Why the fuss?
It might sound over the top to say so, but Sid Meier truly is the brains behind some of the greatest PC Games of all time – from Silent Service in 1985 to Railroad Tycoon, Civilization to Colonization, F-15 Strike Eagle to Pirates!
With involvement on around 45 titles since 1984 across virtually any major platform you can care to name, Sid Meier (born February 24th 1954) is one of the most influential figures in video gaming history. It could also be said that he is also responsible for millions of lost man hours and financial losses to industry; after all, an amazing 6 million copies of Civilization alone have been sold since its original release in 1991.
Along with former pilot Bill Stealey, Meier founded Microprose in 1982 at the age of 28 and developed titles that would have a major effect on gaming, beginning with military simulators F-15 Strike Eagle and Silent Service. Sid revolutionised this early genre of gaming by developing the AI controlling enemy craft to huge success and soon moved into business simulation with Railroad Tycoon, the revolutionary Civilization and various combinations of the two such as Pirates! and Colonization.
Amassing a deluge of honours and awards on the way, Meier moved on from Microprose in 1996 to found Firaxis games with Jeff Briggs and oversaw development of various sequels and remakes for other platforms.
The idea of a game about railways or building a civilization from scratch isn’t one that leaps off the paper with any sort of “Eureka!" moment. Thanks to the inspiration of games by Francis Tresham of Hartland Trefoil Ltd, Sid Meier and his various teams (in particular those including Brian Reynolds) have been able to bring life, adventure and above all absolute addiction to some of the most unusual concepts to be released as video games.
There’s an honest charm about the releases, from in-jokes to cameo appearances by Sid Meier in his games. For instance Sid almost always appears in some form in Civilization, usually as science advisor. Eagle-eyed gamers first noticed him in the opening screens of the original Railroad Tycoon and a likeness of Meier appears on the promotional material for the most recent version of the game, Sid Meier’s Railroads.
Videogaming wouldn’t be what it is today without Meier’s vision as a designer and his ability to put together a team of talented developers and programmers. Programmers would have found it harder to find success with subsequent games such as the Age of Empires series or the Command and Conquer games, while aircraft simulators still bear the hallmarks of Meier’s influence almost 20 years since he worked on his last, F-15 Strike Eagle II.
If you haven’t tried a Sid Meier game yet, now is the time to try. Retro gamers in particular might be interested to learn that the original Railroad Tycoon is available for free download from the Sid Meier’s Railroads! game site and even now there really is something special about linking up two towns, building a station in each, sending a train to carry goods between them and watching the pennies roll in!), while below is a list of recommended titles from Meier and his teams.
Sid Meier’s Greatest Hits
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV – possibly the best Civ yet (although Civilization II advanced the game more than any subsequent release), Civilization IV offers a range of world conquest options, improved economy and diplomacy and lovely graphics all combined to present one of the most pleasurable gaming experiences for any skill level. Plus in tutorial mode, you get lessons from Sid himself!
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization – a remake of the superb strategy game from 1994. Colonization puts the player in charge of early settlers in the New World from 1492 until the successful Declaration of Independence. A superb combination of trade and combat, with interesting bonuses, no two games are ever alike.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – an unofficial sequel to the Civilization games, which moves the gameplay to an alien planet and forcing the player to manage relationships with NPC factions via enhanced diplomacy and an intriguing set of future technologies and advances.