Civilization is a computer game created by Sid Meier for Microprose in 1991. The game's objective is to develop a great empire from the ground up. The game begins in ancient times and the player attempts to expand and develop his or her empire through the ages until modern and near-future times.
Civilization was originally developed for the DOS operating system running on a PC. It has undergone numerous revisions for various platforms (including Macintosh, Linux and Super Nintendo) and now exists in several versions. Beginning with Civilization III, the game has been developed by Firaxis Games and published by Infogrames (now Atari).
Civilization is a single-player game (though Civilization II and III have multi-player versions). The player takes on the role of the ruler of a civilization starting with nothing but a single Settler unit. The player attempts to build an empire in competition with a number of other civilizations. The game is rigidly turn-based and requires a fair amount of micromanagement (though less than any of the Sim games). Along with the larger tasks of exploration, war and diplomacy, the player has to make decisions about which improvements or units to build in each city, where to build new cities, and how to transform the land surrounding the cities for maximum benefit. Early in the game, the player's towns may be harassed periodically by "barbarians", units with no specific nationality or leader.
Before the game begins, the player chooses which historical civilization to play. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which only really affect the very beginning of the game: some civilizations start with the Pottery advancement and some don't, for example. When played by the computer though, certain traits of specific civilizations do come through. The Aztecs are fiercely expansionistic, for example. Other possible civilizations include the Americans, the Mongols, and the Romans. Each civilization is led by a historical figure.
The scope of the game is huge - larger than most if not all other computer games. When the game begins, the player controls one unit, a Settler, which can found new cities and also alter terrain and build improvements such as mines and roads and, later, railroads. The time at the beginning is 4000 BC, and, if you manage to last so long, the game forces you to retire in the year 2050 AD. As time advances, new technologies are developed; these technologies are the primary way the game changes and grows. Players choose from, at the beginning, advances such as Pottery, the Wheel, and the Alphabet to, at the close of the game, Nuclear weapons and aspects of Space exploration. Players gain a large advantage if their civilization is the first to learn the secrets of flight, for example. Each advance gives access to new units or improvements or derivative technologies: for example, the Chariot unit becomes available after the Wheel development, and the Granary building becomes available for building after the Pottery development. The whole system of advancements from beginning to end is called the Technology tree, or simply the Tech tree, a concept adopted in many other strategy games.
Sid Meier admits to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from a board game by Avalon Hill also called Civilization. In an ironic twist, there is now a board game based on the computer game version of Civilization.
The game can be won either by destroying all other civilizations or by being the first civilization to succeed at space colonization, in this case reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri. Civilization III introduced many new winning options, including a "diplomatic" option involving maintaining good relations with all other civilizations throughout, as well as a "cultural" option involving building culturally strong cities with many improvements such as temples and universities.
Two expansion sets have been published for Civilization III: Play the World and Conquests. Play the World attempts to enhance multiplayer, while adding greatly to the original game. Conquests offers eight historical playable scenarios, ranging from Mesopotamia to WWII in the Pacific. Both contribute many more aspects to the game as well as adding a combined 15 new playable civilizations.
This game has been one of the most popular strategy games of all time, and has a loyal following of fans. This high level of interest has even spawned a free version of the game called freeciv. There have been many rip-offs of the basic idea by other developers as well.
The game Alpha Centauri is also by Sid Meier and is in the same genre, but with a futuristic/space theme. Many of the interface and gameplay innovations in this game eventually made their way into Civilization III.