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.

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

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.

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 2)
on Apr 20, 2016

My opinion on the stacking bonus is that that it is fun, it’s fun to try and get the most out of your planets.

I think the problem comes in balancing the bonus, to both be useful if there is only one and to not OP if they are several. If they did not stack there would never be reason to have more than one starbase in a system. While this is appealing from a management and balance perspective, I think it would take some of the fun out of building up your worlds.

The changes in 1.7 make it even easier to build lots of starbases, so this exasperates the issue. In GC2, and early GC3, we had a cost per starbase that rose with each starbase built. I always found this annoying since it was arbitrary. Sadly this was probably a bad call on my part. But I do not want to simply bring back that system. I hope we can address these issues by just better balancing of the bonus, placement roles, and maintenance cost.

I want players to be able to build Crazy great planets; we just don’t want those planets to be TOO crazy. 

on Apr 20, 2016

In terms of moddding, have you guys finally fixed the bug that was preventing custom height maps for custom planets from being read?

on Apr 20, 2016

I’m not sure that there is a bug per se that would stop you from using custom height maps, so much as they have to be baked into the surface atlas, and be in the proper format.

I will ask to be sure, but I think you can force the atlas to regenerate, but I’m not sure how that would work with a mod, I ill look into it. That atlas gets really big, so it’s not something we want the players to have to generate each time thy play.

on Apr 21, 2016

Paul, thanks for adding the <OnePerPlayer> tag, but I think how it is currently used needs to be looked at.  For the Bane it makes sense but some of the other Precursor modules I don't think they are powerful enough as they are to warrant the restriction.  Maybe think about boosting their powers and/or adding a fleet effect.  Or maybe not restricting certain modules.

on Apr 21, 2016

I am loving 1.7 and want to make a suggestion regarding diplomacy for your future patches.

I am playing on genius and have the problem that the AIs never finish each other off. Once an AI is pretty much defeated and most ships/orbital infrastructure is destroyed, they suddenly get tons of cash. Im guessing this is the bonus income they receive from the difficulty level and not spending it on any maintenance. At this point the AI wars are always ended, so I assume they use their boat loads of cash to buy peace. The problem with this is that the AI empires never grow at the same pace as me because they never actually finish off any other AIs to take their space and resources completely.

So my suggestion is to nerf peace making between AIs a bit so that I can get some big empires to face mid/late game.

Thank for constantly improving the game

on Apr 21, 2016


I’m not sure that there is a bug per se that would stop you from using custom height maps, so much as they have to be baked into the surface atlas, and be in the proper format.

I will ask to be sure, but I think you can force the atlas to regenerate, but I’m not sure how that would work with a mod, I ill look into it. That atlas gets really big, so it’s not something we want the players to have to generate each time thy play.

Please, do I'd really like to fully reinstate my custom races, custom home world.

I've have formatted my maps correctly. I even did a test were I just copied and renamed the one for Earth. No matter what I did the map just wouldn't show up in game. The planet would show up just fine, but there's land on which to build. 

on Apr 21, 2016


Do this with caution, but you should be able to add the command line ATLASGEN to your startup, and it should re-generate the atlas every time it changes. Keep in mind it will slow down startup each time it has to do this. 


on Apr 21, 2016

The Sisko

Those modules are all exploitable in some way or another, i see what i can do with them, but i wanted to fix the Bane issue ASAP. 


on Apr 21, 2016

1.7 is definitely an awesome patch. 


one question - its great that you can now choose which planet sponsors a starbase. but I can't see a way to do this globally - that is for every starbase. For example, I want to dedicate one of my shipyards to building constructors and nothing else, and default all my new starbases to sourcing their constructors from that shipyard. Is there another way to do this that doesn't involve manually setting this up for each and every starbase I create?

on Apr 21, 2016

Awesome patch--look forward to spending some time with it!

One thought I have as you consider finessing the ship list groups: perhaps instead of making obsolete designs disappear from a game, you could put them into a group of obsolete designs. Then, in the event you accidentally make a design obsolete, or in the event you want to use a design you made obsolete, you still have access. This would keep these designs from cluttering the ship list but render the act of making a design obsolete less permanent within a given galaxy and less restrictive. I guess I see no reason to use the old method of making ships obsolete with the new method of ship grouping.

Also, if you do make it possible to create user-defined ship groups (which would be awesome), please make this something the game remembers (from galaxy to galaxy) and that the group designation can be changed.

Really great post, Paul, and thanks again to you and all the dev team for delivering this patch. I've played enough of the beta patch to know this is a huge step forward. Great work!

on Apr 21, 2016

Ok you like bonus stacking and I don't. Why not make a game option removing bonus stacking so that both of us could enjoy the game?

on Apr 21, 2016


Ok you like bonus stacking and I don't. Why not make a game option removing bonus stacking so that both of us could enjoy the game?

Not to speak for Paul, but because balancing becomes a huge issue. If (the attempt at) game balance is set at one set of core assumptions but there is an radically different option (and this would be pretty radical), how do the devs balance the game for both?  Not as easy as it sounds.

Also where does SD draw the line on this?  There are lots of things that irk a minority of players.  Should everything possible be made an option?  Only so many dev hours out there, after all.

I mean, just for an example, I've been banging the drum for sector lines ala GC II since mid beta "as an option".  IMO the game needs that FAR more than this.  Yet the devs have other concerns to deal with.  And this is just one example of many of "make it an option" isn't as easy as it sounds, as there is a LOOOOOOOONG list of things that folks want "as an option".

And this doesn't even get into the ever-fun problem of multiplayer. 

Finally, there does come the point of diminishing returns.  If a brand new player is beset with tons of options at game startup, how inviting is that?  Sure, it might be great for some Power Users (though I can assure you I would NEVER use that option ).  But the Joe and Jane Shmoe?  Perhaps not as much.  Introducing more and more options also has to be weighed against how it looks to a brand new player, I think.  

In summation, all I iz sayin' is that it might not be quite as easy as "just make it an option".

on Apr 21, 2016

How do I disable starbases automatically ordering available upgrade modules without having to edit the information in each starbase individually? New ones I build have this toggled on by default. I had to go through my entire list of starbases tonight and disable it per unit. I looked through settings but could not find an option to disable this feature for all starbases.

All of my shipyards were making modules for starbases when I logged in tonight instead of ships for my impending war with the Drengin.

Also. it used to show me how many constructor modules I could build when a constructor arrived at a starbase but now it doesn't. I just click new modules until something appears in the queue window then I delete that and move along. I, for one, definitely liked the pre 1.7 starbase/constructor game play better.



on Apr 21, 2016

Hi Paul,


I haven't played since the first opt-in, but have been keeping an eye on the progress. Great stuff! Really happy with how the update is shaping up. These are all really essential improvements. 


I was wondering if you could maybe shed some light on any other improvements to AI behavior with the update? 


Also if you had any current thoughts on improving/adding tools for macro-management? When I say this, I'm referring to being able to eject entire fleets from a planet with one button, or set planetary foci/or governors in the govern screen, etc. I think there are still a number of steps that can betaken to reduce tedious and unnecessary micro-management.


Opening up this thread and the interaction is much appreciated, thanks!


on Apr 22, 2016



Do this with caution, but you should be able to add the command line ATLASGEN to your startup, and it should re-generate the atlas every time it changes. Keep in mind it will slow down startup each time it has to do this. 



Thanks for the help it's working now