Diplomatic Opportunity: Gal Civ 3 Beta 2 Adds Lots

Update: Stardock have now released a video showing the diplomacy feature in action.

When Brendan looked at Galactic Civilization 3‘s beta back in August, he deemed it not ready for consumption. It’s a 4X series that’s beloved for the anecdotes it creates for players through its personality-driven AI and the ability to conquer galaxies not just with superior numbers but by, say, destroying all the stars or broadcasting better television. None of that choice was in the game at that point, despite the £30/$45 price tag.

Now there’s a lot more of it. Beta 2 has just gone live, which adds diplomacy and trading and personalities and a ton of new ways to win the game, including through influence, alliances, ascension and research. The full list of changes is too vast to list here, but I’ve picked out a few below.

Here’s the video released on the 20th.

Added Diplomacy
Added the Krynn Faction: Including Racial traits and Unique Technology Tree
Added the ability to trade: Credits, Techs, Ships, Starbases, Planets and Strategic Resources
Added United Planets and United Planets Resolutions in order to govern the galaxy
Added a new mood system which drives the AI’s choices in decision making
Added Universal Translator Tech, needed in order to communicate with the other factions of the game
Added two options to the game settings: Event Frequency & United Planets Frequency
Added In-game Victory Options, to change the victory conditions of the game if you so choose
Added the flavor text system which is the foundation to create unique user experiences
Added decommission button to shipyard screen, enabling the ability to delete an unwanted shipyard
Added a first contact screen when you meet another civilization for the first time
Added Galactic events (19 new events) which can randomly occur as you play
Added the ability to have Galactic Events offer ideological choices in how you deal with them (similar to colonization events)
Added Huge galaxy map size

It’s the “new mood system which drives the AI’s choices” that really interests me. Too often your computer opponents in 4X games feel like, well, computers. They tend to make decisions for mathematical reasons or out of a plain desire to win. Gal Civ 2 was far more interesting and fun because the route your AI enemies would take towards winning would be mad, and driven by their particular quirks of personality.

Galactic Civilizations III is still in Early Access, so don’t take this to mean that it’s necessarily ready to play. We’ll have someone take a look at the changes and report back. For now, go read Tom Francis’ war diary for a sense of what to hope for from this sequel.

17 Comments

  1. Joshua Northey says:

    “Too often your computer opponents in 4X games feel like, well, computers. They tend to make decisions for mathematical reasons or out of a plain desire to win. Gal Civ 2 was far more interesting and fun because the route your AI enemies would take towards winning would be mad, and driven by their particular quirks of personality.”

    GalCiv2 AI was rightly seen as ahead of its time when it came out, but the above comment is just bizarre. The biggest problem with 4X AI has been its inability to mount a reasonable human like focus on winning. AI can have a theme and what not, but the old Galciv 2/Civ 4 model where if you know the AI’s personality they are easily manipulable and predictable was terrible for game replay-ability and difficulty.

    Yes AI player X could win the game easily if they betrayed me and I certainly would betray them if I was in their position, but instead they stay friendly cause I give them 1% of my income a turn…

    A “plain desire to win” is one of the main things 4X AI needed. Then when Civ 5 finally got that right and the AI started behaving like a player (i.e. even if you are best buds with it, if you do not defend yourself it will steamroll you), half the fans and people like yourself threw a conniption fit.

    I hope GalCiv 3 learns from some of the advances made in Civ 5 and we don’t go back to the era of “I can betray whoever I want whenever I want because I am the player, but the AI is hemmed in by easily manipulable modifiers”.

    The other thing I really hope Galciv 3 improves from Galciv 2 is that making the AI competitive is a lot easier if you reduce the power of the player. Galciv 2 had a real problem with giving the player a TON of control over each planet with little planetary focuses you could change each turn to maximize your efficiency and rapidly switch from a war to peace footing, as well as dozens of other ways to manage your economy. This created 2 problems. 1 the AI didn’t know how to use half of these tools, so it made you need to turn the AI bonuses way up to have a competitive game. 2 it made it so the optimal style of play involved clicking on each planet every turn and fiddling with a million little things. It is just bad design. Players don’t need to be gods, constrain their ability to control things a bit and the AI will be more competitive, the turn time will go down, and fun factor will go up as players spend more time designing/destroying spaceships and customizing queues and less time fiddling with slider 16 on each planet.

    • RuySan says:

      I couldn’t agree more with everything you say, specially when it comes to CIV5 AI. I think it was a huge improvement and it really annoys me to see it get so much criticism. I hope firaxis won’t give up on that AI design for CIV6.

      • Lanfranc says:

        The problem with the Civ 5 AI is not that it plays to win, the problem is that it’s (still) not very good at it.

        • RuySan says:

          It’s not very good at warfare, but i believe it’s an improvement on everything else.

    • Bobka says:

      Honestly, I think we should have both modes available. I prefer to play my 4X games as political role-playing games, and not complex chess matches. That’s also the reason I stay as far away from multiplayer as possible – people playing competitively will do anything to win, and that kind of approach, while valid, corrodes the immersion and fiction of the experience and, to me, spoils the game.

      Ideally they would create a way to turn personality-driven play on or off with a toggle before playing, so that everyone can get the kind of experience they’re looking for.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        That is an interesting idea.

      • Diatribe says:

        I am not a programmer, but my understanding is it is very time consuming to code complex AI (e.g., the type needed to play Civilization). To make 2 different sets of AI would seem to be prohibitively expensive.

        I think what you really want is a game focusing on characters or immersion, rather than hex based strategy. Might I suggest Crusader Kings 2?

        • Bobka says:

          I am a programmer, and it all depends on their implementation. Ideally they would make a winning-oriented AI that numerically evaluates the how effective each of its options are according to 1) mathematical effectiveness based on game rules and 2) personality preferences, and you could have one simple value that modulates how much personality preferences are factored in. It could even be a sliding scale on the user’s end. They should really be doing something like this to balance-test the influence of personality on AI decision-making anyway, and to be able to turn off personality somehow to see if the core AI can properly evaluate its situation.

          As for Crusader Kings 2, I tried it and found it too dense to get into, and the specific historical setting doesn’t much appeal to me (as opposed to Civ, where it’s mostly window dressing). Civ/GalCiv and other similar 4X games have always been more appealing to me than Paradox strategy games and similar.

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      BlueTemplar says:

      If you want the fun of designing/destroying spaceships, why would you play a GalCiv game, where there is no tactical combat, and ship design variety is mostly cosmetic?

      • Joshua Northey says:

        It was just an example, the point is people don’t play the game to scroll through lists of planets and turn planetary focuses on and off each turn. You want to eliminate the elements that are not decisions and are instead just mindless tinkering/optimizing.

        • aphazard1 says:

          Some of us do play 4X games specifically to open up our planets/cities every turn and tinker and optimize. For some of us, that is the fun part of the game.

          Really good 4X games are flexible enough to let people play different ways, so that everyone can have fun doing what they consider the most interesting part of the game. Hopefully GalCiv3 will be one of those types of games.

    • falconne says:

      You’re assuming that everyone wants to play 4X games against AIs devoid of personality and min maxing their way to victory, just like the player. Some people prefer to role play and want AIs with personality to make the experience interesting.

      The problem I found with Civ 5 is not the fact that the AIs play to win; it was the fact that they play to win but are so bad at it. I’m not blaming the AI programming too much, it’s hard for any strategy game AI to compete against a human. It’s inevitable that after a hours play most strategy players will steamroll 4X AIs. The good thing about the GalCiv2 AI was that at least each AI had a personality that made them somewhat interesting (and I still found them more competitive than Civ 5’s “play to win” AI), so even when you do end up steamrolling them you could at least imagine a narrative behind the scenes.

      Having said all that, I think 4X games are not the best place for AIs with personalities. That’s something that works better in grand strategy simulations, which is what I play Paradox games for.

    • HauntedQuiche says:

      See, I massively disagree with this. I can’t stand Civ5-style AI. Yes, it is better at the game, but it is completely lacking in any personality or character traits or anything to make the game actually fun.

      I suppose if all you want is a soulless puzzle then its fine, but if you like 4X games for their atmosphere then it utterly kills any chance of enjoyment.

  2. Earl-Grey says:

    Tom Francis’ two Gal Civ 2 diaries are some of my most treasured pieces of writing.
    I have to read them again from time to time, just to rekindle my passion for Galactic Civilizations.

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      phuzz says:

      I know he’s making games now, but could RPS use some of that supporter cash to persuade him to do a third diary when this comes out?

  3. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    “Added the Krynn faction”. Hmm. Does that mean they get knights, wizards, huge lances and dragons?

  4. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    I really hope this is good; I played GalCiv 2 to death. Sadly, Demigod and Elemental ensured that I would never preorder anything from Wardell and co ever again.

    Please don’t suck….Please don’t suck….Please don’t suck….