Help me conceptualise an alien race for GCII :)

"Blindsight", by Peter Watts

By on February 12, 2013 1:21:25 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Iggore

Join Date 01/2013
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The different alien races in GCII are actualy very similar, in form and function. Now, I understand that it is so for gameplay reasons; you cant have widely different races without making balancing a complicated nightmare. Stardock did a very good job in diversifying the techtrees, the styles and personalities of the different alien species reflect different scifi tropes, and it does so very well.

But I've just finished Blindsight, by Peter Watts, a scifi novel which features a very "alien" alien. And I'd like it if we could pitch ideas at how this species would fit into the GalcivII mold. I'm also just happy to share this novel here. Its pretty drat good, and its freely available on internet (links are provided bellow). 

Now for some context (and obligatory spoilers):

Peter Watts is a marine biologist, and he use his knowledge in this field, and in some other fields, to raise questions about the nature, and the importance, of consciousness. The intellectual argument of his book is that consciousness is an unecessary fluke. Long story short: aliens arrive in our solar system and begin to terraform one of our planet. So we send a ship at them to assess what is going on. The crew find out that whatever is terraforming the planet isnt conscious at all; it just "does" things, and despite their unconsciousness, the aliens are very capable. They can communicate and hold a conversation in english, without having any idea of what they're saying. Yet they are so alien that the very act of communication is an act of war. 

A critic of the novel:

"The difference between a bee's honeycomb and a human's spaceship, Watts suggests, is one of degree, not kind. They are both attempts to solve a problem. Humans may be very, very complex, but they are in principle as comprehensible, and as part of the world, as anything else.

What impresses most about the book is the extent to which Watts follows through on the implications of this stance. For the characters, Blindsight's story is a lesson in abject humility. Many characters in many sf novels over the past fifteen years or so have learned that space is not a venue for human stories, but the crew of Theseus learn it more thoroughly than most. As in Bruce Sterling's "Swarm," and some of Stephen Baxter's work (such as the grand Evolution), the value of consciousness itself is questioned. Control is an illusion, after all: think about moving your arm, and your arm will already be in motion. We exist after the fact -- or, as Siri's friend Pag puts it, "We're not thinking machines, we're -- we're feeling machines that happen to think."

We are observers, not agents, and where's the survival advantage in that? Watts's aliens, certainly, think rings around his humans and posthumans. They can detect the electromagnetic fluctuations of a human brain, and rewire them in real time. They can time their movements so precisely as to hide in the saccades of our eyes. And they can do it, in part, because they are not conscious, because consciousness is expensive: "I wastes energy and processing power, self-obsesses to the point of psychosis [...] They turn your own cognition against itself. They travel between the stars. This is what intelligence can do, unhampered by self-awareness," is Sarasti's blunt assessment. We are a fluke, a mistake; in evolutionary terms, a dead end. Once we get beyond the surface of our planet we are not fit."

 

About the aliens themselves, from the novel;

 

 

"Imagine you're a scrambler. [nickname of the aliens]

Imagine you have intellect but no insight, agendas but no awareness. Your circuitry hums with strategies for survival and persistence, flexible, intelligent, even technological—but no other circuitry monitors it. You can think of anything, yet are conscious of nothing.

You can't imagine such a being, can you? The term being doesn't even seem to apply, in some fundamental way you can't quite put your finger on.

Try.

Imagine that you encounter a signal. It is structured, and dense with information. It meets all the criteria of an intelligent transmission. Evolution and experience offer a variety of paths to follow, branch-points in the flowcharts that handle such input. Sometimes these signals come from conspecifics who have useful information to share, whose lives you'll defend according to the rules of kin selection. Sometimes they come from competitors or predators or other inimical entities that must be avoided or destroyed; in those cases, the information may prove of significant tactical value. Some signals may even arise from entities which, while not kin, can still serve as allies or symbionts in mutually beneficial pursuits. You can derive appropriate responses for any of these eventualities, and many others.

You decode the signals, and stumble:

I had a great time. I really enjoyed him. Even if he cost twice as much as any other hooker in the dome—

To fully appreciate Kesey's Quartet—

They hate us for our freedom—

Pay attention, now—

Understand.

There are no meaningful translations for these terms. They are needlessly recursive. They contain no usable intelligence, yet they are structured intelligently; there is no chance they could have arisen by chance.

The only explanation is that something has coded nonsense in a way that poses as a useful message; only after wasting time and effort does the deception becomes apparent. The signal functions to consume the resources of a recipient for zero payoff and reduced fitness. The signal is a virus.

Viruses do not arise from kin, symbionts, or other allies.

The signal is an attack.

And it's coming from right about there.

 

*

 

"Now you get it," Sascha said.

I shook my head, trying to wrap it around that insane, impossible conclusion. "They're not even hostile." Not even capable of hostility. Just so profoundly alien that they couldn't help but treat human language itself as a form of combat.

How do you say We come in peace when the very words are an act of war?

"That's why they won't talk to us," I realized.

"Only if Jukka's right. He may not be." It was James again, still quietly resisting, still unwilling to concede a point that even her other selves had accepted. I could see why. Because if Sarasti was right, scramblers were the norm: evolution across the universe was nothing but the endless proliferation of automatic, organized complexity, a vast arid Turing machine full of self-replicating machinery forever unaware of its own existence. And we—we were the flukes and the fossils. We were the flightless birds lauding our own mastery over some remote island while serpents and carnivores washed up on our shores. Susan James could not bring herself to concede that point—because Susan James, her multiple lives built on the faith that communication resolves all conflict, would then be forced to admit the lie. If Sarasti was right, there was no hope of reconciliation."

 

 The alien ship, Rorschach:

 

"And suddenly Rorschach snapped into view—no refractory composites, no profiles or simulations in false color. There it was at last, naked even to Human eyes.

Imagine a crown of thorns, twisted, dark and unreflective, grown too thickly tangled to ever rest on any human head. Put it in orbit around a failed star whose own reflected half-light does little more than throw its satellites into silhouette. Occasional bloody highlights glinted like dim embers from its twists and crannies; they only emphasized the darkness everywhere else.

Imagine an artefact that embodies the very notion of torture, something so wrenched and disfigured that even across uncounted lightyears and unimaginable differences in biology and outlook, you can't help but feel that somehow, the structure itself is in pain.

Now make it the size of a city.

It flickered as we watched. Lightning arced from recurved spines a thousand meters long. ConSensus showed us a strobe-lit hellscape, huge and dark and twisted. The composites had lied. It was not the least bit beautiful."

We never see the aliens themselves. At some point the alien ship produce these starfish-like entities, the so-called scramblers, but we understand that they're more like maintenance tools than actual creatures.  What we encounter in the novel is more like a dandelion, that travels between solar systems to terraform planets, and which originated from a civilization that is probably long gone and unknowable. 

If you have more questions about the novel or the aliens, I'll gladly answer them. 

So there you have it. Could we have a race like that in Galciv? What would it do? A race who's only surviving relic is an intergalatic space dandelion, who's function is to populate planet and spread. But a dandelion that can communicate because it is smart enough to pick up speech patern and grammar and syntax on the fly, but not smart enough to understand the content of what is being said. 

 

Could I base its techtree on one of the major techtree? Or should I go for something more radical? Whats if the original colony was Rorschach itself? A growing city-sized ship (that would be bound to the original planet however)?

 

I'm thinking of going for something that has ease at colonizing, soldiering and population growth, but difficulty in diplomacy and space militarisation. 

 

Any ideas?

 

Ps - I feel like I've put way too much effort into this. 

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February 12, 2013 8:54:23 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Difficulty in Diplomacy? I'd say Diplomacy is impossible as "they" (which appears to be an incorrect denomination as "they" have no sense of "I" or "we") cannot truly communicate. (They can at most tell you to get out of the way,but it reads as if they wouldn't even tell you that.) They need a serious Diplomacy hit as I doubt even the Drengin would appreciate Turing Machines and perhaps should be unable to communicate at all (but I'm not sure how to implement that). Make them "militaristic", and perhaps they should be manually set to be at war?

Their abilities:

Military and social production bonus seems a no-brainer, giving them all first-level extreme colonization techs makes sense, but I don't think they should be technologically adept: they sound like a "plague"-species, with a very strong early game that provides strength and technology through quantity, rather than quality. Therefore they can't have Creativity lorewise and should have a tech penalty too, I'm not sure if a popgrowth boost is necessary, but you could implement that (and make it a serious boost) if you forego economy buildings (once more, giving them strength in numbers, acting like a plague). Their influence should be low (as they are so very alien), but their loyalty should be very high(they would be unlikely to defect if "normal" communication is an act of war to them). Information Warfare should be disabled, perhaps they should have massively high morale (boosts pop growth and prevents succesful info warfare against them). Perhaps make them a Minor race with a Major AI? The AI generally ignores the minor races in diplomacy and using the quick save/load trick, you can still make them very successful, although you won't be able to provide a Super Ability (though, perhaps except for Super Dominator, none really make much sense). This middle-bit of my suggestion really reeks of a lot of customization-work though.

As for alignment, I'm thinking Evil: the Goodies and the Neutrals really talk too much (= warfare!), while the Evils are slightly more to the point, making it likely they will hate Good and Neutral more than Evil. Gamemechanics-wise only Evil doesn't provide a real diplomacy boost towards those likewise aligned, giving them no Evil friends either.

Hope this was of any use to you. I might actually go read that novel now, although I so far don't really buy into the consciousness-is-a-downside part (the brain acting before the consciousness "knows" has only been demonstrated for low-level actions, not for creative thought which may very well need jurisdiction from "I" to make sense of the chaos). It is still useful to think through the consequences though, if it turns out true.

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February 12, 2013 4:03:19 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Ah, thanks for the input. I just started playing this game again after a 3 years break, and I've never been to much versed into modding. I'm happy with messing with techtrees and ship, but I'm scared of coding. I'll learn about that as I browse these forums, from time to time. 

 

About the mechanics of economics; is it possible to offset the disadvantage of having no economic techs, with the advantage of a high population, moral and taxes? 

 

As for the question of diplomacy; the scramblers can converse, trade and hold a conversation with a person, but what it really does it apply the communication paterns it learned by mimicking what we do between ourselves and what we're trying to do with them. It does it because we're doing it already, not because it understand the point of it. They're savant idiots that understand form but not content.

Communication is seen a a waste of time, and therefore offensive. But they're forcd to get on with it once the humans insist on establishing first contact; they communicate with the crew to warn them to stay the hell away, to try and stall them. Afterall, with these humans, what is the point of communication but to waste your interlocutor's time and ressources? The first 4 hours conversation between the human crew and the alien ship is a lot like a wierd surreal convo between two person on a blind date; "so, where are you guys from? Do you have siblings? What do you do for fun? Fascinating. Oh, btw stay the hell away from this planet I'm terraforming, its not safe for reasons you can't understand". 

 

All in all, I could go for a race with a huge starting advantage, but very restrictive mid and long term penalities in research, economics and diplomacy. To reflect the fact that they're initaly very fit for what they're programmed to do, while they were never designed to interact and compete with conscious species. 

 

But wouldnt such a race be boring to play...?

 

Hope this was of any use to you. I might actually go read that novel now, although I so far don't really buy into the consciousness-is-a-downside part (the brain acting before the consciousness "knows" has only been demonstrated for low-level actions, not for creative thought which may very well need jurisdiction from "I" to make sense of the chaos). It is still useful to think through the consequences though, if it turns out true.

 

I dont really buy it either, but the novel is useful to introduce many different aspects relating to the subject. Its challenging in that sense. 

 

edit: The AI generally ignores the minor races in diplomacy and using the quick save/load trick, you can still make them very successful,

What that trick?

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February 13, 2013 9:10:30 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Iggore,
I'm happy with messing with techtrees and ship, but I'm scared of coding. I'll learn about that as I browse these forums, from time to time.

The game mechanics are all hardcoded, so no actual coding can be done our part (at least not without hacking and reverse engineering the game). All game changes are done via XML-Files (with some exceptions like new graphics and sounds among others). XML-files are like text-files and quite easy to learn. The hardest part is finding what each tag and game-modifier does. If you have any questions on how to do certain things (or if it is even possible), just ask.

Quoting Iggore,
About the mechanics of economics; is it possible to offset the disadvantage of having no economic techs, with the advantage of a high population, moral and taxes?

Not really. You can see the calculation for the taxes here. The constant used in TA seems to be between 18 and 19. With everything else being equal, a race with economic bonuses will always have a higher net income, than a race without them, but using a higher tax rate. The increased income you get from a higher tax rate is offset by the maintenance for the morale improvements. The higher the population, the more morale improvements you need, too. Once your population goes beyond 20 billion, it is nigh impossible to keep them happy and still make a profit.

Quoting Iggore,
edit: The AI generally ignores the minor races in diplomacy and using the quick save/load trick, you can still make them very successful,


What that trick?

The trick is to change their entry in the RaceConfig.XML to use a major race AI personality (preferably 11, because it is more generic), start a game, save it and then reload. The last part is necessary because the minors will start out with their old algorithms. The reload clears out those algorithms and assigns the new ones, allowing the minors to colonise planets.

Still, a minor race is not a good substitute for a major race. They have several hardcoded flaws, like the inability to vote in the UP. Influence also has no effect on them. You can't culture-flip their planets and they don't project any influence themselves (yet keep building influencer starbases). This might actually be a good thing and fitting for this race, but there are more problems.

The biggest flaw is a change that was made during the beta of TA: the minors loose access to certain techs, depending on what major race is in the game. The lost tech is based on its "uniqueness". If only one major race in the game has it in it's tech tree, the minors loose their access to it. For example, if the game is a duel between the Drengin and the Arceans, the minors loose access to all propulsion-techs after Hyper Drive, Planetary Improvements, all factory and research-techs, some diplomacy-techs, Space Militarization, and a couple more. Worse still, if there are remaining techs after the ones that got removed, the minors can't research them, because the prerequisites are missing. Take Space Militarization for instance. If it is missing, the minors can't research anything depending on it. Which means no weapons, defenses, planetary invasion or advanced starbase modules. If the minors can't buy those techs from someone else, they are screwed.

The only way to fix this problem from our side, is to give the minors unique versions of all the techs, that could possibly get removed. However, this also has a downside: starbase modules. You need to replace most of the starbase modules with minor versions, too, but the AI can only use the first 100 modules in the StarbaseModules.XML. This is already a problem in the vanilla-game, because there are more than 100 modules. The effect is, that several races can't fully build up their starbases, if they are controlled by the AI.

It is probably easier (and less time consuming) to implement your race as a major race. There is the small problem that you can have only 12 major races, but you can work around this. You either replace one of the existing ones in the RaceConfig.XML or you make them as a custom race. When you create a custom race in the game, a file with all the information is created under My Documents\My Games\GC2TwilightArnor. You can then edit this file, and change it pretty much however you want. As far as I know, you can create an unlimited amount of major races this way.

Well, I hope my rambling was useful to you. In any case, thanks for the book recommendation. It really sounds interesting.

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February 13, 2013 8:24:44 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Thanks for the "rambling", that was very informative. I never knew the Minors were so laughably skewed due to internal problems. What do you know. 

 

So I had a go with these "Scramblers", on an immense map with a maximum of opponents and at "painfull" difficulty. 

 

I gave them a modified version of the torian techtree :no economic and government branches, heavy maluses to diplomacy, influence, ships (miniaturization), research (inefficient buildings) but easy access to colonization techs, and a couple of other tweaks to torian buildings (the healing pools give a tiny economic and pop. growth bonuse for exemple, the Harvester can be upgrader to something better, the Initial Colony and the Capital City are something else altogether). 

 

Turns out that no matter how large my empire is (and believe me it is large; 500 billion people, a bit more than twice the pop. of the strongest civ.), I can barely scrap enough money to keep my approval above 70% and enough defense ships to field all my planets. By focusing on colonization and moral techs early on, I largely neglected techs relating to ships (miniaturizations, weapons, logistics). 

 

I'm really only surviving by staying out of wars, and counting on high soldiering and pop. growth to manage aggression. Once I was done expending on unowned planets and against the minors, I started picking at races that were on the verge of losing against stronger opponents, doing hit-and-runs against their weaker or undefended planets. But that wont work for long; the last evil race left are the Drengins. Once they're gone its the Scramblers vs the League of Goodies. And the Scramblers kind of have a bad rep. 

 

It wasnt so boring to play; staying out of war at all cost and having the other civilizations fight against each other isnt easy when you're terrible at diplomacy. And being a "scavenger civilization" that expand into dying ones is kind of neat. Its a more delicate sort of management. But everything is so very much long-term. 

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February 14, 2013 5:53:51 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Iggore,
Thanks for the "rambling", that was very informative.

No problem.

Quoting Iggore,
I never knew the Minors were so laughably skewed due to internal problems.

You're not the only one. Most people either don't know of the tech-limitation or, like me, completely forgot about it. If MabusAltarn hadn't brought some attention to this problem last year, it would have probably stayed that way.

Quoting Iggore,
the Harvester can be upgrader to something better,

Is the upgrade still limited to one-per-planet? If yes, then it could lead to another problem. You can read up on it in my bug-report here.

Quoting Iggore,
the Initial Colony and the Capital City are something else altogether

What do you mean?

Quoting Iggore,
It wasnt so boring to play; staying out of war at all cost and having the other civilizations fight against each other isnt easy when you're terrible at diplomacy. And being a "scavenger civilization" that expand into dying ones is kind of neat. Its a more delicate sort of management. But everything is so very much long-term.

Sounds good and kinda reminds me of the Zuul from Sword of the Stars. Except much more peaceful and less devastating to the natural resources of the planets.

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February 14, 2013 2:40:54 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Had an idea to boost your race economically and to make them stronger with every planet they take (this would work best on the big maps with lots of planets): they need a race-unique building. I was thinking a building that boosts the civilization wide economy by say... 2%? They have to be able to build it on every planet they take and the AI should give it special priority. As I haven't done any modding for galciv I'm not sure how badly the AI would flip out, but the only building they always build is the Star port, and they build it first too. Making their star port give a 1 or 2% cumulative bonus to civecon would go a long way towards fixing the economy and making it AI playable, but as I said, I don't know if the AI won't flip. Alternatively, a different building with a really high prio and probably a secondary ability to build, for instance some techpoints?

I'd be open to play testing if you need it, the game could really use a rush-race.

As for the book, I just finished it. I feel your representation is off on a few points,  but I will not go into that as it involves more spoilers on what is an excellent (though somewhat depressing) hard sci-fi book! Thanks for the recommendation!

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February 14, 2013 4:38:03 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting HighWater,
Had an idea to boost your race economically and to make them stronger with every planet they take (this would work best on the big maps with lots of planets): they need a race-unique building. I was thinking a building that boosts the civilization wide economy by say... 2%?

Good idea. Sadly, it won't work that way. Only Super Projects, Galactic Achievements and Trade Goods can grant ability bonuses. It's the same reason why the Soldiering bonus from the Cathedral of Valor doesn't work.

A one-per-planet improvement with a small planetary economy bonus, however, could work. Question is, if it fits thematically.

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February 14, 2013 10:11:06 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I gave them a race-specific Capital City and Initial Colony, but that created problems that are really obvious now, for when one of their planets get conquered. 

My ultimate goal is to make it AI playable. If I want you to test it, I can just atach the race file on here right?

 

Quoting HighWater,
.

As for the book, I just finished it. I feel your representation is off on a few points,  but I will not go into that as it involves more spoilers on what is an excellent (though somewhat depressing) hard sci-fi book! Thanks for the recommendation!

 

I intentionally left out the best part; vampires in space!

 

 

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February 15, 2013 3:32:06 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I've toyed around with the idea of a species whose structures used food as a resource (- food penalty) and would need +food structures to compensate this. You could use immense amounts of morale bonuses to compensate for their massive populations. They'd have no economic structures, instead they'd get their money from taxation on their massive ultra happy, ultra loyal population.

By not giving them Alliances, Univesal translator, Trade and government tech you'd create the illusion for a player of a species that exists solely to harvest.

 

 

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February 15, 2013 3:53:10 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Urgh, I knew the cathedral of valor was bugged, but I didn't remember it was a hard code issue. That really limits modding something ' different... For me priority would be making this race a viable choice for the AI too, and since the AI isn't truly intelligent (but is it conscious? ) that further limits fixes. Giving them economy starbase modules won't help, nor will giving it a bunch of galactic achievements and then telling it to build only one on each planet and doing that first...

I guess I need more information:

You said you played on Painful? What is your usual difficulty setting? Did you have a favourable starting position?

You also said you had seriously more population than the next guy, did you also have significantly more planets? What were they like, were they filled with buildings, or did you need to leave slots open?

What were your expenditures? You complained you couldn't field a full fleet (a serious problem for the AI, more than for the player), but was fleet maintainance the biggest drain on your coffers, or would this problem be significantly reduced by decreasing maintenance on buildings?

The race did act as a community, I'm having trouble picturing them as a monetary society as they really seemed to be serving just the group interest, they were however very efficient, so cutting maintenance without giving them lots of money to spend would make sense lore wise (IMO) and would prevent the sea of cash the other races swim in without making the economy unmanageable for the AI...

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February 15, 2013 5:05:43 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Iggore,
If I want you to test it, I can just atach the race file on here right?

No, you would need to upload it to a file-sharing service and then put a link to it here. Dropbox is pretty good for this. It is pretty easy to use and is free of charge. You only need to pay, if you want more space.

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March 2, 2013 7:36:31 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting HighWater,

Urgh, I knew the cathedral of valor was bugged, but I didn't remember it was a hard code issue. That really limits modding something ' different... For me priority would be making this race a viable choice for the AI too, and since the AI isn't truly intelligent (but is it conscious? ) that further limits fixes. Giving them economy starbase modules won't help, nor will giving it a bunch of galactic achievements and then telling it to build only one on each planet and doing that first...

I guess I need more information:

You said you played on Painful? What is your usual difficulty setting? Did you have a favourable starting position?

You also said you had seriously more population than the next guy, did you also have significantly more planets? What were they like, were they filled with buildings, or did you need to leave slots open?

What were your expenditures? You complained you couldn't field a full fleet (a serious problem for the AI, more than for the player), but was fleet maintainance the biggest drain on your coffers, or would this problem be significantly reduced by decreasing maintenance on buildings?

The race did act as a community, I'm having trouble picturing them as a monetary society as they really seemed to be serving just the group interest, they were however very efficient, so cutting maintenance without giving them lots of money to spend would make sense lore wise (IMO) and would prevent the sea of cash the other races swim in without making the economy unmanageable for the AI...

 

The story so far...


Here we have two pictures illustrating where I left and gave up on my first game with this new race.

 

 

I called them Engineers, a clumsy nod to Ridley Scott's Prometheus, because of the fact that this species mostly just goes around colonizing and kick-starting worlds.  And Engineers sounds a bit more serious than "Scramblers". 

 

To recap, they use a moddified version of the Torian techtree, with most of the racial buildings and techs being modified to focus on moral, food production, social production, soldiering, loyalty, colonization and fertility rate. On the other hand, they dont have government techs, economic techs, and suffer penalities to ships (miniaturization),influence, diplomacy, research (inefficient research buildings; 4bc for 6tp for exemple). 

 

If you look at the two pictures above, it gives a good idea of my finance and geopolitical situation. First picture shows the map according to influence, but if you look at the smaller map at the bottom on the right, you can see the population density, which gives a better idea of the size and extent of the encroachment of this civilization on the others. This map was Immense, and the difficulty level was Painful. 

 

I started at the center of the map, and expanded in every directions, focusing on all and every colonization techs, neglecting the rest of the tech tree. I used what little diplomacy I had to stay out of war at all cost. The only time I went to war was to pick off the undefended planets of weaker, generaly evil, civilizations that were being destroyed. 

 

After a certain time, the League of Good Guys stood triumphantly all around the galaxy. The Altarian in the northwest, the Krynn and the Iconians in the northeast, the Terrans in the southwest, and everbody and their dog in the southeast. The story of the Engineers being best described as expansion and growth at all cost, at the exclusion of every ethical and moral considerations, I knew I was next. 

So I had myself a 4 fronts war. My ships had weaker weaponery, less logistics, shitty engins, no defenses at all, etc. All I had was number. I had 1.2 trillion people, more than twice the combined population of the other civs. I had 16 in soldiering, while the terrans had 9, the Altarian 8, and so on. So I didnt have to worry much about defending my planets, since most of my planets were alike in production, revenue and research. They mostly all had the same torian-inspired buildings; The Central Mine, the Harvesters, the Pools, etc.

 

Long story short, it was a prolonged deadlock with no end in sight. Even when I put all my production into military, I couldnt muster a big enough force to creat a breakthrough on any fronts. In the meanwhile, I was left in the dust of research. 

 

The second time I played it went a whole lot better. I had more luck  with how things turned out with the other civilizations, and I made wiser decisions. I gave them a much greater moral bonus, and I was less passive. 

 

Conclusion;

 

This race is obviously very good early in the game; the cumulative addition of so many colonies lead to relatively a lot of research and production early on, which means that most early techs can be researched very quickly. But how that scales into the mid game depend on the choices you did early on; did you focus on colonizing tech, or ships-related tech? Do you even have allies? Are the other civs tearing each other appart? Is there a single civ that is dwarfing all other civs for some reason? etc.

The challenge is how to survive the late game. There's no real late-game strategy here. With no economic, government and diplomatic techs, at the exception that those that you're going to steal and trade eventualy, it can be hard to move your weight around. Heck, it can be hard not to have everybody using you as a punching bag with their vastly superior techs. In both games I couldnt really afford to go to war and spare enough production to do any meaningful research at the same time. 

 

The only reason I won the second game is because I attacked the most powerful civilization, the Protoss, when it was done crushing everybody else, timing my attack and applying all my ships and transports in a single point in their territory, aiming at the manifacturing planets. Even when that was successful, the rest of the war was a long attrition battle, that I won because I eventualy stole their most powerful techs through invasion. 

 

So thats that. I feel they need some late game techs and strategies. 

 

Right now I'm playing as the Korx, and I've found out what I loved the most about this game in the first place; diplomacy and dealing with the A.I.

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March 3, 2013 5:51:13 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

This sounds more and more like a very interesting way to play. If you could upload the race, I'd really like to take a look at it myself. Maybe I get some ideas how you could improve it.

My biggest worry at the moment is the population. In the screen-shot, Ben has a population of over 24 billion. In the regular game, this amount of people is pretty much unsustainable. If all your planets have that many people, I can understand why your income (and approval) is that bad, but you probably already realised that. The root of the problem is, that, once the population goes over 20 billion, the Base Approval drops rapidly until it reaches 10% at around 25 billion. The Base Approval determines the effectiveness of the bonus from your Morale ability and planetary improvements. At 10%, this means you need a combined bonus of 900% to bring the approval up to 100%. To offset the morale-penalty from taxes, however, you'd need even more.
Getting that amount, however, isn't that easy. The bonus from your Morale ability is capped at 100%, no matter how high it really is. The +10% morale-bonus from high-quality planets, however, isn't affected by the BA, so you should use those for high population planets. Ultimately, the planetary improvements are the main source to keep the people happy. Now that you know the general basics, you can probably determine yourself how powerful you need the improvements to make, if you want to use 20+ billion populations. The best part, however, is that, once you managed to keep 25 billion people happy, there is nothing preventing you from going to the maximum population limit (100 billion, if I'm not mistaken).

What Super Ability did you give the Engineers? Both Super Adapter and Super Breeder seem very fitting for them. Super Adapter for the colonising part, Super Breeder to quickly increase the population.

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March 5, 2013 7:03:19 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I'm eager to try my hands at this race as well. From the screenshots it does appear that morale is too low and maintenance is too high. To really get where that goes wrong though, some hands-on experience is instrumental.

I did notice one significant flaw in your funding strategy from your screenshots:

Never, ever, take your Spending production capacity slider down from 100%. Especially not when maintanance is your problem. Of course this slider determines how much money you spend (or in this case lose) each turn, but it makes your buildings less effective, taking a chunk out of their max productioncosts, but NOT a chunk out of their maintenance costs! You're much better off, bang-for-buck, leaving the slider at 100% and just having a few productionbuildings less on your planets. This would also leave more space for morale buildings. Still, the maintenance for buildings might need to be adressed, but I'd have to play them in order to understand which maintenance curve would be optimal for balance issues.

To tag on to Gaunathors Morale comments:

I think the Engineers are using Super Breeder? This isn't really replicatable ingame, unlike Super Adapter, which can be replaced by just giving the Engineers the involved techs as starting techs.

I recommend giving this race the Biosphere Modulator if you haven't already. It boosts planet quality by three tiles, giving a higher percentage of your planets the HQplanet morale bonus. I also believe some AI are more inclined to build morale buildings than others, though I'm unsure which AI ID was involved (again, looking at you Gaunathor , I'm guessing the Torians?). Making the Engineers use this ID when controlled by the AI could make the race more manageable for it and a more challenging opponent. 

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March 5, 2013 9:09:41 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting HighWater,
Still, the maintenance for buildings might need to be adressed, but I'd have to play them in order to understand which maintenance curve would be optimal for balance issues.

Agreed. This will need the most work.

Quoting HighWater,
I think the Engineers are using Super Breeder? This isn't really replicatable ingame, unlike Super Adapter, which can be replaced by just giving the Engineers the involved techs as starting techs.

Sadly enough, I have to agree. While thematically fitting, the AI just isn't capable of using the Super Breeder ability properly. Even with a high morale bonus, the AI will just crank up the tax-rate, losing the pop-growth bonus from having 100% approval.

Another way to go would be a bonus to the pop-growth ability, all extreme colonization techs as starter techs, and Super Isolationist as Super Ability.

Quoting HighWater,
I recommend giving this race the Biosphere Modulator if you haven't already. It boosts planet quality by three tiles, giving a higher percentage of your planets the HQplanet morale bonus.

Good idea. A straight-up bonus to the PQ ability would also help.

Quoting HighWater,
I also believe some AI are more inclined to build morale buildings than others, though I'm unsure which AI ID was involved (again, looking at you Gaunathor , I'm guessing the Torians?).

Strangely enough, the Drengin/Korath AI (AIP 7) is the best when it comes to morale improvements. They usually build up to three Arenas per planet. However, they are not that good when it comes to factory building, but that could be due to the influence-penalty of the Slave Pits. Their biggest problem, however, is their unwillingness to colonise outside of their sphere of influence. If they don't start out with several colonisable planets nearby, they are doomed.

The Torian AI (AIP 10), on the other hand, is great for expansion, but, once a certain number is reached, stops building improvements on their new colonies (except for the Starport). Due to this, they are pretty strong early on, but the longer the game goes on (and the more planets there are), the weaker they get. They can work on small maps, maybe even abundant all medium maps, but anything larger than this is a no-go.

If I had to choose, I would go AIP 7. That one can at least work on all map sizes. You just need to be careful with the map settings (never use scattered).

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March 5, 2013 10:42:16 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I'd quote, but the quote-button refuses to appear:

I agree on the Super Isolationist ability. This does make some sense and would play to the Engineers' (I am starting to lean back to liking Scramblers better actually, as they scramble communications, deploy decoys and seem to rush everything) advantage of being "all over the place" after colonization, creating small slow-zones wherever they colonize. I pondered whether giving them the techs for Super Adapters and a Pop boost similar to Super Breeder, while also giving them another ability (Isolationist) would be OP, as they receive more techs and abilities than other races at start-up. But then I realised that wasn't true: with the big nerfs to influence, tech and particularly economics, this only serves to balance them out and make them truly something different to play with.

I'm not sure on giving them too much of a PQ bonus: so far, this race has been built around the concept of the "many planets" economy. Giving them a PQ bonus wouldn't go far in boosting crappy planets as the bonus is rounded down, which restricts it's use as a "morale booster". That is, unless you give them a BIG bonus. But giving them a big bonus gives them a tremendous amount of tiles to work with. The problems I foresee: either lots of empty tiles, or bankrupting planets due to too many industrial/research buildings and too much time spent on developing planets before they focus on just cranking out ships and tech. The BioModulator only gives 2 more tiles to work with, but the +3 does elevate every Class 8 to a Class 11. Come to think of it, maybe giving the scramblers a unique galactic achievement equal to the Orbital Terraformer, but unlocked much earlier and much more prioritized) may also adress this problem: most crappy planets have lots of terraformable tiles, lifting them almost automatically above class 11 once terraforming is complete... Again, balancing that is an issue.

I think AIP7 sounds pretty good indeed. The Torian AI might work better as long as the high maintenance that currently plagues the Scramblers hasn't been adressed, as overbuilding its planets would definitely be an AI issue. But it is unlikely that even the Scrambler AI could grab enough planets to keep up just on Colony research on its own.

I'm still not completely sure if the Scramblers need too much of a late-game boost (except perhaps on maintenance), the tactic most fitting to them would appear to be: become so dominant early on that your early lead must be exploited fully to achieve victory. Giving them a stronger late-game might make them immediatly OP.

 

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March 5, 2013 12:38:16 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting HighWater,
I'm not sure on giving them too much of a PQ bonus

Yes, there are some issues with this approach. The only planets that really need the boost are the ones with PQ 5-7. All the others can get to PQ 11+ with the help of some terraforming. Finding the right amount for the bonus is going to be difficult. Not too high, so it isn't OP for high-quality planets, but also not so low, that it has no effect on the planets that need the boost. In the end, using the Modulator, or an equivalent, is probably going to be easier.

Quoting HighWater,
Come to think of it, maybe giving the scramblers a unique galactic achievement equal to the Orbital Terraformer, but unlocked much earlier and much more prioritized) may also adress this problem: most crappy planets have lots of terraformable tiles, lifting them almost automatically above class 11 once terraforming is complete... Again, balancing that is an issue.

Too bad, that the instant-terraforming ability is hardcoded.

Quoting HighWater,
I'm still not completely sure if the Scramblers need too much of a late-game boost (except perhaps on maintenance), the tactic most fitting to them would appear to be: become so dominant early on that your early lead must be exploited fully to achieve victory. Giving them a stronger late-game might make them immediatly OP.

Definitely. The economy is probably the biggest problem right now. However, it is hard to tell without some actual play-testing.

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March 5, 2013 7:41:50 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Gaunathor,

Yes, there are some issues with this approach. The only planets that really need the boost are the ones with PQ 5-7. (...) In the end, using the Modulator, or an equivalent, is probably going to be easier.

So, a PQ5 + Modulator = PQ 8, + 3 terraforming techs = PQ11 --> morale boost. So to be fair, the Modulator alone solves this problem as long as you have some affinity with the terraforming techs. The AI, having no such meta-knowledge will take a bit longer, but I see them terraforming often enough, I think?

Quoting Gaunathor,

Too bad, that the instant-terraforming ability is hardcoded.

It is... Well that's just... Ergh. Moving the Orbital Terraformer up would be unfair to the other races. No clue as to what the terraformer ues to do its tricks then? Too bad, so sad.

 

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March 6, 2013 5:22:26 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting HighWater,
The AI, having no such meta-knowledge will take a bit longer, but I see them terraforming often enough, I think?

Yes, the AI is capable of terraforming. The AI of Neutral races even waits sometimes until it researches Xeno Ethics. Pretty smart move. Getting the AI to research the techs in the first place, however, is the problem. Soil Enhancement is easily done. Habitat Improvement takes some effort, but is doable. Terraforming, however, takes a lot of effort. I'm not sure, if it is the tech-cost or something else, but the AI rarely researches it. The AI may go after Terraforming, if it has researched all of the other important techs, but that may take a long time. The AIP seems to have some influence on this, but I haven't looked too much into it yet. In one of the alpha-versions of my mod, I actually managed to get the AI to research all terraforming-techs in a timely fashion. However, I completely revamped my approach to adjust the AIs since then, and I haven't been able to reproduce this yet.

Quoting HighWater,
It is... Well that's just... Ergh. Moving the Orbital Terraformer up would be unfair to the other races. No clue as to what the terraformer ues to do its tricks then? Too bad, so sad.

It's typical, really. There you are, having a great idea for a new building, only to learn, that some smart-ass decided to make the ability only work for a certain improvement or not be accessible via XML at all.

Also, you couldn't move the Orbital Terraformer without moving the Terraforming-tech itself. You can't have an improvement with two tech-prerequisites. Well, okay, you can, but only if all techs are withing the same tech tree. Otherwise, the game hangs once you've researched the improvement. Hmm, maybe not, if the improvement isn't an upgrade, like it was in my tests. Yeah, it could work, if it is a singular, independent improvement (like a GA or SP). I have to test this...

Edit: No, it doesn't work. The improvement just moves to the last tech-prerequisite in the file. I first tested this with the Orbital Terraformer, by making it require both Terraforming and Biological Studies. In the test game, Terraforming no longer unlocked the OT. It was only accessible by researching Biological Studies. My second test was with the Manufacturing Vortex. I changed the requirement to include Fusion Power Plants. The result was the same. So much for my bright ideas...

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March 13, 2013 9:20:46 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Thanks for all the inputs. 

 

I could upload the Scramblers here, but I'm still tweaking them. You should make your own version. There's not a whole lot of work involved in creating their techtree, and besides, the more variation we get on this theme, the more chance there is of reaching the goal of creating a version playable by the AI. 

 

Personally, I used the torian techtree, and mostly tweaked the Harvester and Healing pool. The Harvester works like some sort of reactor\farm building (percentage bonus to manufacturing + food production), and you can build one per planet. It can be improved upon 3 times . The lore justification for it is that the Scramblers are "grown" and produced, but are more like "honeycombs" than actual "bees". So this species produces its "people" like we manufacture tools and instruments, according to its perceived needs. Total planetary population is much lower than previous games, but the fertility rate is much higher because of the healing pools. 

The Harvester also provides a relatively important boost to planetary defense, for some reason. Enough to justify reducing this race's innate soldiering bonus, which I transfered into moral. In my previous games, planetary invasion was just too much easy. High pop and high fertility coupled with high soldiering made this race OP. 

 

The Healing pool and its subsequent improvements give a huge moral boost, coupled with a considerable fertility bonus and a small economic bonus. You can build as many as you want. The lore justification is that the Scramblers have a limited battery life, and the pools is where old, dying and inefficient scramblers go to get recycled upon death. It allows to renew your population. 

 

Then there's a Rorschach building. One per planet, but improves PQ by 3, while increasing the perceived might of the orbiting ships by 250. I'm not sure what else it could do. 

 

So thats that for now. I'm not sure any of these buildings make sense, but thats that for now. =]

 

Oh and all their maintenance are at 1bc.

 

I'm giving a third attempt with this race in an on-going game. I'm still at the early stage where I'm done colonizing and I'm sort of giant with feet of clay dwarfing everybody else. Cant wait to see how quickly I'm gonna lose that edge. 

 

I envisaged giving them some unique late-game spying tech, based on their increasing understanding of this universe's inhabitants  coupled with their unique abilities to mess with our brains. Like, what if they got advanced enough to produce pod people and send them to us?

 

edit: oh, and maybe I should specify that I'm using Tolmekian's mod. Its a very nice change on a game I'm already used to.

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March 14, 2013 6:18:37 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Quoting Iggore,
Thanks for all the inputs.

No problem, that's what we're here for.

Quoting Iggore,
The Harvester works like some sort of reactor\farm building (percentage bonus to manufacturing + food production), and you can build one per planet. It can be improved upon 3 times .

That could be a problem. As I mentioned before, there is a bug with upgradeable one-per-planet improvements. If you upgrade one and it gets later destroyed, due to invasion or the like, you won't be able to rebuild it. The game believes, that the improvement is still present, because the upgrade is counted as a second building.

Quoting Iggore,
Then there's a Rorschach building. One per planet, but improves PQ by 3, while increasing the perceived might of the orbiting ships by 250. I'm not sure what else it could do.

Interesting. I never tested Perceived Might, so I didn't knew it could work with normal improvements. I always assumed, that it would only work for Super Projects and the like.

Quoting Iggore,
edit: oh, and maybe I should specify that I'm using Tolmekian's mod.

Why am I not surprised? I know, his mod is pretty popular and has been around much longer than mine, but I could really use some feedback.

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