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Ludicrous update to Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade arrives!

Posted on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 By Frogboy

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The biggest, deepest space 4X just got bigger and deeper!

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Ludicrous update to Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade has arrived!

The best-selling space 4X series of all time recently got its biggest expansion pack ever: Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade.  Today, Stardock has released the first major update to it that adds a new map size, fixes bugs, improves balance and adds some new features.

Plymouth, Michigan. May 14.

Owners of the Crusade expansion pack to Stardock's best-selling space 4X strategy game, Galactic Civilizations III are receiving a major update today.

Dubbed, the "Ludicrous" update, the new version replaces the largest sized galaxy option with a new one called "Ludicrous" which doubles the maximum size over the previous biggest map size ("insane size") and includes a host of quality of life improvements, balance updates, bug fixes and much more.

"Galactic Civilizations III already supported very large maps," said Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock Entertainment. "But among the many improvements the new Crusade expansion pack brings is a multi-core game AI which allows for much bigger galaxies to play thanks to the drastically reduced turn-times."

In early May, Stardock released the critically acclaimed (87 metacritic) expansion that introduced citizens, spies, diplomats, privateers, interactive invasions, commanders, the civilization builder, three new civilizations and much more.  Fan response has been tremendous which Stardock has channeled into this update filled with not just bigger map sizes but dozens of important improvements across the game.

"The best way to describe Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade is that it is the answer to the mid to late game grind that 4X strategy games have struggled with for years," said Wardell. "With Crusade, we answer this with both features such as the new citizen system that allows players to execute powerful actions late game as well as taking full advantage of the new, 64-bit, multi-core custom game engine that was made exclusively to make space 4X games."

To that end, Crusade includes the first core-neutral AI engine for the genre.

"What core-neutral AI means is that the game will use all the CPU cores you have no matter how few or how many are on your PC," said Wardell.  We found that a large percentage of our players have at least 4 CPU cores and many have 6 or more.  This meant we could, literally, cut down turn times by a factor of 8 to 12 depending on the CPU. This matters because anyone who plays these types of games know that the late game can slow to a halt. It also allowed us to develop a substantially more intelligent series of computer opponents as well as create a more life-like background simulation that the players tap into."

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade has quickly become popular with YouTube streamers partially because of its combination of fast turn times and the Civilization Builder.

"YouTube has become an unexpected phenomenon for Crusade," said Wardell. "Because players can design their own ships and civilizations and share them via Steam workshop, streamers can literally set up games where they are playing against a random mix of their favorite Sci-Fi races.  The fast turn times means that the streamers don't see their games bog down late game and makes for a really good Let's Play viewing experience."

Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade is available as a package for only $39.99 (or $19.99 if you already have Galactic Civilizations III).

Website: www.galciv3.com/store

Screenshots:

Ludicrious game

New ludicrous map size. Look for the tiny red dot on the mini map to get an idea of the immensity. Trillions of inhabitants, tens of thousands of ships, up to 100 players actively engaging you and each other (not counting minor civilizations).

Citizens

Recruit citizens and train them in a variety of powerful ways

Crusade_Ship_designs_dont_have_to_be_ships

Design your own ships to play with or against, share them with others.

Crusade_Civ_Builder_lets_players_assign_ship_designs_for_every_class

Create civilizations and assign what ships they use for different roles with ships you've designed or downloaded from Steam Workshop

Crusade_has_interactive_planetary_invasions

The new interactive invasion system is simple but strategically decisive.

Crusade_civ_trading_is_much_more_sophisticated_and_fun

The new AI system makes AI negotiations more interesting as the AI now looks at what it thinks you want as well as what it wants and creates deals based on that.

image_21

Espionage allows players to steal technology, sabotage planets, destroy economies.

Whippings

Trade value bar makes negotiating with aliens easier than ever! Moreover, the underlying dialog AI chooses what the aliens say to you based on their traits, your traits and the state of the galaxy.

Game_start_with_custom_ships

Play as one of the official GalCiv civilizations or any of the thousands of player created civilizations online (and against them).

Quite literally, not only is each game different, each game is very different.

www.galciv3.com/crusade  Join the crusade to save/destroy/enslave/salvage/acquire/inspire/convert your galaxy.

Full Change log:

We are pleased to unveil the first major update to Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade (Crusade being based on version 2.1 of the base game, we now unveil version 2.2).

== Map Size changes ==

  • Tiny: from 18 to 20 (20x20) hex sectors
  • Small: 32 to 36 hex sectors
  • Medium: 40 to 50 hex sectors
  • Large: 75 to 90 hex sectors
  • Huge: 95 to 120 hex sectors
  • Immense: 240 to 250 hex sectors
  • Excessive: 290 to 300 hex sectors
  • Insane renamed to Ludicrous 
  • Ludicrous: 500! (500 x 500 tiles)

== AI ==

  • The AI will have harder time stealing techs from you if you have counter agents (e.g. unassigned agents).  
  • The AI no longer tries to bribe you to pick on minor factions.
  • AI now fully uses the new Crusade multicore engine in pathfinding, diplomacy, ship movement, tactical analysis, economic planning, planetary invasions, citizen assignments, etc. are all broken up into tiny jobs and sent out to your CPU cores drastically reducing turn times.
  • AI is much, MUCH smarter in what ships to build when (thanks to the GalCiv Discord community for rapid strategy testing responses) and how.
  • Substantial improvement in the general feel of AI intelligence when dealing with other civilizations diplomatically.
  • Improvements to AI trade intelligence based on the new multi-turn need analysis system.
  • AI more savvy on how to use spies as it now takes the consequences of retaliation into account before targeting someone.
  • Lots of new alien dialog based on more background data (what the galactic situation is).

== Gameplay ==

  • Ported more of the GalCiv III base game tech tree elements to the new Trait based system.  Crusade replaces the monolithic tech tree system with one that is procedural generated based on what traits you have for your civilization.  
  • First internal pass on getting ready to let players submit their own tech tree parts via Steamworks (i.e. create a bunch of techs, tie them to player traits, and have them just work).
  • Anomalies and Events from other DLC have had their rarity adjusted to be in line with Crusade's new rarities (basically, other DLC stuff was relatively rare).

== Multiplayer ==

  • General multiplayer performance improvements.  
  • Reduced multiplayer Checksum fragility to only deal with differences that are material.
  • First pass at networking layer upgrade to pave the way for fully customized civs playing each other (i.e. you play as your favorite sci fi civ vs. someone else's sci fi civ). The main challenge here is bandwidth on sharing what amounts to some pretty big assets.

== User Experience ==

  • Adjusted the Espionage screen to clarify that unassigned agents lower the chance the AI can steal techs from you.
  • Resource upgrades improvements are no longer flagged as one per planet.  
  • You can now select a fleet even if there's a non-selectable ship on the same tile. 
  • Decommissioned ships refund their administration points and legions.
  • Improved up the commander information on the citizen summary screen
  • Removed access debug error messages. This matters because modders could find themselves with a lot of debug output which on non SSD drives could slow framerate.
  • Reduced the number of event log entries displayed

== Balance ==

  • Xenophobes get twice the research and social construction but only half the military construction.
  • Beam weapon space usage reduced from 5% to 3%
  • Kinetic weapons cost reduced substantially.
  • Entrepreneurs now provide a trade route to their civ as well
  • General comes with Xeno Combat techniques
  • Colonizer Ability changed such that every time they colonize a planet, they get their administrative point back.  This will need a tooltip tweak for the admin resource tooltip.
  • Xeno Combat Techniques now unlocks the General. Combined with Station Garrison, player can protect  planets without having to research invasion.
  • Port of Call tourism improvement moved to only require Universal translator
  • Capital city now allows up to 16 population
  • Computer Core cost reduced from 35 to 16 so that players that don't want to rush it don't wait too long
  • Port of Call cost decreased from 150 to 32
  • Port of Call benefit changed from a 10% tourism income boost to a flat 3 with each level adding another 1
  • Starport now military production increased from 1 to 2
  • Space Elevator general production decreased from 2 to 1
  • City population cap increased from 8 to 16
  • Silicon city population cap increased from 8 to 9
  • Military Academy improvement now requires planetary invasion to eliminate confusion in which players thought they had to train legions to invade.
  • Station Garrison cost reduced from 75 to 50
  • AI is more chatty
  • Easy AI no longer rushes defensive units
  • Easy AI is no longer capable of rushing colony ships
  • AI no longer tries to reinforce planets with individual defender units if they are far away (this is the cause of lone ships streaming to their death in far off places)
  • Influence specialization now provides a flat 1 influence to every colony instead of a 10% boost.
  • Majesty Tech now quires the diplomatic ability
  • Master Trade now requires the entrepreneur ability
  • Other high-level biz/trade techs now require entrepreneur race ability
  • Robots can't have cruise lines
  • Improved AI conquest strategies
  • Slight balance tweak to opposing culture affect.
  • Mild balance pass on the weightings of faction power.
  • AI is even more chatty
  • Hot Springs moved to require Planetology (for frog races)
  • Hot Springs benefit changed from 3 to 2.
  • Increased AI's guts by 25%. Basically, AIs tend to be a bit too careful in when to attack. This is partially because players think AIs are "dumb" if they make suicide attacks. But there is a time and place to use suicide attacks to wear down an opponent.  Cracking a turtler requires sacrifice.
  • The AI will have a harder time stealing techs from you if you have counter agents (e.g. unassigned agents).
  • The AI no longer tries to bribe you to pick on minor factions.
  • New ship design method that lets us see how many ship designs are in the library.
  • AI will no longer trade ships away on the cheap
  • General increase in late game tech costs.
  • Defenses now use less space but cost more
  • Carrier modules cost more but use less room
  • Eyes of Universe now requires Interstellar Travel instead of Interstellar Survey
  • Farming no longer requires Xeno adaptation but comes sooner with Planetology
  • Cities now require planetology (or torian planetology)
  • Slight increase in cost for later improvements
  • Minor balance updates
  • Xenophobic tripled benefits.
  • Set default faction to Terran Alliance
  • Nerfed Renaissance event's research bonus

== Performance ==

  • Continued improvement to turn times thanks to Crusade multicore
  • Improvement to speed of clearing out an old game so you can get back to the main menu.
  • Optimization of fog of war edges
  • Optimization of battle viewer weaponry

== Bug Fixing == 

  • On the starbase list, the "upgrade" icon isn't always enabled.  
  • Fix Virtual World improvement, now requires Promethean instead of Promethean Stones (which are no longer in the game)
  • Stuck turn fixes.  This issue is caused by the very delicate balance between turn speed and the difficulty of resyncronizing the threads quickly.
  • Various crash bugs fixed.
  • Fixed the Scientist Coerced Promotion which was giving 10x points
  • Fixed a bug where if food was ever >0 but then later became 0 that it would never update again.
  • Fixed strange bug that was causing pirates to not get to take a turn because the game thought they were dead. They're not dead!
  • Fixed bug where asteroids from dead players would become owned by pirates and unkillable. Mining bases are now autodestroyed when a player dies.
  • Fixed edge case bug where the player somehow allies with an event race which in turn causes a strange diplomacy flag to show up.
  • Fixed minor bug where planned destination of a virtual fleet wasn't being copied from the source fleet. This would sometimes cause the AI not to attack targets of opportunity.
  • Typo fixes. English isn't our first language. Our first language is Drengin which doesn't have vowels.
  • Graph power buttons now toggle properly
  • Updated the Entrepreneur Citizen text to better reflect its ability.
  • Ship designer window: removed a duplicate resource bar

Crusade AI verdict: May 2017

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2017 By Frogboy

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From time to time I like to do a full AI evaluation to see where a given game is.  The reason I started programming in the first place was to write AI.  25 years later, we have Crusade.

So how does it stack up?

[[..]]

I've scored the other AIs Stardock (or I) have developed over the years and I suspect my literal score changes slightly due to faulty memory.  But here is where I see the various GalCiv games. 

BTW, while the score is 1 through 10, it is not a linear quality bar but rather more exponential in nature.  That is, a 6 is a lot better than a 5 and so on.  A 5 would be what I'd consider "game industry acceptable for the genre".

So here we go:

  • GalCiv OS/2: 8
  • GalCiv I: Windows: 7
  • GalCiv II: 1.0: 5
  • GalCiv II: Dark Avatar: 7
  • GalCiv II: Twilight: 5
  • GalCiv III: 1.0: 5
  • GalCiv III: 2.0: 6
  • GalCiv III: Crusade: 7

I may have some bias against GalCiv III's AI since I didn't write it.  I consulted on it.  I did work on the GalCiv III 2.0 AI which is where I started to learn the architecture.  With Crusade, I implemented a multi-core AI (AI jobs get spun out to the least busy core which is why turn times are fast...and why you get stuck turns).

Strengths:

  • Can beat most players on normal without cheating (and no, it can't see everything, 18% of its turn CPU time is spent figuring out what it can see or guess things based on my knowledge of how the map generation is done -- something an expert player would notice too).
  • Is REALLY good at trading overall (and yes, I just fixed that ship cost thing, very annoying).
  • It is quite good at military engagement.
  • It is quite good at colony construction

Weaknesses:

  • Incredibly wasteful with administrators.  No one needs refunding from constructors more than the AI. 
  • Not good at finding detours to get to a destination to route around problems. I wish GalCiv had a way point system. hint hint.
  • Still new to the promotion system, doesn't use Commanders well yet.
  • Still new to the global economy, doesn't use leaders well yet (still better than most players).
  • Needs to use starbases better
  • Still learning the new tech tree system. I would like to have the game send me your data but the PR people say we could run into issues. But if I knew what paths 100,000 players were using, the AI could start using it.

Turn 500

Let's check in on an AI vs. AI game on turn 500.

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So Jar Jar is allied with the Engineers, the Vorlons and the Irridium Corporation but at war with the Arceans, Federated Suns, and the Spathi.  So there's a big galactic civil war going on here that my race, controlled by AI, has stayed out of.

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Many of the good asteroids are not being mined.  However, he only has 109 billion credits (bc) to work with so there may be a reason.

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I'm playing as  a Xenophobe, Colonizer which, in my build, means a 100% boost to research and social construction and a 50% drop to ship construction and 1 admin point per colony.  Here, he's moved his leaders in a way that seems reasonable and is making 79 bc per week.

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Definitely did a nice job laying out the planet.  I don't know if I would have built the preparedness center and probably wouldn't have built the market center.

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Currently stealing tech from the Federated Suns.

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Gungan fleet is no joke.

 

So overall, it's looking pretty good.  But...it can get better. A lot better.  And over the next two years, in free updates, it will continue to get better.


GalCiv Journal: May 2017

Posted on Sunday, May 14, 2017 By Frogboy

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Long ago there was Galactic Civilizations II, Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords, Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar and Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor. 

While Twilight of the Arnor is often considered the best of the GalCiv II series, for many it was really Dark Avatar that took GalCiv II from being a good to a great game.

This month, we released the second expansion to Galactic Civilizations III. Crusade is a similarly major change to the base game's replayability.

[[..]]

A massive expansion in a nutshell

Below is the chart that compares the various GalCiv games over the years so that you can see what has been updated.  With Crusade, we added a double checkbox if that area has been significantly improved.

 

The new economy

One of the most common questions we've seen is how one adjusts their economy.  In the base game, the player had the production wheel.  In Crusade, you use the Leader citizen and move them to the areas  you want your economy to focus on.

Over the course of a Crusade game, the player can gain greater and greater precision over their civilization.  In the base game, you switched between Research, Manufacturing and Wealth.  In Crusade, players can also focus on Approval, Farming, Influence, Diplomacy, Administration, Ship HP and more.

 

Switching between the two

We do intend to update the launcher to make it easier to move between Crusade or the base game. This is particularly useful for multiplayer but there will, no doubt, be players who want to quickly transition back and forth if only to notice the differences.

 

Crusade Complaints

By far the biggest complaint about Crusade is that it's buggy.  To that, I would have to agree.  While there weren't any type 0 bugs in the release, there were an unacceptably high number of what we'd call an unacceptable number of type 2 bugs and a lot of type 3 and 4 that simply slipped by.  In addition, a type 1 bug made it through (stuck turn) which was largely the result of my fixation on reducing turn times. 

While this has since been addressed, I should have left good enough alone by the end of March rather than pushing it and pushing it (I have a local build that has incredibly smooth late game performance but...wait for it...has the occasional stuck turn.

The more CPU cores one has, the more challenging it gets bringing a game turn back together.  That's why I have a 10 core CPU. Not because I wanted it.  But for you.  That is why I made the heroic sacrifice of upgrading to a 10 core CPU...cough.

We have great fans and we are grateful for the support we've gotten.  I apologize for us doing too much too fast.  A lot of this could have been rolled out over the next year.

In an alternative world, where Stardock isn't run by a lunatic programmer, we would have had Crusade = GalCiv III + Espionage + Civ Builder + Interactive Invasions + 3 new races and a campaign and called it good.  Instead, we have...well  you see the above chart and I pulled the campaign so that we could have more sandbox features and allow me to write the Apocalypse storyline with our lead writer, Chris Bucholz, later.

 

Crusade improvements into the base game

We have a thread that discusses what improvements from Crusade should go back to the base game.  Certainly bug fixes and AI improvements.   We want the base game of GalCiv III to be as good as it can be without anyone ever having to buy anything beyond that.

 

Best parts of Crusade

We'd love to hear your favorite features in Crusade.  I love the Citizen system but I think I end up enjoying the missions feature the most as I really hate late game micro. What are some of your favorite parts? What would you like more of?

 

AI loose ends

There's a number of loose ends on the AI I want to button up in the near future.  I finally found the reason why late game you'll see AI ships streaming all by themselves.  They're trying to reinforce other planets that are super far away.  Not a good idea though so I fixed that up. 

There's a laundry list of other things I am hoping to get done in the relatively new future as well.

 

Road Map: Spring 2017

The roadmap for Crusade mainly focuses on making it easier to mod it.  The timeline for it really boils down to how many engineers I can assign. 

Crusade currently has a "mixed" Steam score.  As a practical matter, if our player base doesn't like Crusade, then there's not a lot of incentive to dedicate resources to it.  Once we finish the bug squashing, we'll see where things settle at.

That said, below are some of the upcoming features we have in mind:

Galaxy Builder: Let's people use Steamworks to share tech tree parts, planetary improvements, citizens, promotions, missions, flavor text, player abilities, Starbase modules, components.  We are able to do this because in order to do Crusade as a DLC, we had to develop a way to make it so that a mod could more easily override or extend existing data robustly.

Galactic Empires: This is similar to the system we had in GalCiv II.  There's be an overall galaxy players could play on.  They would have a dedicated civilization for this using cannon traits (no making "god traits") and each day a new "sector" of the galaxy would be made available for people to play. The results would go towards their empire's score with control of the galaxy being based on total scores.

Admiral Battles: We are considering (depending on sales) letting flees that are commanded by an Admiral (a promoted Commander) have tactical control over their battle.  Right now, GalCiv III has tactical battles, it's just that they are forcibly put to auto-resolve (there's no UI to control units of course but if you watch the battle closely, you can see that the plumbing is there).  Only Admirals would be able to do this because GalCiv is not a game where the fate of your galactic civilization is based on an Ender Wiggin like leader.  Just as contested invasions are rare, Admiral battles would be very rare.

Arena Multiplayer: We would really like to make Crusade be a really good multiplayer game.  While Multiplayer wasn't our focus, the Citizen system was developed with multiplayer in mind as it drastically reduces the cheesy gamey exploitation techniques that the base game has in multiplayer.  Arena Multiplayer would be similar to the Galactic Empires except each day, a random, Arena sized map (think very small map) would be made available.  These would be for friends or strangers to play each other in.  There would be 1 on 1 and 2 v 2 maps with the entire match likely to last between 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the circumstances.  The upcoming Turn-Time counter would help ensure that the game moved along (see what we do in The Political Machine).

More MORE AI: At this point, I have a pretty good handle on how they did the original AI for GalCiv III and I think most people notice the AI is much better (and in the case of the AI buying lots of ships, with unearned money, this was actually something in the base game that only became apparent in Crusade because the AI got a lot smarter about when and what to rush buy). 

Cheers!


Crusade: What should go into the base game?

Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2017 By Frogboy

Crusade-7

I'm highly biased.  I not only think Crusade is better than GalCiv III but I think Crusade is better than any version of GalCiv we've ever made.  But not everyone will agree with me and thus, we should discuss what is going to be "back ported" into the base game.

[[..]]

In no particular order, I will like the major elements into 3 different categories.

Category 1: Features that will remain exclusive to Crusade

  1. External Ship Designer
  2. Civilization Builder
  3. Trait based tech tree
  4. The 3 new races
  5. Citizen System
  6. Espionage
  7. Crusade UI
  8. Missions
  9. New Diplomacy System
  10. New Resource system

 

Category 2:  Features that we're on the fence about:

 

  1. Multicore AI
  2. Flavor Text additions
  3. Word on the Street
  4. Multiplayer Enhancements
  5. New Influence System

 

Category 3: Things that will definitely be brought to the base game.

  1. Bug Fixes
  2. General AI improvements
  3. Graphics updates
  4. Quality of life improvements
  5. Performance optimizations
  6. Balance Fixes

 

We'd like to hear from you on your thoughts on this.


GalCiv III: Crusade - Ludicrous Game

Posted on Sunday, May 07, 2017 By Frogboy

The expansion pack to Galactic Civilizations III, Crusade, adds a new multicore job system for handling turns.  This means that turns are dramatically faster late game. 

When Crusade first game out, people asked for even bigger maps.  So the first update (due this week) has them.

Now, I don't recommend this map size.  I don't personally play it at this map size (or insane before it).  But many people really love these crazy large maps.

So here's a game of AI vs. AI I'm using for testing. 

Be warned: It uses 15 GIGABYTES of memory and is pushing my 10-core PC pretty hard.  At this size, turn times are not going to be fast.  In the map I'm playing, there are 64 players.  If you figure that each player is able to move in just 1 second, that's still a minute per turn and 1 second would be really fast given the size.

With those caveats, let's take a look..

[[..]]

30 turns in:

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Despite being zoomed way out, the entire known universe is only a few pixels on the mini map.

Will be updating this...

Had to restart to increase the object count.

So now turn 62

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The known universe is tiny. TINY!

I also changed the number of  one faster than i would have liked.

300 turns later:

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My little corner of the galaxy is a happening place!

Also, note, there are now hundreds of thousands of entities in the game so if you don't have at least 16GB of system memory, you really shouldn't try this size map.

I've only met a handful of the races out there.

image

Anyway, the point is, this is a map size I don't recommend playing really, it's for the ultimate die-hard.

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