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Galactic Civilizations

By ucblockhead in Op-Ed
Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:54:56 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

If you were disappointed as I was with the latest overhyped space opera strategy game as I was, you might want to give Galactic Civilizations, a new game with very old roots, a try.

I was very excited when I first heard about "Master of Orion 3", as I'd been waiting for a good space 4x game for years. It is one of my favorite genres, but since "Master of Orion 2", there really hasn't been one I liked. Unfortunately, its sequel was extremely poor. It has to be one of the most boring games I've ever played. I never actually ended up finishing a game despite attempting to between ten and twenty times. All the hitting "next turn", waiting for something to happen was just too tedious for words.

The trouble was that combat was rare and that planet management was so damn confusing that it was easier just to let the AI control it for you. And when combat finally did happen, it was hard to control and near impossible to tell what the various weapons were actually doing. How do you make an intelligent decision about what weapons are better when there's no easy way to tell what they are actually doing?

So that game got put away.

In the meantime, I'd been hearing about "Galactic Civilizations". Now, I played this many many years ago when it was the only real OS/2 game. At the time I thought it decent, but had some complaints about how things were done. In particular, it was annoying that you could only play the humans, and also annoying that the human player was handicapped with not knowing where the good stars were, unlike the AI. But still, a decent game.

So I recently bought this (which amused me because when the original OS/2 version came out, the author liked to say that there'd never be a Windows version.) I'm in the middle of my third game.

It's a pretty darn good game.

The graphics on the original were atrocious. Now, they are decent, though the game still has a five years ago feel to it. In many ways, it's about the level of "Master of Orion 2" in terms of graphics and the complexity of the game. But that's not entirely a bad thing, because "Master of Orion 2" was fun.

The basics of the game are fairly simple. Each planet can spend money on research, social structures and military units. You set tax rates, to control income, and spending rates to determine how much income goes to spending. You can send freighters to other worlds to get trade income. Superficially, the game seems like no great shakes.

But it also has some interesting features of its own. The most interesting is "influence". This is similar to "culture" in Civilization 3. The map is divided up into square sectors. Each civilization has an influence level in each sector based on nearby planets. The civilization with the highest influence owns that sector. There are many ways to change a planet's influence, through building buildings or researching technologies. Unlike "Civilization 3", this is all above-board. You can see exactly what effect your actions have.

If a world is in another player's sector, it may well rebel and join that player. Unlike in Civ 3, this is quite common. In my current game, I have literally dismantled another empire in this manner. So you can still play a "peaceful" game and conquer other civilizations.

Also fairly unique is "alignment". Civilizations range from good to evil. Throughout the game, you are given ethical choices. Answer in an "evil" manner enough, and your race is evil. Answer in a "good" manner enough, and your race is good. Sounds silly, but it is an interesting matter of short-term gains vs. long-term gains. "Evil" acts tend to have benefits, while "good" acts tend to have costs. Send the miners in to mine the deadly ore, and you get money. Avoid colonizing the continent with a presentient race, and you get lower population growth.

So why be "good"? Well, good races rarely attack each other, but are quite happy to attack evil races. On the other hand, evil races will attack pretty much anyone. Play evil, and you may find yourself under trade embargoes, or see the galactic senate passing resolutions limiting your actions.

There are other nifty features not found in the original. You can create "survey ships", that can go out, Enterprise like, studying spatial anomolies. You can create starbases that improve the production, enconomy or influence of planets in their sector, or aid warships during attacks.

One of the things that really stood out about the original game was the AI. Few games have decent AIs. Far too many games have failed because they had a poor AI. (The game Ascendency was the best (or worst) example of this. A wonderfully unique and playable game system saddled with an AI that a five-year-old chimp could beat on "hard".) The original "Galactic Civilizations" was one of only two games that has an AI that I would call "good". The game does not generally cheat (other than knowing where the good stars are at the beginning.) Yet it was very hard to beat at high levels.

I have not yet played the current version at the highest levels, but I can't imagine it is much different, given that the basic game system remains the same.

My original complaints about the game are still there, yet...the fact that I've been playing this constantly shows them to be minor. It's a very playable game, and that is what is important, and unfortunately, what is missing from so many modern games.


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Galactic Civilizations
o Played it, liked it. 17%
o Played it, hated it. 4%
o Haven't played it, sounds like my thing. 29%
o Haven't played it, probably won't. 32%
o I am boycotting these evil videogames that are robbing our children of their innocence, not like when we were kids, and the world was a shiny, happy place where we all listened to Judas Priest in our basement and never considered violence as an option. 16%

Votes: 68
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o the latest overhyped space opera strategy game
o Galactic Civilizations
o Civilizati on 3
o Ascendency
o Also by ucblockhead

Display: Sort:
Galactic Civilizations | 72 comments (66 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
Galactic Civilizations sucked ass (1.63 / 11) (#2)
by Michael Moore on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:01:46 PM EST

You're still better off playing Stars! until they finally release the sequel to that. The current generation of space strategy (Homeworld, Galactic Civilizations, MOO, etc.) has just been awful. Gal Civ is like Stars! for tards.

"My life was more improved by a single use of [ecstasy] than someone's life is made worse by becoming a heroin addict." -- aphrael
Stars (none / 2) (#7)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:44:03 PM EST

Poor AI. Interesting game, but not challenging enough.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#44)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:22:35 PM EST

You have no problem against a galaxy of hyper expanders?

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
AIs (none / 2) (#50)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:49:37 PM EST

The trouble I have with many (most) games is that they compensate for a poor AI by ramping up AI production over and above what human players get. Sure, there are games I can't beat on "hard", but what I want is a game that I can't beat on "hard" because it is smart, not because it gets production advantages. I don't like battles of dumb and powerful vs. smart and weak.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
no cheating (none / 1) (#52)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:08:54 PM EST

The AIs in Stars! don't get a production advantage. You can hex edit the save files to confirm yourself.

Where they get their advantage is, as computers, being able to tolerate the insane minutiae of composing thousands of colonization fleets turn after turn. Very few human players have the mental fortitude to keep that up, which means that an AI hyper expander has an edge.

The only good way to fight the hyper expanders is to station "forward planet defense" forces at each star, capable of shooting down a micro colonizer as well as bombing away a starter colony.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
HEs (none / 0) (#59)
by ishark on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:09:57 PM EST

You have no problem against a galaxy of hyper expanders?

Not at all, just play a monster race (for example the classic HG CA), when you start to get into the 50Kres in 2450 there isn't much that a AI HE can do.

[ Parent ]

Stars AI.... (none / 0) (#58)
by ishark on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:06:19 PM EST

Poor AI. Interesting game, but not challenging enough.

AHEM, it was explicitly stated (doc or website) that the AI in stars is only supposed to show newbies how to play, as the game was meant to be multiplayer from the start.
But if you want challenge it's easy: try playing a random race and see how far you get with 7% growth and expensive weapons.... :)

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#53)
by Eater on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:45:48 AM EST

Homeworld and Homeworld 2 (the first one is still better) are simply a different sort of game, very good in their own way, but very different. As for good space strategy, have you tried Ascendency? Really old, but still seems quite good even after all these years... the AI is pretty dumb though. Imperium Galactica II is not bad either, if you want something with flashier graphics, though it's a bit simple in parts, things like ground combat are done quite well.


[ Parent ]
Ascendancy (none / 0) (#64)
by iasius on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:54:15 PM EST

What a great game that got entirely ruined by its AI (as has been stated before). I once cheated to give every AI player all tech right at the start. What did the AI do? Build ridiculously expensive war ships that took 500 turns to complete. By that time I'd colonized half the galaxy and researched everything myself.

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
[ Parent ]
Alpha Centauri (1.83 / 6) (#4)
by paprika on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:23:29 PM EST

Kucinich is a bitch -paprika

Yes, well... (2.40 / 5) (#8)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:45:31 PM EST

Alpha Centauri is the best "Conquer the World" game. But I'm talking "Conquer the Universe" games here. Slightly different genre.

Unfortunately, Civ 3 was a worse game with a better AI. Hopefully they'll get it right with Civ 4.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Only true... (1.20 / 5) (#45)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:24:13 PM EST

...if your definition of "best" means "tree-hugging communist rhetoric spewing anti-technological mish-mash of indistinguishable brown turds".

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
IHBT (none / 2) (#60)
by jw32767 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:24:38 PM EST

But given that the quotes in the game were voiced by various leaders of the factions, some of whom were communists and/or treehuggers I'm not seeing the problem.  Especially since you could turn the voiceovers off.

Krups, not only can they shell Paris from the Alsace, they make good coffee. - georgeha

These views are my own and may or may not reflect the views of my employer.
[ Parent ]
not really (none / 3) (#62)
by CodeWright on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:43:36 PM EST

the game forced you to make love to the alien slime.

no opportunity to burn the planet to bedrock to get rid of the lousy "great boils"

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Moral foundation (none / 1) (#66)
by irrevenant on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:34:36 PM EST

So?  Most games have a moral foundation.  Is it so repugnant that for once it's not "Kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out"?

[ Parent ]
there is no morality without choice (none / 1) (#67)
by CodeWright on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 02:53:15 PM EST

if one is not faced with a choice between perceived good and perceived evil, there is no morality involved. morality is comprised of knowing the difference between good and evil -- and choosing the former over the latter.

in SMAC, there is no choice -- just preachy holier-than-thou tree-hugging communist rhetoric.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
you have a choice (none / 0) (#68)
by fenix down on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 03:53:42 AM EST

I admit it's been awhile since I played, but I'm pretty sure you could fuck the slime and have it eat your people if you were so inclined.  And if you managed to exterminate the hippies and the Chinese robot-heads before the slime got you, you still won.

Anyway, Knights of the Old Republic is the only game that really has morality.  Evil isn't evil unless your skin turns grey and you cackle inappropriately.

[ Parent ]

my point is... (none / 0) (#69)
by CodeWright on Sun Jan 11, 2004 at 12:50:47 PM EST

...that "fucking the slime" isn't really fucking the slime. it's a non-choice. the great boils just keep coming more and more, forcing you to choose slime-luvin as the only option. you should be able to exterminate the biosphere and re-populate it with pretty earth trees.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Acutally, I did this an an experiment. (none / 0) (#70)
by randyk on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 03:17:03 PM EST

I just kept building fungicidal clean formers (wished I could put three special abilities on a unit, and I could've added super formers) and if you have the weather paradigm you probably can clear the entire planet of fungus. I never totally cleared the planet, but I had vast continents with nary a lick of fungus. If you keep your eco damage low, the fungus won't come back, either.

The problem is by the time you get that, you have technologies that let you use the fungus to your benefit, so it's cutting your own throat in a real game. I does kind of suck you spend the early game planting fungus, only to be planing it back at the end.

Nonetheless, I fail to see what is communistic about consuming a resource from the land, mixing it with labor to making it yours (i.e. homesteading), versus just annhilating it. Destroying resources that you can use to your benefit isn't free market behaviour, it's just plain stupid.

[ Parent ]
GalCiv rules! (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by AtADeadRun on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:36:11 PM EST

I agree one hundred percent. MoO2 was the best 4X game in recent memory, and I was all spazzy in anticipation of MoO3, especially since Tycho over at Penny Arcade was giving it good reviews. If he likes a game, I usually do, too (Gabe, on the other hand...). Imagine my dismay when I found MoO3 to be a boring mess with a pitiful AI -- bad enough that I heard they were going to patch AI functionality after the complaints started rolling in.

So when GalCiv became widely available, I picked it up. I immediately latched onto the cultural conquest bit. I almost never build navies except for defensive purposes, using static defenses and starbases (which can also be used to extend your influence into the associated sector) to keep opposing military forces at bay.

GalCiv's very simplicity is one of its great advantages, as far as I'm concerned. I don't need a wicked-fancy GUI if it's a fun game; I still play NetHack.

Pain heals. Glory is forever. Keep running.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
STARS (2.33 / 6) (#9)
by Talez on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 08:17:18 PM EST

STARS is also a very good space empire game. Plus it runs on a 386 with Win 3.11 through to a P4 3.2GHz with Windows XP.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
Heh. (none / 1) (#29)
by LukeyBoy on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:30:49 AM EST

Hells yeah. Stars! is an awesome game, and I still ocassionally play it. It sits for me right up there with X-COM and Alpha Centauri.

[ Parent ]
The problem with "civ" games (2.50 / 14) (#10)
by cbraga on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 08:20:02 PM EST

The problem is that those games are rehashes of a 10 year old classic, the original Civilization.

I haven't played Galciv, but reading this article and browsed the game's site I arrived at the conclusion that it hasn't escaped that fate, shared by Alpha Centauri and Civ 3.

It's saddening, really, that I'd waste my money buying this game because I'd already know the best strategy to play it. Alpha Centauri did have a few breaths of fresh air, but stuck to the same 10 year old limitations that Galciv seems to suffer from as well.

Those limitations in the game model were necessary when the original Civilization came to the market because computers were notoriously limited at that time but today it's ridiculous that cities still build only one thing at a time, and every city builds one thing.

Why can't I build assemblies/factories at a city or two who might build with my national resources? Why can I only build one thing in a city? I should be able to have two factories and build two things concurrently.

Also, the Alpha Centauri/Civilization/GalCiv populations would be Lenin's dream of a communist utopia coming true. We manage our cities/planets by "units of population" who eat "units of food" and consume "units of luxury". Never is there any sign of intelligent life below the player. Why can't the people plow them own fields? It's ridiculous that the government has to farm every field, build every market, church, theatre there is. How far from reality is that?

If I choose to manage my empire in a way that leads to democraticy and free market, I should see some signs of that behaviour namely people doing things such as building car plants, building farms, mining gold, etc, without me having to interfere. If I felt like trolling, I'd say turn-based games are a communist brainwash tool.

I can't bear to play another of theses games. At least not until they break the chains of the 10 year old Civilization legacy.

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p

strategy (2.66 / 6) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 08:54:54 PM EST

The game is different enough that the strategies are completely different.

It sounds like you want something like SimCity crossed with MOO. I've wanted to see something like that for a long time.

There are some instances of life, though. For instance, as the leader in GalCiv, you have a political party. Don't do things well, and your party can lose control, making life harder. Also, your worlds can rebel if you choose a more democratic for of government.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

You have a point ... (3.00 / 8) (#12)
by pyramid termite on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 09:46:35 PM EST

... but it's hard to say what would be the alternative. It's grossly unrealistic to build everything at once, of course - in GalCiv, you can build a social advance/factory/whatever AND a military/ship unit at the same time. It's also fair to point out that part of the strategy of the traditional Civ type games is to have specialist cities that pump out certain units or benefits for the empire as a whole. Some games do have a "national resource" kind of building - Space Empires IV, Master of Magic and Age of Wonders have either some common resources, or ways of sharing them in the empire. In GalCiv building starbases to harvest resources benefits the empire as a whole, and having several star systems cooperate in building cultural influence units in those bases is a crucial strategy.

The whole idea of having the government do everything is inherent in the idea of an empire game. Master of Orion 3 actually does try to show intelligent life below the player, with much automation and independent decision making on the part of viceroys and even the populace. Unfortunately, even with the newest patch, this results in the player tweaking a couple of things and then hitting the turn button for 10 turns, tweaking things the underlings have changed, hitting the turn button for 10 times, and eventually, you discover that you've won or lost the game without ever having been in it. I've played one game all the way through. It was not a good game. I lost, and hardly felt that I was actually participating in the game at all. Horrid.

I agree that turn-based empire games need a new approach, but unfortunately, real time click fests and eye candy seem to be more important than original game concepts and good A.I. GalCiv is one of the better turn based empire games of the last 5 years - Age of Wonders series would be the other.

MOO3 is one of the worst.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Dominions and others (none / 2) (#34)
by kallisti on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:53:52 PM EST

I agree that turn-based empire games need a new approach, but unfortunately, real time click fests and eye candy seem to be more important than original game concepts and good A.I. GalCiv is one of the better turn based empire games of the last 5 years - Age of Wonders series would be the other.

Try the demo for Dominions 2. It has a very steep learning curve and weak graphics, but is an incredibly deep game. It bears almost no relation to the Civ-style gameplay. Incidentally that style of game was actually invented about 1970 in a game called Empire, long before Civ. Someone is making a new commercial version of Empire and the free games XConq and FreeCiv allow you to create your own versions.

[ Parent ]

Empire (none / 0) (#48)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:46:41 PM EST

There have been a number of versions of it over the years. I lost much sleep to the old EGA DOS version.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Abstraction (none / 1) (#65)
by irrevenant on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:29:24 PM EST

Abstraction is probably a good way to make this a bit more realistic - instead of your city building 'a barracks' you city spends a turn 'improving military training facilities'.  You lose a bit of flavour that way, but that may actually be a plus in Sci-fi where the flavour dates very quickly.

Of course, ideally, you still want the option to split your production.

Thought:  Without abstraction there's no reason to do this.  If you spend a turn building 1/2 of a barracks and 1/2 of an aqueduct then at the end of the turn you have nothing - you're better off building one, then the other.

Hmm.  Maybe you could do both - abstract at the lower level and have 'wonders'-style projects that do take a long time to build and have big effects?

[ Parent ]

It'd be interesting to see a game like this (2.88 / 9) (#17)
by godix on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 11:59:24 PM EST

I should see some signs of that behaviour namely people doing things such as building car plants, building farms, mining gold, etc, without me having to interfere.

While this would be interesting to see I have to wonder how interesting of a game it'd actually make. This sounds like it's taking the hands off approach too far, it almost sounds like you want The Sims but without the ability to take direct control of the characters. Out of the current games out there the one I think comes closest to getting the blend of micromanagement and watching stupid AI tricks is SimCity 4. You control the broad things but your citizens definately have their own desires and demands. If only SC4 had randomized this a litte so you couldn't say 'Every X tiles build a school and they'll be happy' it'd be great.

Incidently, my biggest complaint about these games is that they're too similar, both to other games of the type and to itself. The strategy to Alpha Centari will basically work with Civ III which will basically work with MOO. Take the lead in research quickly and plow over the computer. Also, no matter how hard games try each civ/race ends up playing the same. It'd be nice to see a game that actually had racial/civ traits that required different styles of play. For example instead of having racial traits in Civ III mean 'I got a free tech' they could have forced different civs to win in different ways; IE zulus with military, China with culture, or France with whining. That would have forced different strategies depending on the civ instead of just 'Oh, their special unit, I'll need three defenders instead of just two for this'.

Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
- Black Mage[ Parent ]

The Sims: Civilization [n/t] (none / 1) (#37)
by ghjm on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:26:33 PM EST

[ Parent ]
They are similar (none / 2) (#39)
by godix on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:48:30 PM EST

Something I just realized, it takes Civ III several hundred years to build one troop and it takes The Sims a couple hours to get out of bed and dress. Both games have some serious time management problems on their hands. I gotta wonder what happens if we combined them...

Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
- Black Mage[ Parent ]
Different strategies (none / 2) (#56)
by Fizyx on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 09:16:22 AM EST

'Oh, their special unit, I'll need three defenders instead of just two for this'.

Star Trek Birth of the Federation was like that. An old game that I still play sometimes: the Ferengi you can bribe, Romulans have cloaked ships which are very effective, and the Klingons are heavily armed (even their transports). You can also pick which side to play.

That's probably my all-time favorite game (though it definitely has its bugs). It's abandonware now: it was originally written for Win95, but a fan wrote a patch to make it work on Win2K. It covers the same period as the new Star Trek series, but since it predates the series, the game is written with a 'Next Generation' look and feel. So it's kind of an 'alternative future history' now, if you follow.

It seems to be a direct descendent of the ORIGINAL 4X space game, the text terminal game of 'Star Trek'. Anybody else remember that one?

[ Parent ]

Playability != Reality (2.50 / 8) (#20)
by Arduinothor The Vile on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:55:01 AM EST

Remember this.

[ Parent ]
That doesn't sound like fun (3.00 / 4) (#47)
by the on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:46:39 PM EST

Being a Dictator is fun. You get to boss people about and be in charge. Unfortunately we have these dumb things like constitutions that make it difficult, and anyway, even without constitutions there's only a limited number of people who can play Dictator at one time. So Civilization and its clones provide a way for us to sublimate our Dictatorial urges into a game. But I really don't see why it would be fun to have a game where you play an elected president having to run everything by your parliament/congress/loya jirga/diet first, obeying rules and have everyone else vote on stuff. I guess you could have a game based on American Democracy. But that would be just like Dictatorship again and no different from Civilization.

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Harsh reality (none / 2) (#61)
by ucblockhead on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:28:59 PM EST

I've always envisioned a game that ended in 30-40 years no matter how well you were doing if your society didn't discover "life extension" or somesuch.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
It doesn't matter if you die... (none / 2) (#63)
by the on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:47:43 PM EST

The aim of the game should be to be remembered as long as possible. So if you build a bunch of pyramids, say, your score is at least 10,000 yrs. But if all you do is build a multi-billion dollar software empire then you score something like 30 or 40 years.

The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
So lemme get this straight: (2.14 / 7) (#15)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 11:50:54 PM EST

It's MOO2 + Civ3 + Black & White??

Umm... wow, interesting mix. I haven't enjoyed any of the Civ games since 1, but MOO2 and B&W are among my favorite games of all time.

Also: I heard about MOO3's suckage. Could you reply with some more detail so I can learn how exactly it sucked? It's hard to imagine the direct sequel to a game as awesome as MOO2 sucking as abysmally as people say it did. But then, this is a universe which saw the creation of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. So clearly anything is possible.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Well (none / 3) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:07:15 AM EST

Not Black & White really. More like MOO2 combined with Civ2 with the culture stuff from Civ3 thrown in.

MOO3 sucks for a few reasons. First, the economics model is so damn confusing that it took me literally ten games before I came even close to figuring out basic stuff like how to manage a planet properly. There's lots of micromanagement, but there's also AI "governors" to do it for you. The net result is that you end up feeling like there's lots of management going on, and lots of things you could do, but you have no clue how to do it. Basic stuff, like figuring out whether or not you are running a deficit, is nearly impossible to figure out.

Add to that the fact that it takes a long, long, long time for anything to happen. Even in a normal size universe, you can easily go hours of gameplay before performing any actual combat.

And then the combat is just annoying. It is "realtime", meaning that unlike MOO2, you don't really have much time to strategize. You tend to just say "attack" and watch the results. But then you have to babysit a stupid AI that likes to launch your transports ahead of your capital ships. And also unlike MOO2, there's little indication of what weapon is firing, or how much damage ships are taking from any particular weapon. So it is almost impossible to gauge the effectiveness of an particular ship configuration, making ship design mostly a joke. You end up just autobuilding everything, letting the AI build the best ship for a given size.

Those to things, the fact that the game is so opaque that you've got little indication of what happens in response to your actions and the fact that things unfold so slowly makes it just deadly dull.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

MOO3 suckage (none / 2) (#40)
by zymurge on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:13:27 PM EST

I actually kind of like the economics model in moo3, but then I'm (apparently) one of the few people dedicated and masochistic enough to learn how to manually manage planets. I found that with at least a medium sized empire it was best to turn on the governor to save time, but always manually control the military build queue (note this is only possible after a patch allowed you to lock said queue).

That said, the space combat in moo3 is miserable. There is almost no feedback. There's no way to see any ship stats. You can't even tell if a ship is damaged. Did those new shields you just got help your ships? Who knows? You don't even know what weapons the enemy ships are using unless you've played enough games to recognize the poor graphic effects.

Since you're given little clue what works well in combat, ship design also becomes pointless.

Basically, if you're thinking about playing moo3, just go load up moo2 again instead. Its a much better game.

[ Parent ]

MOO3 suckage (none / 0) (#71)
by ttsalo on Tue Jan 13, 2004 at 05:59:50 AM EST

Since you're given little clue what works well in combat, ship design also becomes pointless.

Huh? All the weapons and shields are explained in the docs. And I thought it was easy to see what works in the combat and what doesn't.

The reason why I sold my copy was the stupid production UI. For example, I'm in a war and I see that I need, say, a carrier fleet with close range defence ships, and two long range attack fleets. Producing all this stuff in a minimum time is a real pain in the butt. Oh why couldn't they let me design fleets and put them onto a galaxy-wide production queue? The built ships go onto a galaxy-wide stockpile anyway, which is a very good idea, as is the idea of the fleets in the first place (compare this to the clickfest involved in fighting a large war in CIV3)...

[ Parent ]

Black and White? (none / 2) (#19)
by yamla on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:12:21 AM EST

I'm not at all sure that GalCiv has much Black and White in it.  Really it is more of a cross between MoO 2 and Civ3.  It's definitely an evolutionary game rather than a revolutionary game but really, that's fine by me.

I also own MoO3.  It really does suck.  You don't build stuff on planets, you tell the AI what things to favour based on what categories the planets fit into.  Although this could be great in theory, it really doesn't work in practice.  It is simply too hard to figure out how to start building warships.  The whole game does this sort of abstraction so you always feel one step removed from what is going on.

[ Parent ]

If you're disappointed with your lot in life (1.86 / 15) (#16)
by JayGarner on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 11:53:46 PM EST

you might want to give Galactic Civilizations a try. If you don't have a computer, try malt liquor and Cops reruns.

Or... (none / 2) (#33)
by skim123 on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:33:25 PM EST

If you don't have a computer, try malt liquor and Cops reruns.

Or sue your cable company for three computers and a lifetime Internet connection...

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Perhaps your problem (2.25 / 4) (#21)
by medham on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:51:29 AM EST

Had to do with the fact that MOO3's AI was putting the mojito on you, thoroughly and consistently. I myself have fared no better.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

I would claim to have found another (none / 0) (#22)
by qpt on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:27:26 AM EST

But the inevitable inquiry would ring mocking.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

In passing (none / 1) (#54)
by Emissary on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:11:17 AM EST

I've discovered a usage of "angular" (fifth para) which mirrors yours. What does this mean? Has he read your correspondence? Is "angular" merely poised at the correct position in the gestalt, to create these synchronicities? Or are you both making reference to a third work, like Jeff VanderMeer's description, on the cover of City of Saints and Madmen, of the water of the River Moth as "muscular?" I know that's what VanderMeer was doing, I stumbled across the original work some months ago, but the title escapes me. Just one more spadeful of dirt thrown in the grave of that shameless pasticheur. "I am the shadow of a waxwing slain" indeed! I nearly vomited.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
MOO3 AI (none / 0) (#32)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:13:59 PM EST

If only. I would have welcomed a massive invasion from the AI players if only to break up the monotony.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Star Chamber! (none / 2) (#24)
by ClassicG on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 08:19:49 AM EST

I've been playing this little gem of a game since I first heard of it on Penny Arcade (bottom of the page) and read the GameSpot review. It's a quick-playing two-player board game/collectible card game hybrid, which uses elements of both to become one of the most unique and best-designed games I've played in quite some time. Don't let the phrase 'collectible' scare you off - unlike most CCGs, the focus of the game is on the board and the ships and planets on it. The cards serve mainly a set of fairly mild 'suprises' that you can spring on your opponent, and play a relatively small role in the grand scheme of the game. Also note that the game is free until you want to build a deck of your own - trial accounts have access to five well-balanaced decks that you can play with as much as you want.

Come check it out at http://www.starchamber.net/!

Collectible? (none / 1) (#30)
by Cameleon on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:58:54 AM EST

It looks like you don't actually get anything real for your money. It's like a CCG without the cards; but you still have to pay money. And with electronic cards, it will be even easier for them to put out new sets, getting even more money from you.

Apart from that, it looks fun. If only the program wouldn't freeze when I try to create an account.

(this sounds a bit too negative: I did play through the tutorials, and liked the game that far)

[ Parent ]

The cards aren't as important as in other CCGs (none / 0) (#41)
by ClassicG on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:56:54 PM EST

Like I said before, the cards are a relatively small part of the game. Unlike Magic The Gathering and it's ilk, where the cards are the entire game and winning often boils down to who can afford to buy the most, the cards in SC are only one level of the game. Much more important is the play that happens on the board/starmap - buying and moving of ships and civilians, fighting battles, and dealing with the all-important periodic voting at the Star Chamber. I've only bought the 'starter set' of 14 packs so far, and I've able to hold my own fairly well in games.

Basically, don't be scared off just because it's a collectable card game. It's not the money-vacuum that a lot of CCGs are designed to be, and you can get a lot of fun out of the game for a much smaller investment than for many other games.

[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#46)
by Cameleon on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:03:34 PM EST

Thanks for that comment; I have witnessed how games like Magic the Gathering work, and figured that this would work in the same way, only without physical cards; especially since there is no price for the game, but prices for extra cards. I'd like it more if it was just a fixed price for the whole game. The way it is now, I fear it would feel like I'd be missing out on something. But I'll give it a try as soon as I can get an account; the program still freezes when I try to create one. I've emailed them about it.

[ Parent ]
Why GalCiv Sucks (1.66 / 6) (#26)
by Bios_Hakr on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:25:46 AM EST

I bought and played GalCiv for a while.  After about 2 hours, I went to look for a patch.  In order to get the updates, I had to subscribe to their StarDock thingy.  I had to give up my name and e-mail plus log in to their web site.

I know they are trying to prevent piracy, but I really hate having to give up so much time in order to download a patch.

And that's why GalCiv sits, unplayed, on my shelf.  But at least those fuckers got their money.  I'll probably download GalCiv II off suprnova.org.

Wait. (none / 2) (#28)
by LukeyBoy on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:28:20 AM EST

So paying for something isn't a hassle, but putting an e-mail address in their form is? That doesn't make a lot of sense.

I bought the game, and am a "subscriber" to the Stardock Central app. I admit, it's pretty slick. You can download and update the different components of the game through their interface, view the forums, and even download shareware versions of their other games. It's worth trying again.

[ Parent ]

StarDock (2.25 / 4) (#35)
by Bios_Hakr on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:15:46 PM EST

The point is, I don't want all that.  I just want to be able to patch my game and then play it without any hassle.  Paying for a game is expected.  Having to install an additional application and register is not expected.  I don't want the StarDock app with its' forced advertisements and snazzy front end.  I don't care about StarDock moderated forums.

BTW, I also refused to play FF:XI due to their set-up.  You had to install their front-end BEFORE you could even install the game.  There was no hope of launching the game directly.  You have to launch SOE and enter a username/password, navigate 3 menus, launch FF:XI, enter another username/password, and finally launch the game.  It took like 10 minutes to begin a new game.

Bioware isn't much better.  In order to download a patch, you have to register.  But at least they don't ask you for your CD key in order to download the patches.

Several other companies have started using 3rd party download sites to distribute patches.  Can't think of any of the games now, but I remember having to register at fileplanet or fileshack in order to get a stupid patch.  What a crock.

[ Parent ]

Sierra (none / 1) (#49)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:47:36 PM EST

Sierra does much the same thing, though I think you can bypass it.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Um, what? (none / 0) (#51)
by The Muffin on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 08:51:07 PM EST

Bioware doesn't make you register. When you launch, oh, Neverwinter Nights, there's a big button that says "Update", and, once clicked, does the amazingly suprising thing of, um, updating NWN. From the server it determines will give you the best speed, even.

For the Baldur's Gate series, you have to go to the interplay website to get patches, but no registration is necessary.

I haven't played KotOR yet, but I don't imagine it's a whole lot different, unless one of the other companies involved put their dirty hands in it...

- This is the end.
[ Parent ]
Depends (none / 0) (#55)
by Bios_Hakr on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 05:17:48 AM EST

When I installed NWN, the update feature was broken.  You needed to go to the web site to get a patch to the update program before you could update that way.

You still have to login to download the Linux client.

[ Parent ]

Heh heh (2.75 / 4) (#31)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 12:11:50 PM EST

Bought how? If you used a credit card, you already gave away more personal data than an email form.

If it bugs you, get a free hotmail account and give a false name.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Cash... (none / 1) (#36)
by Bios_Hakr on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 01:21:16 PM EST

Its' everywhere you want to be.

I usually end up getting about $100 from the ATM before I go shopping.  I'm not entirely paranoid about being tracked, but it pisses me off when someone buys $10 worth of stuff and then writes a check or uses a debit card.  I think I paid $35 for GalCiv at a local AAFES retailer.  I'm pretty sure I paid cash.

It's not about the personal info.  It is about having to install and run their StarDock Central app in order to check for updates to my game.  Why not just put a link to a FTP site where I can 'wget' the file I want?  No, I have to launch StarDock and then deal with having to use their propriatery download manager that invaribly caps at 10kbps on the download.

[ Parent ]

It's annoying (none / 0) (#38)
by godix on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 02:43:02 PM EST

but it's also typical. Just do what I do, tell them your email is (companyname)sucksdonkeyballs@hotmail.com and your name is Fuckoff Nosyassholes.

Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
- Black Mage[ Parent ]
what's even more fun. (2.25 / 4) (#27)
by waxmop on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 11:17:07 AM EST

Play around with artificial life. Start with drawing a box and have a circle bounce around inside. Then make two circles, and have them move tiny bits to try to avoid each other if they get close. Then write a homemade game-of-life simulation. Then work up the evolutionary ladder to slime molds and cooperative ants. Learning can be fun!
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
Meh (none / 2) (#42)
by bugmaster on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:11:38 PM EST

I wasn't that impressed with GalCiv. Sure, it had a decent AI, but it still can't hold a candle to the original Civ, or even to MOO2 (MOO3 is not a fair contender, since it sucks so badly).

There's nothing specifically broken about GalCiv, it just feels very clumsy, as though cobbled together from several unrelated parts (economy, combat, exploration, etc.). The game also promised a dynamic story system, with game events which drive your decisions which in turn influence the story -- but, in practice, all this means is that random things happen in random order, and you get to choose one of three choices, two of which are usually completely unacceptable. In other words, this is no different from random events in any other Civ clone. Similarly, the touted "uber-world Universe agglomeration", or whatever it's called, just amounts to a global high score table.

Anyway, it's not a bad game, but it's not that great either. Just average. IMO, it's not worth the annoyance of dealing with Stardock's "content manager", or "object dock", or whatever their download manager is called.

GalCiv (2.80 / 5) (#43)
by Tatarigami on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:13:31 PM EST

Tried it for half an hour last night, and it looks good.  I like the interface, especially for viewing the different factions in your own government. My only quarrel with the game would be that you only have four directions of movement, which lead to you spotting interesting anomalies to investigate, and painfully duck-walking your ships towards it. Well, that and the fact it's a little too high-spec to run well on my PC.

For MOO fans disappointed by the third game in the series, I recommend visiting www.freeorion.org, an open-source attempt at updating MOO2.

Space Empires. (none / 0) (#57)
by Kal on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:50:44 AM EST

The Space Empires series is among my favorite 4x strategy games. I've had one version or another of them on my computer for the last five years or so.

I think the single best thing about GalCiv (none / 0) (#72)
by techwolf on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 08:59:30 PM EST

is that they are continuing to make new patches and updates for the game to try and keep it "fresh".

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson

Galactic Civilizations | 72 comments (66 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
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