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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Endless Space pre-release and I’ve been dabbling and preparing to tell you wot I think of the launch version. In the meantime, I fired up my interstellar communicator and beamed some messages to the development team, specifically Mathieu Girard CEO of Amplitude Studios. Across the infinite void I fired these queries and across the infinite void, answers came. Peruse them below.>

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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Community heroes: we talk to the man behind Civilization II’s Eternal War">The Eternal War 1







James ‘Lycerius’ Moore played a single game of Civilization II off and on for ten years, extending far into a dystopian future that he described as “a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation”. The story caught fire, spreading from reddit to the specialist games press and national media before returning to reddit as /r/theeternalwar, where fans trade fiction, music, and art.



Last week, I spoke to James about his experience of the game, the rationale behind playing the same campaign for a decade, and what it’s like to have your cool gaming anecdote capture the imaginations of so many people. You can check out our previous coverage of The Eternal War here.



You said in your initial reddit post that the campaign is about ten years old?



Yeah.



Do you know exactly...?



It’s about nine and a half, something like that.



Presumably there must have come a point when you decided that you were just going to keep on going. How did that come about?



Well, I’d played the game far into the future, and there were some issues and I was just curious to see how long I could keep going. There’s this misconception that I’ve played the game non-stop for ten years, that’s not the case - I play it often, but over the years it’s every other day or so.



I play lots of games, do lots of other things, but this game - it just kinda kept going and going. I noticed that, over time, nations were swallowing up other nations and there were these environmental factors and it was just really fascinating to muse on where it was all going. I just wanted to see what the eventual endgame would be. It was for my own edification, I never imagined that so many people would take interest in it.



Was there something specific about the way this campaign went that allowed you to get into the kind of situation you got into?



I imagine that you could start up any Civ II game and do this. The thing is, Civ II was a little bit more balanced than the other games, and you’re able to prolong and enjoy the world around you a little bit more, and in a little bit more detail - for example later games don’t really have global warming. Well, they do, but it’s maybe a single tile that’ll turn to desert instead of four.



In Civ II, things like that had enormous consequences. All of the coasts would flood and farming would be useless, and it happened over and over again - it happened two or three times before I started questioning, well, what would it be like if this kept going on? Eventually all the world’s land - the mountains and tundra - became flooded swampland. It was really neat.





Image: m00nnsplit's 'Celtania Archives' newspaper.



You found yourself in a fascinating situation at the end.



It was just morbid curiosity, you know, and I think that’s why it was so popular with all these other organisations. I think people in general have this morbid curiosity about the world and where it’s going, and I think they saw this and just kind of latched on. You know, it’s by no means an accurate simulation of world affairs or anything like that, it’s just a game roughly based on such things, but I think it really captured a lot of people’s imaginations.



You ended up in a situation with the three superstates, and people immediately said “oh, it's 1984” - this Eternal War thing. How much of that basically came from the mechanics of Civ II?



Oh, almost all of it. As time goes on, in most Civ games - well, Civ II and Civ V, now, that I’ve noticed - over time, throughout history, larger countries will envelop smaller countries until there are a few remaining superpowers. That seems to be a pattern in Civ II and Civ V in my experience, so the longer you play the more likely that outcome is going to be. Whether or not that’s part of the game design - whether they had that in mind, I cannot say - but it’d be pretty neat if that was their intention.



You said that it only maps onto real politics to a very limited extent - but it really has captured people’s imaginations because they see, for example, the story you told about having to shut down democracy. That’s interesting in and of itself. Am I right in saying that the AI factions are both theocracies?



Yeah, I believe so - a fundamentalist type of government.



Would that have been a more practical decision for you as well, that you didn’t take for other reasons?



Some people had argued that that might be the best way to go, but the person that was able to complete it in 58 years was able to do so with the communist government. In fact, the communist government worked out very well for them.



What was the key in the end, to beating it?



A mixture of units - for example, the Howitzer unit. I was primarily throwing tanks at the situation, and people who had a bit more tactical depth as far as the game is concerned were able to amass armies that my economy... well, I was concerned about saving but they just spent the entire treasury on one big push and rebuilt from there.



It’s not a particularly optimistic message, is it?



Yeah, precisely. It really wasn’t my intention to conquer the world, necessarily, but it appeared that this was the only way that peace was going to be a realistic option. There was a glitch I believe when playing on newer operating systems that the AI became much more aggressive and I believe that was what was causing my issue with the Vikings. Because of that it seemed like the only possible solution was total conquest. Were I able to vent that then I would.





Image: GildedDuke's Civ V Eternal War scenario.



The reaction to it has clearly been way and beyond what you were expecting.



No kidding!



What was that like?



It blew my mind. It was only on reddit for two or three hours before I was getting all these calls, seeing it online - it was incredible, absolutely incredible.



People have really taken to it, creatively. Solving the puzzle is one thing - thinking “how do we fix this” - but the fiction and the art, what’s that been like?



It’s a very strange sort of vindication. I’ve been playing this game for ten years. This game was very important to me personally - it had this nostalgic, sentimental value because I’d been playing it for so long. I’d been playing this one game of Civ II since I was in high school and it just grew on me. I had this narrative in my mind about how this world went and I was really content for the longest time just seeing where went. Then to have this happen, to have so many people show interest in something I had so much value and so much time invested in - it just felt really good. It was a really good experience.



Have you played any of the Civ V scenarios people are putting together?



I have not yet. I’ve seen two so far, and I do plan to play them. That in its own right is also great, that someone will do something like that.





You said that you had your own sense of what that world was like.



Yeah, after a certain amount of years of playing this it, I was just like, “wow... I had to do away with democracy”. There were so many things that happened, I couldn’t help it.



Did you document it as you were going, or was it just in your head?



It was just in my head. It was like, well, yeah I’ll return to this cool game I’ve been playing for a while. I just kept on playing, I suppose, and I thought it was pretty neat and I’d share it with reddit - and wow, the response was incredible.



Do you feel like it belongs to that subreddit community now, or are you tempted to do something else with it yourself?



I’m really not sure, but I put it on reddit and people have created art out of it - that’s incredible, and it’s the community’s at that point.



When I play Civ, my civilisations are always modelled after how I would like the world to be. But I’ve also got friends who play these games mathematically. They’re not worried about the connotations of turning to fundamentalism, say.



I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum, I would argue.



In what regard - that you play mathematically?



No, I play... romantically, I suppose.



How much do you feel like you had to break down that romantic approach to Civ to keep surviving beyond a certain point?



I think that, in its own right, was somewhat romantic. The democracy that I’d strived for was becoming a liability and the best course of action was to switch to a communist state. My ultimate intention was to restore democracy when the war was won, but that was romantic and adds to the narrative of the whole thing. Tragically so.





Image: 'Neo-Viking Spec Op', by Gauntes



Turn-based grand strategy is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment. Civ V: Gods and Kings is doing very well, Endless Space is doing very well - do you think there’s untapped potential for narrative in that genre, given your experience?



I would certainly argue that there hasn’t been enough attention in grand strategy games, or at least the ones I’ve played - Civ, GalCiv. I haven’t played Endless Space, that’s the new one, isn’t it?



Yeah. They’ve got an interesting approach to narrative, where their factions are really asymmetrical. You can be regular space dudes, but you can also be omniscient amoeba people that can see the entire map the entire time.



Interesting!



Your Civ story reached the point it got to because of the hard balance of the game. Would imbalance ultimately break that, or does it create better stories?



I think it can go both ways, depending on your interpretation of it - for example, in Civ IV I played as the Holy Roman Empire, built the Apostolic Palace in my capital, was the Pope, was able to set policies to have different Christian countries vote on it. That was great, because I was playing the role of the Vatican and that was a wonderful game, I really enjoyed it even though I was probably the weakest militarily. Because of my influence in the dominant religion I was able to be quite successful. I think that’s a great example of imbalance working in my favour. I think Civ IV was really great for that.



When I’m talking about balance I’m talking about the mathematical balance of Civ II, where empires were so enormous at that stage of the game where each country has at least fifty cities and taking three or four cities is nothing. In Civ V, if you take three or four cities you’ve likely destroyed the enemy empire.



Is game design something you’re interested in taking further?



I’d love to take it further, certainly. It’s an art form, and ultimately that’s where my interests lie. My day job is as an insurance agent - dare to dream, right? So yeah I’d love to take it further, see what comes along.



You mentioned the roleplaying element of playing as the Holy Roly Empire in that Civ IV game...



Yeah, it was incredible. I have an enormous love of history - I’m an enormous history buff. Of course the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman - but you could play as the Vatican in Civ IV and that was as close as I came.



That drive to - not recreate history, necessarily, but to re-enact certain parts of it - do you find that makes the experience more satisfying, to have certain elements that you know you’re doing ‘right’?



Yeah, absolutely. You’re following these historical tropes that seem to play out over the course of human history. When you see them repeated in the game, there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment.





Image: infectedmanz's 'Celtania Propaganda'.



Do you think there’s anything developers could be doing to encourage that kind of creative engagement? It seems to be the thing that creates all the best stories.



Absolutely. In fact, I think there’s a lot they can do. I’ve really enjoyed what they’ve done with Civ V in bringing back religion and espionage. If they pursued that further, and implemented internal politics - I remember in GalCiv II, if you were a democracy you had to choose a political party, and there would be an element of internal politics which was incredible. Civ II had something like, if you took over the enemy capital there was a chance their nation could fracture into two opposing factions. There was also an interesting element like that in Civ IV where if you founded cities on another continent you could grant them independence and they’d become a colony - a vassal - of your empire. That was beautiful. If they reintroduced those elements - things like vassalship, colonisation - a little bit more complexity, perhaps, when it comes to running your empire.



I understand that they’re focused on conflict and making warfare as interesting as possible but things like inflation, interest rates once you’ve built a central bank - I can understand why that might put off some more casual players, I understand that completely, but I think it should be an option. You should be able to increase the complexity of the game.



I guess the deeper and more technical mechanical aspects of these games, despite sounding really dry, really enhance the game’s potential narrative depth.



I think it really does. There’s also things on the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps the game could write its own history. The war between Egypt and Arabia in, say, 1770AD - that could be recorded somewhere in the game for you to review, for it to somehow affect relations or policy in the future just as diplomacy between the West and the Middle East today is still marred by the Crusades - a thousand years later! I think that’d be really interesting. Keeping track, every game of Civ having its own timeline, it’s own story tell - just as real history has.



This kind of story is great for Civ and Firaxis. You can expect developers to be thinking, “how do we get this to happen, how do we get a guy to drop a story on to reddit that just blows up interest in the game.” The key to that seems to be including storytelling within the game itself - so it doesn’t need to be something that people only share on blogs and reddit. Making it something that the game keeps track of.



Yeah, exactly that. And if you go to civfanatics.com there are people who have done this before, who have written stories based on individual games. If the game itself did that, and rewarded you for doing so, for creating this real history - I think it’d be incredible. The storytelling potential is just totally untapped in that regard.



Many thanks to James for his time, and a tip of the hat to the /r/theeternalwar community for their excellent work.
Kotaku

Endless Space: The Kotaku ReviewThere are plenty of games about flying a starfighter, or being a space merchant, or a humble lowly space marine who runs through space stations shooting everything that moves. There are plenty of games where you're an officer in some kind of army of the stars, clicking your way to victory as your tiny little minions give their tiny little lives for the cause.



Those kinds of games are fine, but sometimes, you want more. You don't want to be the guy taking orders from the Emperor. You want to be the Emperor.



Endless Space lets you be the Emperor.



Managing the economy, industry, science and military of a sprawling galactic empire isn't - at least I'd guess it isn't - an easy thing to do. All those planets to monitor, all those unhappy workers, all those alien starships blowing stuff up across the fringes of known space, it's a lot to stay on top of.



For Endless Space, a game that follows so closely in the footsteps of classic 1993 title Master of Orion, staying on top of the nuts and bolts of galactic governance is never a problem. A surprisingly attractive and clean user interface (these kind of games are normally as stylish as a text book) makes it easy to navigate the necessary levels of menus and research screens, while smartly-designed pop-ups keep you informed about decisions that need to be made sooner rather than later.



Endless Space: The Kotaku Review
WHY: It may be lacking in character, but Endless Space is still a smart, slick attempt at giving the average human being desktop control of an entire galaxy.




ENDLESS SPACE


Developer: Amplitude Studios

Platforms: PC

Released: July 4.



Type of game: Space Strategy



What I played: Three singleplayer games, one as the United Empire, one as the Pilgrims and one as the Sowers. Briefly tested multiplayer (it...works!), but didn't have time to complete a whole game.




Two Things I Loved




  • It's pretty. Every other game in the genre should take note that, yes, it helps when you look good.

  • There's a great understanding of prioritising player information and pop-ups.






Two Things I Hated




  • The game has a personality disorder. Namely, it doesn't have one.

  • Combat is basic and unfulfilling.






Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes




  • "The perfect game for fans of spreadsheet clicking! 8.5/10!" - Luke Plunkett, Kotaku.com

  • "It's no Master of Orion, but you know what, it's close enough" - Luke Plunkett, Kotaku.com




What could easily have been the game's biggest stumbling block, then - keeping the player informed about the dozens of things that needed their attention every turn - is vaulted with ease. Considering that's the point where many games of this ilk begin to lose the player, that's quite the achievement.



The thing I enjoyed most about Endless Space, though, was its degree of customisation. Don't like the eight default races? Combine a bunch of attributes and make your own. Can't find a starship that does what you want? Roll up your sleeves and design one yourself. It really helps invest you in the empire you're creating, giving you the sense that you're building everything, not just the big stuff.



It's a shame, then, that while the universe hums along nicely under the hood, the rest of game can't convince you it's worth controlling at all, let alone saving.



The real joy of these kind of titles where you explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate (fans call them "4X" games) is in feeling like you're playing, well, a game. Against other people. They're at their best when a rival empire isn't simply a competing colour on the map, but a convincing opponent, one that communicates and reacts like a person (or, in Endless Space's case, an alien).



Unless you're in a multiplayer battle, Endless Space almost completely overlooks this part of the experience. Story and context are practically non-existent, while diplomacy - which should be rich with intrigue and personality - feels sterile and arbitrary. The computer's intelligence is also suspect, rarely giving the impression it's able to react to even the broadest and most successful of player strategies.



This empty feeling continues through to the game's combat. Sure, it looks gorgeous, as starships soar past planets exchanging broadsides, but aside from a basic card-game system of bonus powers (which are largely ineffective) you're not actually doing anything. The computer is just tricking you into thinking it hasn't already made a snap decision on who wins, basing it entirely on who brought the bigger guns. The inability to set even the most basic strategies turns what could have been one of the game's most exciting aspects into one of its most mundane.



Endless Space, then, isn't endless at all. It ends about halfway where a truly great game could have ended. It ships as a title complete with all the management tools and streamlined design you could hope for in a game with such scope, but you'll need to abandon hopes of finding much humanity - or any other form of conversational life - amongst the stars to get the most out of it.


Product Update - Valve
1.0.9
CHANGES AND ADDITIONS
- Added the G2G vote results concerning the "Anti-Expansionist" Horatio faction trait.

FIXES
- Fixed an issue where the ship design information will only display the first module of each class.
- Fixed an issue where the random event duration doesn't depend on the game speed.

All the version notes since the alpha version can be found at:
http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?446-Release-Notes
Product Update - Valve
All the version notes since the alpha version can be found at:
http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?446-Release-Notes

1.0.8
CHANGES AND ADDITIONS
- The duration of random events is now displayed in the game event panel.
- Removed the "% of colonized systems" constraint from the expansion victory requirements.
- Each effect of "Retreat" and "Offensive retreat" battle actions now lasts +1 round.
- Improved AI reaction with Difficulty.
- The Endless Hero (Corporate/Adventurer)is now more balanced fleet/system-wise.
- Memory optimization.
- Added a new portrait for the Sheredyn (Emperor Edition).

FIXES
IMPORTANT FIXES
- Fixed an issue where the cancel button in the Faction Editor saved the changes, allowing custom faction exploits.
- Fixed an issue where the Endless Hero never appeared in the Academy (Emperor Edition). The Endless Hero cannot be hired by an AI.
- Fixed an issue where two simultaneous attacks on a third player in the same system crashed the turn ending.
- Fixed an issue where simultaneous game joining crashed the turn ending.

OTHER FIXES
- Fixed an issue where the upkeep for Inorganic Cultivation (Sower) & Intensive Cultivation Logistics (Craver) was positive instead of negative.
- Fixed an issue where the number of players in a session did not take into account locked slots.
- Fixed an issue where all battle cards were played even if the battle ended before the final phase.
- Fixed an issue where battle cards were not effective in a specific case.
- Fixed an issue where a player could only request a value of dust, from another empire, equal or less than his current dust.
- Fixed an issue where hovering over a reduced anomaly displayed the reduce anomaly effect tooltip.
- Fixed an issue where a player could rejoin his own defeated session after receiving the defeat screen.
- Fixed several text issues.
- Fixed several localized text issues.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to PC Gamer UK Podcast: Episode 71 – Wordless Yelling">PCG Podcast







Apologies for the delay in getting this week's podcast to you, listeners. We had a technical issue whereby Chris' voice was very very quiet. It took a long time before we realised what was wrong: we knew he was trying to tell us something, but, well, we had no idea what it was.



This week Chris, Rich and Tom Senior gather to discuss Dota 2, Dragon Age 2, Spec Ops: The Line, The Walking Dead games, Killing Floor, Endless Space and more, including the Steam charts and your questions from Twitter.



Tom would like to offer his sincere apologies to oboists everywhere. He doesn't mean a word he said. Really.



Download the MP3, subscribe, or find our older podcasts here.



Show notes:



Tom Francis goes hands-on with Dishonored.

Chris' Rome 2 preview and video interviews.

Our Minecraft server.

The PCG Planetside 2 forums.

Gummy vitamins.



 
Product Update - Valve
All the version notes since the alpha version can be found at:
http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?446-Release-Notes

1.0.5
CHANGES AND ADDITIONS
- Memory optimization. Refer to the following post for further details:
http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?5500-Optimizations-status&p=62704&viewfull=1#post62704
- Added collisions to graphic FX to stop them from going through ships.
- Improved graphic FX for the 'Gravity Well' Battle Action.
- Hero bonuses to attack and defense will now be correctly acknowledged through displayed MP on his Fleet.
- Diplomatic balancing (harder mainly for Serious & Endless modes).

FIXES
- Fixed an issue where negative effects on the AI’s diplomatic attitude were inversed, counter-balancing other parts of that AI.
- Fixed an issue where the Tolerance trait was displaying a wrong value in the system view.
- Fixed an issue where “Random faction” was displayed instead of the faction’s actual name on an invasion notification.
- Fixed an issue where the galaxy would sometimes not be visible when starting a new game.
- Fixed an issue where the user was unable to zoom out at maximum height after playing a few game sessions.
- Fixed an issue where the Horatio Affinity unlocked the Arid Epigenetics technology.
- Fixed an issue where the host remained stuck on the end turn action if a client joined in progress and left the session at the same turn.
- Fixed an issue where the title remained stuck on end turn actions after a manual combat.
- Fixed an issue where the users were not synchronized after a system was invaded and conquered during a multiplayer session.
- Fixed an issue where the round-ups on the tonnage modules were different than the ones on the total tonnage in the ship design view.
- Fixed several text issues.
- Fixed several localized text issues.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Endless Space launches. Giant space war may now begin">Endless Space thumb







Snazzy space set 4X game Endless Space has finally launched, and brought with it a bombastic new trailer. It might start slow, with still images of humans exploring alien planets, but don't worry, you get your space war by the end.



Chris and Tom S have been quite taken with Endless Space so far. It's a traditional turn based galactic conquering game, but with a smart battle system where you set up your fleet orders and then let them play out in glorious explodo-vision. It also has an impressively slick and accessible interface, letting you rapidly understand and control your empire, something a lot of other 4X games have struggled with in the past.



Endless Space is out now, and it's £23 on Steam. We'll have a review with you soon.
Jul 5, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

I find the concept of endless space more daunting than inspiring.

Endless Space, the 4X spacy strategy is now out on Steam, and has a launch trailer with lots of pretty explosions. It also explains that in the end, it’s a game about dust. I am bemused by the role that dust appears to play in fiction. From Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to CCP’s EVE spin-off, it’s hard to think of a more innocuous object to take such an important role. Where are the stories about fluff? And lint? Where are my games about loose bits of thread? I have been sidetracked. You can see the launch trailer below.

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Kotaku





width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

They've never really stopped trickinling out since the genre's heyday in the 1990s, but it's been a while since people could get truly excited about a space-based "4X" (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) strategy game on the PC. So it's cool seeing people get excited about Endless Space.



The game, out now on Steam, promises "hundreds of star systems to explore", and lets players win the game through a variety of means, whether that be through exploration, science, diplomacy or conquest. Combining fancy 3D battles with a full strategic interface for your empire management, it looks like something my teenage self would have shrieked quite loudly about.


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