Journals

GalCiv Dev Journal: Thinking about starting conditions

Posted on Saturday, October 26, 2019 By Frogboy

The first impression of gameplay in a 4X strategy game tends to be what the opening choices are.  And this is something we have tried our best to optimize in GalCiv III.

In version 3.96, we are giving players the shipyard again by default (which we used to have back in 1.0).   The presence of the starting shipyard has everything to do with having meaningful starting decisions.

For example, here is v3.96 without the shipyard as an option now:

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We added a new build-once project called Industrial Center (retribution) that is the equivalent of the Computer Core except for manufacturing.  Combine that with trade resources and (in Retribution) artifacts and you have some interesting options.

Then you go over to the shipyard and you have a 4 obvious choices:

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Note that we no longer have any weapons at the start of the game (retribution). Your ships are unarmed.  So this allows us to clean up the first impression a little bit so that weaponizing ships makes an obvious difference to your shipyard choices.

Also, having the shipyard combined with the recent increase in starting funds means players can move out a bit faster than they could before.   This gives a little more room, especially for new players, to not get economically over their heads.

These changes, along with the visual update to the planets (you can see the visual update in the first screenshot) will be in v3.96.


GalCiv Dev Journal: October 2019

Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 By Frogboy

We're putting the finishing touches on GalCiv III v3.95 which includes both balance changes and new game options and some quality of life updates.

Originally we were going to go right from v3.6 to v4.0 but we've broken the tasks down into smaller chunks, hence v3.7, v3.8, v3.9, v3.91 and now v3.95

But we've also been working on v4.0 which has a heavy modding emphasis. Now that the major expansions to III are over (we will still be releasing DLCs, but all new FEATURE changes will happen in the base game) we are focusing more on content management, quality of life and helping make sure GalCiv III is the best GalCiv game we've ever done.

So how do we imagine enhanced mod support looking?

Here's what we have in mind:

From the main menu you click on Mods.  This takes you to the Mod Manager.

It has 3 pages:

  1. Installed
  2. Available
  3. Create

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The Installed mods simply let you enable and disable mods.

When you click on Available it takes you to a page that has a bunch of categories of mods.  These are just glorified Steam tags.

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The idea here is that you can press a button and it will launch the Steam workshop browser with tags set up.  Just makes it a bit easier for players to go directly to the types of mods they're looking for.

The last page is Create.

Now, this isn't a tool.  Modders will still have to actually to the mod like they do today.  The difference is adding support for what expansions the mod requires to work and what tags your mod requires.

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Based on these settings, it'll create a folder in the documents\my games\gc3crusade\mods\ directory with the proper directory structure worked out.

The directory structure in which GalCiv is setup is a bit complicated.  That was because we didn't want to change the gameplay experience for everyone when an expansion came out.  Only those who voluntarily bought the expansion would have the changed game play and those who didn't want that gameplay changed could effectively opt-out.   This decision has a lot of advantages and disadvantages but one disadvantage is that makes modding much more error prone.

For example, for the Retribution expansion we have our various data files in a directory like this:

GalCiv3\Game\DLC\EXP4_Retribution\Game

If you have Retribution installed, then it uses the files in this directory instead of the files in say

GalCiv3\Game\DLC\EXP3_Intrigue\Game

With mods, we will need to know which files you plan to "replace" which means knowing which version of the game you want your mod to support (i.e. Retribution vs. Intrigue).  So for instance, let's say you want to replace ImprovementDefs.xml.  We need to know WHICH one you want to replace.    But let's say you want to create NEW planetary improvements.  We still need to know which set of improvements your planetary improvements are going to essentially append to.

For those of you who are already experienced at modding GalCiv, let us know what you think along with any improvements to how we are looking to do it that might make it more robust.


Villains of Star Control: Origins AAR - Xraki Chaos

Posted on Monday, August 26, 2019 By Frogboy

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This is part 2 of a 4 part series on the villains of Star Control DLC for Galactic Civilizations III. You can see the...unpleasantness that took place in part 1 here. Mistakes were made.

In Star Control: Origins we wanted to make sure that humanity's opposition wasn't simply a set of cartoon bad guys.  Each opponent has a pretty strong motivation and a rationale...except for the Xraki.  The Xraki are insane.  They're not "evil" they were driven insane by events in the distant past and now simply destroy anything they come across.

In this game, I will play as the Xraki against the other villains and see how things work out.

It Begins

We get a pretty good starting location with a number of habitable worlds.

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We soon have a couple of colonies and it is time to form a new government.

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As you can see here, each species gets their own unique portraits for citizens.   They also get their own names.

War is quick

So let me be clear, playing with malevolent civilizations is rough. 

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I had a colony ship on its way to a planet they wanted. So they killed it.  No warning. 

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The Xraki's technology is based around control of singularities. So at the heart of their ships tends to be something freaky looking.

The Phamyst arrive at around turn 50 in this game.  So far, it's just been the Xraki vs. the Scryve. As it should be!

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The war between the Scryve and the Xraki is endless skirmishing combined with subtle expansions.

However, the Xraki find one of the best locations to build a starbase that I've ever seen.

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And at last at turn 57 we meet the Measured.

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And here is the power rating of each civilization at this stage:

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But in the background of all this, there is war.

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The Scryve and the Xraki continue to hammer it out.  We are both equally matched more or less.

The Settlement

With the right payments, the Phamyst and the Measured went to war with the Scryve which resulted in a peace settlement between the Xraki and the Scryve.

This allowed a period of uninterrupted internal growth.  Through careful planning, for example, I was able to build Kimberly's Refuge in just the right spot to get a huge boost for it.

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Balance of power

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The Phamyst and the Measured together were still powerful enough to deal with the Scryve.  We had pulled out ahead thanks to our internal buildup. By turn 120 (and thanks to some new multithreaded techniques on AI pathfinding, the turn times are less than half as long as what they were in 3.8) there was a balance of power in the quadrant.

The problem with a balance of power is that some malevolent bastard always wants to upset it.  In this case, everyone.  By turn 140, all the powers were at war with everyone else.  The Scryve quickly took the lead with a coordinated attack / invasion right into the heart of our empire.

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Scryve thrusts into my empire.

But we had not been naïve enough to think we had peace in our time.  One of our internal improvements was the research of weapons and defense technologies.

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We had transports escorted by entropy class frigates which were deadly in numbers.

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While a single Entropy couldn't take out a mighty Scryve battlecruiser, they could overwhelm one thanks to each Entropy having very good defenses and a sharp sting.

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...Time

Passes...

Many months later, the war continues with back and forth battles.   At one point, the Xraki homeworld is conquered by the Measured which has emerged as the super-power of the quadrant.

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We have fallen far from our early lead.  But we aren't dead yet.

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The Chaos class battlecruiser should be able to take on any single ship out there.

It would get its first test in a very important battle:

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The Measured had succeeded by using the same strategy the Xraki were.  Not too many large ships but lots of deadly small ships.  However, unlike the Xraki, their ships had virtually no defensive capabilities. They were designed to be cheap and efficiently mass produced.

The Chaos class ship, however, was massively defended by barrier fields.  This would be a good test of offensive investment vs. defensive investment.

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The Xraki strategy had succeeded.  Other than a tiny disintegrator class ship and a first generation Entropy, the fleet remained relatively untouched.

(Many hours later)

At turn 236 the galaxy remained on fire but we had recovered our lost territory.

Here is the status of the quadrant:

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The Xraki ownership and happiness joy region has been reclaimed.

On the other hand, this region represents only a small part of this medium-sized map:

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The Xraki are not close to being the most powerful.

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However, we are well situated going forward as the Scryve are somewhat over extended and many of their outer colonies are pretty isolated.

Some final thoughts

Having played through the "evil" civs as someone who  usually plays as neutral or good, I will tell you that as cool as the unique abilities of each civilization are, they really don't hold a candle to the varied gameplay that you get from the combination of opponents you pick.   Playing as a malevolent civilization in a galaxy filled with malevolent civilizations changed the dynamic a great deal.  I hope if you're reading this that next time you play, try playing the opposite ideology as you usually do and put in some evil civs.

As the old saying goes: Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.


Villains of Star Control: Origins AAR - The Phamyst

Posted on Sunday, August 25, 2019 By Frogboy

Greetings!

For this After Action Report I'm going to be playing Galactic Civilizations v3.9 with only the Heroes of Star Control civilizations. 

I'll be pointing out notable and interesting things as I go along.

The Setup

I'm going to play as the galaxy's classiest cannibals, the Phamyst.

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The Phamyst have the Ravenous ability which results in them receiving food after every battle which can be used to build cities.  However, this food spoils after 25 turns so use it or lose it.

My opponents:

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The Scryve,The Measured and the Xraki. 

So it begins...

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The new civilizations in Villains of Star Control come from Star Control: Origins, sharp-eyed players will notice that the art style has been slightly altered to conform with the Galactic Civilizations style of a bit more realistic.

The villains of Star Control are, as you might expect, pretty malevolent.  I normally play Galactic Civilizations as a neutral or neutral-good against a mix of civilizations.  This is one of those rare times where it's going to be a bunch of evil civilizations thrown in together.

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Each civilization has a very unique ship style.  The Phamyst have a very minimalistic aesthetic.

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A feature definitely not talked about enough is the fact that each of the four new civilizations provides a ton of new ship parts.  And as you can see, we didn't scrimp on them.

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I'm going to play the Phamyst a bit darker than I normally play.

Below you can see the unique aesthetic in action.

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Phamyst battle cruiser.

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First meeting with the Xraki.  If you click and zoom in, you can see the subtle art style difference between Star Control and GalCiv in action (if you look at how the Xraki are depicted in Star Control).  I.e. we didn't just port them directly from Star Control, we updated their look to match GalCiv's. Look at the veins!

This is probably even more obvious with the Scryve:

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I probably should get universal translator.

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Starbases (mine and the Scryve's).

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What you can't hear (obviously) is that each civilization has their own music track and their dialog was written by the Star Control team.

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Scryve Cruiser up close.

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A fair trade scary guy.

The War of the Scryve

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It was inevitable I suppose.

The Scryve and the Phamyst were neighbors and both are pretty evil. 

However...

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The Scryve have better ships but my ships are designed specifically to counter the Scryve's favored weapon type (energy beam weapons).  So it's not quite the walk over they thought.

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One of the changes we've made in recent updates is to make defenses a lot more effective.  Not only are defensive values higher but they don't get reduced nearly as quickly during battle.  So defenses are a good thing to have on a ship. :)

Just in time for me to have researched Orbital Manufacturing which allows for the construction of much larger hulls.

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The war expands

The Measured have joined the Scryve!

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Unable to take on both empires at once, we are forced to grovel for an armistice with the Scryve.

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Meanwhile, we had just finished the design of a new battle cruiser, the Ravager!

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The Measured have conquered most of my planets but we are slowly making our way back thanks to the Patriot.  The Measured ships are very business like (see screenshot below).

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Defeat

The Scryve and Xraki ultimately declare war on me as well.

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I learned something today.

Evil civilizations put into a shark tank is rough.

And so the Phamyst go down in flames. 


Galactic Civilizations III: Ascension

Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2019 By Derek Paxton

GalCiv3 has come a long way since release. It has added governments, mercenaries, citizens, thousands of free to download ships and factions to play as and more tools to manage your growing empire. I sat down to play some today with the 3.8 patch and decided to have some fun.

One of the new features in 3.8 is the Galactic Ascension Status. So I wanted to play a game where I pursued an Ascension victory. I picked the Altarian's since they get a boost from Precursor Artifacts, I set my universe to Huge with 20 other factions in it and divided us up onto 7 teams with 3 members on each team so I would have some allies to deal with. I also increased the amount of Precursor Artifacts and Ascension Crystals in the universe to make fighting for them more interesting.

I like playing with teams in GC3. It means that even from turn 1 I already have allies out there.

I have an Echoing Heartstone artifact n my homeworld. If I upgrade it I can unlock charges I can use to dramatically boost the influence on a planet. That will be very helpful since it is going to be a crowded galaxy with 21 factions on a huge map. My strategy is all set, explore the galaxy, find artifacts and ascension crystals and lock them down before other players get to them. Help my allies when needed and try to avoid war.

I've always loved the look of the Altarian ships. And my plan was going well until I encountered this planet:

A class 12 planet, but I need Xeno Adaption to be able to colonize it. In most games this wouldn't cause me to abandon my strategy, but in a galaxy with 21 other factions (and I didn't boost the default amount of habitable planets) a class 12 planet is gold. So I abandon teching towards Ascendancy upgrades and switch to Planetary techs (so I can get to Xeno Adapation before someone else grabs the planet.

My plan works and I pick up some extra planets and start a Galactic Government. I tend to be benevolent, my planets aren't overcrowded and my people have low expectations so my approval remains high and my people like me.

But focusing on planets means that other players beginning to grab all those Ascension Crystals. And here we see the new UI that makes this all very apparent.

The Iconians have already claimed 5 and the Mu'Kay are 654 turns away form an Ascension victory if they do nothing else between now and then (and they will do things to increase that rate). I'm going to need to start some wars either trade, culture or military if I want to turn this around.

Wish me luck!

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