There is plenty to talk about Freeciv. After all, the best open-source games are an untamed genre of video game beast. Unlike its counterparts owned by companies and developers, these are public domain. This means that anyone with the right skillset can modify and design the game.
Of course, the developers compiled the changes into a playable version, which is how popular games like DotA: Allstars came to be. Few open-source games stand out, because of how volunteer-driven the affair is.
Developers who can continue to support a game without compensation are few. After all, the best open-source games are often left behind by the modern world. This is why when there is a compelling game out there, it attracts the most passionate people.
Team Fortress 2 achieved this status as one of few games over 15 years old to have a great following. If a game is open-source, it has to be good, right? It might be more complicated than that.
What is Freeciv?
Freeciv is an open-source game that got its namesake from the more popular Sid Meier’s Civilization series. The goal of Freeciv is similar, start from a group of tribal leaders and make your way up civilization.
Winning in Freeciv is more than destroying other civilizations and being the last one. Other ways to achieve victory include being the first to colonize space and being the highest-scored player.
The scores of the game are determined by civ size, wealth, culture, and scientific advancement. Throughout the game, players have the opportunity to ally with others, and yes, wage wars. This political aspect of the game is one of many layers that civ players enjoy.
What appeals to the oldheads is the way the game looks. Freeciv looks similar to Civilization 2, down to the graphics, mechanics, and isometric grid layout.
How it came to be
Sometime in the late 90s, computer science students from the University of Aarhus came to develop Freeciv. These three students shared a passion for both Civilization and XPilot, another open-source civ-like game.
Peter Unold, Claus Leth Gregersen, and Allan Ove Kjeldbjerg started working on it in 1995 and came up with a game in 1996. Their goal was to create a game that could run on the X Window System.
After the release of Freeciv 1.0, the three students called it day, satisfied with it as proof of concept only. It didn’t take long for other, unnamed developers to take an interest and improve the game. Freeciv soon became playable on Linux, Windows, and other OS, with Linux distributions including the game. For a while, it was a game that only featured PvP gameplay.
AI and the Future
With the advent of people wanting to experiment with strategies without facing off against people, developing AI was next. In 1998, the first iterations of the AI were also released, and they were matching up with beginner players. Freeciv grew in popularity, and over time, strategies and meta-tactics became prevalent. Strats like creating many small cities across the map over one big developed city overturned the playing field.
Even more, with the update to 2.0, this careful planning and development style took over, and games were methodical. On February 18th, 2022, Freeciv 3.0 was released, with 3.0.6 being the latest on February 3, 2023, as of writing.
Freeciv stands as a testament to over 27 years of continued support from a passionate community. What also started as a passion project of three Danish students is now a passion project of hundreds and thousands of people. It is also worth noting the original authors of the game are aptly titled, “The Great Danes.”