ROUGH DRAFT (i.e. typos galore!)
This game is not feature complete. Amongst the missing features in this build:
Galactic Civilizations is space-based strategy game
developed by Stardock Entertainment and published by Strategy First. The
scheduled release date is
The game places the player in the role of leader of United Earth near the dawn of the 23rd century. As leader of United Earth, you must explore and colonize as many suitable planets as you can, research new technology, negotiate treaties with other civilizations, invest in social programs, build star bases, and of course maintain a military fleet to defend mankind.
The game focuses on providing unprecedented replayability combined with a multi-threaded artificial intelligence engine (i.e. the alien players are designed to behave more like human players than any previous strategy game) to ensure that each game is its own epic experience.
Players can take multiple paths to victory including:
Much of the development effort has been put into making sure each path is enjoyable for players. Players also face ethical dilemmas along the way. The choices they take help determine whether their civilization take the path towards “goodness” or towards “evil”. As one moves down these paths, the game interface visually changes, how the game reacts to you changes and how other civilizations deal with you changes.
Another innovation in the game is rather than relying on a conventional “campaign” mode, the game engine attempts to generate a completely new experience each game. The content that would be created for a linear campaign is instead dynamically retrieved in pieces each game to assemble an epic experience for each game.
The user interface of the game has been designed to vastly reduce micro management. Often strategy games become difficult to play in their later stages due to excessive micro management. Galactic Civilizations solves this through user interface enhancements (Stardock is best known for its computer interface software such as Object Desktop & WindowBlinds) rather than relying on some sort of AI (Stardock feels most users want to maintain direct control over their empire, they just don’t want to have to perform repetitive tasks).
When these features are combined, the result is a unique strategy game with a high level of replayability. In addition, Stardock has budgeted an additional year of development time after release to add new features based on player feedback that will be provided for free to players. Rather than gamers being faced with buying an expansion pack, a GalCiv player will in effect be getting the expansion pack as part of their original purchase.
Our story really begins 50 years prior to the year 2178. For this is when humans came into contact with one of the civilizations, the Arceans. For thousands of years, several interstellar civilizations have been sending probes throughout the galaxy. Transportation between different outposts was done through star-gates. These star-gates were immense structures that were obscenely expensive to use and maintain. As a result, the civilizations actually have had very limited contact with one another (and none with humans obviously).
Once human scientists understood the concept of star gates and how they worked, they set on a course to try to improve on them. About a decade before the start of the game, these scientists introduce to the galaxy a new technology called “Hyper-drive”.
Humans by the 23rd century had concluded that any civilization capable of interstellar travel must certainly have long since grown out of their violent militaristic stage and one of the leading scientists involved with the project shared the design of hyper-drive with all five of the major alien civilizations. Almost instantly, communication with the other civilizations came to a halt.
After months of silence, government of United Earth came to the conclusion that hyper-drive would allow the colonization of the galaxy and what was likely to occur was a race to claim star systems that contained inhabitable planets. It was decided that Earth must not fall behind and the design for a colony ship developed.
This brings us to 2178, the beginning of the era known as “Galactic Civilizations”. The first colony ship has been created along with a survey ship to explore the numerous anomalies throughout the galaxy.
Now the race is on to find and colonize unclaimed star systems with good planets (class 15 or better), find and claim galactic resources (by building constructors that can then build star bases on them), and ensure humanity can survive in a potentially hostile galaxy.
The user manual goes into much more detail but this section will briefly go over the main parts of the game and answer frequently asked questions:
Colony Ships. These ships colonize planets. You take a colony ship and send it to a star system with a good planet in orbit of it. A good planet is class 15 or better (the number is to the left of the planet when you left click on a planet).
Survey Ships. Only survey ships can explore anomalies.
Constructors. These ships build star bases. You can build a star base anywhere. If you build a star base on a galactic resource you can gain additional abilities. Click on the little colored cube button on the star ship panel to build the star base. You can send additional constructors to existing star bases to build them up in different areas. As you research more technologies, more modules become available which can be added to star bases.
Transports. Transports are required to invade a
star system. A star system must be undefended (all ships in orbit with defense
values destroyed) first before you can invade. The final version of the game
will have limits to the # of troops that can be loaded onto a transport. Requires:
Freighters. A freighter can be built and then sent to a destination star system to begin a trade route. Once this is done, private industry takes over and a small trade ship travels the route. The amount of income received from the trade route is determined by how many moves the trade ship moves (so the further it has to travel, the more the route is worth). You can economically blockade enemies by destroying their trade ships since the value of the route is very low at the start of its journey on the route. Requires: Trade technology.
Because Galactic Civilizations isn’t a tactical war game (war is only one aspect of the game), its designers have intentionally made sure that battles are kept relatively straight forward. Tactics don’t win modern wars, logistics and over-all strategy do.
To attack an enemy ship you move your ship into the enemy ship. This causes the two to battle. Each ship has its own attack, defense, and hit points. The surviving ship gains experience and can move up levels which improves its ratings. As ships take damage, they show this damage on the screen.
When possible, you should try to purchase a ship right away rather than waiting for it to be built. This is particularly important early in the game when you’re trying to colonize fast. Otherwise the alien players will colonize all the good planets. Note: The AI doesn’t purchase ships on lower intelligence levels.
When you load up the game for the first time, you’ll want to start a new game. The first screen will ask you what political party you want. There’s no wrong answer on this part. In terms of spreading out your 10 freebie abilities, sensor range can be pretty helpful for new players since it allows your ships to explore much faster. You can’t really go wrong with the others.
The AI in Galactic Civilizations is no slouch. So don’t pick “Smart” for the intelligence of a computer player unless you’re quite experienced. If you’re new, choosing “idiot” for intelligence is probably prudent.
In terms of whether they are good or evil, that depends on how you want to play. Good civilizations tend to stick together, evil ones don’t but are more likely to pray on the weak than a good one. An easy (though potentially boring) game would be to play as a good civilization with other good civilizations.
We suggest you play a small galaxy for starters. The game supports galaxy sizes up to gigantic but those games take months to finish versus a small galaxy which can be finished in an afternoon.
You’ll begin the game with a summary of what’s been happening prior to the game starting. Then you’ll be asked to choose a technology. We suggest you pick COMMUNICATION THEORY since that will lead you to a Universal Translator which allows you to communicate with alien civilizations.
When you begin you’ll have a colony ship and a survey ship.
LEFT CLICKING on things will select things. RIGHT CLICKING on things will send your selected ship to that destination. You can also hold down the LEFT MOUSE BUTTON to grab the screen and drag it around as well as moving the mouse to the edge of the screen.
You can also use the cursor keys to move a selected ship around.
Look for YELLOW stars. These are the ones most likely to have good planets in orbit of them. Look for planets that look nice. Class 15 is good. Class 20 is better. Anything higher is miraculous.
Your survey ship can be sent to pick up space debris. Space debris can provide your civilization with bonuses of various sorts. They’re basically there to make exploring the galaxy more interesting.
You can DOUBLE-CLICK on any stars you control and it will take you to the first colonized planet in that star system (single clicking will bring up the solar system and allow you to click on the planet you want).
On the planet screen you’ll probably want to build more colony ships. We suggest you purchase a colony ship right away. Don’t wait for it to be built on its own. Choose an improvement to build as well.
The early part of the game is largely about getting as many of the good planets as you can. The next phase of the game is usually concerned with trying to get those galactic resources. But this is a lot trickier of a strategy because while you’re building constructors, you’re not building freighters or defensive/offensive ships. Keep an eye on the military might graph on the right. The aliens will look for civilizations that are easy prey.
You can maintain better relations with civilizations by sending freighters to trade with them. The money from a trade route goes both ways. If their economy becomes dependent on trade with you, you basically own them. J So pick carefully who you want to trade with.
As you build star bases, focus on what strategy you want to work on. If you are going to try to be the economic czar (which makes it easier to win via the political victory) then build star bases along your trade ship’s routes and upgrade them with modules that boost trade revenue.
If you’re going for the cultural domination path, upgrade your star bases with modules that magnify your influence in those sectors. You can actually get star systems to defect to you if you have enough influence in a sector they have a planet in. Be wary though, the aliens won’t just lie down and let you walk over them. If they feel culturally threatened they may either try to counter what you’re doing with their own star bases or take them out through more violent means.
Eventually the game will conclude. One way or the other. Using diplomacy is a great way to even the odds since you can trade things for money and other goods. Prop up your friends by giving them star ships in their time of need (they’ll do the same for you).
When the game is over, it will ask you to submit your score to the METAVERSE. The Metaverse is an on-line multiplayer network in which players compete for control of a virtual galaxy. It does this by using the points you submit as currency in this galaxy so make sure you submit your scores, even if you lose.
These questions are meant to address some of the more common questions we get and are meant to be “hard hitting”.
Q: Who are you and what is your background?
A: My name is Brad Wardell, I’m the designer and lead developer of Galactic Civilizations at Stardock Entertainment. I’ve previously designed The Corporate Machine, Entrepreneur, and of course the original OS/2 version of Galactic Civilizations from back in 1994.
Q: What makes Galactic Civilizations special? There are a lot of 4X strategy games out there already, what does this one bring to the table?
A: For lack of a better term, our goal is to create a truly organic feeling game. Most strategy games come across feeling a bit like a spread sheet. Or they get so complex that casual strategy gamers are turned off by them. What we hope to do is make a strategy game that has an almost role-playing feel to it. We want each game to feel like an epic story. That’s why we’re putting in so many plot events. You may play the game for many months and still run into new events that give the game a fresh texture. In GalCiv, we want you to truly feel like you’re building a civilization. You can make it a good one or an evil one. You can make it a war-like one or a peaceful one. One that manipulates others behind the scenes or wins by winning the hearts and minds of the other civilizations’ citizens.
Lots of times games will come out and boast how they allow players all these paths to victory. And then you sit down and play it and it turns out that there’s really only one way to victory that’s any fun and the other ways are either virtually impossible or incredibly not fun. What we’ve done in GalCiv is work especially hard to make sure the different paths are enjoyable. In fact, the star bases, for instance, weren’t in the original design. We put those in along with the modules to upgrade them just this past Fall in order to ensure that winning through cultural and economics was as enjoyable as building fleets of ships and sending them into battle. Kind of a competitive “Simcity” type feel to it when you start building up your civilization and watching the little trade ships going back and forth by your star bases and such.
Q: GalCiv has no multi-player. How do you answer those who feel multiplayer is a key feature in strategy games today?
A: This is actually the first Windows game I’ve worked on that isn’t multiplayer. Stardock, on the game side, is actually best known for making multiplayer games so it is a bit ironic I confess. But having 7 years of experience in making multiplayer games, I was convinced that there were much greater benefits to making a single human player the star of the show. The time that was put into multiplayer was put into making computer players that behaved like humans (minus the disconnects, swearing, and cheese tactics). We still allow people to compete with other humans, just not directly via the Metaverse.
Q: What part of the game did you find the most enjoyable to work on?
A: I really like working on the computer players. Particularly the dialog. Often times I’ll play games where I’ve clearly creamed the computer player but it doesn’t act like it’s losing. So we made sure in GalCiv that when you’re kicking butt the AI actually will say things like “You’ve crushed us! Have mercy, we appeal to your humanity..” and other such things.
Q: In GalCiv you play exclusively as the humans. Most games let you pick their own races along with a large assortment of aliens.
A: This is true. Most games let you pick any race and then pick aliens to play against. Galactic Civilizations supports up to 36 different civilizations in the game at a time. I think that’s more than most games. But we do focus on the 6 major star faring civilizations.
But what most games do is have each alien civilization relatively hard coded as to what they can do. Whereas in our case, you can heavily customize not just your civilization but the alien civilizations you choose.
Does it really matter that you can’t play as an alien when you can customize the humans to have pretty much any trait you’d like? The reason we have players take the role as leader of humanity is so that the game plot can be much richer. If we let players play as anyone, then all the plot stuff would have had to be divided amongst the other civilizations. By playing as humans, we can cater to them exclusively which we think makes for a much richer experience in the long term.
Q: How does playing as good and evil affect the game play?
A: For one thing, it helps determine what technologies are available to you. The types of things an ethical civilization is going to research is likely to be very different than an evil one. There’s also a lot of behind the scenes diplomacy calculating that occurs based on your ethical standing. It’s particularly enjoyable to play as an evil player in a galaxy full of good guys because they’ll likely eventually launch a crusade against you which can be quite fun to crush those goodie goodie AI players.
Q: Can you explain the Metaverse in more detail?
A: Sure. Essentially when you play GalCiv, your game is recorded and can optionally be submitted to the metaverse when the game is done. This has two particular advantages: 1) It lets you compete indirectly with other players in the GalCiv universe. And 2) We can update the AI based on the top players. So as time goes on, when you play a computer player you’ll be really playing against the strategies employed by the top players.
Q: Does the game use a 3D engine?
A: No. This was heavily debated internally. Since Stardock is pretty well known for using the latest in cutting edge technology with our other software (we are, afterall, the ones who created XPBench – www.xpbench.com which some game sites use in reviews) such as Object Desktop. But it really came down to being a marketing decision – as soon as you make the game require a 3D engine you eliminate a lot of people from being able to play the game.
And since the game takes place in space, there wasn’t that much of an advantage in going 3D. Afterall, what are we going to do? Force the player to rotate the galaxy map around to navigate through it? While that looks neat for the first few minutes, after a short time it gets very tedious.
That said, the graphics in the game are 3D. We have our own internal engine for displaying 3D graphics called “Pear”. So when you see planets rotating and units on the screen, they’re all 3D based units. There’s no “hand drawn” art in the game . It’s jut a matter of whether to pre-render the 3D or render it on the fly via a 3D engine. Visually, the game runs natively at 1024x768x32bit color so it’s definitely up to date graphically.
Q: The game seems to have a lot of humor in it, what made you decide to do that?
A: On the one hand we want the game to have an epic feel to it. We don’t want the game to have camp. But at the same time, we don’t want the game to take itself too seriously. We want the computer players to say things that are interesting and unexpected. We want players to feel that we understand the type of game they want to play.
Q: What’s so special about the GalCiv AI?
A: The AI is multithreaded. What this means is that while you are taking your turn, the computer players are generating their strategies. That’s why there is no “please wait, computer players moving” screen when you hit the turn button. They’ve already calculated much of their moves. The only thing you have to wait for is the actual moving of units on the map.
The real benefit though is that it gives computer players much more time to “think” about their strategies. It means we can implement much more sophisticated strategies for them so that they play more intelligently.
None of this means that the game is “harder” to beat. But what it does mean is that we don’t have to dump tons of free money or whatever to the computer players in order for them to be competitive. They can play the same game you’re playing. We think many players gain a certain satisfaction knowing that when they’ve destroyed an Economic Starbase that it really did hurt that player. Most games I play I have to wonder whether blowing up some key building or unit really affects the AI or not. But in GalCiv, there’s no doubt because it’s playing the same game you are.
Q: How do “random events” help the game? Sometimes games have random events that completely mess up the game. How are you going to avoid that?
A: Like our AI, the events that occur in GalCiv have intelligence behind them. While the event itself is chosen randomly, how it is actually played out in the game is not. It calculates out the event such that the event won’t have an over powering effect on the game while at the same time not being trivial.
For instance, we DO NOT have events like “Your power plant has exploded taking out planet Y” in GalCiv. That’s the sort of stuff that’s just frustrating because there’s nothing you could do about that.
Instead, something like that would be handled as a growing terrorist threat that you could deal with and the longer it goes without being dealt with (by someone, not just you because these events don’t make a distinction between you and other players) the worse it gets. For example, one event might come up and talk about how some minor thing got destroyed by a group called the “Calorians”. Well if you look on the map hard enough, you’ll find that there’s a planet called Calor that is a minor race that wasn’t there before. If you or someone else takes it over, then the problems caused by these guys goes away. If they’re allowed to linger, things get tougher. But you always have the ability to avoid or prevent anything that could be really game changing.
The choices you make in GalCiv combined with the status of the galaxy help determine how these events get played out so that they fit into the unique story of each game.
Q: Stardock has mentioned that the game is going to be developed for an additional year after release. A cynical person might argue that you’re just saying that so that you can release an incomplete game.
A: If GalCiv was our first game, there might be reason to be concerned about that. But going back and looking at reviews of our previous games you find them consistently saying that the games were very solid and feature rich.
We found on our Object Desktop suite (www.objectdesktop.com) that by continually updating the software that it attracts new buyers long after the release and builds a loyal customer base. So we’re doing this on our games as well. The released version of the game will be fully featured and very solid. And in fact, in a pinch we could have moved the ship date up a full month.
Releasing significant, meaningful updates after the game is released allows the game to remain fresh. I am sure I’m not the only one who subconsciously won’t buy a game if it’s been out more than a month or two. But if people are reading about GalCiv 1.1 with significant new features, it keeps the game “new” longer.
Plus, we’re exploiting a unique advantage we have over most game developers. Our development budget is funded by the sales of our other software. Even if GalCiv didn’t sell a copy, it would not have a significant impact on us. We developed GalCiv with zero advances on royalties. In short, we can afford to keep developing it as long as it makes economic sense to do so. We think that will help make the game more successful at retail by keeping it on the shelves longer and maybe in some small way encourage other developers to start supporting their games after release in a more meaningful way. Afterall, one way to prevent piracy is to keep updating your game after release.