more of what's possible in the whole space. Who knows what the technology will be. The iPad is a beautiful piece of hardware that does really cool stuff. We're still tyring to catch up in terms of game design and how to take advantage of it.
What role will PCs play in the future?
If history is any guide, the PC will just continue to be a strong platform for gaming. We'll see a new generation or two of consoles--maybe your watch might play a game, I don't know. I think gaming will continue to go wherever technology goes. It'll be a fun five years.