Sid Meier: Quotes from keynote GDC speech

All About The Gamer's Impression

“Having worked on older games that had crude graphics, designers, old timers like me, actually have an advantage over younger designers because we have worked hard to make people believe things despite the graphics. Part of the unholy alliance is that you need to create a suspension of disbelief. It’s your part of the bargain, and it’s the gamers’ part, too.”

“One of the key rules of game design is the first 15 minutes. These introductory minutes have to be fun, satisfying, and exciting. You are letting players know they’re on the right track, you should reward them, and let them know cool stuff will happen later.”

“In early Civilization games, I made Civ real-time, which meant everything happened in real-time: My first mistake was to make it real time. I modeled some elements of the game from Sim City, which was real-time. It was inspiring. But what we found was that in real-time gaming the player becomes the observer. Our mantra is that, “it’s good to be king.” When we made Civ a turn-based game, the player became the star, they made things happen.”

“When you build a game, you and the player enter into an ‘unholy alliance.’ I missed on the phrase ‘the uncanny valley,’ I never trademarked ‘interesting decisions,’ but I want to trademark the phrase ‘unholy alliance.”

“(Gaming) is a psychological experience: I base my games on things like railroads, pirates, and history, and I try to make the games I design true and real. The more historical, the more realistic, and the more factual, the better.”

“During the early days of my career, I hadn’t taken into account what was in the player’s head. By acknowledging that simple concept–that gameplay is a psychological experience–it can make your games better.”

“I once gave a talk on how games should be split into four different difficulty levels. I was wrong. Now, Civilization V has nine difficulty levels. As players move on they continually get better and receive rewards. You want to feel they are above average.”

“There is a basic dichotomy in games: When you reward players for winning a war and give them 100 gold pieces, the player never really questions rewards. If something bad happens, if there is a setback to the player, the react much differently. They complain the game is broken.”

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It's Good To Be King: "When we made (Civilization) a turn-based game, the player became the star, they made things happen."

Bio: Sid Meier is known as the mastermind behind some of the most respected and influential video games of all time, such as Civilization, Railroad Tycoon and Pirates. He was the second person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame in 1999. (Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime was inducted in 2008)


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