By Kate Distler Mon May 5, 2014

History has played an important role in the Sid Meier’s Civilization series. It has set tone and expectation; it has added subtext to gameplay, asking players to live up to the achievements of those who came before them. Players clock in thousands of hours rewriting human history, while creating empires that rival the civilizations maintained by the greatest leaders known to Earth.

In Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, players leave history behind and step into the future. Centuries from now, after the Great Mistake and its aftermath, humanity prepares the next chapter of history. We sat down with the Civilization: Beyond Earth team to ask what it was like to introduce lore to the Civilization franchise, and were able to get a few questions answered by Lead Designers, David McDonough and Will Miller.

Q: For those that do not know, could you set the stage for the story of Civilization: Beyond Earth?

Civilization: Beyond Earth is set in the future. You can think of Civilization: Beyond Earth as the events that happen after the typical Civ game. Humanity has made great strides towards progress, but at the cost of using up our planet’s vital resources.  While some societies on Earth have greatly prospered technologically and culturally, it’s clear our time on Earth is coming to an end. The re-developed nations of the world decide to focus their resources on deep space travel to start a new chapter for mankind.

Q: What is ‘The Great Mistake’?

The Great Mistake is a mysterious event that is partly interpretive to the player. We want them to discover the backstory by playing through the game and using their imagination. Playing through the game will provide a lot of insight as to what the event could be, but we don’t outright say what happened. Games by Firaxis have always been about setting the stage and giving players the props to act out their own story.

Q: How will players find out more about the story as they play?

We have had several writers working on the history and fiction of the game. It’s been a fun process because we get to make up everything as we go. We are no longer bound by humanity’s prewritten history. Like all Civ games, Beyond Earth will have a Civilopedia and lots of descriptive text throughout the game to give the player insight into the new tech, events, and planets.

Q: Why did you feel that adding such robust lore was important for this game?

Everything is new in Beyond Earth including new technologies, aliens, and resources just to name a few. We wanted to provide information to the player that explains what exactly these new things are about. It was also great fun for us to create fiction. We have a lot of sci-fi fans on staff as well as lots of talented writers. It’s been a real pleasure to read all of the written work by members of the team. 

 Q: How did you get started? Did you have a story in mind?

We read through stacks and stacks of the best sci-fi books for inspiration before we even started development on the game. We read everything: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein… we could go on for a while. Researching for Beyond Earth was an incredibly enjoyable point of the development process.

Q: How do you go about writing lore for a game with so many options?

We’re huge fans of both modern science and sci-fi. We jumped into production with lots of inspiration and hundreds of ideas already in our heads. It’s hard to say where we began because so much was planned out from the get-go. It was a blessing when we got the go ahead for the game because we could finally start implementing all these really cool ideas.

Q: Do you have a favorite character or moment in ‘history’?

There is really so much it’s hard to pick a favorite. We have tried to include so much fun narrative in Beyond Earth that players are going to have as hard a time as we do picking out favorites. Choosing a favorite character is even tougher because of how each game changes. Depending on what affinities you choose and what affinities the AI chooses, the same character’s personality develops differently between games.

For more on Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, visit Civilization.com.

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