The Galactic Civilizations Thread

Okay, now if you go to http://www.stardock.com/support.asp and type in your email address and you have purchased GalCiv from us directly it will generate a link for you to download the game through your choice of the full retail installer in a ZIP file or via Stardock Central.

Bandwidth increased to 70 megabits.

Sorry for getting the resolution wrong – the interface looks so cramped that I thought it was 800x600. Okay, I admit that going higher than 1024x768 by default is not realistically an option for consumer PCs. Still would have been nice to allow higher resolutions…

Regarding bandwidth, the complaints seem to have an effect, even if it was just scaring other people away. :) Today I suddenly get 60+ KB/sec for the remaining portion of the multimedia pack! Still only 2/3 of my DSL capacity but I can live with that speed. Also good to hear that a standalone download of the game will be made available, that’s definitely preferrable to jumping through those Stardock Central hoops.

Speaking of which, can I archive and later reinstall the game by just packing away the whole GalCiv folder? Or do I need to reinstall Stardock Central and get a key from your server first, Microsoft-like? (A little documentation on this issue would be nice, e.g. a Readme.txt file which the GalCiv I got doesn’t seem to have.)

As for the user interface, I know that your main business is in that department. That’s why I was rather shocked to see so many basic errors. Using beta testers to check the UI might not be such a great idea, beta-testing fans are notorious for overlooking UI screwups since they’re accustomed to how the game works. Maybe you should just watch someone who hasn’t used Stardock products before try to get GalCiv up and running. I promise you that you’ll hear a lot of cursing.

Want some more UI problems? I saw lots of them…

  • The download manager has a built-in resume function, which is nice. But this is in no way made apparent to the user. There’s just one single button to stop downloading, labelled “Cancel”. I was at first mortally afraid to click that button but then discovered that it’s actually a pause button. Why not label it “Pause” then? Also, pop up a little message box (like GetRight) to inform the user that the download may be continued later. For that purpose, the “Install” button should be changed to “Continue” when there’s already a bunch of downloaded files.

  • Stardock Central and GalCiv get two separate Start menu top items, and the same Stardock Central link is present in both of them. You should arrange everything under a single Stardock item.

  • While fooling around with your forum from within Stardock Central, I clicked “Create New” to see what would happen and got the new message pane. Problem was, there’s no apparent way to make it go away again. Today I discovered that it disappears automatically when you click on a discussion thread. How about a little “Cancel” button next to that “Submit” button on the HTML form?

  • There doesn’t seem to be any in-game hotkey reference. Also, F1 is hardwired to the galaxy map rather than an in-game help or encyclopaedia. There’s no encyclopaedia hotkey either.

  • Using the unmodified Enter key for “Next Turn” strikes me as a recipe for disaster if you accidentally hit that key before you’re done with your actions for that turn. And as I said in my previous post, it should be hardwired to the “Done” button on dialogs and data panes anyway.

Really, the game itself plays great and none of these UI niggles are fatal. But I swear when I first tried to install and play the game I thought someone had read the defunct Interface Hall of Shame and taken the examples as recommendations rather than warnings…

Yeah, I’d go along with that. The game, so far, is fun, but the method of buying and installing it online leaves a LOT to be desired. I had to ask 4 or 5 questions in chat to figure it out, and I’m pretty used to this sort of stuff. The ‘one big download’ option goes a long way towards fixing that part of it, but really, the SDC thing looks like a support nightmare. Nothing about it is intuitive, and worse, it just looks like an excuse to shove the other Stardock products under the consumer’s nose.

More about the game after a gooood long test, but I was up till 4am last night playing it… :)

DeanCo–

You know you COULD just go to the damn store. Or better yet use the Quarter to 3 link to buy it from EBGames.

You know you COULD just remember that Dean is located in France, and I’m in Germany. No, we can’t get the boxed version – at least not without international shipping fees and a few weeks delay.

Never mind that “you don’t have to use this feature” is about the stupidest reason imaginable for trying to dissuade criticism of an advertised feature.

Hehe…now we have France and Germany right where we want them. All clamoring for Galactic Civilizations and we control the delivery process. If this does not get Schroeder and Chirac to come out in support of U.S. efforts in Iraq, nothing will.

Yeah, as I was typing I was imagining the server administrator over at Stardock gleefully throttling our bandwidth… “No bandwidth for Old Europe! We only offer FREEDOM BANDWIDTH!” :wink:

I picked up the retail version of this yesterday, and aside from a few niggling problems, I think this is one helluva game. I thought it might bug me that I can only play human. Wrong. I thought I might be bothered by not being able to design my ships – don’t even miss it.

One of the reviews implied that anomolies were too common to be, er, anomolitical. But I find them just common enough to keep exploration interesting. The graphics are a bit simplistic, but that’s acceptable for such great AI.

The UI is working just fine for me. I found it intuative and packed with information. It took about fifteen minutes of play to memorize the paths to the commonly used info.

You know you COULD just remember that Dean is located in France, and I’m in Germany. No, we can’t get the boxed version – at least not without international shipping fees and a few weeks delay.

Well! There’s your problem. You peace-loving-surrender-monkeys don’t understand how to use a proper interface.

The UI isn’t bad,really,it’s just not documented that well.I’m still trying to figure out what the little ship with the green arrow beside it signifies in the ‘ships in orbit’ box when you’re looking at a system.

I agree with that. I fumbled for a minute or two trying to figure out how to get a colony ship out of orbit.

Played most of a game last night before getting hung up with what appears to be an end-condition bug (I control the entire universe culturally but the cultural victory timer is “stuck” at 12 months).

On the whole, there’s a lot of fun goodness there. But boy, you’ve gotta look past some broken and unpolished stuff. This is really the proverbial girlfriend with a great personality.

Graphics I find are actually fine – functional, and the cutscenes are even decent.

But interface wise and bug wise… it’s got some issues. From little dumb things like the edge-of-screen-scrolling having “dead spots” in it, to a fairly incomprehensible and inconsistent “find next ship” feature, to a badly lacking help system, to text that doesn’t fit in its box, to no real tutorial, to bizarre interface conventions like the colonization system. Why does selecting one ship in a fleet to see how many HP it has break up the fleet? Why do I have to actually get a colonizer built and docked to a starbase before I can see what my module options are? All of these things can be learned around, but they definitely mar what would be a high quality experience.

The combat system is fairly fun; I like that it is kept simple and focused. I dislike that there is almost no feedback about how a combat plays out or why anything happens the way it does. My ground troops have a base advantage of 16. Why? How does that correlate with the “+4.25” that appears in the other part of the ground combat screen? Why does my Battleaxe have an Attack value of 2 sometimes, and 5 other times? Not to mention that when you are attacked during an enemy turn, one side or the other is no longer around for you to even click in and find out who was fighting what.

In general this lack of feedback is a massive barrier to entry on the game. Nothing has tooltip rollover. There is no explanation of how any of the numbers in the game are the way they are (with one exception, the planet details screen, which is greatly appreciated).

This game just feels like it was releases a few months too early, with insufficient test, or at least usability analysis. Which would be fine for a shareware game, but is a little dicey in a “real” retail release. I really hope that they clean up a lot of this stuff for future patches – it would make a huge difference in the quality level of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the game, especially after the disaster of MOO3. But it’s frustrating to see it marred by dumb stuff like this, it has so much cool potential that is blocked by bad interface decisions or implementation.

The game behind the interface really is great, though. I finished downloading the multimedia pack and wouldn’t you know it, purely by accident I played another full game for several hours. :)

The multimedia pack rocks, by the way! It’s not just videos and music but also rotating 3d models for every structure and advance. (That’s what goes in those curious black holes that appear throughout the basic GalCiv interface…) All of it is of amazingly high quality. The music is fantastic, the models are well-designed and reasonably obvious, the animated leaders look nearly as nice as in Civ3, and even the movies can match any high-budget production save Blizzard’s. Definitely download this pack if you haven’t yet.

Xemu, I just have to respectually disagree with you.

Not having some in game hold your hand tutorial is not a “bug”.

The Find next ship works pretty bullet proof in my experience. It finds the next ship that has active moves left (i.e. not on auto pilot, not sentried).

While I agree that not every number in the game has its formula posted within the game, it works in a generally intuitive manner. The game isn’t an outright board game. It is designed so that the numbers are intuitive.

Raising taxes makes people unhappy. Is it really necessary to state how many “unhappy points” each percentage of taxes adds? When you invade a planet and you see you have higher bonuses in technology and soldiering is it really necessary for it to display how the two factors are multiplied to provide your base advantage?

Obviously, some people, such as yourself, do consider that a necessity. But during the course of our open beta, no NDA with 800+ beta testers who had to purchase the game to be in the beta and hence had a vested interest in letting us know what things they wanted to see, no one, not a single person, suggested that we spell out each and every formula.

And if we had, it would have mdae the game far worse because it would have made it distinctly more difficult to tweak values on the fly so that we could make the game more fun.

The Galactic Encyclopedia, while not avaiable in the game directly is linked from the before you start the game and does contain detalied information on how a lot of the underlying technical concepts work.

Virtually every control in the game does have a tool tip roll-over. Every ship, improvement, wonder, technology states, explicitly in percentages, what they do.

But it’s your overall conclusion that I disagree most strongly with. To suggest that the game was someone released too early simply because it doesn’t have a handful of features you want strikes me as, well, incredibly unfair. The same thing could be said of any game.

I mean, heck, your comments could have just as easily pointed to one of my favorite games of all time, Europa Universalis II. And it didn’t have to deal with randomly generated maps. ;)

BTW, I grab the screen with the left mouse button and drag it that way rather than using the mouse scroll.

We will be updating the game throughout the year based on feedback. And in fact the BonusPak is already out, you can get that by going to www.galciv.com, clicking on downloads and clicking on the bonuspack patch.

I bought a Drengin subscription on Monday, and downloaded GalCiv then. Played 2 games, lost both pretty quickly, before I figured out what’s what. Namely, don’t leave the UP, build freighters/trade routes, morale-boosting social improvements, and build constructors ASAP.

I personally didn’t have many problems with SDC, besides the bandwidth issues…took me until yesterday to download multimedia, bonus pak, and manual. BTW, I like the online manual at galciv.com better than the PDF.

My main problem with the UI is that I wish the planet propaganda slider was one screen up, not on details. Ideally I’d rather see it near the planet econ info. Probably no room tho.

I’m really enjoying the gameplay. I started a game last night at 9, and next thing I knew it was 12:30! I like not having to design ships, and I don’t miss tactical combat. Civ-style combat works fine.

One question I have is… what social improvements do you include in your governor? I’ve been putting everything in, morale improvements first (since I’ve always had morale problems). I’m thinking that having every improvement is prohibitively expensive in maintenance. Perhaps I should leave out the morale-boosters until planet morale lowers below a certain threshold, say around 30. Last night I held off on updating my governor with the latest improvements until I had a bunch of trade routes, and a couple upgraded starbases.

Most important thing you can do is build improvements that increase the habitability of a planet.

Siberia with an arcade is sitll Siberia. ;)

a) You probably have starbase modifiers that affect the values of your Battleaxe depending on what sector he is in.

b)We are all in titled to our opinions and I actaully agree with some of the things you said. They can be improved. However, if that’s the extent of your complaints put down the pipe and go enjoy the game. :)

Those problems, imo, are so minor they’re nearly inconsequential. You want big fucking gameplay issues go pick up Moo3 or HoI.

Apparently the part where I say “I still enjoy the game” was lost on all who read my post. :-)

What I find most frustrating is not that the game is bad, but that I think it could have been so much better. That “opportunity cost” bugs me in a game that I really like and want to see reach a wider audience (and be more accessible for me as a user).

I agree that not having a strong tutorial is not a bug, but it is an interface issue, and time after time HCI studies have shown that it is one of the largest factors controlling usability and barrier to entry. While there are a few bugs, I readily admit that the vast majority of issues I have with the game are features, I just think they are features needed to achieve a certainly theshold of usability.

I’m not sure how showing the formulas reduces tweakability. And really, I’m not looking for complex formulae, I’m looking for comprehension. Like, what factors DO control combat efficiency? Knowing whether I’m getting +10 from tech and +1 from abilities, or +1 and +10, makes a huge difference in how to plan and make choices. Choices without information are meaningless. The more you can make that information “transparent” to the user, and increase the clarity of the system, the more they understand the game and the more fun they have. There’s a lot of information in a game like this – figuring out how to present it in a clear and concise, yet not overwhelming, fashion is definitely tricky. But that’s exactly what polish is all about.

We can disagree on methods of production; after all it’s your game and not mine, Brad. :-) But I do spend a lot of time studying polish and production value, and things like text that overflow boxes, numbers without explanation, interface elements that are never explained, and systems without feedback are definitely part of that. Hey, it’s fine to ship a game with out that if that’s your call. By saying “early” I more meant “with a few more months of polish I think it could be vastly improved”. That’s just my opinion, of course, but you can look at highly polished games like Warcraft III or Zelda and you don’t see a lot of rough edges. For better or worse, I see a lot of rough edges with GalCiv2, stuff that could presumably be fixed with more time. Obviously, a game can’t stay in development forever, and you have to make the call to release it sooner or later.

I do think it’s excellent that you guys are committed to heavy support from the outset – I’m very excited to see where the game goes, and I it always renews a game to get a new patch, especially when they have new content to boot.

Boy, I sure wouldn’t use Europa Universalis II as a good example of interface or polish either (and certainly not HoI). So that difference right there perhaps explains our different metrics of comparison. :-)

Oh, one thing I don’t think I made clear – there is a lot of good info in the game, but I think that it’s connectivity is what presents it from being as useful as it could be. So for example I get told that Phasers gives me +10% attack, but it’s hard to see, on my ship, where my bonuses are coming from. Cold Fusion tells me I’ll be able to research Impulse Drives (or whatever) in the techtree, but I have no way to see what Impulse Drives actually gets me. It’s stuff like that, and the +25% manufacturing vs +25% production little stuff that just bugs me personally. :-)

Please take my suggestions in the positive spirit they are intended; I spent way too many hours playing the game last night and I am likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. :-)

I order Galciv from GoGamer, who’s usually on the ball.

It hasn’t shipped yet, and is marked as backorder.

Right, off to get it from somewhere else.