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Siege of Centauri Dev Journal: Strategy & Mayhem - Dichotomy of Design

Published on Friday, August 16, 2019 By GGTheMachine In Siege of Centauri Dev Journals

Strategy and mayhem are the core of what makes a tower defense fun to play. Tower defense games need to pose meaningful decisions to the player, but while also containing tension and frenzy. Siege of Centauri went through different iterations internally as we tried to find the perfect mix of strategy and mayhem. Strategy and mayhem aren't inherently at odds with each other, but inevitably will be at times. Each tower defense game has different leanings, but there's always a balance to strike and navigating that dichotomy has been a design challenge. Today I'll be sharing some of the examples where this dichotomy has come up and how we've navigated around it.


Tower Costs

Ignoring balance and difficulty for a moment, how much should towers cost? It may seem like a basic question, but it matters a lot! If towers are too cheap, then placing them can feel inconsequential and a repetitive chore. If towers are expensive, you'll naturally only have a few so as each is more of a commitment, making each one more meaningful. However, overly high tower costs mean you can spend too much time saving up and waiting rather than placing towers. You can feel more like an observer than a player, and overly expensive towers can make the rock/paper/scissors counter system too punishing. Lower tower prices also mean you have more action on the screen, which creates cool visuals! Sitting back and watching towers blow stuff up should be fun.

 


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FREE WEEKEND: Try Galactic Civilizations III on Steam August 15th - 19th!

Published on Thursday, August 15, 2019 By Tatiora In GalCiv III News

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Build a civilization that will stand the test of time in the largest space-based strategy game ever! Choose from dozens of unique races and make a name for yourself across the galaxy through diplomacy, espionage, technological advances, and more.

Galactic Civilizations III is a 4X space strategy game set in the 23rd century. Humans and aliens compete against each other for domination of the galaxy through war, cultural hegemony, diplomacy, and more. Customize your game experience right down to every detail: galaxy size, opponent factions, victory conditions, AI difficulty level, and frequency of galactic events and anomalies. 

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Star Control: Origins
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Ashes Dev Journal - Meta Campaigns

Published on Friday, August 9, 2019 By GGTheMachine In Ashes Dev Journals

Many RTS campaigns have a meta-map which dictates the flow of the campaign, such as the one found in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. Meta campaigns aren't inherently a good or bad approach compared to a traditional, linear mission structure, it depends on how well it's executed.  Meta campaigns are easy to mess up and be an anti-fun grind, so they should not be tacked on as an extra feature. A meta-campaign should be the entire focus for the single player campaign or a substantial DLC like Company of Heroes 2's Ardennes Assault. So what is it that makes a good meta-campaign?

Not all types of RTS games are going to work equally as well with a meta-campaign which is crucial to identify. Meta campaigns tend to consist of procedurally generated skirmish missions with certain perks such as different win conditions. Short 1v1 skirmishes with constraints don't make sense for an RTS game like Supreme Commander, which instead shines in lengthy sandbox style missions on massive maps. With an emphasis on skirmish style missions, the skirmish AI has to be really fun to verse for a meta-campaign to not just feel like a grind. While Rise of Nations has minimal variation in its missions, the skirmish AI is so fun to verse that it hardly matters. Let's take a look at some of the reasons an RTS might want to do a meta-campaign over a traditional linear campaign.

 

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Galactic Civilizations III: Ascension

Published on Thursday, August 8, 2019 By Derek Paxton In GalCiv III Dev Journals

GalCiv3 has come a long way since release. It has added governments, mercenaries, citizens, thousands of free to download ships and factions to play as and more tools to manage your growing empire. I sat down to play some today with the 3.8 patch and decided to have some fun.

One of the new features in 3.8 is the Galactic Ascension Status. So I wanted to play a game where I pursued an Ascension victory. I picked the Altarian's since they get a boost from Precursor Artifacts, I set my universe to Huge with 20 other factions in it and divided us up onto 7 teams with 3 members on each team so I would have some allies to deal with. I also increased the amount of Precursor Artifacts and Ascension Crystals in the universe to make fighting for them more interesting.

I like playing with teams in GC3. It means that even from turn 1 I already have allies out there.

I have an Echoing Heartstone artifact n my homeworld. If I upgrade it I can unlock charges I can use to dramatically boost the influence on a planet. That will be very helpful since it is going to be a crowded galaxy with 21 factions on a huge map. My strategy is all set, explore the galaxy, find artifacts and ascension crystals and lock them down before other players get to them. Help my allies when needed and try to avoid war.

I've always loved the look of the Altarian ships. And my plan was going well until I encountered this planet:

A class 12 planet, but I need Xeno Adaption to be able to colonize it. In most games this wouldn't cause me to abandon my strategy, but in a galaxy with 21 other factions (and I didn't boost the default amount of habitable planets) a class 12 planet is gold. So I abandon teching towards Ascendancy upgrades and switch to Planetary techs (so I can get to Xeno Adapation before someone else grabs the planet.

My plan works and I pick up some extra planets and start a Galactic Government. I tend to be benevolent, my planets aren't overcrowded and my people have low expectations so my approval remains high and my people like me.

But focusing on planets means that other players beginning to grab all those Ascension Crystals. And here we see the new UI that makes this all very apparent.

The Iconians have already claimed 5 and the Mu'Kay are 654 turns away form an Ascension victory if they do nothing else between now and then (and they will do things to increase that rate). I'm going to need to start some wars either trade, culture or military if I want to turn this around.

Wish me luck!

The continued refinement of Galactic Civilizations III

Published on Thursday, August 8, 2019 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Greetings!

Thanks to you guys continuing to buy our DLC we are able to keep developing Galactic Civilizations III with new features and improvements.

The last few updates have been focusing heavily on quality of life and the latest version, v3.8 continues that trend.  Below are some of features we've recently added that we hope you find useful.

Adjust difficulty mid-game

Finding yourself doing really well mid game or struggling more than you thought?

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Under the options->Gameplay you can now adjust difficulty on the fly and it will update the AI's accordingly!

UI Cleanup

We don't necessarily respond to every post (or even most) but we do read them.  So many of our updates are pretty minor. A text change here. A font tweak there.  Here are a few examples:

image

We now display a little more information about ships than we used to.  For example, tactical speed is now displayed.

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More information, such as research, is displayed in the planet list.

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Capturing Ascension crystals now makes it clear how long it will take players to win through that means.

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The shipyard list displays how much production is going to it.

Immersion

This is hard to quantify but we have been going through the game making small text changes as well as making sure the default ships from every species has a colorful name rather than simply the ship class.

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Also a better use of fonts to better emphasize who is speaking and what options are.

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The work continues

We are keen on hearing your thoughts! We hope you like what we've been doing!

Galactic Civilizations III v3.8 Ascension Update Available Today!

Published on Thursday, August 8, 2019 By Tatiora In GalCiv III News

Galactic Civilizations III v3.8 Update Brings Major UI Changes

Set in the 23rd century, Galactic Civilizations III is a 4X space strategy game where humans and aliens compete against each other for domination of the galaxy. v3.8 brings a few exciting changes to this already massive game, which you can read more about below.

No more sneaky Ascensions! At the forefront of the update are changes to the Ascension notifications and UI. Each civilization's progress is now displayed on an easy-to-read progress bar, and anytime someone gains control of an Ascension crystal, an icon will alert you to it. 

The shipyard display now shows how much production is being sent to that shipyard so that you know how fast it's able to build things. The planet list views will now also show research.

We've also made some other improvements to the UI's layout, including updating screens so that they use fonts, colors, and font sizes consistently. We've also added a feature where you can adjust the difficulty level in the middle of a game. Read the full list of changes below!

Changelog

  • As soon as someone controls an Ascension crystal, have an icon show up and informs you that Ascension has started. Mousing over should show you how far along each civ with Ascension is from ascending as a % bar with (turns).
  • UI Layout updates
    • Updated most screens to use fonts, colors, and font sizes consistently.
    • Made fonts bigger wherever possible.
    • General cleanup of margins and list entries wherever possible.
    • Removed extra returns from the "word on the street" blurbs.
    • Move some of the drop-downs in options screens to keep them from clipping.
  • You can now adjust the difficulty level mid-game through the options screen (single player only).
  • Starting ships don't append a number to their name unless another ship of the same design has already been spawned. This is to support custom flavorful names for core starting ships from starting ship designs
  • Updated starting ship names of factions added to the game after Crusade.
  • Shipyard display now shows how much production is being sent to that shipyard, so you know how fast it can build things.
  • Fixed an issue causing the unit buttons from not showing up in Medium UI on the Colony List screen.
  • Planet view list now displays research
  • Aliens can now be tagged as being available or unavailable as random civilizations
  • Fixed Tourism exploit in Crusade version of the Consulate
  • The AI has been ordered to stop freezing time to keep its mission ships safe (stuck turn fix)
  • Addressed "word on the street" grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Removed duplicate planet data in crusade and base game data folders that could potentially cause bad things(TM)
  • Adjusted the choose civ screen to improve text wrapping
  • Fixed alignment issue on the Drath starting screen
  • Fixed a bug that prevented commanders from being assigned to United Earth ships

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Siege of Centauri: Scenario Workshop Sneak Peek

Published on Sunday, August 4, 2019 By Derek Paxton In Siege of Centauri Dev Journals

We have a great time designing missions for Siege of Centauri. There is a lot of design work to do to get the pacing right. To much and it's overwhelming, to little and it's boring.

One of the lessons I have learned is that even though its fun to have a variety of challenges, large maps, multiple entrances, unpredictable movement, etc, it gets overwhelming very quickly. Unpredictable movement in particular can make someone want to drop kick their monitor when they setup defenses and enemies totally ignore them and go a different way.

In general I like these different threats because when they are used very specifically it provides a new challenge to tackle. For example I love Rul. It is a small map with one entrance, but there is no indication where the enemies are going to go when they enter the map. It isn't overwhelming because it is the challenge factor, everything else (enemy strength, etc) is all relatively easy. Most opponents don't even come for your colony first.

But the "unpredictable movement" tool in our toolbox is used very sparingly.

Likewise I really loved multiple entrances for forcing players to make decisions about deployment and not going down the same path every time as you may notice in other TD games. But it can also be overwhelming when you are completely unaware of an army as it sneaks past your defenses and sacks your colony and you didn't even know it was there. Having to make a calculated strategic decision is good, losing because your weren't monitoring the minimap closely enough isn't fun (and isn't the game we are trying to make).

It seems to feel better in larger groups. So instead of having enemies coming in form the East-West-East-West-East-West it feels better to be East-East-East-West-West-West. That way you are able to focus on a region as part of a larger war that is going on. Knowing you won't have anyone coming through the east entrance for the next 405 waves gives you time to leave that be and worry about other areas of a larger map.

It is a lot of fun. And soon you will be able to have that fun too. Siege will have the ability create and share your own missions with the community, as well as downloading and playing the missions other people have created. If you want to create a mission where There is barely any places to place towers you can do that. If you want nothing but endless rivers of reapers coming at your colony that never ends until you kill 1,000,000 of them, you can do that.

I'll provide a full modding guide for Siege later but for now this is a little sneak peek.

First we have a map editor that allows you to select the size, environment, terrain, buildings, effects and cosmetic values you want. Decide where to put your colony, outposts, fission reactors, metal refinery's and energy cells. Draw out your paths and place plateaus where you want the player to be able to put towers and basins and mountains where you want to block movement. Put your metal refineries in a great defensive location, or put them right by an entrance so they come under immediate attack.

I enjoy making maps, but you can also use one of the existing maps in the game if you want to jump right to planning the attack.

Everything for designing the mission script is in XML. We use the scripting functionality from Ashes of the Singularity, with a lot of new features for Siege. At a very high level you have Waves:

Which tell you what is to spawn and when. It includes the rush bonus for each wave (in case you want to play with those) and the timer for the main wave (Wave3 Timer=55 means that wave 3 will spawn 55 seconds after wave 2). As well as delays for parts of that wave. Just because there are 6 Punishers spawned in Wave 5 doesn't mean they all have to spawn at once (though they could), in the above they spawn 2 seconds part from each other.

You also need to define the paths. These give you complete control over where the units will go. You select where a spawn using this path will begin and where it will travel on its way to your colony. There is an option in the map editor to show positions so you can see exactly what points you want your enemies to travel to.

The third major piece is the Spawns themselves. These are what are called by the waves and you can see that they all have a path assigned. So you can see that if a wave called for a spawn of "Air-Spawn" it will create a Unit_Air (which is a Punisher group) on the path Path-Air for player 1 (the bad guys).

That's all you need to make it work. But if you really want to have some fun there are a lot of trigger you can play with. You can give the player some metal, spawn a specific enemy if a player put a tower in a certain region, make something happen when a particular enemy dies, send in some help for the player, and on and on. All of the missions in Siege are open (you can look through them with any text editor) so you can see how we do it for your own scenarios. And I'm excited to see what all of you come up with.

I came from the modding community so I get a lot of pleasure out of putting these sorts of tools into the game, and I look forward to playing your creations soon.

Galactic Civilizations Summer 2019

Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

We're putting the touches on v3.8.  From here on out, a lot of our effort is going to be on features that improve the game experience, polish and usability.  They're not sexy features but they're much needed imo.

Starting with 3.6, we began work on improving the modding experience.  This is something that's been being further developed in 3.8 and will get more attention after as we try to "unify" the experience further so that people can eventually pass around mods and know they'll "just work".  

We still have the general challenge in that you have Crusade and "base" GalCiv III v1.x.   Crusade changes the economic system to a citizen based system so that's a big challenge in reconciling in terms of mods.

There won't be any more expansions for GalCiv III.  Future gameplay improvements will be made to the Cruade base (i.e. as long as you have Crusade these will work).   But we do have new DLC coming over the coming year.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them here. Cheers!

Summer of Star Control

Published on Monday, July 29, 2019 By Frogboy In Star Control Journals


It's been an exciting Summer so far for fans of Star Control. Last month we re-released the classic trilogy on Steam, posted a major update to the engine to improve the visuals, and now we are busy working on chapter 3 of the Earth Rising expansion.

For those of you who have played the game or will be buying the game in the near future, let's talk about the galactic scene today.

Star Control takes place in the not-so-distant future. The stars are real stars, and in Origins they're placed based on their actual relative distances from Earth. We even have the known exoplanets in there.

The part of the galaxy we are in is known as the "Mid Spur," which refers to Orion's Spur (sometimes called Orion's arm), in a single sector called the "Scryve Sector". 

The Scryve sector contains hundreds of stars with thousands of planets. We travel between stars, skipping slightly above our dimension, through what is called Hyperspace.

Hyperspace isn't truly FTL travel (though you are traveling at near relativistic speeds) in the sense that your ship isn't itself going faster than light. Rather, Hyperspace exists in a dimension that warps space in incredibly intricate and really impossible to understand ways.



Traveling through hyperspace requires two key components: a Hyperdrive (which allows a ship to enter hyperspace), and a Hyperspace map to tell you where the stars are. Without the map, a ship would quickly get lost in Hyperspace. It is only through the map that the sensors of a ship can detect other star systems. 

What this means is that only stars that have been mapped and given Hyperspace coordinates can be found. This becomes obvious when you travel to the edge of "the map". The better question is: why is the edge so fixed and arbitrary? For instance, why is Earth placed where it is? These are all mysteries that Star Control players will gradually discover over the coming years.

For now, we hope you're having a good time playing and welcome any feedback, suggestions or requests for what you would like to see next! 

If you're new to Star Control, welcome to the galaxy!

Community Newsletter #6 - 07/26/2019

Published on Friday, July 26, 2019 By SchismNavigator In Stardock Community Newsletter

Heat of Summer

 

Happy Friday! We hope everyone is staying cool during these summer months and drinking copious amounts of H2O. All of us here at Stardock have come back from vacation and are working on some exciting new things that are coming your way soon!

 

The Horizon

 

The Turinium Cup 2019

             The what: A 1v1 round-robin style tournament for Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
  The when: Rounds begin August 12th and the Finals conclude on August 18th
                                   The where: Users must have the Steam version of the game in order to join lobbies and participate
The why: Why not? Join us for some fun and a shot at fleeting internet fame!

Sign Up for the Tournament here!*
*The tournament signup page is powered by Toornament and is not affiliated with Stardock

After you have signed up on Toornmament, make sure you join the main Stardock Discord server.
Send a direct message to Schism Navigator to ensure you have been assigned
the proper access for the tournament channels.

Tournament Details

Map Pool

  • Mirach
  • Urich
  • Ross 128
  • Italia
  • Merga

Rules

General Rules:

  • The map for each match will be chosen at random, selected from the map pool.
  • No 15+ language allowed to be used during matches.
  • No death threats or similar personal threats.
  • Any attempts made to cheat will be cause for immediate removal.
  • You agree to have matches you participate in streamed and recorded.

Attendance Rules:

  • Players are expected to allow 15 minutes before official match start.
  • Failure to attend a match will result in an automatic loss and possible elimination.
  • Failure to attend 3 matches will result in automatic elimination from all future matches.
  • All participants must have a Discord account and joined the main Stardock Discord server.

Game Settings:

  • Metal Income: Normal
  • Radioactive Income: Normal
  • Quanta Income: Normal
  • Map Visibility: Revealed
  • Capture Speed: Normal
  • Air Units: Enabled
  • Juggernauts: Enabled
  • Orbitals: Enabled
  • Build Speed: Normal
  • Defensive Bonus: None
  • Neutral Creeps: Normal
  • Victory Points: Map Default
  • Supply Lines: Required

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