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  • #16
    Ah, so you playing the campaign first? I haven't even started the DA one yet. Still, I love the concept that was also in GalCiv2 - alternate missions. If you lose a mission, you can play a different (and easier) one instead. That's very good for those challenging missions, avoids the frustration of being unable to continue the campaign because some mission is too hard.

    Hydro, a very good post. Believe me, the colony rush can be very different. My last game was pretty unusual, I had lots of good planets nearby (class 15 or better, one class 19), but all these planets had some sort of an extreme condition. As a result, I was forced to prioritize the extreme colonization techs, which left me with worse economic techs, initially. The great planets were more than worth for it, eventually.

    Also, try ships without engines. Not any good if you really need some distance on them, but an all-weapons ship will pack quite a punch, after all. The AI won't hesitate to use such ships. And forget defenses, they're much weaker now than they were in vanilla - I no longer bother with defenses unless I have really good one, certainly not on fighters.

    Use AI's weapons lines against them. They're reasonably okay at using defenses against your weapons, but they'll often have a fairly advanced weapon in one category (such as Sparrow missiles) without even having the basic theory tech for another weapon. Since you can see which techs they have in diplomacy, and you can usually tell which civ is the most likely to attack you, you can prepare yourself better.
    Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
    Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
    I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

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    • #17
      Yeah, this campaign thing is new territory for me. I just got passed that mission I was talking about...and I didn't know about the alternate missions thing! Cool.

      By the way, on the topic of the use of spies, the campaign features great uses for them, but that might not be reflected in the larger game as well as it does in the campaign. But one good use I can see with spies for sure is that --other than being able to shut down a major enemy tile for a time at least-- is that when you are reaching that "tipping point" in the game and you start having the ability to outspend your opponent. At this point, if you keep pressure on the espionage side, you can *really* start to cripple the guy. It's a super nice mop up phase feature, even if there is a lot of back and forth initially.
      I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

      "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

      Comment


      • #18
        Master Yin and Solver,

        Why thank you!

        Solver, your article was an excellent in-depth review, although I was disappointed you punted on your observations on Super Abilities. Personally I think you’re teasing us, and perhaps that may come later. You gave GC2A a solid 9.2/10 (or I assume it was a 10 scale!). There wasn’t a breakdown of key elements with individual ratings (UI, aesthetics, AI, “newness”, look-and-feel). A Yin Scale/Evaluation would have been interesting.

        I’m still struggling with what I call the Fun Factor for GC2 (DL and DA), which for me is a combination of strategy/options, AI competence, aesthetics, and the immersion associated with the game (e.g. emotionally hooked so that, for instance, I care if I get backstabbed by the Drath). At first take the first three are good to excellent, but I’m not quite sure about the last. For me a long-lasting game needs all four to be at least competent, and the fatal lack of immersion is why I didn’t like GC1 so that it quickly became shelfware (and, indeed, why I ignored GC2 for so long – a bad aftertaste). On the opposite end, the excellent immersion of SMAC has made it a long-lasting game even if the AI is largely inept. Civ4 is also shelfware since it is so buggy and refuses to run properly on my Dell – it has a huge PITA factor that sucked all the fun out of the game. Of course, others will value these (and other) elements differently.

        Well, musing over. A few more observations on GC2A:

        World types: the different types of worlds leads to interesting strategic problems and opportunities. Since different races will (or won’t) get various colonization tech it is highly likely that empires will be much more co-mingled. In general the AI will colonize every world they see, and it seems they grab the first one they come across – kind of a wave of colonization. The AI is good enough to select the better of a few nearby planets, though, but distance is a key factor (which is good since at speed 2 colony the AI colony ships take forever to get anywhere). The result in my games so far is that many empires have very intermingled borders and a number of outposts/outlier planets. Now, what does this mean? Obviously it implies that defending these will be more difficult, so you MUST get at least a token military force up to increase your empire’s military ranking or the AI will view you as meat (watch for declining opinion; military ranking counts significantly here, it seems). Second, beyond getting your overall empire military rating up, you need to get good local defenses. This will be very expensive on toxic/aquatic/grav/barren/rad worlds since they take so long to get their own production, and sending ships from across the galaxy really isn’t an option. For instance, I colonized a PQ26 (!!) rad world by the Korath. Obviously, no one in the area has rad tech. I know this will be a big problem, and I’d better have the economy to buy improvements outright to get it up and running, and perhaps redirect my research to get level 2 rad tech colonization so the planet isn’t crippled for so long. Otherwise all I’ve done is gifted the Korath a beautiful world (with a sucky production potential until I get level 2 rad colonization tech), or have it fall victim to a nasty spoor ship. Third, having AI planets in your general sphere of influence is an opportunity for influence flips if you have a small AI colony in your territory; likewise, be careful that your influence doesn’t slip if you have a world by a influence-heavy AI like the Altarans or Torians. Fourth, when you do finally go to war you’ll have lots of internal mop up to do, especially since fleet speeds will be slow. Leaving these outlier colonies behind the lines is not an option (unless you station a good starship to paste any ships they might build) since a single fighter can cause lots of havoc to non combat ships and resource starbases.

        Aside: I suspect that at more advanced levels a human player will have to decline far-flung colonies no matter how juicy since they will be almost impossible to defend. As I said, there is no point building up a planet and then effectively gifting it to a hostile AI.

        Economy: in my last game I upgraded to Challenging. As in previous games, my economy improved much faster than in GC2L, and magnitude of my early game deficits were smaller. Although more analysis is needed I think I was right that the production-challenged toxic/aquatic/rad/barren/grav worlds do influence your overall economy – taxes are larger than the pathetic production needs, resulting in a better budget situation. On the flip side, it is maddening how slowly they develop, and any economic surplus is easily taken up by having to rush-buy improvements so it doesn’t take 50+ bloody turns to get one improvement done.

        Aside: Also on economy, I am an acolyte of Velociryx, who convinced me long ago that the key to strategy games is a good economic underpinning. With a good economy and proper planning (and a bit of luck) you have more options, which is where GC2 shines (other strategy games are essentially linear so it doesn’t matter). Cash is king, so to speak. That is why I pay attention to trends in how a game plays, even if I haven’t worked on the nuts and bolts.

        Super Abilities: My experience is limited, but already the Super Manipulator Drath is causing trouble. The ‘good’ Drath got my buddy the Altarans to go to war with my other buddies the Arceans (the Altarans even called me to notify me that ‘other powers’ had convinced them of the Arcean threat…hmm, I wonder who that might have been…). Now, from a strategic sense this excellent for the Drath as two of its neighbors who might have been friends are going to beat each other’s brains out. The Drath can now grab more colonies, secure its borders, get newly liberated resources, and generally be more powerful in that area of the galaxy. It makes my life as the Iconians much more complicated in many ways: the Korath and Krynn are by the Altarans, who may very well swoop in and eviscerate my potential allies and trade partners. The usefulness of Super Manipulator ability is becoming very clear. For those who are fans of Star Fleet Battles, the motto of the Tholians come to mind: Let’s You And Him Fight.

        Another powerful super ability is Hive. The Thalians are even more aggressive than in GCL about spamming out colony ships and constructors. In GC2A they are by far the best colonizers in the game that I’ve seen, and always seem to have a robust economy and industrial level. I suspect this ability (like Super Adapter) wanes in the mid and late game, but if you can establish a good base for your empire then you are better set for later stages.

        Super Adapter is hugely useful in the early game since it increases the planets you can colonize from 1 (worlds that anyone can colonize) to 3 (any, toxic, aquatic) of 6 six world types (all, toxic, aquatic, rad, barren, and heavy gravity). As Solver mentioned in his review, you can sell these techs for huge amounts of money to a minor power or a major power. I’m pretty careful, though, and will only consider selling/trading to a minor that is well inside my territory (so it doesn’t sell/trade/tribute the tech to someone else) or an ally or likely ally. Another side benefit is that your empire is likely to be more contiguous, since the AIs can’t grab the toxic and aquatic worlds that you can colonize from the start. Strategically this is very useful. A disadvantage is that it is tempting to colonize juicy worlds in other AI’s spheres; ships take a long time to get there due to slow speeds, the colonies are vulnerable for very long time, and will take lots of resources/economy to get up to speed (see note, above, on world types).

        Well, back to GC2A. My home improvement projects and life in general are on hold. Good thing it is cold and nasty here in the Chicago area.

        Hydro

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        • #19
          Solver, your article was an excellent in-depth review, although I was disappointed you punted on your observations on Super Abilities. Personally I think you’re teasing us, and perhaps that may come later. You gave GC2A a solid 9.2/10 (or I assume it was a 10 scale!). There wasn’t a breakdown of key elements with individual ratings (UI, aesthetics, AI, “newness”, look-and-feel). A Yin Scale/Evaluation would have been interesting.


          The moment I started writing it, I totally knew it's going to be large. I'm a windbag. A complete one. Now, if I included my comments on those Super Abilities that I've had a chance to evaluate, that would push the whole review over the size sanity limit. That's not to say that it won't come in the forum .

          And I suck at giving scores. I generally prefer to review without giving a score at an end, but if I do give a score like I did now, it's a general impression. I don't want to break it down into elements . And Yin's scale is, of course, Yin's .

          I’m still struggling with what I call the Fun Factor for GC2 (DL and DA), which for me is a combination of strategy/options, AI competence, aesthetics, and the immersion associated with the game (e.g. emotionally hooked so that, for instance, I care if I get backstabbed by the Drath). At first take the first three are good to excellent, but I’m not quite sure about the last. For me a long-lasting game needs all four to be at least competent, and the fatal lack of immersion is why I didn’t like GC1 so that it quickly became shelfware (and, indeed, why I ignored GC2 for so long – a bad aftertaste). On the opposite end, the excellent immersion of SMAC has made it a long-lasting game even if the AI is largely inept. Civ4 is also shelfware since it is so buggy and refuses to run properly on my Dell – it has a huge PITA factor that sucked all the fun out of the game. Of course, others will value these (and other) elements differently.


          You are fairly demanding. I prefer Civ4 overall, but GalCiv2 won't become shelfware for me too soon. GalCiv2 has good strategic depth, overall AI and it's a very pleasing game aesthetically. Immersion is very, very much a personal opinion. I wish GalCiv2 had a great soundtrack like Civ4 does, that helps immersion too.

          About world types: yep, empires are more mixed up now, and a negative observation in that regard is that the AI will grab extreme worlds in star systems of other civs, ignoring influence. Such planets often become extremely easy to flip culturally. Even the AI, which is generally incompetent at culture flipping, can sometimes do that. For the human, it takes hardly any effort.

          Oh, and the AI sucks at choosing the best planet in a system. Your observation that "the AI is good enough to select the better of a few nearby planets" is, sadly, wrong. Well, it's somewhat random, really. IF the AI sees several planets at once, it will colonize the best. If not, it will not. An example. I approach a planet with a colony ship. I see it's class 10 and I click the star. The star says 2 habitable planets. I won't colonize - I will instead move my ship further the next turn to lift the fog over the other planet. It may well be class 18. The AI doesn't do that. If it approaches the star system from the map's left, it will colonize the best planet it sees after the ship's movement there ended. If the best planet is separate on the right, it will be left uncolonized.

          Then again, there's another colonization trick the AI doesn't really use. If I colonize a planet and there are other non-taken habitables in the system, I'll colonize them ASAP. Which means, if there's not another free Colony Ship in the immediate vicinity (there's probably not), the first thing I do is rush-buy a Starport + Colony Ship on my new planet, and proceed to colonize the other planet at once. I found that waiting for a Colony to arive from elsewhere will usually just cause the AI to grab the planet instead.

          On the flip side, it is maddening how slowly they develop, and any economic surplus is easily taken up by having to rush-buy improvements so it doesn’t take 50+ bloody turns to get one improvement done.


          I was once lucky to have an extreme world with a manufacturing bonus square. Such a world develops nicely even with the 50% production hit. Of course, if you have high-class extreme worlds, do get the advanced colonization tech to eliminate the penalty.

          My experience is limited, but already the Super Manipulator Drath is causing trouble.


          If you see the Drath in DA, kill them! Fortunately, they're not a great military race, so a rush against them in order if you start nearby. Otherwise, once they get their econ up and running, they'll be bribing civs to fight you for not much compensation.

          The Thalans kick ass. I actually think that the AI could do even better with them, they're a really powerful civ. They're the only one without a second habitable in their starting system, but I really like playing the Thalans given how much ass they kick.
          Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
          Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
          I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

          Comment


          • #20
            Hey, I love reading posts from you guys!

            Hydro: Ah, I see a bit of Vel in you already. I agree that econ is king, and it strikes me that GC2 seems a little more pointed in this regard than Civ4. It's a little harder to "do everything all at once" it seems here. As for my scale, I'm too lazy! Speaking of...I have to go read Solver's Magnum Opus. I didn't realize it was posted! Back in a minute ... or maybe hour?
            I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

            "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

            Comment


            • #21
              Solver: WOW! Man, I'm telling you: Please get into gaming as a profession. We need you. That was one of the best reviews I've ever read. The criticisms were sharp but usually came with advice on possible fixes. The praise was direct but not fanboyish. In other words, you came across as highly competent and very fair. That's a super hard combo, my friend. Well done!
              I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

              "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

              Comment


              • #22
                Couple of thoughts on various things:

                1. The AI not checking a bit over to see if a planet is of higher quality demonstrates at least a lack of cheating. That's good. Clearly, though, if the AI can't be programmed to check out its surroundings a little better, then maybe there can be a tech that essentially reveals planet qualities to everybody (not just the AI, which then would be a cheat). It should be a low-level but obviously critical early game tech.

                2. One thing you guys have both done in your posts at various points is speak about the civs as if they have real character, which mostly it seems they do. I agree that SMAC was perhaps the best ever at this sort of thing, but GC2 is doing a pretty darn good job of it, too. That, in part, is why I feel like the campaign actually holds interest for me.

                3. SOLVER: Did you know that you can use the scroll wheel during negotiations? I agree with your criticism, of course, and see this fault in ALL negotions built into these games. Just give us a "Best Offer" (gold only) option, please! And if you want to reward the micro manics, give them a 5% bonus if they do the negotiations "by hand." But the scroll wheel really helps...and do you remember the days before the text turned green!!!
                I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

                "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Hydro: Ah, I see a bit of Vel in you already. I agree that econ is king, and it strikes me that GC2 seems a little more pointed in this regard than Civ4. It's a little harder to "do everything all at once" it seems here.


                  I also like to think of myself as Vel's student... and the econ foundation in GC2 is damn sure interesting. Spending is a fun thing. You can have the capacity for great research (tons of labs), but actually have crap research because you're near-bankrupt and need to allocate more to money. It's an interesting economic system, though in all fairness, I do not think GalCiv2 and Civ4 can be compared in this particular regard - the economies in the two games are very, very vastly (I just used some crappy English) different.

                  Solver: WOW! Man, I'm telling you: Please get into gaming as a profession. We need you. That was one of the best reviews I've ever read. The criticisms were sharp but usually came with advice on possible fixes. The praise was direct but not fanboyish. In other words, you came across as highly competent and very fair. That's a super hard combo, my friend. Well done!


                  Thanks Yin . Notice my comment here . Oh, but I have to mention that I am not in Korea, so I'd probably end up bankrupt very soon if I hoped to get paid for playing or reviewing games .
                  Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
                  Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
                  I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

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                  • #24
                    1. The AI not checking a bit over to see if a planet is of higher quality demonstrates at least a lack of cheating. That's good. Clearly, though, if the AI can't be programmed to check out its surroundings a little better, then maybe there can be a tech that essentially reveals planet qualities to everybody (not just the AI, which then would be a cheat). It should be a low-level but obviously critical early game tech.


                    It's not lack of cheating, it's the lack of understanding that moving the colony for one more turn instead of colonizing might reveal a better planet. Unless there's a foreign colony right at the same place, it's worth it. So, it's a simple trick that the AI is unaware of, not lack of cheating.

                    2. One thing you guys have both done in your posts at various points is speak about the civs as if they have real character, which mostly it seems they do. I agree that SMAC was perhaps the best ever at this sort of thing, but GC2 is doing a pretty darn good job of it, too. That, in part, is why I feel like the campaign actually holds interest for me.


                    Yeah, very good stuff there. Unique text helps a lot. The GalCiv universe is a fairly thought-out sci-fi creation by Brad, so the civs do have actual backgrounds. I feel that some civs (like the Korx) have less of a personality, but overall the personalities are interesting. Oh, and the actual AIs also differ somewhat so different civs play differently.

                    3. SOLVER: Did you know that you can use the scroll wheel during negotiations? I agree with your criticism, of course, and see this fault in ALL negotions built into these games. Just give us a "Best Offer" (gold only) option, please! And if you want to reward the micro manics, give them a 5% bonus if they do the negotiations "by hand." But the scroll wheel really helps...and do you remember the days before the text turned green!!!


                    Yeah, I know. I even discovered that you can type in there. But it still drives me crazy.

                    And a big, loud "no" on the 5% bonus. It's the same as not having the "best gold" button at all, as you would not, essentially, be getting a best deal, and you would STILL have to go by hand to find it. That sucks. Just, please, give us the "fill maximum gold in here" button and be done with it.
                    Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
                    Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
                    I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      What I mean by no cheating, of course, is the AI doesn't know already where the best planets are. Even Civ still retains this kind of knowledge, right, though Soren doesn't consider it cheating? And I don't mind "giving away" 5% if it makes the micro people happy to earn something for their pain! Heck, call it a transaction fee or something:

                      "Click here to have your agent negotiate the best price in gold, minus 5% for his handling fee."

                      I'd click it for sure! Maybe even have a later tech reduce the fee or get rid of it entirely. I'm just saying if you want to retain some atmosphere on this (which, I think, is the point of the 'negotiations' in the first place), a system like this might work.
                      I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

                      "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        No, Civ4 thankfully doesn't have that sort of cheating. The Civ4 AI has certain discounts, but it doesn't know things it's not supposed to know. Although the pathfinding algorithms sometimes may make it appear that the AI knows if certain spots have your units or not - it's a fairly complex thing.
                        Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
                        Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
                        I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          I recall Soren being surprised when people pointed out that the AI knew where certain things were and calling that cheating. His response was something like 'Of course the AI cheats like this, but that's no big deal.' I could dig up the thread.

                          My point, actually, is that if the AI can't be made to do these things without cheating, then a certain bit of 'help' would be fine with me. For example, maybe the AI simply gets to know the quality of planets before I do, or it gets wider range sensors or something.
                          I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

                          "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Well, in this particular example, the AI doesn't really need to know planet qualities beforehand. It does a pretty fair job anyway, though that extra bit of investigation could be a good addition. I'd say that the GalCiv2 AI doesn't really need any information cheats - in GalCiv2 AI, there's not much hidden information. With just minimal espionage investment, you know lots about other civs anyway, there are no resources that pop up in the mid-game, ships defending a planet are visible, etc.
                            Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
                            Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
                            I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

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                            • #29
                              The thread to which Soren responded is here: http://apolyton.net/forums/showthrea...hreadid=142303 His reply I can't replicate here (for NDA purposes), but basically most gamers agree that the AI needs help. What I find interesting is that CalCiv2 is trying to push this cheating as far back as possible and still have a competent AI. Of course, sometimes this leads to the AI making mistakes that a human usually wouldn't, like looking at a grouping of planets before colonizing the best one in sight. It seems like that could be fixed, though, either with a new AI routine or with some simple tech.
                              I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

                              "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Yeah, I remember that thread along with Soren's reply now. It's somewhat complicated technically, too, but overall, I found that I don't mind the extent of AI cheating that is present in Civ4. What I hate is very obvious cheating, such as the Civ3 AI always knowing where resources will pop up or knowing as soon as you move defenders out of a city. With subtle and relatively insignificant cheats, I am willing to accept those as part of a price for having a competent and fun AI.

                                I am, after all, a self-confessed AI whore. Have to mention SMAC here as an exception, the game has really poor AI, but I kept playing it for a long-time because of absolutely awesome depth and atmosphere.
                                Solver, WePlayCiv Co-Administrator
                                Contact: solver-at-weplayciv-dot-com
                                I can kill you whenever I please... but not today. - The Cigarette Smoking Man

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