A college student joins his campus's game development group. They decide to have a 48-hour programming competition. The kid's father, an alumnus of the school, asks if he can enter the contest, just for fun.
Who wants their dad tagging along for the weekend? Pretty embarrassing, right? Maybe not when your dad is Sid Meier, founder of Firaxis Games and creator of such legendary franchises as Civilization and Pirates! That's what happened to Ryan Meier and Wolverine Soft, the video game development student group at the University of Michigan.
Such limited-time programming contests are nothing new — Pangea Software got their start with a series of 24-hour games on the Apple IIGS, and I myself have entered the HackFest competition under similar constraints. Neither Ryan nor Sid were eligible for Wolverine Soft's competition, though, as both were serving as judges. Sid entered just for the fun of it, apparently having never performed on such a tight deadline.
The experience was encapsulated in a 24-minute video that alternates between the history of Meier's gaming career as well as his and the students' progress in the 48-hour programming marathon. The difference in output quality between the amateur and the professional programmers is astounding, which lends some credence to one observer commenting that programming comes so effortlessly to Sid, "He must have a function: 'build game'".
Elsewhere, Sid Meier recently spoke about game psychology, morality decisions, and social networking. The latter is something in which he has a personal investment as Firaxis explores ways to bring the Civilization franchise to Web 2.0:
When you're in the world with your friends, you want a different kind of gameplay experience potentially than if you're playing against people you don't know or if you're playing by yourself. To allow all these different things in the world of Civilization — competitive play, cooperative play, individual play, or synchronous and asynchronous play, where you're playing at the same time as somebody else, playing at a different time as somebody else — those are fascinating problems to me as a designer. That was the challenge of Civilization Network, to take this brand new technology, this new way of playing games, and take what's cool about Civilization and marry the best of those together and come up with something unique.
Civilization Network, a Facebook version of the game, will launch in 2010.