Lead Developer, Stardock Entertainment

I've been seeing some questions about some of my new features, the option to have the AI design ships for the player, and auto launch.  So I'm going to go into a little more details about these new features than the change log went into.

Auto Launch

I'll start with Auto Launch because it's the simpler feature.  We had the auto launch feature in GalCiv1 before we added rallypoints.  It does just what it says: it launches all of your ships as soon as they are built.  We didn't add this option to the interface for GC2 because we figured the rallypoints would cover this need. However, you have to actually set a rallypoint for a planet,  and sometimes that's more than you need.  Since the game automatically selects the next ship with moves left, having all your ships auto launch can be extremely useful. 

But what about when you're at war, or you're building up for war? You don't want to leave your planets undefended.  That's what the slider labeled Min Defenders In Orbit is for, it specifies the minimum number of defenders that must be in orbit before the ships are auto launched.  If the number is zero, all ships auto launch as normal.  If slider is all the way over to the right, it will only auto launch ships when the orbit is full.  However, if you switch from building war ships to constructors, it will still launch the constructors. 

Then there's the option to keep transports from launching.  That's fairly obvious; you may not want your transports to be auto launched because you may want to keep them protected in orbit until you have enough ships to send it with a fleet. 

The option to make rallypoints follow the same rules as Auto Pilot makes rallypoints check the above options before auto launching the ship.  However, if this option is ON and Auto Launch is OFF, your rallypoints won't work, which is why it automatically turns off if you turn Auto Launch off.

These options are fairly easy to implement, so it wouldn't be hard to add a few more if you guys can come up with additional options.

AI Designed Player Ships

This option is OFF by default.  It's intended for people who don't design their own ships, so if you design your own ships anyway, you probably won't find this too useful.  It can be enabled or disabled at any time in the game from the Options menu.  Currently, it is set to only update the designs every 48 turns (a game year) after the first update.  So you can manipulate this by keeping the option turned off until you have the techs that you want in your first set of designs, then turn it on and let it design ships for you.  Or you can trade for all your weapons techs in a single turn. 

When this option is on, there is a button on the Ship Yard screen labeled Focus.  If you set the sliders to 20 % Beam, 20 % Missile, and 60% Mass Driver, the AI will attempt to arm the ships it designs using those percentages.  If you don't have the techs to support this focus, it does the best that it can.  It does the same for the defense using the defense focus sliders.  If the AI can't design a better ship than its previous design, it won't save the new design.  It will also only obsolete ship designs with the same weapon focus; if you focus on Beam first and then switch to Mass Drivers, it won't obsolete your Beam ships because you may still want to use them.  This means that you may have to do a little more work to clean up your list, but it's better than putting too much in control of the AI, because then you feel like you have to fight the AI for control of your own empire.

For the actual hull, the AI uses the ship templates specified in the ship style.  I went through and changed all of the descriptions of the core templates to show which ones were designed for beam weapons, etc, to demonstrate that the first heavy fighter template is used for ships with a beam weapon focus, the second for missiles, and the third for mass drivers.  Previously, you could only change what ship style you were using if you were designing a custom opponent, but I changed it so that you can design your own ship style for your race as well now.  This will only be noticeable if you have this option on. 

We do not disable the core ships or user defined ships because the AI does not design all ship types for you, and it would cause problems for the campaign and random events to remove the core ships.  So these designs will still show up in your list unless you filter them out.  You can also obsolete ships to remove them from the list for the course of the game.

If you have any questions or suggestions about these new options, this would be a good place to post.  Bug reports on these two features can go here too.

 


Comments
on Mar 03, 2008
Well I tried it to see how it works. Here is what I noted.

________________
1. Steal that advanced tech!
One of the problems I ran into is, many times you want a new ship designs to be made now. In the test game I played, I managed to steal a disrupters tech from the Drengin when my ships were using early mass driver weapons. Suffice to say, I had to wait a while before I could build these newer ship. I saw the Drengin use their newer ships against me shortly after I could build my new ones.

A "make a new design now" button might be of help.

2. Conflict of design philosophy
I tend build my ships with a lot of defense when I can. Any ship I think is worth building should last a while. As such, you can probally understand why I was felling a bit nervious when my ships were being blown up left and right.

Maybe allow us to tell the AI to build ships with better defense.

3. Limited access
I found I could only build these new ships when selecting the planet from space and changing the build orders. Anywhere else didn't seem to be able to find these AI builds. In addition, I couldn't go to the ship designer, pick one of the AI builds, and make a few adjustments.

4. New ships? When?
The AI ship builder doesn't inform us when a new ships are designed. Maybe having an icon on the side, like we have for spies, ships, and finished planet developments would be of help.

________________
In any case, I was able to beat the game on tough using any combat ship designed by the AI. As such, the AI builds seem to work ok for players.

If I have more thoughts later, I'll be certain to make another post.
on Mar 03, 2008
Cari i sent in a bug found in the shipyard (sort of same topic). Do you know if it was received?

M.
on Mar 03, 2008
THank you for the auto launch !!! This is something I will be using a great deal !Strangely ive never used rally points but auto launch im already in love with and havnt used it yet.Thanks again
on Mar 03, 2008
Should the auto launch of colony ships trigger the slider that populates the ship?

I build most of my colony ships on home planet but on a bigger map I sometimes use a lesser number of colonists originating from low pop. planets.

As it stands, if you want to control the number of colonists on your colony ships you must turn off auto-launch.

Also, confirm for me that you can not customize the design of a colony ship, constructor, or any other default original design ship. Doesn't matter that much but I want to know that I understand the system vs not knowing how it works.

If I am not being clear I will try to explain it better.  
on Mar 03, 2008

One of the problems I ran into is, many times you want a new ship designs to be made now.

The game actually detects whenever you get a tech by any means (stealing, UP issue, trade, etc) and does set the flag that new ships need to be designed.

2. Conflict of design philosophy
I tend build my ships with a lot of defense when I can. Any ship I think is worth building should last a while. As such, you can probally understand why I was felling a bit nervious when my ships were being blown up left and right.

Maybe allow us to tell the AI to build ships with better defense.

We don't really want to give the player so much control over this feature that everyone starts using it because it's as effective as designing ships themselves. That would kill the ship design feature.  This feature is aimed at people who don't like designing ships, to make it so that they can get by without them, but they really are giving up an advantage.

3. Limited access
I found I could only build these new ships when selecting the planet from space and changing the build orders. Anywhere else didn't seem to be able to find these AI builds. In addition, I couldn't go to the ship designer, pick one of the AI builds, and make a few adjustments.

That's odd. I'll have to look into that. 

4. New ships? When?
The AI ship builder doesn't inform us when a new ships are designed. Maybe having an icon on the side, like we have for spies, ships, and finished planet developments would be of help.

Or a drop down?  I could probably do that without an artist.

Cari i sent in a bug found in the shipyard (sort of same topic). Do you know if it was received?

Yes, it was.

Should the auto launch of colony ships trigger the slider that populates the ship?

No.  I could easily add an option to make it not auto-launch colony ships.  Also, if you designed variants of the colony ship so that it had less capacity for the worlds where you want less, that would solve the problem.

Also, confirm for me that you can not customize the design of a colony ship, constructor, or any other default original design ship. Doesn't matter that much but I want to know that I understand the system vs not knowing how it works.

I do this all the time.  Do you have the option to strip functional components turned off? If you don't, that might be what you're seeing.  Otherwise, I'll need more details about what issues you're having before I can give a better answer.

on Mar 03, 2008
4. New ships? When?The AI ship builder doesn't inform us when a new ships are designed. Maybe having an icon on the side, like we have for spies, ships, and finished planet developments would be of help.


If they only design once in a while, I would expect more than this! At least a special popup, like we get for wonders, maybe a movie showing a ship launching a shipyard--at least for the first time you auto-design--and the intelligence screen to pop up.

I think that would be nice.
on Mar 04, 2008
Cari - Thanks

I like the auto launch on colony ships and it does not bother me that the ships launch with a full 250 colonists (BTW there is still a typo in the ship designer that says the colony module holds 500 colonists).

The option to have designs built immediately with a button would be a handy addition though Not essential, but handy...

I have also noticed that the assention crystals move on the load of a saved game which seems a bit strange (i can email in a saved game if you wish)

But as a whole i am loving the new changes. Thank you
on Mar 04, 2008
A few suggestions for both

Move all the AI options off the option screen over to the shipyard. This way you can easily turn it on and off.

Add button to have the AI populate a ship with stuff in the construction area.

A better AI function would be an quick upgrade. Select a ship, it repopulates the ship with same % but newest tech. So if a ship is 20% Missles 20% Beam 5% shields 50% engines... it would keep the percentages and just populate the ship with new stuff. The player could then review it. By the way this would make for some nice seeding for the computer players since you could place some ships types that work well low in a tech tree and they would keep basically the same principle later in the game.

Move the AUTOLAUNCH feature to the governors screen or something like that. Each planet could get there own settings or you could then group override everything. This would also help for rally points if you could

on Mar 06, 2008
I got the PM Cari. I can send in the save, but I don't think its nessacary.

I didn't notice it at the time since I wasn't designing ships for that test game, otherwise I would of noticed that the AI designed ships were showing up in the 'user' section everywhere else. Apparently I was pointing out the exception and not the rule.

You can see what I'm talking about by waiting until you have AI designed ships, then from space select a planet and open the mini-window that allows you to change what ships you are building. From there, you can expect to find them in the 'core' section. If you were then to go to the ship designer, you could see those same ships in 'user' section. Apparently, its in the 'user' section every where except where I noted it was in the 'core' section.

Or a drop down? I could probably do that without an artist.


Not sure what you guys call it. Anything to give an update would be productive to those will be using this new feature.

We don't really want to give the player so much control over this feature that everyone starts using it because it's as effective as designing ships themselves. That would kill the ship design feature. This feature is aimed at people who don't like designing ships, to make it so that they can get by without them, but they really are giving up an advantage.


I was just being thorough in my analysis. If you don't want it to do this, then I have no problem. I suggested it because it might be a problem. I'm not going to be using it much myself... unless you made so it designed better ships than me. At that point I would be studding it so I could make better ships, perferably better than it could.

________________

Anyhow, I kinda need to leave to do stuff. I don't have the time to send in that e-mail right now. Cari_Elf, if you still need the save, you can leave a reply, or send me a PM and I'll get back to you.

By the way, does TA have a screen shot save feature? The options have something that appears to allows you to switch which format you use when you take screenshots, which implies it can automatically save them for you, but I can't figure out where they are saved.
on Mar 12, 2008

 

Anyhow, I kinda need to leave to do stuff. I don't have the time to send in that e-mail right now. Cari_Elf, if you still need the save, you can leave a reply, or send me a PM and I'll get back to you.

No, that shouldn't be necessary. I should be able to reproduce that.

By the way, does TA have a screen shot save feature? The options have something that appears to allows you to switch which format you use when you take screenshots, which implies it can automatically save them for you, but I can't figure out where they are saved.

Yeah, CTRL+PrintScreen saves it to My Documents\My Games\GC2TwilightArnor\Screenshots (or something like that)

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