GalCiv Journal: September 2017

Published on Sunday, September 17, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

The big GalCiv III v2.5 update went out.  Most people like it.  Not everyone of course (it breaks save games).  If you're liking it, you know the drill "Like and Subscribe" as they say on YouTube or in Steam's case, please leave a review.  Even if you've left a review in the past, you can delete your old one and leave a new one which will have the "Recent reviews" which matters a lot (a lot more than it should imo but hopefully Valve will update their algorithms in light of recent review abuse on Dota2 and other games).

Anyway...

Playing with the look and feel

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Exporting your space ships to share with others with Galactic Civilizations III

Published on Friday, September 15, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

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[..]

You may not have noticed this before but in the Ship Designer of Galactic Civilizations III you can take the ships you have designed (or downloaded) and export them as a .OBJ file.  This can be used by 3D printers but also on a cool site called Sketchfab.  It's super easy to set up.

Here are a couple I've already uploaded:

 Have fun!

p.s. Bonus one:

https://skfb.ly/6tIOy

 

GalCiv III: Drengin/Human Wars VI

Published on Sunday, September 10, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

Last week I did a one on one test against the Drengin AI set at Normal. It was on a tiny map in which I rushed for invasion tech and killed them.

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This time, let's bump the AI to Genius...

AI at Genius

The 2.5 GalCiv III AI is a lot smarter than previous iterations. It handles fleets better. It researches better. It builds up planets more intelligently.  But it is really difficult, even in human 1 on 1 games, to deal with a rush.

Now, at Genius, the AI starts out with more money so it's not quite a "fair" game but then again, I'm not playing fair either.  Let's see how it goes.

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GalCiv III: Drengin/Human Wars V

Published on Saturday, September 09, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

 

Our story so far...

Every once in awhile, Do a 1 on 1 test on a relatively balanced map to see how well the AI is doing.   I play on Normal or Gifted as that puts the AI on roughly equal terms with me.

I choose  the Drengin because they are a vicious, evil civilization that has few redeeming qualities and they play the game very differently than most people do (they are absolutely amoral).  Their strategies aren't always ideal but they do tend to be interesting.

And so it begins...

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Both humans and Drengin start with a class 14 world (a very nice planet) as well as two habitable nearby worlds.

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Tab Atkins Jr. makes case that Google employees can manipulate search results

Published on Thursday, September 07, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

With the increasing evidence that Google operates with an open political agenda, it is not surprising that its employees feel comfortable using their privileged position at Google to smite those guilty of wrong-think.

Take the case of Google employee Tab Atkins Jr.  After a Twitter spat with Zoe Quinn, Atkins decided that social justice needed to be served and wrote a libelous smear of me on his blog with the title "Brad Wardell is a douchebag"...three years ago.

As a semi-public figure I'm pretty used to someone, somewhere writing something unpleasant about me. What I was not prepared for, however, was someone who knew Google's search algorithms well enough to keep their little blog post up at the top of Google (but no other search engine's) search results for three years.

Compare the difference:

 

BING:

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No where to be found.

 

DuckDuckGo:

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No where to be found.

 

GOOGLE:

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Right at the top just behind my Twitter and Wikipedia pages.

 

Now mind you, I've been featured in a lot of newspapers, magazines and websites over the years from Time Magazine to the WSJ to USA Today and of course frequently in the technology news sector.  None of those articles come up.  LinkedIn.com doesn't even come up. Even the infamous false allegation of "sexual harassment" that certain gaming journalists latched onto (and later apologized for) can't beat it. 

Either the SEO managers at LinkedIn, FaceBook, Kotaku, USAToday.com, Time.com, etc. need to recruit this guy...or, more likely, this guy knows how to manipulate Google search results.  I don't know if Google gives preferential treatment to results from its employees or not. What is known is that the results are unique to Google and have managed to survive 3 years at the top despite his blog not being notable.

However, the issue I have isn't just about Tab bt rather, what it says about Google's culture. I don't think anyone I have ever worked with would feel comfortable doing this to someone.  I'm the publisher of Neowin and it's never occurred to me to use my power to try to ruin an individual.  What is the mindset of someone who writes something like that and then uses what appears to be insider SEO knowledge to ensure it nears the top?  What it says to me is that there's something gross about Google's culture and that they have a pretty high confidence that they can mete our social justice at those they feel deserve it.

Now, imagine if I weren't already a successful CEO that will never have to find a new job but instead was just "some guy".  What Tab did would be catastrophic. It sends a chilling message to those who participate in social media: Piss off an SJW at Google and they will use their privileged position to harm you.

Now, you might ask "Have I reached out to Tab?" and the answer is, yes:

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That was two years ago.  In which he responded "he'd think about it". 

Perhaps Google has some other explanation as to how their employee's 3 year-old blog gets to the top only on Google and no other site.  I have my own opinions.

In the meantime, consider this: Imagine if an employee at Google had written such an article about say Zoe Quinn or some other SJW darlying?  What do you think would happen to them?

Up until the revelation that Google is willing to fire people just for having "wrong" opinions I was willing to think that Tab was just an isolated "bad apple".  But now, I feel very uncomfortable at that thought that anyone out there with the "wrong opinion" is only a few keystrokes away from being smeared or made invisible by Google employees in the online search results.

Your opinions are welcome.

A sneak preview of Galactic Civilizations III v2.5 Part 2

Published on Sunday, September 03, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

For part 1 go here.

Version 2.5 is easily the biggest update to the base game of GalCiv III since its first release back in 2015.  What makes these updates possible is the continuing sales of DLC and expansions like Crusade.

The much beloved Galactic Civilizations II never got an update like this one.  That is because back then, games were sold at retail and so there was no realistic way to keep updating the base game like we can today for budgetary reasons.  Hence, GalCiv II came out in 2006. Dark Avatar came out in 2007. And Twilight of the Arnor in 2008 each being its own stand-alone game with the version before it being retired.

I don't know about you guys but I much prefer today's model where the base game keeps getting updated.  However, developers often don't communicate the importance of expansions and DLC that make these updates possible.

Also, if you want to help us you can make a huge difference: REVIEW GALCIV III ON STEAM. If you've already reviewed it, feel free to write a new review. It helps reflect a more accurate recent review score. Steam uses the review score in their discoverability algorithm.  Anything below 70% is basically invisible. Below 80% is mostly invisible (i.e. won't offer it on the search the store suggestions).

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A sneak preview of Galactic Civilizations III v2.5 Part 1

Published on Thursday, August 31, 2017 By Brad Wardell In GalCiv III Dev Journals

  I'm so excited!

We live in magical times, my friends.

I've talked about the challenge of building a 4th generation game engine over at IGN.  Stardock's first attempt at building a 3rd generation engine failed pretty spectacularly (Elemental). Galactic Civilizations II was arguably a 2nd generation (upgraded) engine.  Its code base could be traced back to 1997.  So by the time it was released, it was almost 10 years old. 

For GalCiv III, we decided to go directly to 4th generation (which meant 64-bit, core neutral).  The good news is that this future proofed GalCiv III.  The bad news is that we had to throw out 100% of our GalCiv II code.  Even our libraries. Everything. 

For programmers out there who want to know the difference between a 3rd gen and 4th gen engine just by looking at the engine code: 4th gen engines don't use pointers or addresses.  You use handles.  So think about all that code you have where you're passing around pointers and imagine if you had to throw it all out.

For our customers in 2015, this really sucked because GalCiv III, when it shipped, didn't have as many features as GalCiv II: Ultimate Edition.

GalCiv II: Ultimate Edition was actually GalCiv II: Dread Lords + Dark Avatar + Twilight of the Arnor expansions combined. 

September 2017

This brings us the upcoming release of GalCiv III v2.5.  So far, we've had one small expansion pack (Mercenaries) and one big expansion pack (Crusade).   Our goal with GalCiv III v2.5 (the base game) is to bring our code improvements from Crusade without transforming the base game into Crusade.  That is, we want people to still buy Crusade of course but we also want to make sure that the base game gets a big improvement.  So let's take a look at what's new.

Updated UI

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The base game gets all the new UI improvements from Crusade.  This includes the new check system for better info at a glance.

 

Something old and something new

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In Crusade, you don't get to start with a shipyard or a bunch of ships.  In the base game, you get a shipyard and ships.  I don't really like that myself.  I suspect we'll be creating a "fast start" option for Crusade players though at some point.

Those with Crusade will recognize the UI.  You now get the Summary tab on the right from Crusade.  But you don't get citizens.

Tech Tree

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The tech tree is the GalCiv III tech tree but the UI is updated to the Cruade UI.

Planets

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Planets get the Crusade UI but since there are no citizens, there's no bonuses from them.  Players do get the word on the street feature. 

Govern

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The govern screen gets the Crusade UI but again, no citizens.  Instead, you have the Production Wheel which magnifies what planets are focusing on.  In a future Crusade update, we're going to make one of the player abilities be to be able to govern with the production wheel but lose the benefit of citizens (i.e. looking at you robot people!)

Ships

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Cosmetically, the ships get the Crusade upgrade but there are no missions (a Crusade feature) available.  But it's a pretty huge update for the base game.

Performance

What you can't see in a screenshot is the performance.  GalCiv III: Crusade moves the AI system to the core-neutral engine.  Now, the base game inherits that.

Diplomacy

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The Diplomacy UI from Crusade moves over along with the underlying AI for it.   This includes the barter bar (the boring looking bar in the middle) that makes trading so easy and fun.

AI

The AI improvements from Crusade also make it over.

Economics

The economics of the base game remains mostly the same with one huge difference: Galactic resources now accumulate.  Before, if you controlled 1 anti-matter resource you could have 1 anti-matter using component.  We have decided to adopt the accumulation system from Crusade here.

Crusade vs. base game

Inevitably, someone is going to say "You're basically giving away Crusade!" but Crusade was practically a sequel to the base game rather than just an expansion.  And we really don't want to get into the business of charging money for AI/engine upgrades. 

Crusade is about these things:

  1. Galactic Citizens (and all the things that entails)
  2. Interactive Invasions
  3. Espionage
  4. Civ Builder with Fleets
  5. New Races

DLC unity

One nice thing about a single code base is that we can make it so that when you run a given DLC, we can have it inherit the base game's balance.  That has been one of the frustrating things for Crusade players.

Next up

What we want to be able to do is make sure the base game is incredibly compelling on its own.  And that Crusade offers a very easy to understand improvement to the game (namely the 5 features I mention above but particularly a citizen based economy). 

I'll be around this weekend on Discord doing a lot of balance work.

Dog morality systems

Published on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Life, the Universe and Everything

IMG_0429I don't know how common this is with dogs but my dog, an Entlebucher mountaint dog, has a fairly complex moral system when it comes to food.  Namely, she seems to have an internal rule set on what it is okay for her to take food.

Here's an example of my dog's morality in action.  If my wife brings me a plate of cheese and crackers, she can set it right in front of me and the dog.  I could get up, leave the room and come back without fear that she would take it.  However, if I begin eating it and then leave the room, there is a point where if I were to leave the room that the plate would be picked clean when I returned.

Similarly, we have a walk in pantry filled with food (including her dog food).  Bread, crackers, cookies, etc. are all within easy reach of her.  We keep the loafs of bread on a shelf that is eye level.  We never keep the pantry door closed and she won't take any food from there. However, if I take the same bread, open it up and eat a slice and then put it on the table, the dog will eat the entire loaf right off the table if I walk away.  However, put the same loaf back in the pantry and it is safe.

Over the years, I've tried to experiment to learn how her seeming morality system works.  She won't ever steal food in front of someone unless it falls to the floor. Then it's fair game. If I'm lying around on the couch with a bowl of chips on the floor in front of her, I'm safe. If I get up and leave to go to the bathroom the bowl is safe also.  But if I have eaten a sufficient amount of it and leave, the bowl gets chowed down if I leave for just a few moments.

Those of you with dogs, have you encountered this sort of thing?

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