By Andreas 'Interman’ Misund
With a past going back to OS/2 times (if anyone remembers it), we are proud to have an interview with Galactic Civilization lead designer, Brad Wardell.
Hi, who are you, and what was your role in the development of Galactic Civilizations?
I am the lead designer of Galactic Civilizations.
Would you elaborate on the history of Galactic Civilizations?
I originally wrote the game for OS/2 back in 1993-1994. I wanted to do a strategy game where the AI didn't cheat or more to the point, played by the same exact rules as the human player. But at the time, the only way to do that was to have the game be multithreaded. Multithreaded means that the game could multitask within itself. So while the human player was moving his ships around and making decisions, the computer player could be calculating its strategy too. This gave the AI a lot more time to come up with real strategies.
The game came out on OS/2 in 1994 and sequels in 95 and 98. While it was immensely popular on OS/2, the rest of the world had never heard of the game.
Now Stardock's a lot bigger and has a lot more resources and is recreating the game from scratch for Windows. It's kind of nice because so few people have heard of the game but because the game did exist previously, we already know which things work and don't work in this kind of strategy game. Imagine a new game that had many years of playtesting behind it?
With the depth of this game - How do you win?
There are several different ways to win. You have the traditional "Conquer everyone" route. But you also have winning through political means (getting elected President of the United Planets). You have the economic path where you can become the trade czar of the galaxy if your trade represents the majority of all the foreign power's economies. You have a "New Galactic Order" route, which basically just means you made alliances with all the surviving players. And you have a technology victory, which is if you research all the techs in the game.
I have read that replay ability is important Galactic Civilizations, how do you plan to keep players busy?
You know how most games come with full-blown single player campaigns? We don't. Instead, we're putting the work we would have put into a campaign into making each individual game feel like a unique epic. So each game can almost feel like a mini-campaign with bits and pieces brought in randomly each game. You could play for months without seeing everything.
How about people who are new to games where micromanagement is important- how can they easily learn the game play?
I don't like micro management personally. GalCiv does not have nearly as much micro management in it as most games -- though we do give the player the option of micro managing a lot.
We avoid micro management through the use of flexible user interfaces. Players can control planets, or they can control star systems or they can control groups of star systems on up until they feel the level of management is good for them.
How does warfare work in Galactic Civilizations?
Very simplistic: Two ships meet, one ship dies.
However, each ship has its own attack, defense and hitpoint rating along with experience. Ships can go up levels, which gives them bonuses in attack, defense and hitpoints. So a good player will try to get their damaged capital ships repaired so that they can keep amassing experience. A level 4 dreadnought will be able to take out several level 1 dreadnoughts for instance.
How does the multiplayer part work?
There is no head to head multiplayer at all and there are no plans to have any. This is on purpose - we want to spend our energies on a strategy game in which the single human player is the "star" of the game.
However, we are working on something called the metaverse that we feel many players will prefer to traditional multiplayer for the reasons I describe below:
When you play the game single player, you can have your game recorded onto the metaverse. Your stats are then saved on a sort of "super-ladder" along with the stats of thousands of other players. As you amass experience through wins, you can build an empire on the metaverse complete with a map of the galaxy and your empire inside of it.
Additionally, users can opt to let us peek at their strategies (which are recorded along with their games - i.e. their moves). The AI is being designed so that it can download the strategies of top players so that it can essentially emulate many aspects of them.
So when you play the AI on hardest, it's like playing a real person because they'll be using many of the same moves and tactics (this is already partially implemented, this isn't pie in the sky stuff here). The only thing missing is having some guy swearing at you. ;)
Players will also be able to ban together to create imperiums on the metaverse. So the points they get are spread to other people in their imperium and they can try to take over the galaxy from other imperiums.
Has anything funny happened during the development?
Some of the aliens during development have looked pretty funny. We finally managed to get hair to look decent but only recently. Before that it was "Scary Drengin guy with his plastic hair!"
We had some humor that we have to remember to take out
What do you think of this year's E3?
I actually didn't go this year. Was too busy working on GalCiv code-wise and it's kind of depressing to travel all the way to E3 to see cool games and most of the games I want to see are only privately shown.
How do you intend for Galactic Civilization to compete with games like Master of Orion 3 etc?
All we can really do is try to make the best game we can. I do think we have one particular advantage over most games and that is we can afford to work on GalCiv for years to come. That is, when GalCiv is released, we can afford to keep putting in additional features based on player feedback whereas with the standard publisher ->contracted developer model, the contracted developer usually only creates a patch or two and moves on to the next contract. So players can expect to see a GalCiv 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and so on that has significant new features to keep the game fresh. I do think we'll get squashed by MOO3 though still because there's just no way to compete with their marketing momentum, but I think as time goes on, more and more strategy gamers will learn about GalCiv and we'll be able to build our own momentum.
Any final words for strategy fans worldwide?
We really hope to make a game that targets them. That is, we're really trying to make a game where the computer player makes intelligent moves. Where your strategic decisions have real consequences in the game that you can see. A game where you have lots of strategic options available to you.
I really enjoy reading about history and we really hope to make Galactic Civilizations feel rich enough with enough depth that each game will feel like an epic part of a fictional history.
Thank you very much for your time!