Freeciv is a multiplayer, turn-based strategy game for workstations and personal computers inspired by the commercial proprietary Sid Meier's Civilization series. The game's default settings are closest to Civilization II, both in gameplay and graphics (including the units and the isometric grid).
Freeciv is available for most desktop computer operating systems. Released under the GNU General Public License, Freeciv is free and open source software.
Players take the role of tribal leaders in 4000 B.C. who must guide their peoples through the centuries. Over time, new technologies are discovered, which allow the construction of new city buildings and the deployment of new units. Players can wage war on one another or form diplomatic relationships.
The game ends when one civilization has eradicated all others, accomplished the goal of space colonization, or at a given deadline. If more than one civilization remains at the deadline, the player with the highest score wins. Points are awarded for the size of a civilization, its wealth, and cultural and scientific advances.
At DAIMI, the CS department at Aarhus University, three CS students, avid players of XPilot and of Sid Meier's Civilization, which was a stand-alone PC game for DOS, decided to find out whether the two could be fused into an X-based multiplayer Civilization-like strategy game. The students—Peter Unold, Claus Leth Gregersen and Allan Ove Kjeldbjerg—started development in November 1995; the first playable version was released in January, 1996, with bugfixing and small enhancements until April. The rules of the game were close to Civilization, while the client/server architecture was basically that of XPilot.
For the developers, Freeciv 1.0 was a successful proof of concept, but a rather boring game, so they went back to XPilot. But Freeciv was already playable and addictive enough to pick up other students as players, bugfixers and feature extenders. It was useful enough to be picked up by popular Linux distributions, e.g. Debian. Designed to be portable, it was ported to many platforms, which helped its survival. Freeciv playing and development continues to the present day, although the spells with little development activity have grown longer and more frequent over time. The development history is strictly incremental: while there have been many serious improvements, the basic design and architecture have not changed since the early versions.
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