There is no Going Home

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I played Everquest from the early years of Velious, through six more expansions.  My exact departure is clouded, certainly around the release of Everquest II would be a good starting point for my evacuation. I returned a number of times as the game underwent its torturous and, as I see it, gradual decline from a challenging computer moderated role-playing game experience to something more of an open social platform.

In the early days most of the players were young kids thoroughly entrenched in role-playing and single player adventure games on the computer.  Today the gamut of players is wide, both in age, experience, and expectations.  With such a huge variety of players, it is no doubt that games have become impossible to appease the gamers — some want a hardcore rigorous game while others want to sit around placing daisies in their imaginary apartments.  Some want to solo, while others gear up for 24 player raids.  I often chuckle that some players have no qualms riding around on a flying multi-hued rabbits, with butterfly wings while others sneer at any sort of mount at all.  Many players have no concept of what Dungeons & Dragons is, or even for that matter, what a role-playing game truly infers.  Often so many new players were born into Xbox mentalities that statistics, armor class, mitigation, and spell points are just unknown baffling terms.

In the grand days of gaming there was a single business model:  the $14.95 a month plus yearly expansions.  That is the way it was.  Over time the free model came into existence, with real money perks.  For the good or bad of other such models, it opened up a gamut of other possible business models.  I can only infer from DayBreak Games that the supposed free model must be very lucrative.  Many players can just play the games for free, and supplement their hobby with occasional purchases of gear, potions, or vanity items.

One of the original arguments to using real money or purchasing an ingame currency with real money, such as Krono, was that it was meant to balance the time spent in the game versus the reality of players not having the resources to play the game.  That is, if it takes 200 hours to camp a rare spawn, a couple of Krono could be used to mitigate the time and just give the player the item.  At first, this ingame equalizer seemed to work!  What has happened however is a bastardization of the time and Krono.  Players who have time to spend in the game have augmented their existence with Krono — thus simply amplifying economies with harsh spiraling costs in both time and money.

Camps for rare loot is no longer camped by players needing the item, but by players looking to sell it for Krono.  This ingame currency then can be converted into real cash through many sources or used to pay for long term subscriptions to the game. The player that does not have time to spend in the game now must not simply pay 1 krono for a piece of gear that required hundreds of hours of game play, but three, four….even five Krono to get.

Progression / Time lock servers are even worse since they are a premium game requiring players to pay the $15 a month and then force them into buying Kronos, to get basic magic items and equipment in the game.   I for one have not bought a Krono in years but I can see the unhealthy allure of this item.  Older (and even younger) players without the time to spend camping certain mobs can now spend a Krono and get the items they want.  But even if they wished to spend the time in game to camp these items, they find it impossible with the way the system is set up.

Gamers with the idea of making real profit with Krono set up six-box legions of mages that simply steal any mob they want.  Taking the item, they sell it for Krono and rinse and repeat the process.  It wasn’t good enough to dual box, but now players are bringing in whole groups of botted characters to thwart the need to socialize — other than to sell their loot, buying Krono, and continue the process.

I used to dual box back in the day and the extra character meant I could solo a bit easier or even camp small sets of mobs.  I am not saying that back in 2002ish years that there were not players who six-boxed but the percentage of players today that multi-box  is probably closer to 50% of the total players, versus back in the day it was more like 10% — these are just raw figures without any basis of fact other than my observations.  In the days gone by, you would see bots and multi-boxers now and then but today they are rampant.  Back then it was far less profitable, other than a way for an egotistic player to do what they want in an imaginary world.  Today it is business.  It is big business! And the real players suffer.

I cannot blame DBG from making money, that is what a company is there to do.  I do take offense that they try to play both sides though, telling gamers they care about the game and their customers.  Make your money and tell your customers that Krono is there to make money.  Don’t try to pretend that the games are free — they are not free.

As players we need to stop fighting with fanboys who use the constant argument that the games are free and that you don’t have to spend a dime — the game is multiplayer, thus becoming a competitive sport.  Allowing unfair advantage of real world money combined with unlimited time makes many of the players with huge advantages in the competition of the game. Treating EQ like golf, you can play for free (assuming you are not doing Timelock / Progression) and still be competitive.   EQ for me is not golf but more like baseball or football, in that guilds are other team members and other guilds are other teams — How would baseball fend for itself if a team player could spend money and redo throws, hits, or fouls?

My time in Lockjaw, the progression server for EQ, has been fun but not without regret.  I am not buying Krono, so most of the real gear is out of my reach.  Nor do I have unlimited time to camp mobs.  The small amount of time I do have is spent racing around trying to find silk, pelts, and other reagents to sell to the guys who are making so much platinum and US dollars that they don’t have time.  I am already paying $15 a month to play, and I know DBG wants me to fork over another $18 for a Krono, or hell why not buy three!  Their arms get tired raking in the money, I think.

I am enjoying my time in the game, but more from a nostalgic point of view.  You cannot go home because the world is a different place.  Gone are the endless time spent at a camp, gone is the ingame platinum only — the new era is everything is for sale and no regards to the future.

300!

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Even after seven years, my original article of 300 is still as poignant and valid as it was then.

Today’s MMOs are mired in a swamp of systematic problems from overconfident game designers, hyper game producers, companies with unlimited bankrolls, and fans that are inundated with such a variety of games that they fall out of favor as fast as apples fall from a tree. What is needed is not more, but less! We need a community within the game that is organized, demographic, and small. Yes, thats what I said. Small is better — Large is out! I purpose an MMO that hosts no more than 300 people at a time, with an average player population of roughly 6000 players per server.

We have seen with the recent selection of games, that over indulgence of graphics, promises, and PR campaigns can leave gamers feeling dizzy. There has been much discussion on how to keep a game in the spotlight and at the top of the playing list for both the average as well as the hardcore gamer. There is nothing more confusing than to wander a world populated by people you have no idea who they are or what they are doing.

When I graduated High School, I had a class of 89 students. I knew all their names, and more, I knew each one as a person and what they liked or disliked. On most, I even knew their brothers and sisters, and where they lived and to many what their parents did for a career. I could walk down the hallway, waving and complimenting every student in my class, and with similar size classes in the other grades, I had a decent chance of knowing almost everyone I ever met.

Today, schools are huge with daunting classes of well over a thousand students per class. Four thousand students in a school, you would be lucky to even remember your own classmates’ names let alone anyone around you.

what does that cause? Its causes isolationism, tight social groups, and clan/gang mentality. This is what is happening in today’s MMOs. Instead of having a vibrant community from which you would more than likely know everyone on the server, or perhaps at least one of their many alternate characters, we are reduced to living in tight social groups, such as a guild, or worse, a small selection of real life friends. Suddenly, the MMO world gets very scary and unfriendly.

In the first MMOs, there was a sense of community because there was a community. Today, its more like trying to set up house in a shopping mall. Everyday someone new walks through your space, and even if you make friends, because the world is so populated, they are often reduced to a tab on your friend’s list, never to be seen again or worse.

I welcome a server population of 6000 players, spread out demographically across the world and through various time zones. With average player base at around 300. As one plays the game, you will suddenly start smiling with the realization that the players around you start looking familiar.

The bustling crowd of characters will be transformed into a group of friends, or at the least, recognizable faces. Instead of blurred names flying about the place, you will have ‘Hey!, Ratook, what’s up?” And not just from friends or guildmates, but from the server at large.

With smaller servers, the chance to become part of the development of the game increases. No more hearing about special events, but now often taking lead rolls or witnessing special GM events.

What does this mean for the game company? More servers, to say the least. Perhaps a hike in the monthly cost from an average of 15 dollars a month, to perhaps 18 dollars a month. I would be willing to pay more knowing that I will know more of the other players.

Bloodchant

Featured Image -- 2002

Emerald Tablet:

Take a look at this article on my other gaming blog that pays tribute to my tongue-in-cheek clone of Melee/Wizard. Bloodbath and Bloodchant was printed in the late 90s as an alternative to the still highly regarded simple RPG called Melee or Into the Labrynth.

Originally posted on Bloodbath II:

bloodchant: A direct sequel, and the magical rules to the world of Helboria, Bloodchant is set of rules for the Bloodbath series of games. Published in 1988 by my own publication company, TC International. This is another example of my ability to write, edit, design, and finish complete role-playing games.

Bllodchant is a ruthless game of mystical spells and grisly arcane death. Players take on the personae of a haughty wizards bent on mastering arcane rituals, chants, and demonic conjurations. The wizards, sometimes accompanied by bloodthirsty adventurers, search the lands for treasure, glory, and grimoric relics left long, long ago by gods and demons. The wizards of Bloodchant will forge bone-jarring, blood curdling spells able to snap a man’s mind as easy as a child breaks a small twig, or render a monsters flesh to crimson oatmeal. Along the pathway of discovering ancient arcane spells, the wizards will happen across…

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Thief’s Challenge

Thief's_Challenge_(D&D_module)

Published in 1993, this was the first and only TSR Dungeons & Dragons module that I exclusively wrote.  I also had a hand in developing two other products for TSR:  The Castle Guide and The Equipment Guide.

It has been more than twenty years since I wrote the adventure and many of memories have faded as to why or how I even landed this contract.  I vaguely remember living in an apartment over a barber shop in Comstock Park Michigan.  I was living with a room mate and best friend Rick Slawson at the time.  The funny thing is that at that time computers were exceedingly basic, I want to say it was written on a program called Ami for either the Commodore 64 or perhaps the first edition of Windows on an old ’86 processor computer.

The editor at the time was Bruce Heard, or at least he was my point person.  I have met up with him again after all these years and although he is no longer with Wizard’s of the Coast, he still dabbles in games — once it is in your blood, you can never forget about it.  I recall him saying that the adventure should be like the movie To Catch a Thief by the imminently famous director Alfred Hitchcock.

I don’t remember anything else about it, to be truthful.  And it has been at least 20 years since I read through the module. The really stunning tidbit is that I still have gamers come up to me or send me emails saying how much they liked this module.  As a person with a foggy memory, I chuckle as they know more about the story than I do.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thief%27s_Challenge

A special request to any of my friends or to anyone finding this article:  I am trying to get into wikipedia as a author or game designer.  I have tried myself to write my own biography, but Wikipedia frowns on that and after being rejected four times I have given up.  The process of adding an article is relatively easy, mostly if you have done this sort of thing before — if anyone can pick up the gauntlet/challenge, I would be indebted to you.  There is plenty of information online, in books (about gaming), and newpaper articles on my gaming career that it shouldn’t require a ton of research to pose this.  If you want to try and write up a Wiki entry on me, let me know and I can provide other information.

Preliminary Notes on Two Recently Discovered Inscriptions from La Corona, Guatemala

Capture

Emerald Tablet:

I have always been fascinated by the Maya civilization, and now with the hieroglyphics revealing the ancient past it becomes even more tantalizing.

Originally posted on Maya Decipherment:

by David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin), Marcello Canuto (Tulane University), Tomás Barrientos Quezada (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala), and Maxime Lamoureax St-Hillaire (Tulane University)

During the 2015 excavation season at La Corona, Guatemala, two new sculpted blocks were recovered in excavations of the site’s main palace overseen by one of the authors, Maxime Lamoueax St-Hilaire. Both blocks are parts of larger compositions that were removed from their original settings and re-set in a masonry wall near the northeast corner of the palace complex. The precise archaeological context of the discovery will be presented separately, and described in detailed at the upcoming SImposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala.

Each stone has been assigned an “Element” designation in accordance with the nomenclature system developed for La Corona’s corpus of sculpture (Stuart et. al. 2015). Each stone seems to be part of a larger panel or sculpted step, so it…

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Comic Book Awards for June

Aquaman #41
Despite the continuous slimming number of titles finding their way into my monthly comic book purchases, June was a month of quality over quantity. And, when all is said and done, that’s all you could ask for, right? This was an highly awaited and equally crucial month for the creative heads at DC Comics, as June saw the debut of “The New DCU”, taking place after DC’s Convergence event. Their entire line of titles, having now dropped “The New 52” banner, hit retailers with all-new storylines and directions for characters. A host of brand new series’ accompanied the overhaul as well. None caught my eye to pick up, sadly, by my two DC titles, The Flash and Aquaman even more so, came back strong. In the Marvel corner, the Secret Wars fever remains with #3, I said farewell to the short-lived but fascinating Superior Iron Man series with #9, the always beautiful Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is still an art piece of wonder, and Star Wars #6 released. Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #13 proved to be one of the best issues to come from the title, while Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #2 left me with a not so pleasant verdict.
But out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month? Finally, here they are.
Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #3
Cover By: Alex Ross
 

Secret_Wars_Vol_1_3_TextlessThere’s an instant throwback design to the great Alex Ross’ excitingly rich cover for the third issue of Secret Wars. The divide between good and evil represented and then prominence of a variety of characters’ faces is reminiscent of comic book covers of the past, a defining distinction which sets it apart from many comic book covers of the times. Mr. Fantastic and his evil counterpart of the Marvel’s Ultimate universe stand front and center, looking as realistically lifelike as ever, a characteristic of Ross’ work. The facial expressions behind each are just as striking – particularly those of the eloquently drawn Black Widow and Black Swan. The bright, intense palate of red, blue, and purple emphasizes and completes the explosive colorful flood that this image is.

Art of the Month Award:

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #9Artist: Marco Rudy

25d034689e80f9c3a93b5e750510d6d6Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier has ever been a dynamically colorful series. Issue 9 is no exception as Marco Rudy’s flavor for breathtaking pages meet a powerful shower of striking colors…even for this series. The comic opens to an overwhelming blast of light and dark green, pages 14 and 15 connect in a world of a singular dose of hot pink, and so on in differing degrees throughout the issue. It’s an effective tool that carries the story to incredible eights. This excess correlates with Rudy’s phenomenally unique panel work wondrously, too. Pages 7, 10 and 11 are fine examples of this, showing how Rudy can take the outline of a skull and turn it into full blown comic book art without missing a beat in storytelling.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #3 (“The Eye of Doom”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Secret-Wars-3-Spoilers-Preview-4In Secret Wars #2 we were introduced to what is called “Battleworld”, a place now home to Marvel heroes and villains we’re familiar with, but strangely where these same heroes and villains act in unfamiliar roles and, for some, have unfamiliar personalities. Battleworld is made up of connecting kingdoms from separate parts of the Marvel universe in addition to its alternate multiversal forms all under the metal fist of “God Doom” (or, Doctor Doom, as we know him to be). It’s a very interesting, involving premise and in Secret Wars #3, we get a slight grasp on what exactly is going on after both the Marvel and Ultimate Earth’s collided. The issue begins with Doctor Strange (referred to as the Sheriff of Agamatto) briefing Doom on the potentially escalating threats to the world and soon the issue takes one path, focusing on the survivors of the final incursion and how they react to what has drastically occurred. There is a brief, introspective scene regarding Doom that is a highlight of the comic while, in the course of reading the issue, we’re given information that Battleworld came to be through his and Doctor Strange’s doing. How is still yet to be revealed, however. Furthermore, Jonathan Hickman’s excellently worded dialogue enhances the grounded story all too well. What could be filler conversation is instead essential, or at least, smartly devised, in almost every single panel.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #3 (“The Eye of Doom”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 
Artist: Esad RibicColor Artist: Ive Svorcina
Cover Art: Alex Ross

STK6739191-720x1092From a story perspective, Secret Wars #3 isn’t a comic book issue rife with shocking moments or game-changing twists. Rather, it is a comic book issue teeming with heft; a sense of appropriate confidence from the writer and artist can be found on each page. Hickman’s world-building is subtle but potent enough to invoke an uncommon, perplexing atmosphere and Ribic and Svorcina’s indispensable handling on the art matches the vision for Battleworld. And, surprisingly, this issue contains a memorable scene (page 11) that, because of a superb combination of writing and art, I can see will stand to be one of the most terrifically touching scenes out of the whole year. Well-plotted, well-paced, and with Esad Ribic persisting to put out some of my favorite work of his to date, you can’t go wrong with picking up Secret Wars #3 and following what is to be an event of all events.

Thank you all again for checking out my awards for June and be sure check back sometime next month for July’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Comic Book Awards for May

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~Nandor Shaffer

I’ve been looking forward to the month of May for a considerable amount of time. This in large part has to do with what Marvel is calling “the event to end all events”, or better known to the public as Secret Wars. This eight issue series is in the position to forever alter the foundations of the Marvel Universe and from this month on, over some thirty tie-ins will be under the Secret Wars banner, contributing to the scope of this event and hinting at the changes to be implemented when it concludes and the all-new, all-different MU is established this Fall. Almost each of these tie-ins are brief limited series’ exploring past, future, and alternate timelines in the MU (like Old Man Logan, Civil War, 2099, Marvel Zombies, etc.), separately falling into either the Last Days, Battleworld, or Warzones! categories, and these titles will be replacing the majority of current ongoing Marvel comic books. This leads me to imagine that the following months will be strange for my comic book purchases, as I do not plan to buy many, if any, of the tie-ins for the sake of money and their worth, respectively (I’m not much of a guy for original tie-ins). I could already tell a big change between April and May since I bought half as many comic book titles that I did in April. By the end of Secret Wars, I have a strong feeling things will be switched up more than a little.

Even though it’s true that the numbers were slim for May, the quality was anything but. Scott Lang’s exhilarating opening storyline as the tiniest hero of them all finished with this month’s issue five of Ant-Man on an outstandingly admirable note. I’d go so far as to say the first five issues of this title to be the ideal success story for a fresh, relaunched book and revolutionary envisioning of an underrated character. I do not state that lightly given the fact I miss Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, in the suit to a bottomless degree. I love Ant-Man and it is a perfect beginner comic book for any of you wanting to give comics a chance. The magnificence of artist Marco Rudy returned for a full issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier after last month’s omission on the title. Once again, I cannot begin to describe the excellencies of his artistry in issue eight. The comic is basically an opulent art piece of two-pagers that need no narrative or thread to intertwine them because it’s so beautiful and powerful. Marvel continues its controversial and arguably disappointing creative harnessing of the Star Wars space-fantasy with issue five of the core title and Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #12 brings the Doctor to a unpredictably exciting predicament. The second, final Convergence issues of The Flash and Aquaman hit this month as well, while we also say goodbye to Doc Green in the final issue of Hulk, and prepare ourselves for the milestone Uncanny X-Men #600 in June after this month’s Uncanny X-Men #34. This leaves us with what I’ve been leading to and saving for last. That is, Jonathan Hickman’s initial two issues of Secret Wars, which released this month and left me with nothing but unending, deserved praise.

But out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month? We may have a faultless comic book issue in our midst.

Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Cover By: Alex Ross

header2An event on this tremendous scale need not ask for a finer comic book artist to market its value of epic proportions. The ever great, near to legendary, Alex Ross is the sole cover artist for the entire Secret Wars series and, true to form, reminds the reader of his matchless eye for perspective, lighting, care, and quintessentially pristine handiwork right here with the first issue’s cover. The specially manufactured material used for the cover also amplifies its striking impact. The representation is clear, with the drama of the two dozen or so characters’ body positions and reactions as the two earths collide before them deliver an expedient sense of urgency and hefty grandness. Ross’s realistic, life-like style makes the image jump off the page to excellent affect and the anatomy of the characters and piece as a whole is legitimately astounding. What staggered me even more was no matter how minuscule the persons drawn on the cover for Secret Wars #1 are, you can still tell who they are. It further surprised me to see that a generality of the characters dominating the cover are not as well known to the mass audience, such as Black Bolt, Machine Man, Captain Marvel, Cloak & Dagger, and so on. It’s a testament to why Alex Ross is the artist without pier; whomever and whatever he draws, it is forever iconic.

Art of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

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Header3AThe art of a comic book essentially drives the story of a comic book. Take away that, and, well, the idea of a “comic book” ceases to be. Just as necessary is the storytelling rendered from the authorship of the artist in a comic book. Many people can draw excellently, but can they draw or tell a story? There’s a gaping difference between the two and I find the keen hand of Esad Ribic captured in Secret Wars #1 to fully envelop both poles of the spectrum. There is a crystal, firm ambience to Ribic’s zealous pages in the commencement issue of this massive event. His detailed diameters portraying New York’s towering skyscrapers crumbling in the wake of gigantic S.H.I.E.l.D. Helicarriers raining down its explosive fire while his molds of numerous characters from both Ultimate and Marvel universes fight one another is some of the most graphic, cataclysmic imagery I’ve recently seen. This individual issue features scores of characters throughout in explosive action and it’s easy to see that Esad Ribic held nothing back whatsoever. Colorist Ive Svorcina has done the same on his part for this issue as well. His brilliant palate is on display in all its glory, providing Secret Wars #1 with an overlaying futuristically modern tone. Both keep in synchronous stride with Hickman’s prodigious script, branding this issue as an immediate must-buy.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

header4Words have meaning, words have power, and Jonathan Hickman may be the only comic book writer whose words stir me (at least on a month to month basis). The first few lines of Secret Wars #1 did just that and the final closing lines to the comic book issue left me with an emotional feeling only Hickman’s writing can generate. In-between these first and final pages, the reader is presented with the last gasp of the Marvel Universe (Earth-616) and the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), as they suffer the one last incursion. Picking up where Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33 concluded, the heroes of both earths focus all of their energies on each’s own survival. This historic encounter of these two universes is so engaging and there is not a single slow or tedious moment in the totality of the comic. Important characters of both universes are given the spotlight on equal terms and the satisfaction from this is phenomenal. Secret Wars #1 is a beginning and an ending, the culmination of what everything of the last few years has been leading to and a taste of what lies ahead.  Out of all the first issues of major Marvel events I’ve previously read, the story for Secret Wars #1 trumps them all.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #1 (“The End Times”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Cover Art: Alex Ross

header5This is a first for my monthly Comic Book Awards; a single issue that is the winner of every receivable award. An incredible feat, no doubt, and leave it to Jonathan Hickman’s introductory climax of possibly his greatest plot yet to do it. What is beheld in the double-sized, packed vastness of Secret Wars #1 is the faultless issue I hinted to earlier. The efficacious cover by Alex Ross, the power pens of Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, and Jonathan Hickman’s staggering developments raise this single issue above reproach. When a comic book gets you uncontrollably excited about what you just witnessed and even more excited for what’s to come, it has overcome what the plethora of usual comic books depart you with. Major comic book events are enacted to hold what regular ongoing series’ cannot and to drastically affect the universe it is a part of. From Secret Wars #1, this is inherently the case…and the event just started. There is an all-true common trend that events boast how “after this, nothing will be the same”, or, “this is the biggest event ever attempted to be put out by our company”, and, usually, the event turns out to become almost nothing of a sort. This is Jonathan Hickman, though, and this is his Secret Wars. Nothing is safe, and you can trust that when he’s at the head of something, mountains will move.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for May (a lot quicker than last time, eh?) and check back sometime next month for June’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Galactic Civilizations III Impressions

Emerald Tablet:

A good friend put his impressions on the sequel of Galactic Civilizations, this time in the third installment to the franchise. I am definitely going to get it but will be waiting for the price to hit around the twenty buck range.

Originally posted on Ardwulf's Lair:

Galactic Civilizations III is the latest incarnation of Stardock’s venerable turn-based space 4X franchise. You can buy it through Steam and you don’t need to bother with Impulse. But mind the system requirements, which include 64-bit Windows 7 at least. Me, I was a bit concerned how well it would perform on my aging system, but it turns out to run just fine, aside from a nagging memory leak that’s likely to get patched out fairly soon.

There’s a lot to like about GalCivIII. It’s visually attractive, boasting not just good graphics but excellent art direction as well. Race and ship design are quite robust, especially the latter, which you can easily sink hours into. The addition of Ideology is welcome; it gives your empire some personality. And as advertised, the largest map sizes are indeed enormous. They way I see it, space is big and playing space 4X games…

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