GalCiv IV Dev Journal #6 - Those First 20 Turns

Published on Monday, July 26, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

One of the challenges we have in setting up maps is the question of how quickly should players be meeting other civilizations in the game?  How quickly should things show up? How much should the game direct you?

I decided to take a hard look at GalCiv II and GalCiv III to see how different those first 20 turns worked out.

GalCiv II: First 20 turns

Turn 1:

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  • No on-screen direction but the UI is pretty clean and My ship is already selected to move.
  • Selected ship has an automate button visible so I press that.

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  • There is an anomaly right away so I get to see what it does.

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Ooh money.

  • There is a second one nearby that gives me money.
  • The Stellar Miner has an automate button too so I press that.
  • I send the colony ship out to explore
  • There is no guidance that I should do something on my planet.
  • I click on the planet and press the view button.

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  • Because available projects is blank I am clued in to click on the green tiles.
  • List of things to build are very clear:

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  • The build ship part is not easy to find.

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  • It has a very large colored bar telling me how long it will take to build. Because it’s 29 weeks it’s orange which makes it stick out. This makes me look for other buttons like Purchase.

 

Ship build list comparison:

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Way less screen dirt and simple explanations.

There is a button that says purchase on the screen:

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So I press that. I notice this versus the tiny buy button in the queue in GalCiv III which I didn’t notice because ther’es only a few buttons on this screen to notice.

The first turn also gave me a bunch of money which trained me to think that money must matter.

Survey ship has a lot of moves:

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We are still on turn 1.

  • Got a bunch of money
  • Got a new ship
  • Very obvious benefits

News announcement:

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Turn 2:

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Loading ship.

I send my ship to Mars.

I am asked to name it.

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Text is pretty terrible but it’s pretty.

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Mars sucks.

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Got my third planet (on turn 2)

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Ugly ugly text. But Good, Neutral and Evil are pretty clearly spelled out along with funny text.

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I choose evil.

This bit of personality helps with engagement.

Survey ship finds more stuff.

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This sort of text is engaging.

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Research screen has the tree and the list on the same screen. The benefit of each one is pretty obvious.

 

Turn 3:

I meet an alien on turn 3.

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Survey ship finds more neat little stuff.

 

Turn 4:

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Turn 5:

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Turn 6:

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I definitely want Universal translators now

 

Turn 7:

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Second alien:

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I like that I can see how long it will take the ship to build from this screen.

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Turn 8:

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  • This is cool because it means early game there are 1 per galaxy things that are another thing players might want to build instead of other things. GalCiv III has nothing like this.

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  • Survey ships get 5 moves
  • Colony ships get 4 so things get around a lot faster

Turn 9:

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Turn 10:

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I choose warfare next.

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Minor civ:

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Strategic map is clean looking.

 

Turn 11:

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I am feeling collective pressure.

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Humans are diplomats so they start with the ability to get good techs.

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I’m getting fun trades right out of the gate.

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Turn 12:

Nothing

 

Turn 13:

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Look how noticeable the mines on the asteroids are? I also like that there is a ship going around building these.

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Turn 14:

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Another colony:

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Turn 15:

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All this money helps me jump start my planets.

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Espionage?

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Turn 16:

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Takes 20 weeks to build a ship unless you rush it. But I get a bunch of money from plentiful anomalies which I’m scooping up fast because so is everyone else.

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Turn 17:

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Yay us!

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Turn 18:

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Turn 19:

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Turn 20:

Nothing.

 

Conclusions

There’s a reason this game is considered the best space 4X game of all time by many. Clean UI. Great pacing. Obvious gameplay (especially for the time).

My ratings for GalCiv II:

  • Engagement: 5/5. Great flavor text. Stuff is making my civ improve quickly.
  • Intuitiveness: 4/5. It’s usually obvious what to do because there isn’t a million things happening on the screen. But no Shafer button and no tooltips.
  • Pacing: 5/5. Within a few turns there’s other civs, lots of interactions, and a feeling that things are building up.
  • Desire to keep playing: 4/5. The game doesn’t fully hold up ove time. But I still want to play it.
  • Overall: 4/5. Was easily the best 4X space game of its time. These days it would be in the top rung.

Now, let’s look at GalCiv III.

GalCiv III first 20 turns

I realize I’m pretty critical here, but this is so that we can make sure GalCiv IV is better.

Turn 1:

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  • No on-screen direction on what I should do.
  • No on-screen explanation on how to move anything.
  • No on-screen explanation on what the ships do.
  • No anomalies or other things for my survey ship to interact with so I just move it.
  • I order constructor to build a starbase. No hint on that it affects things in range.

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  • Starbase is off centered by default.
  • No on-screen direction on what I should do.
  • I construct an ascension ring and an economic lab.

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  • Research screen pretty decent.
  • Choose artificial gravity.

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  • No direction on what I am supposed to do here.

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  • No direction on what I am supposed to do here.
  • Pretty terrible UI.
  • No guidance that I should rush building something so I don’t.

Turn 2:

Nothing

Turn 3:

Nothing

Turn 4:

Nothing

Turn 5:

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  • I next choose space elevators.
  • By Survey ship has reached its destination so I send it to another star system.

Turn 6:

  • Colony ship built. I load it up and send it to another star system.
  • Earth has built the improvements.
  • I really wish I could see how fast the ships being built in the shipyard were being built based on my choices here.
  • I order another colony ship to be built. I wish he game gave me direction on what I might want to do.

Turn 7:

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This is nice. But it would be cooler if this was presented as a cut-scene. Meanwhile..blah blah.

And then this came up. This UI is really ugly and hard to read.

I take the free ship.

Turn 8:

Nothing. Ships move.

Turn 9:

My survey ship is attacked.

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Super ugly confirmation screen. I’d rather the game camera panned to the action and showed me the battle.

Turn 10:

More pirates attack.

I wish my survey ship leveled up and got goodies.

  • Colony ship built. I order it to another system.
  • Space elevators researched
  • Choose military tech since I’m dealing with pirates.
  • I order a constructor to be built.

Turn 11:

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  • Would be cool if this allowed me to customize my Civilization in some random way giving me 3 choices.
  • Also first new colony:

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So ugly. There’s no tooltips to even explain what benevolent and such means. What does +10% influence mean?

I choose the malevolent one because +10% research sounds best.

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  • I order a space elevator to be built.

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No direction on what I should do here.

I choose the one that gives me a ship.

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No suggestions given. The thing on the right should be a tooltip. I choose the scientist.

Turn 12:

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I choose weapons.

  • Constructor built. I build another.

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Turn 13:

Nothing

 

Turn 14:

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  • Constructors being built pretty fast. So I build a colony ship. Which will only take 2 turns. This feels unearned.

 

Turn 15:

Colonized another planet.

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These bonuses mean nothing to me. I choose the benevolent one since it’s just plain better.

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I choose the tech which gives me stuff.

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There are 9 players on this map and I still haven’t met any.

Finally!

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Turn 16:

Colony ship built. I send it to one of the good planets I’ve found. The strategic zoom UI is really good making it easy to manage my empire.

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I don’t feel like I’ve earned being able to crank these ships out in 2 turns.

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Now I choose universal translator.

I think faster moving scouts (and the AI making them aggressively) would really help. But a scout takes 2 turns just like a colony ship!

Turn 17:

Nothing

Turn 18:

Nothing

 

Turn 19:

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Earth is fully built up in 19 turns!

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Rex has a shipyard too. Planet is barely developed but can crank out a colony ship in 4 turns!

  • Colonized another planet.

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Pretty.

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Got another culture point.

 

Turn 20:

I want to build military ships but they are hidden:

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So I wouldn’t notice them.

Conclusions

It’s still a good game despite my complaints.  But the pacing and UX needs work.

My ratings:

  • Engagement: 3/5: It’s OK but I’m not very invested in my civilization. It feels a lot like work. The UI is very sterile.
  • Intuitiveness: 2/5: Pretty bad. No sort of guidance given.
  • Pacing: 3/5: Stuff is happening but every ship costs 2 turns basically which reduces choices. Took way too long to meet anyone else. And I never had any interactions.
  • Desire to keep playing: 4/5: Yes, it has that one more turn feeling which saves it.

Applying Lessons

The most recent GalCiv III update coming out (v4.2) includes some improvements in these areas.  But again, how quickly do people want to meet new players? IMO, this is where minor civilizations might be interesting as a middle step.

As a player, how would you like to see your setup screen improved (specific options) to help cater to your personal pacing preferences?

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