This diary was originally published back in 2007, when this site was just a cosy corner of CVG. We're republishing it here a few entries at a time, every Saturday. You can find the rest of the entries here.
Tom has since switched careers to game development, and is now making a space game of his own, Heat Signature.
Day 22: The year of hell
The only thing that mitigated the damage of Plan Omega was that I'd planned it so badly in other ways too: I hadn't saved enough money to buy that many research centers, so my week-on-week losses weren't as bad as I'd intended them to be. And because it had completely nullified all my research centers, rendering even the new ones useless, the main drain on my finances was gone, and I was eventually able to crawl all the way back up to the lofty heights of negative five hundred billion credits. Nice plan, Paul Davies, Mutilator of Worldsblood. Real masterstroke.
It had blown my ETA out of the water, my entire civilisation loathed me, and all three enemy races had stepped up their invasions in the meantime. I lost at least one planet every turn, including two major research worlds. The only thing that saved me from total annihilation was a minor plan I executed in the first thirty weeks of the onslaught: building extra farms on my most valuable planets. We couldn't make war, but dammit we could make love, and the booming population on those worlds saved several from the repeated invasions of the Terrans. One even survived the Drengin ultra-transports for a time.
Worlds fell, billions died, the last of the Ultraprawns exploded, and the ETA ticked down with an agonising slowness. It almost looked like it might be close. But now that I was out of debt and researching away, my academic expenses stacked on top of my debt repayments, and I had to scale back my research efforts to save money. This was more or less the opposite of the idea behind Plan Omega, so you can imagine the bitterness with which I dragged that slider down and watched the ETA climb week-by-week until my colonies would just about be making a profit.
I was at a standstill. It was agonising. Plan Omega had cost me almost exactly as much as it had gained me, and the unrest, instability and steady hemorrhaging of major planets was increasing my ETA as fast as the passage of time was reducing it. In the ebb and flow of those two factors grinding against each other, my destruction was constantly getting closer, even as my ascendance to godhood was slipping away.
But in the end it wasn't close. I won by miles.
Day 23: Rising above it all
Before I explain what ultimately tipped the balance, I would like to pen an open letter to the Drengin Empire, just to demonstrate that with Godhood comes understanding, and with understanding comes peace.
Dear Drengin Empire,
HA! HOW D'YOU LIKE THEM TRANSCENDENT SPACE-APPLES? HOW DO THEY TASTE IN YOUR STUPID FAT GERBIL FACES? DIVINE?! THAT'S BECAUSE I'M A GOD.
Paul Davies Mutilator of Worldsblood
The key was in the fact that I'd already lost most of my best research planets. I'd assumed that because I was losing planets at a steady or increasing rate, my research ability would go down at a steady or increasing rate. But after losing a few good planets, that rate-of-being-screwed was artificially high. It actually leveled out after that: my ETA ticked down week-by-week for the last fifteen turns.
But it was a mega-event that gave me my final break, and saved at least one of my last remaining major knowledge-factories. Because the mega-event was this: sex.
Some kind of miasma spread across the galaxy and made everyone ultra-fertile. We Spectres were already the most reproductive society in the galaxy by a factor of two, so we benefited from this twice as much as anyone else at exactly the time we needed it. The Terrans, who rely on successive small invasions to wear a planet down, never conquered another world. We just screwed the losses away before they could get another ship to us, even at warp 9. Once the ETA got to single digits, it was clear no-one could stop me. I don't even know if they realised I was going for a tech victory—the furious onslaught they inflicted on me may have actually been them biding their time.
The other myth about tech victories is that they're anti-climactic. This was excruciatingly tense, and GalCiv is great at letting you enjoy the moment of victory. It gives you one turn after you've technically won in which to put your affairs in order. I dropped my tax-rate to zero, making everyone 100% happy, and ceased all production and research. Our work was done, forever.
But it still didn't seem like enough. So I opened up a dialog with the Drengin, and gave them everything I had. All my influence, trade goods, technology and all planets except my homeworld. In return I asked for 1bc, and I very nearly clicked Offer. But then I looked at their sneering Gerbil-jerk faces one more time, and switched my comms channel to the Vegans, and gave it all to them.
The Vegans can deal with the invasions now, we don't need planets where we're going.
Four different minor races were discovered in the course of that game, and mysteriously all of them were called The Vegans. The Drengin destroyed two of them, I destroyed one. I didn't know about this fourth one until they came up in my comm menu, and had no idea what they were like—one race of Vegans had been utterly evil, the other two had been lovely (I think I even extorted money out of them once). But I gave them everything anyway, and took my 1bc coin gratefully.
I finally renamed my last remaining world to Bongolia, clicked the Turn button for the last time, sat back and watched a really rather wonderful cut-scene showing our people transcending into pure energy, lifting off our world in a soft white inverted rain.
Then the game crashed.
Post-script: What the Drengin were doing
Rather appropriately, I finally understood the Drengin's bizarre behaviour just as I was about to acquire total understanding of the universe itself. They did three mysterious things in the course of this six-week game, but there's actually a pretty good explanation for them all. This is fictionalising—it's probably not how GalCiv's AI actually thinks - but it makes a surprising amount of sense.
1. Why did they destroy my ships, but almost never invade?
It sure as hell wasn't the Bongolian Ultraprawns—towards the end they smashed right through them and rained troops down on me. But again, still not as fiercely as you might expect. And shortly before I would have been wiped out, they stopped entirely.
2. Why did they declare war, then vote for peace?
They threatened, extorted, attacked and bullied me the whole game, then voted to end all wars—all of which were against me. Then they were the first to declare war on me in the new peace. What the hell were they playing at?
3. Why did they stay in an alliance with the Terrans for so long?
The Yor seem fairly logical partners for the Drengin, but the Terran are simpering diplomats. Why did the Drengin stay pals with them?
It was mystery number 2 that turned out to be the key. They wanted galactic peace, but they were more than happy to be at war with me. So it wasn't our war they wanted to end: they wanted the Terrans and the Yor to stop attacking me. They couldn't persuade them to do that because the Terrans had all the diplomatic clout, but they dominated the United Planets vote with their vast population.
But why did they want to call the (human and robot) dogs off? It evidently wasn't to take my planets for themselves, because they still refused to invade me. The answer was actually in this screenshot, from Day 16, and I should have spotted it then. Everyone but me is in an alliance—an alliance formed by the Terrans. If I'm destroyed, the Terrans immediately win an alliance victory for having united all the remaining races. The Drengin would be part of the resulting alliance, but they're warmongers: they want a conquest victory, not to play second fiddle in someone else's alliance win. They had to win by crushing everyone. And that meant keeping me alive for the time being.
This was delicious. All those times I spat in their faces, threatened them with nothing to back it up, stole their best planets and refused their offers of peace, they must have been dying to crush me. I'd flattered myself to think that my bravado had spooked them into assuming I had some secret weapon, but in fact it's a testament to just how much I was irritating them that they attacked me at all. Their path to victory utterly depended on my survival, and they still couldn't resist slaughtering a few billion of my people. The whole game their aggressive nature and their strategic judgement had been in a heated conflict, and time and time again I'd tempted them to lose their patience.
The more I understood about what had been going on while I dicked around with ridiculous ship names and insulted everyone, the more I realised this had been the Drengin and Terran show all along. They were just using me as a pawn. The Terran's superb diplomatic ability had allowed them to inherit the empires of several races that surrendered early, and form an alliance with all the remaining ones except me. I became a crucial piece in their galactic chess game by being such an insufferable prick that even the gladhanding Terran leader wasn't prepared to offer me an alliance.
The Drengin probably signed on early, when their unison would allow them to be even more audacious in attacking the other superpowers, but soon found themselves in a sticky situation. As huge as they were, the one thing that could defeat the Drengin outright was an alliance of the Terrans and the Yor. The Federation and the Borg. And if they left the alliance, that's exactly what they'd be up against. They had the lion's share of the galaxy's planets, so they could build up their army faster than their allies combined, so they were just biding their time until they were strong enough to take both of them on. We might have been weeks from that happening.
The trouble was, the Terrans were smarter. They specialised in a weapons tech the Drengin had no defenses against, and focused their own defense research on the weapon type the Drengin used. They were preparing for the betrayal they knew was coming, and once they were ready for it, they hammered me. The Drengin saw the writing on the wall and followed suit, wanting to claim as much of my carcass as they could before they broke the alliance for the final confrontation.
Unfortunately for them, that was just as I was on the cusp of a technology that would render all this irrelevant. But you can't blame them for underestimating me—even I didn't think I was a threat to them for most of the game.