Flash of Steel header image 2

GalCiv 2 pre/post mortem

February 20th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

4x strategy megasite Apolyton is running a trilogy of articles from Stardock’s Brad Wardell about Galactic Civilizations II. I’m going to reserve comment on the game itself until my review hits print, but the second essay by Wardell is a must read for anyone interested in how game designers think.

First, who would have thought that the graphics engine for Political Machine would be useful for GalCiv 2? The two games look nothing alike. In fact, I wasn’t sure that Political Machine was 3D to begin with. It does go to show that a lot of stuff that happens under the hood is more important to how designers and developers produce their work than the surface appearance would have we code-phobic gamers would like to think. I mean, you can look at American Conquest and Alexander and see that they are related. But it’s not easy to see how the new and improved Dregin are descended from a cartoon John Kerry. This sort of insight is what separates those who play from those who create.

The most interesting bit of part two is the opening section on how Master of Orion III forced Stardock to change the original GalCiv. Features were cut because they were confident that MOO3’s bigger budget meant that Quicksilver would do a more thorough job with them. So, to avoid direct comparions, GalCiv was scaled back. And then MOO3 was released to a hungry world as one of the great letdowns in gaming history.

The summary itself makes for one great designer’s note of the sort that I eulogized here not so long ago. Wardell has always been one of the more accessible and outspoken indie developers – a shameless self-promoter, too, and I mean that in a good way, believe me. His success has allowed him to go out on more limbs, of course, but I think many game developers could be a lot more open about the process of designing and releasing a game. It’s all part of the PR exercise that all indies need to do to get word out about their games. Introversion and Stardock are two of the best at building enthusiasm for their games through accessibility, self-promotion and word of mouth. Which is part of why GalCiv2 is going to get major coverage and other indie games are not. Yeah, Wardell has a bigger budget now, but he didn’t have a ton of development and marketing money when his small team released the original GalCiv and you’ll find that his media strategy hasn’t changed that much.

Back to GalCiv 2 for now. The Korx are being a bit of a nuisance.


4 Comments so far ↓

  • Hieronymus @ The Game Chair

    I’ll go you one better as far as guessing what games are connected to what other games. I worked on the original Ultima Underworld. Did you know the 3D engine we used in that ground breaking title was derived from the 3d engine used in Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat?

  • steve

    How did that work? Origin wasn’t part of EA when Underworld was being done by Blue Sky (soon to be Looking Glass). Or did Blue Sky do Yeager?

  • Anonymous

    In fairness to other indie developers, they have prolly never had a retail release either, which is prolly far more important in terms of public conciousness.

    – Factory

  • Troy Goodfellow

    “they have prolly never had a retail release either”

    The question, of course, is why not? Many indies do get specialist publishers behind them like Shrapnel or Matrix – each of which does a fair to middling job of promoting their games. Plus, retailers are much more likely to carry your product if they have heard of it and expect some demand for it. It’s not like Stardock was swimming in money when the original GalCiv came out.

    Marketing is a key part of any business plan. Even if GalCiv2 was only available through digital download, it would still be selling as well as it is. I would bet that a large percentage of its sales so far are not through traditional retail outlets.