Galactic Civilizations III: What’s new?

Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

I’ve been working on Galactic Civilizations nearly my entire adult life.  I wrote the first one back in college starting back in 1992.  I was/am a huge fan of Sid Meier’s Civilization and wanted a game that continued the story of mankind’s expansion into space.  What happened after the spaceship took off? Since then, it has evolved massively.

This article outlines how the game has changed over the years.  Let’s start out with a simple chart that outlines some of the unique (or ground breaking) features that has helped make the series so popular over the years.



Core/Special features of the Galactic Civilizations series

Helpful Links to the past




GalCiv I

GalCiv II

GalCiv III (beta 5)

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GalCiv I planets were within the stars. GalCiv II placed planets on the map GalCiv III places the shipyard on the map
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GalCiv I planets were totally abstract GalCiv II visually displayed improvements GalCiv III makes improvement placement matter
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GalCiv I techs provided new ships, planet improvements GalCiv II techs added civilization bonuses GalCiv III techs can do many many different things.
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GalCiv I trade screen GalCiv II trade screen was prettier GalCiv III trade screen adds lots of new items to trade


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No ship design in GalCiv I GalCiv II adds ship design GalCiv III makes ship design determine tactical combat behavior.


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No strategic zoom First PC game to implement strategic zoom More sophisticated strategic zoom.


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No combat viewer

GalCiv II added the combat viewer (purely cosmetic). GalCiv III combat viewer allows players to see how their ship roles and ship components affect combat.



    GalCiv III adds ideology, what kind of civilization are you creating?

GalCiv: The ultimate sandbox game

Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 By Frogboy In Galactic Civilizations III

For many years I've played Galactic Civilizations as the ultimate sandbox. A universe in which each game creates its own lore.

Below are 3 game play examples spread over the past 15 years.

Galactic Civilizations I: Triumph of Evil:

Galactic Civilizations II: Rise of the Terran Alliance: 

Galactic Civilizations III: Rise of the Terran Alliance redux: 

Have fun!

Brad’s league of extraordinary offensiveness: Episode 1

Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 By Frogboy In Blogging

In order to preserve a more perfect record of the terrible, terrible things I say on a regular basis I am going to post them here, in writing. 

A note for children who may read this:

Grownups have jobs. They spend a lot of time at those jobs and over time they become friends with the people they work with. As a result, they may say things to one another with humor. This is called banter.  Banter is humorous discussion shared between friends that when taken out of context can sound horrible.

Episode 1:

Brad is the CEO of Stardock.  Kristin is Stardock’s general manager (the #3 spot in the entire company, #2 held by Angela Marshall, the COO). Long ago, she was a technical writer. Long ago, Brad had a job that involved cleaning “stuff” off mechanical shovels that repaired sewers.  Many episodes will touch on these topics.

Kristin: I have dreams you know! Dreams of success!

Brad: Well, if you ever want to be more than a technical writer you better get that email process document done soon!

Kristin: My dreams go far, far beyond that!

Brad: Senior Document Technician?

Kristin: Even more?

Brad: Executive, Senior Document Technician?

Kristin: Maybe…

Brad: Well that job is reserved for a MAN. Not some future baby making factory!

(a pause)

Kristin: I’m calling dibs on your desk.

Kristin (to viewers): And that kids, is how *I* became the owner of Stardock.

GalCiv III: Gameplay Example

Published on Sunday, March 29, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Gameplay notes

Every game of Galactic Civilizations III is different.  You can play as any of 8 pre-made alien civilizations who have their own histories, technologies, etc, or you can literally create your own.  After release, we expect players will share their civilizations with one another.  You can play against up to 128 different opponents but in this case, we are only playing against ~8 civilizations.

This example is just one game.  The infinitely replayable Galactic Civilizations puts you in control of the future of the Milky Way galaxy…

A Beginning

And so in 2050, humans did build a space ship to colonize a different world: Mars.  This is the story of the Galactic Civilizations…

Long ago when humans were hunting and gathering…

While humans were still hunting and gathering, races like the Arcean Empire were exploring the galaxy. 

Humans came into contact with sentient alien races in the early 22nd century. They had the technology to travel great distances through the construction of stargates.  A civilization would send a construction drone out into the galaxy and upon finding a good location would begin assembling such a stargate.  The process took many thousands of years since these construction drones had to travel at sub light speeds.

Faster than Light

Humans are unique amongst the alien civilizations in many respects. Their rapid technological advances being one of them. It has caused the other races to “step up their game” since meeting humans.  This in turn led to the creation of a new drive system called HyperDrive changed everything. They made the stargates obsolete by allowing individual ships to travel faster than light. 

The year is 2178

In 2178 the race to expand into the galaxy has begun…


Earth in 2178

Earth has constructed a shipyard just outside of Mars between the asteroid belt and Jupiter.  It has also built a prototype ship called the TAS (Terran Alliance Ship) Discovery.



The Discovery is a literal one-of-a-kind ship with a set of prototype weapons and a special module for looking through stellar anomalies. The construction of this ship is what helped create the Terran Alliance. So expensive and extraordinary it was to build that it required the Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Japanese and Australians to all work together for 4 years to build.  At the end, the Terran Alliance was formed.

The Prometheus Shiypard

The Discovery was built in orbit of Earth.  While it gained most of the attention of the population of Earth, the Prometheus shipyards was, in actuality, a bigger project.  Mostly built by the European Federation, it took almost 50 years to construct due to its immensity.  The great debate was what would be built first.  After much argument, it was decided to build the Mark I constructor, needed to build a starbase that could help mine the asteroid field.


A starbase construction ship


Upon completion, the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter would be mined.


This, in turn, would become a bigger deal than imagined because one of the asteroids has Durantium in it.  Durantium is a very rare material. It’s not an element on the periodic table but rather a combination of many different elements that results in a super dense but super light construction material. 


The miners also found a mysterious alien artifact floating just beyond the asteroid belt. What is it? The Discovery is sent to investigate.


The Discovery is sent in.


It is an ancient navigational computer left over by some Precursor race. It adds data that helps us research Intererstellar Travel, a technology that is designed to increase the speed of our ships.

Proxima Centauri

In just a few days of travel, the Discovery, using its Hyperdrive tech, gets to Proxima Centauri.  No surprises except for a strange mass that has been called Promethion.


Promethion? What is it? Arguably it’s a planet but it is unlike any planet we’ve seen. You can’t colonize it but the mining build is lobbying the Security Council for an expedition to mine it. They succeed.

image image

The Mining Guild successfully lobbies for Earth’s first interstellar starbase (outside the solar system). Near Proxima Centauri, they send out skimmers.  As a bonus, another Durantium deposit is located.


An amazing first year

The Prometheon shipyard was able to produce a constructor in only 7 months and it traveled to Proxima Centuari in less than 11 days.  On the anniversary of the launch of the TAS Discovery, the Terran Alliance now claims a tiny piece of the galaxy:


The Terran Alliance in 2179

First Contact!

The late night comedians have a message for the world: We have met aliens and they do not speak English.


Who are they? We don’t know. We can’t understand them.


Dr. Tolsten, of the Terran Alliance research council recommends we look into building a Universal translator. It will take 4 months to build.


Meanwhile, on Earth, the Terran Alliance has agreed to construct a massive factory complex in South Africa. This decision was based on the location of the “Techapod” Hive that was engineered in the Sahara Desert in the early 22nd century. These animals are incredibly versatile at being trained and do particularly well when combined with robotic manufacturing.


They mysterious alien ship leaves Proxima Centauri. Hopefully the universal translator will allow us to know their intentions soon.


Long before humans showed up, the galaxy, while uncolonized, did have various types of trade. Unfortunately, a lot of this trade was illegal and thus was formed the “Galactic Hand”, a loosely confederated group of pirates who terrorize the galaxy. The Discovery has come upon one of their hives that is in the process of trying to disect a hijacked ship.


The Discovery decides to intervene…

The first battle


(this looks way better in motion)


The Discovery is victorious, though it takes severe damage in the process.

The Krynn


The Universal Translator is unveiled with great fanfare. Then, great sadness.  The Discovery is able to take its recordings of the unknown aliens back and we learn a great deal about them.  They’re called “The Krynn”. Worse, they are a crime syndicate. They are not friendly to us though they are taking the path of benevolence so far.

Panic on Earth in 2180

There are aliens. They are not necessarily friendly and Earth is defenseless.  A team of scientists suggests we could build a prototype defense ship by utilizing some of the resources that have been discovered.  For example, out in the Oort cloud beyond Pluto is a theoretical material called Elerium that they believe could be weaponized. While only 1 ship could use it, it might be enough to protect Earth from alien invaders.


Elerium out in the Oort cloud beyond Pluto

A potential colony for humans

2180 is also an exciting year because the TAS Envoy, the Discovery’s less exciting sibbling, has discovered an amazing world. Only one problem, the planet’s environment is toxic to humans.  In fact, everything on the planet is slowly dying. Apparently, the planet a volcanic eruption in the past few thousand years that released high amounts of lead vapor into the atmosphere.


The Envoy has found a world, tentatively called Kamber but it cannot be colonized until humans find a way to remove the toxins.

But there is another planet in the same star system that is a twin to Kamber and it is amazing.


A world more beautiful than Earth itself.  But can the humans get to it first?




The literal translation to the Krynn’s survey ship is the Looter. And it too is looking at the Elerium deposit.


The Mining Guild gets their first and the Elerium begins to be harvested.

Guns or Butter

The year is now 2181.  Earth now has a Elerium resource that can be used to build a prototype energy weapon that could be added to a ship to protect the Earth.  However, there is also an amazing world only 9 light years from Earth that will likely get claimed by someone else soon. 

In a risky move, it is decided that that a colony ship will be constructed first.  In addition, the Earth’s spending priorities will be totally focused on getting that colony ship built.


As an emergency measure, the Terran Alliance puts all its spending on getting that Colony Ship built.


That, my friends, is a Krynn colony ship. We can guess where it’s going.


She’s not pretty but the TAS Slicer’s use of the Elerium weapon prototype will make it formidable. On the other hand, it costs $104 billion credits to build just one (which would pay for two fully loaded colony ships).

The TAS Hope colony ship is built and sent to the Kebra system. Will it get there first? We’ll know in 6 months.

Researching Defenses

Meanwhile, it is decided that the Terran Alliance needs to be able to defend itself.  The Research Council puts together a “technology tree” of weapon and defense options.


A so-called “technology tree”.

It is decided that beam weapons will be the path we go on.

This decision seems wise as a second alien civilization is encountered.


The second

And the third


The malevolent Drengin Empire

And a fourth


The Altarians

The Altarians are remarkably similar looking to humans. This will create a great deal of debate.

Humans are not only not alone but appeared to be surrounded.

Worse yet, long-range sensors indicate that the TAS Hope has lost the race to colonize the Kamber system.


Robot aliens?


The Commerce Guild has argued that the best way to stay out of war is through trade.  With that, they lobby for the construction of a trading ship, a freighter, to go on a trading mission to the Krynn.


The Altarians are willing to trade


So are the Drengin

During these early days. it seems like everyone is going to get along. It is a period of sharing and exploration for all these civilizations. It is even decided that they should form a United Planets organization.


The United Planets first meets

The Terran Alliance gathers the group together and forms the United Planets. They even agree for the Terran Alliance to be the chair of it.


A year later, the Altarians ask us to join them in a war against the Yor.  They explain that the Yor are unnatural and must be eliminated. They even agree to pay our expenses.


The Altarians seem remarkably intolerant of other species

There is a great debate on what should be done about this offer.


The “Terran sector”

On the one hand, the Altarians are neighbors of Earth. But on the other hand, war? That seems very reckless. It is decided to respectfully turn them down. The Earth just doesn’t want to get involved in a war.

In fact, the primary objective of the Terran Alliance is research. The Earth needs colonies of its own and there are planets that can be colonized – if their atmosphere can be cleaned up.  Hence, all research and effort is being made to find a way to colonize “problematic” planets.

News Headlines of 2183


Scandal at the United Planets.  The Terran Alliance comes down hard on eaves dropping.


A derelict ship is found.


Humans take up the cause of benevolence

Religion lives

Each race has a myriad of religions. The human-based ones have evolved into benevolence with the faith that all beings can work together in harmony.  This has some interesting ramifaications.

Tension in space

The Yor have cool relations with the humans and as a mark of their disrepect, send in a powerful frigate into the solar system.  The Sentinel greets it but it would be hard pressed in battle. The Yor ship is huge.


The Yor come close to Earth


The trade mission to the Krynn colony is a success.


In 2184 the humans finally get their first interstellar colony. It’s an icy world but it’s a start.


The planet was colonized before

There is a powerful Precursor ship buried in the ice. But getting it out would largely ruin the planet. It is decided that it is better to study it rather than try to use the ship directly.


Haven feels cut off from Earth

The problem with such distant colonies is that they tend to feel cut off, this is especially true if there’s a fully developed planet in the same solar system.  Kamber III (the planet we lost the space race to earlier)  has prospered.  Visitors from Kamber have woo’d the new colonists. We will have to keep an eye on this.

The galaxy gets dangerous

While things are going well for Earth, the military power of the other civilizations has become significant.


This Iridium patrol ship is very well armed

Meanwhile, on Earth, scientists have come up with new techniques to colonize some of the formerly off limited worlds. It is decided that, in the long-run, Earth can only compete if it has its own colonies.


There is already war between the Altarians and other races

The humans are far far behind on civilization power which is mostly based on manufacturing capacity and military might.  The gamble is that the humans can catch up with its monopoly on extreme colonization capabilities.


In science fictions, beings simply land on planets as if they are just other earths. Unfortunately, these planets are crawling with microorganisms that humans have no defense against. Luckily, a great deal of preparation went into protecting human colonists. Sometimes, however, it’s not enough.


Haven becomes overrun by a virus

The virus does grant some benefits to those that survive it but it is ultimately decided to work to eradicate it rather than take advantage of it.

End of Part 1

And that, my

friends is the end of the beginning. The first 100 turns.  The Terran Alliance is struggling, surrounded on all sides.  But its diplomatic skill has kept them out of war. So far.










Prototype ships

Published on Saturday, March 28, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals


Don’t judge me.

So, in the next public build we should start to be able to give players access to prototype components.  These are components that require one of the special resources (Durantium, Elerium, etc.) that give your ships an early head start.  Since you won’t have many of them, they make those early ships very unique.

I enjoy making odd looking ships just to house these special modules.

GalCiv III AI modding–scratch pad

Published on Saturday, March 28, 2015 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

By beta 5, it should be pretty clear that GalCiv III is an entirely different beast from GalCiv II.  This post won’t go into the game play differences, which are pretty vast. This is about something a little more dear to many of our hearts: modding.

Why GalCiv II was the way it was

The thing about GalCiv II that I would like you guys to understand is that I wrote nearly all the economic, diplomatic, AI and other code personally.  I enjoyed doing it but it also meant that *I* wrote it. It wasn’t data driven in any way.  If I wanted the Drengin to focus more on getting some tech, I modified C++.

GalCiv III, by contrast, has a much bigger team and while I designed (or helped design) the high level way that the economic, diplomatic and AI works, I didn’t program it.  And since the talented folks on the team are aware that we will be making GalCiv III expansions into the next decade, the entire thing is data driven.  This is good news for modders.

Your first mod

If you hit the ~ key you can bring up the game’s console. From there, you can type “soak” (no quotes) and “fow”.  Soak has the AI play itself once you hit the turn button. fow unhides everything.

In GalCiv II, if the AI was doing something stupid, well, too bad. Because you’d have to wait for me to fix it and between my various opium walkabouts and general laziness who knew how long that would take? But in GalCiv III, you can make the AI better the same way I am, through changing the data.

What makes the AI decent?

Right now, in beta 5, I’d say the AI is…adequate for most people. Which is to say, it’s not very good by my standards or the standards of those reading this post.  This isn’t due to the AI being badly written, it’s all about data and strategy.  

So what makes an AI in a strategy game decent?

  1. Having a focused tech path
  2. Knowing what techs it must get
  3. Understanding timing attacks (i.e. by this point you should have X)
  4. Being good at macro strategies (building out, expanding).
  5. Being good at micro strategies (make this planet do this, make that planet do that)
  6. Being good at having good ships and at the right time.
  7. Focusing your attack on one player at a time and not attack everyone
  8. Organizing the tip of your spear to be as sharp as possible (no death trains)
  9. Focus its spending on what its current strategy is effectively.
  10. Build a network of friends diplomatically and make good trade.


At this stage, the AI gets an F at 1, and F on 2, and F on 3, a B on 4, an A on 5, a C on 6, a B on 7 and a B on 8 a D on 9 and a C on 10.

This might be a bitter pill for some of you but for release, we only need to get everything up to a C. If we do that, the AI will satisfy nearly everyone.  Post-release, me and you guys will likely work together in ways we can only dream of to bring all these to an A.

Where GalCiv III beta 5 currently falls down:

  1. What to spend its money on
  2. What techs to pick

These are not “AI” as much as scripted strategy based on playing.  It’s purely data driven.

The Terran Alliance: Techs

First 100 turns the Terran Alliance needs these techs:

  1. Xeno Industrialization
  2. Planetary Improvement
  3. Soil Enhancmeent
  4. Environmental Engineering
  5. Interstellar Travel
  6. Orbital Manufacturing
  7. Orbital Speiclaization
  8. Zero Gravity Construction
  9. Weapon Systems
  10. Defense Systems
  11. Universal Translators
  12. Xeno Commerce

Now, a player can try to b-line over to Invasion tech but unless you’re playing on a really small galaxy, that’s not idea.


Modding the Terrans: Techs

So open up TerranTechDefs.xml.  You can find those techs and find AICategoryWeight.  Make these numbers big across the board because they are strategic. The higher you make them, the harder it is to trade for them so keep that in mind.  I’m going to make mine all worth 25 in every category.

Modding the Terrans: Personality

Now open up FactionDefs.xml and look for the Terran Alliance.  You can see the AI category weights which align up nicely with the ratings on different techs. So you can pretty obviously see what techs matter to the Terrans. 


These are great numbers.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned something about random number generators.  Do you know what the difference between a 12 and a 14 is as far as random is? Nothing.  If we want the players to really play differently (differently as far as the player is concerned) we’ll need to make these numbers a bit more extreme.  How extreme? That’s the fun: Try it for yourself and find out.

Here are my numbers:


So I made the scale from 0 to 25. As long as you’re consistent (your range is basically the dice roll size).  I like to have very distinct differences in the numbers.

Test #1: First 100 turns

So before, after 300 turns, none of the AI had even medium sized ships.

Let’s see how the two sides are doing now.

Terran Flag Ship:


Attack of 20, defense of 18. 63 HP.

For comparison, let’s look at what the Drengin has:


Attack of 12, defense of 18, 39 HP.

So clearly no match, one on one, with a Terran ship.  They’re both using rail guns oddly enough. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or not.

Terran techs after modification

  1. Xeno Industrialization
  2. Advanced construction
  3. Institutional Research
  4. Planetary Improvement
  5. Environmental Engineering
  6. agriculture ADaptation
  7. Xeno Biology
  8. Interstellar Travel
  9. Orbital Manufacturing
  10. Zero Gravity Construction
  11. Interstellar Logistics
  12. Weapon Systems
  13. Missile Weapons
  14. Beam Wapons
  15. Kinetic Weapons
  16. Militarization
  17. Defense Systems
  18. Shield Systems
  19. Armor Systems
  20. Universal Translator
  21. Xeno Commerce

So it got all the techs and then some.

However, not all these choices were good choices.  It should have picked a single weapon system to focus on.

Drengin techs (unmodified)

Let’s look at what the Drengin have (their tech tree is whatever is already in beta 5)

  1. Xeno Exploitation
  2. Xeno Slavery
  3. Persuaive Research
  4. Planetary Exploitation
  5. Agreiculture
  6. Enviromental Engineering
  7. Interestellar Travel
  8. Orbital Manufacturing
  9. Interstellar Logistics
  10. Weapon Systems
  11. Beam
  12. Missile
  13. Kinetic
  14. Militarization
  15. Defense Systems
  16. Shield Systems
  17. Universal Translator
  18. Xeno Commerce

So some easy progress there.

Next up: Spending.

Post-Humans vs. Substrate: Units

Published on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 By Frogboy In Ashes Dev Journals

Who are the good guys?

So we (Stardock/Oxide) have been living in the Singularity universe for a couple of years now and there are a lot of arguments over which side is better. In the original PR for the game, the “Haalee faction” (the leader of the Substrate) tried to describe the game as a battle between the noble Substrate, led by Haalee to save the galaxy from Post-Human predation.  This was ultimately changed to something more neutral.

Game Mechanics

Over the coming months we hope to do a number of exclusive reveals of the different units, the game mechanics and ideological differences between the Post-Humans and The Substrate. For today, we will talk a bit about the unit differences.


I’m not a marketing person. And to be honest, they don’t like it when I talk about our games sometimes because I violate one of the basic rules of marketing: Don’t mention other products.  But as a fan of Total Annihilation, Starcraft, Kohan, Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes not to mention our own Sins of a Solar Empire (plus countless other games), I cannot help but to want to communicate much of this through analogies with other games I enjoy.

Post-Humans: General concepts


This particular unit is nick-named the Apollo.  Post-Human units hover via channeling gravity.  The Apollo is a medium sized unit (about half the size of a football field).  Now, one thing you’ll notice here is that it has multiple weapon systems on it.  This is one of the things that will make Ashes somewhat different from other games you may have played.  Units have multiple weapons that can independently track and target.

In the case of the Apollo, it is loaded with a series of guns for taking out aircraft as well as swarms of drones.  However, its weapons are not strong enough to penetrate through the armor of other units of its class. 

Understanding Armor:

There is no case of a pikeman taking out a tank in Ashes.  The design downside is that things are a little more complex in calculating damage.  A unit has an armor class.  Weapons have an armor piercing class.  If it penetrates the armor then it does that weapon’s damage minus the armor. But if the armor is better than the weapon, then it does nothing.

So why did we do this? Because in a real life, all the small arms fire in the world is not going to destroy a tank.  And in RTSs, there is always the temptation to just crank out endless crappy units. And in a game where your armies might involve thousands of actual independent units, the new player might think they can get far by just building swarms of cheap units. 

Back to the Apollo

So the Apollo has some very nice guns for taking out drones (which have no armor but make that up in terms of numbers and a rather nasty weapons) and air units (which also have no armor but tend to have rather nasty bombs).

But the Apollo would do zero damage against an armored unit. If this concept feels familiar it should, Company of Heroes demonstrated why this is a good game mechanic.

The Substrate


Not surprising, the Substrate have a different view on things.  This unit is nicknamed “Destructor”.  It destroys buildings.  How? In the front of it you will see what appears to be 6 small polaron beams. It focuses these beams together to create a nasty orange beam of death. 

Unlike the Apollo, it isn’t totally defenseless against armored units because it has the two, independently tracking rail guns that, while short range, can hurt things that get near it.

Substrate units have shields instead of good armor which has pros and cons. On the pro side, they take no damage until you get through their shields. On the downside, even the Apollo’s weapons can do damage (albeit not a lot) to the Destructor’s shields making its relatively modest armor vulnerable. But their shields do recharge on their own (unlike Post-Human armor which has to be repaired).

Understanding shields

The Substrate chose shields because it allows them more freedom in the design of their ships.  The Post-Human units are obviously distinctly different looking from the Substrate because armor limits the number of design options.  On the other hand, armor has the advantage of making the unit a bit less fragile.


The nicknames of the units are provided by the Post-Humans, even for the Substrate. Haalee does not call her units crude names like “Destructor” but her names aren’t as marketable.

Who is Haalee?

Haalee was the first sentient AI created in the early 21st century.  The Substrate refers to the computing material (see more here). The Post-Humans sometimes refer to it as “Computronium”. The marketing folks would prefer a different word entirely like, Kickassium or something probably.

We’ve been playing Ashes multiplayer for about a year now and I can tell you, balance is a tricky thing, particularly when you lose a game. Winking smile We will be making it available to those who join the Founder’s group as part of the “Friends and Family” beta this Spring.  Early access will probably be this Summer but we haven’t decided for certain whether we’ll be doing early access outside the Founders or not.

Any questions?

Windows 10 beta 10041

Published on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

Windows 10 is coming along nicely. A definite nice step from Windows 8.1 (once the bugs are out).

Still, not all is well yet.

The Windows 10 skin


The Windows 10 skin has some issues. The title bar is thicker than some apps expect (such as Microsoft Live Writer). Stardock’s WindowBlinds has had to tackle this issue for years.  I suspect WindowBlinds will be making a comeback with Windows 10 as the title bar and borders in windows 10 are a combination of not pretty and a bit hard to use at times (the border is one pixel making resizing a bit of a pain. Seriously.


The Start menu

image vs. image

I’ve seen people argue that there is no need for a Start10. I think these two screenshots (the Windows 10 start menu on the left and the beta of Stardock’s Start10 on the right) make it pretty obvious that yes, a lot of people will want Start10.

Let’s walk through some of the issues:

  1. Where’s my home folder? Those items at the top left are hard-coded. You can’t remove them. Maybe they’ll fix that but time is starting to run short.
  2. It has no context menu whatosever for the menu. So it’s not easy to understand how/if you can change its behavior.
  3. If I want to pin my home folder, I have to pin it to the tiles part of it.
  4. I don’t even want to go into the spam abuse here. It already includes a bunch of junk I have on interest in, didn’t ask for. I can’t imagine what the OEMs will do. One can almost picture that that is the purpose of the tiles in there in the first place. 
  5. You cannot pin short-cuts to the start menu.



If I remove the junk I get this.


This is what you get if you choose “All Apps”.

Please, someone go ahead and make the argument that this is an improvement on the Windows 7 design? Tell me how it’s superior. In fact, if you can name 1 way it’s more usable than the Windows 7 design I’d really like to hear it.  I’ll start with 1 freebie: it’s easier for touch UI.  But if I’m using touch, I’ll be using the Start screen. 

Home Group


Speaking of the home group, these are the icons. I hope these are not what they plan to ship in the final. They’re very distracting.

Then there’s the ribbon.  The giant “Pin to Quick Access” thing is very annoying.  Luckily, I can minimize it but it seems like a step back.  Another thing are all the little pins on the left. I get it, they’re pinned. I hope (assume) they will have an option not to show those. I couldn’t find any options in the folder options panel.

Did I mention how annoying it is that the borders are only 1 pixel?

It’s better than Windows 8

I prefer Windows 8.1 over Windows 7 with some caveats (Object Desktop installed). That’s because Windows 8 is so much better dealing with high DPI and it’s faster.

Windows 10 seems be be an improvement over Windows 8 in those terms as well. But the UX needs a lot of work still.  On the other hand, if they don’t do that work, well, I guess I’ll be able to afford to send my kid to college after all. Winking smile

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