The first thing that strikes players on loading up Civilization V is the unusual (for the series) art deco style that permeates every facet of the presentation. Project art director Dorian Newcomb explains why that is in the interview below. He also sheds light on two of the new leaders in Civ V, what role classic LucasArts adventure Grim Fandango played in the game's early development, and how he and lead designer Jon Shafer "don't want to make a game for dumb people."

If this is all gibberish to you, get up to speed on all things Civ V with our extensive hands-on report from Thursday.

Why is Civilization V so art deco?

It stemmed from a conversation I had with the interface artist on the project, Russ Vaccaro. I was describing how much I liked New York, and how New York had the feeling of the most important American city, and the sense that there's a lot of art history in the city. When you walk around New York, you can't help but see a lot of art deco influence in a lot of the Rockefeller Center area as well as midtown and downtown. I'd gone to school in New York, and I said, "Why don't we start off in New York, in the way that New York feels like a city of history, and a city that we're really familiar with?" Russ played a lot of Grim Fandango, a LucasArts game from back in the day, and that was very influenced by art deco and the Day of the Dead stuff. So my love of New York and his love of Grim Fandango pretty much took us down the first step in going toward an art deco look and feel.

Did anything beyond aesthetics inform those decisions?

I worked really closely with Jon Shafer early on; when the project started it was really just Jon and I for the first few months. We knew that we wanted to make the on-ramp a lot wider, for playing the game. So we talked a lot about "what are the barriers to entry that people have, as far as getting into a game of Civ?" Civ IV was a really highly acclaimed game, but we found internally that a lot of people would say, "Oh, this is a game for smart people. There's too much stuff going on." We said, "Well, we don't want to make a game for dumb people, but we want to make people who are smart feel smart as they play." We realized that we needed to drop a lot more satisfying feedback a lot earlier in the game.

|| "We don't want to make

|| a game for dumb people."

Aside from the art deco style, we wanted to make sure that people had a lot of feedback, and we wanted to eliminate some of the pop-up noise that happened with some Civ games in the past. So early on we decided on a messaging system, where we knew we wanted to have a lot of information at peoples' fingertips. We broke that down into thinking about how we wanted information in messages, where if someone really wanted to find out more about what was going on in the world, there'd be a lot of information at their fingertips. We knew we wanted some action information -- information that you would need to complete before you end your turn. That really had nothing to do with the style; that had to do with the fact that people had a hard time understanding what was going on in the early part of the game, and it was a barrier that prevented them from getting into the more complex, cool decisions of mid to late-game stuff.

That was probably the most important early stuff that we took, and then after Russ got involved a lot of his experience working on Civ Rev informed the streamlining process of the interface. Once he got involved, it was a good marriage of style and substance. We knew that we wanted to eliminate a bunch of the confusing stuff. We wanted the feedback to be clear. We wanted stuff to be color-coded well. Then once we started talking about color-coding, the design of the colors became important. So that's where the art deco polished aluminum or chrome look, some of the beveled edges, and the circles being a core part of the game's interface came to be. Really early on I wanted to make a globe minimap -- I wanted everything to be circular and round. As we talked more about it from a gameplay point of view, a globe minimap wasn't going to work for a lot of reasons, but the circle was key early on in our development.

Continue on to page 2 to see Newcomb's take on cartoon art versus realism and what his favorite part of the Civ V presentation is...