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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lead Designer - Galactic Civilizations III