Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Where are they now? - Sid Meier

While Sid Meier wasn't one of the designers of Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, it's got his name on it.

The man that I'm about to talk about in today's "Where are they now?" post needs no introduction as he's one of PC gaming's greatest developers. He actually made #2 on my Top 10 PC Developers list only beaten by Will Wright and it's all thanks to the many strategy games he developed (or at least lent his name to). Today I'm going to talk a little bit about Sid Meier, a man who has won several awards including the Guinness Book of World Records title of "Most Videogame Awards ever received", a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Developer's Conference, a star on the Walk of Game, a Governor's Citation for contributions to the development of the Video Game Industry in Maryland, a.... well the list goes on and on as you can imagine, so let me just get into the article proper...

Meier was born in 1954 in Canada but studied history and computer science at the University of Michigan in the 1970s (I'm guessing). He graduated with a degree in computer science and in 1982 formed the legendary game development company Microprose with retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bill Stealey. It's important that I mention Stealey used to be in the USAF since I think that influenced the direction that most of Microprose's earlier games went - i.e. the military simulator/strategy game route. Most of Microprose's games in the 1980s were like that such as 1983's strategy game NATO Commander, 1984's flight sim F-15 Strike Eagle and 1985's sub sim Silent Service (to name a few). Meier programmed and designed many of these games but he did try his hand at something different when he released the adventure/role-playing game Sid Meier's Pirates! in 1987. This was also the first game to include Meier's name in it because Stealey thought it would improve the company's branding and even claims that he got the idea from the late comedian Robin Williams during a Software Publishers Association dinner. Williams suggested Stealey put Meier's name on a couple of the boxes and promote him as a star.

In the late 80s, Meier started to focus on strategy games resulting in many classic strategy games in the 1990s including 1990's Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, 1990's Sid Meier's Covert Action and the game he's most famous for, Sid Meier's Civilization which was released in 1991. This would actually be the first and last Civilization game where he was directly involved with as future Civilization games would all have different designers - yet his name remains for branding purposes and to pay tribute to the original.

Meier worked on 1993's Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon Deluxe and 1994's Sid Meier's Colonization (as a designer) before eventually leaving Microprose to form a new company in 1996 called Firaxis with Jeff Briggs and Brian Reynolds. Meier remains at Firaxis to this day as Director of Creative Development.

But that's not where our story ends, Meier has worked on heaps of classic games while at Firaxis, including programming and designing 1997's Sid Meier's Gettysburg! (my favourite American Civil War game of all time) and 1999's Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, a cult classic science fiction strategy game.

2002's Sid Meier's SimGolf is the last game Meier is credited with programming. Since then Meier has mainly focused on either the design of games or managing projects. Firaxis would go on to release many more classic games including four more sequels to the original Civilization, a 2004 remake of Sid Meier's Pirates!, a 2006 remake of Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon called Sid Meier's Railroads!, a 2012 remake of Microprose's UFO: Enemy Unknown called XCOM: Enemy Unknown and 2014's spiritual successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (although it plays more like a Civ V mod - doesn't mean it's not good though!).

Anyway, Firaxis just released a new game recently called Sid Meier's Starships which I'm sure has kept Meier quite busy but where to from here? Firaxis seem to be focusing more and more on mobile and console games in the past few years which obviously grates the nerves of the Glorious PC Master Race so let's hope he veers Firaxis back to its PC gaming roots. It's generally been 4-5 years between each release of Civilization so surely we're due for another soon if Civilization V was released in 2010? Also, Civilization: Beyond Earth could do with some DLC or expansion packs so hopefully there's some love for that game over the horizon too.

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Sid Meier ]
[ Wikipedia: Sid Meier ]
[ Firaxis: Sid's Legacy ]

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