Brad Wardell's Blog

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.


GalCiv II (Twilight of the Arnor)

GalCiv III (Retribution)

GalCiv IV [Alpha]


· 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.


· 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


· 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.


· 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


· 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.


· 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.



· 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.


· 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)


· Anomaly: Trade +5%

· Anomaly: Research boost of 25 points

· Research: Artificial Gravity perfected


· New colony: Galen (class 22)

· Increased tax rate to High.


· 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.


· 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.


Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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.


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).


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.


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!





Quantum Targeting Computer


Allows ship to attack targets +1 tiles away

Quantum Computing

Organic Nanite Slurry


Completely heals a ship after every battle

Construction drones

Precursor Accelerator


+1 to moves


Precursor Blade of Armor


+1 to all defenses


Precursor Torpedo


+2 to missiles


Precursor Teleporter


Ship can teleport to target destination

Precursor Relic Proficiency

Auto Factory


Ship requires no logistics

Improved Life Support

Precursor Survey Module


Ship can survey


Hyperdrive Disruptor


Enemy ships in its range move at 1 move

Warp Drive

Last Breath


When destroyed, enemy ship takes 100 damage

Artifact Mastery

Beam Nullifier


90% of enemy beam weapon power is removed.

Defensive Studies

Scavenging Computer


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


Weakpoint Computer


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

Weak AI

Second Chance


Upon destruction, ship is returned to home world

Precursor Relic Mastery

Stay tuned!


Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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 ( (2017)

Gameplay Example: Drengin-Human Wars XXII ( (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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

Looking at my 3 main resources I have: image




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


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.


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


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

…End of Part 1…



Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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%


  • 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:


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).


Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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.



Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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


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


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.



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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


Galactic Civilizations IV Dev 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).


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.


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:


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:



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.


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


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.


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


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:






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.


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).


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


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. 


Galactic Civilizations IV Dev Journals

Start11 v0.55 beta update delivers centered taskbar

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

Cool feature update in the latest beta build of Stardock's Start11 (  

This is on Windows 10.


This is on Windows 10.  

Here's the option:

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


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