You know that goosebump-inducing trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilisation: Beyond Earth? Well, there are some interesting things that haven’t gotten nearly as much attention as that epic music or the fact that the series is finally returning to the stars – namely the technologies that the game employs. Beyond Earth is the first Civilisation game that supports OpenGL, Linux and Mantle all in a single package. Its also one of the bigger AAA titles in recent memory that will simultaneously release on Windows, OS X and Linux platforms thanks to Valve’s Steam client. PC Master Race indeed?
The Linux support is immediately the most interesting aspect of the game. Although we’ve previously had Valve port over all of their games and 4A Games has also worked on bringing Metro: Last Light to Linux (and PS4 and Xbox One, in case you’ve forgotten abut that), AAA publisher support for the operating system has been relatively nonexistant outside of Valve’s initiatives. By bringing Civilisation: Beyond Earth to Linux, 2K Games will become the first ever AAA game publisher to put as much weight on the Linux platform as the other, bigger ones, namely Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X.
Take that however you want, but it’s a big endorsement for the Linux community and shows that Firaxis and Take2 have enough data to support their initiative and are reasonably confident that there’ll be some healthy sales there. DICE’s Johan Andersson said that only one big AAA title is needed to show that Linux is a viable gaming platform. This could be it.
Along with that, this might also bring up OpenGL development for Take2’s other studios as well. There was a petition to have Bioshock Infinite ported to Linux after Irrational Games had it running smoothly on OS X, but nothing came of it (possibly because Take2 had some forewarning of Irrational’s closure and Ken Levine’s departure from the company).
With Beyond Earth distributed and supported through Steam, Take2 can use the information gathered through Steam’s surveys to see if a continuation of Linux support is financially viable. In a press release concerning Beyond Earth, Firaxis also noted that the studio was going to be supporting Mantle and DirectX 11.
“In addition to its use of DirectX 11, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth will be among the first wave of products optimized for the latest in AMD graphics technologies, including: the new Mantle graphics API, for enhanced graphics performance; AMD CrossFire™, for UltraHD resolutions and extreme image quality; and AMD Eyefinity, which allows for a panoramic gameplay experience on up to six different HD displays off of a single graphics card.”
There’s a lot of AMD-specific technologies at work here so that is the first hint that this is the game that brings Firaxis into AMD’s Gaming Evolved program. Presumably after launch, Beyond Earth will be bundled with AMD graphics cards and APUs in order to showcase their technology properly. The Mantle support is particularly interesting because one of AMD’s suggested applications for the API was for games that supported the display of a large number of objects on-screen, with AI calculations and enemy unit movements typically hogging up CPU cycles in DirectX versions of the same game.
As for DirectX 11 support, this is also the first indication that the game’s system requirements will require Windows Vista at the very least, dropping support for Windows XP (Yay!). Perhaps they’ll move on to a 64-bit executable as well, which would be welcome. Jumping into a DirectX 11-only environment would also allow for the use of some newer GPU technologies to provide better lighting, advanced shaders and greater unit detail. I hardly need to state that Civilisation V is already a beautiful game, but the wild imaginations at Firaxis now have the entirety of space for inspiration.
On a personal note…
Yes, I’m going to buy it. In preparation, I will launch a Civilisation V game playing as the Chinese and I will dominate the trade routes, annex the United States and eventually win through completing the space mission and sending the first ship to Alpha Centauri. Then, when Beyond Earth comes out, I’ll pick the Chinese once again and fulfil the “Purity” victory condition, terraforming the new planet to make another “Earth” for the humans left behind. Then, when Firaxis inevitably makes a Civilisation game that expands beyond a single planet and eventually to a galaxy, I’ll pick the Chinese again, rule the galaxy through trade routes and planet terraforming and instill my tradition everywhere I go.
That way, I’m pretty much re-creating the Firefly universe. Well, it won’t be quite the same, but it’ll be close.