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GalCiv III AAR: The Last Empire

Posted on Monday, May 10, 2021 By Frogboy

I don’t know if this will be my last AAR of Galactic Civilizations III.   As I type this, the game is about to turn 6 years old and is still going strong.

We’ve been working on an update for the game for awhile and are hoping to get it released before the anniversary (fingers crossed).  This AAR will kind of act as a retrospect on the game, mention some changes we’ve made and hopefully be entertaining.

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I am playing as the Terran Empire. 

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I choose to beef up productivity and economics and have the colonizers (more admin power) and inventive (free constructor and engineering).

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I also give my ships a bit of a different look than standard.

 

Start of game

The year is 2243 (new version increases the year by 1).  The Terran Empire finds itself ready to expand into the universe.

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In the new version, the stars are slightly closer together to improve early game pacing.

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Techs like Universal Translator also increase administration points.

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Earth here starts with an artifact whose study will give us a cool new power.

The economy in Galactic Civilizations III works like this:

A planet has raw production.  This raw production can be increased with various types of improvements and channeled in various ways like into research, ship construction, wealth generation and planetary improvements.

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I order Earth’s ship yard to fast-build a constructor.  I start with a lot of money so I use that to quickly build up ships.

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I soon am presented with a moral dilemma.  An illegal cloning operation that will quickly build up population if we let it continue.  But the DNA in the clones was stolen from people.  We can stop this or continue forward.  Each option has different consequences attached.  I choose the benevolent path mainly because I find clones creepy.

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Earth’s influence has increased to the asteroid belt. I can select asteroids and spend money to build on them.

My colony ship has reached another solar system.

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It’s going to take a lot of turns to get this planet up to speed.  While landing we found that the pools were populated by a sentient species.  We decided we would not make use of the pools to protect that species.  This provided some additional benevolence ideology points which I now spend here:

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In GalCiv III, there are 3 different ideologies: Benevolent, Pragmatic and Malevolent.  You get points in each category based on the action and when enough points are collected you can purchase an ideological aspect.

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I choose Educated so that I can get some free research.

I also meet my first alien, a species known as the Krynn Sydicate.  We’ll be worrying more about them later.

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I also build my  first starbase:

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Starbases allow the player to collect the resources nearby as well as spread influence.  Player influence, especially when contiguous to the player’s home world, generates tourism income if your planets have any attractions.

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Every 10 turns, my civilization gets a citizen.  I can choose the type of citizen (and the # of types increases as players unlock them through research).  I choose engineer so that I can up ships faster on my home world.

I also settle on Snyder II which is a mere class 3 planet.  The new update will have a lot more class 2 and 3 planets as they can be set to Aid the economy of the player with relatively little oversight.

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We are on our way.

The Early Game

One of the first things I do is set my shipyard to be fed by other planets in my civilization.

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This boosts that shipyard’s production and with it, I build some supply ships which I can use to build up other planets.

I now present to you…

The Drengin Empire.

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As an experience player, I quickly realize I have two issues.

First, I was too slow in capturing galactic resources so I am at a severe disadvantage in the long term.

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Second, I have a slight advantage in the number of planets I have which means, at least for awhile, I could potentially win in a war and capture some of the resources I need.  I am in particular interested in the Lisa system which has a ton of resources in it.

Thus my strategy is to first get the technology to invade planets and then to a lighting strike to take both Lisa III (the planet) and destroy the starbase and replace it with my own before the Krynn can overwhelm me.

In the power rankings, we are neck and neck with The Krynn but this won’t last.

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Meanwhile, the Krynn have already built a hypergate:

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This is not a good sign for me as it takes quite a bit of manufacturing might to build this.  You can see Earth and the Lisa system on this map.

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I quickly conquer Lisa III and see how I can take this one transport as I have an early lead in this one area of technology.

Lisa III, btw, is pretty awesome.

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I also begin stationing garrisons on my planets.  I don’t have enough manufacturing capacity to defend my planets effectively but I can make sure invasion is not easy.

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The Krynn quickly put defenses in their systems and start building cruisers.   We maintain a technological advantage for now in the military department.   My hope is that we can take their home world.  Doing so would effectively take the Krynn out of the game.  This looks promising.

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Followed up by an easy conquest.

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And another amazing world.

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Soon enough, the entire Krynn home system is under Terran control.

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Next, the Terrans focus on having large fleets since the quality of our fleets is pretty low.  But I can’t make a dent on the Krynn starbase.

I design the Sawtooth class cruiser to see if I can use a fleet of these to crack the now well fortified Krynn starbase.

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The Sawtooth is successful.  However, the Yor have a starbase closer than mine which picks up some of the resources.  I need that Durantium!

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I might as well deal with the Yor now especially if I have help.

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The Yor are more powerful.  But the Slyne plus the Terrans are enough to overwhelm them in theory.  We make peace with the Krynn and focus on the Yor.

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The Yor are evenly matched technologically with us.  But we had a head start.

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After some heavy losses, the Yor starbase is removed and the Duranthium is ours.  We are now in a very strong economic position.   However, the Yor  have become even more powerful.

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Not too far from Lisa is Iconia, the Yor homeworld.  Well, the world the Yor stole from the Iconians around 100,000 years ago but that’s another story.

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And the Yor go down!

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For the climax of the Human Yor war is the Preemptive class cruiser.

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Despite their losses the Yor were a formidable opponent.

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Their invasion fleets were well equipped, well armed and well positioned.

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It is with some irony that the AI is better at the “death stack” than the human in this case as my forces are spread across the map. Unfortunately for the Yor, the new Empire class capital ship had just been designed.

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And trade with our partners was going very well:

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When the Yor sue for peace, the new map looks like this:

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Mid Game

The Krynn had a great start.  They just had bad neighbors.  I would know.

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Now they’re gone.

Like the old Soviet Union, the Terran Empire was powerful on paper.  But its enormous military was expensive to maintain and ship per ship inferior. Its economy was weak and the people unhappy.  To remain viable long-term, we would need to modernize our economy while hoping that our military would remain relatively strong enough to discourage aggressors.

My general strategy is threefold:

  1. Build economic starbases around my worlds.
  2. Make sure every planet has at least one economic and one morale structure.
  3. Build a fleet of freighters and start making money.

While this was going on, I bribed other civilizations to take down potential rivals such as the Drengin.

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Basically, I gave them my older but still quite lethal ships in exchange.

 

Late Game

Years have passed.  The Terran Empire’s economy has successfully modernized.

We have the new Pip fighter in mass production:

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Using high-density materials, it basically shoots pellets at near the speed of light.

We run a balanced budget with the tax rate at 32%.

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The major powers are at war with one another and have eclipsed mine in terms of raw numbers but we have become a much more powerful civilization overall.

 

Some thoughts…

At around turn 200 the galaxy is a known thing.  What the game needs are additional objectives for me to pursue.  Not quests and not new victory conditions.  Rather, more like directed achievements that are within the game universe’s lore.

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For inspiration, let’s take a look at the galaxy situation at turn 200.

There’s a lot of war going on.

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OBSERVATION 1: I think there should be more outcry on the home front. Like, literally, every turn war should generate a small amount of unrest on all the planets.  This would enourage wars to end.  Right now, the winning side never has a reason to give up.

OBSERVATION 2: There should be an achievement for bringing peace to the galaxy.  The civilization would then gain the “Peacemaker” ability which would be +1 to diplomacy for the rest of the game.

OBSERVATION 3: There should be “named” Precursor relics in the galaxy.  RIght now we have a “Manufacturing Relic” and there are several of them.  But what I mean are special named relics that if you have all of them give you various bonuses.  The idea being that capturing these would become an object.

OBSERVATION 4: Same as 3 but with special Precursor planets.

OBSERVATION 5: An achievement related to tourism and trade income.  Basically, if you have >X amount and are above Y% of the total, you get a special achievement that gives you bonuses.

OBSERVATION 6: There should be a chosen one effect. We had an event in GalCiv II and supposedly here but I never see it where the Civ that is in last place will tend to get an event that results in its raw resources getting a +1% bonus per turn.  Let them live long enough and they’ll win the game.  You never know when it’ll come up but it forces the player to not just sit on getting ascension crystals or diplomacy victories or whatever.

OBSERVATION 7: DOOM FLEET. I wish there was a Doom fleet (Dreadlord events) sort of like what we had in GalCiv II where you got this crazy, massive fleet would spawn but moved very slowly to the most powerful planets one at a time destroying stuff.  It would slowly get widdled down.

OBSERVATION 8: CRAFTING. If you look at my resources above, you can see I have a lot of different ones.  It would be nice if there were “Recipes” and things I could build with them (same for the other Civs).  I know ships and improvements require them but I mean more like a separate screen for experimental (to use a Supreme Commander term).  One of a kind ships that do various interesting things.

OBSERVATION 9: Planet management should evolve over the game.   I like the placement of buildings and such early in the game.  But eventually, all I really want to do is just see them get upgraded.  I don’t really want to keep placing down buildings late game.  Late game my available actions look like this:

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Goes right off the screen. 

Let’s look at the actual TYPES of structures here:

  1. Wealth Buildings
  2. Ship production buildings
  3. Manufacturing buildings
  4. Research Buildings
  5. Food buildings
  6. Population growth buildings
  7. Diplomacy Buildings
  8. Influence Buildings
  9. Morale buildings
  10. Tourism buildings.
  11. Defense buildings

While this may be hissed at, I don’t really love all the building pictures.  I’d rather just designate the types, make use of the adjacency at the start and from then on, I simply put in points to upgrade one of the categories of buildings.  I think some, like population growth and separate ship/improvement production could be eliminated or combined.  Get it down to 10 types of production and then decide how you want to upgrade the planet rather than messing around with giant lists like this.

OBSERVATION 10: Adversaries. In this game, I didn’t really feel like I had adversaries.  I had victims for sure.  Enemies? Yea.  But I mean, a visceral, they’re going to screw me and I can screw them back.  In the OS/2 version of GalCiv I had things like destabilization and sabotage and all sorts of other stuff I could do.  I also liked that foreign aid was kept separate from trade.  I could literally just send ships and money to someone fighting a war rather than conducting an imbalanced trade.  It helped the AI know who to be grateful to and why.

OBSERVATION 11: Annexing. There are nearby civilizations that I could easily conquer.  Why should I have to fight them?  Imagine a resource like diplomatic capital or something that I could use to simply get them to join my civilization if there’s enough power difference between the two and relations are positive?  This would help move things along in the later game. 

OBSERVATION 12: Invasions should be simpler. What I mean by this isn’t that they should be “simple” in terms of game mechanics but mainly less tedious.  I’d love to see it where all ships have a “occupation force size” variable.  Tiny would have 0.1, Small 0.2, Medium 1, Large, 2, Huge 3 and an actual Transport 10.  I don’t see why I need an actual separate transport action to conquer a tiny rock in space.  Sure, invading a capital world should be a production.  But these tiny worlds? 

Anyway, I’m going to leave it here for now.  There’s a bunch of little improvements I’ve put into the code based on this experience that I think players will like.  Mostly having to do with not requiring resources to build the first level starbase upgrades.

Having been playing this game for 9 years (3 years of development, 6 years since release) it sure has come a long way.  I enjoyed it when it first came out but it felt a bit too streamlined.  Now, I feel like it has a lot of depth and lives up to its original design from years ago.


GalCiv: What's next?

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2021 By Frogboy

We aren't ready to announce anything specifically yet but I wanted to give you a sneak preview of some of the things we have going on around here.

First, there probably won't be a lot more journal entries for GalCiv III.  There will be more updates to GalCiv III but they will fall under bug fixing only.  The team has been staffed up (and we're hiring more) to focus on "GalCiv Next".

So what are some of the broad strokes?  In no particular order these are the things that have been on our mind:

How to have big maps and play tall. You're going to hear this concept a lot: A map of maps.   

More player actions. We really liked the artifacts as a concept because they let the player actively do things in the world.  We are looking at expanding on that.

Crazy big tech tree without it being a mess to manage. Like every GalCiv game we've ever done, we are going to be trying a lot of different new ways of managing techs.   What I can say is that we would really like to have a much, much larger tech tree in the future.

Invasions. We don't like the invasions in GalCiv III.  It's...fine.  But I feel like I'm popping balloons rather than engaging in some titanic battle for control of an entire planet.

Combat. We would like to see combat move away from being an all or nothing thing in a single turn.

Citizens++. Citizens were introduced in Crusade.  But we would really like the entire game revolve around citizens to the point where population = citizens and it is all about what you do with them.

Much, much, much bigger empires. In 4X games, including GalCiv, I think we've been approaching colonies backwards.  We always default to forcing players to micromanage their cities, planets, whatever and then add some sort of AI manager system to try to automate planets.  As a result, the game designs always try to discourage/punish players for having too many colonies which I find off-putting.

Instead, why not encourage players to have as many colonies as they want but by default, they are just simple resource generators? That is, they provide money, resources, research to their sponsor world.  Then, when you find a particularly interesting world, you flip the concept of a "governor" on its head and assign a citizen to govern the planet which means THEN you manage the planet.   And in doing so, we make sure that consuming a citizen to become a governor is a pretty big deal since that citizen could be doing something else important.  So imagine a game where you have 400 colonies of which say you directly manage your best few yourself?

Because in GalCiv III, we basically made class 1 through 10 planets rare because who wants to manage these worlds? This was a missed opportunity.  Now we can have lots of meh planets that simply act as the raw resource providers to their sponsor world which in turn you are managing to do super awesome stuff (think of the min-maxing going on there!).

Vastly bigger map differentiation.  The smallest maps in the future will probably feel roughly the same as they currently do.  But the largest sized maps will make the maps in GalCiv III look piddly with a lot more strategic depth to it as well.

We want multiplayer to be viable. Putting aside that most people don't play 4X games multiplayer, we would like there to be gameplay modes that you could play with a total stranger in less than an hour if you'd like.  These special modes would be available for single player too.

NO CAMPAIGNS. All the story and special scripting would instead be integrated into the game as events and such to help make the sandbox game more interesting.  

So that's just some thoughts.  We'll be talking more about it in the future.

 


GalCiv III Poll

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 By redskittlesonly

If you could add a new planet type to the GalCiv universe, what would it be?


Getting the GalCiv gang back together

Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 By Frogboy

Galactic Civilizations II (not III) was released a long time ago.  Since then, most of the people who worked on the game have remained at Stardock but not everyone.  However, over the past year or so, we've been lucky enough to recruit and or contract back some of the original members to return working on new Galactic Civilizations efforts.

 


GalCiv at the end of 2020

Posted on Friday, December 25, 2020 By Frogboy

It's hard to believe that GalCiv III was released over 5 years ago.  Since then, we've had a few major expansions and a lot of DLC.

As we enter 2021, we have finally reached the stage where GalCiv III won't be seeing any new DLC but will continue to get updates in the form of balance, fixes and performance improvements as we find them.  Updates will be less frequent as QA time is particularly precious right now.

We are very proud of how Galactic Civilizations III evolved.  We have taken a lot of lessons from it on things that people liked (citizens, hyper gates, artifacts) and things that players didn't like so much (how invasions worked, commonwealths, how governments worked) and will be applying these lessons in the future.

One feature of GalCiv we have discussed many times is how future-proof the engine was.  And that has indeed been proven out as the engine is state of the art (does need its rendering module updated to DX12 at some point).  This means that its future sequel will start out much more fleshed out.  

With GalCiv III v1.0, we basically had to start from scratch which was a real bitter pill, especially given that I had spent oner a decade on the GalCiv OS/2 and Windows I/II AI tech which had to be rewritten.

For those who don't already have GalCiv III, now is the best time to get it.  It is now in its fully realized form.  And for those of you who have been on this journey with us, I hope you like how its evolved and thank you for being there with us!

Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

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