Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.
Of Invasions and Accessibility
Published on January 16, 2018 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Happy new year!

This month marks my one-year anniversary of returning to my beloved Galactic Civilizations as its lead designer.  And since then, we've made a lot of changes much to the joy and angst of many galactic conquerors.

Unintended Consequences

With the announcement of the third expansion pack to Galactic Civilizations III imminent, this serves as a good time to look at where we stand today.

For the past year, I've been going through and weeding out improvements, events and other game modifiers that had unintended consequences.   

The very first thing I did was read all the forum posts on GalCiv3.com, Steam, Reddit, elsewhere and see a lot of criticism for what amounts to unintended consequences of multiplying bonuses.  Getting rid of these has been good for the game but not all players appreciate the changes since it dramatically nerfs their gameplay.

For example, with the right combination, you could get ships with a base speed of over 40 moves per turn.  That's without adding an engine.  There are players who have posted complaints at how slow things get when they try to move their 90 move per turn ship around late game on a ludicrous sized galaxy.

The game itself was designed (and thus the underlying engine) on the premise that you wouldn't get many ships with more than say 10 moves per turn.   

While the AI could be scripted to do the same thing, it would destroy the game.  If you think it's slow for you to move a ship 90 moves per turn, imagine 60 AI players doing it with 400 ships per turn.  Even with a multicore Astar path finding algorithm, it would make the game both unplayable and not fun (what's the point of even having defenses or a forward line if ships can swoop in from sectors away every turn?).

So there's been a lot of work to get things balanced together.  It's not a matter of trying to change the game around as much as making the game play as had been originally intended.  As a math nerd, when I came in and saw the numbers it was just a matter of time to find all these unintended bonuses and kill them off.

Version 2.8: Invasions & Accessibility

One of our Fall tasks was to do more focus testing on why people don't find GalCiv III that approachable.  From watching new players, one thing was incredibly obvious.  The DESIGNER button at the top of the screen of the main screen was killing us.

Think about it.  You're new to the game and you are just clicking on buttons and you click on the Designer button and you get a super complex screen.  It's poison to new players.

The thing is, we don't really need that button.  For one thing, players can design ships from the main menu now.  Secondly, the ship designer, while super cool, isn't one of the features you need to use to manage your empire.  It belongs as part of the shipyard.

The second big task we worked on for 2.8 was the AI managing legions.  The concept of having to train legions and then put them on transports was relatively new as of 2.5.  And while the GalCiv III AI is somewhat genetic in how it works, I still have to make the "tests" that it has to pass to determine whether it's on the right track. 

Unfortunately, I was quickly schooled by other GalCiv players in not being very good at keeping a healthy supply of legions and transports ready to deal with opportunities.  And my own weaker assumptions got passed on to the AI.  Version 2.8 addresses this. Hard.

The rest of the AI changes were small but add up to a big difference.  For instance, previously, the AI had a one-size fits all fleet size.  While good enough for most players, our better players found themselves able to actually out compete the AI even on harder levels.  Thus, the AI gained the ability to evaluate different sized fleets based on a number of galactic conditions (instead of a fixed size).

Cleaning

Most of my work was on Crusade.  We brought over features from Crusade to the base game but we didn't bring what is arguably the more important aspect of it - cleaning and streamlining.

Put  your new player hat on and load up the base game.  You have tons of technologies to choose from with lots of improvements, weapons and modules that really just are hard to grasp onto.  Thus, we streamlined the base game for 2.8 so that there are fewer techs available at the start and what they provide is more obvious and more beneficial.

Population Growth

Population growth is tricky.  On the one hand, you want it to be realistic but on the other, you don't really want it to be realistic because realism can be pretty boring.

So we have population growth default to 0.1 population growth per turn.  Many good players recognized that if you loaded up transports with tiny populations to colonize you could get huge benefits by fast expanding.  And a big part of our work has been to support tall empires and not give fast expansion too big of a benefit.

For 2.8, we made the minimum population you can have on a colony ship be 1.  This makes colonizing a planet somewhat more serious than previous and allows us to avoid having to do a % population growth (do the math, there's no happy ending with a flat % growth -- boring or broken).

Diplomacy

We are in the process of adding some new diplomatic modifiers.  One of which is "We have a long, happy friendship" which essentially helps reward players who have been keeping the peace a long time from suddenly having players going to conquer them.  We already have various hidden mitigating factors for this but we haven't had anything a player could visibly see.

As always...

Anything you can do to spread the word on Galactic Civilizations helps.  Sales determine how many engineers we can put on the game.

When GalCiv III first came out, it was at a supreme disadvantage because it was on a brand-new engine.  But now, as we enter 2018, it's multi-core, 64 bit engine is looking pretty awesome as the rapid progress should, I hope, make apparent.  You'll be happy to know that the Spectre and Meltdown fixes you may have heard of will affect GalCiv III very little because we don't rely on single CPU core performance.  

Those of you who have moved to 4K probably have noticed just how future-proof GalCiv III is.   As time goes on, the game gets richer, deeper and more polished and with your help, we can ensure it is the ultimate 4X space strategy game.

 


Comments (Page 2)
on Jan 23, 2018

Skywalkerfx

Ibeg to differ

Quoting Xzanron,

While I'm a huge fan of GalCivIII, I've been reluctant to play it recently, and the main reason, I feel is because of something mentioned above about accessibility.

I've been spoiled rotten by Stellaris, and the way there's a number of ways to achieve almost any action, and it's usually just 2 clicks away. After playing hours in Stellaris the interface for GalCivIII feels cumbersome and disorganised. Paradox of course has the advantage that their engine is almost seven years old now, and they've had lots of time to improve it. 



I bought Stellaris and GalCiv3 at the same time. I played through the tutorial of Stellaris and it basically told me to do things to show the interface but the game was not playable (it ran me out of resources) and only by watching YouTube videos was I able to figure out what some of the tutorial was trying to do. But I don't find it accessable or easy to play and quite frankly I'm not even sure what that game's purpose is. It seems to be more of a space civ simulator than anything else.

I have not made it very far past the tutorial in GalCiv3 but it seems to be more of an engaging game at this point.

 

Everyone's tastes are different that is why I wasn't comparing the game-play or mechanics, merely the user experience.

on Jan 23, 2018

  Thanks for all of your hard work and true care for the game and those that are part of this fine family. This is by far the best game ever; not for pure profit like the overwhelming majority of other companies, but for passion (something that unfortunately is rarely seen anymore).

  One thing that I find particularly impressive is the fact that you are finally standing up to the egotism of the players. You have heard "me so horny" many times, yet you and the fine members of Stardock are keeping the 'zipper up' so to speak.

           A true friend,   Chef Stephen  

on Jan 24, 2018

Gauntlet03

Sorry, let me be more clear... I'm saying it should be completely abstracted from position/placement... this would open up the opportunity to separate "ship design" in terms of ship components... from "model design" (aesthetics/physical pieces).

A "basic" designer could then exist which doesn't allow "modelling" but would be far more simplistic for a new player. 

To me... its wholly unnecessary, but I was thinking of how to address other's comments above.

I agree on that point for sure.

You can see how the Star Control designer has learned from that.

 

on Jan 26, 2018

I think a lot of the reason why this game is not garnering many new players is two-fold:

First, you have many from the older playerbase (i.e., galciv2 days) who are disappointed with the seemingly rushed state of the game on launch, and the fact that DLC's are essentially copy-pasting concepts from galciv2 directly into galciv3.

Second, and most important, is the fact that the lines of communication between the dev team and the playerbase is rather poor. For example, it would be really helpful if the dev diaries posted here also made their way onto Steam. Additionally, the game feels like it's been back-burnered (partially due to the strained lines of communication and partially due to the lackluster DLC's). Furthermore, developer intentions have been unclear. Frankly, I cannot hide my incredulity in regards to the intended movement speed of ships mentioned above; given that you've been working on the galciv franchise for 20-30 years now, I had assumed that the concept of min-maxing should be rather familiar to you. Forgive me, but it sounds like you are back-pedaling desperately and borderline lying through your teeth.

As an Elite Founder, most of these problems don't affect me. That said, I feel as though anyone who did not pre-order the game is getting screwed rather hard. Two friends of mine, who were ardent fans of the second game, purchased this one in the expectation that the game would function correctly upon release. Instead, they feel slighted because they instead received something that amounts to a three-year-long test bed for a new game engine.

TL;DR Lackluster DLC rehashes of old game mechanics and poor lines of communication between devs and audience are working in tandem to kill your game. (Also, really bad quality of life hiccups such as GLARING typos in tooltips, descriptions, etc. While I'm at it, none of the base factions feel special; you can remake them yourself via the civ designer. They felt special before because they had asymmetrical starting conditions, thus resulting in the illusion of the AI's having a personality; throw in an AI personality randomizer and you've got yourself a compelling and engaging gameplay experience [protip, don't release this as DLC]).

Forgive the rant, but I feel as though the devteam working on this game isn't actually trying (either that or the game engine is so byzantine that it actively hamstrings production; though you're not at the mercy of third-party developers in this regard I suppose). On a positive note, every time I try to play this game following a new update or DLC, it works better than it did the time before; the part that kills it for me is the fact that the game doesn't feel worthwhile to play because non-cheating AI is too dumb and cheating AI is a grind (as a result, I always keep putting it down having never finished the game I started). On a final note, the development of this game is going better than that of Star Citizen; so there's that I suppose.

on Jan 26, 2018

That's pretty disappointing to hear.  It seems like in 2017 we made a lot of progress on the game.  Starting with Crusade and several major free updates to the game.

Have you tried the v2.8 opt-in?

on Jan 26, 2018

Frogboy

That's pretty disappointing to hear.  It seems like in 2017 we made a lot of progress on the game.  Starting with Crusade and several major free updates to the game.

Have you tried the v2.8 opt-in?

Don't get discouraged, the progress isn't going unnoticed.  It's kinda weird that the old game mechanics weren't there to begin with, but I can tell they are less "copy paste" and more "bring it back x100".

My main concern is the AI being behind GC2, but Wardell's recent posts about it have me feeling pretty good about it not staying that way in the future.

on Jan 26, 2018

To be sure, I don't think SD should get discouraged... okay... let me rephrase... I hope they find the will to remain true to their good work. Its been a bumpy ride, but there is definitely a lot of hyperbole coming from fans as well. Crusade is definitely a massive improvement. 

I think the new player piece, is both UI, but also just certain features that are either semi-working or counter intuitive.

 

I'd like to note that I am not a founder, own all but the mech-parts DLC and found many of the DLC very worthwhile. I don't value campaigns, so that did limit the value of some for me, but that is personal taste (and I got ship parts out of the deal). Mercenaries, Snathi, and Crusade are Must-Haves.

on Jan 26, 2018

I have been with this game since 2016, never played GalCiv2 much and only since GalCiv3 was released and I have found the progress this game is making quite obvious. Just the 2.8 opt in has made playing noticeably harder on Gifted that I have lost the last three games I started because I keep losing planets and war is no longer a walkover, far from it that I feel I am always trying to catchup and enemy ai now makes fleets which you can't just overpower like before when every game was making a strong navy and rolling over everyone as they didn't build anything like what a human player could have. They are attacking with good fleets and transports and will seek out your easiest planets to take.

on Jan 26, 2018

Frogboy

That's pretty disappointing to hear.  It seems like in 2017 we made a lot of progress on the game.  Starting with Crusade and several major free updates to the game.

Have you tried the v2.8 opt-in?

 

Yes, there were a lot of improvements in 2017, no doubt about it. As I said in my personal review the road here was somewhat bumpy and frustrating at times (for this fan anyway) but GalCiv 3 is definitely heading in the right direction. The improvements in AI and performance, ongoing tweaks and adjustments are recognized and much appreciated.

I would encourage you and the developers to not be discouraged. I know the Steam scores are a source of concern but most of us who have stuck through this development from the beginning have seen the improvements and do appreciate the continuous support. Despite what many critics may say, there is a lot to love in this game. Coming from someone who stepped away from it for a while until the Crusade expansion came out, trust me...there's a lot to love about GalCiv 3 now.

To be honest, today's gamers as a whole make me sad. The entitlement mentality, the "us versus them" attitude, makes me glad I was never smart enough to get into game developing especially in this day and age. To some, everybody's just as bad as Electronic Arts. I've worked in retail management for years now and I thought I'd dealt with some holier-than-thou people. Whew! It doesn't hold a candle to what you guys put up with.

<OPINION> DLC and loot boxes are here to stay, people. We've been paying $60 for triple-A games for over a decade now. The laws of inflation say we should be paying more but we aren't. In my opinion, games should be closer to $80-$90 now but try selling that to today's gamers. Sure, it's not always fair and some publishers gouge more than others, but the future is DLC if you want your game to remain $60. It's time to man up and deal with it or give up PC gaming and get a console. </OPINION>

Well, that went off the rails. My apologies.

But to Brad and Co. I say kudos on making right what, at first, looked kind of "meh". Galactic Civilizations 3 has a lot to be proud of and so does your development team. I strongly encourage you to keep it up. Trust me, it's getting better.

on Jan 27, 2018

I consider my initial buy-in to be finally paying off.  I have enjoyed the game since Beta, but have been waiting for Brad to get hands on with the AI.  It bothers me that so much in the mechanics has gotten nerfed in the name of progress, but it has been progress.  All I can say is please Brad don't stop now.  Thanks!

on Jan 27, 2018

There is some really actionable feedback here.  We really appreciate that.

As for progress, I've talked about this elsewhere.  If I had a time machine, i would have done things differently.

As some of you know, GalCiv is my baby.  I wrote the first version 25 years ago when in college.

For GalCiv III, I had to choose between doing ANOTHER GalCiv III game or helping launch Oxide Games and Mohawk Games and I chose the ladder.

In hindsight, I should have led the GalCiv III effort first but it is what it is.   

I don't want revisionist history to change the status of GalCiv III at launch.  We are talking about an 83 metacritic game at the 1.0 release.  It was really good.  It was just too conservative and the priorities were placed in areas that I wouldn't have put them (the ship designer got a huge chunk of engineering time instead of the areas that I have traditionally focused).

Since returning to the project last year, I feel like we've made some terrific progress.  The game's engine is awesome.  Where other 4X games are working within the limits of their tech, we are barely touching what we can do.  That's the advantage of a 4th generation engine versus the other 3rd generation engines the others have.

However, in doing so, we have ceded the initial advantage to other 4X games who had mature engines that could focus on polish and user experience.  Now we're having to play catch-up on those areas.

 

 

on Jan 28, 2018



*entitlement*

 


 

Yeah, this kinda self-hatred needs to stop within the gamer community, demanding and wanting quality isn't wrong.  Demanding and wanting a full product isn't wrong.  It's kinda stupid to think that game prices should never go up, and it's not remotely unreasonable to expect a higher UP FRONT price for a COMPLETE product, but that's a whole-nother thing.

 

I did notice Wardell talking about being afraid of making DLC, but that is less because gamers are selfish babies, and more because a lot of companies have given DLC a bad name via abuse.  I'm not sure what, if anything can be done to make this have less impact on GC3, but trashing your fellow gamers is NOT what will accomplish that.

on Jan 28, 2018

I'm  extremely happy that you came back last year and I think there is not one player that is not happy about that. The game makes big steps in the right direction and get improved and become better and better.  Great to read about the new expansion and all the plans there are in progress. 

Thank you so much for your hard work and to continue the hard work on the best game ever! 

on Jan 28, 2018

Perhaps this is also a function of the gaming climate of the past few years where DLC and Lootboxes have become more and more predatory. Some nostalgia may be leaking forth as well... I've seen how the game has progressed over the years, but the feeling that remains with me is that a lot of this progress should have been made before launch.

Also, I am no stranger to ill-received enterprise. I can empathize with the devs as I too have tried launching a product of my own that really went nowhere as a result of community disinterest and administrative dispassion (in my case); i.e., I am not trying to come across as unfair.

Finally, my previous post was in some way a letter to myself; i.e., a manifestation of the thoughts that have been brooding for several years now as I've seen the gaming market develop. In a way, I wanted the words out there so that others could see them.

GLHF 

 

on Jan 31, 2018

Hi Frogboy, this is my first post on the forums.

My first post and why I've hesitated
I've been reading over the GalCiv III forums since the game launched, and have wanted to ask a question for a while that I felt others tried to ask, but then it seemed to disintegrate into unproductive arguments.  I suppose I hesitated to write because I'm anticipating salty responses.  I really enjoyed GalCiv II, but stopped playing due to the absence of one feature that was essential for me, personally.  I haven't purchased GalCiv III due to the absence of that feature (see below), but if it was added I'd jump on board right away.  Perhaps there are others out there who dismissed GalCiv III, but would end up prioritizing it over Stellaris or others if it was added?  I'll explain below. 

A possiblity that it may happen?
Your May 2017 Journal post gave me a glimpse of what could happen.  You mentioned the potential consideration of "letting flees that are commanded by an Admiral have tactical control over their battle." and that "right now, GalCiv III has tactical battles, it's just that they are forcibly put to auto-resolve.." (https://forums.galciv3.com/483144/galciv-journal-may-2017) Is the idea of adding admiral control or enabling some mod to that effect still under consideration? 

Solidifying GalCiv III as the 4x leader
I haven't purchased GalCiv III due to the absence of an option for more tactical control in battle.  It doesn't have to be turn-based tactical control, but I've always been seeking for a vs. AI option that would give me the same involvement with ships I design as is possible with colonies, diplomacy, etc.  Articles at explorminate.net describe these key 4x immersion factors well.  If it some aspect of tactical control vs. AI was added I'd jump on board right away. 

I realize this differs from your initial vision for the game, but if this was an optional expansion of sorts, would it give you a chance to emerge with a unique advantage over your competitors?  You, Stellaris, Endless Space, and others (like GalCiv III) have established themselves as the top 4x leaders.  As with GalCiv III, I haven't bought these games either because each of them lacked the immersion in combat that I've desired.  (I did buy the latest Master of Orion, StarDrive 1/2, Stars in Shadow, Dawn of Andromeda, but they all failed to do this in my opinion). 

GalCiv III has already established itself as one of the leaders, so if you expanded outside expectations by possibly adding a feature like this, could it bring in other players who tried and were disappointed with these other games, or who wanted the feature in Endless Space and Stellaris but couldn't get it?

Please note that my suggestion is about a game option that could be turned on or off, or perhaps are only available vs. the AI, and so would be an option a player could disable if it disrupted his/her vision of how the game should be.  I keep hoping to see a press release that announces something like "GalCiv III to offer major feature option not found in other leading 4x games:  tactical combat!"

AbsoluteZero