Sid Meier’s Starships on the Horizon

Sid Meier's Starships takes the concept of his popular Civilization series into outer space -- an ideal setting for epic gameplay. "Turn-based strategy games aren't a super-hot genre, but it is a great genre," noted gaming analyst Billy Pidgeon. "A hit strategy game requires imagination and creativity, and this game sounds like it has all that and more."

2K Games and Firaxis on Monday announced Sid Meier’s Starships, an interstellar strategy game of exploration and conquest. It will arrive later this year for the PC, Mac and iPad.

Assuming the role of a fleet commander in this space opera, players will be tasked with leading their starships across the universe to save planets from eradication, build an empire, and bring peace and order to the galaxy. The game will feature dynamically generated missions and turn-based combat, and offer players the opportunity to create fully customizable starships.

The game isn’t exactly a sequel to Civilization: Beyond Earth, but it is an expansion of that in-game universe, said 2K Games spokesperson Jessica Lewinstein.

“Beyond Earth was set 250 years in the future, and this new game is set in the same universe, and will feature the same leaders and factions that were found at the beginning of that game,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Compressed Gameplay

While Starships does in fact expand on the universe that essentially began in the Stone Age with Civilization 5 — the latest edition of Sid Meier’s hugely popular world expansion game — this upcoming game appears to be more concise. It certainly won’t take eons to play a full game.

“Starships could be played to conclusions in 2.5 to 10 hours of play, compared to the more lengthy gameplay of Civilization or Beyond Earth,” added Lewinstein.

That brevity could work both for and against the game’s success. Some players might consider it too lightweight.

“Hardcore gamers are used to playing long games, and maybe 30 hours or more isn’t that long for a strategy game like Civilization,” said independent video game industry analyst Billy Pidgeon.

“However, for multiplayer matches shorter can be better,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In addition, the short scope of Starships could help bring in those who are new to these type of games and don’t have the commitment to such a long endeavor.”

Beyond the 4X

The shorter gameplay of Starships represents a departure from the traditional 4X gameplay that allows players to “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate” over multiple gaming sessions.

Sid Meier’s Civilization was among the first of these games, so it may be fitting that more than 23 years after its initial release, the concept is not only living on in PCs and Macs, but also expanding to tablets.

Making the game shorter isn’t the only departure from the past, however.

“Sid Meier is also taking the concept to a space setting,” noted Pidgeon, “which is interesting in itself, given that this has become increasingly popular again of late. It is more than just a genre — there is a lot of potential interest for exploring the stars.”

The Same but Different

Sid Meier as a game designer hasn’t stuck to just one particular genre either. He actually began developing military-themed flight simulator games in the 1980s before striking gold with Sid Meier’s Pirates in 1987 and Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon in 1990. Over the years, he branched out widely, creating a golf game and even two American Civil War-themed strategy games.

Time and time again, he’s returned to the 4X theme with Civilization — yet it was his former company, Microprose (the original developer of Civilization), that first took this concept to space, with Master of Orion.

“Sid Meier didn’t create Master of Orion, but it was very much a Civ-like game,” said Pidgeon.

“It was the same but different — that magic formula that gamers so love,” he quipped.

“In some ways, this is the spiritual successor to that game, but Starships is more than that — and it is great to see Sid Meier stretching out to something he hasn’t done before,” Pidgeon added.

“Turn-based strategy games aren’t a super-hot genre, but it is a great genre, and it remains a fact that Sid Meier games do really well, and this should help smaller titles in the process,” he suggested. “Sid Meier has a leg up, because to make a hit strategy game requires imagination and creativity, and this game sounds like it has all that and more.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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