Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.

One of the challenges we have in setting up maps is the question of how quickly should players be meeting other civilizations in the game?  How quickly should things show up? How much should the game direct you?

I decided to take a hard look at GalCiv II and GalCiv III to see how different those first 20 turns worked out.

GalCiv II: First 20 turns

Turn 1:

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  • No on-screen direction but the UI is pretty clean and My ship is already selected to move.
  • Selected ship has an automate button visible so I press that.

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  • There is an anomaly right away so I get to see what it does.

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Ooh money.

  • There is a second one nearby that gives me money.
  • The Stellar Miner has an automate button too so I press that.
  • I send the colony ship out to explore
  • There is no guidance that I should do something on my planet.
  • I click on the planet and press the view button.

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  • Because available projects is blank I am clued in to click on the green tiles.
  • List of things to build are very clear:

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  • The build ship part is not easy to find.

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  • It has a very large colored bar telling me how long it will take to build. Because it’s 29 weeks it’s orange which makes it stick out. This makes me look for other buttons like Purchase.

 

Ship build list comparison:

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Way less screen dirt and simple explanations.

There is a button that says purchase on the screen:

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So I press that. I notice this versus the tiny buy button in the queue in GalCiv III which I didn’t notice because ther’es only a few buttons on this screen to notice.

The first turn also gave me a bunch of money which trained me to think that money must matter.

Survey ship has a lot of moves:

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We are still on turn 1.

  • Got a bunch of money
  • Got a new ship
  • Very obvious benefits

News announcement:

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Turn 2:

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Loading ship.

I send my ship to Mars.

I am asked to name it.

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Text is pretty terrible but it’s pretty.

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Mars sucks.

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Got my third planet (on turn 2)

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Ugly ugly text. But Good, Neutral and Evil are pretty clearly spelled out along with funny text.

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I choose evil.

This bit of personality helps with engagement.

Survey ship finds more stuff.

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This sort of text is engaging.

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Research screen has the tree and the list on the same screen. The benefit of each one is pretty obvious.

 

Turn 3:

I meet an alien on turn 3.

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Survey ship finds more neat little stuff.

 

Turn 4:

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Turn 5:

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Turn 6:

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I definitely want Universal translators now

 

Turn 7:

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Second alien:

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I like that I can see how long it will take the ship to build from this screen.

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Turn 8:

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  • This is cool because it means early game there are 1 per galaxy things that are another thing players might want to build instead of other things. GalCiv III has nothing like this.

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  • Survey ships get 5 moves
  • Colony ships get 4 so things get around a lot faster

Turn 9:

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Turn 10:

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I choose warfare next.

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Minor civ:

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Strategic map is clean looking.

 

Turn 11:

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I am feeling collective pressure.

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Humans are diplomats so they start with the ability to get good techs.

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I’m getting fun trades right out of the gate.

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Turn 12:

Nothing

 

Turn 13:

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Look how noticeable the mines on the asteroids are? I also like that there is a ship going around building these.

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Turn 14:

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Another colony:

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Turn 15:

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All this money helps me jump start my planets.

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Espionage?

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Turn 16:

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Takes 20 weeks to build a ship unless you rush it. But I get a bunch of money from plentiful anomalies which I’m scooping up fast because so is everyone else.

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Turn 17:

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Yay us!

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Turn 18:

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Turn 19:

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Turn 20:

Nothing.

 

Conclusions

There’s a reason this game is considered the best space 4X game of all time by many. Clean UI. Great pacing. Obvious gameplay (especially for the time).

My ratings for GalCiv II:

  • Engagement: 5/5. Great flavor text. Stuff is making my civ improve quickly.
  • Intuitiveness: 4/5. It’s usually obvious what to do because there isn’t a million things happening on the screen. But no Shafer button and no tooltips.
  • Pacing: 5/5. Within a few turns there’s other civs, lots of interactions, and a feeling that things are building up.
  • Desire to keep playing: 4/5. The game doesn’t fully hold up ove time. But I still want to play it.
  • Overall: 4/5. Was easily the best 4X space game of its time. These days it would be in the top rung.

Now, let’s look at GalCiv III.

GalCiv III first 20 turns

I realize I’m pretty critical here, but this is so that we can make sure GalCiv IV is better.

Turn 1:

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  • No on-screen direction on what I should do.
  • No on-screen explanation on how to move anything.
  • No on-screen explanation on what the ships do.
  • No anomalies or other things for my survey ship to interact with so I just move it.
  • I order constructor to build a starbase. No hint on that it affects things in range.

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  • Starbase is off centered by default.
  • No on-screen direction on what I should do.
  • I construct an ascension ring and an economic lab.

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  • Research screen pretty decent.
  • Choose artificial gravity.

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  • No direction on what I am supposed to do here.

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  • No direction on what I am supposed to do here.
  • Pretty terrible UI.
  • No guidance that I should rush building something so I don’t.

Turn 2:

Nothing

Turn 3:

Nothing

Turn 4:

Nothing

Turn 5:

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  • I next choose space elevators.
  • By Survey ship has reached its destination so I send it to another star system.

Turn 6:

  • Colony ship built. I load it up and send it to another star system.
  • Earth has built the improvements.
  • I really wish I could see how fast the ships being built in the shipyard were being built based on my choices here.
  • I order another colony ship to be built. I wish he game gave me direction on what I might want to do.

Turn 7:

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This is nice. But it would be cooler if this was presented as a cut-scene. Meanwhile..blah blah.

And then this came up. This UI is really ugly and hard to read.

I take the free ship.

Turn 8:

Nothing. Ships move.

Turn 9:

My survey ship is attacked.

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Super ugly confirmation screen. I’d rather the game camera panned to the action and showed me the battle.

Turn 10:

More pirates attack.

I wish my survey ship leveled up and got goodies.

  • Colony ship built. I order it to another system.
  • Space elevators researched
  • Choose military tech since I’m dealing with pirates.
  • I order a constructor to be built.

Turn 11:

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  • Would be cool if this allowed me to customize my Civilization in some random way giving me 3 choices.
  • Also first new colony:

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So ugly. There’s no tooltips to even explain what benevolent and such means. What does +10% influence mean?

I choose the malevolent one because +10% research sounds best.

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  • I order a space elevator to be built.

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No direction on what I should do here.

I choose the one that gives me a ship.

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No suggestions given. The thing on the right should be a tooltip. I choose the scientist.

Turn 12:

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I choose weapons.

  • Constructor built. I build another.

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Turn 13:

Nothing

 

Turn 14:

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  • Constructors being built pretty fast. So I build a colony ship. Which will only take 2 turns. This feels unearned.

 

Turn 15:

Colonized another planet.

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These bonuses mean nothing to me. I choose the benevolent one since it’s just plain better.

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I choose the tech which gives me stuff.

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There are 9 players on this map and I still haven’t met any.

Finally!

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Turn 16:

Colony ship built. I send it to one of the good planets I’ve found. The strategic zoom UI is really good making it easy to manage my empire.

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I don’t feel like I’ve earned being able to crank these ships out in 2 turns.

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Now I choose universal translator.

I think faster moving scouts (and the AI making them aggressively) would really help. But a scout takes 2 turns just like a colony ship!

Turn 17:

Nothing

Turn 18:

Nothing

 

Turn 19:

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Earth is fully built up in 19 turns!

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Rex has a shipyard too. Planet is barely developed but can crank out a colony ship in 4 turns!

  • Colonized another planet.

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Pretty.

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Got another culture point.

 

Turn 20:

I want to build military ships but they are hidden:

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So I wouldn’t notice them.

Conclusions

It’s still a good game despite my complaints.  But the pacing and UX needs work.

My ratings:

  • Engagement: 3/5: It’s OK but I’m not very invested in my civilization. It feels a lot like work. The UI is very sterile.
  • Intuitiveness: 2/5: Pretty bad. No sort of guidance given.
  • Pacing: 3/5: Stuff is happening but every ship costs 2 turns basically which reduces choices. Took way too long to meet anyone else. And I never had any interactions.
  • Desire to keep playing: 4/5: Yes, it has that one more turn feeling which saves it.

Applying Lessons

The most recent GalCiv III update coming out (v4.2) includes some improvements in these areas.  But again, how quickly do people want to meet new players? IMO, this is where minor civilizations might be interesting as a middle step.

As a player, how would you like to see your setup screen improved (specific options) to help cater to your personal pacing preferences?

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All GalCiv IV Journals


Comments (Page 2)
2 Pages1 2 
on Aug 09, 2021

I think there's a fantastic opportunity for GalCiv4 to make the first 20 to 100 turns really fun, rewarding and engaging without needing to interact with a major civilization. Considering the new mechanics like core systems, sectors and AI characters; alongside exploring, expanding and exploiting whatever they happen to discover in their sector, the player really can have a lot of fun spending the early part of the game implementing and shaping their vision of their civilization without needing to interact with another major civilization.

Also, I think there are a lot of players that find it odd/counter intuitive that they encounter other major civilizations early in the game. This is probably because in reality people know just how vast space is and that even our own solar system is vast. Apparently there's a massive 9th planet that we haven't even directly detected yet! People also know that we've been searching for extraterrestrial life for over a century and still haven't found anything conclusive. There was the SETI 'WOW signal', but that is considered an anomaly. So after all this time we haven't even discovered alien microbial life let alone entire alien civilizations. As a side note, one of the reasons there's a lot of excitement around the Mars Perseverance rover is because it is designed specifically to look for alien microbial life.

Anyway, I think a lot of people go into a game like GalCiv with reality in their subconscious extrapolating what they expect to happen in game i.e. they don't expect an alien civilization to start right in their face; especially if they're playing as humans.

 

Suggestion

I think during the game setup, players should be able to set the parameters of their starting sector as much as possible. There should be a maximum number of civilizations per sector depending on size. So for example a small sector would have a maximum of 2 or 3 civilizations and a large sector would have a maximum of 5 or 6 civilizations. RNG would determine the actual number of starting civilizations in any given sector. So for example, in a large sector there's a chance that no other civ spawns, or only 1 civ spawns or the maximum number of civs spawn or any number inbetween.

I also think that if the player doesn't want to be at the mercy of the RNG they should be able to choose how many civs start in their sector. If they want to be the only civ that starts in their sector then they should be able to select 0. If they want the maximum number of civs for their chosen sector size then they should be able to select whatever that number is.

This would probably be helpful for modding as well e.g. if u wanted to make a Star Trek mod you'd want to be able to select how many civs start in any given sector. I'm sure Star Trek modders would love to be able to create the actual Star Trek map in galciv4 with all the factions in their correct starting positions.

Could we get a map with all the stock GalCiv 4 civs in starting positions according to GalCiv lore please?

Another suggestion would be to allow the player to choose the minimum spawning distance of other civs to the player's capital. 

 

A galaxy that 'feels' alive

In dev journal 2 you talked about AI characters and how important they will be to making the galaxy feel alive. I think in the first 20 to 100 turns, interactions with these AI characters as well as the following:

  • ·       Managing colonies/core worlds
  • ·       Minor civs
  • ·       Pirates/rebels/freedom fighters/terrorists etc
  • ·       Space monsters
  • ·       Anomalies/stellar phenomena
  • ·       Ideology/attribute tree
  • ·       Research/tech tree
  • ·       Random events

Will mean that even if a player chooses to be the only civilization in their starting sector, the first 20 to 100 turns will still be really fun, rewarding and engaging as there will be plenty of exploring, expanding and exploiting to do before even meeting a major civilization.

on Aug 10, 2021

Personnally, I don't play GalCiv 3, or 4 later, expecting to get the real feeling of a Universe explorer. I can easily switch off my subconscious awareness (free little double oxymoron) just like while I watch Star Wars, Gravity or Battlestar Galactica. It doesn't prevent me enjoying it.

For me, space and time in GC are not about physical reality but about gameplay.

Space between planets, nebulae, black holes means that:

_ travel range has a deep impact on gameplay (diplomatic, military and economic) because some ressources/civs are out of reach;

_ fleet speed has a deep impact on gameplay because you can't send your fleet to "west" and come back in two turns to defend against a ennemy attacking in your "eastern" back;

_ hypergates have a real interest to be built when you know all it costs (turns and admin - in GC3) to set a hyperlane;

_ you don't find every needed different rare ressources in 20 turns. Often, a more lucky civ found and colonised planet(s) with desired ressources before you because you explored in the wrong direction - space is wide (thank you Captain Obvious!) and you don't have that much ships - or because these planets are closer to this lucky civ;

_ colony ship's speed has an impact on gameplay because turns needed to construct the ship and reach a good planet involve to make a choice between planets to serve my strategy. I don't care, and don't want, to spend my (real life) time to colonise hundreds of useless or barely usefull planets when I find much funnier to determinate a strategy, plan strategic colonisations and feed my rancour against an innocent civilisation which has just colonised a planet I wanted 2 turns before I reach it.

What about time in GC? Don't look for realistic time cost while you accept there is a universal simultaneous week counter that rules uniformly the whole galaxy (turn-based game). That means:

_ it doesn't matter if construct a colony ship takes 2 turns when a scoot needs 1; in late game, everything costs 1 turn. What matters, it's what these time costs involve on the gameplay.

A little example to illustrate my words: I played a lot to Rome 2: Total War and I tried a mod called "4 turns a year" (vanilla game version is one turn a year) to hold my generals alive a few more but acting also on research rate and building speed because I initially found that made sense. So now my generals live four times longer and what happened? My family tree became quickly overpopulated, I used a third of what the game offers because it took so much time to unlock techs and achieve buildings, I won the game with basics troops and ships.

What I mean this way, is that I don't want to feel stuck in my game because I'm artificially slowed down (e.g. having to colonise dozens/hundreds of planets with colony ships requiring too much turns to be constructed) just to make sense.

I don't want to see my work and patience be rewarded by a too short expiry date (like Rome 2's generals who die of old age with half of their potential unlocked or GC ships became useless because new hulls and weapons techs are unlocked). I red GC4 ships use a system of modules. Great news! Let me be able to keep my little favourites with earned unique modules, lots of kills, great battle survivor... (everything showing them singular to my eyes) alive by updating them replacing old modules by more high-tech new ones. Give me the power to become attached to my ships and grant them my love through care and modules' update like Bill Adama (and all his crew) did with the Battlestar Galactica.

_ having to face too many agressive close opponents is really tiring and annoying because you feel obligated to focus on military aspect of the game when you know that other civs can develop their wealth quietly. Ask to the Russians how it's hard to maintain an army when your economy declines in comparaison with other nations. Implicitly and de facto, there's always a race between nations/civs even if you hadn't already met them. Do you think Native Americans felt ready when they met conquering Europeans? In Galactic Civilizations, we have an advantage: we know there're unkown ennemies out there.

Once again, it's not because you don't see something that it means it doesn't exist and it's not able to act on you.

Or to quote a poet in Small Soldiers: "Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not there".

on Aug 10, 2021

Could we get a map with all the stock GalCiv 4 civs in starting positions according to GalCiv lore please

I love this suggestion! Fantasy games all have lore based maps with homelands clearly delineated. Why can't we have this in a space game?

 

on Aug 11, 2021

NelsMonsterX2


Could we get a map with all the stock GalCiv 4 civs in starting positions according to GalCiv lore please

I love this suggestion! Fantasy games all have lore based maps with homelands clearly delineated. Why can't we have this in a space game?

We do already have some established lore-based positioning of systems.  For example, we know that the Xendar are (were?) roughly Haven-ward from the Sol system. And so on based on the other Campaign scenarios.

If there are new campaigns with GC4, they'll be additional data points.  It probably won't be too difficult for a modder to create a map at some point, assuming the devs don't themselves do it.

on Aug 13, 2021

Hello, I've to confess of mistake of mine. There's already an option allowing to upgrade your ships with new modules to keep them up to date when they're moored in station or on planet. Sorry for that mistake, but I still would like to see more visual and/or foreground effects to recognise quickly how a ship or a fleet is singular due to its battles experience or unique modules composition.

on Aug 20, 2021

The one thing that broke GC3 for me above all others was that new colonies basically paid for themselves from the start.

In GC2, you had to balance your expansion with your ability to economically support your new worlds until they developed enough to be net positive. 

In GC3, it was a blind rush to as many worlds as possible before everybody else grabbed them up.

The GC2 way made so much more sense, and it involved much better choices for a longer time (strategic position vs. PQ etc.).

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