Musings on, Art, Skinning, Computers, and the True meaning of Life. (AKA The Lego Theory)

It has been a few months now since I have have been able to do the weekly GalCiv Twitch Stream, and I find myself missing the weekly GC3 progress report and Q & A. I thought I would take a page out of Brad's book and try and start doing some more regular Developer Journals. This week I’m lucky because we are going to release 1.7, and there are lots of new features to talk about, and a few questions that I can preemptively address.


1.7 for the most part is a game play patch. Those of you who have already opted in to 1.7 beta will know that a lot of things have been addressed, some more obvious than others. Starbases management has been more or less completely reworked. We have added a brand-new ship list to the shipyards and the Design screen. Other changes are a bit more subtle. The way component mass is calculated has changed, and sensors now use “sensor power,” changing them to a volumetric system, making them much more realistic and less subject to exploitation. Add to this a ton of bug fixes and AI improvements, and I think this is one of the most exciting patches we have done since release.

Starbases
Starbase management has long been one of the biggest issues for our players, changing the system however has always been dangerous because some players liked it as is, and perhaps more importantly we did not want to break compatibility with older saves.

What's New
You now order starbase components directly from the starbase. If you have an economic starbase and have already researched a bit up the production branch of the tech tree, you can now directly order Starbase Factory 1, 2, and 3 all in one go. The starbase will order the constructors itself from the most efficient available shipyard. Advanced players can even specify what shipyard they want a starbase to use, or even what constructor they want the starbase to order.

The Starbase screen has been updated to better show what the starbases effects are, and what they are affecting; this is in addition to the new starbase queue.
We found that with this change starbases became much more useful, so we had to make a few overall balance changes as well. Many of the starbase modules have been tweaked, and almost all of them now have maintenance cost. Don’t panic, it’s pretty low in general.

What has not changed
You still build initial starbases with constructors and you can still manually send a constructor to a starbase to use its modules.

What we still want to do
Overall I am pretty happy with the new system, but there will certainly be some issues that come up once it is in the hands of the players. You can certainly expect some more balancing. Depending on feedback, we may end up increasing the maintenance cost, increasing the min distance between starbases, or even reducing some of the bonuses. The one thing that I don't want to do is remove the bonus stacking, so let me know what you think of the new system, and what horrible exploits you find.

New Ship List
One of the most fun things in GC3 is the ship designer.  Yet, one of the side effects of being able to design new ships is that players have a ton of ship designs. This has been a problem since early on. We have players out there with 600+ custom ship designs, not counting the built designs and templates they have downloaded from the workshop.


What’s New
Pretty much everything.
All ships are now automatically categorized into filter groups. For example, all Beam Heavy ships will be listed in the Beam Ships group. If you are playing as a race that prefers missiles, you can collapse that group entirely and not have to see those ships at all.

Specialized ships ( ships that are of the same class but with special components, like the Ranger and the Ranger-L, -D, -R, etc) are now grouped together with the one that does the most damage at the top of the group. So you will no longer have to wonder what the difference is between these ships. You can now see a list of icons in each entry that shows the ship's most important features such as such it's best attack, best defense, and any special components like Range Extenders.

You can now favor ships. If you have a ship design you always use and don't want to have to dig through the list each game, you can now Favor your ships.  This will make them always show up in the Favorites group at the top of the list.

We also added better filters: you can now sort by size, attack, cost, or resource use.  This will automatically arrange each filter group accordingly without affecting the groups. You can also now choose to hide all Auto Generated ships or all User Created ships from the list without having to go to the options screen.

What's the same
Not much, I guess there is still a ship list?
What we still want to do
Several players have requested an alphabetical sort, the ability to multi-select ships, or deleting ships. These are all on my list, as well as the ability for players to set up their own ship groups, like we currently have for the built-in designs, such as the ranger-R, -L, -D, etc.

Other Changes

Components
Component mass is now affected by ship size. The effect is often subtle, and the goals are to make the game a bit more realistic and to control some of the more extreme exploits of miniaturization. Each component now gets slightly more massive as the ship gets larger. In most cases, this difference is generally only 1% of the mass of the ship but in others, it can be larger. This is used for device systems and life support systems, both of which must be larger to push / support a larger ship.
One negative side effect of this change is that some older player design ships, will now be “illegal” -- if you find yourself missing one of your favorite ships you can go to the options screen and check the “Show over-mass ships” checkbox. This will make them show up in the designer, but you will have to edit them and reduce their mass to a “legal” level before you will be able to use the design in the game.

Sensors
One of the more controversial changes we decided to make was to rework the Sensor system. Exploiting Sensor Range is a staple of many successful strategies for winning the game. I have always been reluctant to change this because one of the strengths of GC3 design is letting the player build very specialized ships. We talked about simply adding a sensor cap or making sensor modules, one per ship. But in the end we decided to change the math slightly to be a bit more “realistic.” We changed the sensors to be volumetric (more like the influence system) instead of linear. This has the effect of giving sensors diminishing returns while letting players who want to build sensor barges can still use them as a valid strategy.

How they work
All sensors now have a Sensor Power stat, the sensor power is the amount of power it takes to fill six hexes. This is a one radius around the ship. This radius is still represented by the Sensor Range stat. Since Fog of War does not clear until 100% of that radius is cleared, to get to the next sensor range radius you must increase your sensor power to two, (one power for the first radius six tiles, and two power for the second radius of 12 tiles) and the next radius to three. We have updated the sensor tooltip, so you can always tell how much more power you will need to increase your range.

In addition, we have also changed all sensor bonuses to be multipliers on Sensor Power.  Some of the old techs and traits that increased your sensor range by one are now much more valuable.

Diplomacy and Aggressiveness

We get a lot of feedback on diplomacy and it varies wildly, from “the game is way to hard,” to “the game is way too easy,” or “the AI will never trade with me,” or “the AI will give me anything I want for a pittance”. Sadly most of these complaints are valid, and mostly depend on the person's play style.


So in 1.7 we have begun to tackle some (but not all) of these issues. We changed the way the AI values its stuff and your stuff, depending on its AI difficulty and its relationship with you. So now if you want to be able to get good values on your trades, you need to keep the AI happy.
Keeping the AI happy might be a bit more difficult for some, as we rebalanced some of the more exploitive diplomatic techs and improvements. But don't worry we spent a lot of time making sure the AI would not be such a jerk. I think the new balances feel really good, and will be interested to see what you think.

We are going to be focusing much more on Diplomacy in 1.71 and 1.8.

Battle previews

You can now get a preview and estimate of battle outcome simply by selecting the fleet you would be attacking with, mousing over any enemy ship, fleet, starbase, shipyard or planet. This should save thousands of virtual lives and it is very helpful when planning your next move in a war.

Planet Notifications

We have added notification explanations to the planet screen, to make sure you can easily tell if your planet is getting close to any sort of trouble, such as low food, low approval, or a dangerous level of foreign influence.


And Much More

And of course many bug fixes, and other improvements, that I have just plain forgotten. We have a lot more we want to do and I know we have not gotten to everyone's request yet, but hopefully you will find 1.7 makes Galactic Civilizations III an even better game.

Keep giving us your feedback, and bug reports, it helps us focus our development time on what you guys find important.

Paul Boyer
Lead Designer - Galactic Civilizations III


Comments (Page 1)
on Apr 18, 2016

I would argue that the "Battle Prediction" feature treads into "game plays itself" territory. The new Master of Orion has this feature as well and i think it makes testing your new ship designs less interesting when the computer simply tells you if you're going to win or not. Just a thought.

on Apr 18, 2016

The prediction is not absolute, it has pretty large manger of "error" built in, we mostly just want to let you know when you are about to bight off what more then you can chew. 

on Apr 18, 2016

leiavoia

I would argue that the "Battle Prediction" feature treads into "game plays itself" territory. The new Master of Orion has this feature as well and i think it makes testing your new ship designs less interesting when the computer simply tells you if you're going to win or not. Just a thought.

 

^^^ I have had 'victory likely' end up as utter failure several times. 

 

Great, GREAT job on 1.7 Stardock!!

 

Thank you!

on Apr 18, 2016

mormegil

bight

bite, sorry to be picky... As far as the diplomacy changes I like what I'm seeing, however, the AI still doesn't see multiple trade resources, example.

I am trading 1000 credits for (1) snuggler colony.  The AI will accept.

I now am trading 1000 credits for (3) snuggler colonies.  The AI will still accept.

They see multiple as the same value yet.

on Apr 18, 2016

I had the AI attitudes toward me slowly change over the course of a game and the trades ranged from downright extorting me to pretty fair trading.  I am sure I saw differences based on Ideology within that as well.  I was very used to getting my early techs from trading and that became a very rude surprise.  I am very glad to hear there is a difficulty level factor in there.  That makes a lot of sense to me and I expect it was part of what I ran into as such a shock.

The sensors was a good change, but let me be the first to plead for the equivalent of The Eyes Of The Universe wonder.

Good work all the way around.  As for the weekly Twitch Streams, go ahead and do them.  We won't tell Brad, and he'll be busy thrashing people at Ashes.  

 

on Apr 18, 2016

There's at least one mercenary unit that has an enormous sensor range.  If sensors are nerfed as you describe, is this unit also affected?  If so, have you given it some other attributes to make it still worth buying?

on Apr 18, 2016

To give you an idea about 1.7. Up until now I would always beeline to techno capital and manufac capital. Then I would work on Medium hulls and Terraforming. 

Now I beeline to Diplomacy to get some Embassy's built on my planets. That has proven to be FAR more useful to putting off war than having a big military.  War will always arise but I like to be the one to foment it! 

on Apr 18, 2016

Starbases - You have created a game where an average game by an average player typically has 2 to 4 starbases for every habitable planet. There are far more starbases in GalCiv 3 than 2, so you need to make the management of that system better than GalCiv2. It's not because you still need to create and maintain your queue. 1.7 is a large step in the right direction, but it's not there. When you can create a priority queue that includes modules you haven't yet researched, save and name the queue, then apply the named queue to newly constructed shipyards or thereafter, you will be there. That's all mechanical automation to significantly reduce repetition, and not AI automation.

Designer ship list - Another positive step. The list is still cluttered with older loadouts of ships, though. You need a way to mass obsolete older and no longer used loadouts because filtering and sorting a cluttered list of ships with far more noise than signal still results in a cluttered list.

Planet notifications - not well thought out. Must you go into the planet screen for each and every planet every few turns to see if there are notifications? I suppose this might help players new to the game, so it's not really a feature for experienced users. Too bad you didn't put this in the Colonies tab or the planet list (with a notification sort button). You guys vastly underutilize those things, and this is just a small example of that. If you want your UI to work for large empires, improving the ability to manage your empire from these lists and grids is vital.

Tech trade cost varies with relationship - This is a great idea. I hope to see how well it works once I want to try the game again after...see below.

Looking for some UI love for huge galaxies in 1.8. We'll see.

 

 

on Apr 19, 2016

This was the patch I was hoping for back in 1.3 which addressed key flaws with the game that the player base (at least a certain part of it) had highlighted.  It's a real shame its taken nearly a year since release before this patch.  Many if not all the key issues this patch addresses were well known back in beta (perhaps not the full extent of the diplomacy flaws which Icemania and maybe others uncovered)

I haven't tried out 1.7 yet to see how successful the changes have been but just reading the words... ship list, star base and diplomacy gives me hope.

 

There's a lot of very good competition all of a sudden in space 4X, the Master of Orion Reboot is very polished (compared to how GC3 was certainly) though arguably a bit shallow and Stellaris is out in less than a month  I don't know what the future holds for GC3 and I don't really know how to feel about the game anymore.

If Stardock really does work on it for five years (think that was said) it could end up a real gem but there's been so many seemingly unnecessary bad decisions and wrong priorities imo by Stardock so far that could have been avoided.  I get the impression Stardock need 5 years to do what other companies do in two/three because they have limited resources spread thinly over too many projects which leads to lots of average games and lots of disappointment.

Anyway I started writing this not to have a go.  Good patch, just wish it came a lot sooner.  Thanks Paul. 

 

 

 

on Apr 19, 2016

Publius
The merc sensor boat has been balanced, it is still pretty powerful, i think the range is around 15 depending on map size. I was going to tweak it more, but i found that even that range on a relatively cheap merc ship is very useful. I’ll be curious to see what you guys think,

 
Macsen
I know how you feel, many of the features in this patch are things we have been wanting to do since launch, but we often have to move things around out of necessity. Hopefully as we move forward the game will just get better, 

 

on Apr 19, 2016

I am using the super scout Merc in my present Immense map.  I bought it on turn 3 when I found the Bazaar.  It is very usefully mapping out territory.  What matters more than its sensor range is its ship range which is allowing it to map beyond my borders.  I think that shows balance.

on Apr 19, 2016

Thanks for the responses.

on Apr 19, 2016

I've played a couple games in 1.7 opt in 4.  The changes really help the 'flow' of the game.

Great update, and kudos to all the 'small stuff' that got fixed as well.  That's a long list!

I believe diplomacy needs a boatload of work still....but apparently you do too (1.71 and 1.8), so keep up the great work!

on Apr 20, 2016

"Depending on feedback, we may end up increasing the maintenance cost, increasing the min distance between starbases, or even reducing some of the bonuses. The one thing that I don't want to do is remove the bonus stacking, so let me know what you think of the new system, and what horrible exploits you find."


I dislike every word of this.

Just remove the bonus stacking and everything else would be great and logical.

If you're not going to remove bonus stacking as a permanent feature, then make it an option for those who want.


on Apr 20, 2016

I have no issue with star bases, my only issue still with diplomacy exploits and other bugs...

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