I’ve given Larsenex’s map settings a try (Insane and everything rare except abundant stars, Godlike of course) and had a Research Victory on Turn 187, refer attached save game and in short none of the AI are near a Victory condition. This follows the save games posted in other threads for a Turn 53 Alliance Victory on Huge and Turn 20 Alliance Victory on Tiny.
I did plan to keep playing with Research Victory off but once you start pumping out Huge ships with Beyond Mortality technologies it becomes clear there is little point playing on, see the screenshot below at Turn 201.
I’m still interested in any other settings anybody wants to propose where they believe Godlike would be difficult.
For the record there were no reloads (beyond having a life in between gaming sessions). I’ve used the first map generated and it was an absolute shocker, out on a thin spiral slice at the edge of the galaxy with a huge void to get to the main part of the spiral … and in particular no nearby Precursor Worlds.
Given how ridiculously easy Alliance Victories have become on smaller maps it was nice to play a game that made Alliances more difficult. Since you don’t discover many AI for a while, and have very limited resources or anomalies, the AI have the chance to build up and it’s very hard to avoid appearing weak which has a massive negative effect. As at Turn 187 I have Alliances with most races and but remain at war with a couple and recently conquered the Borg. Anytime a bridging starbase was built by the AI nearby I destroyed it and was routinely upgrading sensor boats around my space to ensure there were no surprises. I never felt threatened militarily despite all the AI bonuses and lack of resources/anomalies to help catch-up to the AI.
All of the Precursor Worlds were at large distances in difficult to defend locations and those I could get to all required Atmospheric Cleansing. On Turn 100 I managed to get the 4 closest Precursor Worlds (which is a huge advantage given how few colonies there are on these settings) and the strategy to do so was simply parking a colony ship right next to those planets ready for when the required technology was available which was given priority. Due to the difficult to defend locations I put planetary defences on, but due to the rare settings struggled to find Elerium for the Elerium shield until recently so they were somewhat vulnerable … but the AI never invaded.
Spamming economic starbases led to massive bonuses and is also really boring and my least favourite part of the game. I just expanded as per normal, spammed starbases, and then at about Turn 100 focused on the research victory technologies. Even if you are behind the Godlike AI on research output, none of them seem to target a research victory.
With respect to having Abundant Minor Races, as much as I enjoy having them in the game that setting just means there are even more factions where cash or technology can be farmed from the AI. As usual I had diplomatic technologies early and could use diplomacy to trade for more cash than I would ever need (to the point where I really shouldn’t have bothered with having any credit focused worlds at all and just made them research focused). I could focus on Research Victory technologies early because I didn’t need to research anything else, I just traded for them. Free Trade Agreements alone give you about 3,000 credits every time they spawn for all races you have less than terrible relationships with. Mid-game, often being flush with credits, I asked some of the AI’s to declare war on each other, which both distracted them and weakened them (with a particular focus on races that had declared war).
As Frogboy has said and as we all know very well, all 4X games have exploits … BUT sometimes it reaches a point where those exploits become excessive and break the game. With that theme in mind there are a couple of changes I would recommend here to Stardock:
- Give the AI’s better late game strategies e.g. to rush technologies needed for research victories etc.
- With starbases implement the changes Naselus has made where starbase range is massively larger and they can have multiple functions (e.g. economic and mining) which would both reduce starbase spam and limit the bonuses that can applied to individual worlds.
- The AI designs need much better movement speed so that war declarations actually have some menace.
- The AI needs to give Precursor Worlds enough focus, either in colonisation or in war.
- The AI should use the Logistics reduction building and have a fleet filled completely with reduced logistics ships (i.e. a fleet of doom) and send that fleet in first during war, it would certainly give some players an “oh my god” moment or two.
- Teach the AI to use the planetary wheel since it seems to be remaining in the game for a while.
- Totally overhaul Diplomacy so it’s not so easy to excessively exploit.
I want to emphasise that I enjoy Gal Civ 3 a lot. I’m hoping somebody at Stardock is reading this, loading the various save games provided and agrees there are massive opportunities to improve the game in the ways we describe, because it means a lot more fun in the future. That said, I’m sure I’ll always play more games with expansions and good DLC as an Elite Founder. Frogboy will say “hey Ice you have 100’s of hours of playtime so you got good value” and my response is yes I totally agree. But my counterargument is that the game is good but not great. The games I always come back to in time, which I consider to be great, are the ones which don’t become too easy and where the strategy I had on Turn 1 has to be totally changed on the fly. It’s only when more people actually use these strategies in Gal Civ 3, express their surprise about how easy it makes the game rather than being defensive, that there will be a realistic chance of significant change. At the end of the day obviously Stardock run a business. Stay quiet, refuse to acknowledge legitimate issues, and the game will remain good but not great. Be vocal (remember the response on the planetary wheel? remember how Distant Worlds improved after community feedback?) and there is a chance this game will become great. And isn’t that what most of us want? Now if you already think the game is great now … well all I can say is those rose tinted glasses are powerful!
The AI could be coded to exploit all of this a lot better. However, if that was done without also balancing/improving the mechanics then a lot more new players are going to find Normal really tough. They are going to feel the AI is cheating when it isn’t. So as is often the case the best option is to combine the proposed AI improvements with balances/improvements. That said, there really are some quick wins as well e.g. increase starbase range/multiple functions, remove a 0 from the value of Free Trade Agreements etc.