Sid Meier’s Memoir! Review

Ask any avid gamer who’s been round for a number of years to call a particular particular person related to sport design, and some of the identical names are prone to pop up: Will Wright, John Romero, Josh Sawyer, Ron Gilbert, Todd Howard — to call a number of. One other title you’re prone to hear is Sid Meier, somebody who resonates with such knowledge and guru-like expertise amongst followers that his title alone has actually been used as a advertising instrument for over three a long time.

Sid Meier, for these unfamiliar along with his work, started his sport growth profession in earnest in 1982 with Hellcat Ace, Floyd of the Jungle and Chopper Rescue. It grew to become clear very early in his profession that he possessed a singular artistic imaginative and prescient and relentless drive. Along with long-time collaborators like Invoice Stealey, Brian Reynolds, and Bruce Shelley, MicroProse frequently challenged the video games trade establishment.

Floyd of the Jungle (MicroProse, 1982) Supply: Wikipedia.

By the late Nineteen Eighties, although, Sid Meier’s rise took on a meteoric side, with Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987), Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon (1990) and, after all, the gaming franchise juggernaut that’s Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991). Sid’s profession trajectory is one thing that many sport designers can solely dream of, and in September 2020, Sid printed Sid Meier’s Memoir!

As Sid notes on this ebook, most of the designers he now mentors weren’t even born whereas he was shaking up the video games trade along with his distinctive concepts within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s. Sid Meier is, in each sense of the time period, a real elder statesman on the planet of sport growth. This elder statesman isn’t telling repetitive tales both. Sid Meier’s Memoir! is written in a personable and fascinating type, as if you happen to had been sitting subsequent to Sid whereas he regaled you along with his life story in particular person.

His humility is clear fairly early on, acknowledging the usually unreliable nature of the subjective expertise. In quite a few spots, Sid retells an anecdote from his early days, from his personal perspective after which from the attitude of one other (typically his long-time enterprise accomplice and buddy, Invoice Stealey).

Within the early days of MicroProse, there are a number of examples the place the grandiose and entertaining recollections of Invoice Stealey are juxtaposed with the considerably extra humble and grounded recollections of Sid Meier; this theme continues all through, and it’s fairly clear that Sid Meier appreciates all of the accolades he has obtained, however is rarely remiss to spotlight the half that others have performed in his success.

The ebook weaves out and in of a chronological retelling of Sid’s life, with the occasional reference to out-of-sequence occasions. Nonetheless, to view this ebook merely as a life story would do it a disservice. Sid Meier’s Memoir! takes a number of detours to discover ideas of sport design, manufacturing, advertising, and private relationships. A few of these detours provide a glimpse into Sid’s design course of, corresponding to his “double it, or lower it in half” design rule:

“Do not waste your time adjusting one thing by 5 p.c, then one other 5 p.c, then one other… simply double it, and see if it even had the impact you thought it was going to have in any respect. If it went too far, now you are heading in the right direction.”

Different anecdotes distinction the character of sport manufacturing and advertising within the early days of the trade with at the moment’s trade.

Sid remembers how Invoice Stealey would placed on a pretend voice and name potential sport stockists, pretending to be a buyer trying to find a replica of the newest MicroProse sport. When the stockist didn’t have it, he would angrily cling up. Invoice repeated this course of over the course of some weeks earlier than calling as himself and providing the sport in query to the hapless retailer. It’s tales like this that really spotlight how far the trade has come. Sid’s first-hand expertise and informal, anecdotal type provides every of those moments life that can’t be discovered on a Wikipedia web page.

The ebook’s dealing with of delicate subjects, such because the tumultuous days of the late Nineties and the authorized battles over the rights to the Civilization franchise, are dealt with with deft care and diplomacy — maybe unsurprising from the designer of a collection that utilised diplomacy as a core mechanic. This was the period during which they launched my private favorite Sid Meier sport, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Although Brian Reynolds truly took the design lead on this title, Sid had a pivotal function, and it was Civilization that solid the trail for the 4X style within the first place.

Sid Meier’s Civilization (MicroProse, 1991) Supply: MobyGames.

Last Ideas

Sid Meier’s Memoir! is an excellent ebook, on par with a number of the finest game-related writing that I’ve learn. Not solely is it informative, however it’s additionally written with such fluency and humour that it’s unattainable to place down. I’d suggest it to nearly anybody with a passing curiosity in gaming, design, up to date historical past, or enterprise.

Most significantly, although, I’d suggest this ebook to sport builders. The video games trade that Sid Meier emerged from is nearly unrecognisable in comparison with the trendy trade, however Sid’s insights and expertise are timeless — a modest auteur that needs to be an inspiration to future generations of sport designers.


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