Freeciv is a multiplayer Civilization
clone for Unix
and the Internet
The original (DOS) game, as addictive as it was, had some severe limitations:
- poor configurability, some bugs and misfeatures
- no human to human play
- no support for Unix or the net
- no source - nothing for CS students to play with
So if you're a CS student with a well-equipped computer lab full of Unix workstations, and you want to learn something about game design and GUI programming, it's really tempting to write a Unix/X based Civilization, with a client/server design and full asynchronous multiplaying capabilities.
Freeciv was started by 3 students at DAIMI, in November, 1995 - as it happens, in the same week that Civnet came out, the first Civilization with network support. At that time, Internet access for home PCs was still uncommon, unreliable, slow, and (in Europe) expensive.
The platform of choice was SGI IRIX, but the developers aimed for maximum portability; for that reason, they chose C as the programming language and Xaw as the GUI library.
In the next year, Freeciv developed into a quite playable Civ clone. The graphics were crude, the interface was quirky, but it was there: the blinking of that first settler on a black map left just as little room for escape as in the original game.
The multiplayer facilities added a whole new dimension to gameplay. It was already better than Civilization.
Having succeeded in their goals, the original authors abandoned development, but the Freeciv project didn't die. It has continued to attract new developers, and although the path of progress has been slow at times, new releases still come out every few months.
The first version I ever played, 1.5.4, had a Civ I look and feel, but featured most of the Civ II units, and some of its rules. In 1.6.4, computer players were added, and they soon proved to be much stronger than Civ I's AI support, with much less cheating. Freeciv suddenly became a superior alternative to Civ I and II even for standalone play.
From then on, Freeciv continued to mature: Civ II compatibility was increased and configurability was greatly enhanced, so you can now nearly play Civ I, nearly Civ II, play the default Freeciv configuration which is basically Civ II improved, or play some variant of your own design. The quirks in the interface were ironed out further. Diplomacy between humans was introduced, and, in 2.0, AI diplomacy. The graphics were improved by adding a GTK+ interface, better looking tile sets, and an isometric mode. Portability was increased further: Freeciv compiles and runs on any known Unix variant, but it also has an Amiga port, a native Windows port, and an unfinished native Macintosh port.
Freeciv has a website (www.freeciv.org), archived mailing lists, and public gameservers you can contact with your Freeciv client to play games.