Kemuel's Place

A diary of sorts, wherein I moonlight as a games writer. Under haphazard construction.

Galactic Civilizations 3 & Emergent Narrative

Kinda typical that just as I’m finding things to write about I go and break my collarbone.

I shouldn’t really be typing this whilst I’m still fragile, but something great came up whilst I was playing Gal Civ 3 this morning and I can’t just let it slip by.

The Galactic Civilizations 3 is something I am eventually gonna write loads and loads about, because the previous game is one of my favourites of all time, and I’ve been playing the pre-order Alpha for a good month or so now with intention to carry on right up to launch.

Arm’s already getting sore, so I’ll make it quick.

Galactic Civilizations is a series of large-scale strategy games set in a distant intergalactic future where the discovery of Hyperdrive technology has made possible the colonization of the space. At the beginning of every game, humanity, or the alien race of your choice, embarks for the first time beyond their home solar system into a galaxy of randomly-generated stars and planets to claim new worlds and build an empire.

Tom Francis’ “Plan B” is the most famous example of the incredible stories that the series has produced, and of how the game’s mixture of complex opponent AI and intricate, multi-threaded gameplay can organically create sweeping narratives without the need for a scripted plot. Within the grand space-operatic tapestries that are woven, however, there are also tons of finer details which sometimes just happen to align in interesting ways and create narratives of their own.

For example, every planet has randomly-determined characteristics, giving it bonuses or penalties to statistics like research or manufacturing, and whenever a planet is claimed, there is a random ethical quandry to answer with benevolent, pragmatic or malevolent responses giving further stat modifiers.

This morning I came upon a brilliant low-gravity planet offering a 25% overall bonus to any tourism enhancements, perfect for my mercilessly peaceful hyper-capitalists to fill with intergalactic cruise stops, trading posts and crazy theme parks. When the colony ships arrived, however, they discovered that the vast oceans of the planet were home to a giant sea creature which was killing and eating settlers all over. If left alone, the ongoing fatalities would put a serious damper on the festivities. Planetary happiness penalties all round.

So, what do?

Cage it up for the punters of course! :3

Oh, and, um, let it out when anyone tries to invade us.

Stat-wise it only gives me the defense bonuses, but looking at the planetary map, two of the continents turned up additional tourism-boosting enhancement tiles on top of the big global bonus! Once I get the appropriate infrastructure built, Iridians’ll be flocking from all over to see the vicious sea monster of Bristo III. One of the many jewels in my burgeoning empire’s crown.

There’s always a temptation to skip the flavour text and just look at the numbers, particularly when your worlds number in the dozens, but the little details add so much to this game that even taking the time to catch one or two really adds to the experience.

I’m not very good at doing long-play diaries of my games, but I do want to write some more about my Gal Civ 3 alpha experiences so far, particularly if any more neat little anecdotes or experiences crop up. I might just do more snapshots like this one, actually. Easier than anything more prolonged and better indicative of my stumbling across cool things.

Think I better take a break for now, though. I’m sure sitting up and typing’s not gonna interfere with my healing too much, but I should really be letting the sling do it’s thing.


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