Sid Meier goes old school

Hybrid games like Pirates and Covert Action just don’t get made anymore. I’m sure it’s because a single play mechanic takes enough art and programming time to make it work that six in one game is unreasonable… Anyone think of good examples of recent hybrid games?

Sure. It’s funny to hear someone say that there are no hybrids. Before I left CGM, we had many staff discussions about getting rid of genre classifications (especially with regard to game of the year awards) because so damn many of today’s games are hybrids. Lots of them are action hybrids (people say the adventure genre is dead; I say it’s just been replaced by the Action/adventure genre), but there are others as well:

Freedom Force: Action/strategy
Patrician 2: Strategy/role-playing (and well worth a look for anyone suffering from Pirates! withdrawl)
Sacrifice: Action/strategy
Warcraft III: strategy/role-playing
System Shock 2: Action/role-playing
The Sims: Strategy/role-playing
Master of Orion III: Strategy/spreadsheet

A good list, Ben, that illustrates how close today’s games can come. I probably didn’t define my terms well enough. A two-genre hybrid is one thing. But Covert Action had puzzles, action, and adventure and, more importantly, they weren’t fused into a single gameplay system (like, I would say, System Shock 2 does with Action/Adventure/RPG) but each was separated out into its own mini-game of a sort. In fact, the only games I can think of that are like them now are games that focus on mini-games like Super Monkey Ball.

It’s too bad no one’s willing to risk more development staff. Unless he recycles code (like Civ3 code for all the turn-based titled like MOM or X-Com) then we are looking at maybe a game a year coming out. Seems to me they could clean up pretty well releasing one every 3-6 months for the next few years. There are certainly enough strong legacy titles, and the ability to recycle engines (perhaps for Silent Service and Red Storm Rising) could help speed things along.

One thing I wonder about is how much those old titles are really worth now. When SS or MOM first came out a big game was a game that sold like 75,000-100,000 copies, right? Now you need to sell a lot more units to get ahead. How much impact will the old surviving hardcores have on these titles when they are re-introduced?

Another thing would be to keep them contemporary. One reason X-Com was so cool was that it hit just as X-Files was just really taking off. Is there a popular equivalent of X-Files out there now? What would draw in the next generation? Same with Red Storm. Simulated combat in a 30-year old submarine against a bunch of Soviet subs that rusted away to scrap a decade ago.

For MOM, I am an old fan. MOM and X-Com are 2 of my all-time favorites. AOW2 helps the jones, but it doesn’t feed it right. I miss the old races, the two-sided universe, the sight of actual armies meeting instead of just representational single units. Also, making items and completely random maps made that game have big-stretchy long legs. I played it until…hmm…2000, at least. That’s gotta be a record for me.

From the way Sid was quoted in the article, though, it sounds like MOM and X-Com are a ways off. They were never the titles he mentioned right off. Which means either a) they aren’t at the top of his list or; b) they are at the very top of his list, and he doesn’t feel the need to gague feedback on them.
Pray for b) Mark!

  1. I don’t think Firaxis is going to simply remake the legacy games. I didn’t get that impression. These would be new games with today’s technology based on old games. Like Civ3 was to Civ2.

  2. For the record, he was the one who brought up MoM and X-Com first. In the interview I asked about them but during the presentation at Eagle Games (see an upcoming CGM article for that info) it was Sid who brought those up. He mentioned MoM several times, even when he could tell the crowd there wasn’t as interested in that one (they kept talking Pirates). That could be telling.

I want a straight re-make of X-Com and a re-design.

And a pony.

Who is this Sid (?) character? Did he do Unreal Tournament? Or Solider of fortune?



These would be new games with today’s technology based on old games. Like Civ3 was to Civ2.

I was considering the ability to use modern technology in a time-economical way. There are good engines out there for this stuff already, like the Civ3 engine for MOM or X-Com. MOM started off as a basic Civ rip-off itself, but Steve Barcia and crew were able to really bring it alive.

The same engine could be used for both a WW2 sub sim or modern sub simulator, for instance.

That’s why I loved MoM, before I played it I thought “this looks like fantasy Civ rip-off” and afterwards I thought “man, that was an amazing fantasy Civ rip-off!!”. Personally, I felt that the Civ empire building aspects were what was missing in the HoMM and AoW series, for those who were stating why those games didn’t quite feel like MoM to them.

What ever happened to Steve Barcia, anyway?

Steve was working at Retro Studios last I heard. They’re owned by Nintendo now and are working on the Metroid game for the Gamecube.

Retro’s had a bit of a rocky go of it, dropping a game or two, getting some unpleasant visits from Nintendo who found development lacking it was rumored, and then eventually selling cheap to Nintendo, who probably gave them an either/or offer.

I tried to interview Barcia at Retro for a column I wrote for Gamecenter. The receptionist just laughed at my request. Damn arrogant console companies.

Is Barcia still designing games, or just working as an executive?

I dunno. Call up Retro and have the receptionist laugh at you.

Got a photo of this Barcia guy? I can wait in ambush outside the building and shanghai him for you.

Barcia always struck me as a pretty good guy that ended up in the wrong place. I like his PC titles, but ended up going down while making a superhero game. After that SimTex disappeared and he went into some sort of console job.

Is that about right?

When I worked at Microprose, the heads of the Hunt Valley studio had nothing but bad things to say about Steve Barcia and the studio in Austin. To quote something Amy Boylan said in usenet “If my studio ran like Austin, I should be hauled out back and shot.”