Impulse Broken

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Last weekend I actually found myself with some free time, shockingly enough. Simultaneously, I felt pretty bored with the usual gaming fare of FPS and RTS games. I wanted a fix but I didn’t know what of — So I decided to revisit Galactic Civilizations II.

Apparently, GalCivII has had not just one expansion pack, I knew about the first, but two expansion packs. It’s also had a total revamp dubbed “GalCiv 2.0,” although that only is available to those with the game already.

I was sorely tempted to buy the expansions then, but I wanted to see whether GalCivII had improved in the areas I needed it to improve in. Last time I played it I enjoyed it, but it had an unusual fatal flaw — The game was so simplified [over the ultimate 4x gaming experience, Master of Orion II] that I actually had a hard time comprehending what was going on. As it turns out, this wasn’t unusual. GalCiv II, at least at the time, had a barely-comprehensible way of handling an interstellar economy.

To explain as best I can remember: Population in GalCivII produces money based on your tax rate. You can build factories which produce Military and Social “production.” Military production builds your spacefaring fleet, Social production builds your planetary structures. You can also build research labs, which produce Research “production” for researching new technologies.

The inexplicable aspect is that, on a societal level, you assign spending to either Military, Social, or Research production. If you have a tax revenue of 1000 currency, and spend 100% of your revenue towards Military “production,” all of your planets combined will have 1000 currency of “fuel” to burn in their factories to produce ships. The problematic factor comes in when you have many colonies, most of them not dedicated to building ships, but either a balanced mix, or dedicated to Social or Research production — Continuing my example, if you have 2 colonies, one that is an industrial world filled with factories, and another world filled with universities but with a few factories on it (because you need factories to build other structures on the world anyways), your 1000 currency of Military spending will get split between the two worlds even though it is much more efficient for the factory world to get all or almost all of the spending. In short, there was a penalty on (a) expanding, (b) colonizing subpar planets, (c) building “balanced” rather than specialized planetary economies.

But I digress. I know that one of the patches that was promised when I still played GalCivII more regularly was intended to fix some of the backwardness of the economic system, at least to the extent of allowing you to partially determine what level of resources might be allocated on a colony towards particular types of production. I knew the GalCivII game fixed this one area of frustration I would have been sold on the expansion packs.

So I went looking for the latest GalCivII patch. Let me tell you, this was not easy.
I know at one point I had updated GalCivII before, and that was done through the www.galciv2.com website. But all indications from that website now point to this utility called Impulse. I know Stardock probably wants to encourage adoption of their Impulse system, but I don’t particularly care for installing a program that is going to sit as a resident on my computer just so I can install a patch. And I know in the past Stardock was pushing Stardock Central as a place to get patches, but it wasn’t required.

After about an hour I still haven’t found anything about where the patch can be downloaded, so I cave in and install Impulse. Once I had installed Impulse, the real fun begins. I start up Impulse… Could not connect to the server. So I look online. Apparently this is a common problem, and they recommend a restart. I restart my computer, no dice. Impulse still doesn’t work. I go browsing on the support forums. Fast forward to about three hours later and I tried everything and still can’t get this Impulse program to connect to a server, much less get the patch I want. This is a serious problem — If I can’t connect to Impulse, I’m basically SOL when it comes to patches for Stardock games. And because they want people to actually use Impulse, they don’t seem to offer an http solution via impulsedriven.com.

It kind of saddens me, because I have only bought one other game this year. And I think I would like to buy the GalCivII expansion packs, if not merely for my own enjoyment but for the statement that makes about supporting Stardock’s pro-customer policies. But I really can’t justify spending that money if I’m going to be tied to a system that doesn’t work for me.

Eventually I did manage to get the patch, by searching on the internet and finding a GalCivII patch available for download from a FilePlanet-style site. (And, hey, the game did fix my issues — Too bad I can’t use Impulse to purchase the expansions!)

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