ATP: There are currently a handful of fansites out there for Sid Meier's Pirates!, how important have these sites been to you during the making of the game? Can you for instance mention a feature in Sid Meier's Pirates! that is there because of community-feedback, or did you already have everything planned from the beginning? :)
SM: Our fan community has always been a huge help to us in suggesting ways to improve and enhance our games. We've had the advantage of 17 years of fan feedback on Pirates, so many of the improvements and new features were suggested by the community over the years. One particular improvement to Pirates that fans consistently requested was land battles. Admittedly, land battles were not one of the strongest features in the original Pirates, so we were determined to dramatically improve that part of the game in the new Pirates…and I think we did. We completely reinvented land battles for this game with a turn-based system that is really fun. Pirates now come in several varieties (Buccaneers carry guns for ranged combat instead of the cutlasses favored by regular Pirates) and defenses now include cavalry and mobile cannon, along with the usual infantry. Things like height advantages, tree cover and morale will impact the battles.
ATP: Firaxis / Atari has been participating a bit on the fansite community-boards pre-release of this game, though I know many of the fans wished that you had been more active. What's the plan after the release, and with future games by Firaxis?
SM: Folks on our dev teams try to stay in pretty close contact with the fan community…posting on community boards and participating in chats. It's a great way to communicate with our core players…by both listening to their thoughts on our games as well as running ideas by them that we have. Since most of the games we make have a history in this industry, it's always in our best interest to stay in touch with the fans so we can continue to make games they want to play.
ATP: We've seen remakes and we've seen sequels – don't get me wrong, they've been great – but will we perhaps see any completely brand new games from Firaxis during the next few years, any groundbreaking games like Pirates! was back in '87, or the first Civilization-game – or do you ”play safe”, continuing on old material?
SM: I've created a whole bunch of prototypes for brand new games that I'm hoping to bring to life soon. And we have lots of fans asking us to remake some of my old classics. So, it's a matter of staying focused on both…support the fans who have been buying our games for many years by giving them more of what they love and delivering brand new games that will thrill this rapidly growing global gaming community. Stay tuned for more details :)
ATP: It's been 17 years since the original Pirates!, and a *lot* has changed in the gaming industry. So, apart from the technology, what are the biggest differences between making a game 17 years ago, making a game today, and - if you could guess - making a game in 17 years from now?
SM: My fundamental approach to making games has not changed in 17 years… and it won't over the next 17…which is to find the fun first and then use technology to bring the fun to life in the most rewarding way. The biggest change in the industry is that it takes many more people and a whole lot more money to make games today…players expect a high level of visual entertainment to go along with the gameplay and that takes time, talent and money. It will be interesting to see where the industry is 17 years from now. I think online games will be a much bigger part of the industry.