Soren Johnson's Jake Solomon interview is a funny, illuminating insider look at Firaxis


Aug 15, 2010
This is really about the whole Civ series.

In this episode, Soren interviews veteran game developer Jake Solomon, best known for the XCOM reboot and Midnight Suns. They discuss how much money he had to give back to Accenture, how to animate multiple units at the same time, and why Sid suddenly started golfing so much. This episode was recorded on April 25, 2023.

Because both the interviewer and interviewee shared an important work experience at early 2000s Firaxis, you get some real cool inside stories in this Part 1.

Some moments that made me either smile or burst out laughing:
18m: An idiosyncratic staple of Sid's games is the option to retire.

21m: Sid seems to have a "boys' library from the 50s" on their favorite subjects, from which he picks his themes.
(I think this may have inspired a PR story Bruce Shelley told about only using children's section in bookstores when doing research for Age of Empires, which is not the truth.)

~1h: Around 2000, Firaxis revolved around two designers - Sid and Brian Reynolds, and because Sid was a lone wolf, the dev team was essentially Brian's team. When Brian left Firaxis to found Big Huge Games, practically the whole team followed, leaving the programmer duties of Civ3 in the hands of "two kids" - them.

(They returned to the topic of Brian's departure at 1h45m. Essentially, the whole Firaxis avidly played Age of Empires 2 together, and they never imagined the game would make Brian want to drop Civ3 and make an RTS.)

1h20m: The code of Alpha Centauri was very hard to read. This is because Firaxis deliberately made it obfuscated, in fear MicroProse would accuse them of stealing Civ2 code.

1h32m: The development of SimGolf.

2h6m: Discussion on Sid's strong intuition for game feel, and how it made the development of the Pirates! remake difficult in Firaxis's "dark age".

2h10m: CivRev and Jake Solomon's growth into a designer under Sid's mentorship, where he fulfilled a "Sid's sounding board" role similar to Bruce Shelley at MicroProse.

A previous interview that serves as a good companion / aid to the podcast:
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