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. The other entries are here.
Tom has since switched careers to game development, and is now making a space game of his own, Heat Signature.
Day 12: The last bill and testament
I'd been trading technologies with the Altarians—despite their earlier transgressions—so that I could keep up with propulsion advances without diverting research time from developing ridiculously powerful guns. Trading tech in GalCiv doesn't lose you that technology, so you don't have to worry about the cost to you, only how much you're benefitting a potential enemy. I was doing it on the assumption that the Altarians would never be a threat—or at least that the other three threats would kill me first—so I was being fairly generous. Alliances, Fertility Acceleration, Advanced Trade, I even gave them some of the lesser weapon technologies along the tech-tree branch I was climbing.
You're probably familiar with the literary technique of foreshadowing, so you may well be expecting to hear next of my demise at the hands of a now-mighty Altarian Empire. It didn't quite happen like that. In fact, shortly after our trading was complete, they surrendered under the might of a vast Drengin assault. They were out of the game.
But surrendered under, not surrendered to. Generally when a race surrenders, a report pops up informing you that they've given some of their ships to race X, some to race Y, and often quite a few to the race that conquered them. I am never race X or Y. I'd wondered if it was even possible for the player to be the recipient of these legacies, so consistently did I fail to inherit. This time, though, I got something! Two ships.
Slightly chuffed, I went back to tending my colonies, and clicked away a warning that the citizens of my colony on Amber II were becoming restless and thinking of joining the Drengin. Let them, I don't even remember which planet that is. Hang on, I actually don't remember which planet that is. I've never heard of it. Apart from Petroni and Banfield, mine are all named things like Blood, Death and Carnage (we overcompensate for our lovable physical appearance). I zoomed out. I'd inherited two ships, and the entire Altarian empire.
It was hemorrhaging money, full of 150 billion profoundly unhappy people, and about to be invaded by a Drengin force the likes of which I'd never seen. But it was mine. I'd been clicking through three years' worth of turns because I was so screwed that there was nothing really to do. But now, with fifty new planets' worth of problems and an empire around eight times its previous size, I had something to think about. I saved, quit, and thought about it.
Day 13: Learning fast
Okay Altarian empire, let's see what you can do. Apart from sap my money and complain. Or get invaded and lose. I mean the other stuff. Military—can you make ships? Let's see... no, no you can't. One or two planets have enough factories to pump out the odd War Bastard, but I'm researching ships a whole tier bigger than those now, and these factories are simply too low-tech to cope. Planetary structures—got any? Make any? Not really and not really. Plenty there, but again all stone-age compared to my stuff. Really, guys, was your civ built to do anything other than surrender?
Yes, it turns out. Despite the profound lack of it evidenced in their own achievements, their colonies boost my overall Research rate enormously. Wow, enormously. The thing about Research is that every planet doing it is collaborating on the same thing. Everything else is per-planet, so a ship that can't produce ships quickly by itself might as well not be producing ships. But with my entire civ in research mode, every colony with so much as a library is getting me a little closer to HD Spike Drivers; a gun bigger than any I've researched before. In fact, we'll have it cracked in... one week. A single turn.
Scrolling down the list of research possibilities, the next rung up any given tech ladder would be done in one or two weeks. Research was about the only area where we were already competitive: we were a small race devoting all our resources to it, while everyone else was a huge race using only a small fraction of their potential. Now we were huge, and using it all.
There are two ways to catch up with someone: run faster than them, or keep running after they finish. I'd planned to hole up and research until I joined the Drengin at the top of the tech-tree, some time after they reached it themselves. Once we both had Black Hole Generators, I reasoned, their huge military advantage would be undermined. But now I was actually learning faster than them too—there was a decent chance I'd beat them there. All I needed was a little time.
Day 14: The Bongolian Deathcrab
Long story short, I got it. My enormous new hivemind of supergeeks plowed through the whole tech tree in under a year, and for an encore we researched the the hardest possible hulls and Ultimate Logistics, which would let me use the superships I created in fleets.
In the time it had taken to research these components, I'd been invaded a lot. The only three remaining races in the galaxy were all at war with me, and while the Drengin still inexplicably refused to land on my planets, the Yor and the Terrans rained troops down on me. Us Spectres have 12 billion people on every planet, and our nymphomania means we recuperate losses quickly, but the scale of the onslaught was such that we still lost one or two planets. So when it came to the fun part—designing my capital-class super battleship to use all the best technology in the universe—I was angry.
This is how, by the end of the half-hour design process, I ended up with a ship that is too wide to fit on the screen. It is around twelve times the size of the Drengin battleships. It doesn't just have a Black Hole Generator—the most devastating transdimensional weapon conceivable—it has ten. They're spread along its one and a half thousand meter wingspan to make it even more impressive when firing, and two huge blades at either wingtip indicate very clearly that it's not something you want to crash into on a dark space-night.
I took almost as long settling on a name—most of the ones that seemed appropriate would be too obscene to mention on this site—and finally decided it would be related to the Bongolian Ultraprawn, the smallest and cheapest ship in my armada. The Bongolians do things in extremes. One day I'll actually get round to naming one of my planets Bongolia, and this will all make sense. Right now it's just an obtuse Stereolab reference.
None of my colonies had anything like the production capabilities needed to produce a Bongolian Deathcrab before the heat death of the universe, so I'd have to buy one outright. It cost 15 trillion credits. I gulped, and clicked Accept.
It was enormous, and beautiful. It crushed a few local Yor fleets, then ran into a Drengin battleship—and instantly exploded. They already had Black Hole Generators.
Day 15: "Fuck."