Strategy Informer: Firstly could you introduce yourself to our readers and let us know your role within the Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword production?
Alex Mantzaris: Alex Mantzaris, lead programmer and lead designer for Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword.
Could you tell us what Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword is about?
Alex Mantzaris: The title “Beyond the Sword” has sort of a double meaning. On one hand it suggests that we are giving more depth to the second half of the game, when swords are obsolete as a weapon for combat. On the other hand, it implies that players will have more options then ever when it comes to building up their empire through peaceful means.
We've been interested in the random events feature that will be included in Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword, could you tell us a bit more about this?
Alex Mantzaris: Random events are all about giving Civilization 4 even more historical flavor and immersion, and providing new ways to interact with the world. There are large numbers of events that don’t all occur in every game, so each game feels unique. Some events simply ask the player how to deal with a situation that has arisen, but other events are quite intricate, sending the player on quests in order to receive some reward, for example.
Is Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword going to have any changes to the graphical features?
Alex Mantzaris: We are continuously striving to improve the game, and in this expansion the graphics will be more polished than ever. In addition, some of the new features have given us the opportunity to have fun with the graphics. For example, the look of the game has been completely transformed for some of the scenarios. Also, the space race has received some major attention, allowing you to customize your 3D spaceship before you send it off to Alpha Centauri.
This expansion will of course feature new units, wonders and leaders. Could you tell us about some of these new additions and what their roles will be?
Alex Mantzaris: My favorite new Wonder is the Apostolic Palace. This Wonder allows you to leverage your diplomatic standing to manipulate the world like never before. Build it and civilizations sharing your religion can vote on resolutions you put forth, like stopping and starting wars, enforcing trade embargos, or even assigning cities to their “rightful” owner!
One of my favorite leaders is Queen Boudica of the Celts. Not only was she impressive in real life (she almost kicked the mighty Romans out of Britain), but in terms of gameplay her charismatic and aggressive traits have an awesome synergy.
In terms of units, the coolness factor of Privateers and Paratroopers has finally returned to Civilization, only this time the AI knows how to use them. Beware!
Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword is going to feature ten new civilizations, will they all have single player campaigns or just a few of them?
Alex Mantzaris: Actually, none of our scenarios are single-player campaigns for a featured civilization. On the contrary, some of the scenarios are about as far as you can get from a typical game of Civilization! We decided to let the creativity of our scenario designers run loose, and that has definitely paid off. You can buy full games that don’t have the replay value and depth offered by just one of these scenarios.
On the subject of campaigns, could you tell us a bit about these campaigns and what they’ll feature?
Alex Mantzaris: More than just “Campaigns,” the mods we are including with the game are more like games in their own right because they have a very high replay value. They range from fantasy to hardcore WWII simulations and range in time from the Renaissance to centuries into the future. Some are played on random maps, while others are played on heavily researched historical maps.
What about the multiplayer side to the game? Will this have any new modes or options to give new challenges to the players?
Alex Mantzaris: One option that I think will prove popular in multiplayer is the ability to select any leader-civilization combination. Not only is there something fascinating about using Gandhi to lead your Mongol Keshiks into battle (!), but with this new option Civilizations and leaders that were previously unpopular in multiplayer will receive new attention.
Another feature that may revitalize the traditional sequential turn play mode (as opposed to simultaneous turns, which seems to be more popular in multiplayer) is the fact that now all players on the same team take their turns simultaneously. That way you can combine fast online play with traditional game mechanics.
Can you give us an assessment of the long-term viability for Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword?
Alex Mantzaris: With new elements like Corporations, Espionage, and an expanded late-game, Beyond the Sword gives players more ways to play and more things to do, hence increasing its replayability. There are still many people out there enjoying Civilization II, and from all indications, Civilization IV and its expansion packs will have at least a comparable longevity.
The Civilization series has always been heavily modded by fans, will you be releasing anything new to aid them in creating additional content for this expansion pack?
Alex Mantzaris: We have gone to great lengths to further improve the moddability of the game. We have exposed more game mechanics to XML and Python, making it possible to do things that you couldn’t previously do with just Civ4. For example, you can now completely alter the look of the interface, and in fact we have done just that in a couple of our own scenarios. However, I think that a modder favorite is going to be a simple change we made that gives the ability to have civilization-specific graphics for the same unit.
As a gamer, what's your favorite part of Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword, what makes you proud to have helped create it and why is it a game people will want?
Alex Mantzaris: As a long-time fan, Beyond the Sword in my mind represents the ultimate Civilization game. Not only have we added all these cool new features, but we have improved on the existing features as well. Thanks to our fans, we knew the shortcomings of the game and we have worked hard to address them. My personal favorite has to be the fact that the AI has now been transformed into a formidable opponent who no longer needs hefty bonuses to compete with a smart human.
Its early days for Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword right now but has the team decided anything on a demo? Do you think it’s likely or not that this will happen?
Alex Mantzaris: Yes, we will be releasing a couple of demos, showcasing two of our scenarios!
What's the current release date for Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword?
Alex Mantzaris: Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword will be in stores in July 2007.
How long has the team been working on Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword and what’s been the hardest challenge so far, development wise?
Alex Mantzaris: We have been working on it since the release of Warlords last summer. Even though this expansion has the most content ever for a Civilization game, in my opinion the hardest part was to decide what great ideas to leave out.
We've come to our last question, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans of Civilization IV which are eagerly awaiting the release of this expansion pack?
Alex Mantzaris: One word: Patience! I have been in your shoes and I know what it’s like to eagerly anticipate a new expansion pack for Civilization. Trust me, it’s definitely going to be worth the wait!