Interview with Sid Meier from 2004

This is an interview with games industry legend Sid Meier, originally posted on Addicted to Pirates!, a now closed fansite for Sid Meier’s Pirates! that was run by Kristian Foshaug. It was originally published November 23, 2004, to coincide with the release of Firaxis’ remake of Sid Meier’s Pirates!

You can still access the original version via (part 1, part 2). The interview was done by Kristian Foshaug and Eystein Hansen.

Sid Meier at GDC i 2010. Photo: Official GDC – originally posted to Flickr as Game Developers Conference 2010 – Day 4, CC BY 2.0,

ATP: There are currently a handful of fansites out there for Sid Meier’s Pirates!, how important have these sites been to you during the making of the game? Can you for instance mention a feature in Sid Meier’s Pirates! that is there because of community-feedback, or did you already have everything planned from the beginning? :)

SM: Our fan community has always been a huge help to us in suggesting ways to improve and enhance our games. We’ve had the advantage of 17 years of fan feedback on Pirates, so many of the improvements and new features were suggested by the community over the years. One particular improvement to Pirates that fans consistently requested was land battles. Admittedly, land battles were not one of the strongest features in the original Pirates, so we were determined to dramatically improve that part of the game in the new Pirates…and I think we did. We completely reinvented land battles for this game with a turn-based system that is really fun. Pirates now come in several varieties (Buccaneers carry guns for ranged combat instead of the cutlasses favored by regular Pirates) and defenses now include cavalry and mobile cannon, along with the usual infantry. Things like height advantages, tree cover and morale will impact the battles.

ATP: Firaxis / Atari has been participating a bit on the fansite community-boards pre-release of this game, though I know many of the fans wished that you had been more active. What’s the plan after the release, and with future games by Firaxis?

SM: Folks on our dev teams try to stay in pretty close contact with the fan community…posting on community boards and participating in chats. It’s a great way to communicate with our core players…by both listening to their thoughts on our games as well as running ideas by them that we have. Since most of the games we make have a history in this industry, it’s always in our best interest to stay in touch with the fans so we can continue to make games they want to play.

Enda et bilde fra Commodore 64-versjonen.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! on the Commodore 64.

ATP: We’ve seen remakes and we’ve seen sequels – don’t get me wrong, they’ve been great – but will we perhaps see any completely brand new games from Firaxis during the next few years, any groundbreaking games like Pirates! was back in ’87, or the first Civilization-game – or do you ”play safe”, continuing on old material?

SM: I’ve created a whole bunch of prototypes for brand new games that I’m hoping to bring to life soon. And we have lots of fans asking us to remake some of my old classics. So, it’s a matter of staying focused on both…support the fans who have been buying our games for many years by giving them more of what they love and delivering brand new games that will thrill this rapidly growing global gaming community. Stay tuned for more details :)

ATP: It’s been 17 years since the original Pirates!, and a *lot* has changed in the gaming industry. So, apart from the technology, what are the biggest differences between making a game 17 years ago, making a game today, and – if you could guess – making a game in 17 years from now?

SM: My fundamental approach to making games has not changed in 17 years… and it won’t over the next 17…which is to find the fun first and then use technology to bring the fun to life in the most rewarding way. The biggest change in the industry is that it takes many more people and a whole lot more money to make games today…players expect a high level of visual entertainment to go along with the gameplay and that takes time, talent and money. It will be interesting to see where the industry is 17 years from now. I think online games will be a much bigger part of the industry.

Sid Meier's Pirates! fra 2004.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! from 2004.

ATP: What are your plans around an eventual expansion for Sid Meier’s Pirates! – could you perhaps tell us something about stuff / features that you wanted to implement in the game, that for some reason didn’t make it in this remake?

SM: We’re pretty focused on finishing up development of Pirates! for the Xbox which is due to come out this summer. We’ll keep you posted on other plans down the road.

ATP: Piracy – Your thoughts about this – how are you trying to prevent it? Everyone uses copy-“protection”, but are you considering other options as well, such as bonuses to the ones that actually buy your games? (For instance, having an unique key that is only available from the retail box, that gives access to special features / goodies online?)

SM: I leave that kind of stuff to the business folks…if it’s something that we feel is necessary moving forward than we’ll come up with some solutions.

ATP: Sid, you’ve come up with lots of great titles and ideas during your career, and you are still going strong. How do you do it? Where do you get your inspiration from? What is it that makes you keep going?

SM: I feel like the luckiest guy in the world being able to make games for a living. I really love it, and I plan to keep on doing it for a long time. Most of my game ideas come from things I enjoyed as a kid…history, airplanes, railroads, pirates, civil war etc. …and things I discovered as an adult…golf for instance :) What keeps me going are the many game ideas I’ve yet to bring to life and the wonderful fans who have inspired me for over 20 years to keep making games that are fun.

Sid Meier's Pirates!
Sid Meier’s Pirates! from 2004.

ATP: Many fans wonder about your level of participation in the “Sid Meier’s” games, can you perhaps tell us a bit about your role in the remake of Sid Meier’s Pirates!?

SM: I have been the designer and lead programmer on the new Pirates!, which means I’ve been hands-on, knee deep in the trenches for the entire development process. I’m fortunate to have a really talented team of developers here at Firaxis who have worked with me to make this game really great.

ATP: Back when the original Pirates! was made, there wasn’t many other games to draw inspiration from. Can you tell us anything about what made you come up with the idea of making a game about pirates?

SM: I’ve been interested in pirates since I was a kid, and had always thought it would be a fun topic for a computer game. I liked watching the old Errol Flynn pirate movies which inspired me to create a pirate game in which the player could be a swashbuckling hero like the one in the movies. And I designed the game so that it uses action sequences as they are used in movies, to tie together story segments in a fun and interesting way.

ATP: Ok, final question – what does it take for you to say “Sid Meier’s Pirates! was a great success?”

SM: If fans write to us and tell us that this game is even more fun than the original, I’ll be very happy.

ATP: Thank you for taking the time to answering these questions- :)

SM: Thank you!

Interview by Kristian Foshaug and Eystein Hansen.