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Developer Interview: Brad Wardell, Stardock

October 9th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Interview, Stardock

Yes, another interview with Stardock’s Brad Wardell. He’s a popular choice for an interview or a quote, primarily because of his accessibility. Stardock is the developer and publisher of the Galactic Civilizations games and there is an expansion for GalCiv 2 just around the corner.

Wardell is also the loudest voice on his weekly podcast, www.Poweruser.tv.

He agreed to answer a few questions about ongoing developments at Stardock, and has one answer that warms the cockles of my DC area heart.


GC2 has been continually updated since release. Is it hard to know when a game like this is “done”?

It’s never really done. Economics are what usually force us to move on on something. At some point, you start to run out of minor changes to the game that you want to do. By then, anything new starts to cost too much to really put in.

Is there ever a concern that the pace of updates will outstrip the game’s documentation?

A couple of years ago it would have been impossible. But nowadays, thanks to thinks like Wikis, there’s volunteers who update the virtual documentation as we do updates.

What has been the most important change to GC2 since it was released?

I’d say it’s the moddability. I’ve been really surprised and impressed by some of the mods users have made. There’s an outstanding Babylon 5 mod out that pretty much uses the game engine to make GalCiv a Babylon 5 based game. Similarly, there are Star Trek and Star Wars mods that are incredibly impressive as well. It’s just really fun seeing fans do things that we never would have thought of with the engine.

Describe the setting of Dark Avatar, the GC2 expansion.

Dark Avatar takes place one year later after the campaign part of Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords. The evil Drengin Empire is victorious. They are now working their way to conquering the weaker civilizations. Earth is protected behind an impenetrable barrier and can’t be touched but also is limited in what it can do to help.

Given the generic nature of races in GC2, how will the new clans change things for players?

The Generic nature of the race sin GalCiv II has been something we’re tossing out with Dark Avatar. In Dark Avatar, each civilization will be given its own unique super ability that has a lot of code behind it in how they play the game (rather than just some number bonus). So the Terran Alliance are super-diplomats who can manipulate things politically, the Drengin Empire are dominators who can extort cash out of civilizations, The Yor can hold players speed down in thei territory, and Iconians are master adapters who can colonize certain types of planets more easily.

The two new civilizations, the Korath the the second (unnamed one) have their own powers. The Korath have a genocide ability that lets them construct units that can wipe out planets without having to invade. The others are master spies who can do harm to enemy planets while being protected from retaliation.

You recently expressed an interest in exploring mega-events for the GC epic game. Why? How would these work?

The biggest thing we can do to extend the fun of the game I think is to make sure the game stays fresh. One way to do this is to add what we call Mega Events. These are a step beyond the typical “random event” in that they have an intelligence behind them. Essentially the game core looks at the state of the universe and then can choose from a series of complex events that will mix things up. So if a player is wiping the floor with other players, the other players might form an impromptu alliance against them. Or if things are a bit stale mated, a galaxy wide civil war where several new civilizations are created who take territory out of each player’s empire.

The idea is to help create some variance (which is an option — users can turn these off when they start the game if they want) between games . A little drama can help keep the game from being predictable and require players to adapt their strategies.

Are you surprised that the GC series has become, for many, the standard by which other scifi 4x games are measured?

I am glad to see a lot of people like the game. There is still a lot of areas that we can expand on in the future. Master of Orion and other classic 4X games still have real followings that we would do well to serve more in the future. What we want to do is make games that are approachable by casual features but under the hood encompass the kinds of features and game mechanics that appeal to both mainstream gamers and hard core strategy game players.

Stardock has become well-known for its open community relations and has accrued a lot of respect from gamers. Was this part of the business plan?

We started out that way so we haven’t ever really considered doing it any other way. We’re really just gamers ourselves who just happen to make games. So we have areas in our own forums where we all will chat about other games (and do news items for other games as well).

With another presidential election only two years away, will we see another Political Machine?

Definitely. We’ll publish The Political Machine 2008 ourselves which will enable us to have a much bigger budget. We were happy with how the last one did, especiall considering the whole thing was made in 6 months by a team of 4 (including artists). With something to work from and a lot more data available, we hope to have a much more rounded political strategy game that will appeal to a wider audience.

You won’t be making space conquest games forever. There have been stories that you are trying to crack the MMORTS nut. Is there anything else on your plate that you want to let me in on?

We do have a long-term MMORTS being developed but the back end is going to take awhile to create so it’ll be vaporous for awhile. We do have a major new turn-based strategy game in development with a target release in a bit over 2 years but I can’t talk about it yet.


Thanks, Brad for your time and cooperation.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Taranis

    “We do have a major new turn-based strategy game in development with a target release in a bit over 2 years but I can’t talk about it yet.”

    Yet another hint at this mystery game, could it be Master of Magic 2? Weather it is or not I’m happy to see Stardock make another TBS game.