Brad Wardell's Blog

Star Control - The Art of Storytelling

Published on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

We live in an age where developers actually brag about creating random quests as if that’s a good thing.

In an age of gigabytes of memory the challenge isn’t in how many worlds you have, it is how to make those worlds compelling.

In Star Control: Origins, there are no random missions. 

No episode of Star Trek ever ended with Captain Kirk receiving 14 Dilithium crystals for his troubles.  Star Control is about telling stories in which you are the central character.

Each mission is designed to tell a story.  While we don’t forbid missions from giving the player some sort of tangible reward, most of them simply alter the universe in some, subtle way.  It is the journey, not the destination we care about.

Consider the popular HBO series, Westworld®.   In that series, guests travel to Westworld and interact with “hosts” that are AI-driven beings with scripts.  In no episode is it suggested that guests leave with some sort of monetary benefit.  Instead, the world is designed for visitors to learn a little bit more about themselves.

While the central narrative (spoiler alert – not really) is that you must save the human race from certain annihilation, there is one way to accomplish that task.  Far be it from us to get in the way of a voyage of self discovery. You have a goal (save all life on Earth from terrible murder aliens).  How you do that is none of our business.  We just hope you do it. You know, so that we don’t…well…die. Living is our favorite state of existence.

Building a rich, living universe

So you might ask yourself, if you’re not going to resort to randomly generated quests where the player does X to get Y, how are you going to have enough content to make the world feel truly alive?

The answer, my friends, is that you make it easy for creators to tell stories.

Consider for a moment the user interface presented in Westworld:


Now, to be fair, this system is far too complex for the authors we are seeking out to use.   Our answer is Adventure Studo, a new major application we are working on.  This app alone is as big as one of our major software projects.  Its purpose is to make it possible for us to recruit Sci-Fi authors to easily create their own stories in Star Control.

Like many of you, we love to tell stories.  Stories that don’t necessarily end with the protagonist gaining 5 quadroons of space-gold.   And the way you make that happen is to make it easy for creators to do their thing.

At GDC, we’ll be showing off Adventure Studio.  To my knowledge, no one has ever tried to do something like this (though I want to give props to the Never Winter Nights team for doing a lot of pioneering in this area). 

Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Yes, you’re going to love Intrigue

Published on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Civilizations III

The new government system combined with dramas are super compelling.

You really do feel like yiur running an entire civilization.

The galactic market is a game changer for the AI on higher levels as there is a way to buy and sell resources (if you have enough money).

The existence of another income source a,so let’s us tighten up the economic system.


Star Control: February 2018 - Of the Lexites

Published on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

The new Star Control is moving swiftly!  We expect to release Fleet Battles Beta 2 within the next several weeks as most of our work is focused on the adventure game.

We have been listening to feedback from the fans and incorporated that feedback into the project.

For example, below is a screenshot which shows the updated home solar system:


Our home solar system

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Dealing with with the Internet mobs. A guidebook.

Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Internet

Every few months I write something that incites a twitter mob.  There are people out there are compelled to right the smallest of wrongs by hurling days of abuse at the villain.

As the said villain, I’ve developed many different strategies for dealing with these mobs.

This week’s outrage: A pronoun joke (someone demanding to be referred to as "they" instead of "he" or "she" while referring to the other person as "honey" and siccing her (sorry their) followers on him in which he sub-tweeted the exchange which is where it came onto my timeline where I always enjoy tweaking rude people who are conversely easily offended. 

But there is always something for the outrage miners to whip themselves into hurling abuse at someone.

Here are a few examples.










(me and Nikki discussing the bravery of SJWs)













It’s not that I intentionally try to offend.  I just don’t put in any effort not to offend.  Maybe I should.  But as I wrote 10 years ago: I’m going to do what I’m going to do.


"More" to come.

Galactic Civilizations III v3 Preview: Farming

Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

How will we feed our billions?

In Galactic Civilizations III, we presume that by the time we are colonizing planets, our home world has reached an equilibrium between food production and population.  But let's face it: when we colonize other planets, it'll take many years for those planets to build up sufficient farming infrastructure to produce for the kinds of populations you have on your home world.


Surplus Food

Galactic Civilizations III will be treating food a bit differently to reflect the awareness of just how important a large population is on your planets. 

When Galactic Civilizations III first shipped, players built farms on planets and that would increase that planet's population.  Because it was so easy to increase your population, our conversion between population to production was: production = the square root of population.

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Suggest cool names for modules

Published on Monday, February 19, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

Without getting into the weeds, we are looking for interesting names for modules for your ship.

Your flagship can support 20 different modules attached to it that are in these categories:


  1. Hyperdrive modules (Tywom Starhuggle MK III)
  2. Thruster modules (Elon Turning-jet)
  3. Fuel Tanks (General Dynamics HDM Fuel Container)
  4. Sensor Module (Tywom Peeka-boo Star Looker)
  5. Engine (Darius Robotics Emdrive MK III)
  6. Lander Armor (Vulax Armor)
  7. Lander Air Filter (ilua Cleaner)
  8. Landing Zone Targeters (Tektonic Sifter L1)
  9. Noise Dampener (Tirbosh Muffler)
  10. Jump Booster (Orsak Boost)
  11. Atmosphereic Compensator (Leeland MK 1 Dampener)
  12. Crew Quarters (Grade C Crew Stuffer)
  13. Docking Port (Budget Docking Port)
  14. Weapon Amplifer (Harm Level 1 Amplifier)
  15. Shield Modulator (Photius Hull Plating)
  16. Inertia Dampener (Argos Ractive Thruster)
  17. Battery (Promtheion TX-901)

In these 17 categories, we are looking for additional names to avoid having names like "Hyperdrive level 2".  We want colorful names and wanted to see if you guys wanted to particpate in suggesting names.

Post below and we'll include those we use in the credits.



Galactic Civilizations III: Map Sizes and Memory

Published on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in developing Galactic Civilizations III has been map sizes and the memory they require.

On a number of occasions, we have tried to reduce the the largest map sizes down to improve performance and shrink memory requirements.  And each time we have attempted to do that, we have ended up with a very vocal outcry of anger.

But large map sizes come with a significant memory cost to be aware of.

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Galactic Civilizations III: Let's talk food.

Published on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals


I'm not liking the farming mechanic.  It seemed like a good idea on paper but in practice, it's just tedious and exploitive.  Here's how I'd like to see it work:


Some planets would have a Arable land tile including all starting planets.  Building on these tiles produces food.

The tech tree would have a path for players who want to get the most out of those resources to get a lot of food.  The arable land resource be destructable -- you can destroy it (like you can any resource btw) to put something else there.   This would make food take its rightful place as an important strategic resource rather than one that is simply produced by min/maxing.

What are your thoughts?

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