Stardock's Galactic Civilizations II was a sleeper hit for Stardock, especially since the developer decided to take the plunge and self-published their space strategy sequel both in retail stores and via online downloads. Now Stardock is planning to release an expansion for the game, Dark Avatar, this fall and FiringSquad got a chance to chat with Stardock's founder Brad Wardell about their plans for the expansion.
FiringSquad: First, the critical and sales reactions to Galactic Civilizations II have been solid. Did you anticipate such a reaction when the game was first released?
: Definitely not. Everything we had planned on was based on a projected linear increase from what happened during Galactic Civilizations I.
Way back when GalCiv I came out, Master of Orion 3 was new and a lot of people were anxious for space-based strategy games. So the success of the first game had taken us by surprise. With Galactic Civilizations II, there wasnít that situation so we did not think there would be the kind of mass-market demand for a space-based strategy game.
FiringSquad: The game has also been a champion of sorts against the modern copy protection schemes that most PC games have. Do you think the success of the game will get more publishers to rethink such copy protection programs?
: Yes, I think weíve already seen some results from that, as game companies have started to move away from such draconian copy-protection methods.
I have always wondered who, specifically, makes the decision at the typical game publisher to include intrusive CD copy protection. Iím a greedy, evil, corporate bastard capitalist. The decision not to have CD copy protection was not based on some sort of kumbaya. It was based on being a gamer; every gamer I know uniformly will choose to pass on games that they are on the fence on if thereís CD copy protection.
Some games that I must have Iíd be willing to provide DNA for in order to play, but most games donít qualify for that. I know Iíll lose the CD at some point or damage it so unless I really must have the game, Iíll pass on it if it requires me to have the CD in the drive. And if the game is installing stuff onto my machine to make sure Iím not ďstealing,Ē that narrows what Iíll buy further.
But the bottom line is that we are certain that CD copy protection costs more sales than it gains through ďpreventing piracy.Ē Gamers ó particularly people who buy games ó resent being treated like criminals, and it affects their purchasing decisions.
If I thought that a retina scan would increase sales, then you can be assured that a GalCiv III would require it. Not having CD copy protection has definitely helped our sales.
FiringSquad: Dark Avatar has the player controlling the bad guy aliens this time out. Is it more fun playing the villain?
: Villain? The Drengin are just misunderstood. If conquering and enslaving people is a sign of villainy well then I donít want to know what non-villainy is. In the Dark Avatar campaign, you take on a faction of the Drengin Empire, the Koranth, which is bent on not only enslaving the universe, but exterminating all of the races that inhabit it ó that desire to take it a step further puts the Koranth at odds with the rest of the Drengin Empire.
FiringSquad: What are some of the more interesting content additions in Dark Avatar?
: Different parts of the team have their own favorites. Iím really into writing computer AI so my favorite parts have to do with allowing players to essentially design their own opponents. To me, being able to keep the computer opponents interesting and challenging over the long haul is absolutely crucial.
But other parts that people here are really into include the asteroid fields, which exist primarily for mining resources around planets. Another part that people like a lot here is that planets now have environment requirements, which means that you canít necessarily colonize all of the planets immediately, but instead may have to research a specific type of environment before colonizing.