The coming 4X Armageddon

Published on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

imageBe careful what you wish for.

Next year all the 4X’s are going to come out.  What I write below is not under some NDA. I know it because it’s my job to know it.

Let me walk you through the schedule:

1H2016: Stellaris, Master of Orion

2H2016: Civilization VI, Endless Space 2

I could be wrong on the dates. You could swap some of this around a bit but you get the idea. 

Where is GalCiv III in this?

Stardock will be announcing its first expansion in January.  I won’t go into details here but it is something we’ve never done before.    2016 we’re going to release a steady stream of GalCiv updates but we are going to do our best to stay away from the flood and work on the really big GalCiv III expandalone for much later.

GalCIv III has been a tremendous success for us.  It’s kind of our Civ V.  That is, with Civ V, a lot of long time fans were really upset that it didn’t do X, or Y like Civ IV had but it brought in a lot of new players.  GalCiv III has done a good job welcoming a lot of new players into the GalCiv universe.  2016 is going to add a kick ass expansion (target release date February) and follow that up with a lot of updates to refine and improve the GalCiv III universe.  But it won’t make sense to do another big expansion after February since all the 4Xs are coming out.

What should be in the base game versus some future expandalone?

Let me walk you through the things I think GalCiv III needs and how we want to get these things to you.

First off, Steam now supports upgrading to expandalones. This is a big deal because it means we can make a GalCiv III: X that is major game change but let people upgrade to it very inexpensively.  In the old days, you’d have to “rebuy” the game.  It also lets use do universal DLC which means that all the DLC you would buy for III will work on all versions of GalCiv III.  As a gamer, that’ s a pretty big deal.

What we have decided going forward is that any really major changes will have to go into an expandalone.  We had a pretty serious bit of pushback with the per-planet production wheel and we don’t want to go through that again. The per planet production wheel is a bad game design.  We allow players to still get to it through a racial trait but personally, I’d rather see it die.  But I understand players who feel attached to it.

But now there’s a lot of fear about making game changes that I think are objectively good.  Let me give you an example:

In GalCiv II, I made it so that ship components used X + Y% of hull size space.  Thus, an engine might use 3 units of space but also use 5% of the max hull space. This meant , no matter what you were very limited in how many engines you could have.   GalCiv III doesn’t have the Y% and thus, inevitable, we have people designing ships that can move 73 moves which breaks the game balance.  Do we bring back the Y%? Well, you know what will happen when/if we do. There will be angry people down-voting us on Steam. And to be candid, a game’s review score determines how often Steam will promote it.  When we got rid of the per planet wheel, several people gave GalCiv III a negative review on Steam which hurts us even though we suspect most people were glad it was gone. 

So on the one hand, making engines and sensors consume consume a % of hull space will make the game objectively better.  But on the other hand, if we do it, we’ll upset some people who like having ships that can move 73 moves and some of them will give us negative Steam reviews which will in turn cost us a lot of future sales.

Let’s talk about the future

GalCiv III remains the first and only 4th generate 4X.  All the other games out there are still 3rd generation (32-bit, DirectX 9c, single core design).  Eventually, everyone will have to move to 4th generation.  This was painful for us since we lost a decade of legacy code. But it’s something every franchise has to do sooner or later.  So we’re in a good position for growing it into the future.  It’ll just be a question of whether the fan base will stick with us or whether we’ll all great fractured between MOO, Stellaris, ES2 or whether Civ VI will annihilate them all.

Regardless, what I do know is that there are certain key ingredients on our road-map that I want to share with you guys:


  1. Espionage
  2. Destabilization
  3. Enforcing spheres of influence
  4. Forms of government
  5. Domestic politics
  6. Unified resource system
  7. In-depth trade
  8. Citizienship and species
  9. Crime
  10. Combat control
  11. Navigational infrastructure

These are intentionally vague so read into them what you will.  But the game is called Galactic Civilizations.  So over the next few years there’s just a lot of stuff to keep integrating into it. 

So anyway, just some thoughts.