Update (8/8/13): According to 2K Games PR manager Brian Roundy, there are "no plans" for Civilization Online to be released in North America at this time. XL Games will launch it first in Korea, and then potentially other areas afterwards. Still no release date either. Kind of a bummer since it may not arrive outside of Korea or the Asian market as a whole, but maybe if it performs well enough that could change.
The Civilization series is renowned as one of the best strategy games around, yet last year an MMO based on it was announced. At the time not much was known about Civilization Online, and it continued that way until earlier today. XL Games CEO Jake Song, designer of Lineage and ArcheAge, XL Games senior vice president Jung Hwan Kim, and 2K Games producer Garrett Bittner recently sat down for an interview about Civilization Online, and it's an MMO through and through.
Song, serving as executive producer, is a big fan of the Civilization series, but CO isn't going to be an online version of it like Age of Empires Online is for that franchise. Instead it's an actual MMORPG, where players are going to be a single unit within their civ and can help advance it through the eras. There are four civs at launch (more are set to be added later) and the six eras are: Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern. Players create their avatar, choose their preferred civ, and are doing anything they can to help it advance.
Every world in CO is considered a session, and play continues until one of the victory conditions is met, similar to the strategy game. Victory conditions can include the likes of wiping out the other civs, being the first to travel into space, or a multitude of others. The core aspects of what makes Civilization, well, Civilization are being kept with the MMO, just done differently. Instead of waiting a set number of turns for a structure to get built, players have to get the required materials and then build it themselves.
Classes aren't going to be in Civilization Online, as Song believes careers are more fitting. There'll be a good selection to choose from, with some players going down the research route, others the soldier, builders, and even spies. Careers aren't set in stone either, so players can freely switch between each one to try out something new. Builders are going to be particularly useful, as everything, from libraries to barracks to even the entire city, will be built by the players.
Weapons, clothing, transportation, and other items will also be made by players, with all crafting gear being assembled from items that make sense. There's also going to be no bind-on-equip items either, as Song doesn't believe it makes sense to have that. Crafting stations are set in front of town hall, so it makes those the meeting and trading place for all the players. There's also going to be auction houses and possibly even player-ran stores, though that last one isn't for sure yet. Resources are going to be distributed randomly throughout the world, just like any other Civ game, so there could be alliances to facilitate trade or outright conquest to take it by force.
There's really a lot more to the interview than can be said here, but there are some other important things to take away. Civilization Online is being built for the PC (runs on CryEngine 3) and the team has no plans to discuss other platforms at this point. It also has an end, which is kind of different for an MMO. When a victory condition is met and the session ends, players can start a new session and have some aspects carry over. What exactly that entails isn't currently decided, but things like items, money, and clothing won't be among them. If you're wondering about subscription models or free-to-play, Song says the team is leaning towards F2P but are still talking it over.
Oh, and as for Civilization creator Sid Meier, he's given his blessing but has not involved himself any further. Expect plenty more information on Civilization Online as it's revealed throughout the year, and be looking forward to some kind of news on a release window.