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Interview with Sid Meier about Colonization

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Colonization Authors. Game Published 1994.
Sid Meier co-author of Colonization.
'[Colonization] was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things.'
Interview with Sid Meier about Colonization [below] Brian Reynolds co-author of Colonization Douglas Caspian-Kaufman co-author of Colonization Jeff Briggs co-author and composer for Colonization
Piece about
Sid and Colonization
Sid Meier co-author of Colonization. '[Colonization] was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things.' Foreword from the Official Colonization Strategy Guide by Sid Meier and Jeff Briggs. Brian Reynolds
co-author of Colonization
Douglas Caspian-Kaufman co-author of Colonization Jeff Briggs co-author and composer for Colonization, and CEO Firaxis Games.

Colonization was designed primarily by Brian Reynolds, but it has a fair amount of my input as far as playing it and suggesting things. It was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things.

I thought it was really impressive the way Brian stepped into this genre. He had done some graphic adventures before that, and he had just enjoyed playing Civilization and brought his own ideas. I think that was really impressive the way Brian stepped up to the plate and put the whole game together.

One thing that stands out in my mind is that two weeks before we shipped it, we made a major change in the gameplay. The original version had the city radius being twice the size that it was in the final game. We found that for gameplay purposes, all the cities tended to get kind of maxed out. And two weeks before we shipped it, we said, "You know, this game would be really more interesting if your cities specialize. So let's cut the city radius, really change the nature of the gameplay."

The lesson I learned is that it's never too late to fix the game, to fundamentally change the gameplay, because it can happen, even if you're two weeks away from shipping. Keep making it better; keep fixing it.

Colonization (1994) Review by Interviewer

By all accounts, Sid's main contributions to the Colonization project came in the early concept stage and included some polishing just prior to the game being shipped. Most of the design work was done by the relatively unknown Brian Reynolds (who would later achieve fame for his work on Sid Meier's Civilization II) and Jeff Briggs. Most computer gamers know Briggs as a fine composer of game soundtracks (notably Pirates! and Civilization II), but Jeff also had extensive design and development experience from his days at West End Games (board games and paper role-playing games).

The idea was sound: to produce a Sid Meier's Civilization-style game on the early days of America, leading up to the American Revolution. As with Civilization, the game's mechanics (combat, movement, exploration, and so forth) are in and of themselves fairly simple, so that Colonization is never quite overwhelming. Unlike Sid's best games, however, you reach a point where you are waiting for something to happen; you don't get that rush of new technology, so crucial in Civilization, to keep you riveted for another turn in Colonization.

There are a lot of nice touches, such as building your cabinet, where you can choose Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and even Pocahontas as advisors. Colonization is also the first game where Reynolds introduced the concept of editable text files: If you don't like a game rule or a victory condition, you can simply change it, without any programming skill required!

Colonization (still widely available in bargain bins and on this site) is interesting in a historical sense, mainly for collectors who want to see Brian Reynolds' early development before he emerged as a top-flight game designer. Still, you can't help but feel that Sid Meier's Colonization could only have been helped by Sid's active participation throughout the project, rather than his good name being tapped for marketing considerations, just because Sid sells games. With Sid, Brian, and Jeff gone to Firaxis, it's doubtful that we'll see a Colonization II.


Colonization was designed primarily by Brian Reynolds, but it has a fair amount of my input as far as playing it and suggesting things. It was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things.

I thought it was really impressive the way Brian stepped into this genre. He had done some graphic adventures before that, and he had just enjoyed playing Civilization and brought his own ideas. I think that was really impressive the way Brian stepped up to the plate and put the whole game together.

One thing that stands out in my mind is that two weeks before we shipped it, we made a major change in the gameplay. The original version had the city radius being twice the size that it was in the final game. We found that for gameplay purposes, all the cities tended to get kind of maxed out. And two weeks before we shipped it, we said, "You know, this game would be really more interesting if your cities specialize. So let's cut the city radius, really change the nature of the gameplay."

The lesson I learned is that it's never too late to fix the game, to fundamentally change the gameplay, because it can happen, even if you're two weeks away from shipping. Keep making it better; keep fixing it.