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GalCiv IV Dev Journal #4 - A Guided ALPHA Tour

Article posted on 6/10/2021

For this entry, we are going to give you a tour of Galactic Civilizations IV as it exists, in alpha state, in June 2021.  We’re very excited.

There’s a lot in here but so very much more to do.

Note: I’m playing at 5K so I’m smushing my screenshots down so that they’re not quite so huge.

 

Choosing a Civilization

For the Alpha, you can only play as the humans.  This is because we intend to make the civilizations much more distinct than they were in GC3 which means we really need to master the humans and general mechanics before going through all the others.

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We anticipate launching with around 22 civilizations.  The main civs from GC3 will return with one notable exception:  The Thalan.  I will miss them as they’ve been with us all the way back to the OS/2 days.

 

Customizing

While you will be able to create your own civilizations in the final version, we have taken this one step further by having some easy customization part of the base civilization as well.  One of the things we noticed in GC3 is that most players didn’t realize just how much you could change on a given civilization.

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Galaxy Setup and Opponent Setup

These screens are very basic.  We plan to make these much more tweakable than they were in GC3.  One new AI feature (not in the Alpha) is the option for players to have dynamic intelligence.  You still set their intelligence like you would before but their intelligence will increase or decrease depending on how they’re doing (to certain limits).  The idea is to provide a better game experience.  This feature will be ON by default once it’s implemented.

 

Into the Game

This is what you will see at the start.

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Your Survey ship is selected at the start and you now have advisors who will suggest what you should do.  We will also have VO for advisors as well eventually. 

Survey ships do what they have always done which is explore anomalies.  However, this time it takes a turn for them to do so:

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This helps a bit with pacing and allows us to justify giving a little more meat to the anomalies.

 

Your First Colony

Pretty much every planet will have an event now.  Here is the one for Mars.

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The options in this example include:

  1. Get a leader
  2. Get an extra mineral
  3. Get an extra tech

This lets me segway into what colonies do.

 

Colonies vs. Core Worlds

This is a feature I wish we had come up with in GalCiv I let alone GalCiv IV.  Lots of planets are colonizable but most of them are pretty awful.  By default a colonized planet is a colony that feeds its core world.  In this case: Earth. 

So while Elon Musk is on Mars, what does it do for us?

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These planets send out potentially 5 raw resources:

  • Minerals
  • Tech
  • Wealth
  • Food
  • Culture

These then go to  their associated core world:

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This isn’t done yet by any means (it’s missing culture for instance).   The planet then takes these inputs (including its own natural resources) and send them to the citizens:

That’s these guys:

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This is your population.  Unlike in previous GalCiv games, population isn’t some number that we use head canon to make sense of.  Instead, it is represented by citizens.

Each citizen has its own stats:

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Humans, being generic race basically, have fine stats. Perfectly fine.  Not bad. Not good.  Each stat corresponds with one of the outputs of the planet or some other planet stat.

Different species have different stats.  For example, the Drengin have super-high resolve.  The Torians have really high diligence.  And yes, you will have planets with mixed races on them whose morale might change based on what you’re doing with their home worlds (i.e. have Drengin on your planet but you’re at war with the Drengin? Bad things).

Now, enhancing these citizens are your planetary upgrades.

There are three different types of upgrades:

  • Improvements
  • Districts
  • Projects

In previous games, we crammed all these into improvements which resulted in the game becoming pretty unwieldly later on.  It also became a little frustrating because we had to name every improvement so you would be like “So is a Manufacturing Center better than a Mega Factory??”.  Now, it’s simply a Manufacturing District that levels up based on techs and if there’s something special, that’s the improvement and those are one of a kind.

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The tiles are color coded based on what gives a bonus.  Bonuses being things that level up a given type of district or improvement.

All of this then ends up with the planetary output:

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Minerals become manufacturing.

Tech becomes research.

Wealth becomes revenue.

Culture becomes influence.

Food…well food stays food unless we can come up with a better name.

These outputs are what grow your civilization in various ways.

 

The Shipyard

A core planet can have a shipyard.  Colonies feed the core world and the core world feeds the Shipyard.  This means that a shipyard doesn’t have multiple sponsors. Just its core world.

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Early on, the ship choices are pretty basic.  Colony ship or scout.  Immediately available technologies include Starbases, Survey Ships, Armed Shuttles, Asteroid miners and others that greatly increase this.

 

Researching

Researching is very different in GalCiv IV.  Now, the game will pull 4 random techs (5 if you have a research minister). You can “reshuffle” but it will make that tech cost 10% more for each reshuffle.

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We have the tech tree button locked for now but it will be replaced with a research explorer.  That’s because the new “tech tree” is much more sophisticated and not easily displayed on the screen.

 

New Colonists

There are no “administration points” in GalCiv IV.  Your limiting factor will be people. For instance, when you build a colony ship you will need to move a citizen on to it:

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So even though there area  ton of planets to colonize and nothing technically stops you from colonizing all of them, you will find your population not able to keep up with your ambitions.

 

Leaders

The game should prompt you (but it is not in this build) that you have some leader candidates waiting.  Leaders are citizens with leadership training.

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Leaders cost money to hire.  Eventually, players can train their own citizens to be leaders but early on, you can only get them from recruiting.  The red box you see here (unfortunately) is how loyal they are.  Shockingly, random humans I recruit for money are not extremely loyal for some reason.

Loyalty matters because it affects how likely they are to betray you.  For example, to make a given colony a core world, you have to assign a governor to that planet.  The governor provides perks and carries out your orders.  The more colonies they have, the more likely they are to rebel (thus, there it a temptation to have a single mega world but you will find that creates problems).

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When I hire a leader, I can make them  a minister.  The bonus they provide is based on their stats.  For instance, Pranav here has an intelligence of 10.  So when I make him my Minister of Tech, he gives me a 10% boost to research.  If I had made him my minister of colonization, he’d have given me +1 moves but only +5 range because his diligence is only 5.

You can also assign leaders to govern planets.

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Assigning leaders to marginal planets isn’t just a waste of a leader, it’s not very useful either because marginal worlds are never as effective as it would be as a colony having its resources greatly multiplied by its core world.

There are 3 other things to do with leaders as well:

  1. Diplomats.  Assigning someone to be a diplomat allows you to spy on another civilization or improve your relations with them depending on your orders.  This hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet.  Intelligence = Spying ability and Social = Diplomatic improvement bonus.
  2. Commanders. Leaders also have a starship that they come with. You can choose to put them on the board as ships. 
  3. Think Tanks.  As precious as leaders are early game, late game you will have quite a few of them.  Think Tanks allow you to use leaders to bump up your civilization’s bonuses in various areas.

 

Backstories

You may have notice a little text blurb on the leaders.  That’s because each and every one has a backstory.  You may (but probably won’t) run into a mission that is triggered by a given leader’s backstory.  This matters because you will want to pay a little attention to the leaders to make sure they don’t have a backstory that’s going to come back to haunt you.  Similarly, a leader who has a lost treasure in the family might result in something great for you.

 

The Map

GalCiv is known for being able to zoom in and out with total fluidity.  This is being taken up a notch this time.  In GalCiv IV, the start of the game is going to feel a lot like previous GalCiv’s.

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Zooming out:

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Solar system.

 

Zooming out:

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Sector. What? Sector.

 

Zooming out:

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Galactic.

Think of a map in GalCiv III, the entire map, as being a single sector.  GalCiv IV can have many sectors depending on your map setup.  These sectors are connected through subspace streams.  You have to research techs to even see where the subspace streams and then another tech to travel through them.

Controlling a sector brings benefits, in particular, prestige.

 

Prestige

The most basic strategy game problem has been with us since the 4X genre was invented.  You know you’ve won but it’s going to take you another 2 hours to actually get the game to acknowledge that.  How do you solve that?  GalCiv IV has a new victory condition: Prestige.

Prestige is designed to have the player win (we haven’t decided if AI players can win through this mechanism or not) if it’s obvious they’re going to eventually win.  Each player collects prestige through their accomplishments.  When the human player has the majority of the galactic prestige they win.  Owning sectors is one obvious way to do that.  To own a sector, you just need to control the most parsecs in that sector.

Another way to earn prestige are through galactic achievements.

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These are disabled in Alpha 1 but they are, in essence, a bunch of lore-centric “quests” that if you have certain pre-requisites in your game become enabled and reward you, amongst other things, with prestige.  So rather than having to grind through 2 more hours of cranking out ships or building influence or waiting to win via diplomacy you can alternatively win by triggering the Dread Lords return and fighting them off or uncovering the artifact that the Thalan are looking for (ahh see they’re not totally gone!) or numerous other really interesting situations.

Most achievements won’t be available in a given game because the conditions just won’t be right.  But this also means a lot of replayability rewards.  For instance, you can’t exactly exact revenge on the Drengin take over of Toria in 1543 if you aren’t playing as the Torians.

 

Executive Orders

The game should prompt you about executive orders but my build doesn’t have this yet.  Executive orders are another obvious feature that we should have had in GalCiv I but I was too dumb to think of it back then.

Here’s how they work:

The planet you directly control (the capital world) gives you 1 point of control per turn.  Your governed worlds can also give you a point of control per turn IF you place a special improvement on there.  However, doing so really makes the governor angry.

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Different civilizations have different executive orders and more are unlocked as new technology and new events and missions occur.

You spend control to, for instance, get a free colony ship or get a bunch of money (with a bunch of crime) or call an election.

 

Policies

Another feature not in GalCiv IV Alpha but coming soon are policies.  These essentially let you pick and choose how you want your civilization to work.   Different civs have different policies available to them.

 

Ideology Compass

Next week I’ll be talking about this feature.  It’s actually going away so I won’t spend too much time on it.  It’s being replaced by Culture Spectrums.

 

Ship Upgrades

Fleets can get upgrades when their XP grows.  That upgrade only goes to 1 ship in the fleet.

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Ship upgrades can boost moves, weapons or even give them other goodie that you’ve found.

 

Movements

Within your civilization are a number of movements.  In other games, you might think of these as religious sects.

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Ironically, these only make sense when Policies are unlocked but gaining favor with these movements will give you a lot of power in the policy screen. 

 

Constructors and Starbases

This feature is in flux as we are developing this and the AI in tandem.  But here’s the short version:

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Constructors build starbases.  You can upgrade them in lots of interesting ways.  These upgrades cost a new resource called Modules that are produced at your shipyard.

 

Asteroid Mining

You can mine the asteroids but rather than just conjuring them with money you have to build an Asteroid miner and and them here.

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These asteroids are then mined for their minerals which are then sent to their nearest world as…(wait for it)….minerals.

 

Trading

This part of the game is still a work in progress.

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New in GC4 is the ability to threaten and persuade.  You can attempt to get a better deal during negotiations by using these intangible “resources” to get a better deal.

Moreover, not shown here is that the size of the deal is governed by your diplomacy ability.  Thus, trading civs will be able to conduct much bigger trades than ones without it.

 

Space Monsters

The galaxy is much more dangerous in GC4. 

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Space Monsters don’t just remove a ship from your service, they actually lay eggs in them and then the ship becomes another space monster.  This was enough of an issue that I had to write an emergency AI update for the alpha because the AI was feeding these things ships.

 

Good Planets

There aren’t very many good planets out there.  But when you do find one, you can add an governor to it in another way other than how I mentioned earlier.

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Admittedly, we should add a button to take you to the recruit screen too. 

 

Optimizing Immigration

Over time, you will have a lot of different races on your planets.

Some species are better than others for certain worlds if you have one in mind.

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In my head canon on most Sci-Fi shows that involve ancient races, I tend to think humanoids spread out because their “masters” picked them lazily because they’re average at all things.

 

Pirates

There are a lot more pirates and other baddies out there.  The thing to know here: Pirates can conquer planets.  In fact let’s get into that.

 

Conquering Planets

Core Worlds require invasion technology and a transport with a legion of soldiers on board.  But colonies? Not so much.  A colony can be invaded with any armed ship.  Pirates can’t colonize planets but they’ll happily use yours.

Similarly, we are working hard on the AI to make sure they understand the opportunities being presented when they see a bunch of undefended planets. 

 

Conclusions

So this is really just the start of the GalCiv IV journey.  We have so many more features and improvements to make.  The goal of Alpha 1 is mainly just to see what we broke.  Does it even run on your computer? What sort of ghastly problems did our new design not take into account of?

The rest of June will be spent just fixing terrible terrible bugs.  Then in July we’ll get into adding in the obvious missing features that we already have.  Then in August through November we’ll be implementing your ideas and suggestions as well as throwing out features that seemed like a good idea and replacing them with ones based on your feedback.

 

WHERE IS THE ALPHA?

We are running the Alpha here on galciv4.com (Early Access won’t be on Steam).  We love Steam (and in particular I like a lot of the store improvements this year).  But we really want a single forum for feedback and we want to discourage people from joining the Alpha unless they are super into being apart of the game design and development process.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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