Very Long - bring a snack
It’s about a week since release, and it seems to me appropriate to go over the “state of the game” and include some ideas for playing and for improvements The general outline is first, to take a game I am currently playing, touch on how it is set up, what key ideas (which are not so obvious) should be considered toward the beginning. Second, I will jump to midgame, touching on how I got there and how I “feel” about the game at that point. At this time I will start folding in a number of suggestions concerning more or less important issues with some ideas for the future.
[As background I might mention that I have been active since mid-November and I have made significant additions to the Wiki. I also played GC2 back in the day, and have had some input into the Community Update for Twilight of the Arnor which should be coming out fairly soon (though it can be downloaded and played now, it doesn’t have SD’s final touches yet.]
My Rig: A four year old Dell XPS 8100, dual core i5 650 @ 3.2 GHz, with 16 gB Ram.
I set my virtual memory minimum = maximum = 24466 mB. Windows usually suggests 1x RAM for miminum and 3x RAM for maximum, which is likely fine, but I prefer that the system not change its swap file on the fly. Please note: DO NOT turn off virtual memory because you have 16 gB or more and you don’t see the game using nearly that much. Turning it off can cause crashes and interferes with dump files, while providing an infinitesimal improvement to performance. You can research it easily enough; I was pointed in the right direction by a Stardock developer.
I frequently see questions about how to set the basic parameters of the game, which to me include (1) Size of the Galaxy, (2) Number of factions playing, and (3) Number of habitable planets. The other settings are less important, but can be adjusted to taste, most of mine are the default. For the game in question I chose occ/abundant/common/uncommon for stars/planets/habitable planets/extreme planets with uncommon minors. My galaxy size is immense and I have 15 AI factions, all custom. I suggest on Huge that 8 AI is about right. A lot of custom races can be downloaded now from these links, and Frogboy goes through how to set them up. Many thanks to the people involved!
I should point out that Larsenex has suggested that on very big maps that using rare settings for habitable planets and reducing the number of factions can make for a very manageable and interesting game. I am definitely going to try this soon.
My difficulty is challenging. I am no expert by any means, but normal is actually not very hard. I played normal throughout the beta only because I though not worrying about winning or losing and being able to expand quickly would make it easier to test many things in the game.
Initial Consderations: Building and Expansion.
The start of the game is a race to get colonies, resources, and relics. One way is to send the three thips you start with in different directions towards nearby stars. I am now thinking that keeping the colony ship at home until a target appears and rush building a scout or two is better. A colony ship as a scout has threee problems: pirates, once they find a colony you have lost your scout, and I nearly always send my colony ship in the wrong direction. The general idea is to build colony ships, settle planets, and then build more colony ships on those planets. At the same time one needs scouts and constructors to find things and to lock down resources and relics, respectively. Loading colony ships with a small population (minimum is reasonable) on denser maps will keep you from depleting your capital which at first is your main source of production.
But before anything, start building some factories on your home planet. If there are planets to settle of quality greater than 7, build colony ships. You don’t need to scout first if you already have a goal.
It is a useful idea to buy a colony ship outright. It’s expensive (at the moment 15x normal cost!), but time is of the essence and you have 5000 BC to spend. However, I suggest not to do this until you have a target to colonize. And sometimes I never do this: having a pot of money allows you to run a deficit for a long time, which can help early development and allow for emergency situations (I need a constructor NOW).
At my settings one will start colonizing fairly soon. You will then get ideology points. There are three ideologies at the start that stand out. 1. Benevolent: get a free fully loaded colony ship. If I have a target for this ship, I will choose this option. 2. Benevolent: Free research. Very early in the game this is huge. You get several techs. I take this if I don’t have a target for the colony ship. 3. Pragmatic: three free constructors. You can upgrade these three to colony ships; personally, I don’t do that. Just a personal choice though. The constructors have at this point have three uses: either lock down multiple resources as a mining starbase, lock down a relic (you get the first Xeno Archeology tech at start), or extend you exploring range. The choices here depend on the map you have found. So right from the start you have tough choices that are very important and map dependent to some extent.
At each new colony I start with two or more factories and then try to figure if they can be specialized; if so, there is a big payoff in efficiency. Since release I have been quasi-specializing; I will have manufacturing and either research, wealth, or sometimes influence. Having some manufacturing everywhere will be very handy if a surprise war occurs. Leave room for approval building(s). You will need them eventually. You can try to wait until terraforming to build these, but I usually find this is too late. The problem is that you want your approval on each colony to be 100% if possible. Why?
The economy of each planet starts with “total production” which is sort of like the most base output your people can manage, of ANY kind. Production is NOT the same as manufacturing! It is NOT necessary to learn formulae or do calculations, but a general idea of what is going on is important. Basic formula:
Raw Total Production = [ 2 * (pop^0.7z) + additive bonuses ] * [ 1 + multiplicative bonuses ]
[Corrected thanks to a good catch by Joeball123] (see his post).
Ok, a quick run through to get the salient points.
The population contribution, 2 * (pop^.7), has that exponent so that that the production from higher populations is less efficient. Note that at 10 pop, 2 * 10^.7 is almost exactly 10. This coincidence can be confusing and make it seem like raw production is just the population. This is NOT true at all.
The additive bonuses are flat bonuses such as: colony capital bonus, 5. civilization captital bonus 5. Durantium refinery, 1. One Iconian tech, Enhanced production, gives total production + 1. (There are others.) So a colony capital with a durantium refinery at the start when population is 10 (10^.7 is almost exactly 5) is 2 * 5 + 5 +5 + 1 or 21 --- this is then multiplied by the sum of the multiplicative bonuses to give the total raw production.
What are multiplicative bonuses? These are raw or total production bonuses such as the bonus for adding an economy ring to a starbase. Usually these bonuses are percents (like total production 10%) Just adding the first ring to a starbase gives you a 0.1 bonus, so your 21 is multiplied by 1.1. Four starbases with a single ring, usually trivial to arrange, give +.4, so the calculation above gets a 1.4 or a 40% multiplier. That’s significant! And it is raw production so it appies to everything. One important multiplicative bonus is the approval bonus, which needs a bit more explanation.
The approval bonus depends on your colony's morale. It’s in a table in the data folder in the Steam GC3 files. But all you need to know is that at 100% morale, the bonus is 25%; at 50% morale it is zero, and below 50%, the bonus is negative. So if your colony is 100% happy, it gets a 0.25 bonus to the multiplicative sum --- a big boost. Another example is that in the Iconian tech tree there is a tech, Interstellar Governance, which gives 10% to Total Production. That adds another 0.1 to the multiplicative total. You have to check your own tech tree to see where these pop up. (Of course you have to research the tech to get the bonus.)
Once you have your total raw production, it is divided according to how you set your wheel and is then multiplied by any manufacturing, wealth, or research bonuses you have from relics, techs, or buildings. These bonuses can be quite large --- they are all shown in the manufacturing/research/income tables in the lower left of the colony screen.
What is important to think about? First, that anything that is a bonus to total or raw production is always useful and contributes to everything. So that +1 total production from a Durantium Refinery is actually pretty good. Second, the specific bonuses depend on your wheel and slider setting. For example, if you set your slider to 100% social and your wheel to 100% manufacturing you will build nothing at your shipyard. But you will construct buildings at your colony at the fastest rate possible.
Suppose you are about to build a technological capital, a huge research boost. Of course you have picked a spot where it can be adjacent to several research buildings and maybe on a ghost planet with 50% research bonus. You want that building constructed fast but your colony is research oriented. Bite the bullet and go 100% manufacturing and set the slider to 100% social. Take the hit. Hint: have ONLY your tech cap in your build queue. Why? So you get an “IDLE” message when the cap is done and you can reset to a high percentage research as you like, and you don’t forget about it. (This idea of having a a limited number of items in a queue can be used in many situations.) Note that according to my build ideas above, you will still have at least two factories on this planet despite being dedicated to research, so you should be able to get the capital fairly soon.
Ok, so you are building factories to produce colony ships, constructors, and scouts, depending on the situation. Note that scouts will always be useful, as they have good sensors and can be used like watchtowers near your influence borders. And scouts are cheap, so building a few, especially on a big map, can pay off.
You are also starting specialize your planets so you can get some research. Money, not so much. You started with 5000 BC and if you haven’t blown it on colony ships, etc,, you can set your colony wheels to zero wealth for quite a while.
One idea is to build (using your 5000 BC) a cargo ship that is loaded with nothing but sensors. The sensor range is additive so you can see aLOTof stuff without moving. I don’t do this. Probably because I don’t like to spend my starting funds that way, but mostly because I don’t think that powerful of a sensor system should be available at turn 2. Sometime mid-game, I think it makes sense. And on a very big map, it won’t reveal everything anyway. My suggestion is to require a mid-game tech to be researched before this monstrosity can be built. But heck it is up to you; I just wait until it “feels right”. Play the game your own way.
On the settings I am using here, after a couple of dozen turns you are going to start meeting people. This is another reason for scouts. Especially on a big map you want to meet as many factions as you can as soon as you can. I set up my game with new custom factions that I knew nothing about. I like that; setting up random factions should be in the game eventually to provide help setting up this extra fog of war
Reasons to meet people: to trade, and to make strategic plans. For example, typically if you offer a faction open borders they will give you some BC, or you can include it as part of a tech deal. Some things you can only get by trading, like the alternatives not chosen in a specialization tech slot. Personally I trade like crazy, but I watch what I am trading. I never trade influence bonuses. I don’t trade military techs to potential enemies, which is just about anybody. If the game doesn’t preclude tech brokering (not in game yet), that tech can be traded by your trading partner to someone else….which could be bad. But I give open borders and non-aggression pacts to lots of people and pocket the cash or techs. Note a common theme this suggests: you will get a lot more for a non aggression pact from a faction that has less faction power than you than from one that has a higher faction power (if at all). Once you start meeting people you need to think about military techs, even if you don’t plan to go to war. Strength helps trading.
Note: with a big map that is fairly well occupied (as here) one can fairly easily fill many of the techs initially not chosen from a specialization group. I rather like this situation, which requires attention to trading possiblities.
And there are pirates too. At this point, they move slowly (2 hexes a turn) and you can just avoid them. You can colonize a planet adjacent to their base by slipping your colony ship in carefully. But soon enough you will want to kill them (they eat freighters and scouts, for example) and that will likely be your first military action. Their ships are weak but you need a bit of a fleet to kill their bases. Medium size ships and basic logistics (for fleet size) helps. Note: losing a colony ship to pirates is really annoying.
The strategy angle is arguably even more important than trading. You need to know what your neighbors are likely to do. (Note that when you click on a faction in the diplomacy display, and then click the report button, you will get some useful information quickly, especially what ideology they have, as well as how aggressive they may be). To explain I recount the early part of the game I am discussing.
War is Hell
I had decided on a mostly benevolent path. Note that changing your path on discovering your neighbors can be a useful move. If most of your neighbors are pragmatic, open borders + more pragmatic ideology than anything else will lower tensions considerably. If you have taken a couple of benevolent ideologies, it won’t take long to go past it with pragmatic. Switching ideologies a bit is somewhat encouraged, but remember the best (and some are HUGE) traits are deep in the tables. The first trait you take costs 10 points, and an additional 10 points for each in the same field after that, so the second one costs 20, and so forth. But you also pay 5 points for any trait you have taken in a different field. So if you take the free colony ship first, that is 10 points; next taking the 3 free constructors will cost 15 points.
My race was called the Zambonika Combination with capital colony Ice Rink. I took adaptable and starfaring, and the Iconian tech tree, which I used a lot during the Beta. I set the likelihood of extreme worlds down a bit and did not get a lot of help from adaptable as a result. My attributes were productive+1, clever+2, influential+1, likeable+1, fast+2, and craven-2. I didn’t expect to be defending colonies, I was going to attack, so Craven seemed ok; I did regret this at times. When the AI gets aggressive some defense is handy, if only to slow them down until the cavalry arrives. Notice the emphasis on research and on speed. I continued emphasizing speed when building ships.
Ok back to the game. I had two unfriendly factions to my west, the Dark Scavengers and the Princess Exigency (aka Pinkos), a void, at first, to my right, nothing to the north, and the Terran Evangelists, benevolent, to the South. So my early diplomatic strategy was to make friends with the Evangelists (easy, I hoped to ally with them at some point in the distant future) and the Dark Scavengers. I was able to make some deals with the latter and they didn’t seem much of a threat. The Pinkos (actually call themselves the Pinkies, a large pink eye!) looked like the first likely problem.
Then the first big issue arose. The Dark Scavengers, who were actually almost friendly at the time, asked me to declare war on the Pinkos. They offered me a good tech. So I took it and attacked the Pinkos, who hated me anyway. They also didn’t appear exactly fearsome.
First problem: I had traded Open Borders to the Pinkos; I believe as a result of this I got a minus (‘you know what you did”) from every other faction in the game. OOPs.
Second problem: While successfully fighting the Pinkos and grabbing 4-5 colonies, I met the group to the East, the Domindrum Absolute. Aarrrrghhh. They hated me right from the get go (diplomacy display all red, and they would not even discuss Open Borders or anything else), and they had a seriously larger faction and military power than me. What to do?
I looked at it this way: eventually I would have to fight the Domindrum (Doms), and it could break out any time. I had hurt the Pinkos fairly bad, and the Dark Scavengers seemed moderately pleased with my intervention. Thus I needed to shift my focus easterly. I checked with the Pinkos and they actually wanted ME to pay 300 BC for peace, but I had to swallow my pride; surely I would get back to them eventually. It turned out to be a solid decision, as I was able to shift ships and build up just in time for a massive attack from the Doms. I have seen people post about AIs sending in single ships to attack and such; why couldn’t that have been now?!
Notes on Combat: I had been a little concerned about the state of the AI with the Pinkos because they hadn’t put up much of a fight. Not so much with the Doms. Stacks of 9 or 10 ships came into view, some with transports. Second, they had a knack of sneaking around and attacking from a different direction. I would suddenly find a fleet assaulting a mining or relic starbase --- from the West in one case! What?! How did they even get there? They also didn’t exactly give up easy. I won an early fight, took a colony and thought things were under control, and then another wave of fleets materialized. That colony went back and forth a couple of times. Things were dicey. And as my view of the situation opened up ( I started trading Exploration with other factions that I met) I saw that the “front” between me and the Doms was enormous. (See the Mini map). I became as nice as possible to anyone else. The Evangelists asked for a free tech, for example, and I wasted no time giving it to them. A small price for a little more assurance another front wouldn’t open up, and I am pointing to maybe allying with them at some point. Even for unfriendly types, other than minors, at this point I caved to anything vaguely reasonable.
Ship building strategy: I shifted my colonies that had any significant manufacturing to 100% military and 100% manufacturing. I cranked out missile boats as fast as possible. My standard ship was built with 2 warp drives (speed kills!), a missile assist unit, and at least one defensive module of each type, and the maximum number of harpoons. Mind, I couldn’t do all this when the war in the east first broke out, but that’s what I got to, as I didn’t give up on research and I didn’t stint on trading. I think my defense, for example, shields, point defense, and titanium armor came from trades.
Key Tech Choice: The most important combat technology for the early mid-game is Healing Hulls, from the Engineering section. It is the top pick of Precursor Specialization. The amount of HP recovery is significant during a battle; the durability of my big missile boats was drastically increased, not to mention that they came out of battles in much better shape to carry on. I believe I managed to very gradually get the initiative in the East largely because of this tech; otherwise I would have been stretched might thin. I lost a few battles and a couple of colonies and a couple of starbases; there were casualties. My impression is that the AI is on the right track.
Fortunate that I did get control of things because time ran out on my cease fire with the Pinkos and they happily joined in. I don’t know if the Doms egged them on or not, I wouldn’t have put it past them. I would be very happy to know that such a diplomatic move was made by the AI, it would be another step in the right direction, but I can’t prove it. So I got my two front war, but I was out of danger and had been putting the odd ship on the Pinko border, so I was in no danger
Diplomacy Issue: With a lot going on I noticed several times that multiple factions would try to communicate with me at once, and some of the screens would flash for less than a second; I couldn’t see who was even talking. It could be that these were just more of the “Our open borders treaty has reduced tensions” sort of thing, but I couldn’t be sure. Sometimes a second faction would come back and talk to me again after I finished dealing with another, so I may not have actually missed anything. Still, a problem I think.
Diplomacy Issue: There needs to be a way to check on the situation when offers are made. What the diplomatic situation is, where the faction actually is (often not clear at first) and most of all, to be able to check the tech tree when a trade is being negotiated. It is critical to know whether you already have or are researching another tech of a specialization group. It is usually possible to back out and do so if I started the trade, though this seems like extra micro for no good reason, but if the AI offers you usually have to take it or never get that good of a deal again. I suppose I could just take notes but that seems a bit silly. Let me see my tech tree at this point, please.
At this point I am willing to accept the Large Empire Penalty (LEP) as a challenge and see what I can do. The first thing is that I tried to be proactive, leaving space for morale buildings and building them ahead of time. Still I quickly got to the point where often (strangely, not always) a conquered colony started with zero morale. I would generally rush buy an approval building (having some BC in the bank is handy), and in many cases I started dismantling buildings to make room for entertainment for the defeated aliens. At the point of the game I am discussing, I have not gone full ahead with recreation modules on starbases and I have some approval techs ahead that should help a lot. But looking at the mini map (below) it is a bit daunting to imagine conquering the entire galaxy, and I am merely on Immense. Early in the game in the Communication branch I have Commerce Specialization which includes “Supportive Population” – morale plus 4. This is a life saver, and is a very high priority to me early. Much later there is another version called “Easy to Please” also morale plus 4. I may have to bee line to that.
Managing a Large Empire
When you get to 50+ colonies, 100+ ships, etc., it is of course a big help to have some tools built into the game to work with; but on the other hand, I think there is no substitute for planning a bit oneself to keep your empire on track. Here are some suggestions both for a player and for the developers.
1. First have an overall idea what you are trying to do. Where are you defending, where attacking, where are you just monitoring the situation. A bad plan is much better than no plan.
2. Colonies. I append to the name of colonies to remind me what my plan is for that colony. All have some manufacturing, but they can then be specialized more or less to more manufacturing, more research, more wealth, or sometimes a combination. So my capital became “Ice Rink – M”, it became a pure industrial hub. I use R and $ and combine them when a colony is split, which is sometimes appropriate. So “ColonyName - RM” is a research colony but with some more manufacturing than my usual 2 or 3 factory start. A small colony that is just a mess I will label X. Then, when war comes for example, I can see every colony that has an “M” and put it on a 100% war footing, while leaving the rest alone so that research and money collection isn’t trashed completely. Thus it should be obvious that I never use the global wheel for adjusting the economy, I always do each colony separately. But it really isn’t a lot of micro, as adjustments are usually only needed once in a while. This is where my designations really come in handy. An “R” planet will start with 2 or 3 factories and 100% manufacturing on the wheel to get buildings up. From time to time I look down the list of the colonies and will see an R planet that is putting out no research. Ok, click to it and see if it is time to switch to a much higher level of research.
3. Sorting colonies. The colony display can be sorted instantly by clicking one of the column headers, like the research beaker. This is invaluable. But there is more. For example, as I stated above approval rapidly gets to be an issue. How to manage all those unhappy people? Click on the morale column head twice to get the colonies sorted in reverse order of their happiness. Click on the top one to go to it and adjust buildings queues and etc. Then go back to the colony display --- and here is the trick: double click again on the header of the morale column and you will once again see the bad ones on top, and the one you just managed is highlighted. Drop down one to the next one, rinse, and repeat. I usually go all the way to the 80% colonies or so, trying to be proactive. But I can get things sorted without much fuss. One can do the same with manufacturing when, for example, you grab a durantium mining site and suddenly have, maybe, 4 new durantium. (Two resource sites in range). So sort the manufacturing column in the same way to fine suitable locations for durantium refineries. Many other applications of this general idea are undoubtedly available
4. Rally Points. During the beta I used rally points a lot, but not so much since beta 6. I suggest keeping the list short and timely. I generally just use the ‘request constructor”, for example. This isn’t the most efficient – you get the default constructor – but it works well enough I and I don’t have to put much thought into it. Of course, I also don’t build out starbases beyond essentials. Few have any defenses. Most have mining or economy with a focus on whatever the local colonies need, not everything. So that saves a lot of micro; of course it also means I need fast fleets for mobile defense of said starbases. That’s the kind of ships I build anyway. Just have to remember to locate some fleets in reasonable places any have enough scouts or sensor ships places so as not to be surprised, and, not to be too upset if the AI scores a nasty ambush or three.
I do use Rally Points for pirate bases. Need to remember where they are until they are killed.
Further, if I do set a rally point, say to send four constructors to a starbase, I can choose a custom constructor to queue up, and if I put exactly four constructors in the queue I will get an IDLE message when done and I can deal with this appropriately. Again the idea of managing what’s in your queue arises. A complication may be that “request constructor” and the rally point queue may confuse each other, but I have not tested this enough yet.
Lastly it will sometimes work to use rally points for a specific actions, like a build up to an attack. In my current game the two fronts (actually connected now) combine to form so long a battle line that I am not sure that rally points would help. Even with being renamed “Southeast Dom” or some such, I find that once I have more than a few it is a bit of a mess. Maybe I just need to think this through and come up with a better plan. My rule is that if it is a short term action, do not use a rally point. Just do it
5. One of the things about GC3 a week after release is that there are functions in the game already, but that I, and perhaps others, just haven’t learned to use to best advantage. Sometimes a mindset thing may be involved. Maybe a little experimentation is neeeded. I do know that (as I have suggested above) that there are some things I have started to use more profitably and they have really helped. There is a learning curve. Of course there are also many things that have been discussed on the forums and the live streams that are planned and ought to help a lot.
Game Situation Summary
The picture above shows my situation. I am fighting two factions and have other neighbors. There is a big chunk of galaxy undiscovered even at turn 185. How I am going to actually win this thing isn’t clear. What is clear is that the rumble tumble desperate fighting with an uncertainty about how or what may happen is there, and the possibility of the AI becoming a real stinker is there. Diplomacy is a very active area; when we get the option to threaten the AI, for example, it will get even more involved. The AI has been active and pulled some surprises. So I have had a lot of fun to this point. The problem may be not far off though when I am so strong there really isn’t much to do except decide on which type of win to choose among those that can actually be achieved. This is the common 4x end game problem. At that point the fun level will sag. Hopefully 1.1 will be out. Personally, I don’t care much about achievements so I can declare myself the winner and move on. If 1.1 isn’t out, there is always GIMP to learn --- now there is a real challenge. My art IQ is single digits I believe
Issue: Performance has generally been very good. One thing I have notices in the mid game is that ship movement is not smooth, but rather jerky. I would also like some easy way to set my ships’ paths, though that seems like potentially a sizeable programming problem.
Ok, I realize that I should be upset that my GCFB (figure it out) official identity card STILL isn’t here! Apparently they just don’t care about Bamdorf any more. He tested for months, put a bunch in the Wiki, helped a lot of people on both forums and do I get my card? Oh Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Yeah, I get it, I wasn’t a founder so to heck with you. Well, see how fast I snap up that DLC then! (Instantly I suppose, to be truthful). (Note: this paragraph is comedy relief. Hope it helped.)
This game is really going in the right direction. As fun as it is right now there are lots of little things and some big things that will be fixed and added and the whole process has been fun for me. And I think it will become more enjoyable as I learn to use the tools better that are available, now or later. My biggest worry is that some of those guys don’t get enough rest and get sick. THAT would really throw a wrench into things.