The Alpha arrives in 17 days from now

By on March 10, 2014 3:46:37 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

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Greetings!

The ALPHA of Galactic Civilizations III is due in 17 days (March 27). I want to use this post as a way to set people’s expectations and, if anything, use this as a public service announcement that you should NOT join the Founder’s program if your goal is to play a video game for fun early. That is not the purpose of the Founder’s program.

The stages of development

Software goes through 5 distinct phases with varying definitions but below is my own personal version:

Phase 1: Prototype

This is where you have something that kind of sort of works. It may not work anywhere else but your machine and only the most rudimentary features are in.  Right now, Stardock has 6 games in prototype of which only 2 have been vaguely mentioned – GalCiv III and Code-named Mars.  Most non-insane studios do not talk about games until they are way beyond this point. 

The purpose of the prototype is work through basic systems and set up the art pipeline.

Phase 2: Alpha

This is where the game will probably work on other people’s computers but it’s nothing that would remotely resemble a “fun” experience.  The fact it works at all is a miracle and only the most basic features are working. Internally this stage means the art pipeline is now working (that is, you can get new art assets into the game) and the underlying engine is functioning.   In my mind, the threshold that makes something an alpha is that it is possible to win (or lose) the game. That doesn’t mean it’s fun.  Most of the features won’t be in.  The purpose of the alpha is to see if the engine works on other machines and start solicitation core game mechanic feedback from members.

As an example: GalCiv II’s alpha was basically sprite based and utterly unplayable. Sins of a Solar Empire’s alpha didn’t have phase lanes. Demigod’s alpha still used Supreme Commander assets and UI.

Phase 3: Beta

Many studios these days have open betas. Betas tend to have most of their major features in and some gameplay in.  How “fun” it is depends on how far along the process they are. Think of your favorite game and change a few variables about it and suddenly it’s not fun.  Civilization IV becomes a lot different if it takes 50 turns to spit out a settler. Call of Duty is a totally different game if everyone has 1000 HP.  You can’t judge what the final game will be like.  But at least now it’s a game.

Phase 4: Gamma

At this stage, it’s a release candidate. You’re not really adding anything anymore. You just want to see if there are any bug issues that got missed.  Some games are reviewed at this phase even because you can pass judgment at this stage.

Phase 5: Release

The game is out and will be judged.

Where we stand

In 20 years of game development, I’ve only shared alphas with the public one other time and that was with the original Galactic Civilizations for OS/2. It was extremely primitive. 

Obviously, our biggest concern is that we’ll have people making judgments on the game itself at this stage.  We’re over a year away from release.  The opportunity here is to see how well the game runs for people but also to hear what long time GalCiv players think of different parts of the game.

The alpha  phase is the opportunity to experiment and try out different ideas. In this alpha, we’re trying out new things such as a new type of technology tree, a single planetary manufacturing queue, a new UI for the planet screen, etc.  Maybe these things will say. Maybe they won’t. That’s what the alpha will help us decide.  That is the point of it.

So to emphasize the point again: Do not play the alpha expecting to have a fun game (though, ironically, the 1 on 1 multiplayer might have some bit of fun based on the playtesting I’ve seen).  But do play it with an open mind to see what things you like, how well it works on your box, what things you think should be changed and share those things with us after giving your own concepts serious consideration.

Cheers!

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March 10, 2014 4:08:36 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Awesome deal, Brad!  

This will be interesting to see the project through from before the typical beginning. I'm looking forward to seeing your process.

 

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March 10, 2014 4:13:12 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Cant wait lol. Im driving my friends crazy because whenever I talk to them I start ranting about waiting for GC3 lol. So just keep working and make sure it works for a Gateway NE56R34u and an Acer Iconia w700 lol. This game is going to be so awesome I cant wait! But until then, I'll just play GC2 with the music and leader portraits I inserted from the founders vault lol.

P.s. Will this game have touchscreen support?

P.P.s Unrelated, but will peace treaties have to be honored in gc3 or be like gc2 where you can get ten free planets or techs and then re engage war the next turn?

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March 10, 2014 4:17:18 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

I'm glad that you sent this out! It brings into perspective what this alpha is all about and tells people what to expect. I (and I believe many other people) thought the same way. It's good to clear the air and let people know what's up!

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March 10, 2014 4:22:48 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Quoting ,


So to emphasize the point again: Do not play the alpha expecting to have a fun game (though, ironically, the 1 on 1 multiplayer might have some bit of fun based on the playtesting I’ve seen).

I was thinking about that just the other day, I am looking forward to trying the multiplayer feature with other alpha testers.

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March 10, 2014 4:44:47 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Yeah!

 

Can´t wait to try it on my own 

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March 10, 2014 5:15:15 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Looking forward to it, Particularily trying out coop. Don't worry,  I will have reaper of souls and age of wonders 3 for my fun quota.

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March 10, 2014 5:24:54 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Looking forward to cancer... I mean testing. 

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March 10, 2014 5:33:25 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Is there any kind of feedback system for alphas testers? Or do we just spam the forum with threads(i hope not)?

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March 10, 2014 6:43:42 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

One suggestion for the alpha:

 

get a dedicated suggestions/feedback-forum - PLEASE founders be nice there - and then collect the feedback for what has been requested the most and prompt it back to us so we can have a controlled (controlled as in "by you") sort of discussion, where we can get in the most polular ideas and you can get some actually valuable (as in usable / and implementable) feedback.

 

everything else in my experience will just degrade into noise at some point, especially with a player-base as dedicated as i suspect pretty much most of the founders are

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March 10, 2014 7:58:52 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

In this alpha, we’re trying out new things such as a new type of technology tree, a single planetary manufacturing queue,

 

 

thats the thing i want to check out most and see if its what im thinking in my mind a better idea or more trouble some and see what everyone else thinks about it also

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March 10, 2014 8:16:35 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

if theres some kind of dedicated alpha forums for testers to post feedback on the ability to upload an image would be nice

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March 10, 2014 8:53:12 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Understood, and standing by...

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March 10, 2014 9:10:47 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Excitement is building on my end.  I agree that a well established dialog between alpha testers and devs is critical.  An alpha only forum could serve this purpose.  I hope that Stardock helps to foster meaningful discourse between all parties through heavy moderation and directing conversation through prompts.

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March 10, 2014 10:10:08 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I am looking forward to this.  I have had a love of this type of game since "Spaceward Ho".

 

 

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March 10, 2014 10:12:27 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

second this.  screen captures would be helpful

 

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March 10, 2014 10:18:33 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Personally I think this 'hidden Early Access' is the way to go. I also think going with the higher price tag for the alpha release was a good idea. Introversion had a similar theory of "This costs a lot of money so you're going to THINK about it, and not just buy it blind because it was on sale on Steam". I think this coupled with the fact that it's only on GalCiv3's website 'should' mean only the hard-core of the hard-core will be buying an testing. And will be fairly active here and understand what the implications of 'alpha' means, warts and all.

However even with the above there may be some inevitable 'omg wtf warble warble'. And thus I propose:

 

GalCiv3 Alpha Code of Conduct

Rule 1. The first person to complain about the alpha being "broken" "unplayable" "waste of money" etc shall be given a one way ticket to Paris. You will be unceremoniously dumped into Lake Erie and you will swim all the way to Paris. Sharks with lasers on their heads will 'guide' you on your trip. SWIM FOR YOUR DAMN LIFE!

Rule 2. See Rule 1

 

P.S. Obviously I don't mean to imply that we should not give constructive feedback for things that could be improved or that are broken. That is after all what the Alpha is for

P.S.S But the sharks are there 'just in case'.

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March 10, 2014 10:34:46 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Ok this is not the fun part of the game. That is fine.

I'm probably have tips on build Ques.victory

I might have suggestions on tech trees.

If I find the user interface confusing I should probably speak up.

I know the victory conditions are not up.

I will be looking for a challenging game.

I know the ship building is not up to par.

I know the diplomacy is not up yet.

I am planning to give suggestions and ideas when they come. My question is what exactly do you want feedback on, and what don't you want to hear about? Sorry never done an alpha before just want to see my favorite game the best it can be. I want an easy feedback system, but if you limit the ideas I can give expect me to use both what you have planned and the forums. I just hope you make it easy to give feedback, and give the tools we need.

I understand that this is not the game, so if its not fun things will change later on.

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March 10, 2014 10:44:55 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

So on a more serious note I'd like to recommend a few things for the alpha release

 

  • Dedicated sub-discussion. I realize there isn't an NDA on it but maybe it would make things 'cleaner' to talk about things. Thought it is a valid point that even if you're not in the Founder's Elite doesn't mean you don't have valid feedback
  • Standardized bug submission protocol. I think a bug sub-forum with a 'template' on how to submit bugs, with all the relevant information would be helpful to everyone. In the alpha like a lot is likely to be broken, and be highly hardware dependent. So having detailed hardware lists will likely help. I find that, given we'll be using Steam, that doing Steam->Help->System Information gives a pretty good run down of yoru computer, drivers, etc. It's also a bit easier than using dxdiag sometimes especially for the non-tech savvy. Just a thought
  • Set update timing expectations. You've already done a great job explaining what we should expect from the game. However users will be of course expecting updates. You'll need to set patch timing expectations. I think no matter what you decide on, as long as users understand how often they should expect updates it will be ok. Constant communication on this front will be critical, because users have 'werid' expectations as to updates. Some thing 'once a week' is 'too often' while some might think once very 2 week is 'too slow!' Ensure you control expectations on this front
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March 10, 2014 11:00:21 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

I have a lot of fun breaking things. Alpha will be real fun.

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March 11, 2014 1:00:23 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Quoting ddp9481,

Excitement is building on my end.  I agree that a well established dialog between alpha testers and devs is critical.  An alpha only forum could serve this purpose.  I hope that Stardock helps to foster meaningful discourse between all parties through heavy moderation and directing conversation through prompts.

Wait wait wait.

Wait.

You make this sound like work.

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March 11, 2014 1:34:25 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Quoting RonLugge,


Quoting ddp9481, reply 13
Excitement is building on my end.  I agree that a well established dialog between alpha testers and devs is critical.  An alpha only forum could serve this purpose.  I hope that Stardock helps to foster meaningful discourse between all parties through heavy moderation and directing conversation through prompts.

Wait wait wait.

Wait.

You make this sound like work.

It is not really ''Like'' work but the way I see it it does share some similarities. Chief amongst them, there are certain responsibilities that come from being entrusted with the alpha. It is not because you paid for it that you are entitled to do or say whatever you please about it. There is a certain etiquette to respect with that kind of thing. So far SD are showing a surprising openness about what other companies would be very closed about. There is something slightly experimental in the approach and the last thing we want to see is the experience turning sour.

I think it will be all right, but it might be good to take some precautions. You never know with those silly Hu-mans ( been playing star control II lately )

But also, more to the point regarding the message you responded to. If we are to help Stardock making this game better, we might as well do it in a efficient way. I hope this whole ''open'' alpha setup will be a positive and fun experience for everyone but It is still serious business when you think about it.

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March 11, 2014 4:24:48 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

What I have seen in the vault makes me think it will be quite an interesting Alpha. I look forward to being part of it.

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March 11, 2014 4:58:58 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Hope loads of you lads and ladettes are up for some 1vs1 or 1vs1vs1vs1 alpha multiplayer. Hopefully Stardock will make an own forum sticky, at least when the game is out next year, where players can organize their MP-games.

 

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March 11, 2014 8:03:28 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

We'll expand the forums as necessary.  

 

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March 11, 2014 11:23:16 AM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

In the beginning Stardock created the heavens... If you look closely you can see the number 1-7. This means that we are at the first day of seven. Might indicate that the real work lies ahead! That's it for symbolism. Carry on!

 

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