Brad Wardell's Blog


Christmas break coding fun

Published on Tuesday, December 28, 2021 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Civilizations IV

For me, programming is what I do for fun.  So while Stardock is closed...I get to play with the GC4 code.

Here's a running list of changes I'm working on that may end up in the next update:

  • Base technology rate for adjusting for map size changed from 500 to 1200 since GC4 has sectors and most of the "hexes" aren't real. This drastically reduces the # of turns to get techs.
  • Galaxy setup screen now automatically adjusts player counts based on the actual # of usable hexes in the universe.
  • Adjusted the number of players recommended to take into account both the size of the sectors AND the number of sectors.
  • New # of stars calculation for map generation so that there is a much greater variance in star frequency based on sector count and sector sizes.
  • Nebula spawning redone to deal with the sectors (basically, the area outside sectors are still technically hexes and this needs to be deal with when spawning things).
  • AI's "ripe for conquest" calculation ramps up rather than suddenly turning on.
  • AI deals with starvation much better (food starvation not some sort of fancy CPU starvation or whatever). Not real food but the food in the game.
  • Taxes have a much bigger effect on approval than previous.
  • Research and Manufacturing are now knee-capped by approval. I.e. a 55% approval means your research on a planet is adjusted to 0.55 of what it would have been. (lots of rebalancing to deal with this incoming).
  • Colonies (not core worlds) get a free +1 good so that they're not so bloody miserable all the time (they're still pretty miserable but sheesh).
  • Colonies (not core worlds) get a free 0.1 per planet class of goods to make the approval rate of say Paridia a very different thing than say Ceti Alpha V.
  • AI targets low taxes rather than medium taxes.
  • AI now uses the AI Preference tech for choosing executive orders to use.
  • AI much more likely to build constructors when there are resources and stuff to go get.
  • AI will abort building endless "defender" (the little ships) if it can't find something else to do and instead will try to produce mission ships or other types of ships.
  • Fixed a bug where the "needs more defenders" value was inverted...
  • AI more willing to build ships that take longer to build if they're at peace.
  • AI more likely to build supply ships if the other core world isn't too far away.
  • Fixed bug that resulted in AI not rushing ships if it was rich.
  • Write a new heuristic (i.e. crappy) tile distance calculator that will need to be improved to determine how far away a tile is when it's in another sector (since, again, the space between sectors are technically tiles and we need to largely ignore this distance and deal with where the different subspace stream lanes are.  This way, the AI will go into other sectors far more readily. THIS NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED ON.
  • Uncolonized planets that can be colonized have a whiter, more easy to see glow around them.
  • Fixed a few crash issues.
  • AI uses heuristic tile distance calculator for dealing with tiles that are in other sectors.
  • AI will only used cached battle ratings rather than recaluclating (massive turn speed boost).,

  • Small ships now require orbital manufacturing to research (Was artificial gravity which already gives a +1 to moves).
  • Fixed bug that caused the pirates not to move.
  • Big rebalance to planet classes (crappy worlds are still 1 to 3 but the good ones are now much higher).
  • Colonies do not have their output affected by approval. Thus, a core world, at first, is actually worse than a colony before it gets improved on.
  • Big balance pass on the mineral, food, wealth and tech defaults of planets in order to deal with the approval affecting outputs.  This also results in more variance and distinction between worlds (Which is fun)
  • High quality planets are now visibly larger on the map to make them easier to spot.
  • Taxation rate high changed from 0.75 to 0.67
  • Taxation rate max changed from 1 (100%!) to 90%.
  • Max starvation penalty reduced from 30% to 20%. (though this may creep upward again, we'll see).
  • Rebalanced the default strategic zoom settings so that dead planets and other stuff all disappear at different rates.
  • Changed "income" to revenue in various places.
  • Expectations rebalance across all civs now that approval is such a big deal.
  • Control relics produce 0.1 control per turn, not 1 per turn!
  • Balance pass on cluster sizes to make the sizes more distinct.

  • Vastly reduced the amount of nebula based on player settings (pick abudant if you want it to be abundant).

  • Top to bottom revisit of the # of stars, planets, etc. that are generated at the start of the game based on player settings, # of sectors, starting sector, etc.
  • Asteroid fields can get bigger.
  • Significant reduction in the # of anomalies on occasional and lower (basically far more variance based on the setting).
  • New starting executive order: Print money. Gives you 1000 credits but lowers approval for 52 turns but the cooldown is only 25 turns which means you can stack the misery if you want!

  • Hyperlanes allow you to move 20 times faster instead of 10 times faster.
  • Core capitals now cost 1 maint.
  • Core capitals provide +1 raw minerals.
  • Civilization capital provides +10 wealth to get the player started.
  • Various galactic wonders are now moved up into the tech tree so that there are more intersting choices early on.
  • Research mission cost increased from 90 to 100.
  • Treasure mission cost increased from 80 to 120.
  • Promethius stone now provides 3 wealth to a core world.
  • Xanthium deposits now provide 1 mineral to a core world.
  • Techapod hives now proivides 1 mineral to a core world.
  • Removed maint from many of the improvements.
  • Reduced the cost of improvements in general to deal with the generally lower manufacturing (due to approval).
  • Reduced the tech inflation multiplier so that late game techs aren't quite so crazy expensive.
  • Population growth multiplier reduced from 2.0 to 1.5 (population will grow a lot faster).
  • Rushing on planets and shipyards only cost 1 control rather than 25 and 20 respectively.
  • Elimination of "galaxy size" pick.  Now, players choose # of sectors and the size of their starting sector. Those two now generate the galaxy size.
  • Planet class now described on how good it is instead of using a size (a planet class 26 is awesome, not "big").
  • Eliminated screen dirt of displaying the rarity of a tech on the card. The rarity icon is sufficient and the mouse over now displays the rarity label.

  • Changed "player" to civilization.

  • Added some missing descriptions

  • Cultural Value protection policy now requires ministry of culture tech
  • New policy: Grove Growth.  Species with the Spore ability can use this. Food production +50%.
  • New policy: Empathic Connection. Species with the Empathy trait can use this. Approval +30%.
  • New policy: Fast Exploration.  Species with Explorers trait can use this.  All ships get +2 moves but lose half their HP while enacted.
  • New policy: Hull Reinforcing. Drath (warprofeering) can use this. +25 HP to all ships. 
  • New policy: Focus on Innovative individuals.  Species with inspiration trait can use this. All planets get +1 to tech.
  • New policy: Enviromental Exploitation.  Gross Income +5 but pollution goes up 25%. Anyone can do this. Even you.
  • Fixed Research Grants policy to work.
  • Research grants now requires research districts tech.
  • Fixed Genius grants policy to work.
  • New policy: Asteroid Exploitation. Species with Archeology trait can use this. Asteroids give 1 raw material instead of 0.1 each.
  • New policy: Subspace Sensor installation. Species with starfairing trait can use this. Doubles sensor range.
  • Planetary Stimulus policy can't be used by robots.
  • New policy: Population boom. Species with fertile trait can use this. People are..encouraged to..er...breed. Approval +10%. Wealth -20% (people are busy). Population growth +200%.
  • New policy: Shoddy Construction. Species with Proliferation trait can use this. Improvement cost is cut in half but maint on buildings that have maint is quadrupled while enacted (of course, you can turn this off later..).
  • New policy: Endless Feast. Species with ravenous trait can use this.  While enacted, sentient forms of food are..ahem..imported.  Food income +1 per planet.   Approval +20%. Diplomacy -2. Don't judge me!
  • New policy: Singular Purpose.  Species with Unrelenting trait can use this. While enacted, civ gets +1 control per turn.
  • Military Stimuls now requires armed shuttles tech.
  • Rationing policy now requires planetary mobilization tech.
  • New policy: Extreme Automation. Robot races can increase their manufacturing by 50% though it costs 20% income.
  • Unregulated Corps policy now requires orbital manufacturing tech.
  • Unregulated research now requires WeakAI tech.
  • Slave Labor tech now virtually eliminates planetary maint.
  • Genetic Manipulation policy now requires Planetary Adaptation tech.
  • New policy: Ship specifications. Requires Space Doctrine tech.  Ship HP +20% but increaes ship costs by 10%.
  • Coerced colonization can only be used by carbon based lifeforms but not ones with fertile ability (they have pop boom).
  • New policy: IP Theft.  Races with resourdceful trait can use this.  REsearch +20% but diplomacy -1.
  • New policy: Laissez-faire.  Species with wealthy trait can use this.  Colony money income doubled but pollution increased by 20% and crime increased by 10%.
  • Experimental drive HP penalty reduced from 50% to 20%.
  • New policy: Remote Navigation.  Robot races can add +1 moves to their ships.
  • New policy: Professionalism.  Species with the loyalty trait can enact this. Experience increased by 50% by ships while enacted.
  • Conscription now requires Planetary Invasion tech.
  • Drengi buffed a lot because it sucks so much otherwise.

  • Policies the player can't currently enact are now hidden to make the screen more readable.
  • Removed the governor powers from the planet screen. 
  • Updated planet art for home worlds.
  • Xeno Entertainment gives a 10% approval bonus.
  • Moved Subspace Streaming tech to immediately follow the scanning tech.
  • New technology: Space Doctrine.
  • New technology: Flexible Bulkheads: +1 component slots to all ship sizes. [uncommon]
  • New technology: Extreme Miniaturization: 1 + 25% more component slots to all ship sizes. [rare].
  • Civ capital now longer requires maint.
  • Players start with a single policy slot (instead of none).
  • Tooltip system updated to intelligently place itself so that it's not showing up on top of the control
  • Ship XP is now evenly divided between participants rather than based on damage dealt.
  • Updated tech short descriptions to be more descriptive.
  • AI builds a lot more scouts.
  • AI much more likely to go to war with other civs (and the player) if they really hate that civ and they have good miltiary power. 
  • AI much better about building resource mining starbases
  • AI much better about building asteroid bases.
  • Big AI update to how it decides what ships to build (this will likely need additional iteration)
  • Fixed bug where AI was not clearing the # of ships it thought it had in orbit.
  • AI much better at handling tax increases and decreases
  • AI no longer uses AIstrategydefs (which are a pain to maintain) as a template on what to build and instead builds a strategy in code based on lots and lots of factors for much smarter AI performance.
  • Hyperwave radio policy slots opened reduced from 2 to 1 (since players now start with 1 slot)
  • Other species have lower expectations (so that they're not so annoying on your planets)
  • Colonial Bureaucracy now adds a policy slot.
  • Colonial Bureaucracy now requires leadership recruiting
  • Political Capital now opens a policy slot.
  • Colonial Law and policy now opens a policy slot
  • Ministry of defense tech moved from requiring Ministery of Finance to Leadership recruiting
  • Removed "Ministry of Truth" (until we can find something interesting for it)
  • Domestic policy doctrine opens a policy slot
  • Colonial Governance opens a policy slot
  • Ministry of Culture moved from using leadership recruiting as a prreeq to Xeno Entertainment
  • Xeno Religions tech now requires ancient civ trait
  • Black Market tech now requires War profittering ability
  • Removed "Marketing" tech until we can find something useful for it.
  • Space Doctrine now adds a policy slot
  • Planetary Shock and Awe tech moved to requiring PLanetary Siege TEch
  • Systems of Control now requires Unrelenting civ trait.
  • Supply depot cost reduced from 50 to 28 to help get new worlds going faster
  • Supply depot manufacturing level bonus increased from 1 to 2.
  • Virtual World is now classified as an Approval improvement instead of a research one
  • Upgrading of Entertainment districts moved from Colonial Bureacracy to Xeno Entertainment
  • Throttled calls to message pump to reduce fan noise on PCs and make system more responsive.
  • Added a MapSizePacingAdjustment() API to make it easier for devs to adjust pacing based on map size.
  • Prestige victory now scaled by MapSizePacing.
  • Balance pass on Prestige victory contributors
  • Tech research cost now uses MapSizePacingAdjustment() resulting in much better pacing for research times.
  • Max approval rating reduced from 100% to 99% (this isn't a North Korean election).
  • Asteroids are more common
  • Marginal planets have a smaller halo than better quality planets.
  • Genius Grants policy now provides +1 to annovation awareness.
  • Culture rings on starbases no longer require maint.
  • Basic defensive armor now unlocked with Defensive Studies
  • Updated prestige victory tooltip to be more descriptive
  • Went through and updated all the alien text dialog to and from the player.
  • Added a bunch of new alien dialog for the greetings screen.
  • Added a bunch of new alien dialog for the diplomacy screens (both main and other topics) [really this is like 50 bullet points here but suffice to say, lots of new text].  
  • Wrote specific AlienX talking to AlienY dialogs (like Drengin talking to a player playing as the Torians for instance) in many places.
  • New file: FlavorText_UnknownAliens which provided unique descriptions written by Chris Bucholz of the various aliens (that aren't supported by our editor).
  • Fixed typos in events.
  • Fixed the rush tooltip to have it be X out of Y and to have a space after the number but before "credits".
  • AI puts more effort into reviewing approval for determining its tax rate.
  • Updated the flavor text system to support strings that have no preference weight provided. This means a lot of additional variance in the text players will see.
  • Added new quest events based on each category of ideology. These will need testing and we still need to address the too much repeating quests issue.
  • Added Krynn citizen units.
  • Culture Ring modules now produce 1 influence per turn for colonies in their area.
  • New module: Cultural Awareness module. Requires Universal Translator. 
  • Removed Harmony Crystal requirement from Cultural Forum module
  • Adjusted star cluster sizes to feel better at different settings.

  • Tiny, Small, Medium ships now longer cost maint.  Large and huge ships cost 2.
  • Prestige Victory adjusted so that citizens only count for .5 points per citizen.
  • Made low quality planets visibly smaller on the map and in the planet list so that players can tell they aren't good core world candidates at a glance. (except for Artemis and Mars).
  • Increased the number of stars at various sector sizes.
  • Fixed issue where no matter what, a single sector map was always huge.
  • Colony default crime reduced from 10% to 2% because sheesh, not every planet is space Detroit!
  • Culture (ifnluence) districts now arrive with Universal Translator tech instead of Political Capital.
  • Rush cost mult increased from 2 to 4.
  • Pressure scientists executive order moved to require Xeno Research. (otherwise this is just a no brainer for the first turn).

 

We should have an update for the alpha testers next week.

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #14 – Pacing Comparisons

Published on Thursday, December 23, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

Pacing in 4X strategy games is crucial.  So I decided to look at GalCiv II, GalCiv III and the GalCiv IV alpha to take a look at how fast things move along.

  Turn     

GalCiv II (Twilight of the Arnor)

GalCiv III (Retribution)

GalCiv IV [Alpha]

1

· Researched New Propulsion Techniques [7 turns]

· Planet Project: Innovation Complex [16 weeks]

· Music: Haunting

· Startport: Rush bought Colony ship with monthly payments.

· Unit: Colony ship sent out system

· Unit: Space Miner to Automated

· Unit: Survey Ship to automated

· Survey ship finds 500 credits

· Rush bought innovation project.

· Earth: 10 tiles, no adjacency

· Music: Hopeful

· Research: Artificial Gravity [4 turns]

· Computer Core [5 weeks]

· Planet Earth: Rushed Computer Core

· Survey Ship: Set to Survey

· [no other starting ships]

· Shipyard: Rush bought Colony Ship (no monthly payment option available)

· Planet Earth: Began work on Helix artifact. [can only rush once per turn. Boo].

· Earth: 10 tiles, adjacency bonuses.

· Music: Hopeful

· Research: Asteroid Mining [3 turns]

· Planet Earth: Rushed computer core

· Colony ship sent out system.

· Scout ship sent to explore.

· Survey ship sent to survey

· Shipyard: Rush bought colony ship (no monthly payment available

· Planet Earth: Began construction on Industrial Center

· Planet Earth: Queued hearthstone construction

· Planet Earth: Queued Snuggler artifact

· Earth: 27 tiles, adjacency bonuses.

2

· GNN Report comes up summarizing what happened at the start of the turn.

· Planet project: Rush bought a factory

· UI experience is pretty dated

· Rush bought a colony ship

· Rushed colony ship sent to next system.

· Shipyard: Rushed second colony ship.

· Earth: Rushed Helix project

· Earth: Began work on Colonization Center

· Executive Order: Draft Colonists (free colony ship for 20 control points)

· Executive Order: Telescope take over and viewed nearby system which shows a class 22 and 23 planet a class 19 (requires extreme colonization) and a class 13 (that requires extreme colonization)

· Colony ship sent to class 23 planet

· Colony ship 2: sent to class 22 planet

3

· Rush bought a colony ship

· Rush bought a research lab

· Anomaly: +4 to weapons

· Rushed colony ship sent to a different system.

· Leaders: Hired 3 leaders.

· Assigned leader to minister of tech

· Assigned leader to minister of exploration

· Assigned a leader to prototype ship: Curiosity (free ship if you have a leader)

· Curiosity ship sent to survey.

4

· Anomaly: Economy boosted by +1%

· New Propulsion actually researched

· Anomaly: 17 credits. Boo.

· Anomaly: Lost Genius, instantly finishes current tech.

· Research: Asteroid Mining researched

· Next project: Subspace Scanning

· Rush bought a colony ship

5

· Anomaly: Repair rate +1%

· Anomaly: Survey ship +4 HP

· Drengin are met but I don’t understand what they are saying.

· Anomaly: 247 credits. Yay.

· Research complete: Artificial Gravity (Moves +1)

· Rushed colonization center

· Began work on Industrial Center

· Asteroid miner spawned due to getting the tech. Sent to nearby asteroid field near earth.

· Colony ship sent to Mars. Mars colonized.

· Colonization event: Received a leader.

· Leader assigned minister of colonization.

6

· Report that the Thalen Empire has built a Wonder

· Minor Race met

· Event: Benevolent choice = Got a scout ship.

· Scout ship ordered to go out of system.

 

7

· Met Torians

· Raised tax rate from 33% to 48%

· Raised spending to 100% of our manufacturing capacity

· Research ratio is set to 55%.

· I can see lines on the map where my ships are auto piloting to without clicking on them.

Nothing

· Ideology: Unlocked Flexible (+2% income, spawns Ambassador ship)

· Event: Received resources!

· Used artifact power: Researched Subspace scanning.

· Researching Space Elevators

· New colony: Freehold (class 23)

8

· Anomaly: Trade +5%

· Anomaly: Research boost of 25 points

· Research: Artificial Gravity perfected

Nothing

· New colony: Galen (class 22)

· Increased tax rate to High.

9

· Anomaly: Research +1%

· Research: Xeno Communications Researched

· Colonized a class 15 planet!

· Event: Pragmatic choice for productivity

· New Tech: Space Elevators

· Queued up manufacturing districts around industrial center.

10

· Anomaly: Trade ability +5%

· Anomaly: Espionage +1%

· Colonization of Mars (I was trying to find a better planet and finally went back to Mars)

· Report: Thalan have built the Temporal Entertainment Matrix

· Galactic Report: Top 5 most popular Civs with flavor text describing our situation.

· Asteroid field near Earth is built up now by the Space Mining ship and it is now moving towards another asteroid field.

· Scottinglas Scout approaches Earth

· Government screen unlocked. Chose Colonial.

· Research: Space Elevators Researched

· New colony ship sent to Artemis

· Probe ordered

Here are some thoughts I have on how GalCiv IV could be further improved before Beta

  1. Have some early game galactic achievements (pretty much every early tech should have one)
  2. Announce to the universe when someone has gotten it
  3. I really want a way to give priority to research over manufacturing over ship production.  This was part of the GalCiv series going back to the OS/2 version but got lost in GalCiv III.  We don’t need sliders but I want to be able to focus on one at the cost of the other two even if it’s just a single selection with a big boost.
  4. I really miss the flavor text in GalCiv II.  Now, there’s a reason this went away – GalCiv II was English only and in the world of translations, being so wordy is hard.  But I miss it.
  5. How quickly you meet aliens is now a setting (alien home worlds) I still feel like they’re too far apart.  In GalCiv II, I met both a major and a minor race in the first 10 turns.  In GalCiv III and IV, I met none.
  6. We gotta get that Civ list back onto the main screen before Beta.
  7. I want more executive orders at the start of the game.
  8. Every ideology option should give you something tangible (not just a stat boost).
  9. Policies should start on turn 1, I think we should just have a default set for each civ that players can change but leaving this empty early on is a bad idea.  By turn 10, I should have unlocked 2 new policy options.

And now screenshots:

 

Galactic Civilizations II Galactic Civilizations III Galactic Civilizations IV
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So what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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GalCiv IV Journals

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #13 - The Vault

Published on Monday, December 20, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

The Galactic Civilizations games are known for their ship design features.

image

But ship design occurs before the ship is made.  What about after?  Galactic Civilizations IV will be introducing a new feature for upcoming Beta version (this Winter) called “The Vault”.

The Vault is a set of special items the player either produces or, more commonly scavenges across the galaxy.  Destroying the monster ships, pirates, enemy fleets, etc. will result in scavenging things from credits to unique parts to special items.  The special items found (or made) go into the vault.

Items in the vault can then be put on ships.  These items are a one-time use once added to a ship, it remains there and if that ship is destroyed, it’s gone (or worse, becomes scavenged by an enemy).

image

The number of items you can put onto a ship is based on its level.  When ships level up, rather than having to manually mess with them, they will simply automatically get more HP.  But each level will allow you to add more items to the ship.

There will also be techs and planetary improvements that will allow ships to automatically start out at a higher level.

image

So rather than having to go through and add stuff to every single ship that levels up, as you currently do in the alpha, you will be able to pick and choose which ships you want to use precious items on to beef them up.

Here’s a sample of some of the items we have in store.  Feel free to suggest your own and if we use them, we’ll add you to the credits if you’d like!

Item

Frequency

Description

Prerequisite

Quantum Targeting Computer

Uncommon

Allows ship to attack targets +1 tiles away

Quantum Computing

Organic Nanite Slurry

Rare

Completely heals a ship after every battle

Construction drones

Precursor Accelerator

Common

+1 to moves

None

Precursor Blade of Armor

Common

+1 to all defenses

None

Precursor Torpedo

Common

+2 to missiles

None

Precursor Teleporter

Legendary

Ship can teleport to target destination

Precursor Relic Proficiency

Auto Factory

Uncommon

Ship requires no logistics

Improved Life Support

Precursor Survey Module

Common

Ship can survey

Survey

Hyperdrive Disruptor

Rare

Enemy ships in its range move at 1 move

Warp Drive

Last Breath

Rare

When destroyed, enemy ship takes 100 damage

Artifact Mastery

Beam Nullifier

Rare

90% of enemy beam weapon power is removed.

Defensive Studies

Scavenging Computer

Uncommon

25% to 50% more likely to scavenge items after battle

Scavenging

Weakpoint Computer

Uncommon

10% to 40% chance of a volley doing 3X damage.

Weak AI

Second Chance

Legendary

Upon destruction, ship is returned to home world

Precursor Relic Mastery

Stay tuned!

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GalCiv IV Journals

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #12 - AAR Drengin Human Wars I Part 1

Published on Monday, December 13, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

For many years,  I have put the Galactic Civilizations games through their paces to see how well a given game does at feeling like a story.  I do this to help nitpick things we need to change.  With the beta for GalCiv IV just around the corner, I thought I’d see how well the game stacks up so far.

I also will be inserting comments that normally we would have at internal meetings, but for you aspiring game developers I wanted to show some of the feedback the team gets from the company Creative Director on a given project.

I wrote some AAR’s for GalCiv I and GalCiv II as well. 

Past examples:

GalCiv III: Drengin/Human Wars VI (stardock.net) (2017)

Gameplay Example: Drengin-Human Wars XXII (stardock.net) (2006)

Let’s dive in…

The setup

This takes place within a single sector.  From a gameplay point of view, it means it plays out like a GalCiv II or GalCiv III map.

In the beginning

The fledgling Terran Alliance has invented a new form of Faster than light travel called Hyperdrive.  This new drive system replaced the Stargate system that had been set up by the Precursors long ago and enabled free form travel between different stars in a matter of weeks rather than centuries.

image

The first two ships to come out of the newly christened Endeavor space dock are the T.A.S. Santa Maria and the extremely expensive prototype survey ship called the T.A.S. Discovery.

image

The Santa Maria holds 25,000 colonists.

Comment: The Santa Maria didn’t start out named. It should.  Similarly, the initial shipyard should be named. I had to rename it Endeavor manually.

image

Vos Tremen, the science advisor leading Earth’s efforts, has come up with 4 different promising candidates to research.  After much debate, Space Elevators are chosen.

Comment: The science advisor should have a name. I gave him the name Vos Tremen, but we shouldn’t just have generic people here.  Moreover, there should be an economic and military advisor, and each one should argue for a tech to research.

On Earth itself, we have a number of new projects available.

image

I decide to put the capital mainframe on the rare earth metals deposit to help increase its productivity.

Comment: The science, military, and economic advisors should be there to help.  Also, it would really help with immersion if the tiles at least broadly shaped the Earth’s continents. The paradise icon looks a little out of place for some reason.

image

Karn Urlox presents a number of different options for us to construct.  We decide to go with another colony ship.

Comment: Instead of a military advisor, make it the Shipyard Commander and have it be a character with existing stats that was previously put there with their own pros and cons.  The advisor suggestions are too tiny to be usable.

Some new Candidates have arrived to be recruited into our civilization to help us run it.

image

The Terran Alliance needs to make the full use of its best and brightest to help run a galactic civilization.

image

So I’ve brought in two characters here. 

Comment: I should be able to rename these characters.

Mera is a genius, so I will be putting her in charge of our technology.

Comment: This means from this point, this is the person who should show up in the technology screen.

Mera has a 10 intelligence, which means she gives a 10% bonus to resarch.

As for Ginny, she has a 9 resolve, which makes her really good at combat.

image

So I’m going to put her in command of the prototype ship, Perseverance.

Looking at my 3 main resources I have: image

Money.

Control.

Food.

Control is new in Galactic Civilizations IV.  It is primarily used in being able to use executive orders.

image

Every civilization has a different set of executive orders to start with, and more show up through the course of the game.  I also use control points to invite more candidates and pressure scientists to work harder to research faster. These actions consume the points, but I gain points back over time.

The Sol System

Within a very short amount of time, we have successfully colonized the home solar system and the Perseverance is on its way out.

image

Comment: I should still be able to see my character that is in command of the Perseverance and note the spelling.

image

A few weeks later the Colony ship Opportunity reaches the Scutti system and creates our first extrasolar system colony.

…End of Part 1…

 

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GalCiv IV Journals

Galactic Civilizations III 4.21 Change Log

Published on Saturday, November 27, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Support

** RELEASED 12/15/2021 **

As hardware gets better, we are able to update some of the things in the game, including AI and map density.  While we were at it, we made a number of long requested balance updates as well.

What players will probably notice the most, however is how much better the AI is at putting together fair trade offers.  This may only merit a single line in the change log but represented the bulk of the engineering time for this update.

All versions:

  • AI is now significantly better at putting together trade offers with the player (ones likely to be acceptable to the player).
  • Asteroid likelihood in a system increased from 20% to 25%
  • Ion storm spawn likelyhood an a sector increased from 50% to 65%

Retribution:

  • Minimum star distanced reduced from 7 parsecs to 5 parsecs
  • Approval requirement for content reduced from 45% to 40%
  • Civilization capital raw resource production increased from +2 to +3
  • As hardware continues to become more powerful we have bumped up the number of objects a map can spawn:
  • Small galaxy base object spawn increased from 300 to 400 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Medium galaxy base object spawn increased from 500 to 700 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Large galaxy base object spawn increased from 750 to 900 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Huge galaxy base object spawn increased from 900 to 1000 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Gigantic galaxy base object spawn increased from 1000 to 1200 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Excessive galaxy base object spawn increased from 1400 to 1500 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • Insane galaxy base object spawn increased from 1500 to 1600 (this is how many planets, stars, etc. are allowed)
  • AI weighting of technologies improved to ensure the AI researches the updated tech tree more effectively
  • Ministry of Alien Affairs now gives a +0.25 diplomacy bonus
  • Interstellar Tourism prereq changed from requiring Immigration to ministry of alien affairs to make available earlier in the game.
  • Supply ship manufacturing cost reduced from 200 to 125
  • Early game music tracks updated

 

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #11 - Combat AAR

Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

In the previous entry, we discussed whether we needed a battle viewer.  That’s because combat in GalCiv IV works somewhat differently than previous entries. Specifically:

  1. Combat on the map can involve multiple (ranged) tiles which complicates things a bit.
  2. Combat can take multiple turns which complicates things

After getting a lot of helpful feedback we think we’ve come up with a way to have our cake and eat it too: AAR (After Action Reports).  Whenever combat takes place, a notification shows up in the far left:

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Clicking on it will provide details on what happened with players being able to go into deeper and deeper detail (like, far far beyond what we had in previous GalCiv games) as well as view the incident so you can see how different weapon, defense and other modules affected the course of battle.

We have a new feature we will be discussing soon that will explain why we actually ended up needing this (short version: combat is getting a lot more interesting).

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GalCiv IV Journals

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #10 - Do we need a battle viewer?

Published on Monday, October 11, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

Starting with Galactic Civilizations II, we allowed players to go and watch their ships fight it out in battle in a separate battle viewer screen.  But, what if we could show the battle on the main screen? That is, what if we could just zoom in on a fleet and rather than it being the leader ship with a number by it, it actually changed to show the entire fleet?  So if you wanted to watch a fleet fight it out, you would just watch it right on the map.

Thoughts?

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GalCiv IV Journals

 

GalCiv IV Dev Journal #9 - Onboarding

Published on Monday, October 4, 2021 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

The process of getting a new player into your game and making that process an enjoyable experience can be the difference between success and failure for your game.  If you make a game for a publisher, you can assume there will be a milestone that involves the onboarding.  Let’s take a look at how GalCiv IV does it and what has changed since GalCiv III.

Title Screen

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We went through many iterations for the title screen.  How many buttons should there be? Which buttons should be where? How should color be used? 

I would argue that we could have dispensed with the Exit button in the menu here and instead had some sort of X at the top right or something.  And we might still want to do that so we could fit a Tutorial button there. Let us know in the comments what you think.

New Game

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There was a lot of kvetching around this screen (by me) until we got to this version. It’s still not ideal (the tiny tiny scrollbar on the right is a problem). But it is a huge step up from the past. Here it is very clear what you’re getting and it’s an enjoyable experience.

Customize

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GalCiv III included vast customization options, but they were somewhat buried.  This time, we wanted to get these features front and center. That said, still not ready for prime time yet.  The drop-downs need a a tooltip to explain what these other traits mean.

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But again, the player is being guided into what their civilization is about.

Galaxy

This screen should be called “Galaxy”.  Now, ideally, we would have fun, visual ways of changing the galaxy size, the size of your starting sector, and so on.  In fact, all these options, ideally, will get some sort of visual cues rather than be just drop-downs.

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In short, this screen is not ready yet.  But when done, this is setting up the map.

Opponents

So now we’re picking opponents. The point of this screen is to allow the player to really get to know who the various species of the galaxy are.  There’s no real need to show your player in this screen so it’ll likely be going.

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The main difference in GalCiv IV is that we have a lot more screens than we did in previous games.  The reason for this is onboarding.  We know from player research that many players enjoy the setup process and that this can be a fun experience.

The entry into the game

Let's get into the game. We need paragraphs here instead of a wall of text, and this should have VO reading this.  The goal is to get the player invested in their new civilization.

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In a few years, we hope that the text to speech tech will be such that people’s custom civilizations could have auto-generated VO. We’re still far from that.

So what do you think? What can games do to give you a better first impression? Let us know in the comments.

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GalCiv IV Journals

 

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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GalCiv IV Journals

 

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