Brad Wardell's Blog


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.

 

______________________________________________________


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. 

______________________________________________________


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.

 

______________________________________________________


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.

725 pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next