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CRUSADE DIARY 6: What kind of Civilization do you want to build?

Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2017 By Draginol

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What kind of people are you?

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I think the biggest reason the Galactic Civilizations series has been so popular over the years has been because each game is your own epic story.

In fact, the biggest request we get is to make the galaxy feel move alive.  With this Spring's mega expansion to Galactic Civilizations III, we hope to do just that.

With Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade, we've been able to use the new, 64-bit, multicore game engine to create a much more lively universe as the engine allows us to deal with a lot more entities than what was possible in, say, Galactic Civilizations II.

Today, let's talk about what kind of civilization you might want to create.

Crusade Economics: A Primer

Galactic Civilizations has been with me my entire adult life.  Since 1992, I've been making this game (GalCiv OS/2, GalCiv I, GalCiv II).  I took a break to design Ashes of the Singularity and now I'm back for the Crusade with a re-imagined look at how the economy works.

In Crusade, everything is very, very tight. That is, every resource matters.  The numbers across the board are much smaller and this has ramifications everywhere.  The result is a massive change to the pacing. It's both faster than the base game (early game) and slower (late game, techs and buildings and cool ships are not a 1-turn affair).  Each choice you make is meant to be meaningful.

Let's start from the beginning of a game:

TURN 1

TURN 1: RESEARCH CHOICES

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A: Research Resource Exploitation, which gives me access to Kimbrey's Refuge (a Galactic Achievement that produces 4 food, the only early game way of producing global food)

OR

B: Research Planetology, which let's me build Brindle's Observatory, a Galactic Wonder that will discover a nearby Earthlike planet. 

OR

Research Interstellar Travel, which speeds up my ships by 1 move per turn

OR

Research Militarization, which will let me build the Strategic Command wonder and award me with a General (super early game invasions)

OR

Xeno Commerce, which lets me start building freighters

OR

Get Universal Translator, which will give me the ability to build the Galactic Intelligence Agency and grant me a spy very early on.

 

TURN 1: PLANET CHOICES

After we pick what technology we want to research, we are brought to the home planet (in this case, Earth) to decide what to build...

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A: Basic Factory to build things faster?

B: Research Lab to get new tech faster?

C: Shipyard to be able to build ships?

Wait, what? Yes. I took away your magic shipyard.  It's gone.  You have to build it. 

The shipyard bugged me a lot.  Here's why:

From 1992 when I started programming Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 all the way to 2008 when I worked on Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor, it was always with the premise that Turn 1 took place the same day Earth launched its first interstellar ship (and later, whatever alien race you're playing as).

Then suddenly, in GalCiv III you have a shipyard, a Colony ship, a Scout, and a Survey ship?  It just felt like we had gotten pretty far away from the idea that we're at the dawn of the galactic age. 

Now, I can hear some of you all the way from here saying, "But the early game will be too slow."  If we did this in the base game, it would be too slow.  But, like I said, numbers and early game is different now.

Crusade is NOT about spamming out colony ships.  The idea here is to have lots of interesting viable strategies.

If the early turns of a game are "boring," the answer is to fix that by making your choices more interesting, not throwing more stuff at you to do.  The base game of GalCiv III would be too slow if you didn't have all that stuff to do.  But Crusade is designed so that each turn matters including the first one and without so much stuff.

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Now, getting back to our tough choice.   I am going to choose FACTORY because there's a +3 manufacturing bonus tile.  And I will rush buy it.

And for my tech choice, I decide to choose Planetology so I can get Brindle's Observatory.

TURN 1: EXPLORATION CHOICES

The Survey Ship has a name:  the T.A.S. Discovery (for Humans, anyway).   The galaxy has a lot of interesting stuff that gradually respawns.  This means one economic strategy now is to build survey ships and send them out to go collect stuff. 

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A: Send the Discovery out to explore?

B: Send it over to the bottom left to get that cargo container?

 

Yea: I want the cargo container.


 

TURN 2

 

TURN 2: EXPLORATION CHOICES

The cargo container got my research half way done! Awesome!  New choices arrive:

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A:  Send him to get the two goodie huts below?

B: Send him out to explore?

I choose the goodies.

TURN 2: PLANET CHOICES

I rush build a second factory! Madness!

Still no shipyard!

But I still have 764 credits.

Delayed gratification will pay off.


TURN 3: EXPLORATION CHOICES

Awesome.  I found 1 Antimatter module, got 18 more credits, and the Discovery leveled up! And I found a Precursor Relic. Now I command the Discovery to explore.

TURN 3: PLANET CHOICES

Oh, now...

Now I build the Shipyard. And thanks to my delayed gratification, I have a pretty decent economy going.  I might feel differently if those wonderful nearby planets get colonized, though...

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Turn 3: I can now build ships

I also order a Research Lab to be built.

 

TURN 3: SHIPYARD CHOICES

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I design a ship based on a design I downloaded from Steam.  I call it "Serenity"

Now, which ship should I build?

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A: Serenity (my custom survey ship): Survey ships will go out and collect scattered resources

B: Colony ship (so I can get those sweet planets)

C: A Constructor: So I can lay permanent claim to galactic resources

D: A scout to go out and find stuff faster

I actually choose E: A short range colony ship I designed that is stripped down so that I can build it in 6 turns.

 

TURN 3: EVENT CHOICES

On Turn 3, I encounter an alien automated cargo ship that is carrying a shipment of a material called Durantium.  Its engines have failed but it is in the process of self-repairing and will be on its way.  What should we do?

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A: Help fix the cargo vessel and send it on its way [Benevolent] (Costs 100 credits)

B: Do nothing [Pragmatic]

C: Take the Durantium and destroy the ship [Malevolent] (Gain 5 Durantium)

In Crusade, Durantium  matters. A lot.  You can't build larger hulled ships without it and you can't build the higher end factories without it.  On the other hand, if I steal it, who knows how that might come back to bite me later.  And 100 credits is a lot to fix it and it might amount to nothing...

The point being that each turn, there is something meaningful happening and it's all driven by the new economic system.  There is a cost and benefit to everything.

  • Higher end factories require Durantium
  • Higher end research labs require Promethion
  • Lots of the wonders require some sort of exotic resource
  • Advanced Beam weapons require Elerium
  • Advanced Missile weapons require Anti-matter
  • Advanced Kinetic weapons require Thulium

And don't forget that planets have lots of strange and interesting resources that are also required for certain rare galactic achievements and components.

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Planets will tell you what resources are on them. 

And I'm already thinking about my next tech choice because Interstellar Travel will let me build the Eyes of the Universe wonder, but it requires 1 anti-matter resource which, as you may recall, I found!

 

And so it goes...


Soon...

Against the backdrop of thoughtfully deciding how to spend your precious finite resources, comes the new Citizen mechanic. You receive a new citizen every 10 turns (barring civ bonuses and events).  You train them in a particular field with the number of fields to choose from based on what techs you have.

 

Resource Trading

Economics is the driving force of your civilization.  You need stuff to keep your people safe and happy.  How you get that stuff depends on your focus: Guns or Butter.

With all the talk of resources and how important they are, the cynical 4X player might be (should be) thinking "Crusade better have a really good diplomacy system!"  And the answer is, yes. Yes it does.

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The bar in the middle changes to reflect the balance of the trade. As you add/remove resources, it updates.

Trading with other civilizations is now a lot easier.  And massively more fun.

 

Commanders

One alternative to trade is, of course, conquest.

One of the careers you can choose for your citizens is Commander.  When you have Commanders available, you can select any existing fleet in your game and add a Commander to it.

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The Commander in his flag ship with his fleet

I renamed my Citizen to be Commander Xander from Canton, Michigan (for my son).  Now, the Flagship itself is pretty awesome for a number of reasons.

  1. Doubles the speed of a given fleet. 
  2. Increase the fleet's logistics by 25% which means you can have more ships in your fleet. 
  3. Increases the hit points of your fleet by 25%. 

...And the ship itself is pretty decent in combat as well.

As cool as Commanders are, it's the promotions that make them really interesting.

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If you have the right ideology and the right resources, your Commanders can do some awesome stuff.

A few examples of what your Commanders can do if you have the right ideology and the resources:

  1. Convert ship into a transport (you have an opportunity to take a key world, you can convert your Commander to a General if you have the right resources).
  2. Martyr.  Guarantees victory. Destroys enemy fleet.  Citizens are very precious, so this would be a pretty desperate measure, is only available to the Pragmatic Ideology, and has a stiff resource cost.
  3. Overlord.  If you're evil enough, you can spend the resources and convert an enemy fleet.  Your Commander doesn't die but is promoted into an Overlord in the process (so it can only be done once).
  4. Sovereign.  You can transform your Commander into a Sovereign who will convert a target enemy fleet into belonging to the League of Non-aligned worlds. You lose the Commander, but it's a great way to take out a huge enemy fleet at a lower cost.
  5. Privateer.  Your fleet becomes Privateers.  You can go attack other fleets but no one knows who they belong to.  This is really fun if you want to help a third party directly without declaring war.
  6. Admiral.  And of course, you can promote your Commander to Admiral, which upgrades his ship to something sufficiently awesome if you have enough resources.

 

Wrapping up

What is really hard to communicate in a blog like this is just how much more engaged each turn is now.  Starting next week, we're going to be streaming Crusade weekly on our Twitch.TV channel. Please do me a favor and SUBSCRIBE to that channel (they're going to take my thumbs if you don't!).  So you'll be able to see just how much more engaged each turn is.

The increase engagement is not just because of the new features.  It's a top to bottom revisit of the entire game and how the game interacts with you.

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Trading resources is very cool

Below are just some, off the top of my head, examples experienced just in this game:

  • I need to build Pascal's Garden.  This Wonder will double the planet Tristan II's influence production.  However, it requires 2 Arnorian Spice and a 1 Techapod Hive.   My friends the Altarians have the Spice and the Drengin have the Techpod hive.  The new trade system makes it easy to bargain with them to get this.
  • The Drengin come to me and want some of my Anti-matter.  I don't dare give them any because I know they have specialized on Missile weapons and the really powerful ones all use anti-matter.
  • The Yor want some Xanthium metal.  That makes me think they're probably going to be building a wonder.
  • The Drengin rely on Precursor Nanites which will allow them to promote their Engineers into Master Engineers (which will really super charge their ship building).  So I put a spy on their Precursor Nanite mine, shutting it down until they remove it. 
  • The Krynn military is getting pretty scary.  I am sending a second diplomat to them which will increase my relations.
  • All the new balancing in the game makes the numbers fit nicely together. Gone are the 100+ manufacturing per turn.  All the numbers have been rebalanced to make decisions more meaningful.  It's hard to put into words.
  • The battles look a lot cooler.
  • Everything you own (even asteroid mines) gives off a bit of influence.
  • Ideology matters a lot more.  What you can and can't do with your citizens is based on your ideological choices.
  • There are a lot more events in the game that have interesting, meaningful results (I'll be doing a blog on this soon).
  • The updated tech trees matter a lot more.  Each tech gives you something that matters. This also means we took out a lot of redundant planetary improvements.
  • The old ongoing projects thing is gone.  Instead, you can build projects that give you something specific after so many turns.
  • My breadbasket world is getting blight.  I will need to train a Farmer (which I really should have already), send them to that planet and promote him to be an Agronomist which will eliminate the blight on that planet.  Alternatively, I can click on the Blighted tiles and use Helius Ore to kill it...except I don't have any, only the Slynn have it and I'm at war with them.  But I'm currently -2 in food production which means my people are starting to starve and starving people will generate Rebels on my planet.
  • The Drengin vs. Torian war is going poorly for the Torians even though I have two Privateers nipping at Drengin freighters.
  • I built all my Wonders on Earth which let me win those wonders. But the maintenance is killing me.  I hate to do this but I'm going to promote my Administrator into a Tax collector which will increase my planet's income by 25% but will consume 2 goods and services (lowers my approval rating).

And you notice, I haven't even really gotten into Invasions yet...

NEXT WEEK: INVASIONS!

 

Screenshots:

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Every tile you own matters.  The entire influence/ZOC system has been redone.

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Strategic Zoom has been redone so that everything is cleaner. And since influence isn't just a big blob now, you have a lot more control over what is and isn't in your sphere of influence.

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Spies can tell me who they plan to attack, what their internal political issues are and of course, can steal tech, sabotage things, etc.

 

 


Previous Entries:


CRUSADE DIARY 5: Spies & Saboteurs

Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2017 By Draginol

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Spying on Aliens

Galactic Civilizations is a game that asks the question: What happens after we start colonizing other planets? For our purposes, we are going to assume that we will come into contact with alien civilizations.

Alien civilizations will have their own histories, cultures and ideals that we can only fathom.  In Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade, you will be able to train your citizens to learn more about these other civilizations and, if necessary, do very bad things to them.

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Tough Choices

If you are new to Galactic Civilizations, you can skip this section, since I'm going to be spending it creating great outrage among GalCiv III fans.

Dear GalCiv III fans,

Your old economy is dead. I killed it. 

I killed it because each citizen matters. A lot.  You get 1 every 10 turns.  That means in a typical game, you'll see around 25 citizens.  That means they're not disposable.   There are certain planetary improvements you can build that will give you specialists (like spies), but they will be either wonders or 1 per civilization and require resources. 

Bottom line: each citizen makes a difference.

Turn 1: A new start

For 25 years, Galactic Civilizations had a preferred strategy: the colony rush.  This isn't surprising because that was, after all, the premise of the game.  Crusade doesn't get rid of the colony rush, but it adds other equally viable strategies.

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Turn 1: Look closely at your resources: 5,000 credits, 10 population, 4 admin points.  And only 1 ship.

What uses administration?

  1. Colony Ships & Colonies
  2. Survey Ships (which you can now build on turn 1)
  3. Constructors

In the base game, the first turn meant moving your colony ship, survey ship, and scout around and then waiting 20 turns for a colony ship or whatever to be built.  Now, colony ships are cheap, but cost an administrator. Survey ships are instantly available and space junk provides resources, but also costs an administrator.

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Turn 1: Look at your home world. Raw Production =  base resource production in every category.  There are no "sliders". Instead, you directly control your output either through using those precious citizens on a planet, or globally.

Now, let's say you want to do the colony rush thing. Well, then you will need to make a tough choice once you consume those first 4 admin points:

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By turn 10, you will likely have 3 different training options for your citizens.

At this point, I've consumed my administration points with colony ships.  Do I want to train my first citizen as an administrator to get 5 more administrative points?  Or do we want to greatly increase our research? Or maybe greatly increase our planetary production.

You might say, "It's always better to have more colonies in the long run..."

But what if I told you that there's now a bunch of early game Galactic Wonders (that can only be built by one civilization)?

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Hey, look at that? An early game Wonder that if I obtain it, I get a free General (which would let me invade a planet super early)

Galactic Wonders aren't cheap.  The Strategic Command, which provides a free General used for invading planets, normally takes 28 turns.  But what if I trained my citizen to be a Worker?

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Putting my trained Worker on Earth yields a 33% bonus.

Now suddenly, that 28 turn wonder is down to 19 turns.  That's a huge advantage.  And the Strategic Command isn't the only early game wonder that does awesome stuff.  By the way, Basic Factories now only provide a 5% manufacturing bonus by default instead of 15%. This change scales through the whole game (the costs and production have all been redone).

And Citizens level up, which means he'll keep getting more and more powerful over the course of the game. 

The other choice, Research, is more obviously beneficial. An immediate 33% boost to research on Earth is pretty huge.  And they stack (33% + 33% + 33%) so yes, you can do some crazy stuff.  Just bear in mind that all the other numbers have been heavily nerfed and/or greatly increased before you start thinking about having planets with 10,000 production per turn. :)

 

 

Spies

When you research the Espionage technology, you can then train new citizens to be spies. 

 

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Train one of those precious citizens to be spies. 

So if a single Worker can increase production on a planet by 33%, you can imagine how powerful a single Spy must be to balance that.

For starters, you can choose to do nothing at all with your spy, in which case he or she handles counter-espionage:

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Similarly, you can assign them to an alien civilization and begin spying on them.  This means learning more about what they are up to as a civilization and later, stealing tech. 

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However, you can also use them for planetary destabilization.

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By clicking on colonies, you will be shown all of their planets that you know of (unless you've already done some surveillance, in which case you will get to see all their planets regardless of location).

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Placing a spy on a planet will do two things.  First, it knocks planetary production (raw production) down by 20% (and yes, it stacks).  Second, it will totally disable the improvement you station it on.  The target will know that there's a spy on that planet, but will not know who is doing it.

Now, I imagine some of you who were previously worrying about how powerful those 33% boosts to planet research from a single scientist are, are realizing that it doesn't seem quite so overpowering given that someone might nerf your production down by 20% with a spy or be stealing your tech that you're researching so aggressively, unless you save some spies for defensive uses. 

You can kill a spy by sacrificing one of your own spies to terminate it.

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We're still working on those descriptions... ;)

But that's not where spies stop being scary.  You can also promote them to become infiltrators, saboteurs, assassins, provocateurs and more -- if you have enough resources.    If you're an experienced 4X player, you probably read the above and thought about how screwed you could get if your enemies ganged up on you with spies.  However, if you are powerful enough in terms of resources (which is when your enemies are most likely to gang up), you can do things such as turn a spy into an Assassin and sacrifice them to kill all other enemy spies on a planet.  Similarly, you can use spies to wreck entire planets or get the people to revolt. 

The super powers of spies aren't lightly used because they cost a lot of resources and most of the time, players won't have those resources or they won't have the proper ideology (sorry, no genocide for you benevolent types).  What it does mean, however, is that late game, the gods of the galaxy will truly begin to feel like gods as they begin to smite their enemies.

 

 

Next up

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade will be released this Spring.  Spring is almost here.  As you are probably gathering, it is a top-to-bottom expansion of Galactic Civilizations.  

Next Week: Commanders!


CRUSADE DIARY 4: What is a 4X strategy game?

Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2017 By Draginol

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4X strategy. You may have heard of the term. It stands for: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate.  They are a specific genre of strategy game.  Today we are going to talk about them and how Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade, aims to innovate the genre.

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Besides 4X, there are other genres:  Real-Time Strategy games (RTS), such as Ashes of the Singularity and StarCraft, focus on harvesting resources to build units in order to destroy the enemy with it all happening in real-time.  Grand Strategy Games (GSG), such as Stellaris and Europa Universalis, tend to use continuous turns (similar to real-time) with the action focusing at the nation state (or galactic state) level.

The best known 4X game of all time is, by far, Sid Meier's Civilization.  4X games are typically turn-based (with the exception of Sins of a Solar Empire) and typically revolve around balancing finite resources in order to make "interesting choices."

The ideal 4X game would be one in which each turn presents an interesting choice to the player.  In Sid Meier's Civilization, the player is quickly confronted with a series of interesting choices when it comes to the first technology they research, the first unit they build, where they settle their first city; each decision leads to the next. Each game develops a natural evolution from exploring the world in order to know where the resources are, to expanding into the world to capture those resources, to exploiting the resources you have - and then exterminating all those who oppose you - 4X.

Sid Meier's Civilization is a historical 4X that starts with the first humans leaving their hunting and gathering ways.  Galactic Civilizations begins the moment people leave the Earth to colonize new worlds. Unlike with a historical 4X, a future-based 4X has the challenge of making the alien approachable. For example, not only do we have to explain what antimatter is, but why you would want it.

Today, we will talk about how Stardock's mega expansion, Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade (Crusade), will tackle the nature of future resources; but also how such resources allow us to explode the final act of the genre to resolve the age old "late game grind" problem.

Explore

If I were to describe the fundamental difference between Crusade and Galactic Civilizations III, it would be that Crusade is all about resources and how you use them.  Where the base game was largely about building a galactic civilization and the productive capacity of your people towards your strategic ends, Crusade couples that with the importance of resources and having access to them. 

As I am fond to saying to my fellow World War II history buffs, it's not like Germany could just rush buy another Panzer division.

In Crusade, almost everything requires access to a resource; colonizing a bunch of planets and having a huge population won't be enough.  You will have to own, beg, borrow or steal critical resources to succeed.

 

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NEW in Crusade: You can see what resources are on a planet before you colonize it.

In the base game, the planet class (a number from 1 to 20) was the driving factor of whether you wanted that planet or not.  The higher the number, the higher the population it could support. The higher the population, the more it could produce.  In Crusade, players can also see what special resources are on the planet before colonizing.  Suddenly, that class 9 planet with Techapod Hives on it might be more valuable than the class 14 planet next door.

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Turn 1

No more starbase spam and no more colony rush

The first thing a GalCiv III player will notice is that Constructors, Colony Ships, and Survey Ships now use Administrative resources.  Your time, or I should say, the time of your various minions, is finite.  This should be obvious but we have not included minion time (administration) as a resource in this manner before.  Thus, the early part of a Galactic Civilizations game was two fold: Rush build as many colony ships as you could provided you had good planets for them to go to, and rush build constructors otherwise.

But if I start with only 4 administrative resources, what should I build first?  Now you have to make some interesting decisions, especially since Survey Ships are now buildable from the start and the galaxy is littered with cargo-containers containing trace amounts of resources waiting to be picked up.

How do you get more administrative resources? In the Galactic Citizens article, we discussed how you can now train citizens to be Administrators.  Every so often, a citizen emerges and you can specialize him or her into a particular category based on what technologies you have.  If you want to have lots of starbases, survey ships and colonies, then you will need to train a lot of Administrators.  But training an Administrator means not training a Spy, or a Diplomat, or an Engineer, or a Scientist, or a Commander, or a General or any number of other specialists.

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Citizens determine how your resources are used.

Now, still on turn 1 I look at my randomly generated map playing as the humans.  In this game, I got a great start: Earth and Mars both have rare resources on them (or like those reading this, I restarted the game until I got my super mega awesome start...).

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Still Turn 1 you have access to some interesting resources

Techapods aren't space horses.  For one thing, they're on planets.  For another...they, um...well, shut up.  That's what.  Seriously, Techapods aren't new in the GalCiv universe but they were previously just an abstract trade resource.  In Crusade, a resource is a resource is a resource.  The idea behind Techapods is that if we could find a super robust alien creature that was highly trainable we would totally use them. 

The early part of a 4X is about exploring.  As I uncover the galactic fog I begin to see various types of interstellar resources, as well as some planets that have their own special resources.  Should I rush buy a colony ship to get the planet or rush buy the constructor to claim the precious interstellar resources?

Expand

The second act in a 4X game is expanding - that is, claiming territory; this is done through colony ships and constructors.  In Crusade, constructors build starbases but are not required to upgrade them anymore. 

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Administrators are required for both colonies and starbases.

Colonizing planets gives you ownership of that planet's resources and starbases give you control of nearby interstellar resources.  Planets produce a variety of resources based on what you build on the planet. 

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The 6 standard resources of a planet

Crusade changes the way food is used:  In the base game, food is a local resource that determines a planet's population cap.  In Crusade, food is a global resource that is consumed by cities that can be on other planets.

 

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My Food planet

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My City Planet

 

And then there are the rare resources found only on planets.  Techapods is a rare resource mentioned earlier.  Below is an incomplete list of some of the other resources you might find.

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There are a lot of resources in the galaxy. You may play many games before you find them all.

We'll talk more about these in a bit.

The Expand phase of 4X games ends when most or all of the planets and resources have been claimed.  In a well designed 4X game, the Explore and Expand phases are very enjoyable and make the player feel like he's had to make some challenging decisions.  The next phase is when players begin to execute their particular strategies for victory:  Exploitation of their resources.

Exploit

The lines have been drawn. The territories claimed. Through diplomacy, warfare, trade or other means players must begin executing the strategy they believe will lead them to victory.  Exploit represents the exploitation of resources human or otherwise.

 

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In Crusade, starbases construct their modules locally. If you have the necessary resources, you can build it.

Your planets are now producing resources each turn that go into your global inventory.  Similarly, your starbases are mining resources to go into your inventory as well.

One big change from the base game is that in Crusade, starbases are upgraded directly.  Since resources accumulate each turn, players can, over time, upgrade their starbases provided they have access to the necessary resource.  A good player may stock a lot of resources, build a group of constructors with a large fleet, and build a massive forward base as a prelude to war.

But what happens if you don't have legitimate access to a given resource?  Fear not, Crusade has a new strategy: Scavenging.  The galaxy is littered with cargo containers that have...been misplaced.  When one is collected, another one is usually spawned somewhere else.  Thus, constructing a fleet of survey ships is now a viable strategy for obtaining resources because these cargo containers often contain trace amounts of various resources. The player who wants to win via other means than direct warfare can be competitive this way.

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Cargo containers often contain trace amounts of a given resource.

What resources you have access to will impact what strategies you employ.  Each interstellar resource has a particular purpose:

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Suddenly, a good trade agreement providing resources per turn suddenly makes sense.  Diplomacy stops being about ripping off aliens for their money and instead negotiating resource treaties that, by their nature, cannot be exploited by humans.

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As much as you might want to build that cruiser with 35 moves per turn, doing so might consume most of your antimatter.  On the other hand, suddenly strike forces with constructors that can build hyper lanes, start to make more sense provided you can protect the starbases that provide them.

As cool as the Citizen system and resource system is, it has the added benefit of drastically reducing micromanagement.   You can hyper-specialize your planets without feeling like you're cheesing the game because you are doing it through means you earned and doing so in a way that doesn't require constant tinkering.

 

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With Citizens, you have much more direct control of your resources without the micro-management.

 

At this stage you have leveraged your resources to execute your strategy.  Victory means destroying the opposition.  You can win in Galactic Civilizations through a variety of means: Ascension, Conquest, Diplomatic and Culture.  But in any case, victory means eliminating those who oppose you one way or the other.

Exterminate

How a 4X game handles its last act determines whether it will be remembered as a classic or as a boring slog. One classic 4X - Master of Orion 2 - is well loved 20 years after release, partially because of how well it handled its final act.  In that game, they meant extermination quite literally as players would race to various planets dropping biological weapons.  Good times.

Crusade provides new strategic avenues to execute your strategy...decisively.

To recap:

  • Crusade introduces Citizens.  These are units that occasionally arrive that you can specialize into a number of different areas based on your strategy. 
  • Crusade also introduces accumulating resources of varying degrees of rarity. 

Late game, you are probably either in a desperate fight for survival, looking for a miracle, or in a position of power looking for a swift and satisfying triumph.  To deliver your miracle and/or decisive blow, we combine citizens and resources together to deliver a series of super abilities that can be activated by sacrificing a citizen along with a lot of resources.

 

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Pick a Citizen and...retire them.

We euphemistically refer to this as "Promoting" but in essence, you can spend a bunch of accumulated resources and based on your ideology, sacrifice a citizen to activate a one-time super power.

Note: Screenshots here are still a work in progress, the final game will look a bit different and have different descriptions.

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Have a scientist? Spend some nanites and antimatter and instantly get that technology you previously needed 90 turns for in exchange for retiring him. 

 

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Fighting a desperate war? Sacrifice your Commander for the cause by having him single handedly destroy an entire enemy fleet (provided you have the resources and the right ideology) .

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At last, you can finally work your people to death in a video game...

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...Doubly true if you play as the Drengin Empire.

 

 

 

And of course, Spies. We'll have a whole Dev Diary dedicated to them.

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Depending on your ideology, there are some pretty horrible things you can do with your Spies provided you have the right resources.

Every Citizen specialty has multiple super powers that they can use.  Often, using that power means sacrificing them or at least retiring them. Sometimes it's a power that can be used over and over. It just depends on what resources you have, how much you have, and what your dominant ideology is.  The ideology part matters because a benevolent civilization will not be able to use their spy to poison the atmosphere of a target world; and a malevolent civilization won't be able to access some of the cool influence super powers.

Through this combination, rather than the late game being a slog, it instead begins to wrap up in a very satisfying manner.  The player dominating the game will be able to use their resource advantage to bring the game to a swift conclusion. Or the crafty underdog may be able to make a bold move through sacrificing their citizens to bring them back into the game or alternatively act as a spoiler.

Aftermath

What has made the 4X genre so compelling over the years is that they are a sandbox for the imagination. Each game is a story complete with a beginning, a middle and an end with the narrative told not through in-game tidbits, but through your actions and deeds.  What Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade aims to do is give you more pages for your story. 

Your story is told through your choices:

  • When your scout ship first finds that antimatter node slowly revolving around a black hole, what will you do? Will you rush to construct a starbase so that you can claim it before someone else? If you do, does that mean you're going to focus on being the civilization with the faster ships? Or maybe the civilization with greater manufacturing production?
     
  • When your colony ship arrives at Proxima Centauri and discovers there is a race of primitive, but intelligent creatures, are you going to leave them alone?  Even if it means giving up the Aerilu crystals they currently worship, but would be incredibly useful to your Engineers now and your Spies later?
     
  • How will you vote when the United Planets decides whether a refugee Scientist from the Arcean Empire wants asylum with your enemies, the Thalan?  Voting no means certain death (but better relations with the Arceans), and voting yes means the Thalan now have another scientist to use against you; and you happen to know that the Thalan have access to Ithix spores and probably a spy on Aven Prime?

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade will be coming out this Spring.  Please feel free to ask questions and comment below.

Further Reading

Guns Germs and Steel

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Wealth and Poverty of Nations

Sid Meier: 4X games are a series of interesting decisions

About the Author

Brad Wardell is the founder and CEO of Stardock.  He designed Galactic Civilizations I and Galactic Civilizations II and has returned to co-design Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade.  His home page is www.littletinyfrogs.com.


CRUSADE DIARY 3: Galactic Citizens

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 By Draginol

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Sliders. Knobs. Checkboxes. Such is the spread-sheet roots of strategy games. Let's fix that.

[[..]]

Going back 15 years to Galactic Civilizations I for Windows, players managed their economy like this:

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GalCiv I: Sliders.

 

In Galactic Civilizations I, you would set your tax rate. Your tax rate affected the approval rate on your planets.  You could then decide how much of your GDP the government would take control of with the spending slider.  From there, players would direct their civilization's output between Military, Social, and Research.

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In Galactic Civilizations III, we had changed it to the Production Wheel: Manufacturing, Wealth Generation, Research.

 

I actually don't have a problem with sliders to be honest.  But they have a serious user interface limitation: The more sliders you have, the more confusing the screen and the more difficult it is to communicate the results.

 

 

Let's talk about economics

Our economies are a lot more complicated than Money making, Research and Planet manufacturing and Fleet construction.  Obvious real-world examples would include food production, consumer goods,  social programs and international affairs.  In a space game, there are even priorities you might have: Mining, espionage, soldiers, Precursor archeology, and so on.  Imagine all that as sliders. Oye.

 

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What are Galactic Citizens?

Across your entire civilization, an individual of great potential will rise up and join your government.  When this happens you decide an area for he or she to specialize in.

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A new citizen has joined you. What will you do with them?

Now, there are some...provisos here that will make each game play a bit differently. 

  1. How often you get a free citizen is not dependent on the size of your civilization.  It is, by default, one citizen every 10 turns. So each citizen is pretty important. A 200 turn game will leave you with 20 natural citizens.  Use them wisely.
  2. The areas of specialization are based on what technology you have.  At the start of the game, if you are playing as the Terran Alliance, your options are a Leader or a Commander.
  3. You can choose to keep them safe in your capital providing a global bonus (great for large empires) or you can send them to a specific planet to really boost that planet's production in a given area (great for small empires) but also makes them vulnerable if they are assassinated or the planet is invaded (once they settle, they're not leaving).
  4. They level up over time. Thus, the order in which you specialize them matters.

 

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The govern screen with some citizens there. Leaders act as wild cards and can be placed in any category.

 

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Citizens can also be sent to planets to greatly boost it in a specific area.

 

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Citizens can't teleport. When sent to a planet, a VIP transport takes them from your capital world to the planet in question.

 

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Worried about micro-management? Don't. We also include easy ways to move citizens from your capital to your empire if necessary.

 

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Not just icons. Each citizen has a name and where they're from and a picture (and yea, we do this for all 12 races, Drengin females...you do not want to attend their march).

 

 

Citizen Specialties (so far)

 

 

Specialization

Strategic Benefit

Tactical Benefit

Special

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Leader

Provides 3% boost to target civilization priority.

Cannot leave the capital.

Can be moved around to any priority category.

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Administrator

Reduces all colony maint by 3%

Reduces target planet’s maintenance by 25%.

Increases administration resource by 1 plus 10%.

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General

Improves global planetary resistance by 3%.

Provides 5 legions to target planet for defense.

Can be converted into an invasion transport holding the General and his legions.

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Commander

Improves global starship HP by 3%

Increases planetary defense of orbiting ships by 25%.

Can be converted to a Flag Ship that is added to a target fleet to give it a combat boost.

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Spy

Improves global security by 3%

Can be sent to eliminate a spy on a planet.

Can be assigned missions targeting foreign powers.

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Worker

Increases global manufacturing by 3%

Can settle on a planet to boost its manufacturing by 25%

 

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Scientist

Increases global research by 3%

Can settle on a planet to boost its research by 25%

 

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Farmer

Increase global food production by 3%

Can settle on a planet boosting its food production by 25%

 

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Engineer

Increases global fleet production by 3%

Can settle on a planet boosting its fleet production by 25%

 

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Entrepreneur

Increases global wealth production by 3%

Can settle on a planet boosting its wealth production by 25%

 

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Celebrity

Provides a global 3% bonus to planetary goods and services.

Can settle on a planet providing a 25% boost to planetary goods and services.

 

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Diplomat

Provides a global 3% boost to influence.

Can settle on a planet and boost that planet’s influence by 25%.

Can be converted into an Emissary and sent to a target civilization boosting your relations.

 

 

 

A living civilization

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If you're a Galactic Civilizations player you might be thinking "This is going to require a lot of changes to existing balance."  And you would be right.  Take a very close look at the screenshot below.

 

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Still early game and lots of new resources to play with

 

Look at the top of the previous screenshot.  Notice how many resources there are?  Your citizens are your principle lever for deciding what matters (and what doesn't) in your civilization.  But how you will likely use your citizens will change from game to game because of the new resource system and their connection to what improvements you can build, what planets you can colonize, what your starbases can and can't do.  Resources accumulate (unlike in GalCiv III) and they result in a vibrant galaxy for your citizens to play in.

Next week: Resources!


CRUSADE DIARY 2: The Civilization Builder

Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2017 By Draginol

Galactic Civilizations games have had ship building in them for almost 20 years.  And ever since, people have used it to create all kinds of amazing designs from robots to their favorite Sci-Fi ships.

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Ship designer from Galactic Civilizations II

With Galactic Civilizations III, players were able to share their designs with millions of other players via Steam Workshop.  Suddenly, players could download and play with almost any type of ship imaginable.

As much as players loved being able to design and share their ship designs, there was one thing they kept requesting over and over: the ability to assign ship designs to a Civilization and have them use it.  This way, if they wanted to create a race of giant robots, they could.  Or if they wanted to play their favorite sci-fi race (or play against it) they could.

In Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade their wish is fulfilled!

Civilization Builder

First, video. Paul Boyer and I sat down with the Civ Builder the other day. I wanted to show off the laser space sharks and aquatic race we built. Check out this exclusive video to see what we created.

Now, let's walk through the new Civilization Builder, screen by screen. From the main menu there is a new button - Civilization Builder.

 

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The Civ Builder exists outside the game.

 

Once inside, the player is greeted with a series of screens that lets them configure a completely new civilization.  With the Steam Workshop, you can download new logos, alien portraits, alien backgrounds, alien images, etc. 

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Players can put together a completely new alien race using assets shared by other users.

Once you have decided what your alien civilization looks like, you can move on to what their strengths and weaknesses are.

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The trait screen lets you assign the civilization various strengths and weaknesses. Many of these abilities give them unique gameplay features.

 

From there, you can decide what their ships will look like.

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Ship Visual Style

There are dozens of different color combos you can play with, along with a host of different textures and materials.  You can give your ship style a gritty, beat up look or a...well, completely outrageous look.

Once you finish deciding what visual style your ships will have, you can move on to assigning ship designs to each class of ship.

 

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Here you can assign a ship design to all of the auto-generated ships which is what the AI will use as well.

Here, you control every default ship in the game.  In the above example, I have assigned my colony ship to be a giant robot fish because...of course!

But let's say you don't like the choices we provide (and yes, we're going to include giant robot fish).  You can click a button and go onto Steam and browse the tens of thousands of ship designs that have been made by players already.

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Fans have created virtually every kind of ship you can imagine. 

Picking a cool ship design, it is instantly in the game.  The GalCiv ship designer is essentially a giant set of blocks that you can use to create anything. For the past two years, players have been busy making lots of ships.

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Downloaded ship design is mixed with the color and materials chosen earlier.

This is then repeated for each of the ship categories in the game. 

Next up, players will want to give their civilization some personality.

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Personality Editor

On the Personality screen, players can decide how the AI will use this player.  They can also set up what the AI will say in various common scenarios.  If that's not enough, the player can directly access that civilization's XML file to go crazy with how they will react in different situations.

Once you are done, you can save your Civilization and even upload it to Steam (if you use other people's designs, we ask that you get their permission).  Once uploaded to Steam, other players can download the entire civilization, ships and all, in a single click and play as that civilization or play against them.

 

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My Fish Civilization in game. They're hungry!

 

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade will be released in Spring of 2017 on Steam and GOG.   You can follow it on Steam by going to its Steam page.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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