Brad Wardell's Blog


Dev Journal: The Core Worlds for Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Published on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

We’re working on a new map pack called The Core Worlds.  They started out based on real world locations and have been subsequently balanced.  Unlike most of our map packs, this one is not really designed for multiplayer but rather designed to make for interesting single player experiences.

Part of the appeal of this map pack is having them be asymmetrical.  This means that the map positions - both in terms of geography and resources - are different from player to player.  So how do we make sure it’s “fair”?  The answer: lots and lots of AI vs. AI simulation.

Here is one such example on a map called Gibraltar which started off based on my home town and has been adjusted almost beyond recognition (I had to use mountains to prevent bombardment rather than basins which reflect the canals of my home city).

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As you can see here, this tiny map is not remotely “balanced” geographically.  Instead, it’s balanced via resources and distances.

Before we do much initial balancing at all, we send it off to our MVP testers to see if the general design of the map is something they find interesting and get overall feedback on the broader strokes.  Once we get that back, we go to town on the serious balancing and iteration.

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We keep a close eye on the resources coming in at various stages and then see who “wins” over a best of 3 to see if there’s an imbalance.  We then try it for different AI types and PHC vs. Substrate.

If you’re really into multiplayer for Ashes of the Singularity, you may not find this map pack your cup of tea (though we had quite a bit of fun during various iterations). But maps designed with the AI in mind that are balanced like this can result in a lot of fun. 

When testing against the AI as a human, I take advantage of things like the artillery and Artemis units and then can crank the AI up higher than normal to see if it can overcome some of my strategic advantages.

When doing balance and AI vs. AI, it’s amazing how just a single additional metal deposit can make a huge difference.  It’s challenging but quite rewarding to see one of these maps come together.

Let’s take a look:

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Starting position 2 is a bit OP still.  And so we give one more metal to position 2’s starting location and try again.

Now in this series, Team 1 does much better but the Substrate struggles in position 1 because of this:

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The guardians are able to kill off a radioactive early on pretty reliably which essentially prevents them from expanding.  So we go back and tweak the positions of the resources to prevent this.

And so we do it all over again.  And again.  And again. And this is just one map.  You can imagine how time consuming it is, but that’s the point of a map pack DLC.  The player wants to know that some care and effort has gone into this to make sure that it’s balanced.

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By moving these, you end up with a much better result.

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Now, what we want to do is end up with team 1 having a slight advantage (location 1) because location 2 actually is a better geographic location when played by a skilled human.  So ideally, team 1 will win most games.

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Once it seems reasonably balanced for the AI, it’s time for me to do more testing.

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I can pretty reliably win until Tough AI is picked, at which point I have to be very careful.

This map DLC should be out this month! Hope you like it!

New Screenshots:

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GalCiv IV Dev Journal #8 - Rise of the Commanders

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

“This is just GalCiv II but with better graphics,” was a comment some GalCiv fans made when GalCiv III was first released. That was no more true than saying Civilization V was just Civilization IV with better graphics, but we understood where they were coming from.  There weren’t a lot of big bullet item changes from the previous version. That was because most of our time and budget was spent building a brand new space 4X game engine.

As good as GalCiv II was, it was built on the same engine as GalCiv I, which in turn was built on the same engine that The Corporate Machine was built on, which was from the same engine that Entrepreneur for OS/2 was built on.

GalCiv IV is so ground-breaking with what came before it, because this time we're starting with a state-of-the-art engine and moving on from there. Some of these features are obvious in hindsight like…Commanders.

A quick recap on Citizens

Specific numerical populations of colonies is gone in GalCiv IV. Even in the OS/2 version, we had a hard time explaining how Earth - with its 9 billion people - somehow wasn’t massively better than colonies with a population of 1 million. We did some hand-waving to explain how colonies would eventually reach Earth-levels in just a handful of years. Now, we focus instead on Citizens who represent the population of your civilization.

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Every citizen has 4 stats:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Social Skills
  3. Diligence
  4. Resolve

Different species tend to have different biases in these areas.  For instance, Drengin tend to have terrible social skills but very high resolve.

Citizens have different jobs in your civilization such as Worker, Colonist, Scientist, Diplomat, Administrator, Engineer, Leader, etc.

Leader Citizens

Leaders are that rare citizen capable of helping you run your civilization.  A leader can be recruited (or later promoted from the rank and file) and then assigned to a job like diplomat, governor, minister, and now, commander.  The stats, intelligence, social skills, etc. determine how well a given leader will do a particular job. So, it's probably not a good idea to make a leader with poor social skills into a diplomat.

Unique ships of your Civilization

Each civilization has a handful of unique ships.  These ships are unlocked through research or various other accomplishments and are only available to that civilization.  A leader can be assigned to one of these ships and voila, you have a “free” ship (if you don’t count the cost/effort of getting the leader).

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Each civilization’s flagships reflect the type of civilization they naturally are.  The Drengin, for instance, tend to have ships that favor conquest, militarism and forced productivity. By contrast, the humans have ships that tend to focus on diplomacy, commerce, culture…with one surprising absolutely lethal ship later on…(what? The humans being secret masters of war? Unpossible!)

The abilities of the ship benefit from the skills of the leader:

  • Resolve = better weapons and defenses
  • Diligence = better planetary production bonuses when stationed above a planet.
  • Intelligence = Faster movement and better planetary research when stationed above a planet.
  • Social Skills = Influence bonuses and economic bonuses for the planet when stationed above, as well as bonuses for ships with the capture ability

Asymmetry

Life isn’t fair - and Galactic Civilizations IV really goes out of its way to make sure that the civilizations aren’t symmetrical. There are simply some big differences in capability between the different species in different areas.  The commanders provide us another tool in this area.  For example, we can give a civilization that reproduces slowly some unique ships that lets them colonize worlds that no one else can.  We don’t have the same number of special ships per civilization.  It’s a game design tool we are able to use to really give more personality and strategic depth to either civilization. 

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Start11 v0.55 beta update delivers centered taskbar

Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2021 By Brad Wardell In Start11

Cool feature update in the latest beta build of Stardock's Start11 (www.stardock.com/products/start11).  

This is on Windows 10.

 

This is on Windows 10.  

Here's the option:

Features for Windows 11 will keep rolling as well.  Since Windows 11 is still in beta, it's a moving target so we're trying to make sure we don't add something that gets obsoleted right away.

 

Star Control: Origins - v1.5 Preview

Published on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

With more people coming back to the office work on the console version of Star Control: Origins has picked up.  The first part of this has been to do a pretty thorough revamp of the game’s underlying systems in order to optimize it for the XBOX One, PS4 and also next-generation consoles.

During this process we greatly improved the quality of the texture maps throughout the game which includes aliens and ships.

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[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

The team was also able to substantially reduce the memory footprint during many rounds of optimization.

We’ll have a full change-log soon with the public update next month.

Elemental: Fallen Enchantress - Legendary Heroes 3.0 Release

Published on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 By Brad Wardell In Elemental Dev Journals

It has been awhile since we’ve visited the world of Elemental.  The last update to the expansion to Fallen Enchantress (AKA: Legendary Heroes) was in 2019. Hardware has continued to evolve, and with that comes the opportunity to further improve the game.

Our story so far…

Elemental: Fallen Enchantress – Legendary Heroes is a fantasy strategy game in which the player builds a civilization in the world of Elemental.  This world was nearly destroyed by the War of Magic, and it is up to you to rebuild it.

Unlike most civilization games, the Elemental games put you into the game directly as a character. 

 

The beginning

When the game begins, it’s just your character.  You are greeted with land tile information that displays the food, material and essence of that tile. Food determines how fast the city built there will grow, Material determines how fast it can build things, and Essence determines how many magical spells can be placed on the city. 

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In version 2.6 we have added a new faction structure called the Tower of Knowledge. It generates 1 knowledge per essence and can help jump start research.

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The Tower of Knowledge is above for reference.

To be honest, most of the work in this update has been in fixing bugs.  Players have graciously sent us saved games over the past year and we’ve used them to find lots of edge case crash situations or stuck turns.  Of course, when it happens to you while playing it doesn’t feel like an edge case, so it’s nice to get these found and fixed.

I have always loved how you can zoom in and see the people working on your cities.  It helps explain what’s going on and fleshes out the world.

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We also made a number of unit AI improvements, which should make tactical battles even more interesting.

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We also wrote some new code that should improve the turn times pretty substantially, especially on larger maps. 

 

The performance gains we had combined with the greater stability made us decide to increase the map sizes a bit as well.

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Changelog

  • Tile yield update on screen aborts immediately if the terrain is invalid for a city (perf)
  • Fixed crash bug where garbage characters could get inserted into a scene node
  • Increased the map tilt further so you can see more pretty stuff
  • 0Calc Military Might now longer force updates the battle rank of units. (perf)
  • AI city updating is now multithreaded (perf)
  • CalcBattleRank changed to automatically cache the battlerank of the unit (major perf boost)
  • Units now always get a battlerank of at least 1 to ensure caching of battlerank
  • Sub-units of an army are no longer recalculated unless expressly ordered
  • Thread safe city count method added
  • Fixed a crash deadlock
  • AI monsters less likely to attack a city on lower difficulties
  • Monsters now use a cached combat rating to determine city strength (performance)
  • Fixed multiple crash deadlocks
  • Unit vector sized at 10 at start to reduce increments. (perf)
  • Timer update increased from 1ms to 0.5ms
  • Conclaves provide more research but less production and money
  • Fortresses provide more production but less money and research
  • Towns provide more money but less production and research
  • New improvement: Tower of Knowledge. Provides +1 research per essence
  • Tiny map size increased to 5x3
  • Small map increased from 5x4 to 6x4 (20 to 24 sectors)
  • Medium map size increased from 6x5 to 7x5 (30 to 35 sectors)
  • Large map size increased from 7x6 to 9x6 (42 to 54 sectors)
  • Huge map size increased from 8x7 to 12x8 (56 to 96 sectors)
  • Wrote a replacement for toupper() that is much faster

 

Screenshots

 
 
 
 

 

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #7 - The Changing Face of Space Robots

Published on Monday, August 2, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

Somewhere around here I have the original image of the Yor from 1992.  They don’t resemble the modern Yor very much.  When I wrote the Yor origin story back in 1987 (when I was in high school) the Yor followed the common trope of AI servants who rose up against their masters.  Their masters, in this case, were a race of beings known as the Iconians (who are also in the game).

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The Yor of 1995

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Yor of 2021

As time has gone by, I’ve thought about making the Yor be less Cylon like and more like a post-singularity hive mind.  The argument could be made that humans just 50 years ago might end up “Post-Humans” ala Ashes of the Singularity.

The reason I bring this up is that GalCiv IV has the concept of “achievements”.  These are essentially quests that when completed, allow the player to gain prestige which is one of the victory conditions.   According to the data we get, the Yor are the #2 (after humans) civilization that people play as.  And so in this thread we’d like to hear some things you’d like to see with the Yor (what sorts of quests would you like to see?).

 

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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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GalCiv IV Dev Journal #5

Published on Monday, June 14, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

During the development of a game, many ideas will look good on paper only to be found to not work out in practice.  Normally, these ideas get killed off before implementation and even fewer ever get seen by the public.

In the case of Galactic Civilizations IV, because we’re going out in ALPHA, you will get to see some ideas fully implemented that we have already decided didn’t work out. Today’s example for discussion: The Ideology compass.

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Here’s how it works:

There are 4 axis’s:

  1. Collectivist
  2. Libertist
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Individualist

Through the course of the game, players will encounter situations that give them awareness points in a particular area.  You can’t spend these points they simply unlock the ideology perk.

Later, players can earn culture points through completing missions (quests) in the game.  THEN they can spend a point to unlock something where their options are based on what perks they have awareness of.

Unfortunately, this is proving to be quite limiting and begs for political compass memes.  So even though it’s fully implemented, it’s going to get scrapped.

In its place are going to be Cultural Spectrums.

 

Cultural Spectrums

With cultural spectrums, players will have several different spectrums to choose from such as:

  • Individualism <---> Collectivism
  • Traditionalism <---> Innovation
  • Xenophobia <----> Xenophilia
  • Harmony <----> Honesty
  • Shame <----> Guilt

It also opens the door for us to keep adding more.

When a player makes a choice, they will increase their stance on the spectrum.  However, now, gaining +1 stance in individualism means losing a point in collectivism.  As a result, when people unlock culture points, they will generally only have access to the ones that are near the “middle” unless they are playing pretty extreme.

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #4 - A Guided ALPHA Tour

Published on Thursday, June 10, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

For this entry, we are going to give you a tour of Galactic Civilizations IV as it exists, in alpha state, in June 2021.  We’re very excited.

There’s a lot in here but so very much more to do.

Note: I’m playing at 5K so I’m smushing my screenshots down so that they’re not quite so huge.

 

Choosing a Civilization

For the Alpha, you can only play as the humans.  This is because we intend to make the civilizations much more distinct than they were in GC3 which means we really need to master the humans and general mechanics before going through all the others.

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We anticipate launching with around 22 civilizations.  The main civs from GC3 will return with one notable exception:  The Thalan.  I will miss them as they’ve been with us all the way back to the OS/2 days.

 

Customizing

While you will be able to create your own civilizations in the final version, we have taken this one step further by having some easy customization part of the base civilization as well.  One of the things we noticed in GC3 is that most players didn’t realize just how much you could change on a given civilization.

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Galaxy Setup and Opponent Setup

These screens are very basic.  We plan to make these much more tweakable than they were in GC3.  One new AI feature (not in the Alpha) is the option for players to have dynamic intelligence.  You still set their intelligence like you would before but their intelligence will increase or decrease depending on how they’re doing (to certain limits).  The idea is to provide a better game experience.  This feature will be ON by default once it’s implemented.

 

Into the Game

This is what you will see at the start.

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Your Survey ship is selected at the start and you now have advisors who will suggest what you should do.  We will also have VO for advisors as well eventually. 

Survey ships do what they have always done which is explore anomalies.  However, this time it takes a turn for them to do so:

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This helps a bit with pacing and allows us to justify giving a little more meat to the anomalies.

 

Your First Colony

Pretty much every planet will have an event now.  Here is the one for Mars.

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The options in this example include:

  1. Get a leader
  2. Get an extra mineral
  3. Get an extra tech

This lets me segway into what colonies do.

 

Colonies vs. Core Worlds

This is a feature I wish we had come up with in GalCiv I let alone GalCiv IV.  Lots of planets are colonizable but most of them are pretty awful.  By default a colonized planet is a colony that feeds its core world.  In this case: Earth. 

So while Elon Musk is on Mars, what does it do for us?

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These planets send out potentially 5 raw resources:

  • Minerals
  • Tech
  • Wealth
  • Food
  • Culture

These then go to  their associated core world:

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This isn’t done yet by any means (it’s missing culture for instance).   The planet then takes these inputs (including its own natural resources) and send them to the citizens:

That’s these guys:

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This is your population.  Unlike in previous GalCiv games, population isn’t some number that we use head canon to make sense of.  Instead, it is represented by citizens.

Each citizen has its own stats:

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Humans, being generic race basically, have fine stats. Perfectly fine.  Not bad. Not good.  Each stat corresponds with one of the outputs of the planet or some other planet stat.

Different species have different stats.  For example, the Drengin have super-high resolve.  The Torians have really high diligence.  And yes, you will have planets with mixed races on them whose morale might change based on what you’re doing with their home worlds (i.e. have Drengin on your planet but you’re at war with the Drengin? Bad things).

Now, enhancing these citizens are your planetary upgrades.

There are three different types of upgrades:

  • Improvements
  • Districts
  • Projects

In previous games, we crammed all these into improvements which resulted in the game becoming pretty unwieldly later on.  It also became a little frustrating because we had to name every improvement so you would be like “So is a Manufacturing Center better than a Mega Factory??”.  Now, it’s simply a Manufacturing District that levels up based on techs and if there’s something special, that’s the improvement and those are one of a kind.

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The tiles are color coded based on what gives a bonus.  Bonuses being things that level up a given type of district or improvement.

All of this then ends up with the planetary output:

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Minerals become manufacturing.

Tech becomes research.

Wealth becomes revenue.

Culture becomes influence.

Food…well food stays food unless we can come up with a better name.

These outputs are what grow your civilization in various ways.

 

The Shipyard

A core planet can have a shipyard.  Colonies feed the core world and the core world feeds the Shipyard.  This means that a shipyard doesn’t have multiple sponsors. Just its core world.

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Early on, the ship choices are pretty basic.  Colony ship or scout.  Immediately available technologies include Starbases, Survey Ships, Armed Shuttles, Asteroid miners and others that greatly increase this.

 

Researching

Researching is very different in GalCiv IV.  Now, the game will pull 4 random techs (5 if you have a research minister). You can “reshuffle” but it will make that tech cost 10% more for each reshuffle.

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We have the tech tree button locked for now but it will be replaced with a research explorer.  That’s because the new “tech tree” is much more sophisticated and not easily displayed on the screen.

 

New Colonists

There are no “administration points” in GalCiv IV.  Your limiting factor will be people. For instance, when you build a colony ship you will need to move a citizen on to it:

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So even though there area  ton of planets to colonize and nothing technically stops you from colonizing all of them, you will find your population not able to keep up with your ambitions.

 

Leaders

The game should prompt you (but it is not in this build) that you have some leader candidates waiting.  Leaders are citizens with leadership training.

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Leaders cost money to hire.  Eventually, players can train their own citizens to be leaders but early on, you can only get them from recruiting.  The red box you see here (unfortunately) is how loyal they are.  Shockingly, random humans I recruit for money are not extremely loyal for some reason.

Loyalty matters because it affects how likely they are to betray you.  For example, to make a given colony a core world, you have to assign a governor to that planet.  The governor provides perks and carries out your orders.  The more colonies they have, the more likely they are to rebel (thus, there it a temptation to have a single mega world but you will find that creates problems).

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When I hire a leader, I can make them  a minister.  The bonus they provide is based on their stats.  For instance, Pranav here has an intelligence of 10.  So when I make him my Minister of Tech, he gives me a 10% boost to research.  If I had made him my minister of colonization, he’d have given me +1 moves but only +5 range because his diligence is only 5.

You can also assign leaders to govern planets.

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Assigning leaders to marginal planets isn’t just a waste of a leader, it’s not very useful either because marginal worlds are never as effective as it would be as a colony having its resources greatly multiplied by its core world.

There are 3 other things to do with leaders as well:

  1. Diplomats.  Assigning someone to be a diplomat allows you to spy on another civilization or improve your relations with them depending on your orders.  This hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet.  Intelligence = Spying ability and Social = Diplomatic improvement bonus.
  2. Commanders. Leaders also have a starship that they come with. You can choose to put them on the board as ships. 
  3. Think Tanks.  As precious as leaders are early game, late game you will have quite a few of them.  Think Tanks allow you to use leaders to bump up your civilization’s bonuses in various areas.

 

Backstories

You may have notice a little text blurb on the leaders.  That’s because each and every one has a backstory.  You may (but probably won’t) run into a mission that is triggered by a given leader’s backstory.  This matters because you will want to pay a little attention to the leaders to make sure they don’t have a backstory that’s going to come back to haunt you.  Similarly, a leader who has a lost treasure in the family might result in something great for you.

 

The Map

GalCiv is known for being able to zoom in and out with total fluidity.  This is being taken up a notch this time.  In GalCiv IV, the start of the game is going to feel a lot like previous GalCiv’s.

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Zooming out:

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Solar system.

 

Zooming out:

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Sector. What? Sector.

 

Zooming out:

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Galactic.

Think of a map in GalCiv III, the entire map, as being a single sector.  GalCiv IV can have many sectors depending on your map setup.  These sectors are connected through subspace streams.  You have to research techs to even see where the subspace streams and then another tech to travel through them.

Controlling a sector brings benefits, in particular, prestige.

 

Prestige

The most basic strategy game problem has been with us since the 4X genre was invented.  You know you’ve won but it’s going to take you another 2 hours to actually get the game to acknowledge that.  How do you solve that?  GalCiv IV has a new victory condition: Prestige.

Prestige is designed to have the player win (we haven’t decided if AI players can win through this mechanism or not) if it’s obvious they’re going to eventually win.  Each player collects prestige through their accomplishments.  When the human player has the majority of the galactic prestige they win.  Owning sectors is one obvious way to do that.  To own a sector, you just need to control the most parsecs in that sector.

Another way to earn prestige are through galactic achievements.

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These are disabled in Alpha 1 but they are, in essence, a bunch of lore-centric “quests” that if you have certain pre-requisites in your game become enabled and reward you, amongst other things, with prestige.  So rather than having to grind through 2 more hours of cranking out ships or building influence or waiting to win via diplomacy you can alternatively win by triggering the Dread Lords return and fighting them off or uncovering the artifact that the Thalan are looking for (ahh see they’re not totally gone!) or numerous other really interesting situations.

Most achievements won’t be available in a given game because the conditions just won’t be right.  But this also means a lot of replayability rewards.  For instance, you can’t exactly exact revenge on the Drengin take over of Toria in 1543 if you aren’t playing as the Torians.

 

Executive Orders

The game should prompt you about executive orders but my build doesn’t have this yet.  Executive orders are another obvious feature that we should have had in GalCiv I but I was too dumb to think of it back then.

Here’s how they work:

The planet you directly control (the capital world) gives you 1 point of control per turn.  Your governed worlds can also give you a point of control per turn IF you place a special improvement on there.  However, doing so really makes the governor angry.

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Different civilizations have different executive orders and more are unlocked as new technology and new events and missions occur.

You spend control to, for instance, get a free colony ship or get a bunch of money (with a bunch of crime) or call an election.

 

Policies

Another feature not in GalCiv IV Alpha but coming soon are policies.  These essentially let you pick and choose how you want your civilization to work.   Different civs have different policies available to them.

 

Ideology Compass

Next week I’ll be talking about this feature.  It’s actually going away so I won’t spend too much time on it.  It’s being replaced by Culture Spectrums.

 

Ship Upgrades

Fleets can get upgrades when their XP grows.  That upgrade only goes to 1 ship in the fleet.

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Ship upgrades can boost moves, weapons or even give them other goodie that you’ve found.

 

Movements

Within your civilization are a number of movements.  In other games, you might think of these as religious sects.

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Ironically, these only make sense when Policies are unlocked but gaining favor with these movements will give you a lot of power in the policy screen. 

 

Constructors and Starbases

This feature is in flux as we are developing this and the AI in tandem.  But here’s the short version:

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Constructors build starbases.  You can upgrade them in lots of interesting ways.  These upgrades cost a new resource called Modules that are produced at your shipyard.

 

Asteroid Mining

You can mine the asteroids but rather than just conjuring them with money you have to build an Asteroid miner and and them here.

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These asteroids are then mined for their minerals which are then sent to their nearest world as…(wait for it)….minerals.

 

Trading

This part of the game is still a work in progress.

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New in GC4 is the ability to threaten and persuade.  You can attempt to get a better deal during negotiations by using these intangible “resources” to get a better deal.

Moreover, not shown here is that the size of the deal is governed by your diplomacy ability.  Thus, trading civs will be able to conduct much bigger trades than ones without it.

 

Space Monsters

The galaxy is much more dangerous in GC4. 

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Space Monsters don’t just remove a ship from your service, they actually lay eggs in them and then the ship becomes another space monster.  This was enough of an issue that I had to write an emergency AI update for the alpha because the AI was feeding these things ships.

 

Good Planets

There aren’t very many good planets out there.  But when you do find one, you can add an governor to it in another way other than how I mentioned earlier.

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Admittedly, we should add a button to take you to the recruit screen too. 

 

Optimizing Immigration

Over time, you will have a lot of different races on your planets.

Some species are better than others for certain worlds if you have one in mind.

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In my head canon on most Sci-Fi shows that involve ancient races, I tend to think humanoids spread out because their “masters” picked them lazily because they’re average at all things.

 

Pirates

There are a lot more pirates and other baddies out there.  The thing to know here: Pirates can conquer planets.  In fact let’s get into that.

 

Conquering Planets

Core Worlds require invasion technology and a transport with a legion of soldiers on board.  But colonies? Not so much.  A colony can be invaded with any armed ship.  Pirates can’t colonize planets but they’ll happily use yours.

Similarly, we are working hard on the AI to make sure they understand the opportunities being presented when they see a bunch of undefended planets. 

 

Conclusions

So this is really just the start of the GalCiv IV journey.  We have so many more features and improvements to make.  The goal of Alpha 1 is mainly just to see what we broke.  Does it even run on your computer? What sort of ghastly problems did our new design not take into account of?

The rest of June will be spent just fixing terrible terrible bugs.  Then in July we’ll get into adding in the obvious missing features that we already have.  Then in August through November we’ll be implementing your ideas and suggestions as well as throwing out features that seemed like a good idea and replacing them with ones based on your feedback.

 

WHERE IS THE ALPHA?

We are running the Alpha here on galciv4.com (Early Access won’t be on Steam).  We love Steam (and in particular I like a lot of the store improvements this year).  But we really want a single forum for feedback and we want to discourage people from joining the Alpha unless they are super into being apart of the game design and development process.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #3

Published on Monday, June 7, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

With the benefit of hindsight…

Every 4X game I’ve played struggles with the late game.  This is because they tend to become a micromanagement slog where the outcome of the game was known long before.  So how do you address this?  Well, the wrong way to do it is with AI governors or other such “help” from the AI.

GalCiv IV flips the concept of governors on its head.

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In previous GalCiv games, you had to manage every single planet you colonized. This is all fun…at first. But by the time you have your 33rd planet, it starts to be a lot of work.

In GalCiv IV you don’t manage worlds by default. They are simply little resource pips for their core world.

Inspired by reality

Let’s say we colonize a moon of Saturn someday.  Are we seriously going to treat that colony the same as we treat Earth in terms of focus?  Of course not. The same is true in GalCiv IV. When you first colonize a world, it’s just a colony.

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So when a planet is first colonized, it’s just a colony, and it sends back 6 raw resources to its core world:

Minerals
Tech
Wealth
Culture
Food
Control

We’ll get into these other resources later. The point being is that core worlds take these resources and do stuff with them. It’s the ultimate min/maxer’s dream.

But before you get excited about having your one super mega world having 130 colonies feeding it, this is where those pesky characters come in.

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As mentioned before, your core worlds are the ones you’ve assigned a leader to govern. You, the player, manage these worlds with the governor providing the world with perks based on their stats.  But technically, it’s the governor who is running the world even if you’re the one calling the shots. The governor’s stats determine what perks get applied to that world, but that character also has a loyalty stat.

I don’t need you

The more worlds under the control of a governor, the more a governor’s loyalty is tested.  After all, if your governor controls all your planets, it’s really his empire - not yours. Why should he keep taking orders from you? Why not just become an independent empire and take those colonies with him?

Thoughts of rebellion can come both from within and without.  It’s one of the ways the player can really screw with other civilizations as well by throwing money and resources at the governors of foreign civilizations to get them to rebel or even join you instead.  Of course, the same thing can be done to you as well.

Finding a balance

So on the one hand, you will have some high quality planets that you want to be able to build improvements on, which means assigning one of your precious governors to it. And on the other hand, you’ll have dozens of low quality planets that you’ll want to have feeding those core worlds.  Finding the right balance of when to make a planet a core world and when to leave it as a colony is a big part of the challenge in GalCiv IV. 

Giving up a leader to turn a colony into a core world is a sacrifice, but the reward is being able to really magnify the production of that core world with resources coming in from its associated colonies.  Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll find your civilization filled with rebellion and crime.

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All GalCiv IV Journals

 

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