A state of the Union type post from a formerly active user

Posted on Friday, March 29, 2019

I posted on the 4x reddit in response to this article:


I am re-posting it here because I saw today that the development team appears to be actively soliciting responses from the modder community and both Horemvore and Gauntlet (the two people who have, I suppose along with Airmaster and some of the other ship builders) made the greatest contribution to this community.


Overall, the thread can be found here:


My biggest problem with Stardock's roll-out of Galactic Civilizations is their disinterest in doing some basic bug-fixing and quality-of-life improvements. The ideology system has been nearly broken since launch and does not scale with the size of the map properly at all. Many of the mercenaries make no sense given subsequent changes to the game and have clearly incorrect values, especially in their costs. That has been the case since that DLC came out three years ago. The commonwealth system is completely unusable. The research speed setting does not work as intended. These all sound like piddly complaints but they add up. They introduce a new mechanic and it's a roll of dice whether they'll pay any subsequent attention to that mechanic again. They've done a good job revisiting things like the tech tree, Starbase micromanagement and the resource system and still haven't touched really basic issues like the fact you can't cycle on a project or colony governors — both of which have been issues in more or less exactly the same form for four years.

The game was sold as a framework for endless modularity. That was the selling point. They were stripping the game back to bare bones, back to GalCiv II pre-DLC levels, in order to build an extremely robust system for for games of epic scale. But then there was next to no Workshop support at launch. Then you needed a DLC to access the robust Civilization designer. Then — and this is by far the most frustrating — there wasn't going to be any workshop support for mods at all. More to the point, Brad Wardell has the tendency to more-than-occasionally condescend to the users with a very, it-can't-be-done-and-its-shitty-of-you-to-even-ask comment. Never mind the fact that moddability was a central pillar of the game's initial sales pitch. Never mind the fact that Civilization, Stellaris, Endless Space, Endless Legend, the various Total War incarnations and even the fucking MOO reboot all somehow managed to integrate Steam support for mods. In fact, the only other 4x game of commensurate standing in the market that doesn't have Steam workshop support is another Stardock title: Sins of a Solar Empire.

Stardock killed what would have likely been a very robust community shortly after launch. So, now, four years out when they are doing genuinely interesting things with the game, I think most people's reaction is "oh yeah, I kinda forgot about that game" before it gets a brief re-appraisal before promptly being put back on the shelf.

Stardock used to be such a fan-friendly and open developer relative to the marketplace. I don't think they've gotten worse on that score necessarily, but they've been surpassed in both transparency and responsiveness by many of their competitors. I have watched the community that built up around the release dissipate more and more and have watched the users that really devoted themselves to improving the game, most notably Horemvore and Gauntlet, just become more and more deflated with each passing release.

Galactic Civilizations 3 is a fine enough game and it's been interesting to watch as the developers have tried to figure out in real-time what they want the game to be. I think the problem is that the developers, especially Brad, are extremely concerned with what they want the game to be and are only interested in listening to what the fans are asking for if and when what they're asking for happen to lines up with the institutional priorities of the company.

I think 15 years ago, Brad's personal preferences overlapped a lot more with the desires of the fanbase than they do now. I'll grant that a non-trivial percentage of that comes from the fans themselves being more entitled, demanding and impatient than they've been in the past thanks to their access to the developers through social media and the internet. However, I think Gauntlet is a really interesting case study in how that does not come anywhere close to explaining all of it. Gauntlet has simply toiled away making his amazing mod, which he is forced to modulate to suit the 14 simultaneous builds Stardock pursues at any given time, that he must re-build frequently because Stardock makes no attempt to bug fix in a way that makes the modder's lives easier. He never gets heated. He never acts entitled. He is always reasonable. He always asks and never demands. So far as I know, almost none of Gauntlet's substantive requests have ever been implemented into the game.

I think Brad has got a very strong sense of what he thinks is important and when he was younger, that aligned very strongly with what his player base thought was important. He makes cursory attempts to be inward looking and he is reasonable about criticizing his own work. It's actually a joy to watch him think through his own game publicly.

But, and this is a huge but, he doesn't listen. He talks and he writes and he reflects but he is largely impervious to feedback from his players. He is totally inward-looking. He is very good at using his institutional standing to bask in the plaudits of the users that fawn over him and either ignore or even occasionally bully the users that don't.

As a result, a game that had the potential for greatness — a game that comes from a lineage of greatness — is little more than an "oh yeah, I heard that game got a lot better after [place DLC here]."