Brad Wardell's Blog

Galactic Civilizations III v3 Preview: A great start!

Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Everyone loves a good start.



Every game of Galactic Civilizations is different.  The original tagline was: “Never the same game twice.”  It isn’t that the game is randomized as much as it is that each game is designed to be carefully imbalanced in a way that tries to push the player into avoiding well-worn strategies.

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Why companies with long-term plans must make their customers top priority

Published on Friday, March 23, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

This article was originally written in 2001 as Stardock was nearing it’s 10th anniversary but it is as true now as it was then.

Companies often give lip service on customer support.  But in my experience, few companies really understand that supporting customers isn’t just a moral issue, it’s also good business.

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Star Control: So you want to build a planet?

Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

In preparation for the Game Developer's Conference we wanted to put a polish pass on the planets in Star Control: Origins.

There are about 3,000 unique planets that are split into roughly 75 different classes.  Each class of planet has its own challenges, as well as its own mineral deposits that you might want to collect (along with ruins, cities, smugglers, creatures, etc.).

Today, I'm going to walk you through how we create our planet classes.

Unique, Procedural and Hand-Crafted

You can't hand craft 3,500 planets.  And it would not be a good thing for every planet class to be the same.  So how do we solve this?  Through a mixture of procedural generation and designer balance. And this gets me up to "Programmer art" level.

The Primordial world

One of the planet classes is known as a Primordial world. These are worlds that are still simmering with active volcanoes, have a variety of minerals, and occasionally have life.

A humble beginning

Yea...not so pretty


But that's ok.  We can fix all that.


We start with our planet template which is called...wait for it...Primordial. This file refers to materials (what thinks look like) and stamps (what things are shaped like).

In the game, they're located here:

  1. In assets\PlanetTemplate are the types for every planet.

  2. In assets\Terrain is the default.terrainmaterial set.

  3. In assets\Stamplists the stamplists are available.

  4. In assets\Stamps are the stamps the stamplists use.

Setting it up

From my Primoridal planet template, I set up the stats and choose my stamp list.  The stamp list is a series of stamps with weighting on them that helps determine the odds of a given stamp being chosen for a particular planet at a particular time.  This way, every planet looks different.

Choose our stamps and weights

Now that I've set up my stats (the weather, what minerals are likely to show up, odds of life, temperature, gravity, etc.), I choose what stamps will be on there. Now, the fun starts.


Code: xml
  1. <stamplist>
  2. <stamp asset="Mountain01_Basev05" weight="1" />
  3. <stamp asset="TextureVariation_Grass" weight="1" />
  4. <stamp asset="TextureVariation_Flowersv1" weight="1" />
  5. <stamp asset="ForestA_v1" weight="1" />
  6. <stamp asset="Volcano01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  7. <stamp asset="Hill01_WispyRockv01v02" weight="1" />
  8. </stamplist>


That's just me picking 6 stamps and putting them up.  Just curious what that will do.  I hit F5 on the planet and...

Mmmm. Bumpy.


Trial and Error

Over the next several minutes I pick various other stamps and end up with this:


Code: xml
  1. <stamp asset="ForestA_v1" weight="1" />
  2. <stamp asset="ForestA_v2" weight="1" />
  3. <stamp asset="CanyonCap01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  4. <stamp asset="CanyonOpen01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  5. <stamp asset="CanyonStraight01_Basev01" weight="1" />


Time for some atmosphere

Back in the planet template file, I can set up my atmosphere. Basically, what color is it, how transparent it is, and how thick is it.


Final Result

My Primordial planet


Now it's ready to leave the designer's "programmer art" state and move to the artists for further polishing and iteration over the months. 

This is just one class of planet.  Each planet of this class will be different.  But you can also create specific, individual planets that can look like anything you want. 

I suspect there will be a big library of planet classes made by fans (as well as specific planets) that will easily blow away my quick work here, or even the final effort, based on what I've seen people do in other games.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Galactic Civilizations III v3 Preview: Strange new worlds

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


The premise of Galactic Civilizations is that you have united your homeworld and are now ready to send your first colony ship off into space.  What kind of alien worlds do you think we can settle?

The reality is, many worlds are not going to be safe for us.  We'll have to live in environmentally sealed enclosures at first.  Not because they are too cold or lack the right atmospheric conditions (though that is an issue), but rather because many worlds will have microbes that just aren't compatible with our biology.

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Star Control: The Multiverse thread

Published on Saturday, March 17, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

In the prime Star Control universe (Origins) the Star Control project was formed to find out what happened to the post-singularity species, the Lexites after they left Earth.

Star Control: Origins represents the third universe that players have been able to adventure in.

Let's recap:

Star Control 1/2: 
Year: 2120s and on:

Earth is fighting a losing war with its allies, the Alliance of Free Stars against the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. In Star Control 2, the player is the captain of a Precursor vessel that must find a way to bring the defeated allies together and stop the Kohr-Ah, the Ur-Quan's sibling species, from annihilation all life in this area of space.

Star Control 3: 
Year: 2120s and on:
In this alternative universe, the Alliance of Free Stars won the war against the Hierarchy but at the cost of destroying Hyperspace as we know it. Now, a new enemy arises who thrives on a universe without Hyperspace and you must save the day.  This is our retcon so that we can make clear that Star Control I/II and III are in different universes.  Thus, if the story from Star Control II is continued in the future, it can be done so while easily ignoring the events of III.

Star Control: Origins 
Year: 2088:
Earth's radio signals have been detected by the malevolent Scryve Empire who dominate our area of space. They see the potential in humanity and wish to obliterate the humans before they reach their potential. You must find a way to stop the Scryve before they discover the location of Earth. Good luck though as the humans of 2086 are about as ready to handle this as...well, what you'd expect the humans of 2088.


Each of the 3 universes have important differences.

Star Control I/II is the beloved classic released by Accolade 25 years ago.

Star Control III is...less beloved (also released by Accolade) around 20 years ago.

Most people (90%) won't be familiar with the classic games which is another reason why Star Control: Origins has a clean start.

Here is one fact we can reveal:

In Star Control: Origins there was no Sentient Milieu like there was in the backstory for Star Control 2.  Thus, all the species evolved very differently than they might have done so.

In Origins, a powerful empire known as the Scryve grew to dominate our area of space around 8,000 years ago after overthrowing the "Faction of Eight" who are no longer in this area of space.  We don't know who the faction of 8 are or what role the Origins (the multi-dimensional gateways) had in helping the Scryve against the Faction of Eight.

Feel free to comment or ask questions in this thread.





Intrigue Journal #1: Space-Time is unforgiving

Published on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

image13 minutes, 48 seconds.  That’s how long it took the Curiosity rover’s signal to reach Earth from Mars - and Mars is in our own solar system.

Intrigue is the name of the upcoming expansion pack to our best-selling space strategy game, Galactic Civilizations III.  It’s not called “Government” or “Politics”. It’s Intrigue.  13 minutes, 48 seconds between responses for radio signals in our own solar system leaves a lot of time for uncertainty, for doubt, for fear…for intrigue.

Let’s walk through how colonization might actually work.  Let’s presume humans get to Mars in the 2030s.  Let’s also presume that at some point in the not so distant future, we actually plant a colony on Mars.  Are those colonists citizens of Mars? Or are they citizens of their respective, Earthbound, nation states?  How long would that work? How many generations would that work for? Would it survive the first crisis?  Would humans, born and raised on Mars, care about the political maneuverings in Washington DC? Berlin? Beijing? London? I suspect that there would be point where the government would need to change in order to deal with large populations of people living off world.

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Star Control: Secret Briefing #1 - The Jupiter Trip

Published on Friday, March 2, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

Good afternoon.  Below is the captain's log from the recent Jupiter test of the prototype Emdrive MK I.  As a reminder, all information concerning the Emdrive remains classified.  Please return your Aug glasses to the front counter when you have finished this briefing.

Captain's Log: March 2, 2086…

There are 69 known moons of Jupiter. 

Jupiter is the first planet we’re sending Star Control’s prototype ship to visit. Powered by the Darius Robotics Emdrive MK I, the prototype can get from Star Control command to Jupiter in a matter of days, rather than months.  It is ironic that the prototype is powered by a drive made by Darius Robotics, given that Darius Erdmann is now gone, lost to the Lexites.


The prototype closes in on Jupiter, March 2086.

Some people have speculated that Jupiter was meant to be Sol’s twin in a binary star system.  In reality, Jupiter is not even close to having enough mass to be a star.  You would need at least 80 Jupiters to have a chance. Jupiter was chosen as our first test because of the various types of moons that will allow for a good measure of the lander’s capabilities.

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