Sid Meier, the acclaimed game developer at Firaxis and creator of the Civilization strategy game series, has been working on the Facebook version of the game for more than 20 months -- when many Facebook games are developed in as little as six weeks (FarmVille fits in this category in some respects). Now, the Sid Meier's Civilization World is finally close to coming out of an insane development cycle.
The game spans the age of known civilization, from ancient times to the space age and beyond. At its core, it is a collaborative strategy game. You work with other people toward a goal. You start with a meager palace on a tract of land. You have to build a house for a citizen. Then you assign the citizen a task, such as being a farmer. You build a garden and then the citizen will start farming the land and taking harvests back to the palace. You can grow lots of trees to make scientists happy and attract more of them to your city.
You keep collecting various kinds of resources in this fashion so that you can build out your city. It actually matters that you place your house close to the palace so that your farmer doesn't have to walk so far. The point is that you can make a series of smart or bad decisions. It isn't just random game play. If you place an orchard near water, you get 25 points for your harvest rather than 10. The game rewards you for paying attention to the details.
Over time, you want to cultivate more food, production capacity, science, gold and culture. Some tasks you can do together with friends. For instance, you can unscramble a mixed up image so to see what the real image looks like. Your friends can help you do this in a timed test. There're a bunch of mini games that allow you to win more resources.
The multiplayer aspect comes in when you join an alliance with lots of other players. Your players can help you or team up in battles against rival empires. Each team races to complete an era first. The team that wins a round will get more reward points. As many as 200 people can participate in a game at a time, so you won't see gigantic empires.
In a nod to Facebook's more casual audience, the combat system is fairly harmless.