Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
ImperialCreed: Nice to see the Spectres of Agony are still alive and well, flipping off every sentient species in the galaxy as they go :)
P.S. Did you ever get that email I dropped you Mr. Francis?
Tentaculat: I loved Master of Orion 2, and Civilization 4 but I simply can't get into GalCiv2. I want to love it, I really do. Do the expansions improve the game considerably? I've only played the first edition - which just seemed to drag on with no real structure to the game.
Like I said, I want to love it, so what am I missing?
Tom Francis: Are you playing the campaign? I'm not a big fan of that. The sense of progression is kind of undermined when you have to keep restarting, and it's the complexity and depth of that sense that makes GalCiv great in the first place.
I'd much rather play one twenty-hour match from random parameters than a tighly-plotted, mission-based story made up of smaller matches. Apart from anything else, a random game ends up having a better story.
In fact, GalCiv works so well for the former, that I wonder if we'll soon get to the point where people are happy for that to be the 'campaign', so to speak. Quick tutorial, then here: win this one, vast, enormously complex galaxy.
bob_Arctor: There is a campaign?
Madness: 4X games never needed a campaign before. Just start a large random map, sorted for 30 hours.
Tom Francis: The idea is to give new players somewhere to start - a custom game screen is super-intimidating if you've never played before. People want a button they can click to play the game in a way that'll lead them in gradually, not requiring advanced knowledge from the get go. That's what 'campaign' says to most people.
But a mission-by-mission progression doesn't suit this type of game at all, and that's one of few things I hold against Dark Avatar. Expansions ought to be tackling this instead of just repeating the mistake with slightly more care and attention.
I think my solution would be to combine a preset small-galaxy match with a tutorial, so that the tutorial explains the basics then lets you play an easy little game, offering help and commentary throughout. Then the 'New Game' option would launch you into a somewhat randomised Huge or Immense sized game as a race of your choice or design, with every other race present, default settings, and a simple choice of AI difficulty.
You'd still have a Custom Game option below that for anyone who wants to play differently, but you basically come down and say: this is how our game is meant to be played, this is how we think you'll get the most fun out of it. So that players without a preference will actually try the type of match that best shows off the game's traits, and get a huge amount of playtime out of it.
Right now, timid or modest players probably never try getting stuck into a really huge game, they likely stick to the campaign, which really doesn't show off the game well.
ImperialCreed - did your mail or e-mail address mention your handle? A Gmail search for it turns up nothing.
ImperialCreed: I fired it at your Gmail account, and my e-mail is imperial.creed[at]whatever, so that's curious it didn't materialise. It had an attachment too, a piece of music I thought you might be interested in.
I agree the campaign in both versions of the game is a bit rubbish, that part never gripped me at all. May I ask what difficulty level you play at, as I seem to get my ass handed to me on all but the easiest levels?
Love the game though, even if it does swallow huge chunks of my life.
Tom Francis: Nope - all I've got is a Kane and Lynch review you sent to the Uncensored address a while back. Resend?