Intrigue Journal #2 - Taxation without representation

Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 By Frogboy


People don't like to be taxed.  They really don't like to be taxed if they don't have a say in it. The principle cause of the American revolution was not taxation in itself, it was that the colonists didn't have a say in who and what was taxed.


Now, let's imagine how this would be handled when you are talking light years. To understand how distances work in Galactic Civilizations, we need to understand Hyperspace Projection.

I'm the map I'm the map I'm the map! you may know, is 3-dimensional.  This makes drawing a map on a 2D surface difficult.   When we have to display something from 3D to 2D, we call it a projection.  Here's an example with maps:


In Galactic Civilizations, we have to deal with with an extra dimension known as hyperspace.  In the year 2178, the humans of Earth invented Hyperdrive which is what kickstarted an intergalactic space race to colony grab.  The way Hyperdrive works is by channeling massive amounts of energy to fold space.

Here's a link to the original Galactic Civilizations that explains the background:

Even with Hyperdrive, we need a way to illustrate space and time on a 2D map, and this is where hyperspace projection comes in.

Here is a map from Sol to Tau Ceti.  It's 11.9 light years away.  But in GalCiv it's 11 hyper-parsecs away (even though a parsec is about 3 light years).  Why? Because in Galactic Civilizations, mass drastically interferes with hyperspace.  Saturn, for example, is 4 hyper-parsecs from Earth despite being "only" 1.2 billion KM from earth. 


Mass reduces the benefit of Hyperdrive in Galactic Civilizations

What does this have to do with the taxation of distant colonies? Not much. But this diversion illustrates the immense distances we are talking about.

The last temptation of taxation

In Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue you have a tax slider.  Your civilization's economy is made up by your gross domestic product (GDP) which is the amount of commerce that's occurring on your worlds plus trade with other civilizations and tourism.   Your take of it is what percentage of all that you tax.  The higher your taxes, the more angry your people are.


65% tax rate...I'm not proud

Low approval will affect the productivity of your planets as well as make it a lot harder to win elections.  We'll be talking more about elections soon, but suffice to say, you do not want to lose elections.


High approval can greatly improve your growth, raw production and influence.

Conversely, low approval will lower your influence and population growth.


Tourism money

Tourism has been redone, and here's how it works in Intrigue:


Tourism = Every tile you own X your ability to extract money from it.

You've heard the term "tourist trap".  Every tile you control represents an area of space that you have cultural influence in.  Your planets and starbases generate cultural influence and it grows over time.


You can mouse over a given empty tile to see who has what influence in a tile.


Influence is generated by your planets and starbases.

Cultural influence is one of the few statistics not tied to population.  We call this the "France" effect, whereby a nation state exerts a lot of cultural influence independently from its raw population.  Your influence spills out from your worlds and travelers through your area of space may visit your worlds if there's something to see.


Tourist improvements attempt to capture a percent (a very small percent) of the travelers through your influence.

The tourism improvements will tend to have very small percentages.  For instance, the Port-Of-Call provides a 1% addition to your tourism income.  Why so low? As someone in marketing could tell you, a 1% conversion rate is actually pretty good.  1% of the people traveling through your space will visit this port. That's a huge number actually.


Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue will be released this Spring (2018).

Intrigue Journal #1: Space-Time is unforgiving

Posted on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 By Frogboy

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.


In Intrigue, once you settle your third planet, your people begin to demand some sort of government that recognizes that you have a significant offworld population.  In the Galactic Civilizations universe, the first civilian colony of significance doesn’t occur until 2178.  And fortunately, by 2178, not only do we have a faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion system, we have a subspace communication system which makes communication across vast distances easier.


In Intrigue, after the third planet has been colonized, your people begin to demand a new type of government.

Much of our time has been spent trying to think through how these government types might evolve.  These governments would be different based on the civilization.  The malevolent Drengin Empire, for example, has been unified for over hundreds of thousands of years.  In contrast, by 2178 the nation states of Earth are working mostly in concert in a federalized United Earth which, comes to be known as the Terran Alliance. This is in honor of the principle that these other planets are, at least theoretically, equals to Earth.  As a practical matter, that is not how it would likely go.  In the early stages, we would likely operate as some sort of colonial government.  That is, Earth would call the shots and each world would have its own governor that would be elected by the people.  But the people wouldn’t have much to say regarding events back on Earth.  A given planet would be a voting bloc much like, say, California, Texas, England, etc. But for a long while, they wouldn’t have the population to have a major say.

These new colonies would probably be satisfied…for awhile.  But what happens when our civilization truly becomes a galactic civilization?


imageBarnard’s Star is 6 light-years away.

Even with FTL and subspace communication, human beings are likely to feel a bit disconnected from Earth.  In Intrigue, once the player hits around 6 colonies, planets start to get a –1 to their morale for each planet beyond 6 if they are still operating under a Colonial government.  They want more say in their own lives.  At this point, we would need to make some tough choices based on what kind of civilization we want to be.


The population of the amazing planet of Sagan has ballooned and yet there is unrest despite our best efforts.

So, picture this: years have passed, and millions of humans have migrated to a gorgeous paradise world we’ve discovered.  Humans, by this time, are surrounded by their “utility cloud,” which allows them to quickly build up everything they might need in terms of scarcity.  But each world has its own challenges.  So what are our choices?


One choice is to set them free.  That is, turn the planet (or planets) into a commonwealth - a civilization that is allied to you, but otherwise totally independent.  They still count towards your overall influence, but they now are a truly independent galactic civilization.  Another option is to choose a different form of government, one that gives them more say, which makes them happier, but provides elections.


For example, the Interstellar Republic only has a 0.5 morale hit per planet after 6 planets.   It also delivers the player a Prime Minister unit which can be sent to any planet to build up morale and influence on that particular planet. 


The elected Prime Minister is sent to Sagan to help bolster morale.

But there are other choices too based on what your ideology is, what traits your civilization has, and what technologies you have.  Perhaps a monarchy might work better for some civilizations with a Prince and Princess ship sent to quell uprisings.  Or perhaps a scientific oligarchy is the path for your civilization.  Or, as many civilizations often discover, money is hard to come by and the civilization must put aside research and enlightenment to focus on survival via an Emergency Coalition.

Right now, we have about 20 different governments envisioned.  However, there is no limit on how many types of government there can be.  Modders can add their own, and fans have been suggesting many different types of out-of-the box ways a galactic civilization might function. 

What has us so excited about Intrigue is that it really helps bring home the fact that Galactic Civilizations isn’t just a war game.  It isn’t just about using diplomacy to manipulate other civilizations.  It isn’t just about researching new types of technology or building up your cultural influence.  It is really a game that asks you: what kind of civilization would you create if you had the chance? What tough moral choices would you make to survive? How would you envision your people organizing themselves across space and time?

Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue is available to pre-order now ($5 off the final price) at It will be released this Spring.

Humans vs. Multiverse - Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 By Island Dog

The war continues...and this is Brad's biggest battle yet! Check out part 7 of "Humans vs. The Multiverse" and see if today is victorious...or if today is bloody. It's entirely possible it's both!


Galactic Civilizations III v3 Preview: Farming

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 By Frogboy

How will we feed our billions?

In Galactic Civilizations III, we presume that by the time we are colonizing planets, our home world has reached an equilibrium between food production and population.  But let's face it: when we colonize other planets, it'll take many years for those planets to build up sufficient farming infrastructure to produce for the kinds of populations you have on your home world.


Surplus Food

Galactic Civilizations III will be treating food a bit differently to reflect the awareness of just how important a large population is on your planets. 

When Galactic Civilizations III first shipped, players built farms on planets and that would increase that planet's population.  Because it was so easy to increase your population, our conversion between population to production was: production = the square root of population.


When Galactic Civilizations III v2.0 came out, we changed this so that food became a global resource that was then consumed by cities.  You could build as many farms as you wanted elsewhere, and then build cities on another planet that used that food. Because this made increasing population more challenging (requiring two tiles -- a farming tile and a city tile), the formula was changed to production = population.  This proved better on paper than in practice because on larger maps, players had no problem dedicating entire worlds just to farming, no matter how terrible the planet or how unrealistic that would be. This worked well for building other planets to huge populations, but it created production quantities that were balance breaking. 

Throughout the v2.x series, we have tinkered with the formulas for what it takes to build a farm and what it takes to build a city, to the point where players were becoming frustrated when they discovered they didn't have the right resource to build something.

For v3.0, we have created a much simpler - and we think, more intuitive - system.  Good planets have arable land tiles.  The better the planet, the more of these tiles it will have.  You can choose to build farms on them or you can bulldoze them and build whatever you want.  This reflects the fact that Ceti Alpha V (a class 6 world) is never going to have farms while even a wonderful planet like Earth (class 10) can't have its entire surface farmed (and we do abstract farming to an extent in that your initial colony is self-sufficient in food). 

Thus, population = production.  Arable land produces food without you having to do anything at all, but you can also build them up with various levels of farms and use that surplus food elsewhere.  Some worlds will have no arable land.  Others will have several.


In this example, my home planet starts with 2 arable tiles, which produces 2 food right away.

Now, unlike other resources, unused food doesn't accumulate.  As my wife regularly reminds me, food spoils and I should stop eating it when it does.  But it does mean that with a few good early planets, you can start building cities on planets without having to have built a single farm.  It's proving to be a really interesting mechanic.


There are two good planets here.  One with 3 food tiles and one with 1 food tile and an elerium deposit.
Which one should I colonize first?

In the above example, getting the Elerium deposit means I can instantly build enhanced lasers, which have military significance.  But if I settle the other planet, I can build a city on my home planet immediately.  This creates some interesting strategic choices that simply did not exist before.

Galactic Civilizations III v3.0 is due for release in April.

Galactic Civilizations III: Map Sizes and Memory

Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 By Frogboy

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in developing Galactic Civilizations III has been map sizes and the memory they require.

On a number of occasions, we have tried to reduce the the largest map sizes down to improve performance and shrink memory requirements.  And each time we have attempted to do that, we have ended up with a very vocal outcry of anger.

But large map sizes come with a significant memory cost to be aware of.


Galactic Civilizations, like its inspiration, Sid Meier's Civilization, is a tile based game.   Virtually every space strategy game is point based (you travel across the galaxy from point A to point B without going in-between). There's a good reason why they do that: scale.  If you want your space game to appear to have an epic scale, then you need to have stars that appear to be very far from one another.  For Galactic Civilizations to pull off the same thing, as a tile based game, means a lot more tiles and a lot faster (late game) ships.

For reference, here are the map sizes for Civilization VI:

Size Dimensions Players (Default/Maximum) City-States (Default/Maximum) Total Tiles
Duel 44×26 2/4 3/6 1144
Tiny 60×38 4/6 6/10 2280
Small 74×46 6/10 9/14 3404
Standard 84×54 8/14 12/18 4536
Large 96×60 10/16 15/22 5760
Huge 106×66 12/20 18/24


The largest map size would require around 2GB of memory (on average). So, the largest map size in Civilization VI has around 7,000 hexes. 

Let's take a look at Galactic Civilizations III:

Map Size Players (rec) RAM Req (MB) Tiles
Tiny                       3                       967                   2,037
Small                       4                    1,483                   4,157
Medium                       5                    1,939                   6,495
Large                       7                    2,903                12,731
Huge                       9                    3,925                21,044
Gigantic                     12                    5,544                37,412
Immense                     16                    7,246                58,457
Excessive                     32                  16,647              233,827
Ludicrous                     50                  30,729              649,519

That's right, the Ludicrous map size has 100 times more tiles than the largest Civilization VI map.  More tiles isn't better, it just means the maps are much bigger and more to the point, and the memory requirements go way up.

Until you get to HUGE map sizes, you don't really need a crazy system to play Galactic Civilizations III.  But what frequently happens is that people with perfectly good gaming systems will paly on the Ludicrous size and find it very slow. Why? Because you need 32GB of memory to play it well (or else you'll be swapping out memory constantly to disk).

Even if you have enough memory, picture the pathfinding for 50 players (and GalCiv III supports 128 players) if there's 650,000 tiles to potentially go through.  Path finding is what most of your turn time gets consumed by. 

Luckily, GalCiv III has a multicore AI which means that each pathfinding task can be distributed to your CPU.  But again, even if you have 32GB of memory, if you have 50 players but only a 4 core processor, you're going to be in for a world of hurt.

For optimal performance, you shouldn't have more than 2 players per logical processor (usually 2X your cores).  So if you have an 8 core machine with 16 logical threads, you're probably fine with 32 players.

However, I frequently get saved games from players who have 4 core machines with 8GB of memory trying to play on these ludicrous maps with 100 players who have given us a negative review because "obviously" we have a memory leak.

Going forward, I highly recommend not going beyond Gigantic unless you meet the specs above.  In version 3.0, we will be listing these requirements when you pick the map size to help players keep themselves out of trouble.

So now you know why we keep trying to roll back those big maps.

View More ∨