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 read the other parts of the diary here.
Tom has since switched careers to game development, and is now making a space game of his own, Heat Signature.
Day 20: The first thirty weeks
The GalCiv races are loosely based on common sci-fi archetypes, the most famous instance of which is usually from Star Trek. The Drengin are the Klingons, the Terrans are the Federation, and the Yor are the Borg. That should give you some idea of how bizarre and hopeless it is to fight an alliance of all three. Sixty weeks was just the wrong length of time, and I knew I wouldn't make it curled up in the corner reading books and mumbling about going to a better place. That didn't work in primary school and it wouldn't work in interstellar war.
The problem wasn't surviving sixty weeks—I was sure I'd make it that long if my Ultraprawn tactic held. The problem was that if any of my significant research centers fell in that time, it would take a hell of a lot longer. I'd hoped to counteract this by using the money I was making to buy new Research centres, enhancing my least productive planets to spread our learning power more evenly. But money was going to be a problem: I lost Petroni I.
It had been invaded before, by the ever-rhyming Yor, but shrugged the enemy troops off by the sheer weight of numbers. Tougher to do with the Drengin, when their invasion fleets land with 6 million angry gerbilmen. Their Soldiering skill got them a 3-1 advantage, so they crushed our 12 million militarised rabbits easily. They might bide their time, but when the Drengin do invade, there's not a lot you can do.
My Ultraprawn tactic was not holding. I lost four more planets to the Drengin and Terrans, and had to stop most of what little I was spending on military to get my research ETA back in line with previous estimates. My income sunk below zero. It was starting to look like time for Plan Omega, my top-secret financial gambit tha—wait, I wasn't supposed to tell you about yet. Even if it works, though, it seems far from likely that I'm actually going to win now. The Drengin weren't as predictable as I'd hoped, and more dangerous than I'd thought possible.
The only good thing that happened in this whole wretched chapter of my existence was tactically insignificant, if hilarious. A Terran Heavy Fighter swooped in on a Spectres planet very close to our homeworld, and exploded. A Bongolian Ultraprawn had finally killed something.
Day 21: Plan Omega
Let me say first that I am an extremely stupid man. I don't think things through. I don't research things (ironically). I don't read the manual. I've played incarnations of GalCiv for a while, but the intricacies of certain subsystems within it sometimes escape my memory. So GalCiv players, please wince with me as I detail my Plan Omega, my secret weapon, the gambit that was going to win me the game in spite of everything. And everyone else, imagine for a moment the glee I must have felt at coming up with such a seemingly flawless idea.
Phase one: tax the cocks off these chumps. Crank tax rates up to an obscene level, to the point at which the entire civilization will rebel or have me killed if I keep it that high for long. This will make money.
Phase two: spend all of this money on research centers, but don't buy them outright—get them on finance, paying the bare minimum now and committing to weekly payments for the next forty years. This will result in many research centers, and a plummeting economy, but we'll be dead or Gods in thirty weeks, so what are the loan sharks going to do? Pray threateningly?
Phase three: just before hitting -500bc in debt, buy a Neutrality Learning Center, the most expensive and productive research facility possible, outright. For 5,500bc.
Phase four: drop taxes to zero, causing the plummeting economy to nosedive so hard that it almost goes backwards in time, but making everyone extremely happy before they have a chance to rebel.
There are only really six or seven things wrong with it. But the chief among them I discovered just after Phase three.
I'd built eight or nine shiny new research facilities, and decided to buy the Learning Center before going into debt, just in case being in debt stops you from buying things (it does). I waited until I had everything before checking the effect on that all-important ETA, but early signs were very good. I'd bought centers on my most populous planets—the hardest to conquer, and the ones that'll benefit most—and the numbers much improved.
The real treat came when I discovered I had access to something called an Omega Research Center (Omega! So perfect!), a Galactic Achievement that boosts a given planet's Research by 50%. That put my home planet over 400 research points per week. Space-Christmas had come twice in one year.
So when I finally left the Colony Management screen to twizzle the sliders and see how much all this had reduced my ETA, I was puzzled to find that it now read 'NEVER'. 'Puzzled' is a new word for 'petrified'. My heart was actually pounding. And it was then that I remembered how debt works.
500bc in debt isn't the cut-off point for buying new things, it's the cut-off point for production. All production. Including Research. THANKS, MEMORY. Could have done with that info TEN MINUTES AGO, but thanks anyway.
My entire civilisation would not learn a single damn thing until I was out of debt, and I couldn't put the tax rate one percentage point higher without losing half my empire to a rebellion.
You know that word 'screwed' I used to use in this diary? I was using it all wrong. Back then I meant 'in trouble', or 'a tight spot'. This, this was the true meaning of screwed.