Brad Wardell's Blog


GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #12 - Humanoids?

Published on Monday, April 24, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #12 - Humanoids?

One of the things we are definitely looking at widely expanding are the number of different species categories:

There’s a lot of reasons to do this. For one, I think it would be a good way to have several different tech trees. Right now, the tech tree in the game is different per race but they are all derived from the same master. But imagine if we could make it so that each biology category had its own completely different tech tree?

In the meantime, I think we should add some here. The question is, what kinds?

Right now the main differences are:

  1. How they reproduce

  2. Advantages on certain worlds

I feel like we could do even more. But first, let’s think about what types of biologies there might be.

For starters: Replace ‘Carbon’ with ‘HUMANOIDS’ and create some additional types like Fungal, Plant, Insectoid. Here are some more:

  • Energy-based.

  • Gaseous

Are there any that you would like to see and what would make them distinctly different?

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #11 - The AI Elephant in the Room

Published on Thursday, April 20, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

Supernova makes heavy use of AI art generation. While our human art staff on GalCiv IV is the biggest it’s ever been, the art team has made a great deal of use of using AI to vastly increase the amount of variance of art assets in the game.

There are a lot of different types of AI generated content in Supernova including text, missions, AI dialog, citizen portraits and even the aliens themselves.

Some uses of AI are controversial. For example, one of the controversial aspects of AI art generation has to do with the art the AI was trained on. We’re not going to wade into that controversy other than to say that our AI generated art is trained on our own art. We’ve been making aliens for a long time, so we have a lot of them.

Training the AI on our own art has some benefits besides avoiding controversy. It allows our style to stay reasonably consistent. More accurately, it stays as consistent as we have been which is to say, not always very consistent.

For example, here is the Altarian leader from GalCiv III.

Now she was made with a variety of tools. But using AI, we can do a lot of interesting things with her.

But then you can do this:

It’s like the Korath and the Altarians had a baby. Which, in a way, they did here.

Now for our team, the AI stuff is just the next logical step. Obviously, I have some ambivalence on the issue since now, “some guy” can just crank out aliens putting all our years of hard-earned artistic experience at risk. But it is what it is.

Stardock used to have a big advantage because we knew assembly language extremely well and could make our games really fast and then, so-called “programmers” using C++ came in and just use compilers. We adapt.

Stardock has always been bullish on AI. GalCiv only exists because I wanted an excuse to make a multi-threaded AI back in 1992. Now, GalCiv IV: Supernova will be making full use of AI in every way we can.

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

BabyAGI Impressions

Published on Thursday, April 13, 2023 By Brad Wardell In Artificial Intelligence

I'm going to use a number of really dumb analogies to try to explain how these large language models like ChatGPT work.

First, you have the amount of training they have done combined with the number of things they can look at at once.  ChatGPT 4 is much better than ChatGPT 3 in that regard.  Think of this as the AI's "hard drive".

Second, and often unappreciated, is the number of tokens that the model can handle.  Think of this as RAM.  Tokens represents how much the AI can "remember" about what you re talking about.  ChatGPT 3 could do 4K.  ChatGPT 4 defaults to 8K and there's a 32K version on the horizon.  When it runs out of tokens, it starts to get wonky. 

The user asks a question of ChatGPT and gets an answer.  The user can then ask a follow-up question.  

AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) has many definitions but one of the key components is to get the AI to handle its own inner monologue (answer it's own questions and pose new ones that it will then answer) to work out a larger problem.

So what if you could get ChatGPT to answer it's own questions and then have those answers cause ChatGPT to ask new questions based on those answers?

That is the super simple explanation of what BabyAGI does. BabyAGI takes advantage of some new technologies including Vector databases like Pinecone which effectively gives the AI a longer term memory. You can find the Github distribution here.  Vector databaes don't fully solve the token limitation but they help.

Once you have it set up, you can ask it to solve a big problem.

For my test, I asked it how I could make my Russian Tortoises have a better life.  An hour later, the world was made of paperclips but boy did I get my answer and here it is:

(note: The AI generated ALL of this)

Happy Russian Tortoises

Goal: Improve the life of the Tortoises

Initial task: Develop a task list

  • Create a safe and comfortable habitat: Design and set up a comfortable indoor and outdoor living space for the Russian tortoises, ensuring they have enough space to roam, hide, and bask in the sun.
  • Develop a balanced diet plan: Research and create a diet plan consisting of various leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional fruit, ensuring that the Russian tortoises receive proper nutrition and avoid overfeeding.
  • Schedule regular health check-ups: Coordinate with a qualified veterinarian to perform annual health check-ups and address any health concerns that may arise.
  • Implement a daily exercise routine: Encourage the Russian tortoises to stay active by providing them with opportunities to explore, climb, and dig in their environment.
  • Provide mental stimulation: Introduce creative enrichment activities to keep the Russian tortoises mentally engaged, such as hiding food in puzzle toys or rotating the placement of their habitat's decorations.
  • Maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels: Regularly monitor and adjust the temperature and humidity levels in the Russian tortoises' habitat to ensure they are within the ideal range, providing them with a comfortable living environment.
  • Educate caretakers on proper care: Offer training sessions or workshops for the Russian tortoises' caretakers, ensuring they understand how to provide the best possible care for these animals.
  • Monitor social interactions: Observe the Russian tortoises' interactions with each other, ensuring that they are getting along and not exhibiting signs of aggression or stress.
  • Develop a cleaning and maintenance routine: Establish a regular schedule for cleaning and maintaining the Russian tortoises' habitat, ensuring that their living environment remains clean and sanitary.
  • Research advancements in Russian tortoise care: Stay up-to-date with the latest research and advancements in Russian tortoise care, incorporating new findings into their care routine as appropriate.
  • Establish a support network: Connect with other Russian tortoise caretakers, veterinarians, and experts to exchange valuable information, advice, and support.
  • Advocate for responsible pet ownership: Raise awareness about the responsibilities and commitment involved in caring for Russian tortoises, encouraging future pet owners to make informed decisions when considering adopting these animals.

 

 

Ideal Habitat Layout for Russian Tortoises

Indoor Habitat

  • Enclosure dimensions: The indoor habitat should be at least 4 feet by 8 feet in size, with a minimum height of 18 inches. This will provide ample space for the tortoises to move around and explore their environment.
  • Substrate: A mixture of coco coir, cypress mulch, and organic topsoil should be used as the substrate. This will help maintain proper humidity levels and allow the tortoises to burrow.
  • Basking area: A basking area should be placed in one corner of the enclosure, with a basking lamp providing a temperature of 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help the tortoises thermoregulate and aid in their digestion.
  • Hiding spots: Multiple hiding spots should be placed throughout the enclosure, such as half logs, overturned plant pots, or commercially available reptile hides. This will provide the tortoises with a sense of security and privacy.
  • Food and water: A shallow dish should be provided for fresh water, and a separate dish for their daily greens and vegetables. These should be placed away from the basking area to prevent excess heat from wilting the food.
  • Climbing and enrichment: Rocks and branches should be placed throughout the enclosure to provide climbing opportunities and stimulation for the tortoises. Additionally, live or artificial plants can be added for extra enrichment.

Outdoor Habitat

  • Enclosure dimensions: The outdoor habitat should be at least 4 feet by 8 feet in size, with a minimum height of 18 inches. A secure fence or wall should surround the perimeter to prevent escape and protect from predators.
  • Substrate: A mixture of natural grasses and organic topsoil should be used as the substrate. This will allow the tortoises to graze and forage naturally.
  • Basking area: A basking area should be provided with natural sunlight, or a basking lamp if sunlight is insufficient. The temperature should range from 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hiding spots: Multiple hiding spots should be placed throughout the enclosure, such as large rocks, dense shrubbery, or commercially available reptile hides.
  • Food and water: A shallow dish should be provided for fresh water, and a separate dish for their daily greens and vegetables. These should be placed in a shaded area to prevent excess heat from wilting the food.
  • Climbing and enrichment: Rocks and branches should be placed throughout the enclosure to provide climbing opportunities and stimulation for the tortoises. Additionally, live plants can be added for extra enrichment.
  • Weather protection: A small, weatherproof shelter should be provided for the tortoises to retreat to during inclement weather or extreme temperatures. This shelter should be insulated and have a regulated temperature to ensure their safety and comfort.

After conducting research on common health issues that Russian tortoises may face, I have identified several health problems and developed strategies for prevention and treatment. Here are the main health concerns and their corresponding prevention and treatment strategies

  • Respiratory infections: Symptoms include wheezing, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. To prevent respiratory infections, maintain a clean habitat and ensure proper temperature and humidity levels.

Prevention

- Maintain proper temperature (70-85°F) and humidity (40-60%) levels in the habitat.

- Clean the habitat regularly to prevent bacterial growth.

Treatment

- Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.

- Increase the basking area temperature to help boost the tortoise's immune system.

  • Shell rot: This condition is caused by fungal or bacterial infections that result in softening or disintegration of the shell.

Prevention

- Maintain proper humidity levels in the habitat.

- Keep the habitat clean and dry to prevent fungal and bacterial growth.

Treatment

- Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include topical antifungal or antibiotic medications.

- Clean the affected areas with a diluted iodine or chlorhexidine solution, as recommended by the veterinarian.

  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD): This is caused by an imbalance in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3, leading to weak and deformed bones and shells.

Prevention

- Provide a balanced diet with appropriate levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3.

- Ensure access to UVB lighting to aid in calcium absorption.

Treatment

- Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.

- Monitor and adjust the tortoise's diet and lighting to ensure proper nutrient levels.

  • Parasites: Internal parasites, such as worms, can cause weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Prevention

- Maintain a clean habitat to minimize the risk of parasite exposure.

- Regularly wash your hands before and after handling the tortoise to prevent cross-contamination.

Treatment

- Consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include deworming medication.

  • Dehydration: Insufficient water intake can lead to dehydration, kidney problems, and bladder stones.

Prevention

- Provide fresh, clean water in a shallow dish for the tortoise to drink and soak in.

- Maintain proper humidity levels in the habitat.

Treatment

- Consult a veterinarian if dehydration is suspected.

- Increase the humidity levels in their habitat and ensure access to fresh water.

By implementing these prevention and treatment strategies, you can improve the life quality of your Russian tortoises and help them lead a healthy life. Regular veterinary checkups are also essential for monitoring their overall health and addressing any potential issues early.

Weekly Diet Plan for Russian Tortoises

Monday

- Breakfast: Dandelion greens (chopped)

- Lunch: Collard greens (chopped) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

- Dinner: Bell pepper (sliced)

Tuesday

- Breakfast: Mustard greens (chopped)

- Lunch: Romaine lettuce (chopped)

- Dinner: Cucumber (sliced) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

Wednesday

- Breakfast: Endive (chopped)

- Lunch: Kale (chopped) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

- Dinner: Zucchini (sliced)

Thursday

- Breakfast: Watercress (chopped)

- Lunch: Escarole (chopped)

- Dinner: Yellow squash (sliced) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

Friday

- Breakfast: Bok choy (chopped)

- Lunch: Arugula (chopped) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

- Dinner: Carrot (shredded)

Saturday

- Breakfast: Turnip greens (chopped)

- Lunch: Cabbage (chopped)

- Dinner: Tomato (sliced) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

Sunday (treat day)

- Breakfast: Radicchio (chopped)

- Lunch: A small piece of strawberry or apple

- Dinner: Butternut squash (cooked and mashed) with a sprinkle of calcium powder

Note: Sprinkle calcium powder on the food 3-4 times a week to ensure proper calcium intake. Provide a UVB light to help with vitamin D3 synthesis. Always provide clean, fresh water for your tortoise. This diet plan should be adjusted according to the age and size of your Russian tortoise. Consult a veterinarian for specific dietary needs and adjustments.

Exercise and Enrichment Program for Russian Tortoises

Objective: To design a variety of activities and enrichment ideas that promote physical and mental stimulation for Russian tortoises, improving their overall well-being.

  • Climbing Opportunities

- Provide multiple levels or platforms with ramps or rocks for the tortoises to climb and explore.

- Ensure any climbing structures are stable and secure to prevent injuries.

  • Digging and Burrowing

- Create designated digging areas using a mix of coconut coir, topsoil, and sand, allowing the tortoises to dig and burrow as they would in their natural habitat.

- Rotate the digging areas to keep the environment interesting and engaging.

  • Maze Exploration

- Set up a maze with cardboard, rocks, or bricks that the tortoise can navigate, encouraging mental stimulation and exploration.

- Rearrange the maze weekly or biweekly to maintain interest.

  • Foraging and Feeding Enrichment

- Scatter food items throughout the enclosure to encourage natural foraging behavior.

- Provide edible plants, such as dandelions, clover, or plantain, in the enclosure for the tortoise to graze on and explore.

- Hang leafy greens from a string or clip, encouraging the tortoise to stretch and reach for their food.

  • Sensory Stimulation

- Introduce a variety of textures, such as soft moss, smooth rocks, and rough bark, for the tortoise to explore and experience different sensations.

- Use a variety of substrates, such as sand, soil, or gravel, to provide varied terrain for the tortoise to traverse.

  • Hide and Seek

- Hide treats, such as cut-up vegetables or fruit, in small containers or under rocks for the tortoise to find, promoting problem-solving skills and mental stimulation.

  • Social Interaction

- If possible, house multiple compatible Russian tortoises together, allowing for social interaction and activity.

- Monitor interactions closely to ensure the tortoises are getting along and to prevent any aggressive behavior.

  • Outdoor Excursions

- Weather permitting, provide supervised outdoor time in a secure and enclosed area with natural sunlight, allowing the tortoise to explore and bask in the sun.

  • Toys and Objects

- Introduce safe and tortoise-appropriate toys or objects, such as balls, mirrors, or tunnels, for the tortoise to investigate and interact with.

- Rotate toys and objects periodically to maintain interest and prevent boredom.

Regularly monitor the Russian tortoises during enrichment activities to ensure they are engaging with their environment and to assess the effectiveness of the activities. Adjust the exercise and enrichment program as needed to continue promoting physical and mental well-being for the Russian tortoises.

  • Enclosure: A suitable indoor or outdoor enclosure, such as a tortoise table or a secure outdoor pen with appropriate dimensions (minimum 4 ft x 2 ft for one adult Russian tortoise).
  • Substrate: A mixture of coconut coir, cypress mulch, or organic topsoil (pesticide and fertilizer-free) for the indoor enclosure, and natural grass or plants for the outdoor enclosure.
  • Hiding spots: Provide at least two hiding spots, such as a wooden or ceramic tortoise house, half-log hide, or a plant-filled corner.
  • Basking spot: A flat, heat-resistant stone or tile for basking.
  • Heating equipment: A heat lamp with a ceramic socket and a thermostat to maintain proper temperatures (90-95°F in the basking area and 70-80°F in the cooler area).
  • UVB lighting: A UVB tube light or compact fluorescent bulb to ensure proper calcium absorption and overall health.
  • Light timer: An automatic timer to maintain a consistent day and night cycle (12-14 hours of light per day).
  • Thermometer and hygrometer: Digital or analog devices to monitor temperature and humidity levels in the enclosure.
  • Water dish: A shallow, sturdy dish for the tortoise to drink from and soak in.
  • Food dish: A flat, smooth surface or shallow dish for serving food.
  • Calcium supplement: A powdered calcium supplement without added vitamin D3 to sprinkle on the tortoise's food.
  • Multivitamin supplement: A powdered multivitamin supplement to use occasionally with the tortoise's diet.
  • Cleaning supplies: A reptile-safe disinfectant, scrub brush, and paper towels for cleaning the enclosure and accessories.
  • Outdoor habitat supplies (if applicable): A secure perimeter fence, weather-resistant hiding spots, and a shaded area to protect the tortoise from extreme temperatures and predators.
  • Enrichment items: A variety of objects and materials to encourage natural behaviors, such as rocks, logs, tunnels, and edible plants.

Weekly Cleaning and Maintenance Schedule for Russian Tortoise's Habitat

Monday

  • Remove and replace soiled substrate in the indoor habitat
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Spot clean any feces or uneaten food in the outdoor habitat
  • Check and clean hiding spots, basking areas, and other structures in both habitats

Tuesday

  • Sweep or vacuum the floor around the indoor habitat to remove loose substrate
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Check and adjust the temperature and humidity levels in the indoor habitat
  • Inspect the outdoor habitat for any potential hazards or issues

Wednesday

  • Remove and replace soiled substrate in the outdoor habitat
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Spot clean any feces or uneaten food in the indoor habitat
  • Check and clean hiding spots, basking areas, and other structures in both habitats

Thursday

  • Sweep or vacuum the floor around the indoor habitat to remove loose substrate
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Check and adjust the temperature and humidity levels in the indoor habitat
  • Inspect the outdoor habitat for any potential hazards or issues

Friday

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the water dish in both habitats
  • Spot clean any feces or uneaten food in both habitats
  • Check and clean hiding spots, basking areas, and other structures in both habitats
  • Inspect and maintain any equipment, such as heat lamps, UVB lights, and timers

Saturday

  • Sweep or vacuum the floor around the indoor habitat to remove loose substrate
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Check and adjust the temperature and humidity levels in the indoor habitat
  • Inspect the outdoor habitat for any potential hazards or issues

Sunday

  • Perform a general inspection of both habitats, looking for any issues or areas that need attention
  • Clean and refill the water dish
  • Spot clean any feces or uneaten food in both habitats
  • Check and clean hiding spots, basking areas, and other structures in both habitats

Note: Adjust the cleaning frequency as needed based on the number of tortoises and their specific requirements. Regularly monitor the tortoises' health and well-being, and consult a veterinarian if any health issues arise.

Ideal Lighting and Temperature Conditions for Russian Tortoises

  • Temperature

Russian tortoises thrive in a temperature gradient that replicates their natural habitat. Provide a basking area with a temperature between 90-100°F (32-38°C) and a cooler area with a temperature between 70-75°F (21-24°C). This temperature gradient allows the tortoise to thermoregulate by moving between the warm and cool areas as needed. Use a high-quality digital thermometer to accurately monitor and maintain these temperatures.

  • Lighting

Russian tortoises require proper lighting to support their overall health and well-being. They need two types of light: UVA and UVB.

  1. a) UVA Light: UVA light is essential for the tortoise's psychological well-being. It helps regulate their daily activities, such as feeding, mating, and basking. Use a high-quality UVA bulb that closely mimics natural sunlight. Keep the light on for 12-14 hours per day, and turn it off at night to mimic the natural day/night cycle.
  2. UVB Light: UVB light is crucial for Russian tortoises as it helps them synthesize vitamin D3, which is necessary for calcium absorption and overall bone health. Provide a high-quality UVB bulb with a rating of 10-12% for the best output. The bulb should be placed within 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) of the tortoise's basking area. Replace the UVB bulb every 6-12 months, as its effectiveness decreases over time. Make sure to turn off the UVB light at night to mimic the natural day/night cycle.
  • Natural Sunlight

Whenever possible, provide your Russian tortoise with access to natural sunlight. Sunlight is the best source of UVA and UVB light and is highly beneficial for their health. Ensure that your tortoise has access to a shaded area to prevent overheating and provide fresh water during outdoor exposure. Monitor the temperature and never leave your tortoise unattended in direct sunlight.

By maintaining these ideal lighting and temperature conditions, you will significantly improve the life quality of your Russian tortoises, promoting their health, happiness, and longevity.

A comprehensive diet plan for Russian tortoises should include a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional fruits. This plan ensures proper calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3 intake, promoting overall health and well-being.

Indoor Enclosure Guide for Russian Tortoises

Introduction

Creating a comfortable, safe, and stimulating indoor enclosure for your Russian tortoise is essential for its health and well-being. This guide will provide you with the recommended dimensions, substrate, and accessories to set up the perfect home for your Russian tortoise.

  • Recommended Dimensions

The size of the enclosure plays a significant role in the overall health and happiness of your tortoise. A larger enclosure allows for more freedom of movement and opportunities for exploration. For a single adult Russian tortoise, a minimum enclosure size of 4 feet by 2 feet (1.2 meters by 0.6 meters) is recommended, with a height of at least 1 foot (0.3 meters). If you have multiple tortoises or plan to add more in the future, increase the enclosure size by 2 square feet (0.19 square meters) per additional tortoise.

  • Substrate

The substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the enclosure. It's essential to choose a substrate that is comfortable for your tortoise to move on and helps maintain the appropriate humidity levels. A combination of coco coir and cypress mulch works well for Russian tortoises. This mixture provides the right balance of moisture retention and drainage, preventing the growth of mold and bacteria. Make sure the substrate is at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep to allow your tortoise to dig and burrow as they would in the wild.

  • Accessories
  1. Hide Box: A hide box provides your tortoise with a secure and comfortable place to rest and sleep. It can be made from a variety of materials, such as wood or plastic. Ensure the hide box is large enough for your tortoise to fit comfortably inside but small enough to provide a sense of security.
  2. Basking Area: A basking area is essential for your tortoise's health, as it helps them regulate their body temperature and absorb essential UVB rays. Set up a basking spot with a flat rock or slate under a heat lamp, ensuring the surface temperature is between 95°F (35°C) and 100°F (38°C).
  3. Water Dish: A shallow water dish is necessary for your Russian tortoise to drink and soak in. Make sure it's large enough for your tortoise to easily enter and exit but shallow enough to prevent drowning.
  4. Food Dish: A flat rock or a shallow dish can be used as a food dish for your tortoise. It's important to keep the food off the substrate to prevent ingestion of substrate material.
  5. Enrichment: To keep your tortoise mentally stimulated, incorporate a variety of enrichment items into the enclosure, such as tunnels, climbing structures, and edible plants like hibiscus or dandelion.
  • Lighting and Temperature

Install a UVB light to mimic the sun's natural rays, which are crucial for your tortoise's health, particularly for calcium absorption and vitamin D3 synthesis. Ensure that the UVB light is within 12 inches (30 cm) of your tortoise's basking area. Maintain a temperature gradient in the enclosure, with a basking area temperature of 95°F (35°C) to 100°F (38°C) and a cooler area of 70°F (21°C) to 75°F (24°C). Use a thermometer to monitor the temperatures regularly.

Conclusion

By following this guide, you can create a comfortable and stimulating environment for your Russian tortoise. With proper care and attention to their enclosure, you'll significantly improve their quality of life, ensuring they remain healthy and happy.

Now, if you've ever used ChatGPT, you know it can't generate this kind of output.  This is what BabyAGI does. And remember: This is just the beginning.  Soon, the APIs will have internet access, plugins and be able to do vastly more than this.  This is why they talk about safety so much.  Imagine what the malicious will do.  

We are entering an amazing and frightening future.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy some kale.

 

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #10 - Little New Things

Published on Thursday, April 13, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

I spend a lot of time debugging AI in games. This means having to play the game over and over and over again trying to see why the AI is doing something dumb.

Two features that will be rolling out into Supernova and then back to the base game are:

  1. Fast Move

  2. Fast Battles

When you turn these on, ships move instantly to their destination and battles occur without any fanfare. It makes the turns go by insanely fast.

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #9 - The FAQ

Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

What is Galactic Civilizations?

GalCiv is a 4X turn-based strategy game series where players lead civilizations, expanding and conquering the galaxy.

 

What is a 4X game?

In 4X games, players explore space, expand empires, manage resources, and strategize in battles for galactic dominance.

 

So this is the 4th GalCiv game, then?

Technically, it’s the 7th as there were 3 versions on IBM’s OS/2 operating system in the 1990s. GalCiv is the oldest, continually developed space 4X series.

 

I played GalCiv II but didn’t like GalCiv III, will I like IV?

Maybe? GalCiv IV was developed by the GalCiv II team (during GalCiv III that team was on other projects and the lead developer was on maternity leave, so you can blame her – we do).  If you haven't played GalCiv III recently, you really should. It's pretty good now.  But GalCiv IV is intended to take the best from II and III.

 

I’ve read some people kvetching about GalCiv IV. Why’s that?

GalCiv IV was a big departure from previous GalCiv games. Some (a lot) of the criticism was justified because many of the new ideas didn’t really get balanced as well as they should. In a turn based game, pacing is everything. Imagine if it takes 8 turns on average to research a tech instead of 5?

The biggest issue in GalCiv IV at release was the new multi-parameter AI we introduced. It is much smarter than anything we’d done before. However, it played the game in a way that was frustrating to other players because it exploited game design decisions such as allowing colony worlds to be conquered by non-transport ships. So, the AI figured out how to split up its forces into dozens of small fleets to simultaneously attack many colonies at once.

 

How have you solved this?

We made the AI powered by a Vic-20. Also, we changed the game design so that every ship now has a conquest rating and that if the # of turns to conquer a planet is > 10 it won’t let it invade.

 

Wait, so you solved this by changing a number?!

Look buddy, I’m not the one on trial here!

 

Yes you are!

Well it got fixed, right?

 

So you’re saying that that was the only thing wrong with the game?

No. That’s just one example. But, it is representative of the perils of trying out big new ideas in a turn based 4X game. It takes time to settle these things.

 

So you’re going to charge your loyal fans of GC4 money to fix this stuff? You are greedy bastards.

No. The balance stuff and even a lot of the mechanics stuff will be back-ported to the base game.

 

So why was GC4 only on Epic?

Because we made an agreement with Epic to put GC4 exclusively on their storefront for a period of time.

 

Well, that was a terrible business decision. You miss out on all the Steam sales! You are fools!

We were paid $100 billion to do this.

 

What? Oh, I can see now.

No, we weren’t actually paid that much - but the point is, unless you know the terms and conditions you really don’t know if it was a good idea or not. However, it was enough to fund Sins of a Solar Empire II.

 

So will it ever be on Steam?

We can’t discuss that at this time.

 

Whatever. So can you give me the super high level big new stuff you put into GC4?

The main new features in GC4 are include:

  1. Sectors. Previous GalCiv games were a single map of a given size. GalCiv IV lets you have multiple maps of various sizes connected together via subspace streams.

  2. Leaders. You can recruit leaders who have their own stats and background story to run things in your civ.

  3. Policies. Rather than just having a few sliders to adjust things, players can select from dozens of policies to control their civilization.

  4. Executive Orders. A new resource called Control has been added. It allows players to instantly execute an action in the game if they have enough control.

  5. Core worlds vs. Colonies. For the first time, we’ve split habitable planets into two types. Core worlds are the ones you directly manage. You have to consume a precious leader to do this. Colonies are typically low quality worlds, but they feed their resources into the core worlds. This makes colonization more interesting and less micro-managey.

  6. Combat/Invasions Changes. No longer are these single turn things. It can take multiple turns for a big battle to conclude, allowing time for reinforcements. Same for invasions. Any ship can invade a colony world.

  7. Prestige Victory. A new victory condition has been created. Players earn points based on how well they’re doing. If they get enough points, they win. This largely eliminates the “I’ve won the game already but I have to spend another 4 hours conquering everyone.”

  8. Missions. Rather than a campaign, players can go on missions that reward them with prestige points. This can help put a player over the top to victory.

  9. Ideology. A sophisticated ideology system was added that let players add traits to their civilization. Players earned points in a particular ideology by how they deal with various events.

  10. New Economic System. A new, much better economic system is in. Raw resources come from the worlds and the improvements players put on planets magnify these inputs. It’s a much cleaner, more satisfying system.

 

Wow. That sounds awesome! It must have worked out great! So why even bother doing Supernova? I mean, how could you possibly improve on that? You’re obviously a genius!

Well…

 

Well, what? What could possibly be a problem here? What are you trying to say?

So let’s talk about that…

  1. Sector Subspace Streams. Players will be able to enter them by going near the entrance rather than having to use a single tile (this will be put into the base game, too).

  2. A New Invasion Screen. Planets and colonies can be upgraded to increase their planetary defense, which makes them harder to invade. Invasions are also much more clearly communicated.

  3. Totally New Combat System. For the first time since GalCiv II, we are redoing combat. Instead of having 3 types of weapons and 3 types of defenses, there is no limit on this. Weapon classes will have things like range, rate of fire, and accuracy. Defenses will focus on things like evading, mitigating, or absorbing damage. This comes with a much more detailed combat screen for showing what happened at length.

  4. Ship Classes. In every GalCiv game (even the OS/2 version) the end game always involved players spamming out the biggest/baddest ships and stomping everyone. Now, there are ship classes (fighters, frigates, cruisers, battleships, dreadnoughts) which have their own strengths and weaknesses in combat. Thus, a smaller, better organized fleet can take out a much larger one. This is akin to what the allies learned in early World War II when big battleships fell prey to smaller fleets that had fighters.

  5. More Characters. We will have vastly more characters with far more backstories that will trigger more quests (events/missions) so that players will care a bit more about who they hire for their civilization.

  6. Terror Stars. Players (or AI players) who want to…um…move things along in the late game can now build star destroying Terror Stars that will annihilate a star (and the planets orbiting them).

  7. New Civilizations. We are adding several new civilizations to the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

  8. Cultural Progress. This system will replace the ideology system. Culture points are a new global resource and player actions during the game will affect the cost of different cultural traits which can shape your civilization.

  9. A more Honest Economic System. This will get back-ported. So, raw resources are multiplied by improvements built by the player. However, now natural buffs on a planet are determined by what the raw resource inputs are. For instance, a planet that has 0 mineral resources as an input won’t have a bunch of planetary tiles with mineral buffs on them to mislead players into thinking this would be a good planet for being a great manufacturing world…cough.

  10. Flagships. Players will have a single flagship. If it is destroyed, they can build another one. Flagships replace Survey ships. But, they can only have 1 (not counting the commander ships they can recruit). This is because of…

  11. Super Anomalies. Anomalies no longer just give you little bits of nonsense. Instead, each one involves a narrative with consequences. As a result, there are a lot fewer anomalies around, but they are much more meaningful.

  12. New Map Generation. Map generation has been completely redone to affect pacing, challenge level, and how valuable things are. For instance, Strategic Resources are much much rarer but also much more powerful. Fighting for resources is going to be a major thing.

  13. Playing Tall is Viable. New policies for certain species will allow players to actually become stronger based on how small they are versus how large other civilizations are (i.e. gain a tiny % of all trade in the universe).

 

Is there anything else?

OH YES. Some of the biggest things we are keeping close to the vest for now.

 

So when can I get this?

Early access begins April 27.

 

How much?

There will be a stand-alone version of the game as well as an expansion pack. If you have the base game, the expansion cost will be nominal while it’s in early access.

 

What about the graphics?

My mom says the graphics are less ugly than before.

 

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #8 - The Supernova Crisis

Published on Friday, March 31, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

In the year 2245, the Terran Alliance and their coalition had emerged victorious in a battle against the Drengin Empire, thanks to the recovery of a mysterious Precursor weapon.

The Thalans, an advanced civilization that claimed to be from a nightmare future where humans were responsible for the destruction of the entire Milky Way galaxy, persuaded the humans to send the Precursor weapon back into the void of the pocket dimension it had been previously sent to. Shortly after, the Thalan Empire disappeared, never to be seen again, despite having been part of the galactic scene for almost a century.

The peace enforced upon the Drengin Empire was harsh. Its once-mighty military was stripped and was only allowed a handful of scientific exploration vessels. Its companion world, Kona, was occupied by the United Planets, now dominated by the humans of the Terran Alliance.

This time became known as the Long Peace. For half a century, the galaxy had virtually no conflict, and the Drengin seemed content with their much-diminished position in the known galaxy.

However, the Drengin Empire was not idle during that time. In fact, they had found a crashed mapping ship of a species known as the Navigators. These beings had developed technology to discover and navigate the subspace streams that connected the sectors of the galaxy together. These subspace streams allowed them to quickly visit the other sectors.

The Drengin, armed with the ability to visit other sectors, used this to secretly rebuild and re-arm themselves. While Drengi Prime and its occupied sister world of Kona appeared docile and unarmed, the Drengin had found and conquered another world in the Vela Sector and used it as a launchpad to acquire the resources needed to rebuild their military might.

The peace the galaxy had enjoyed came to a sudden end in 2307 when the Drengin Empire arrived at Kona with a substantial military force and ejected the occupying force from the United Planets. While the Drengin Empire's military power was a shadow of its former self, it was still formidable because the other civilizations, including the Terran Alliance, had dramatically reduced their militaries in this new era of peace.

The breakdown of peace and stability also resulted in the disbanding of the United Planets itself. It did not take long for the other worlds to figure out how the Drengin had accomplished their sudden growth. Moreover, the Navigators, now aware of the threat, were able to use their technology to make the subspace stream entrances invisible to all but themselves. However, this would be a temporary measure as it would only be a matter of time before the Drengin and the other civilizations developed technology to overcome this obstacle.

Worse, the Drengin colony, now cut off from the rest of the galaxy, encountered another civilization known as the Prisimari, a crystal-based species that uses a technology that causes stars to go supernova. The Prisimari do not use their technology as a weapon but as a way to harvest stars for rare resources. However, the Drengin saw it as a way to develop Terror Stars, massive starbases that can destroy the stars of enemies.

This brings us to the year 2317 and a new space race. The powers of the Orion sector such as the Terrans, Arceans, Altarians, Torians, Iconians, Krynn, and Yor are about to encounter a host of new civilizations. The civilizations that develop the ability to detect and utilize Subspace Streaming will find themselves able to travel to vastly distant areas of the galaxy. Those who fail or are slow to achieve this ability will be left behind in a galaxy that will soon have civilizations that can cause the stars of their enemies to go supernova.

The emergence of the Prisimari and their technology has added a new level of complexity and danger to this space race. The Prisimari are a formidable opponent with their crystal-based bodies and advanced technology. The potential weaponization of their technology, known as Terror Stars, has caused great concern across the galaxy, and negotiations are ongoing to prevent its spread.

The situation is delicate, and any misstep could have catastrophic consequences. There are growing concerns that the technology may fall into the wrong hands and lead to an era of conflict and turmoil in the galaxy. Some have even suggested a preemptive strike to eliminate the threat before it becomes too great. However, others argue that this would only serve to escalate the conflict and potentially lead to catastrophic consequences.

As the age of Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova begins, the future of the galaxy is uncertain. The potential for conflict looms large, but there is also the possibility of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. Only time will tell what lies ahead for the Orion sector and the galaxy as a whole. 

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

The AI Prisoner's Dilemma: Why Pausing AI Development Isn't the Answer

Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 By Brad Wardell In Artificial Intelligence

A recent open letter signed by tech giants, including Elon Musk, has called for a halt in AI development, citing "profound risks to society and humanity." But could this pause lead to a more dangerous outcome? The AI landscape resembles the classic Prisoner's Dilemma, where cooperation yields the best results, but betrayal tempts players to seek personal gain.

If OpenAI pauses work on ChatGPT, will others follow, or will they capitalize on the opportunity to surpass OpenAI? This is particularly worrisome given the strategic importance of AI in global affairs and the potential for less transparent actors to monopolize AI advancements.

Instead of halting development, OpenAI should continue its work while advocating for responsible and ethical AI practices. By acting as a role model, implementing safety measures, and collaborating with the global AI community to establish ethical guidelines, OpenAI can help ensure that AI technology benefits humanity rather than becoming a tool for exploitation and harm.

The solution to AI's challenges is not a simple halt in research efforts. A nuanced approach involving continued progress, collaboration, and the establishment of ethical and safety protocols is essential to making AI work for everyone.

GalCiv IV: Supernova Dev Journal #5 - The Planets are Liars

Published on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv IV Dev Journals

As you know, in GalCiv IV core worlds are the backbone of your civilization.  But not all planets are created equal. This is communicated in two ways:

First, by the raw planetary inputs (minerals, tech, food, wealth, culture) and

Second, by the types of tiles that the planet has on it.

Unfortunately, in GalCiv IV, the two don't reflect on each other.  They're disconnected.  What I mean is that you could have a planet with a high tech raw resource input and have no tiles that promote research related improvements.

Worse, you could have a planet with very little in mineral inputs that has a host of tile perks that give a percentage boost to manufacturing.

This system is frustrating and maddening.  

In an upcoming update to GalCiv IV, as part of our work on "GalCiv IV: Supernova," we are revisiting the whole thing.

With our new system, the input resources are tied more closely to the types of tiles that are on a planet. This means that players will have a clearer understanding of the benefits and limitations of each planet, allowing them to make more informed decisions about how to develop them. For example, if a planet has a large number of mineral-rich tiles, then investing in mineral improvements will yield a much greater benefit than investing in research improvements.  A planet filled with manufacturing bonus will always have a reasonable number of mineral inputs.

We have also put a great deal of effort into ensuring that the new system is both balanced and nuanced. While we want players to have a clearer understanding of the benefits and limitations of each planet, we also want to ensure that there is still room for creativity and experimentation. This means that while certain improvements will be more effective on certain types of tiles, there will still be opportunities for players to find unique and effective solutions.

Another key benefit of the new system is that it will help to create more distinct and varied planets. With the input resources more closely tied to the types of tiles, each planet will have its own unique strengths and weaknesses. This means that players will need to think carefully about how they develop each planet, rather than simply applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

With any luck, we'll have this change available this spring.

 

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Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova Dev Journals

ChatGPT vs. Bing AI: Wine selections

Published on Friday, February 24, 2023 By Brad Wardell In Artificial Intelligence

ChatGPT

Bing AI

I really love red cabernet wine. Please recommend 15 bottles of this priced between $50 and $100 that are very high quality.

 

  1. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon - This Napa Valley wine is known for its rich flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, and espresso. It is priced around $60 and is highly rated by wine experts.
  2. Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as rich and bold, with notes of black cherry, vanilla, and spice. It is priced around $80 and is highly regarded by wine enthusiasts.
  3. Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon - This Napa Valley wine is known for its complex flavor profile, which includes notes of black currant, chocolate, and cedar. It is priced around $60 and is highly rated by wine critics.
  4. Joseph Phelps Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as intense and full-bodied, with flavors of blackberry, chocolate, and espresso. It is priced around $80 and has received numerous awards and accolades.
  5. Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is highly regarded for its velvety texture and complex flavors, which include blackberry, vanilla, and spice. It is priced around $100 and is consistently highly rated by wine experts.
  6. Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - This Napa Valley wine is known for its rich, full-bodied flavor and smooth finish. It is priced around $100 and is highly regarded by wine critics.
  7. Dominus Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as elegant and complex, with notes of black cherry, cassis, and tobacco. It is priced around $100 and is highly rated by wine experts.
  8. Silverado Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is known for its bold, structured flavors of black cherry, mocha, and spice. It is priced around $75 and has received numerous awards and accolades.
  9. Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as complex and balanced, with flavors of blackberry, cassis, and vanilla. It is priced around $85 and is highly regarded by wine enthusiasts.
  10. Faust Cabernet Sauvignon - This Napa Valley wine is known for its rich, layered flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, and espresso. It is priced around $50 and has received numerous awards and high ratings.
  11. Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as full-bodied and complex, with notes of black currant, mocha, and spice. It is priced around $60 and is highly rated by wine critics.
  12. Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is known for its smooth, balanced flavors of blackberry, cherry, and vanilla. It is priced around $60 and is highly regarded by wine enthusiasts.
  13. Rodney Strong Alexander's Crown Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as rich and intense, with flavors of blackberry, black currant, and dark chocolate. It is priced around $75 and has received numerous awards and high ratings.
  14. Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - This Napa Valley wine is known for its complex, layered flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and vanilla. It is priced around $85 and is highly regarded by wine experts.
  15. Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is often described as elegant and balanced, with notes of black cherry, cassis, and chocolate. It is priced around $60 and has received numerous awards and high ratings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really love red cabernet wine. Please recommend 15 bottles of this priced between $50 and $100 that are very high quality.

 

Twitter now limits tweets!

Published on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

So the new Twitter limits the # of tweets you can make per day.  You'd think this might be a big number but it's not.  It's something like 10 PER DAY.  

 

UPDATE: This was a temporary bug and is now fixed apparently.

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