Two decades have passed since Stardock released its first game, Galactic Civilizations , and on the eve of the company's 20th birthday, it's unwrapping Galactic Civilizations III , a sequel to the game that put the studio on the map. Seven years after Galactic Civilizations 2, the follow-up is promising massive scale, moddability, and a redesigned ship builder alongside its trademark political intrigue. Joining Watch Dogs , it'll also only run on 64-bit operating systems.
The most significant addition, though, is multiplayer. “It's something that the players had always asked for,” Stardock VP Derek Paxton, who joined the company in 2010 to take over Elemental, tells PC Gamer. “We'll have a single-player campaign, and playing the single-player games is the way that we expect most people will be playing Galactic Civilizations III. But we wanted to go ahead and take this opportunity to do the version of the game that we've always wanted, and the version we've always wanted is able to be played multiplayer.”
Limiting the game to 64-bit systems, Paxton promises, will have several benefits. “64-bit is huge for us, because even though games may support running on 64-bit computers, as long as that game supports 32-bit players as well, you have to design to your lowest constraint. This technology allows players to experience a level of graphical detail and on-screen activity unprecedented in large-scale strategy PC games. It dramatically increases the size and scope of the maps, and opens the door for modders to add a virtually unlimited amount of new content to the game.”
The original Galactic Civilizations was one of the first games in the genre we now know as “4X,” where the player's primary verbs are explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. Much like Civilization , which preceded Galactic Civilizations by two years, you could conquer through diplomacy, force, or climbing the tech tree. The original game featured six different civs, with the player always controlling the Terran race. A later expansion brought this up to eight, and Galactic Civilizations II bumped this up to ten, and then twelve with its own expansion, and allowed the player to create one custom civilization.
Galactic Civilizations II was critically acclaimed, selling 50,000 copies in the first two weeks. In fact, according to Paxton, Stardock continues to see revenue rolling in from the title. “We still see a considerable amount of our revenue coming from Galactic Civilizations II even though that came out in 2006.” While the gameplay was streamlined and improved from the original game, players applauded the game's impressive AI, and the highly detailed, 3D ship-building editor which allowed them to create custom ships of their own. Stardock has encouraged users to design mods for the game, and would award custom forum badges for ship designs they particularly liked.
“We still to this day look through the ship designs that some of the modders have submitted for Galactic Civilizations II,” Paxton added. “There are dinosaurs in there. There are F-15 fighters that look unbelievably cool. I think there was one I saw that was flying toasters in space. So that has been a big part of the franchise, and we've completely redone the ship designer for Galactic Civilizations III, and they can do so much more with it. We're really very excited to see what they come up with.”
Stardock won't say when Galactic Civilizations III will be released. However, you can buy your way into the eventual beta through the $40 Founder's Edition, or enter the alpha with the $100 Founder's Elite Edition, which also includes all future DLC, a credit in the game, and the right to name a star. “Galactic Civilizations is really the game that built Stardock Entertainment, and as a series it is very near and dear to our heart,” Paxton added. “We felt like we had new and exciting things that we could do in that space, so we're very thrilled to be back there.”
Additionally, as part of its 20th birthday celebration, Stardock games will be featured on sale next week via Steam and on Stardock's own online store . “I have a hard time believing Stardock is 20 years old,” said Stardock President and CEO Brad Wardell, who founded the company while still in college. “I'm working on projects I'm excited about every day, and being able to still say that after all these years is an incredible feeling. I'm honored to look around the company and be surrounded by some of the industry's top talent in software and game development. Ironically, I only founded Stardock until I could find a 'real job.' It appears I'll never get that real job, and that's just fine.”
Besides working on this title and celebrating anniversaries, Stardock also recently launched a mobile division with the release of their first iOS game, Dead Man's Draw , and there is much more to come, promises Paxton. “You're definitely going to see a lot of big announcements coming out throughout October and into November from Stardock. We've just begun to talk about all the kind of exciting things that we've been working on for the past couple years. It does not end with Galactic Civilizations III.”