Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
The next stuff, the backstory, and more.
Published on February 8, 2006 By Draginol In GalCiv Journals

Most of the team took the rest of the week off to recover. It's been quite a time.  Now I have to start catching up.  I wrote up an article for IGN today for their feature on the GalCiv races. So you'll soon get to see the first public shots of the Dread Lords in action.  Their ships look quite a bit different from the other ones.

I've taken a couple days away from playing the game so that I can get a fresh perspective to decide what to focus on for the Bonus Pack.  Basically, when you get the game, you should come here and make sure you get the free Bonus Pack.  If you pre-ordered, you get even more stuff but the Bonus Pack has a bunch of other neato stuff in it.  Better explosions, more extras to put on your ship. Gameplay updates. etc.

Of course, my thing is the computer AI.  One of the things I definitely want to put in are more difficulty levels.  I'd almost like a slider or something rather than picking a set intelligence level.  Right now the AI intelligence is set between 1 and 128 with "Intelligent" being set to 80 (there's nothing special about the numbers, the 80 is simply where the exponential equations worked out to provide an even resource match with the human player).

Right now, I can beat the AI in most starting conditions at 80.  But at 96 I can beaten nearly every time.  So I'd like to see what it's like at say 85 or 90.  So that's one thing for release day I'd like to have ready. The tough thing AI's have going against them is that unless you script it, they rely on generalized analysis.  As a human player, I have a "build order".  The AI does not.  That was one of the things we wanted to get away from.  Instead it's all analysis based.  Which is much better than GalCiv I IMO (which had scripts for how it researched).  I know it's more fun for me since I don't know what the AI is going to do.  I had the screenshot here show up and it was quite a set back because the Drengin then proceeded to wipe out 7 transports which took some effort to put together.  I still beat them but it set me back.  I really got to get better at escorting MY escorts (maybe I need a brain upgrade).  The AI generally tries to escort its ships unless it determines it can sneak one by.

What's the best ship?

One thing that goes back and forth is what is the best ship?  Am I better off putting on massive defenses with only a bit of attack?  Or should I go the other way around?  The answer I'm rapidly coming to is that massive defenses work out decently at the easy levels but not so well at the higher level -- the AI adapts its ships pretty quickly.

That said, I have some ideas for how the AI can design better ships.  But it's going to take some time.  Right now, I feel it's not as efficient as the human player at stuffing things on. Man, this would have been a nice area to have the AI cheat too -- not have to obey the size restrictions. LOL.  A human player will sit there and make sure every unit of space is used up.  You can have a computer do that too but the trick is to make sure it puts the right stuff on.  The generalized algorithm for "Best fit" is nothing new and is in use here.  It's a matter of making sure it's very fast and fits a whole series of criteria. 

Downloading

So the plan is for next Tuesday or so to start letting people download most (but not all) the game.  That way, when the game goes live on February 21, people who bought the download option (or bought the CD from us) will be able to just download a 2 or 3 meg file and be up ready to play without having to download some mega sized files.  Plus it clears the bandwidth.  Things went pretty smoothly with GalCiv I and this time we're going to have even more bandwidth available. But I don't want to take chances and I'm sure that there will still be horror stories -- it's all in the percents: 1% of people having download problems with 10,000 first day downloads is still 100 people and 100 people posting on a forum will look like a legion. And there may be more than 10,000 people based on the upsurge we've seen.

Starting to work on the demo

The demo version obviously needs to get done.  A lot of people won't buy a game without at least trying out the demo.  The demo won't show up before release though.  We want all our development effort put first to the people who are buying the game sight unseen.  Those people have put faith that we'll treat them well and I want to make sure we do what we can to  make sure they feel like they aren't let down. 

So once the game's released, we can put together a demo pretty quickly.  Even though the game requires 2 CDs to install, I really am hoping we can put together a demo that is less than a 200 meg download.  Maybe even less than 100 megs.  The tough part will be deciding what's in the demo.

GalCiv as MOO 4?

No.  The comparisons have always been there.  Even back at the start when Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 was released.  GalCiv for OS/2 came out in beta before MOO (Master of Orion) shipped but 1.0 came out after MOO.  So there's always been some question as to who influenced whom. 

I mentioned on a few occasions that with GalCiv II that we wanted to make sure we opened our minds and tried to put in features that appealed to a larger audience.  And that meant looking at MOO and many other games.  But it's not our intent to be like Master of Orion and as I saw someone else write in the forums, someone thinking GalCiv II is the heir to MOO is likely to be bummed out as it's quite different in gameplay.  The ship design and fleets are obviously similar and watching your ships battle is pretty similar in some ways to watching ships fight it out in MOO if you turned on auto.  But in MOO, you controlled those ships whereas here you're just (optionally) watching them to check out how your designs worked out.  We've talked elsewhere -- at length -- why we chose not to do tactical combat which boiled down to wanting the game to focus on the strategic game.  You're leader of a civilization, not a squadron commander.  It would be like Civilization IV turning into Battlefield 2 when your forces entered a city (though I'm sure there's people who would love that! <g>).

If we were to do a MOO 4 we would go back to MOO 2, expand on THAT to make sure we remained faithful to the Master of Orion legacy.  I think MOO fans, and they really are legion, deserve a MOO game that respects the original design.  Of course, then again, I think Star Control 2 fans deserve a SC 4 that does that.  What is it about version 3 of classic games? Maybe we should skip GalCiv III and go to GalCiv IV!

The GalCiv Backstory

I must admit, I borrowed some concepts from Star Control 2.  The Precursors were not lifted from Babylon 5 or Stargate or whatever.  They were inspired from Star Control 2.  I always dreamed that there'd be a SC3 that would expand on who these Precursors and the extra-dimensional beings.  I have no idea what they had in mind but I thought it was a very cool concept.

But the actual back story itself came from a series of stories I had been writing since the mid 80s.  The Arnor and the Dread Lords were both present in the back story that would eventually be put into GalCiv on OS/2.  The same story where the Drengin and Arceans and the rest came from.  At the time, I thought it was pretty unique.  The Torians having been once enslaved by the Drengin. 

In the back story (the main one being called "Corruption of the Shard"), the Arnor didn't disappear but had instead become isolationist after seeing the destructive power if the Dread Lords and their minions who they had finally defeated though at a terrible cost for them.  The stories tended to focus on a set of key characters who don't really show up here due to the strategic nature of the game.

When designing the game though, Star Control 2's precursor mythology was just so cool and so the Arnor disappeared and became the Precursors.  It fit much better in terms of being a strategy game than having a super powerful race just hanging around.

Sci-Fi does have a lot of parallels though. Arnor ships were supposed to basically look like squids. Very organic.  The final result looked to me to be like Vorlons. Which is ironic because the guys who modeled the ships never watched Babylon 5.  The Arnor and Dread Lord are fairly similar to the Vorlons and Shadow really.  Though then again, Sci-Fi seems to have a reoccurring theme of ancient super races.  Stargate has the "Ancients" and now the Orai (evil ancients).  I think there's a lot of appeal in having some very very bad guys out there. 

The Drengin Empire as bad guys

The Drengin are pretty standard bad guys on the surface. They're the Klingons (classic Trek version). They're the Goul'd. The Orcs. Etc.  But we wanted them to be a bit scarier than they they first appear.  They're methodical. They are pure evil. There is no reasoning with them. There are no alliances of convenience options for the humans.  If the replicators were coming to destroy the galaxy and the Drengin's only option was to team up with the humans to defeat them or die, they'd choose death because clearly the galaxy didn't deserve saving in the first place.  They really hate the humans though in sandbox mode, you can control that quite a bit by taking the path of evil.  But in the backstory, they see the humans as threats.

After all, the Drengin have been a technological society for a hundred thousand years.  The humans are a real threat to them. They pop up out of nowhere and start organizing their prey. The humans have to go down.  

The humans in the GalCiv universe aren't the Federation. Not by a long shot.  Humans are the blood thirsty warriors who are wearing suits.  We really want to be nice guys. Really.  We want to get along. We're all ready to hug and live in harmony. But you mess with us and you'll discover we've been killing each other for thousands of years and we're pretty good at it. As one dialog message to the Korx recently said "Look buddy, we're TRYING to be nice here. But we've been doing war against ourselves for a long time, do you really want to join our party?"

It's something the Drengin fear. The humans are better at tactics than any primitive civilization that poses as diplomats should be.  They think we're frauds.  Maybe they're right.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in this stuff I can go into more detail.  I just don't want to bore people with the back story stuff if it's not something they care about.


Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 08, 2006
Oh, as a person who is developing his own scifi mythology [I am ashamed to say I could make well over forty books out of the universe], I must say I'm quite interested in the backstory of the GalCiv universe. The more backstory and such that's revealed, in my opinion, the better one can be immersed in the game's setting. But that's just my opinion. I also know I'd definitely buy some stories based in the GC universe, whether your original or the game's version of it.

Out of curiousity, were the default leaders for the various races characters [protagonist, antagonist, mentioned, etc.] in the original stories? Also, were the Korx, Drath, Iconians, and Thalan also present in the original backstory? I remember reading something about your original ideas on the GC1 website, and I was wondering whether the "new" races were present in the first stories or if they were thought of for the Galactic Civilizations version of the universe...
on Feb 08, 2006
Backstory adds a lot of flavor to the game, and can enhance the immersion level of a game exponentially. I enjoyed this post immensely.
on Feb 08, 2006
...More please.
on Feb 08, 2006
Anyway, if anyone's interested in this stuff I can go into more detail. I just don't want to bore people with the back story stuff if it's not something they care about.


Well I'll be the first person to say that I'd definitely like to hear more.

[EDIT: Okay, make that the *4th* person. ]

I admit that when I bought GalCiv, I wasn't terribly interested in the backstory at the time (aside from a certain curiosity as to why the Humans and Altarians looked alike). But as development on GalCiv 2 continued, you really started fleshing out the background on all the races; and after a while I couldn't help but feel a little intrigued by certain events (Drath/Altarians, Yor/Iconians, the mysterious origins of the Thalians, etc.).

I also began to notice you seemed to keep subtly--yet consistently--emphasizing that the Drengin *really* didn't like Humans; and I admit I had started becoming curious as to why this was so. I think the final section of your post went a long way towards answering that question, at least.
on Feb 08, 2006
A few random comments:
- I love backstory - more please! Of course, IIRC, I read a whole ton of backstory on MOO3's web site and was then very disappointed to discover it had little relevance to the game itself. If the game mostly ignores the backstory, it's the literary equivalent of the cover art on an old Atari 2600 Pong game: a dramatic action painting of a realistic tennis player on the box, but the game inside is a few squares and rectangles.
- Star Control 2 is IMHO one of the best games ever. I don't understand why no one's really tried to emulate it (aside from the lousy Star Control 3).
- The common element leading to both SC3 and MOO3 being lousy is very likely the fact that both were created by teams having little to do with the original series.
- The earliest usage of "Precursors" in SciFi that I've seen is in David Brin's Uplift series (ie: Startide Rising from 1983). I've always wondered if the StarCon series borrowed the idea from him.
on Feb 09, 2006
Oh, come on! Of course we want more!

I am really happy to see that there are still some people being influenced by Stargate instead of bashing it. I always thought it was better than any stuff Bab5 came up with. Anyway, I like your dark perspective of humanity. That really reminds me of the re-imagined BSG I've been delighted with the past two years. To me, that is what humanity should look like in SciFi and what it will probably look like in the future. Don't get me wrong, I like Star Trek and the Federation, it's a nice optimistical alternative, I just don't think a development like that is likely for the human race. This new "realistic" SciFi is what I've been waiting for since the "cheesy `90s" ended.

Keep it coming!
on Feb 09, 2006
Here's some backstory for those that haven't read it yet...

http://www.galciv2.com/story.aspx
on Feb 09, 2006
I still fall back on the ship design should be about yourself and weapons and defense should be more about the race your trying to take over the known galaxy with. GalCiv 2 already has one moving in the direction of "good" civilizations should be more defensive "evil" more offensive (Yes them Drengin do stink to high heaven!)

I rarely research beam weaponry though, no matter which race I am working with, somewhere in the back of my mind is the wow factor look at the size of that busbar required for that little laser to score a whole point of damage. I prefer the mass drivers, something about dropping a 10 lb rock on someones head traveling at speeds relative to thought, nothing like reaching out and whacking someone upside the armor just says Hey! I'm working here!

Next portion: Back Story affecting Next Story

I have read alot of E.E. "DOC" Smith in my life, is there a chance that the Arnor will provide some ultimate technology that will help the poor humans defeat the Dread Lords totally in the future? Obviously borrowing a lens would be a bit to much like copyright foopah.

Anyway, tell away, you never know I maybe coming to you soon to help write the book!

W/R
Suralle
on Feb 09, 2006
In the words of a great sci-fi character "Indeed". More back-story is good. Gives the game a soul of its own, other wise it’s just another sci-fi game with new and exciting features (I hope that doesn’t sound to blasphemous). Kudos on the human persona, I like the path its heading down.
on Feb 09, 2006
If you need ideas for the bonus pack.

MAKE A MAP EDITOR/CREATOR!!!

One of the nice points of Civ 4 is it started with one.

Chris.
on Feb 09, 2006
Editors have been pushed to the expansion, just like GC1.
on Feb 09, 2006
Aw! I thought the Drengins were rather cuddly in GC1: especially when they wanted to snuggle me!
on Feb 09, 2006
Good Stuff
Backstory info - is both entertaining and hopefully an insight into the AI psychology
on Feb 09, 2006
Is there any publicized version or plans for it in the future for the entire backstory? I'm sure a lot of the fans would love to read more on the races, and their history.
on Feb 09, 2006
Is there any publicized version or plans for it in the future for the entire backstory? I'm sure a lot of the fans would love to read more on the races, and their history.

Second that!