“Build an empire that stands the test of time,” reads the manual for the 1991 PC title Civilization. The complex strategy game that forced millions of geeks to develop obsessive micromanagement skills is now being boiled down to snack-size portions in the Facebook game Civ World. “It required reimagining the core concepts,” says the franchise’s creator, Sid Meier. He’s been obsessively fine-tuning Civ for the past 18 months. (Farmville rolled out in five weeks.) Here are some key elements.
Civ World lets you administer a virtual kingdom as a team with up to 40 of your Friends. There are four ranks: king, prince, duke, and lord, plus the female equivalents. A significant accomplishment, such as discovering a new technology, lets you move up a rank. Major decisions, like which laws to invoke or when to attack other kingdoms, are put to a vote. The highest-ranking player at any given moment gets more votes than the rest.
As you advance from the Ancient era to the Galactic age—a process that currently takes about a week—each player can log in whenever they like and decide how to allocate their time (say, searching for new technologies or managing troops). “It can get unwieldy pretty quickly,” Meier says. Players can chat and send messages to strategize and coordinate, and they can also annotate the game environment with little pop-ups for their Friends.
The most coveted possessions in the game are “harvest turns,” opportunities to put your virtual citizenry to work generating new resources (anything from food stocks to scientific discoveries). The business model is built around micropayments—spending real cash to boost the number of harvests. “A dollar will get you 10 harvests,” Meier says, “and eternal happiness.” Addicts can spend up to $10 a day in the game. Cheaper than a two-pack-a-day habit!