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Galactic Civilizations 3 Interview: Beta 2, Status and More

By on October 17th, 2014 10:00 am

Galactic Civilizations 3 | The third installment to the turn-based space 4X strategy game series by Stardock

Yesterday, Stardock released a new major update for Galactic Civilizations 3, the new installment to their space 4X flagship series, and with that the game entered “Beta 2”. This update brought diplomacy, trade, different victory conditions, a special diplomacy feature called “The United Planets”, a “new” (brought back) race – the Krynn, and global events. Further along the path until release (tentatively April 2015), there’s a “Beta 3” stage, which should bring space combat, ground invasions and the Yor race (from GalCiv2). Two more other races are expected to be added in early 2015. Being we effectively 6 months away from release, I thought this was a good time to host an interview with Stardock. The lead designer, Paul Boyer answered our questions regarding this beta 2 update, the project status and what’s yet to come. Enjoy!

SS: So, diplomacy will be available on Early Access in Beta 2. What would you say is special and different about diplomacy in GalCiv3 from other 4X games?

Paul Boyer: I think what makes GC3 special, when it comes to diplomacy, is the same thing that makes it special over all: the scope. Not only are there more things to trade, more treaties to make, and more alliances to be formed, there are more ways to do it.

In GC3 when we talk about diplomacy we really include several things; Classic Diplomatic Trade, Techs, and Resources. There is also, Interaction – how different AI characters will treat you and each other, making sure your actions not only affect your relations but their mode. And finally we have Trade Routes – forming trade routes with other races can greatly affect how they feel about you, not to mention make credits for you both.

SS: Trade was also unlocked in Beta 2. There’s mention of trade routes and trade route raiding. What exactly can you do with respect to trading in the game?

Paul Boyer: Trade routes in beta 2 are still pretty basic. You can now trade with other races by sending freighters to their worlds. They can be very profitable depending on the wealth of the planets trading, the distance of the route, and how long the route exists. As mentioned above they are very helpful in establishing good relations as well.

We will be introducing several new types of trade routes as well; routes that boost influence, research, etc. You will even be able to establish slave trade routes, which boost population and production, but anger all the non-slaving races.

Raiding will be done a bit differently in GC3. A player will park an armed ship on a trade route, and select “Raid.” Once raiding they will become visible to both trading partners. The longer they last on the route the more credits they make. Last long enough and the trade route is broken.

SS: There’s also “The United Planets” new feature, which I suppose is something like the World Congress from Civilization 5? Could you explain how it works? Is there a United Planets leader? If so, how are you elected and what sort of galactic laws can be passed?

Paul Boyer: Perhaps what I am most excited about in GC3 is the new United Planets system. You can now get elected Chairbeing of the U.P. and choose what proposals can be put forward. This allows you to use the U.P. as a part of your arsenal. By making friends with enough other races you can use your clout to get resolutions passed that can be very beneficial, or even save your butt. You can also use the U.P. to strike out at your enemies. I think that the new UP will add an entirely new aspect to the Diplomatic Game, especially as we roll out more races. Our goal is to let players play games with as many as 100 races, each with votes and agendas of their own. It’s going to be really cool.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | The United Planets

SS: Global events are also listed for Beta 2. You mean random events? Could you give a few examples? How do they impact the gameplay and can the player do anything about them (perhaps even to prevent them)?

Paul Boyer: Yes, in beta 2 we start bringing in Galactic events. These will start off pretty simple, like things that boost everyone’s production or growth rate, etc. Others will require an ideological choice. These will give you different bonus and ideological points, depending on the choices you make. They will affect game play substantially.

That said, we still have Mega Events planned for a future beta. These are the Big Ones that can totally change the flow of the game. These are so big that we actually make them an option.

SS: Walks us through The Krynn new faction. What’s special about it? 

Paul Boyer: When the Krynn were introduced in Twilight of the Arnor, they were actually a collision of smaller races and their primary focus is their religious zeal. In GC3 the still want to spread their religion across the galaxy, but the recent wars have taken their toll and the darker side of their culture has become more prominent.

In GC3 we have fleshed out their culture a bit more, creating several new branches in their tech tree, the most noticeable of which is “The Path”. The Path is more than their religion, it is also the key to their influence and approval, giving them a big advantage in the influence game.

They also have “The Shadow Path.” This is more or less a religiously sanctioned underworld that steps up to do the dirty work when needed. They are not afraid to extort, smuggle, or downright kill, to make sure that the unbelievers in the galaxy find “The Path”.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | Tech tree, including Krynn's special tech branch

SS: Are there any other features, major or minor, available in this Beta 2 update that you’d like to mention besides the ones mentioned already?

Paul Boyer: There are too many small change to list, however there are a few that we are excited to get out to the testers.

We have enabled Influence, Technology, Diplomatic, and Ascension Victories. We have also added in some of the more often requested UI features, better management of Colony ships and transports, Rally Points, more mini map controls, and Huge Maps. We have also hooked up “Commands” which allow you to give civilization-wide orders to all your ships, planets, and Starports. These are amazingly useful on larger maps.

We have also added Precursor relics, which are similar to the old-style resources in GC2, and by studying them you can get civilization-wide bonuses.

SS: How is the AI coming along?

Paul Boyer: The AI is getting smarter, but we don’t want to over-sell it at this point. There is a long way to go. It’s smarter at how in manages planets, shipyards, etc. It’s a bit better at hunting you down and killing you. Our main push into AI is yet to come.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | Colony development

SS: What’s your favorite aspect or feature of GalCiv3?

Paul Boyer: It is really hard to say; as the designer I tend to see the entire game as one big moving part. It’s hard for me to single anything out. That said I got my start in GalCiv2 as the Art Director, and the Ship Designer has always been my baby, so I will say it holds a special place in my heart.

In general I think what I love most about GC is its flexibility. Depending on map size, map settings, etc., it can be so many different types of games that you can play over and over and still find fun new strategies. I always know when something is working because I start feeling guilty for playing the game too long, and not working on it.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | Ship designer

SS: What do you think about GalCiv3’s Early Access experience as a whole from your point of view as lead designer? How helpful and successful do you think it was to the development process? And, what’s your approach when sorting new ideas that come out from Early Access feedback? Could you give us some examples of features that were actually included in the game from the Early Access feedback process?

Paul Boyer: We have always done early access of some kind here at Stardock, the only real difference is that these days steam has broadened the audience quite a bit. We get some great feedback; the Founders program in general was very useful. We got a lot of very good feedback on small tweaks, and usability. Not to mention all the help we get finding the weirder bugs that keep us up at night.

There were a few notable changes that came out of the early access release. We brought back Starports (Now Shipyards) because players did not like only having one queue on their worlds, and we also brought back the concept of Military and Social spending. This greatly affects the pace of the game and the player’s sense of control.

SS: With GalCiv3 well into development now, what would you say are the most significant differences between GalCiv3 and GalCiv2, in your opinion?

Paul Boyer: Once again I would say scope. GC3 is going to be a bigger and richer experience; we did not want to make a completely new game, we wanted to make the GalCiv2 of our dreams.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | Starmap (zoomed out)

SS: Being this a sequel to a franchise it’s expected that there will be innovations. What would you say are the percentages between features kept from GalCiv2, improved features and innovation to the series?

Paul Boyer: It’s hard to say as there is almost nothing from GC2 that has not been re-done, at least under the covers. I would say we kept more of GC2 than most sequels, primarily because we think it’s a great game. But we have added a lot of new depth and features even to old GC2 mechanics. I think the Adjacency system on the planets is a great example of this. I think interstellar terrain, strategic resources, smarter UI, much bigger and richer maps, and an overall more player-friendly learning curve are great places to start.

Of course there is always the new 64-bit engine that drives the game, allowing us to give each race its own unique style, a large variety of ships, unique technologies, and personalities. This really becomes important as we roll out larger and larger maps. Internally we are already testing the “Insane” map size which has over a half million tiles, and games with 100 races. These games are crazy because when entire Galactic Empires rise and fall on the other side of the galaxy and you don’t even know it, it makes for a very immersive experience.

SS: Hexes. How solid are they at this point? And, what was the rationale for including them in this iteration in the first place? Why are they better for this design in your opinion?

Paul Boyer: Hexes have worked out well. We like that movement is clearer, and it also helps with the layouts of star systems. It’s always hard to do circles on a square tiled map. On top of this I think it just looks better, more “sci-fi,” and it gives the ships a bit more room to strut their stuff.

Galactic Civilizations 3 | Starmap (zoomed in)

SS: So, combat is expected to be in for Beta 3, which should happen around the end of the year. What can you tell us about it at this point? How will combat work?

Paul Boyer: We are still keeping combat a bit under wraps, but we can say we are very excited about it. We did not want to go to a full battle simulation where players gave commands to individual ships, it adds too much micro management and a late games player would go mad when there are multiple battles per turn.

Instead we are focusing more on Fleet makeup, and we will have special components that give ships unique abilities in a battle. Building your fleet will become an art, almost like a deck of cards in Hearthstone. It will be pretty easy to learn, but will leave a lot of room for mastery and nuance.

SS: Release should be roughly six months away, according to the game’s tentative schedule. So, regarding the project as a whole, how is it going? What other major features are still left to be revealed, and what do you think is or are the biggest challenges ahead?

Paul Boyer: I am very happy with the game so far. I have a great team and we are all very passionate about the game. I think we will be able to have the game as designed, fun and ready to go on time. That said, you can’t work on something like this without getting some really cool ideas for the future. So I am really excited about future expansions, and DLC. This should be good news to our Elite Founders, who will get them all for free.

SS: Thanks for your time.

Galactic Civilizations 3 is developed by Stardock and is set to launch in Q1 of 2015 for Windows PC (64-bit). It’s currently in beta on Steam Early Access.

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  1. Rog says:

    I’ve been playing Beta 2 but theres some tings that just don’t make sense:

    1) Fleet creation/stacking sucks. Why can’t I create one huge fleet with dozens of ships if I want to and give it all possible orders as if it were a single ship?

    2) Ship range makes no sense. A ship can cruise out to its max range and stay there in the middle of deep space until a new engine tech is researched, upgrade itself in the middle of deep space, and then continue on to its next max range. What? Each ship should have a range that depends on fuel capacity like the system in Sword of the Stars. You run out of fuel, you’re dead in the water. Or, under the assumption these ships have some sort of reactor with long lived fuel source, don’t limit range, only limit speed.

    3) Physical upgrades to ships should only be available at shipyards.

    I’m interested to see how combat will turn out. Its sad there won’t be interactive tactical combat, but at least give us the ability to determine the order of battle and fleet spatial configuration ala SOTS.

  2. Mark says:

    No interactive tactical combat? AGAIN?? Sorry that’s just not good enough, I’ll be passing on this one.

    • Boris says:

      Agreed, the abysmal sh1tty combat was always the worse thing about this series and to hear it’s still gash will save me money and lose Stardock a sale.

      Pretty weak but probably a decision made by an accountant.

  3. Triarius says:

    Ditto on the tactical combat thing. It looks more like a BS excuse to say that they didn’t add tactical combat because they felt it added micromanagement. If that really is their greatest concern, they could simply give the player the choice to automatically resolve battles or take command themselves. They could even take a leaf or two from the Total War series’ book regarding how to handle planetary invasions which should be a rough analogy to the siege mechanics from TW.

    Overall, judging by this interview, this game seems like its on its way to becoming the third expansion pack to GalCiv 2 only with much beefier system requirements rather than a new, fleshed-out game on its own. Yeah, I think I’ll stick to GalCiv2 + expansions.

  4. Smoking Robot says:

    They want to make ‘the Galciv 2 of our dreams’? So, let’s take a tedious game with mechanics that are over-thought and not very workable and make it more complex?

    What could go wrong?

  5. JT says:

    I absolutely adore GalCiv2, it’s my favourite game of all time, so naturally I pre-ordered GC3 as soon as I was able to.

    I am worried though that GalCiv3 doesn’t do enough to distinguish it from GC2. ‘Sticking to your roots’ is a great idea, but you really do have to add something else to a game to warrant a continuation of the series. There really isn’t anything new in GC3 apart from better graphics and a different tech tree, and it is disappointing.

    I will play and enjoy the game regardless, but I just wish they would have added some new mechanics and content into the game to make it more than GC2.5

  6. Expanding Man says:

    I went through a brief phase where I felt that there absolutely MUST be some sort of direct control over combat, preferably a full-blown turn-based tactics game. Later, after spending a great deal of time playing the likes of Fallen Enchantress, Age of Wonders and Endless Legend, I realized how much I DON’T like turn-based tactical combat being embedded in a grand strategy game. (Granted, in the case of games like AoW, tactical combat is the real focus of the game, so my complaint doesn’t apply there like it would for GalCiv.) Especially in late game, I start to find the distraction of so many tactical battles infuriating. In retrospect I think my preoccupation with strategy games with tactical combat was juvenile and idiotic. Though it’s tempting to think so, cramming as many games as possible into one doesn’t necessarily make for the best experience.

    That said, surely the best thing to do would be to have some sort of direct control combat, with an option to resolve automatically, but I have found that the discrepancies between the auto-resolve simulation and manual combat are so aggravating, that I constantly stress out over which to chose. Of course adding a tactical combat system would funnel a huge amount of development time out of other aspects of the game, so now I’m quite happy without it. That’s not to say every auto-resolve combat system is fine, and it certainly should depend critically on fleet preparation. For example, GalCiv2’s was terrible, but that’s a whole separate discussion.

    I suppose I begrudgingly have to say GalCiv2 is my favorite 4X (although I think it has many flaws, the combat being the biggest), so I’m hopeful about GalCiv3. I finally spent a significant amount of time on Distant Worlds, and some aspects of it are pretty impressive, but the interface is so abysmal and frustrating that I suspect it won’t be long before I never pick it up again, so the arrival of GalCiv3 and Civ:BE are welcome.

  7. Happy Corner says:

    I’m glad to see at least a few other positive comments about GalCiv 3. Back in the day, GalCiv 2 was one of my favorite space 4X games (if not THE favorite), so I can’t say that “GalCiv 2.5” would really be the end of the world.

    Yes, I worry whether it will have enough innovations from GalCiv 2, but the interview mentioned a few promising things. In GalCiv 2, it always annoyed me that the United Planets agenda was always random… I always wished you could select your own proposals like you could in Alpha Centauri. It’s nice to see GalCiv 3 taking a step in that direction. I’m also curious about the fleet management and colossal galaxies… since this is turn-based, maybe those won’t turn into a late-game migrane-inducing click-fest like giant galaxies do in Distant Worlds.

    You know, all the other recent and upcoming 4X games have been greeted with a lot of skepticism, too. It’s almost as though space 4X fans are becoming like Star Wars fans. Star Wars fans LOVE to bitch about Star Wars, and it seems that we ourselves enjoy complaining about 4X games more than we love playing them.

    • JT says:

      I believe the criticism is due to a sudden surge of 4x games recently, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it just makes people question ‘What has this game have that others haven’t?’.

      Endless Legend for example looks like one of the blandest 4x games I have ever seen, and Endless Space was a soulless game trying to be the next MOO2.

      Many games have tried to be the next MOO2 and MOM but so far nothing has really succeeded.

      • DevildogFF says:

        How can you say “the blandest 4X game”? It’s one of the most beautiful graphics-wise and very little is “bland”.

        I have to know.

      • BTJ says:

        I have to agree with Devildog. EL is one of the best games that came out in the last years, IMHO. I know, nothing is perfect. But since I decided not to care about one or the other weakness in games, but to just fire them up, play and have fun, I came to enjoy a lot of games. Now, funnily enough, in all of the forums of these games you will find people who insist that it is the worst game ever or is “unplayable” if this or that certain bug or mechanic is not fixed/changed.
        EL will get some more love (DLC) in the next months. I wager it will be a classic in some years frome now!

      • SQW says:

        EL is the prettiest 4X game out this year but man, Amplitude still can’t code AI – even with the simplified tactical requirement. Given the review on the forum, I’m glad I gave it a pass; as with ES and Warlock, the fun are mostly skin deep.

        Personally, I never like GC2. I got SOTS at the same time and GC2’s boring tech tree, bland map, un-engaging combat and carbon copy races meant I couldn’t stomach more than a few hours of it. If GC3 is just a graphical update of the previous iteration, then count me out.

  8. BlueTemplar says:

    Hopefully the fleet makeup will allow a larger diversity of meaningful choices than the 3 defenses / 3 attacks system of GalCiv2.
    I find the comparison with Hearthstone disingenuous – Are there many people that compose a deck, then let the computer play it for you?

  9. t1it says:

    I managed not to buy this one yet, I’m proud of myself! This doesn’t look all that great now. The interview here in SS months ago gave us hints of what they intended to do (that is, not much) but I believed they’d surprise us with something new. Instead it’s incremental upgrades everywhere. Meh!
    Actually, double Meh!
    Probably a solid 8.2ish game but it’s completely uninteresting compared to Star drive. Still of course it’s pretty much 100% buy in my case. I don’t like the 4x gamer inside me that much nowadays >_>

  10. edward says:

    This looks like just another rehash of gal civ 2 nothing in the interview about the game stands out as the guy says to every question it’s a matter of scope! Well I’m afraid with lots of other 4x games coming soon I will also be giving this one a miss.

  11. NoldorElf says:

    Kind of underwhelmed by what I am seeing here.

    As others have noted, the lack of a good tactical combat system is a pretty big disappointment. Something like SOTS would have been a huge addition to the game and would have radically changed mechanics. In turn, this would have needed a whole new set of other mechanics, such as weapon types (SOTS had many) and armor types.

    I think that yeah, it is indeed GC2 with somewhat better graphics. But the problem is, for 2014, the graphics already do feel dated.

    Some things I feel that are unaddressed:
    – Universe seems shallow compared to say, Alpha Centauri (very rich story, special mechanics like Worms, terraforming is much more in depth than the mining of GC2)

    – There is a general lack of story and uniqueness behind the factions. Twilight tried to fix this with tech trees, but more work is needed.

    – The tech trees themselves felt underwhelming

    – Improvements too needed more variety

    – Certain mechanics like espionage needed work

    The issue I see is that GC2 lacked an engaging universe. In many ways, it shared the flaws of AOW3, only without the elaborate tactical combat and better strategy layer.

  12. salvo says:

    well, when I decided to support the development of Gc3 by purchasing the founder edition I assumed that stardock would create a new game which would deliver a new experience to the player and not just a reclothing of the old one. From this point of view, I’m totally disappointed with the game, not because it’s a bad one but because it’s too much the same as the old one.
    btw .. I too would have preferred a detailed control of combat, turn based or real time whatever, but that’s not my main concern. And frankly, I don’t think that the grand strategy argument is a valid one for a space strategy game. What GC3 totally fails to deliver is the atmosphere, the impression that you are playing a space game, that’s why a keep returning to SOTS2 despite its faults. Anyway. after this I’ll certainly think twice before supporting stardock again

  13. hakkarin says:

    “Once again I would say scope. GC3 is going to be a bigger and richer experience; we did not want to make a completely new game, we wanted to make the GalCiv2 of our dreams.”


    When will developers learn that scope/scale is not the same as more depth. If the same thing happens as before but 10x more often then that doesn’t add more depth or deeper gameplay. It just means more stuff is happening on screen. This is the reason I find the Distant worlds series to be so overrated. People say it’s very complex but it really isn’t. It just has lots of stuff happening at once.

  14. BlueInstinct says:

    unlike most of you here i apreciate the idea of expanding on the scale of 4x games.

    most 4x these days seem to go the RPGish way and focus on small groups of units and few citys.

    thats nice but really doesnt catch a feel of galactic greatness for a lack of a better term.

    ofc management tools will need to be provided, and the global modifiers are a big step in the right direction.

    to be honest, i was never a fan of GC2. but the big scope the devs are aiming for here, combined with a very good shipdesigner made me very interested suddenly.

    I think this game can become something really special just by acomplishing that feel of grandness

    i look forward!

  15. Cheetie says:

    Actually, I kinda like what I see for now. We’ve got abundance of 4x games coming our way anyway, so it will be always good to come back to GalCiv 2,5.

    They might always improve combat and other sectors with DLC’s. I hope so.

  16. Jeff P says:

    I’ve been a big fan of the entire Galactic Civilization series, starting with the first game many years ago. That being said, I’m disappointed with GC3.

    Gal Civ 2 was very different from and a huge improvement over the original game. In Stardock’s own words, Gal Civ 3 is just “…the GalCiv2 of our dreams.”

    It seems like Stardock has missed a real opportunity to distinguish Gal Civ 3 from its predecessors and others of the genre. I will probably still buy the game at some point, but only after all the bugs are quashed and the price is heavily discounted.

    • Smoking Robot says:

      Look at Civ IV – a great game, a classic.

      When they came out with Civ V, was it just a fancy version of IV?

      No. It was a fresh, new game, that was more approachable yet still had lots of depth.

      Looks like Stardock didn’t decide to go in that direction. A pity. Because GC2 is not a game that deserves a fancy re-skin job.

      • t1it says:

        But thats exactly the opinion of the (vast?) majority of their fans. It _is_ worth a “re-skin job” as you put it. Look at the forums; any thread that has a different opinion is bullied or outright flamed. Stardock knows exactly what they want with this game, and that’s a good thing (for them).
        I personally also wants a sequel with much similarities to GC2 but definitely not a 90+% re-skin as it looks right now.
        Also they may change their mind and add tactical combat later in an expansion when the base game is fine tuned. Saying it now because few 4x games nowadays are 100% satisfactory for neither the players nor the developers themselves. Though in this case, Stardock clearly has the money for it, they just choose not to implement it. We’ll see.

      • NoldorElf says:

        To be honest, Civ V still has its share of issues.

        The AI is pretty awful at warfare for example. Not sure it is quite the step in the right direction.

        • Mark says:

          Aint that the truth. I still shudder when I recall dealing with Civ V’s carpets of death. Worst idea ever.

  17. Keith Turner says:

    Surprised that combat is still being kept under wraps. I figured by now they would have solidified the design enough to feel comfortable showing it off.

    I do like the sound of United Planets feature.

    Overall I’m curious, but I’m remaining a bit pessimistic about this one. I’m inclined to think StarDrive 2 is going to be a more interesting upcoming space 4X game, at least for my personal taste.

    • hakkarin says:

      The only thing that StarDrive 2 looks like it is going to lack is some kind if GC2 style United Planets diplomacy system. Other than that, it looks like a Master of Orion 2 clone with tactical combat, which sounds much more fun than GC2 does.

  18. DennisP says:

    Can anyone tell me if contructors are still a big part of GalCiv 3? That was the one part of the previous two games that killed the fun for me. I spent more time pumping them out than anything else I did in the game.

  19. On tactical combat; I hate a lot of micromanagament in combat. Then again, I would hate to have nothing to do with it either. If GC brings some sort of fleet commands instead of per-ship orders I’ll be very happy.

  20. stormcloud says:

    Meh. Pass. Never been a fan of the Gal Civ series anyway.

    I wish Kerberos would continue the SoTS franchise, they have a knack for excellent designs overall. SoTS2 had novel concepts which further enriched certain elements of gameplay, ALL which unfortunately were let down by poor coding/UI. It’s pathological throughout the SoTS series in general. This has always been their major weakspot imo. The current SoTS2 UI makes me want to … do things uncivil … to the guy who worked on it, figuratively speaking.

    • Rog says:

      Yeah, SOTS2 dropped the ball in a lot of aspects. SOTS1 was a much better game. The whole mission/fleet based command system was heavily flawed in SOTS2. I have yet to see a 4G space strategy game match SOTS1’s level when it comes to 3D maps, movement/range/FTL mechanics, and tactical combat.

      If someone would re-make SOTS1 in a 64bit game that could handle huge numbers of ships in tactical combat (the “reserve fleet” business in SOTS1 to limit the number of objects onscreen was kinda stupid), added better fleet control, added colony management delegation to AI “governors”, added more races, allowed espionage to steal other race’s FTL tech, and incorporated ground combat that didn’t suck, I’d happily pay $60+ for it.

  21. Keith Turner says:

    Galciv 3 is at 50% off now on Steam for about the next 20 hours if anyone has been wanting to buy it while it is still in Early Access.

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