As long time fan of the turn-based strategy/4X genre, I was very excited to hear about the development of Galactic Civilizations III, which was just announced. Instead of waiting for information to surface on its own, I decided instead to query the developers of the title at Stardock to ask them about the game.
Paul Boyer, Lead Designer of Galactic Civlizations III at Stardock Entertainment got back with me with answers to my questions.
One of the best features about Galactic Civilizations II was the Artificial Intelligence. They were actually smart and helped the universe feel alive, what are they doing to keep that. How are they going to expand on that for the third game?
To start with we have the same AI designer, Brad Wardell (also the executive producer of the game and Stardock’s CEO), who will be working his AI magic. The difference this time is that the entire team is busy making sure that he has the handles he needs to make Galactic Civilizations III the best AI we have ever had. Some of the things we are working on kind of blow my mind, and I’m the one designing the game.
One of the great things about Galactic Civilizations II was how alive the galaxy felt—the universe, it was full of random events and the presentation and things. How will the universe feel alive in Galactic Civilizations III? A big problem with a lot of 4X games is that they feel rather dull and procedural.
What kind of random events can we expect in Galactic Civilizations III?
Events have always been one of my favorite aspects of the game. You will be playing along thinking you have the game wrapped up and wham, “the Jagged Knife” pops up and half the galaxy is suddenly at war with you. Events of all kinds – simple to crazy and game-changing – are some of the most fun elements of Galactic Civilizations to design. As the game gets tested we will refine which will stay and which will go, but I can promise more events than ever, not to mention the classic Galactic Civilizations II events that we are be keeping around and enhancing.
Many games are mechanically sound but the universe feels dead—like there’s no soul to it. Galactic Civilizations II had soul, and Fallen Enchantress had soul. Can you describe what the universe is like in Galactic Civilizations III this time around?
That sense of depth and “soul” is really hard to capture in a game that is primarily a sandbox; you can’t force a narrative on the player, or even control the order in which things unfold, so we have to breathe life into each race, each planet, ship, and tech. If we do this right the player writes their own story and feels like the universe they are playing in is theirs. Needless to say this is a big challenge, but it is one of our primary focuses, and we can’t wait to see what players do with it.
How are engagements done in Galactic Civilizations III? In Galactic Civilizations II you could build ships and those ships would load into a real time battle. But they mostly just did their thing, it wasn’t something you could control. What are you doing to make ship-to-ship battles more tactical?
We put a lot of thought into the battles. We want to keep a few things under our hat for now, but we think we came up with something that really feels like it belongs in Galactic Civilizations, and should be a lot of fun.
What is the scale of the engagements like in Galactic Civilizations III?
Like in Galactic Civilizations II, engagements will go from ships dueling one-on-one to massive fleets battling it out. One of the beauties of going to 64-bit is that we can have absurdly large fleet battles. However, fleet sizes will still primarily be limited by the player’s technology level and the resources they control.
How do ground invasions work in Galactic Civilizations III, in contrast to the second game?
It’s safe to say ground battles will be different.
Presumably, old factions are returning to the fray. Can we expect any new factions and races to control in Galactic Civilizations III?
We have some new friends to introduce, but just as important to the gameplay is that a few of the major races in the Galactic Civilizations universe have not had a good time of it. As a result of the wars that arose after the return of the Dread Lords, they have either been wiped out or fled, and a few have bad cases of PTSD. So even our original races will have some new fun traits.
In previous games in the series the resource models were a little daunting to deal with. How are you planning to make the economy/resource models more intuitive for new players this time around?
One of the hardest things about doing a sequel to such a detailed game is knowing where to simplify and where to simply polish. Our goal is to keep the rich sense of control players had in Galactic Civilizations II and enhance it where possible, yet simplify and clean up game dynamics to allow new players to quickly jump right in without feeling overwhelmed.
One of the biggest challenges of mastering Galactic Civilizations II was the user interface; it was done before rich tooltips were popularized. In Galactic Civilizations III we will be able to give players much more feedback without overwhelming them with crazy, complicated scenes.
Stardock also published Sins of a Solar Empire and its sequels. Did you learn anything, or are you planning to adopt any features from Sins of a Solar Empire that you’re going to carry over into Galactic Civilizations III?
Sins is a great game, but quite a different experience. It’s hard to truly compare them when you get to the nuts and bolts, but we learn with every game we do, and Sins taught us a lot.
The previous Galactic Civilizations didn’t have any multiplayer and has been, by and large, a wholly single-player experience. What’s it like to implement multiplayer and what can we expect in terms of game modes, scale, victory conditions, etc.?
We have always wanted to bring multiplayer to the GalCiv universe, but the time was not right. Compared to the environment we built previous titles in, network play is a much easier thing to implement. So we don’t have to cripple our single-player development to add multiplayer – on the contrary, because this is Galactic Civilizations my priority is to make multiplayer as close to the single-player experience as possible.
That said, we’ll definitely include some form of asynchronous play so you aren’t forced to get a couple friends to commit several hours in one sitting to get through a game.
Are you planning to have any mod support for Galactic Civilizations III?
Galactic Civilizations III will be our most moddable game yet, which is saying something. One of the reasons we are so excited about going 64-bit is that we want players to be able to make crazy-detailed ships that were simply not possible in Galactic Civilizations II without dragging the game to a halt. On the data side, we will be releasing tools that will allow players to go crazy. The entire team loves to see what our fans come up with. I can’t wait to see what players do with the tools and the access we’re giving them in Galactic Civilizations III.
With plans to expand Galactic Civilizations III with expansion packs, will these be standalone expansions like Elemental or will they tie into the existing game like Galactic Civilizations II’s?
We have some great stuff planned for expansion packs and DLC both. We are putting a lot of work into the expansions, and I think our Elite Founders are going to be very pleased.
Disclosure: The author is acquaintances with Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.